Two undefeated squads will cross paths as the Maine Black Bears take on the 18th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats in a non- conference matchup at Ryan Field.
Maine improved to 3-0 on the season last week with a 35-22 win over Bryant at home. Although the Black Bears play at the FCS level, that didn't stop them from defeating the Mid-American Conference's Massachusetts Minutemen, 24-14, on the road in week two. It marked their second triumph over an FBS program in school history, the first coming over Mississippi State in 2004. Maine has won five games in a row dating back to last season. Since becoming the Black Bears' head coach in 1993, Jack Cosgrove has compiled a 111-118 record. He led Maine to the FCS quarterfinals in 2011 before last season's 5-6 campaign.
Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats won their 15th consecutive home game versus a non- conference opponent last week as they coasted to a 38-17 decision over Western Michigan. Northwestern has scored at least 30 points in each of its three wins this season to mark the first time the school has been able to tally 30-plus points in its inaugural three games of a campaign since 1962, the same year it rose to a No. 1 national ranking. This will be the Wildcats' final non- conference game as they attempt to keep their record blemish free for their Oct. 5 matchup with Ohio State.
This will be the first time in history these schools face each other on the gridiron. In Fitzgerald's first season as the team's head coach, the Wildcats lost to New Hampshire, a Colonial Athletic Association rival of Maine. Northwestern has defeated an FCS opponent in six straight seasons since its loss to UNH in 2006.
The Black Bears have been both balanced and efficient with the ball this season with averages of 27.3 points and 445 yards of total offense per contest. In last week's matchup with Bryant, quarterback Marcus Wasilewski tied his career-high with four touchdown passes, all to different receivers, and managed to avoid throwing a pick. The senior finished with 263 yards passing and also racked up 64 yards and a score on the ground. The strong showing by Wasilewski came after he tossed one touchdown to two interceptions in the team's first two games.
Wasilewski leads the team in rushing on the season with 194 yards on 34 carries. Ricky Stevens paced the Black Bears in week three with 67 yards on 10 attempts to arrive on 178 yards on the season.
Maine has numerous options in the passing game, led by senior possession wideout Derrick Johnson, who has reeled in 22 balls for 189 yards and a touchdown. Demarr Aultman, Zedric Joseph and Justin Perillo have all surpassed 120 yards receiving as well.
The Black Bears have limited their opposition to 316.3 yards of total offense and 14 points per game. They struggled stopping Bryant's rushing attack their last time out, allowing the Bulldogs to pick up 224 of their 460 yards on the ground. Sophomore linebacker Cabrinni Goncalves is anchoring the defensive unit thus far with 26 total tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Northwestern has been one of the most explosive teams in the FBS this season with averages of 43.3 points and 520 yards of total offense per tilt. The great start has come despite little contribution from star tailback Venric Mark, who has seen limited action due to a leg injury. Mark, who had the second-best single-season all-purpose yard total in school history (2,166) in 2012, may have to compete for his position when he returns due to the emergence of Treyvon Green.
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior halfback has the 12th most rushing yards in the FBS at 353 and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Green scored twice in the win over WMU and has five rushing touchdowns on the season.
"I'm just doing my job. The opportunity presented itself," said Green after his 158-yard performance against the Broncos. "I'm just stepping up to a role when a guy is down. When Venric comes back, it's a coaches decision whether he'll start or I'll start. If my name is called, I'll be ready to go."
Northwestern is once again utilizing a dual-quarterback system with the elusive Kain Colter and pocket passing Trevor Siemian sharing the snaps. Although Colter has earned a reputation as a scrambler, he has completed 22- of-26 pass attempts for 179 yards with two touchdowns to one interception on the season. The senior has also amassed 199 yards rushing with a 7.4 ypc average. Colter has accounted for 40 total scores in his last 27 games.
This season, Siemian has connected on 67.7 percent of his pass attempts and nets 211.3 yards per game through the air.
Junior WR Tony Jones has a quiet day against WMU with only four catches for 38 yards. After leading the Cats with 335 yards on 29 catches in 2012, Jones has already made 18 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns this season. Christian Jones and Dan Vitale both have double-digit reception totals for 189 and 147 yards, respectively.
The NU defense, which allowed only 127.6 ypg rushing last season, has given up an average of 121.7 ypg on the ground so far this season in three games. The Wildcats have held their first three opponents to a total of 74 points (24.7 ppg) and intercepted a total of eight passes already. Chi Chi Ariguzo led the Wildcats with seven tackles against WMU and owns the team lead with 23 stops this season.
Ibraheim Campbell has picked off a pass in five straight games, dating back to Nov. 24, 2012 at Illinois. He intercepted his seventh career pass last week, best among current Wildcats. Campbell already has three interceptions in 2013.
"I'm going to try to do it as long as possible, as long as keep throwing my way," said Campbell on his impressive streak. "I'm just doing my job. There's nothing special to it."