The University of Rhode Island football team lost to Villanova University 24-3 at Meade Stadium on Saturday afternoon for URI’s annual Family Weekend.
The Rams fell to 1-8 on the season and have a combined 2-19 record during head coach Jim Fleming’s tenure.
“It’s an ugly loss,” Fleming said. “We didn’t play our best. We’ve got to get in the win column and continue to grind away and prepare and get better.”
The Rams’ defensive pass rush kept Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarcyzk uncomfortable early in the first quarter before the offense eventually found a rhythm. The Rams and Wildcats exchanged punts on their first drive before the Villanova offense began to move the chains. Bednarcyzk led an eight-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a four-yard rushing touchdown.
Freshman quarterback Wesley McKoy led an 11-play, 66-yard drive but it stalled on third-and-goal when McKoy was sacked. Freshman Justin Rohrwasser kicked a 25-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to cut the deficit to four points.
Rohrwasser has made at least one field goal in his seventh consecutive game for the Rams. He is 9-for-12 on field goals in his eight games played this season.
“There’s an expectation,” Fleming said. “If you drive it down that close, you’re going to knock it between the goal post, and Justin has been doing a good job for us. We’re very pleased that we have a weapon that’s consistent from inside the 20-yard line. Selfishly speaking, we wish we never had to use him as much.”
Sophomore running back Harold Cooper was frustrated and struggled to give the offense a spark after finishing with 222 all-purpose yards last week against the University of New Hampshire. He finished with 62 rushing yards on 12 carries, three receptions for 23 yards and one kickoff return for 21 yards.
“We felt if we could get the run game going enough, the play-action would open up and give Wes [McKoy] easy enough throws to move the chains. We picked up a couple of pretty good shots off play-action and it resulted in positive yards.”
Rhode Island committed three costly penalties, including an unnecessary roughness call on sophomore tight end Charlie McKeeman that negated a 30-yard reception by freshman receiver Khayri Denny in the second quarter.
The Rams’ defense that has allowed an average of 191.8 yards per game this season was exploited for 284 rushing yards, including 123 of them from Matt Gudzak. The Rams also allowed 116 yards and one touchdown through the air. The Wildcats ran a wildcat offense that often confused the Rams.
On the first possession of the second half, Bednarcyzk led Villanova to a 14-3 lead after a three-play, 65-yard drive that took 47 seconds and ended with a 14-yard run by Gudzak. Gudzak had three carries on the drive alone that gashed Rhode Island’s defense.
“We were unable to do enough in the second half on the offensive side to get it going to give us a chance to win and close the gap,” Fleming said.
Fleming cleared up speculation about why McKoy was taken out of the game on the first possession of the second half.
“He’s hurt,” Fleming said. “I don’t know exactly what the extent of the injury is but it was the last time he pulled it down, he tweaked his knee.” McKoy finished 6-for-10 for 57 yards and an interception before he was taken out of the game.
Sophomore quarterback James Caparell struggled in the second half and put the Rams in a bigger hole. After Caparell converted a third-and-11 to continue the drive, he was intercepted in the end zone by Jason Census.
“I thought the one we threw in the end-zone was fine,” said Fleming. “You go down in the end zone and it’s a 50-50 ball. Their guy comes up with it and it was a coverage battle for it so I said, “Okay, it’s on the one-yard line.’” Caparell finished 9-for-18 with 64 passing yards and three interceptions and a sack.
Rhode Island was held to 208 total yards of offense while allowing 400 yards with 17 unanswered points in the second half. The Rams allowed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter that sent the crowd of 6,122 to the exit in droves.
The Rams will return to action on Saturday for their last home game of the season when they host Towson University for senior day.