“We found a different way to win the football game.” Jim Fleming couldn’t have been more accurate about URI Football’s 23-16 victory at Harvard.
The Rams went up to Cambridge on Friday night and took home their first road win from the Crimson in program history. The last time they played at Harvard Stadium, they took the long bus ride home after a 51-21 defeat.
Two weeks ago, they went to Connecticut and allowed 573 total yards and 56 points. 285 of UConn’s yards came on the ground, and while Rhody’s offense put up seven touchdowns, their defense lacked answers for the Huskies.
“Last week our offense held their own for us,” Captain D.J. Stewart said after the game. “This week, we held our own for them.”
It’s no question that people are talking about URI Football. At 3-1, they have matched Fleming’s career high for wins in a season, and they have only played two games inside their conference. The conversation, however, has all been centered around the offense.
Not that it hasn’t been well deserved. Before getting injured at Harvard, Lawson had two more touchdowns to add to his season total. He found the endzone six times at UConn and has accounted for half of the teams rushing scores, as well as all 10 of their touchdowns through the air. The receiving core has been unreal- the Rams have had at least one receiver with 100 or more yards in every game since the opener.
But Friday night, the defense and special teams deserved all the credit. The linebackers and defensive front that was nearly ineffective at UConn as well as the entire return team should be in the limelight.
“Defense and special teams stepped up in big-time ways,” Fleming said. “Our offensive problems and struggles at times was a result of Harvard’s defense.”
After Lawson went down and came back to the sideline in sweatpants, the offense didn’t score for the rest of the game. Ahmere Dorsey, who was just named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Week, had a 97-yard touchdown off of a kick return in the third quarter to push the Rams lead to 23-6. He had 232 return yards in total on Friday.
After his touchdown, it was all in the hands of Fleming’s defense. They shone through, especially late in the fourth quarter. Harvard’s defensive front continued to stall Priore and the Rams, and Punter Anthony Garro continued to find himself out there on fourth down.
Unlike the last trip to Harvard stadium (The Crimson converted on 14 of 20 third downs), URI was able to hold Harvard on third down. They only converted on two of their 14 tries and were stopped three times in the redzone over the course of the game.
When the defense didn’t come up with a third down, it was because they didn’t need to. On two of Harvard’s late-game drives, Defensive Captains D.J. Stewart and Justin Hogan both intercepted Harvard’s quarterback Jake Smith and brought the ball back to the Rams.
The Rams gave up a touchdown in the first drive of the fourth quarter but locked in from there. In fact, after the touchdown, they forced three punts, the two picks and a turnover on downs in that exact order.
It was a different way that URI won the game. Following the performance at UConn, it was extremely impressive to see this program come back after the bye week and make all of the right adjustments needed- and I know for a fact it feels good to win that defensive battle.