The University of Rhode Island football team fell to 1-7 on the season after losing a nail biter to the University of Maine, 28-21, Saturday at Meade Stadium.
It was Homecoming Weekend in Kingston, but the weather did not look promising, as both the Rams and Black Bears warmed up around 11:30 a.m. The clouds were heavy and the rain was coming down sideways.
By the time kickoff came at noon, the rain had settled and the late-arriving crowd filled the wet benches and seats of Meade Stadium.
The Maine Black Bears were looking for their fourth straight win and third straight Colonial Athletic Association victory, while head coach Jim Fleming and his Rams were looking to erase a tough loss at Stony Brook from their memories.
Maine’s two-headed, backfield monster made up of junior Zaire Williams and freshman Josh Mack were going to be a lot for the Rams defensive front to handle, as it found itself vulnerable the week before against Stony Brook’s own dominant duo of running backs. Mack would prove to be an issue on the first drive of the game. Maine quickly got on the board after Mack scored on a 65-yard run less than three minutes into the game. An outside run along the far sideline gave Mack the room to run.
“It’s one of those plays on the far sideline that you figure is going to be an eight-yard gain,” Fleming said about the first Maine score. “[Mack] kept going past guy after guy.”
With 54 seconds left to play in the first quarter, Rhody began a drive at their own 43. Quarterback Jordan Vazzano completed a 32-yard pass to Harold Buckner III to put Rhode Island at the Maine 25-yard line. Buckner III had a career day with nine catches for 141 yards. This would set up a 25-yard touchdown pass from Vazzano to Marvin Beauvais just 10 seconds into the second quarter. Rhode Island and Maine were then knotted at 7 early in the second.
Maine would strike to take back the lead near the nine-minute mark. Senior quarterback Dan Collins found Micah Wright on the nearside out route for a nine-yard touchdown, which would be the last score of the half, giving the Black Bears a 14-7 advantage heading into the locker rooms.
The momentum continued to swing back and forth in the second half, as the Rams, faced with a fourth and 12 at the Maine 21, found their way into the red zone after Vazzano completed a 16-yard pass to Khayri Denny that gave Rhode Island first and goal. An organized touchdown run for Vazzano from the Maine five-yard line and a converted extra point would tie the game up at 14 apiece with four and a half minutes to play in the third.
Vazzano’s fortunes would turn awry as the half progressed. He threw a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and taken to the house for a pick-six touchdown. Maine’s Connor Walsh grabbed onto one of Vazzano’s five interceptions on the day and brought it back to give his team a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Vazzano would make up for the mistake midway through the fourth, when on just the second snap of the drive, he completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aaron Parker to tie the game for the third time. Maine regained control on a long play of their own. Collins connected with his top wide receiver, Wright for his second score of the game. A 43-yard touchdown would push Maine on top, 28-21 with just 6:23 left to go.
After exchanging defensive stops, Rhode Island would get the ball with a couple ticks over two minutes left in regulation, starting the drive at their own 24 with one timeout left. URI would move the ball to the Maine 18 with just eight seconds left, giving the team favorable field position for what would ultimately be the game’s final play.
Vazzano took the snap and threw the ball over the middle into the end zone, but the ball tipped off the hands of Beauvais and was knocked in the air into the hands of Maine’s Jason Matovu, who ended the game and potential Rhode Island comeback. The Rams fell short 28-21.
“That was a tough one, today,” Fleming said. “It was a good football game, probably enjoyable to watch. I am sick for my guys in terms of not being able to come up with the victory.”
Despite the five interceptions, Vazzano had one of the best days at quarterback URI has seen in a long time, having the first 300-plus passing yard game for Rhode Island since 2009, snapping a 77-game drought. He finished with two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.
The Rams (1-7) are now off to James Madison next weekend and then to Elon on Veteran’s Day Weekend. They return home on November 19 to take on Towson on Senior Day.