Game Preview: W&M @ Maine

Enough talk of last week’s game. As bad as it was, it’s time to move on and get going in the right direction this week. On Saturday, your Green and Gold travels north to visit the Maine Black Bears. Currently, Maine ranks in the bottom-middle of the league (#8 of 12), sporting a 3-3 (2-3 CAA) record. Even still, they can still be deemed in the thick of it, as a flurry of wins to finish the season might just be enough to position the Black Bears for a playoff bid this season.

Led by an incredibly strong run game, this Maine team will come out guns blazing against a Tribe team that gave up a lot of points last week. On the good guys’ side of the field, question marks remain. Who will start at QB this week? Will the offense score some points? Will this team ever win a CAA game? It’ll be an interesting one, for sure. The way this team performs in Maine will tell you a lot about its character. With a week to prepare, look for Laycock and the boys to be fired up for this one. It can only go up from here!


Maine this Year

As we noted, Maine currently sits .500 for the year, 3-3 (2-3 CAA). However, all three of their wins have come against lowly competition: Bryant, Rhode Island, and Albany. Not very impressive, to say the least — but hey, at least they have two CAA wins, am I right? On the flip side, their three losses have come against significantly better competition: #16 UNH (24-23), #1 JMU (28-10), and #15 Villanova (31-0). Getting off to a slow start to the year, they came out of the gates sitting at 1-3, but have since rattled off two straight wins to pull their record even.

[via caasports.com]
Going into the year, Maine was picked to finish two spots behind W&M in the CAA, at #9. They’ve proven they might be slightly better than that, but of course, there’s still a long way to go this season before it’s all said and done (4 games, to be exact). This year’s Maine team is known for getting it done on the ground, as their running game currently ranks #4 in the CAA (180 rush yards per game), behind only Delaware (3), Elon (2), and JMU (1). Their pass game is good enough for a middle-of-the-pack CAA ranking (#5), and averages a respectable 207 passing yards per game. Their attack is balanced, and can certainly adjust to what opposing teams are giving them. So don’t get us wrong, this is a very good Maine offense. So good that their offensive unit actually ranks #4 in total offense in the CAA, averaging 387 yards per game. As such, W&M’s defense will need to make plays on Saturday to contain a potentially potent offense.

Defensively, Maine ranks toward the middle of the pack, and somehow seems to represent the definition of an “average” CAA defensive unit. The Black Bears currently rank #7 in scoring defense (allowing opponents an average of 22 points per game, #7 in rush defense (opponents average 135 rushing yards per game), and #6 in pass defense (opponents average 204 passing yards per game). The struggling Tribe offense should be able to get off the ground in this one — and if it doesn’t, well… we don’t know if it ever will. It’s now or never. This Saturday will present a real opportunity for a W&M quarterback to take hold and run with the position moving forward. Will it be Mitchell? Battle? McKee? Time will tell! We’ll know soon enough.


Players to Watch

  1. Sophomore RB (#34) Josh Mack: Remember when we were touting Elon’s Malcolm Summers in our preview article prior to the Elon game? Well, as good as Summers is, Josh Mack might be even better. And we can say that with surprisingly high confidence. Through 6 games, Mack is averaging an eye-popping 147 rushing yards per game to go along with 6.1 yards per carry. He currently has 880 rushing yards on the season, good enough for #1 in the CAA, as well as 5 rushing touchdowns. To make matters worse for the Tribe on Saturday, he can also catch the ball. Just last week against Albany, Mack not only rushed 32 times for 108 yards (surprisingly unimpressive yards per carry average at 3.8), but he also led the team in receiving yards, catching 4 passes for 73 yards. It’s safe to say, even if he isn’t ripping off huge runs (which he’s surely capable of), Maine will tout Mack until his wheels fall off. And whom do you think that helps? Well, his name is Chris Ferguson.
  2. Redshirt Freshman QB (#14) Chris Ferguson: With opposing defenses worrying about containing Mack, the passing game opens right up for redshirt freshman Chris Ferguson. In his first season as a starter for the Black Bears, Ferguson currently averages 194 passing yards per game. On the year, he has amassed 1,166 passing yards, 12 TDs, and 8 INTs, while completing just about 56% of his passes. Over the last two contests, Ferguson put in impressive performances that has to have him riding high going into the W&M game this weekend. Against Rhode Island, Ferguson had a career day, finishing 18/28 for 214 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. Against Albany, he finished 19/30 for 263 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. He’s seemingly solved some of his early-season turnover problems, and will look to keep that trend going this weekend against the Tribe.
    Sophomore running back Josh Mack is a scary-good running back that currently leads the CAA in rushing. [photo via goblackbears.com]
  3. Redshirt Freshman LB (#43) Jaron Grayer: When the Tribe is on offense, don’t forget this number: #43. Grayer is a player that has wreaked absolute havoc on opposing offenses so far this season. He currently leads Maine in total tackles with 47 (#12 in CAA), which also includes two sacks. His tackle total leads all CAA freshmen, as he averages 7.8 stops per game. He’s also forced two fumbles on the year, good enough to tie for #2 in the CAA in that category. It’s safe to say that his effort has not been in vain, as Grayer was recently named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List, which is given annually to the top freshman in the entire FCS. Again, don’t lose sight of #43 on the field against your Tribe this weekend.


W&M Keys To Victory

  • Get off to a Fast Start: We’ll keep this on here until it happens. We can’t even remember the last time the W&M offense got off to a fast start…and that’s pretty bad. Coming off a colossal failure of a game last week, we’ll need this Green and Gold offense to wake up. Quarterback play will be key, but the team cannot ignore its strength at the running back position. Use the run to open up the pass game, and dial up some big plays. It’s time to execute against Maine, a middle-of-the-way defense that can be beat. It’s go time.
  • Contain Maine RB Josh Mack: A lot will be asked of W&M’s cornerbacks this weekend, as the Tribe will have to undoubtedly stack the box to protect against the CAA’s top rusher. As a result, cornerbacks will be left on islands in one-on-one coverage. Thankfully, W&M currently ranks #2 in pass defense, as opponents average just 183 passing yards per game. This bodes well for the Tribe, as the team will need to force some turnovers to help its offense out. We’re also expecting a big game out of LB Nate Atkins, who will need to hit the holes hard to stop Mack this weekend.
  • Strong Quarterback Play: If we had to make an educated guess, we’d say that true freshman Shon Mitchell gets the nod this weekend. He was the only QB who did not turn the ball over last weekend. And despite his struggles through two starts this season, we can’t imagine Jimmye doesn’t want to continue developing his highly touted recruit. Against a beatable Maine defense, expect whoever is under center to turn the tide for the W&M offense in this one. Like we’ve said, it can only go up from here!

Viewing: When and Where
 

Time: Saturday, 12:00 PM
Location: Alfond Stadium (Orono, Maine)
Watch: Maine Online Stream — find the link here!

 Prediction 

Tribe 23, Maine 17

The Tribe overcomes its recent offensive woes and puts some points up on the board. Maine gets it going on the ground, but comes up short in the end. Oh, and one or two interceptions for the Tribe. And plenty of sacks. Don’t lose the faith! LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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