Disappointment was tempered by pride and optimism last year when the University of Rhode Island football team narrowly missed a win over a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision squad.
In this year’s matchup with an FBS team, a 56-49 shootout loss at Connecticut Saturday, the vibe was different for the Rams. The 2-0 start URI was off to before Saturday’s game has raised the bar, as the high expectations that were always in place now sit on a sturdier foundation.
“Very disappointed,” head coach Jim Fleming said. “I really felt that it was a very winnable game that we let get away because of our lack of execution as much as anything else.”
URI trailed by 14 points on four separate occasions, rallying each time as part of one of the program’s most prolific offensive performances in years. The Rams piled up 550 yards of offense. The 49 points were the most in a single game since 2007.
Ultimately, though, URI’s defense couldn’t slow down an equally prolific attack from the Huskies. UConn broke a 49-49 tie on a Kevin Mensah touchdown run with 57 seconds remaining. URI drove to Connecticut’s 16-yard line in the final seconds but couldn’t find the end zone.
“I thought Uconn was a very beatable opponent,” Fleming said. “They’ve had their struggles. I thought we had a good week of practice going in. And our kids battled their tails off. We were down 14 four different times. Our offense was on fire. We just needed to make a couple of more stops on defense, which we were unable to do. Some of that is a credit to the quarterback at UConn and some of that is credited to our own mistakes, and that’s what we’re really focused on. It wasn’t that we were outmatched. It was just a question of not playing well enough on the road to be able to win that kind of game. Whether it’s a major league high-scoring game or a major league low-scoring game, I don’t care. We need to play a little bit better to come out on top.”
Rams stay in rankings
While URI didn’t take much satisfaction from the loss, poll voters were still impressed. The Rams moved up from No. 25 to 23 in the STATS FCS Top 25. They also climbed into the AFCA Coaches Poll, rising from the others receiving votes category up to No. 23.
Lawson excels again
Of the many eye-popping offensive performances in Saturday’s game, quarterback JaJuan Lawson again was URI’s top threat. On his way to a second straight Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week award, Lawson completed 23 of 34 passes for a career-high 351 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a career-high 85 yards and two touchdowns.
“He continues to get better and better,” Fleming said of the senior. “JaJuan has been doing everything you want him to do as your quarterback and the leader of your offense.”
Rams get week off before Harvard
Up next for URI is its bye week. The Rams will return to action Sept. 28 when they visit Harvard.
“The way we started off, I wish we would have just continued to play all CAA games all the way through. I liked the momentum we had,” Fleming said. “But [the bye] comes at a good time. We had a long training camp. We had three very physical games and now we’ve got the chance to heal up a little bit. The critical thing is to be able to keep our timing offensively throughout the off week. I think it’ll be a good week. We’ll give them a couple of days off, get back to throwing the ball around a little bit on Wednesday, and then Thursday and Friday we’ll get a chance to work against each other and sharpen our edges. We’ll go at each other a little bit, continue to stay in game mode and then get prepared to face a very good Harvard team a week from Friday.”