There’s really no easy way to put it – Rhody football got torched at Stony Brook on Saturday in what would have been a pivotal win for the Rams. Quite possibly, the loss means that the Rams may have to wait until 2019 to harvest the fruits of all of their labor.
After the loss, they fall to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in conference play. Two of their remaining games are on the road against ranked opponents, and the other two home games aren’t a walk in the park either.
In no way, ever, in any realm of the universe, could this season be considered a lost season for the Rams. They’ll likely finish 6-5, above .500 for the first time in over a decade. Rhody was picked to finish last in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason, yet they spent a few weeks in the FCS Top 25.
After the start the Rams had – showcasing one of the top offenses in the FCS, upsetting Delaware on their home turf opening night, playing up a division and nearly beating UConn in a buy-game, squashing Harvard on the road in a defensive battle before shutting out Brown for the first time in the Governor’s Cup – it hurts to say this. But this isn’t the magical season. Not this year. But, I say that with a smile.
Why? Because – this isn’t the peak. Rhode Island had one of the best offenses in the FCS until senior JaJuan Lawson went down with an injury in week five. Normally, that would be it for Lawson in a Rhode Island uniform. But not this year.
This summer, the NCAA amended the regulations for redshirting players. Lawson, who only appeared in four games, can be redshirted and gain a year of eligibility for the 2019 season. Aaron Parker and Isaiah Coulter, two of Rhody’s top wide receivers, also return for the 2019 season as well as the running-back committee and several key defensive players, including L.B Mack III and Brandon Ginetti.
Anyone who watched the Stony Brook game had one take away – the offense could not push the ball downfield. Vito Priore, who has done a fine job as Lawson’s backup, finished with only 62 passing yards on the day. A healthy Lawson carves Maine’s defense and makes the Stony Brook game much more interesting. Securing him for another year, logically, would only result in an improved offense from what we saw in the first few weeks- which could be scary.
Despite all the heights of the 2018-2019 season, it’s not the year Rhody Football and the fans should be excited for. Compared to the past few seasons, this is just the appetizer. Jim Fleming has done an exceptional job turning this program around, and the fruits of the labor will be enjoyed soon. Just not this year.