Since 2001, The University of Rhode Island’s football team has not finished a season with a winning record. They came into the Homecoming game this weekend at 4-1 with a loss at UConn, who plays a division above Rhode Island in the FBS.
The Rams opened the season with a win on the road over Delaware, who was ranked 15th in the FCS at the time. They followed up with a blowout victory over the University of Albany, where they scored on each of their first seven possessions. The offense has been unreal, averaging over 400 yards and 30 points per game. Quarterback JaJuan Lawson had 991 yards through the air and ten passing touchdowns as well as three rushing scores and 127 yards on the ground in the first three games. The UConn game followed Albany, and Lawson had six total touchdowns, two on the ground, while throwing for 351 yards.
In the first half of a road victory in week four over Harvard- the first one in program history- Lawson went down with a leg injury and has been sidelined since. In a best case scenario becoming reality, backup Vito Priore led the Rams to a 48-0 shutout over Brown in the Governor’s Cup the following week. The shutout was also URI’s first since the beginning of the cup.
Priore led the Rams to battle against the University of Maine this past weekend in front of the first sellout crowd in Kingston in years. Despite leading 30-16, Rhode Island found themselves down 35-30 with just over two minutes to play. Priore brought the Rams downfield, with some help from penalties against Maine, and eventually connected on a goal-line fade with Aaron Parker for a touchdown. Parker had two scores on the day, and has already racked up four 100-yard receiving performances. He averages 93.8 yards a game and has six touchdowns through the first six games.
Despite only leaving 51 seconds on the clock, Maine was able to get into field goal range for Kenny Doak, who split the uprights and gave Rhode Island their second loss of the season, and their first one in their division.
Postgame, Coach Jim Fleming was asked how the Rams would overcome the last-second defeat.
“What are we going to do?” Fleming asked. “Sit there and say, ‘Oh it’s over, we lost a football game?’ We’re going to go play the next game. We’ve grown as a football program. We’re going to get up and fight like we have done in the past- that has been our habit. These guys have grown. We’ll get back up and we’ll get on the ferry and we’ll play Stony Brook next Saturday after a good week of practice.”
Should the season end today, the Rams would finish a top 25 team in the FCS and 6th in the Coastal Athletic Conference. Prior to the Delaware game, URI was voted to finish last in the CAA. They were the top team heading into Homecoming Weekend.
A Look Ahead
The easiest part of Rhode Island’s schedule is behind them. In the month of November, they play both James Madison and Elon- two programs that have been nationally ranked consistently over the past few seasons. James Madison infamously beat URI 84-7 two years ago the last time they hosted the Rams.
Rhode Island travels to Stony Brook this Saturday, where they could pull off another victory to cushion them for the end of the season. Stony Brook was ranked 18th in the Stats FCS Poll this week, and a road win would be impressive for URI’s résumé. They then host William & Mary, a game the Rams should win, before traveling to #11 Elon and #4 James Madison. New Hampshire, a team that isn’t ranked but is still dangerous, comes to Meade Stadium to close out Rhody’s season.
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