The University of Rhode Island football team was unable to preserve a lead that held for a majority of the game, as they fell at Stony Brook University in a defensive battle that ended with the Rams on the wrong side of a 14-3 final.
URI (1-6) was intent on putting a blowout loss at Villanova behind them as they traveled to New York for a Saturday afternoon meeting with the Seawolves (4-2). The Rams offense came out strong and struck first on the strength of a 16-play, 68-yard drive drive led by quarterback Jordan Vazzano. Sophomore Justin Rorhwasser put three points on the board with a 32-yard field goal near the end of the first quarter.
The early drive was the most success the Rams would have in the air, as Vazzano was fairly quiet the rest of the way, totaling 13-for-30 passing on 100 yards for the game. URI’s offense as a whole was mostly stagnant, while Stony Brook ran rampant all over the defense, with running backs Stacey Bedell and Jordan Gowins combining for 246 rushing yards. The Rams did not waver though, as sophomore linebacker Tez Wilson blocked a 39-yard field goal in the beginning of the second quarter to keep his team in front, where they would remain going into halftime.
Head coach Jim Fleming was pleased by the heart his team displayed, but knows more offense was going to be needed to succeed in the road environment.
“I thought our defense stepped up tremendously,” Fleming said in his weekly CAA conference call. “We had opportunities to get a few more points on the board, although Stony Brook played very well defensively, but at the end of the day they got us backed up.”
The lack of offensive production seemed to indicate that URI was on borrowed time, but the team survived the third despite failing to mount any worthwhile drives. The attack shifted to the run, but Harold Cooper, the hero from URI’s lone win over Brown in the Governor’s Cup, managed only 32 yards on 17 carries. Nevertheless, the Seawolves were held to a shutout through 45 minutes, with the Rams clinging to a small three-point cushion.
The Stony Brook offense was ignited in the game’s final frame. They found success early in the fourth quarter after a 28-yard punt return put them on the URI 36-yard line, which was all the duo of Gowins and Bedell needed to propel their team into the red zone. The ball stayed on the ground the entire drive, and culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Bedell to put SBU on top 7-3.
Stony Brook scored on their next drive as well to extend the lead to two possessions, marking a complete change in complexion of the game. Goins ran the ball in for the two-yard touchdown, ending another drive in which quarterback Joe Carbone, who completed just six passes for 64 yards, never attempted a pass. The vulnerability to the Seawolves’ potent rushing attack caught up with the Rams and left them with only three and a half minutes to make a comeback.
The time left on the clock was insufficient for the offensively-anemic Rhode Island, as the Seawolves maintained their lead to clinch the home win. The Rams, on the other hand, headed back to Kingston with another disappointing loss on their resume.
“It was hard fought,” Fleming said. “Played it late into the football game, they were able to manufacture more than we were in the fourth quarter. The positives were that we got it back up off the mat after getting exposed by Villanova. Our kids came out and played extremely hard, and unfortunately got to the same point and lost a tough football game.”
Fleming and URI look to heal their wounds when they return to Meade Stadium for the Homecoming Game against the University of Maine Saturday at 12 p.m.