Maine Football, Winners of 3-Straight, Has New Lease On Life in ’21
Saturday 9/18/2021 Maine vs Merrimack
The beginning of the 2021 season was not kind to the University of Maine Black Bears.
Maine opened the year with two losses out of the gate to teams ranked in the top-5 nationally. They lost their QB, got beat up by an FBS opponent and eventually bottomed out at 1-4 in mid-October.
But instead of giving up on the season after the rough start, that's when the team got to work.
"It really started that Sunday [after the loss to Elon on Oct. 9]. We had some very honest conversations with the team, the players and staff," said head coach Nick Charlton in his weekly appearance on The Drive. "Changes were made. Guys responded."
And respond they did. Now, after three successive wins, the Black Bears have reached .500 for the first time this season with both their overall record (4-4) and within CAA conference play (3-3).
After being outscored by 80 points through the first four games, 156-76, the Black Bears have averaged 30.3 points per game during the win streak to just 18.7 points allowed per game.
The remaining schedule sees Maine play its final home game of the season this Saturday vs. Stony Brook, followed by trips to UMass of the FBS and New Hampshire to close out the regular season.
With the Seawolves (3-5, 2-3) traveling to the Pine Tree State this weekend, it's a chance for Maine to continue their hot streak vs. a team below them in the conference standings.
For those curious about Maine's playoff chances this year, simply put, the Black Bears still need a lot to break right for them between now and the FCS selection show on Nov. 21 to hear their name called.
According to NCAA.com, it would appear only James Madison (7-1, 5-1), Villanova (6-2, 4-1) are in line to represent the CAA in the NCAA FCS 24-team postseason. William & Mary (6-2, 4-1), fresh off a 31-18 win at Villanova, have also worked their way into the postseason picture.
Then there's Elon and Towson. Both are 3-2 in conference play, half a game in front of Maine in the standings. Elon hosts Villanova this Saturday, while Towson ends their season with a trip to James Madison on Nov. 20. While it's conceivable Maine could match both of those teams in the loss column, it would of course require the Black Bears to win out in-conference, both this weekend vs. Stony Brook and then at New Hampshire in the final game of the season.
Unfortunately, catching those two teams would not be enough for Maine, whose only path to the postseason is by winning out and hoping William & Mary stumbles in two of its final three contests at Delaware, vs. James Madison and vs. Richmond. In which case, Maine would own the tiebreaker over W&M thanks to the Black Bears' 27-16 win against the Tribe on Oct. 16 in Orono.
While the regular season likely won't end in three weeks with a trip to the playoffs for Maine, it can still end with a winning record. This would be progress for Coach Charlton in Year 3 at the helm and a successful finish after such a rocky start to the 2021 fall season.