Liberty will come off a bye week to host its last home contest for more than a month when the Flames face its 2nd FCS opponent, Maine, in Williams Stadium.
Maine Black Bears
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Conference: CAA (FCS)
Coach: Nick Charlton was named the new Maine head football coach in December. He was the offensive coordinator for the Black Bears in 2018 and has been assistant at Maine since 2015. He’s also spent time on staff at Boston College.
2018 Record: 10-4, 7-1, L FCS Semifinals
Last Season: Maine likely had the best season in school history last year, as they finished 10-4, won the CAA, and advanced to the FCS Semifinals before losing to #4 Eastern Washington. The season started off with a bang, as Maine defeated #7 New Hampshire, 35-7, and then followed that up with a 31-28 win at FBS Western Kentucky. After stubbing their toe in their next 2 games, Maine would rebound to win 8 of their next 9 games, including wins over Jacksonville State and Weber State in the FCS Playoffs.
Following a successful 3 year run with the Black Bears, head coach Joe Harasymiak left Maine to become the defensive backs coach at Minnesota in the offseason.
2019 Outlook: Will Maine be able to duplicate their success again in 2019 under a first year head coach? We should know how good this team is by time they come to Lynchburg in mid- to late-October. They open the season at home against Sacred Heart before playing their first of two FBS opponents for the 2nd straight season when they take on Georgia Southern. Tough conference games against Towson, Villanova, and Richmond also await the Black Bears before they make the trek south to Lynchburg.
Redshirt-sophomore running back Ramon Jefferson returns from a 2018 campaign where he hadd 1,037 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, finishing 2nd in the CAA in total rushing yards. Quarterback Chris Ferguson also returns after starting 12 games last year as he threw for 2,372 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Ferguson’s top two targets also return, Earnest Edwards and Jaquan Blair combined for nearly 100 receptions and over 1,500 yards.
The two leading tacklers also return in Deshawn Stevens, who had 120 tackles a season ago, and Taji Lowe, who recorded 85. Defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker returns for his senior campaign after record 11.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
Liberty Game Date: Saturday, October 19
Location: Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, VA
Odds of Liberty Victory: 68 percent
Very Early Outlook: The biggest storyline entering this game will center around Liberty running back Joshua Mack who transferred to Liberty a year ago after blowing up the FCS at Maine during his first two seasons. As a sophomore in 2017, Mack led all of FCS with 1,335 yards and 9 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He was also 2nd on the team in receiving with 30 catches for 209 yards as he was named first-team all-American by multiple outlets.
This game could be similar to the Idaho State game last year, in a game that Liberty was able to hold on late for the win over a solid FCS team. Maine clearly has a lot of talent and plays in a very strong FCS conference in the CAA, but the Flames should be able to control this game with their size and speed. Liberty will also be well rested coming off the bye week.