Sunday, March 9, 2014
BY JENN MENENDEZ
Portland Press Herald
The University of Maine football team used its bye week to recover physically from the demands of the season and hopes to return several key players to the lineup today.
Maine at Massachusetts
When: 3:30 p.m. today
Where: Amherst, Mass.
They'll need every body they can get.
Maine will take on No. 15-ranked Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., a longtime rival that knocked off No. 22 James Madison last Saturday with a come-from-behind fourth quarter rally.
"We kind of limped back here after Rhode Island," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. "You never know when a bye week is gonna work. In this case we feel this one, this year, was probably just what the doctor would've ordered for our football team."
Maine squeaked out a 28-23 win against the Rams on Oct. 23.
Maine went into the game without several players, then lost quarterback Warren Smith in the third quarter when he aggravated a hip injury.
Smith said he is healthy and raring to go.
Receiver Tyrell Jones is expecting to play, following a knee problem that kept him out at Rhode Island. Same for corner Dom Cusano, who had been out.
As for running back Jared Turcotte -- who also did not make the trip to Rhode Island -- he is questionable to make the UMass trip. He has been "up and down" for two weeks according to Cosgrove.
"A couple of things are bothering him. It's probably the result of how hard he plays the game," Cosgrove said.
The game will not lack significance for Maine (3-5, 2-3 Colonial Athletic Association), despite the fact the playoffs are out of reach.
"We have a lot of pride in our program and ourselves and we know that UMass is always a game," Smith said. "UMass is always gonna be a street fight. They're out to get us and we're out to get them."
The two teams have played for decades, with the Minutemen holding a 40-15-1 series lead.
"Historically they've owned us," Cosgrove said. "This has been a rival in our conference that for a long time basically took us out to the woodshed. There was a run of years we didn't score any points, they shut us out. It was bad."
This time around, the Minutemen are in the running to earn a playoff berth if it keeps it up.
Maine has won the last two meetings, and will be charged with trying to contain one of the CAA's most prolific offenses.
UMass has the top-ranked passing offense (234.8 yards a game), led by quarterback Kyle Havens, and third-ranked rushing offense (171.2).
"I don't know. When we play against them it's war almost," linebacker Donte Dennis said. "We have to win. It's more than just a regular game. It's just like, they don't want to lose to us. We don't want to lose to them. It's like war, like brothers at war."
For a player like Jones, who is a senior, the remaining games are about more than winning or losing.
"We're playing for pride. To finish strong," Jones said. "I'm just looking out for my team right now. I just want to play like I know we can play. I want to give them all I got, show them how much I care for them, this program, the coaches."