If Maine stretches its winning streak to three games by beating Elon on the road Saturday, it will have to do so without cornerback Manny Patterson.
Patterson, a preseason first-team All-American, became the latest Maine player to have his season end prematurely when he sustained a knee injury during the first half of Saturday’s victory at Albany.
“He’s meant a lot to this program,” Maine coach Nick Charlton said. “He embodies what we try to put across through our culture. He’s an elite player who will keep playing at the next level.”
The Black Bears (4-5, 2-3 Colonial Athletic Association) also lost starting quarterback Chris Ferguson and linebacker Deshawn Stevens to season-ending injuries earlier this season. Ferguson sustained a foot injury during a 24-17 loss to Richmond on Oct. 12, and Stevens, the team’s leading tackler last season, tore his Achilles tendon during a season-opening 42-14 victory over Sacred Heart.
Patterson, a senior, recorded 29 tackles five pass breakups in nine games this season.
“This year, unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of adversity that way,” Charlton said. “The guys are very focused right now. We just have to keep that day-to-day focus. It’s all in the moment right now.”
Elon (4-5, 3-3) had its hopes of reaching postseason play all but erased with Saturday’s 31-29 loss to William & Mary in five overtimes. The Phoenix has only two games remaining. Maine has three.
“We’re still playing for a lot,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said. “I know the playoff hopes have dwindled with (the William & Mary) loss and a lot of guys beating each other in our league this year. We’re certainly focused on one game, and that’s Maine. It’s senior day here. It’s their last home game in Rhodes Stadium. I want to see these guys go out winners.”
The tweak the NCAA made to overtime rules came into play during Elon’s loss to William & Mary. Once the game reached the fifth overtime the teams each attempted a two-point conversion rather than take possession on the 25-yard line, as was the case for the first four overtime periods.
After William & Mary scored in the fifth overtime, Elon’s attempt to force a sixth overtime came up short when quarterback Davis Cheek had his pass broken up.
Tricisani said it was extra-tough to lose in that fashion.
“I understand the rule and the reason why and the player-safety piece of it, but it’s a bit frustrating when you play all that football and it ended up coming down to a play,” he said. “Kind of like penalty kicks I guess. You play a lot of football you hate to see it end that way, especially if you’re on our end.”
A Balancing Act
Maine has surpassed 400 yards of offense in each of its three games since true freshman Joe Fagnano replaced Ferguson as Maine’s quarterback. Perhaps more important is the fact that the Black Bears have gained 160 yards on the ground in each of their last two games, victories over William & Mary (34-25) and Albany (47-31). The Black Bears, who are 10th among CAA teams in rushing offense, picked up 164 yards on the ground against William & Mary and rushed for 169 yards against Albany.
“I think Joe is very poised,” Charlton said. “He can do a lot of different things, so we try to tailor things to what he does well. We have some skill players who really can make a lot of plays out on the perimeter and we’ve been able to run the football.”
Maine still leads the CAA in passing offense (315.2 ypg).
“I think they’re playing some really good football right now,” Trisciani said. “Coming off back-to-back wins. They’ve been more balanced. They’ve been able to run the ball the last couple games. I understand how strong the passing game is and has been for them this season, but the ability to be more balanced makes it hard to defend.”
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Elon leads the CAA in turnover margin at plus-7. Maine is at the bottom of the conference in that category at minus-7.