After a daunting start to the season where the Black Bears faced #5 Delaware and #3 James Madison in the opening weeks, Maine scored a 31-26 win over Merrimack last weekend at Alfond Stadium.

Redshirt freshman QB Derek Robertson made his first career start in relief of the injured Joe Fagnano (high ankle sprain) and passed for 141 yards and a score, while Maine's special teams unit came up huge, blocking two Merrimack extra point attempts and returning both to the house.

It was just the third time in FCS history that a school had two defensive extra points in the same game.

The Black Bears will look to keep the momentum alive this weekend as they jet to DeKalb, Illinois for a meeting with Northern Illinois of the FBS. It's one of Maine's two "guarantee games" on the schedule this year, and the program will get cut a $350,000 check for their efforts on Saturday.

Northern Illinois began its season with a 22-21 win at Georgia Tech of the ACC, before losing a wild one 50-43 vs. Wyoming and then were thrashed 63-10 last week by #19 Michigan.

It shapes up to be yet another tough test for Maine in a schedule that has offered no breaks through the first four weeks.

Since 2010, the Black Bears have played 16 games against FBS opponents and have gone 2-14 in those games, with half of the losses decided by two scores or less.

Maine's wins during the stretch have come against UMass (24-14 in 2013) and Western Kentucky (31-28 in 2018, a game in which Maine erased a 21-0 1st quarter deficit).

The Black Bears also famously upset Mississippi State 9-7 in 2004 on the Bulldogs' home turf.

On Monday, Aaron Jackson and myself spoke with Black Bears' head coach Nick Charlton, who talked about keeping the excitement for this weekend's match-up under control during the week.

"The guys always get up for these games," said Charlton, who wants to see his squad treat the meeting with Northern Illinois as they would any other game.

"We're not going to do anything different...we're going to play our game," added the HC.

Check out the rest of our conversation with the coach, below -


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