Even for good football teams, it’s not supposed to be that easy.

Friday night, the University of Maine football team opened the season with a 42-14 win over Sacred Heart. The Black Bears scored a touchdown on each of their six possessions in the first half to build a 42-7 lead. At the half. Backup players saw action throughout the second half, and it was a rocking-chair win for a team not used to such things.

Maine entered the season ranked seventh in the country in a pair of Football Championship Subdivision polls. The Black Bears reached the FCS semifinals last season. You have to go back to 2003 to find a football season that began with such expectations in Orono. That Black Bear team was coming off back-to-back trips to the FCS (then I-AA) quarterfinals and was ranked in the top 10 nationally in preseason polls.

That Maine team opened the season with a close loss to perennial power Montana and finished a respectable but not inspiring 7-5.

So the way the Black Bears took apart Sacred Heart is a positive sign. Sacred Heart wasn’t supposed to be a season-opening cupcake opponent. The Pioneers went 7-4 last season, and was picked second in the Northeast Conference’s preseason coaches poll.

And it was easy. So, so easy. That’s good to see, because Maine’s schedule is not so, so easy. Ten of the Colonial Athletic Association’s 12 teams are either ranked in the STATS FCS preseason top 25, or received votes in the poll. Maine is one of them, and the Black Bears play six of the others. Maine’s schedule also includes a non-conference trip to Colgate, also ranked in the top 25 and coming off a season in which it reached the FCS quarterfinals. Throw in a pair of FBS games, next Saturday at Georgia Southern and October 19 at Liberty, and know the Black Bears will run a gauntlet in the 2019 regular season.


Quickly, let’s look at two huge reasons to come away impressed with the Black Bears. One on each side of the ball.

Offensively, the play of quarterback Chris Ferguson was inspired. The junior completed his first 11 passes, threw for 404 of his career-high 423 yards in the first half, and threw touchdown passes to three different receivers. Five Maine receivers had a long of at least 19 yards. Ferguson is in his third season as the starting quarterback, and Friday’s effort shows a player taking another step forward in development and maturity.

Defensively, the Black Hole is still a run-stuffing monster. Opponents averaged under 80 yards per game on the ground last season. Sacred Heart averaged 241.1 yards per game last season on the ground. Against Maine, the Pioneers ran for 103, most coming in the second half’s garbage time.

Two things to find concerning. One, the Black Bears committed too many penalties, 172 yards total. In closer games, that will bite them. Two, linebacker Deshawn Stevens was lost to a lower leg injury in the second quarter. While Maine has defensive depth, Stevens is arguably the best player at his position in the conference, and if he’s out for any extended time, his absence will be felt.

Last season, you started to get the feeling the Black Bears could be pretty good when they went to Western Kentucky for their second game and came away with a win over the FBS opponent. With Maine heading to Georgia Southern this week, we already know the Black Bears are good. Another win over an FBS opponent would make high expectations even higher.

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