The date is Sept. 8, 2001. The New England Patriots have Drew Bledsoe as their starting quarterback, and have never won a Super Bowl. The URI Rams Football squad, under the reigns of Tim Stowers, had finished the previous season with only three wins- their fifth losing season in a row. They started the season off with a win in the previous week, beating a nationally ranked Delaware team by a field goal.
Stowers’ squad came into Kingston for the home opener on Sept. 8 looking to change the narrative surrounding Rhode Island football. Luther Green ended up scoring four touchdowns, three of them rushing and one receiving, and the 2001 Rams beat Hofstra 35-26 to improve to 2-0 in conference play on the season.
Fast forward 17 years. The date is Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, and Jim Fleming’s Rams are looking to change the narrative surrounding their football team. URI hadn’t started 2-0 in conference play since Stowers did it in 2001. Coming off a three-win season, the Rams traveled to a nationally ranked Delaware a week before and beat them 21-19, Fleming’s first opening night victory. The Rams hadn’t beat a ranked opponent since 2011, and hadn’t won on opening night since 2009.
The Rams welcomed the University of Albany this weekend for the home opener with a chance to accomplish something that hasn’t been done for almost two decades. Following the Delaware win, Fleming was on the CAA Coaches Call to talk about the game and the upcoming opportunity.
“They went on the road, faced a CAA opponent, and came out with a victory- which can’t be understated,” Fleming said. “It’s a difficult place to play and a good team we had to beat. We did the things necessary to win the game, but everybody says the most improvement happens between Week 1 and Week 2, and we have a lot to improve on. It was certainly a great way to start the season, and we’ll try to keep it going.”
In the Delaware game, Rhody jumped out to a 21-10 lead after scoring two unanswered touchdowns after the half. They held Delaware, who was 14th in the nation at the time, to nine points in the second half and ended up winning by two after a few late turnovers forced by the defense, both of them fumbles in the second half.
On Delaware’s opening possession in the third, Justin Hogan forced a fumble that Rhode Island recovered and ended up scoring on the assuming drive. With under five to play, and Delaware knocking at the door, Hogan forced another fumble, nearly sealing the game for URI. Hogan was named the CAA Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1.
After going 8-for-10 for 136 yards and the touchdown in the second half at Delaware, QB JaJuan Lawson continued to impress, finishing with 317 yards and four touchdowns and connecting on 22 of 28 attempts. He found four different receivers for each touchdown, hitting Marven Beauvais, Aaron Parker, Tyler Burke, and Isaiah Coulter. Rhody scored on six of their first seven possessions, jumping ahead 45-7 to start the fourth quarter. From there, the offense was able to relax and coast to a 45-26 victory after Albany’s offense got hot for the fourth quarter.
Lawson and URI started hot, taking a 4th and 12 play to the house as Beauvais caught a 28-yard touchdown. They never looked back from there, scoring 38 unanswered points while Lawson finished as the first Rhode Island player with four touchdowns since 2011. With the win, URI opened up the season 2-0 in the CAA for the first time since joining the conference in 2006. The last time the Rams opened up 2-0 in conference play was 2001, where Stowers led his team to a 5-0 start in the A10. With the upcoming games on the schedule, too, Rhody has a chance to continue the win streak long after the second game.
Next week, they travel to UConn to play the Huskies before traveling to Harvard and hosting Brown for the Governor’s Cup. Connecticut has yet to win a game, however they played both Boise State and UCF, two ranked D1A teams. The Rams beat Harvard last year for their first win of the season, and watched the Governor’s Cup slip away as they lost a multiple-score lead to the Bears last season. With better talent, more confidence, and simply a different team than the previous years, the Rams have a shot to change the narrative around football in Kingston.
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