URI Football walked out onto Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field on Saturday in a great position. Should they beat the University of Connecticut, they would advance to 3-0 - tying Jim Fleming’s career high for wins in a season and heading back into Kingston with their best record in years. Should they lose, they would go straight to the bank, cashing a check for playing up a division and looking ahead to the Harvard Crimson after the bye week.
The game was far from what was expected. Rhody put up 49 points and the offense looked unstoppable, but they allowed 56 points and left Connecticut with a disappointing loss. In a game with 1,123 combined yards from both sides, neither defense really played their part in slowing down the opposing attack.
“It was a wild game,” Fleming said in his post-game press conference. “We played very competitively and went and did the good things. The bottom line is, in this kind of game, there’s a difference in 63 scholarships- which we don’t even have- and 85 scholarships, which they do have. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. We did too many things that were mistakes that we couldn’t overcome in a game like that.”
Quarterback JuJuan Lawson had a career day for the Rams. He was 23-of-34 with 351 yards and four touchdowns through the air, while rushing for 85 yards and two scores on 13 attempts. Both his 351 throwing yards and 85 rushing yards were career highs for Lawson, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS this season. In his three starts this season, he has 838 yards and nine touchdowns through the air with 122 rushing yards and two scores.
“Offensively we feel good,” Lawson said of his performance. “All game, I didn’t feel like they could handle us. But, at the end of the day, you play to win or lose the game. You’re still disappointed about the result, there were a lot of plays left out on the field. We have to keep grinding every day and get back to the drawing board.”
For the second straight week, Lawson connected with four different receivers for a touchdown. He found Isaiah Coulter, Aaron Parker, Marven Beauvais, and Tyler Burke in the endzone this week while connecting with the same core four in last week’s victory over Albany. Coulter led all receivers in the game with 10 receptions for 156 yards and a score.
“We’re practicing all the time,” Coulter said of the chemistry between Lawson and the receivers. “We have a good feel for where each other is going to be.”
In the first half, UConn scored touchdowns on six of all of their six drives down the field. Much like Lawson, Husky quarterback David Pindell was a nightmare for Rhody’s defense. He finished with 445 combined yards and six all-purpose touchdowns. Two of his scores came on the ground, where he had 137 rushing yards to go along with 308 yards through the air.
“When you’re sitting there looking at the quarterback as a primary run piece,” Fleming said. “That’s a real pain to do. David [Pindell] did a good job, and hats off to UConn. They were able to maintain a tough battle and come out on top.”
The Rams trailed 42-28 at the half, and UConn looked to run away with it early in the third quarter. Rhode Island fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, giving Connecticut the ball in the red zone with a chance to go up three scores. However, Rhode Island recovered a fumble a few plays in, one of three turnovers they forced in the second half. Lawson was able to march down the field and score, and the back-and-forth battle continued.
Rhode Island eventually tied it up with a 14-yard run from Naim Jones with 3:13 to play, but Connecticut’s Kevin Mensah was able to punch it in on the assuming Husky drive for his second touchdown of the game. Mensah had 144 rushing yards on the day in 25 attempts.
Rhode Island was threatening with seconds to play, however Lawson was sacked on the final play of the game, ending the Rams’ hopes for an upset and a perfect record. Rhody has a bye this week before heading to Harvard on Sept. 28 for a Friday night matchup with the Crimson.
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