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The Maine Event

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One of the problems with playing a team like Maine is that it's hard to know exactly what to expect.  We've all seen the Penn State's and West Virginia's ad nauseum but Maine comes into the Dome this weekend as an unknown quantity.  I asked Matty Boutwell over at The CMSB, a blog that covers all-things Maine sports, to fill us in on the past and present of the program.

Can you give up a brief history on UMaine football? At least the last decade or so and how the program has fared.

UMaine is coming off of a surprising season where they qualified for the FBS playoffs (they lost in the first round to Northern Iowa). The past decade has been filled with some ups and downs, but Cosgrove's recruting skills (especially in the New York/New Jersey region) has brought alot of talent to Orono. Maine currently has 7 former players (if you count Lofa Tatupu who transferred to USC) on NFL rosters, which is fairly impressive for an FBS school in the middle of nowhere.

Coach Jack Cosgrove has been with the program since 1993 (88-95, four A-10 Championships). How do the fans feel about him?

He is well-liked around the state for the most part. He is pretty good with the media, is fairly accessible, and is a good recruiter which helps. His biggest weakness is his bad habit of going with a conservative gameplan, such as last Saturday against Albany (to his credit he admitted he went way too conservative in the second half). Hopefully they come out and open up the playbook against the Orange, because they aren't going to out-physical them.

In recent seasons, some of UMaine's 1-A opponents include Iowa (L 3-46), UConn (L 0-38), Boston College (L, 0-22), Nebraska (L, 7-25) and Mississippi State (W, 9-7). Do UMaine fans get excited for these match-ups or just hope they don't turn into blowouts? What was it like when you beat MSU?

They pretty much just hope they don't turn into blow-outs. Although many point to the Miss St game as a huge turning point in history, MSU was absolutely horrific at that time. They did play very competitive football against Nebraska and BC, basically hanging with them until the better athletes for the big schools shone through at the end.

Last week the Bears lost a tough one to Albany after spotting themselves a 16-point lead. What happened?

Basically they got very tight (you probably couldn't have gotten a q-tip in their ass with the help of a jack-hammer). As a program that isn't use to winning games like that, their play-calling was bland and predictable. They were kept out of the endzone when starting with a first and goal at the Albany 2, and they kept their defense on the field entirely too long. Albany scored the go-ahead touchdown after a bad option toss from QB Mike Brusko, setting Albany up at the Maine 24 yard line. That was that. They basically pissed away a game they had no business losing, but to their credit, everyone involved said as much.

If UMaine has any chance of winning on Saturday, who are the players that need to make it happen?

RB Derek Sessions is going to have to last the entire game and hold on to the ball. QB Mike Brusko, the running QB, needs to make zero mistakes, and QB Warren Smith, the Iona transfer who is the passing QB, needs to make throws. Also they need some big plays from their special teams, and wideout Desmond Randall is capable of breaking off a big return. If he and Landis Williams actually get utilized in the passing game, they can make plays.

Will we be seeing a sizable UMaine contingent in the Dome?

Maine is kind of odd with its college football. Maine is located in Orono up by Bangor,and the majority of the population lives in Portland, which is about 2 hours south. There will be a contingent there, but I don't think it will huge.

Is the Big East the major college conference of discussion around there or with Boston College's defection to the ACC has that changed things?

Honestly most people are too busy worrying about the Red Sox or Patriots to be bothered with Boston College. They could play in the CAA with Maine and no one would pay attention to them. I co-host a sports radio show here in Maine, and the only people calling to talk college football are people who went to school at places like Pitt, West Virginia, Ohio St, even UCLA. Even when it looked like they were going to contend for the national title in Matt Ryan's last season they were seldom talked about. I would not call this a college football-centric area by any means.

A prediction?

I would love to be bold and predict an upset, but after watching this team struggle with St Cloud in week one because of their inability to defend the pass (St Cloud receiver Fred Williams had 171 yards receiving), I expect a very big game from Greg Paulus. Maine has a good run defense, but their offense is going to have to have some sustained drives to keep the defense rested, and avoid turnovers. I expect this to be a fairly competitive game until the 3rd quarter, and I predict 'Cuse takes it 38-20.

You spoke with Doug Marrone this week on the conference call, how did that go?

It went extremely well, and I believe you actually linked to it earlier this week, which I appreciate. I would also like to say "You're welcome" to Standard beat writer Donnie Webb, who took the quote I got from Marrone and made an entire article out of it as though he asked the question himself. Fantastic journalism Donnie, Syracuse is lucky to have you.

Watch your back at the post-game presser, Donnie!  And keep an eye on The CMSB the rest of the week for Maine insight.