WHERE: FIU Stadium, Miami, Florida

KICKOFF: 6:30 p.m. Saturday


ALL-TIME SERIES: Maine leads, 2-0. These teams last met in 2003, a 24-14 Black Bears win at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

KEY STAT: 28, the number of first downs Florida International surrendered to Louisiana Tech in last week’s 22-17 season-opening loss.

OUTLOOK: With new starters at a number of positions, Maine travels to Miami to open Jordan Stevens’ second season as head coach. The biggest change is at quarterback, where Derek Robertson takes over for Joe Fagnano, who transferred to UConn for his graduate season. Robertson isn’t a neophyte, however. The senior started seven games in 2021 when Fagnano was out with an injury, throwing for 1,505 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.


“It’s definitely reassuring when you have a guy who’s started seven games in the conference. I love his fire, his grit, his passion for playing. I think that rubs off on the other players.,” Stevens said.

The top returning offensive weapon is receiver Montigo Moss, who caught six touchdowns last season. Wideouts Michael Monios and Jamie Lamson will have bigger roles, and newcomer Joe Gillette, a transfer from Lafayette, will also be in the mix. Grad student Cooper Heisey will start at tight end. Tavion Banks starts the season as Maine’s top running back after getting just 23 carries for 86 yards last season. On the line, the most experienced starters are right tackle Kevin Jones, who started all 11 games last season, and left tackle Darius Bell, who started seven games a year ago.

Defensively, the Black Bears need to improve a defense that was ranked 12th out of 13 Coastal Athletic Association teams last season, allowing 412.45 yards per game. Maine’s experience is in the secondary, where Kahzir “Buggs” Brown returns at one corner after suffering a torn ACL against Albany on Nov. 12, the next-to-last game of the 2022 season. Safeties Shakur Smalls and Robby Riobe also return. Linebackers Darius McKenzie, Vince Thomas, and Christian Thomas all move into starting roles, as does nose tackle Josh Lezin.

Florida International led 17-3 in the second quarter in its season opener last week before Louisiana Tech scored the final 19 points of the game. The Panthers were held to just eight first downs, and while they ran for 178 yards, quarterback Grayson James was 5 for 14 passing for just four yards. Defensively, FIU allowed 447 yards last week, 333 in the air. Linebacker Donovan Manuel was in on 15 tackles for the Panthers.

OF NOTE: Maine is getting paid $250,000 for this game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. … This is Maine’s only game against an FBS school this season. The Black Bears played two games against an FBS team in each of the last seven seasons, not including the abbreviated spring 2021 season. … Maine’s two wins over the Panthers came in 2002 and 2003, FIU’s final two seasons playing at Football Championship Subdivision level. … Mike DeVito, now Maine’s director of player development and alumni relations, played in that 2003 win over FIU, recording one tackle. DeVito went on to a nine-season NFL career with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. … Maine’s last win in its season opener came in 2019, a 42-14 home victory over Sacred Heart. …  The temperature Saturday in Miami is forecast to be about 85 degrees at the 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Stevens acknowledged his team had few preseason practices in heat, as August was mild in Orono. … Maine was ranked 13th out of 15 teams in the CAA’s preseason coaches poll. … The Sporting News slotted FIU 119th out of all 133 FBS teams in its most recent rankings.

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