Photo by Autumn Walter | Wide receiver, Khayri Denny, makes a move for the Rams, driving the ball downfield.
Never before in the Jim Fleming era have the Rhody Rams won three times in the first month of the season, until now. Fleming and the No. 22 ranked Rams traveled to Cambridge this past Friday and took down the Harvard Crimson by a score of 23-16.
The last time the University of Rhode Island traveled to Harvard, in 2016, the Crimson were in complete control. Two years later, the story is completely different.
The Rams came out with something to prove. They got on the board early, taking advantage of Harvard miscue as they fumbled the ball in their own endzone, giving URI their first safety of the year. Harvard rebounded with a 37-yard field goal by Jake McIntyre and took their only lead of the night.
The Rams and two-time CAA Player of The Week, JaJuan Lawson, didn’t stay down for long. Lawson was able to find paydirt when he connected on a 38-yard pass to fullback Joey Kenny for URI’s first touchdown of the game. It was the longest and first career touchdown reception for the Kenny.
URI kept their foot on the gas throughout the next possession as Lawson was able to scramble away from Crimson defenders and dive across the goal line. This put Rhody ahead by a score of 16-3. Lawson was hit as he soared into the endzone, and according to Head Coach Jim Fleming, Lawson “tweaked” his right knee on the play and is currently listed as day-to-day.
With Lawson out for the remainder of the game, the quarterback responsibility came to redshirt sophomore Vito Priore. As Priore and the offense was struggling to get points the Rams got a big play in the form of a house call by Ahmere Dorsey early in the third quarter. Dorsey scored the eventual game-winning touchdown as he returned a 97-yard kick. This was URI’s only score of the second half. Dorsey amassed 232 kick return yards and was awarded CAA Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.
“Honestly It’s a blessing to even be back there and to return kicks,” Dorsey said. “Every time I get back there I tell myself, ‘no one on this field can tackle me,’ I trust my teammates to block for me and to open the holes. When I’m back there I just do me.”
However, the Rhode Island defense was the true star of the game.
“Every time we come off the field were prepared to go right back out,” L.B. Mack III said. “To make plays. We like it like that, we want to be on the field and want everyone to doubt us so we can make big plays.”
Mack III was able to come up with 11 total tackles with two sacks and three tackles for a loss. Mack III, alongside senior captains safety D.J. Stewart and linebacker Justin Hogan, were able to come up with crucial plays down the stretch to secure Rhody’s third win of the year. Both Stewart and Hogan intercepted Harvard’s sophomore quarterback, Jake Smith, late in the fourth quarter. Stewart spoke on what it meant to come up with the interception.
“It means everything to my team, means everything to me. We’re captains for a reason and big-time players make big-time plays and in order to win the game we needed this for our team.”
After the win, the Rams moved up to 18th on the FCS STATS top 25 poll. Rhody will now return home for the first time in nearly a month as part of two back-to-back games at Meade Stadium. First up is the in-state rival Brown Bears this Saturday for the Governor’s Cup. Then Rhody will turn its attention to The University of Maine for its 2018 Homecoming game on October 13th.
“Everything we do is for the University of Rhode Island, for this football team, for our fans and for all our doubters. This is big, we’re going to keep winning and trust in our coaches,” Stewart said.