Conventional wisdom suggests that the trip to Maine provides a real challenge for many CAA programs each season. Heading to the campus of the northern-most member of the conference means a long journey for most teams in the league, and the Black Bears’ quaint but hostile home stadium is a tough atmosphere to face. That is what lies in front of the University of Delaware on Saturday, as the 24th-ranked Hens travel to Orono for a 3:30 p.m. encounter with No. 23 Maine.
UD head coach Dave Brock acknowledges that his team has a difficult challenge waiting in front of it this week, but disputes that the game’s site has much to do with that fact.
“I think that’s a little bit of a misconception,” Brock said. “The reason it’s hard to play up at Maine is because I think Maine’s got a really, really good football team. And I think Maine is really, really well coached.”
Brock may be in his rookie season as a head coach in the league, but this is not his first time taking a team to Maine. As an assistant at Hofstra from 1997-2001, Brock and the Pride never lost to the Black Bears, going to Orono twice and winning both times. Despite that past success, he has enormous respect for Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove and the program he has built.
“Those guys do an unbelievable job every year,” Brock said. “You can go back to when I was at Hofstra and it’s no different. I turned the tape on on Sunday and I saw Maine football. I saw really, really tough kids, and really, really physical kids who are very well coached.”
Cosgrove made light of the perception that his campus was a difficult place to find success. He pointed out that his team has actually enjoyed a better winning percentage on the road since 2009.
“In the last three years we’re not real good at home,” Cosgrove said bluntly. “We’re [a .500 team] so it hasn’t been a great place for us to play either. We’re actually a better road team. We do have a stadium that gets behind us and all those types of things, but I’m still myself trying to figure out a way for us to be better at home.”
Cosgrove has a theory as to why teams have enjoyed recent success in his backyard.
“I’ve found that, because of their ability to charter in here and play the game, we’ve faced some teams that have really given us a hard time at home. I think there’s a reason for that. Teams take the first-class approach to coming up here and making it a business trip. We’ve seen that on the other end where we’ve been able to go on the road and be successful [in the same way].”
Delaware will take a charter flight to face Maine this week, but Brock did not seem to see that as being a major factor.
“I think the reality is it’s a tough place to play because they have a really good football team and an excellent coaching staff,” the Hens’ head coach said. “That’s what I told our players. The 90-minute flight’s not going to be the issue. It’s going to be about matchups and personnel and trying to find a way to play harder than Maine does, which is challenging.”
Brock also pointed out that geography did not matter a year ago when the Black Bears came into Delaware Stadium and thumped UD 26-3.
“As our players are well aware, we did not play in Maine last year and it was a struggle,” Brock said. “You’re going to have to beat Maine, it doesn’t matter where you play them.”