The University of Maine defeated the University of Rhode Island 20-14 in a comeback win on Saturday to spoil the Rams’ homecoming game at Meade Stadium.
The Rams drop to 0-8 on the season with an 0-4 posting in Colonial Athletic Association play. Rhode Island led 14-6 in the third quarter, but allowed the Black Bears to score 14 unanswered points to secure the victory.
With less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Maine down 14-12, quarterback Drew Belcher found receiver Damarr Aultman for a 46-yard completion to convert a third-and-16 from their own 34-yard line. Belcher had 56 total yards on the final drive. Running back Jerick Fedrick ran for a 10-yard score, and Belcher connected with receiver Jeremy Salmon for the two-point conversion.
Rhode Island quarterback James Caparell moved the offense 41 yards down the field with less than two minutes in regulation before a desperation pass on fourth down fell incomplete from the Maine 38-yard line.
“It was an emotional locker room,” University of Rhode Island head coach Jim Fleming said. “I think it was a devastating loss. This group has been very resilient and it’s been a season of challenge after challenge.”
Rhode Island marched down the field on their first possession, 80 yards on eight plays, ending with a three-yard run by Caparell that took only 3:50 off the clock and gave the Rams a 7-0 lead.
Maine scored field goals on consecutive possessions, holding the ball for 21:30 in the first half, and trailed 7-6 at halftime.
Junior defensive back Myles Holmes brought the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards to the end zone, putting the Rams up 14-6. The return is the longest in URI history and earned Holmes the title of College Football Performance Awards FCS National Kick Returner of the Week.
“I was set up with a good block by Justin Favreau and there was a small window and I hit it hard with a kicker to beat,” Holmes said. That was the first kickoff return touchdown since the 2010 season, breaking a span of 46 games.
Caparell threw an interception in the third quarter and defensive end Trevor Bates returned it 14 yards to the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Beckford punched the ball six yards into the end zone to bring the lead down to only two points.
“The turnover hurt because we gave up points,” Fleming said. “That was a big score in a tight ball game.”
Maine had 80 offensive plays and won the time of possession battle 42:19 to 17:39. Â The Black Bears rushed for 211 yards and passed for 151 yards as they outgained Rhode Island 362 to 264. Belcher led the Black Bears with 262 all-purpose yards, passing for 151 while rushing for 111 yards with a rushing touchdown.
Maine converted 11 of its 20 third downs after entering the game ranked worst in that category in the CAA.
“It’s not one of the most comfortable positions and it does have some wear on the defense,’ Rhode Island linebacker Andrew Bose said about the defense being tired. Bose’s team-high 19 total tackles earned him CAA Defensive Player of the Week and one of the GoRhody.com Student-Athletes of the Week awards.
The Rams will continue to seek out their first win when they travel to the Â University of Delaware this Saturday afternoon.The Blue Hens are 4-4 overall with a 2-2 record in the CAA this season.