Photo by Autumn Walter | Jujuan Lawson drives ball downfield against UConn this past Saturday. Photo courtesy of GoRhody.com
The University of Rhode Island’s football team fell to the University of Connecticut this past weekend 56-49 in the final seconds of play.
“It was a wild game,” said Rhode Island Head Coach Jim Fleming after the loss to the Connecticut Huskies this weekend, and wild it was.
Quarterback JaJuan Lawson was sacked on the final play of the game deep inside UConn territory. That left the final score at 56-49, and Rhody left East Hartford with their first loss of the season.
Despite the loss, Rhode Island’s efforts were enough to move them up to No. 23 in the STATS FCS Rankings, two spots higher than last week.
“We played very competitively and went and did the good things,” Fleming said. “The bottom line is, in this kind of game, there’s a difference in 63 scholarships, which we don’t even have, and 85 scholarships, which they do have. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. We did too many things that were mistakes that we couldn’t overcome in a game like that.”
The Huskies, an FBS team, were coming off two blowout losses at the hands of Central Florida and Boise State. The defense struggled in these games and did not improve in time for the Rams.
The game was an offensive explosion for both sides with both teams combining for 1,123 totals yards and 105 points.
Lawson was awarded CAA Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row after throwing for 351 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 85 yards and two scores. He set career highs in both passing and rushing yards in a game. In his three starts this season, he has 838 yards and nine touchdowns through the air with 122 rushing yards and two scores.
“Offensively we feel good,” Lawson said. “All game, I didn’t feel like they could handle us. But, at the end of the day, you play to win or lose the game. You’re still disappointed about the result, there were a lot of plays left out on the field. We have to keep grinding every day and get back to the drawing board.”
Lawson connected with four different receivers for touchdowns for the second time in as many games. He found Isaiah Coulter, Aaron Parker, Marven Beauvais and Tyler Burke in the end zone. Both Coulter and Parker had over 100 yards receiving with Coulter pulling down 10 receptions for 156 yards while Parker caught seven passes for 128 yards.
“We’re practicing all the time,” Coulter said. “We have a good feel for where each other is going to be.”
While the offense was clicking on all cylinders, Rhody’s defense was essentially the opposite. UConn was able to find the end zone on their first six drives, and quarterback David Pindell had a field day in the Huskies’ first win of the season. He finished with 445 combined yards and six all-purpose touchdowns. Two of his scores came on the ground, where he had 137 rushing yards to go along with 308 yards through the air.
“When you’re sitting there looking at the quarterback as a primary run piece,” Fleming said. “That’s a real pain to do. David [Pindell] did a good job, and hats off to UConn. They were able to maintain a tough battle and come out on top.”
The Rams were down two scores at the half and almost watched Connecticut break it open early in the third quarter. Rhode Island fumbled the kickoff to start the second half, giving Connecticut the ball in a great position to punch it in again. However, a few plays into the Huskies’ next drive an end-around was mishandled and the Rams recovered the fumble for their first defensive stop of the game.
Later in the half, Rhody’s Naim Jones scored on a 14-yard rush to tie the game at 49 apiece. Jones had his best game of the season, with 95 rushing yards and a score. On the assuming drive, however, Connecticut’s Kevin Mensah got loose for his second score of the game. He finished with 144 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
After the loss, Rhode Island fell to 2-1 on the year. They have this weekend off while they prepare to take on the Harvard Crimson on Friday, Sept. 28. The Rams were victorious in last year’s matchup over Harvard, one of their three wins in the 2017 season.