Following the team’s first victory of the 2017 campaign, the University of Rhode Island football team traveled to Durham, New Hampshire to take on 15th ranked University of New Hampshire to resume conference play. The Wildcats, in front of a record breaking home attendance, came out on top 28-14 behind the strong play of junior quarterback Trevor Knight and receiver Neil O’Connor.
It was the 92nd meeting between the Rams and the Wildcats, the latter now winning the last seven. The Rams were looking for their first victory over a ranked opponent since beating William & Mary in 2011, but came up short after a late second half surge.
On the Wildcats’ second possession, Trevor Knight marched the UNH offense straight down the field, with wide receiver Rory Donovan capping the drive with a tremendous 17 yard touchdown catch in the corner of the endzone. The drive was extended by a costly pass interference call on safety, Nas Jones, on what would have been a drive ending third down.
The defenses held strong for the remainder of the first quarter and deep into the second as the teams exchanged punts. On the Wildcats final drive of the first half, however, Knight led his team on an 8 play, 64 yard touchdown drive which ended on Knight calling his own number and finding the endzone on a 6 yard keeper. Knight found his favorite target Neil O’Connor, who finished with 232 yards, for three big plays on the drive. That would be the last score of the first half, and the Rams went into the locker room trailing 15-0.
Late in the third quarter, with the score still 15-0, sophomore wide receiver Aaron Parker took a slant route from QB Tyler Harris 75 yards to the house to get the Rams on the board. It was Parker’s 6th straight game with a touchdown, one shy of the school record set in 1994 by Bobby Apgar. Parker touched on what the record means to him.
“It would mean a lot to me, breaking the record. Coming in I was recruited as a linebacker, and I switched over to receiver so God really blessed me with some talent.”
Parker has found the endzone in 7 of the last 8 games, and 6 of those scores have been over 50 yards. He attributes much of that to Coach Flemming.
“I’ve been able to find a way to the endzone by my coach, he’s a great coach, he’s been able to put me in the right spot consistently.”
Another bright spot for the Rams was redshirt freshmen Kwadir Brown, who got his first career start at cornerback for the injured Rashod Dickerson. Brown finished with 7 tackles, 2 passed defended, and his first career interception. Brown provided the defense with a spark, fueled by the thought of his teammates.
“One of my brothers was down, and I had to step in,” Brown said. “I count on my brothers they count on me. That gave me the extra confidence I needed to make an impact.”
A 14 yard rushing touchdown by senior Harold Cooper brought the score to 15-14 in the fourth quarter. Cooper eclipsed 4,000 career all-purpose yards in the game. On the very next possession however, Knight found his man O’Connor for a 76 yard touchdown, and after a Ram three and out, Knight somehow escaped multiple sacks and found Malik Love for a 24 score.
That score killed all momentum URI had built, and essentially put the nail in the coffin, as it proved to be the last score of the game. Coach Flemming was disappointed in the end, but had some optimism for the future.
“We had to keep the big plays off the board,” he said. “We had some juice and momentum going after getting it to 15-14 but we couldn’t close it out. Trevor [Knight], made some miraculous plays but at the same time we know he’s going to make some plays. At the end, we were throwing deep and turned the ball over a couple times, and we have to eliminate those things. We’ll be in good shape heading into Brown next week.”
The Rams take on Brown next saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Brown Stadium.