Quarterback Tom Flacco, younger brother of NFL quarterback Joe Flacco, leads 2-0 Towson to Orono on Saturday night against the University of Maine (1-1). Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 of the national FCS polls. AP Photo/Nell Redmond

ORONO — University of Maine football players are angry these days.

And Head Coach Nick Charlton is happy about that. The Black Bears (1-1) will take on Towson (2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday in what looms as a pivotal game for their Colonial Athletic Association hopes. Charlton wants them to have a nasty edge.

“It’s a big game but it’s a big game because it’s the next game,” he said. “Our guys, they understand the level of the competition and what’s at stake. But this is the next game. We go into the every game looking to win and that’s why everybody is so aggravated.

“We feel we should have won that football game a couple of days ago.”

Charlton was referring to Maine’s 26-18 loss at Georgia Southern on Saturday, a game in which the Black trailed by 20 early in the fourth quarter. Georgia Southern, a school that plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision, rushed for 395 yards against a defense that led the Football Championship Subdivision in fewest rushing yards (79.2) allowed per game last year.

Charlton said missed tackles led to many of those yards.

“That’s not this defense,” he said. “That’s not our identity and they know that. And they’re aggravated. This is an aggravated football team right now and that’s a good thing.”

This game matches two teams ranked in the top 10 in both FCS national polls: the STATS FCS poll has Maine seventh, Towson eighth; the coaches poll has Towson eighth, Maine ninth. Towson was picked to finish second in the CAA’s preseason poll, Maine third.

“It’s our first CAA game, another night home game,” said Maine offensive coordinator Andrew Dresner. “Everything that you want in a game, this one has.”

It features two of the league’s best offenses. Maine, powered by junior quarterback Chris Ferguson, leads the CAA in passing offense with 369 yards a game, fourth in the nation. Towson, led by senior quarterback Tom Flacco (yes, Joe Flacco’s younger brother), is third in CAA passing at 278 yards.

Taji Lowe, 12, has taken the place of injured Deshawn Stevens at middle linebacker for the University of Maine, which gave up 395 yards rushing last week at Georgia Southern. “We’ve just got to refocus this week, get back into the playbook,” Lowe says. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

If Maine’s defense, which played its first game last week without injured middle linebacker Deshawn Stevens (out for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon), was tested by Georgia Southern, it gets no easier this week. The Tigers feature senior running back Shane Simpson, second in all-purpose yards with 141 per game.

“We’ve just got to refocus this week, get back into the playbook,” said senior linebacker Taji Lowe, who has taken Stevens’ spot. “It’s a big task with Deshawn out but we feel better today. We got back in the film room and figured out what mistakes we made. This next game should be better.”

Stevens was Maine’s leading tackler last year with 120 and made up for a lot of mistakes in the middle. Now he will be on the sidelines, cheering on and coaching his teammates.

He was at practice on Tuesday, using crutches to walk with a cast on his right foot, and spoke the media for the first time since having surgery last week.

“For the most part I don’t think my role will change,” said Stevens, who was elected a captain this year. “I can’t do the workout these guys do on the field but if I can do something to help, if I see something that can help, that’s what I’ll do. These guys have supported me since I’ve been here, I want to do the same for them.”

Stevens faces a rehab of seven to nine months. He won’t likely return to the football field until fall training camp begins next year.

Stevens was injured in the second quarter of Maine’s season opening 42-14 win over Sacred Heart. He was rushing from the right side. As he planted his foot, he was pulled down from behind.

When he tried to get up, he couldn’t. And he knew it was bad.

“I was never one to get hurt,” he said. “It didn’t hit me until I got in training room, sitting there, knowing I tore my Achilles, knowing I was out for the year. It was hard to swallow.”

Mike Lowe photo

Now Maine has a chance to get back on track and make a statement in the CAA. Ferguson, who ranks fifth in the nation in passing yardage, said the Black Bears are ready to rebound.

“Sometimes you’ve got to have that failing experience, you’ve got to lose, to see where you’re at,” he said. “This is definitely firing us up, the loss as a whole, and it’s going to make us work harder and that’s important.”

NOTES: Maine will wear special throwback helmets Saturday to honor the 1965 Black Bears team that played in the Tangerine Bowl. That team is being inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night. Players from the 1965 team will be recognized at halftime. “It’s important to do different things, have some traditions we bring back,” said Charlton.


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