When University of Maine football head coach Jack Cosgrove walked off the Cowell Stadium turf Saturday afternoon, after a 30-20 defeat to New Hampshire, he figured the Black Bears also lost hope for a first-round bye in the NCAA playoffs.

But Maine did get a first-round bye, when playoffs selections were announced Sunday morning for the NCAA Football Championship Sub-division (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA.

Maine (8-3) will play next Saturday, Dec, 3, at Appalachian State University (8-3), in Boone, N.C.

This will be the Black Bears’ first appearance in the NCAA’s since 2008. They have faced ASU once before, beating the Mountaineers 14-13 in an NCAA first-round game in 2002, in Boone.

The FCS playoffs expanded from 16 to 20 teams last year, meaning eight teams would play in the first round, while 12 received a bye.

Maine is one of five Colonial Athletic Associations teams to make the playoffs. Old Dominion (9-2), coached by former Maine assistant Bob Wilder, a Madison native, and James Madison (7-4) have first-round games. UNH (8-3) and league champion Towson (9-2) joined Maine as teams that received byes.

While Maine is ranked 13th in the national poll, the Black Bears were ranked 11th in the power index in the league, which was based on results and strength of schedule.

The Black Bears made a bid to host a playoff game, but Cosgrove would much rather skip a week than play an extra game, even at home.

“I’d go anywhere in the country if we can get a bye,” said Cosgrove, who joined his team Sunday morning, cheering when the selection was announced on ESPNU.

“I was surprised at the bye,” Cosgrove said. “I think the power index helped us.”

One reason for the bye is that Maine, like a lot of football teams this time of year, is beat up.

“After I watched the (UNH-Maine) tape, I noticed some of our guys were at less than full strength,” he said.

Running back Pushaun Brown (sore thigh muscle) was one of them, as was his back-up, David Hood, who re-sprained an ankle.

Now, the Black Bears have a chance to rest and heal.

Maine had bye week during the season, after the first three games in September.

“We came off that bye week with, arguably, two of our best games,” Cosgrove said, referring to wins over Delaware and James Madison.

The Black Bears will need to be at their best against ninth-ranked Appalachian State, a perennial contender, and three-time national champion, from 2005-07.

“They are close to a top-five program every year,” Cosgrove said. “They have great crowds. This is exciting for us.”

New Hampshire (at 9-2 Montana State) and James Madison (at 7-4 Eastern Kentucky) are also on the road. Old Dominion plays host to Norfolk State (9-2) in the first round, while Towson hosts Lehigh (10-1) in the second.

The NCAA seeded the top five team in the playoffs – No. 1 Sam Houston State (11-0), No. 2 North Dakota State (10-1), No. 3 Georgia Southern (9-2), No. 4 Montana (9-2) and No. 5 Northern Iowa (9-2).

 

 


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