Despite a heartbreaking loss in the 33rd annual Governor’s Cup to Brown, 20-13, University of Rhode Island freshman running back Harold Cooper proved to be one of the Rams’ few bright spots last weekend.
The running back returned to the field on Saturday with a team-leading 95 receiving yards along with five catches after missing the last two games with a high ankle sprain. Following his first two games with just three total receptions, Cooper snagged nearly double this week including a 39-yard play that resulted in his first career touchdown.
“It felt very good,” Cooper said. “Missing two games and then getting the chance, when one running back is down, another has to step up and that’s what I did today. The coaches said just make sure you follow your blockers and hit the sidelines as fast as you can so that’s what I did. I wish I would’ve scored more though for the team.”
Though his role in the passing game was more productive than any other player on the offense, Cooper and the Rams had plenty of struggles when it came to the running game. As a team, Rhode Island accumulated just three total yards on 25 rushes with two of the four players who had carries finishing the game with negative yards. Cooper had a net total of five on 11 attempts which was tied for best among the team.
Even with all of the struggles surrounding the rushing attack, both Cooper and Rams head coach Jim Fleming said they plan on taking strides to make sure the offense is more dynamic. Rhode Island will have to make adjustments by this Saturday to beat no. 5 Villanova, who is second in the Colonial Athletic Conference with 93.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
“I think it’s always a combination of a number if things, but we can get our running game going a little bit better,” Fleming said. “We tried to get some sweeps to the outside which I think is where [Cooper] lives. It gives him an opportunity to get space and we’ll be doing some things to try and get more people ahead of him.”
After a high ankle sprain that forced his absence for games against Albany and Central Connecticut, Cooper was able to perform this week without any major setbacks. Though he is not at 100 percent yet, he said that he expects to be there by next week after rest and some time with the training staff.
The Rams are 0-5 on the season and they will have just seven more games to turn things around. Villanova, University of New Hampshire, William & Mary College and University of Richmond, four of Rhode Island’s remaining opponents, are each ranked in the top 25 of the FCS Coaches Poll.
“Our captains keep our heads up,” he said. “They make sure that we’re all never down. We know every week is going to be different, we’ve just got to believe that we’re going to win and it’s going to happen sooner or later.”