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The Sports Network
By Brandon Lawrence, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 2:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Morse Field at Harold Alfond Sports Stadium (6,000) -- Orono, Maine. Surface: Synthetic Turf. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Bob Picozzi, Pete Najarian, Cat Whitehill. Home Record: New Hampshire 6-0; Maine 5-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 2-4; Maine 5-2. Series Record: New Hampshire (50-43-8). Last meeting: November 23, 2013 (New Hampshire, 24-3 at New Hampshire). Series Streak: New Hampshire has won three straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Maine - Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; Maine Black Bears. Sports Network FCS Ranking: New Hampshire (15); Maine (10). NCAA Playoff Seedings: New Hampshire (NR); Maine (5). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (15th season, 112-70 at New Hampshire and overall); Maine - Jack Cosgrove (21st season, 121-120 at Maine and overall). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (7-11); Maine (3-6). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 11 (1991, 94, 2004-12); Maine 6 (1987, 1989, 2001-02, 2008, 2011). Current Playoff Streak: New Hampshire has lost three of its last four playoff games; Maine has won three of its last seven appearances.
GAME NOTES: Here we go again. Round 2 of the border battle resumes in Maine just two weeks after these squads met in New Hampshire.
In the final week of the regular season, New Hampshire handed the Black Bears their first loss of the season to an FCS team, 24-3 in Durham. The contest didn't feature anything that Maine had built its season around, which included a strong passing game and the ability to force the opposition into making mistakes and creating turnovers.
The Wildcats didn't turn the ball over to Maine once, while Black Bears quarterback Marcus Wasilewski completed 27-of-43 pass attempts for 220 yards and an interception. And in the fourth quarter, New Hampshire running back Nico Steriti made Maine's defense look like one giant sieve as he dashed for a 68-yard score.
You can be sure two weeks was plenty of time for the Maine coaching staff and players to consider that loss and make adjustments, though. Steriti will be a player the Bears will likely try to contain, as well as junior receiver R.J. Harris.
Save for a 60-yard Rickey Stevens run in Week 13, the Maine running game was stagnant. Against a New Hampshire defense averaging 163.3 rushing yards per game to opponents, including over four yards per rush, Maine will want to get the ground attack more involved. Take away Stevens' 60-yard rush in the first meeting, and the Bears accumulated just 35 yards on the ground.
Both Maine and New Hampshire have won seven of their last eight games, so both teams are hot. Yet it's the Wildcats with the most momentum after a first- round playoff win over Lafayette.
The home crowd in Orono should be fired up for Maine's first home playoff game ever, but the New Hampshire fans, just a three-hour drive from the Maine campus, will travel well. One thing's certain: this rivalry will be taken to a whole new level in the playoffs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: New Hampshire 27, Maine 23.
12/04 11:20:58 ET