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Struggling Black Bears Eye Rivalry Turnaround
Confident football team touts offense, regrets early season mistakes; Wildcats enter Saturday with 7-game streak over UMaine
After a disappointing loss to the College of William and Mary, the University of Maine football team looks to rebound this coming Saturday against their top rival, the University of New Hampshire.
Recent history doesn’t bode well for the Black Bears. The Wildcats have won the last seven meetings — the Black Bears haven’t picked up a victory since 2002.
The Brice-Cowell Musket, which goes to the winner of the game, is named after former Black Bear coach Fred Brice and for Wildcat coach William Cowell. The tradition of receiving the Brice-Cowell Musket upon victory began in the late 1940s.
The Black Bears squandered an 11-point lead with 10 minutes to play last Saturday against the Tribe and the loss hasn’t sat well with the squad. Junior quarterback Warren Smith summed up the feelings of the team during the post game press conference, calling the defeat “crushing.”
Head coach Jack Cosgrove shared the same feeling of disappointment in the loss, which featured tremendous play on both sides of the ball for the Black Bears in the first half.
“I’ve experienced some tough losses here,” Cosgrove said. “This is as tough as it gets.”
It certainly doesn’t get any easier for the Black Bears. After succumbing to the eighth-ranked Tribe, the Wildcats come to Morse Field boasting a 14th ranked Football Championship Subdivision team.
The matchup with the Wildcats will mark the 100th meeting of the rivals.
“It certainly has a deeper meaning,” junior quarterback Chris Treister said. “It’s another conference opponent, so the game itself is important. But no one on the team has had the opportunity to see the Musket in our locker room.”
Treister started at quarterback against the Wildcats last year, posting a season high 303 yards passing.
Treister pointed to that side of the ball as the key to beating the Wildcats this Saturday.
“Offensively, we need to play towards the potential that we have,” he said.
In addition, the Black Bears need to find a way to slow down UNH quarterback R.J. Toman, who is coming off Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week honors after passing for a career-high 348 yards in the Wildcat win against Lehigh University.
The Black Bears last-second loss against the Tribe doesn’t offer much inspiration moving forward, as three of the last four matchups with the Wildcats have been decided by six points or less.
“Fourth quarter is the key,” Cosgrove said. “We need to be successful in that area, because success inspires confidence.”
Treister also noted finishing out games was a priority for the Black Bears.
“Coach has been honest with us about our inefficiency to close out games,” Treister said. “But there’s only so much he can say until we take it upon ourselves to finish each play until the whistle blows. It’s a mindset we need to have.”
Despite the loss at Morse Field last week, the Black Bears remain difficult to defeat in front of their home fans, going 44-22 since 1998 in Orono.
The Black Bears take on the Wildcats is this Saturday, at 6 p.m. The game corresponds with football alumni weekend for the Black Bears, where former Black Bear head coach, the late Ron Rogerson, will be honored during the game.
By Jesse Scardina, The Maine Campus