Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Maine broadcaster Rich Kimball


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Maine quarterback Chris Ferguson looks to lead the Black Bears over Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Sept. 22. (Photo Credit: Stephen Swofford / AP)

Central Michigan Life's Evan Petzold spoke with University of Maine football play-by-play broadcaster Rich Kimball to preview CMU's 3 p.m. Sept. 22 game against the Black Bears.

Maine, an FCS program, is 2-0 to start the 2018 season, taking games against New Hampshire and FBS opponent Western Kentucky. 

Kimball discussed Maine's defense, star linebacker Sterling Sheffield, the three-point victory over Western Kentucky and what it would take to beat the Black Bears in this exclusive Q&A.

Central Michigan Life: What makes Maine a dangerous FCS football team to play against? 

"Maine starts with defense, a black hole defense is what they've called it for about a decade now. It's a high-risk, high-reward defense. They love to put pressure on opposing team and love nothing more than when a team in one dimensional. Maine's defense is perhaps tougher than in past years. The group has 12 sacks and have given up a total of just 27 rushing yards.

"They have a linebacker in Sterling Sheffield, who I think will be the next Black Bear to play in the National Football League. The whole front seven is back from last year. It's a deep and experienced defense."

How would an opposing team beat Maine's defense?

"What some teams have tried to do is show different formations and looks on offense. Screen passes are always going to be effective, so are draw plays. They've also shown the ability to adjust and take what the offense gives them. It's a tough defensive unit and is more athletic than most expect. Maine is the least bit intimidated by playing an FBS school."

What went right in Maine's 31-28 victory over Western Kentucky?

"Five minutes into the game, they were down 21-0. What Maine did very well was take a deep breath and began to establish the run. They got more physical and aggressive to clog things up. The name of the game is to run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense. Maine was able to do both of those things quite well against Western Kentucky and New Hampshire, which has won 15 of the last 16 years against Maine."

Is there an aspect of the offensive game that makes Maine special? 

"They have so many different weapons. In each of the first two games, (quarterback) Chris Ferguson has made great decisions. He knows when to hold the ball and knows when to throw the ball away. He's thrown to eight different receivers in the first two games, so Maine is using the tight end position really well. They are running a lot of jet sweep plays and reverses. Maine has two different running backs – one is a power guy, the other is a breakaway speed guy – that have been excellent. They are using all of their offensive weapons to make the opposing defense defend everybody."

How does Maine coach Joe Harasymiak plan to slow down new starting quarterback Tommy Lazzaro?

"Maine has faced a lot of teams that use the run-pass option and have been pretty successful against mobile quarterbacks. They are pretty confident in defending a quarterback who can use the RPO."

Is Maine worried about trying to stop Jonathan Ward? 

"(Harasymiak) talked about how the run game is a strength of Central Michigan's team. He knows that Ward is a tough guy to bring down and there are some talented receivers like Brandon Childress and Bernhard Raimann. Anytime you're playing an FBS team, you know you have to be aware of two things – hype and speed. Those are always going to be a factor. The staff, while they're not intimidated by CMU, are not fooled by a 0-3 record. They know it's a tough order." 

Final score prediction? 

"I don't really make predictions. I expect it'll be a close game. I will not take a guess on the final score." 

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