By Adam Willey, FCS Fans Nation Contributor
Let’s start off New Hampshire vs Maine. They will be playing Thursday August 30th at 7 pm EST. You can watch this game on Fox Sports Go/Fox College Sports. New Hampshire has won 15 of the last 16 games between the schools and is certainly favored again, with 18 starters returning. This will be the battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket.
Maine has some of the best receivers in the CAA, including senior Micah Wright, juniors Earnest Edwards and Jaquan Blair and redshirt freshman Devin Young. Sophomore Chris Ferguson looks more comfortable and confident entering his second year as starting quarterback. The running game will be essential, because a big part of Maine’s offense is based on play-action passing. Redshirt freshman running back Ramon Jefferson can break a long run on any play. Junior running back Joe Fitzpatrick is going to get the tough yards inside. Of course, the offensive line, with two new starters on the left side, needs to play well for this offense to be successful.
The Wildcats have one of the most balanced offenses in the conference, led by CAA preseason offensive player of the year Trevor Knight at quarterback. Knight threw for 3,433 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, and he puts pressure on defenses with his ability to escape the rush. His favorite receiver is Neil O’Connor, who caught 97 passes for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. The return of senior running back Trevon Bryant, who missed last year with a knee injury, gives a nice punch to the running game along with Evan Gray, who had a team-high 650 yards last year. The Wildcats will take shots downfield, putting pressure on the secondary. They also have an experienced offensive line.
Now, the Wildcats know this game won’t be easy. Maine’s defense is led by junior linemen Charles Mitchell and Kayon Whitaker and linebackers Sterling Sheffield, Deshawn Stevens and Jaron Grayer. They are going to have to go after New Hampshire Quarterback Trevor Knight and contain him, because he is really dangerous when he is given time to extend the play. The Black Bears secondary has experience in cornerback Manny Patterson and safeties Darrius Hart and Jeff DeVaughn and they will be tested often. Maine has to be able to run the ball against a Wildcats defense that returns nine starters, including linebacker Quinlen Dean and backs Prince Smith, Rick Ellison and Isiah Perkins. Special teams will be a factor. Maine lost last year, 24-23, because of two missed field goals and a missed PAT kick in the fourth quarter. New Hampshire won two years ago on a last-second field goal. The Black Bears have perhaps the best kick returner in the CAA in Edwards. This game may come down to who has the best special teams unit. One more thing to remember going into this game, is that Maine hasn’t beaten New Hampshire since the 16-13 Overtime win in 2010.