ORONO – The University of Maine football team is still about three weeks away from kicking off its season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to look ahead at the road that awaits.
“The mental side to it I think is the hardest part, especially if you struggle early on, because the quality of the opponent is so great,” head coach Joe Harasymiak said at the team’s media day Tuesday.
Harasymiak is not wrong. Maine enters the season with one of the toughest schedules in Division I ahead of it, with several ranked teams splintered across its slate. That includes No. 7 New Hampshire, the team the Black Bears open the season against at home. But those home games are few and far between, as UMaine will travel seven times in 2018, including two three-game road trips. That is not to say those on the team are scared, though.
“I don’t think anybody in the country plays the schedule we play to be honest, and it’s what you want, it’s what we recruit about, it’s what we tell the guys when they come to Maine,” Harasymiak said. “We are not playing a cupcake schedule.”
The third-year coach has continued to adapt during his time at the helm, but hard schedules have been relatively consistent in that time. Maine honored fallen teammate Darius Minor at media day by holding his jersey in team photos, a sentimental tribute to their fallen friend. But after the day was over, it was back to focusing on what’s ahead, and that’s a mentality the players have taken to.
“He [sic] doing everything in his power to do that too, and that’s from waking up at 6 a.m., working out all the way to late at night getting in the pool, it don’t matter,” wide receiver/kick returner Earnest Edwards said. “He’s just trying to turn this program around, and that’s what I love about him.”
And it’s that belief that they can compete regardless of the daunting road ahead that has trickled down to Harasymiak’s players more than any doubt has.
“I just want them to play tough and play with a lot of confidence they have,” Edwards added. “I feel like anybody that you put in front of us, we’re going to win the battle for sure. And that’s the mentality you have to have every day, even at practice.”