What looked like the makings of the biggest upset in college football soon turned into the game that everyone thought it would be.
The game didn’t start off on the greatest note for the University of Rhode Island. The Rams’s starting quarterback JaJuan Lawson was sacked three times in the first quarter for a total loss of 25 yards and kicker C.J. Carrick missed a 34-yard field goal attempt after the ball was tipped at the line. Despite this, URI defense held strong and there was no score at the end of the first.
In the second quarter URI’s Tez Wilson made a big play for URI and sacked the JMU quarterback for a loss of 19 yards. The Dukes were still able to scramble back from a 3rd and 20 situation, however, and finish the drive off with a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the second.
On the following drive URI was able to get down the field to the Duke’s 20-yard line and converted on a 3rd and 1 situation. URI’s Dwayne Scott was called for a personal foul, however, after he pushed a James Madison player after the whistle, pushing the Rams back 15 yards. URI would be unable to recover from the penalty and would have to settle for a 40 yard field goal from Carrick to cut the score 7-3 at the end of the first half.
“If you boil it down, the penalties were really impactful to the game,” head coach Jim Fleming said. “You’re 14 to five in terms of penalties and those penalties are what I look at as mental discipline errors. There were a number of penalties that really took us out of position to win.”
URI would get the ball to start the third quarter and make quick work to get a first down before failing to convert again and would have to punt. On the ensuing JMU possession the Rams were able to push the Dukes into a third and 13 situation, but a personal foul penalty called against URI’s Rashod Dickerson gave JMU the yards that they needed for a first down. The drive resulted in another touchdown for James Madison and extended their lead 14-3 with 7:28 left in the third.
“What I am most disappointed in is the discipline error that result in penalties that have taken us out of opportunities to win,” Fleming said. “That part needs to be corrected and that becomes a function of coaching and playing and making sure that we are a more disciplined football team.”
URI would get the ball back on their own nine-yard line but a fumble by Lawson on third down would be recovered by James Madison on the URI four-yard line and set JMU up for a quick, one-play score pushing them further ahead 21-3.
“Every time we seem to get anything moving we find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot,” Fleming said. “It went immediately to a three-score game with that fumble.”
A quick three and out by URI would result in the Dukes getting the ball back on their own 33-yard line. This time URI would be able to hold James Madison to just a field goal extending the lead for the Dukes 24-3 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
URI would start off the fourth quarter with another three-and-out and set up Madison for another drive at the URI 45-yard line. James Madison would drive the ball down the field and get another touchdown to extend their lead 31-3 with 9:53 left in the game. Tyler Harris would come into the game to replace Lawson at the quarterback position and try to make something happen for URI. Unfortunately for the Rams, Harris would be sacked for a loss of seven on third down and would be forced to punt.
On JMU’s next possession it would only take the Dukes three plays and 49 yards to score their final points of the day putting them up 38-3. It would only take one play on URI’s next possession to seal the Ram’s fate as Harris would be intercepted with 7:51 left in the game, making it clear that the Dukes were not going to let URI come back making the final score of the game 38-3.
“When we went into the football game we knew they were a good football team,” Fleming said. “We knew that in terms of our ability to step up and and beat the number one in the country what we had to do was manage the game as we did in the first half and not beat ourselves.”
URI now falls to 2-7 on the year and 1-5 in conference play. The Rams will welcome Villanova to Meade Stadium this Saturday at noon for their last home game of the year.