The University of Rhode Island football team lost in their home opener on Saturday to the Stony Brook University Seawolves 35-18 at Meade Stadium in Kingston.
Rhode Island, coming off a triple-overtime, 30-27 loss to the Central Michigan University Chippewas the week before, was looking to collect their first ever win over Stony Brook.
Given Rhode Island’s strong performance against an FBS team, there seemed to be a different vibe surrounding the program as 5,000 plus people filled the stands to root on the Rams.
“We were not able to capitalize on the buzz that seemed to be going around as a result of how we played last Thursday night,” Rhode Island’s head coach Jim Fleming said regarding the loss. “I told them [the team] that I thought Stony Brook was probably a better football team than Central Michigan. It would take our best on all sides of the ball. We just did the stupid things that prevented us from winning.”
The Seawolves were playing their first game since losing to the University of South Florida 31-17 in Tampa, Florida. USF was the 19th best team in FBS football according to the AP Top 25 poll. Stony Brook had looked strong in that game as they led 10-7 at the half.
Since joining the CAA in 2013, Stony Brook had never lost to Rhode Island coming into Saturday’s game. In last year’s matchup URI had led 3-0 late in the fourth quarter before Stony Brook ended the game on a 14-0 run to take the 14-3 victory.
Rhode Island turned the ball over on the first procession of the game on Saturday. Senior running back Harold Cooper rushed the ball up the middle on the first play from scrimmage only to have Stony Brook knock the ball loose. The turnover gave the Seawolves the ball inside the URI 15-yard line.
Stony Brook capitalized on the Rhode Island mistake as their running back Stacy Bedell fell into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown run. With 13:27 left in the first quarter Rhode Island trailed 7-0.
Later in the first quarter the Seawolves added a second touchdown when wide out Ray Bolden caught a 10-yard touchdown from quarterback Joe Carbone. It was the last scoring play of the first half for both teams. URI headed to the locker room down 14-0.
In the third quarter with 7:24 left to go, Carbone found Bolden for a 9-yard touchdown reception. Both Bolden and Carbone had huge offensive days. Carbone finished the day completing 14 of his 25 passes for two touchdowns and 190 yards. Bolden had 10 of Carbone’s 14 completions and 121 yards with both touchdown receptions.
“Ray is a good receiver,” Fleming said about Stony Brook’s top target. “We recruited him. We would have liked to have him. We knew we would have some issues with him, but the third down conversions are what makes him a good player.”
In the final 2:42 of the third quarter Rhode Island pieced together a 10-0 run. Quarterback Tyler Harris found wide receiver Aaron Parker for a 63-yard touchdown, giving Rhody their first points of the contest and bringing the score to 21-7. Rhode Island’s defense stepped up when defensive lineman Jose Duncan brought a fumble recovery back to the Stony Brook five-yard line. URI settled for a field goal and headed to the fourth trailing 21-10.
Stony Brook put a quick stop to Rhody’s rally by responding with back-to-back touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. A four-yard TD run from running back Donald Liotine and Bedell’s second rushing touchdown of the day gave Stony Brook a 35-10 lead.
Fleming removed his starting quarterback Harris with just under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Harris gave way to JaJuan Lawson, a transfer quarterback from New Mexico.
On the first drive led by Lawson, the Rhode Island offense marched down the field on a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive topped off with a 3-yard quarterback keeper to give Rhode Island there second touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion URI trailed 35-18, the eventual final score.
Fleming stressed to his team that the season is far from over, but understood, however, that his squad missed an opportunity at a win.
“This is a state right now, in which case, if it comes out the critical piece was to come out on the right foot and we didn’t do it,” Fleming said. “Hopefully we can still generate the support necessary to us going forward.”
Rhode Island is next in action on Saturday when they welcome Harvard to Meade Stadium with kickoff at 1 p.m.