In need of a rebound after a heartbreaking loss to Maine, the University of Rhode Island football team instead turned in its first truly sub-par performance of the season Saturday in a 52-14 loss at Stony Brook.
Now the Rams really need a rebound.
“The guys know that we’re at a point where you have to make the right choice and get back off the mat, which we were unable to do this past weekend. Very tough loss for us,” URI head coach Jim Fleming said. “But we’ve accomplished a lot so far and it would be a shame not to continue to build on it through these last four games.”
URI hosts William & Mary Saturday in what shapes up as a crucial game if the Rams are to take additional positive steps after their strong start. The losing skid has them at 4-3 overall, and it knocked them out of the Top 25. Road games against top 10 teams loom the next two weeks, making Saturday’s game and the season finale against New Hampshire especially important. URI needs two victories in its last four games to clinch its first winning season since 2001.
“I think our kids and our leadership will take us through it,” Fleming said. “We’re in a little bit of a funk right now, but we’re getting some guys back and they came with a good attitude. We’ll keep building day by day and get ready for William & Mary.”
The Rams lost to Maine on a last-second field goal Oct. 13. Stony Brook, another ranked team, represented a high hurdle as URI tried to get back on track. The Seawolves raced to a 24-0 lead in the first half and pulled further away after the break. They racked up 460 yards of offense, including 354 on the ground. URI was held to 201 yards, a season-low, while quarterback Vito Priore completed only seven passes.
“Stony Brook is a good football team and we didn’t give them much of a game. We struggled on defense a little bit - we were down some guys - but the bottom line is we didn’t perform well enough,” Fleming said. “It was a real disappointment - an aberration for how we’ve been playing.”
URI’s previous losses had come by seven points and two points. Bouncing back will be a test of the Rams’ mettle, but Fleming has liked what he’s seen so far as the Rams returned to practice.
“I thought they came back with good intent,” Fleming said. “We had good conversations Sunday and they got some stuff out of their system. We went out there Monday morning and they were bouncing around, the ball was flying around. The defensive guys were running around and communicating well.”
A return to full health could provide a boost, though the prospect of that remains up in the air. Four defensive starters were out of action Saturday. Quarterback JaJuan Lawson has now missed three straight games after suffering a knee injury against Harvard.
“Same story with JaJuan. It’s day to day,” Fleming said. “He’s looking better and better. As soon as he’s ready to go out there, we’ll get him out there. We’re hopeful for this weekend, but I can’t give you a ‘doubtful’ or ‘probable’ at this point in time. We’ve got some more work to do this week to figure out how he’s going to be, but he’s certainly getting better. Defensively, our guys are inch-by-inch getting better. Hopefully, we can get back to full strength as we start this last four-game stretch.”
William & Mary comes to Kingston with the same 2-2 conference record as the Rams, but a different path to it. The Tribe lost its CAA opener 51-0 to James Madison, but has since won two out of three over Albany and Maine.
“It seems like they’re playing better and better each week. It’ll be a tough out for us,” Fleming said. “We’ve got to go play our best football, as we always do in this conference. Hopefully, we can get back on the right track.”