By Derek Mancini
We haven't seen Rhode Island lose much so far this season, but the results last Saturday were as heartbreaking as it gets. Rhody lost a crucial conference game to Maine, 38-36, on a game-winning 39-yard field goal by Kenny Doak. This came just after Rhode Island drove down the field to take the lead back on a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Vito Priore to wide receiver Aaron Parker.
The 7,301 people in attendance at Meade Stadium for this clash of CAA Football teams got to see a back-and-forth battle for much of the game. After a pair of rushing touchdowns early in the third quarter by Zoe Bryant, Jr., Rhody seemed to have Maine on the ropes with a 30-14 lead.
But Maine flipped the script on URI's homecoming weekend, scoring 21-unanswered points to steal the lead. Trailing 35-30 with 2:28 left in the game, Rhody was down to their last chance to win the game. Priore, who was starting his second consecutive game in place of the injured JaJuan Lawson, found redshirt senior Marven Beauvais on 4th-and-7 to complete a 21-yard pass play, keeping the Rams alive. A couple plays later, the Rams faced fourth down again and couldn't complete the pass in what looked like the end of the game. But a roughing the quarterback penalty on Maine gave Rhode Island the first down, and yet another chance. Parker then scored his second touchdown of the game, and Kingston was ready to celebrate the comeback win into the night. But the Rams failed 2-point conversion allowed Maine to overcome the 1-point lead and take the game on the game-winning field goal.
The now No. 22/23 Rams are 2-1 against the conference and 4-2 overall, and will travel to play No. 18/17 Stony Brook on Saturday night. Stony Brook is 5-2 overall and 3-1 against the conference, and are coming off a 35-7 win over New Hampshire. This is a huge game for the Rams, who don't want to drop consecutive games.
Head coach Jim Fleming was passionate when talking about how the team will respond to the loss. He pointed out how much the Rams have grown over the last year.
"The past doesn't come back in. These guys have grown from one point to another and we have grown as a football program, as evidenced by what we saw (Saturday)," Fleming said. "These guys have grown and will get back up, load up and get on the ferry, go on over and play Stony Brook next Saturday."
Defense needs strong game against the run
For the Rams to rebound this Saturday, the defense will need to shut down Stony Brook's electric running game. They're led by senior running backs Jordan Gowins and Donald Liotine, who are ranked second and third in the conference in rushing yards per game. Stony Brook is the second ranked rushing offense in the conference (198.7 yards/game). They are last in the CAA in passing offense (166.6 yards/game).
Rhody's defense has been pretty solid against the run so far this season. Giving up 125.5 rushing yards per game (sixth in the conference), the Rams have only allowed two opposing teams to have a player rush for over 100-yards on them (Delaware and UConn).
If Rhody can find a way to slow down Stony Brook's 1-2 punch rushing attack, it will have a great chance to win this game. Look for the defensive line, led by captain senior Brandon Ginnetti, to have a hand on winning the battles up front and clogging the running lanes. Senior linebackers Justin Hogan and Nas Jones will also play a role in taking out Stony Brook's running game. Hogan had nine tackles, including one for a loss against Maine, while Jones had a career-high 12 tackles.
Coulter and the offense should be able to put up points
Overall, it was a relatively quiet day out of sophomore receiver Isaiah Coulter last Saturday against Maine. Coulter was held to three catches for 50 yards, the lowest amount of yards he's had since Week 1 against Delaware (1 catch for 9 yards). He did have a 27-yard catch in the second quarter that set up a goal line touchdown by Dorsey, plus he drew several 15-yard pass interference calls that helped chunk the field.
Coulter has broke out in his sophomore season with the Rams. He ranks in the top 10 in multiple receiving categories. In six games, he has racked up 513 receiving yards with three touchdowns. For a player that's averaging 85.5 yards per game, it's safe to say that Coulter should be due for a bounce back game, especially with the secondary they're about to face.
Stony Brook is the 11th ranked passing defense in the conference, giving up 244 passing yards per game. Not only is this good news for Coulter, but also the offense as a whole. For an offense that hasn't really struggled to put points on the board, the Rams have a big opportunity this weekend. Although he threw two interceptions, Priore played well in his second straight start. He threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns, again showing great poise and making plays under pressure. The connection between him and Aaron Parker is clearly there, as Priore went to him often on the plays they needed the most. Look for this passing game to keep executing at a high level.
Rhode Island senior journalism major Derek Mancini will check in throughout the season with his Tuesday Take for GoRhody.com. Before his current internship with the communications office, Mancini interned with WPRI 12. In high school, he was part of a state championship football team for North Providence in 2013.