Aron Parker celebrates a touchdown against the University of New Hampshire. Photo by Autumn Walter.
For the second time in as many weeks, the Rhode Island football team lost in heartbreaking fashion, this time falling to the University of New Hampshire 27-24.
Unlike in their week two loss to Delaware, where the Rams raced out to an early lead before falling in triple overtime, it was the opposite side being played out in the Granite State. The Rams stormed back from a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter, tying up the game with one minute and thirty seconds remaining after a two-yard touchdown run from Zoe Bryant.
Bryant’s touchdown was set up by huge plays on fourth down from Vito Priore. With the Rams needing 10 yards to go on the UNH 41-yard line, the quarterback scrambled for the first down, crossing the first down line by inches that Head Coach Jim Fleming called “unexpected.” The Rhody faithful celebrated a second fourth down play when their signal caller found Isiah Coulter for 27 yards on fourth and eight.
Speaking on Monday during the weekly CAA teleconference, Coach Fleming noted his quarterback’s determined display late in the game.
“It’s been a continuing thing that’s growing every week,” he said. “He continues to step up and make plays and get it done.”
The Wildcats still had time to find a score of their own, and they got in scoring distance courtesy of the passing game. Quarterback Max Brosmer completed a back-breaking 41-yard strike to Brian Espanet, setting up the home team in the red zone. Facing the clock that had three seconds remaining, kicker Jason Hughes struck his 29-yard field goal in between the goal posts, sending the home crowd at Wildcat Stadium into delirium.
The big play let up by the defense wasn’t the only chunk play of the night. On only the second play of the game, Malik Love took a pass from Brosmer to the house for a 78-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, running back Evan Gray carried the ball 81 yards before being tackled at the URI five-yard line. Four plays later, UNH receiver Brian Espanet caught a tipped pass from Rhode Island Malik Wilder in the endzone for the Wildcats third touchdown of the night.
While the defense had moments of lapses, the offense looked strong for the second week in a row. Priore passed the 300-yard mark for the third time in his career, finishing with 312 passing yards on the night. He tossed one touchdown to get up to six on the season, but it is his poise in the pocket that was highlighted by his coach.
“He sits back there and is taking some hits and throwing the balls that are catchable,” said Fleming. “He’s been very very impressive and been improving every week.”
Senior Wide Receiver Aaron Parker continued his absurd start to the season, reeling in his third consecutive 100-yard game. He had a team-high 144 yards, and is now second in program history with 2,751 yards for his career. While time may not be on his side, no one would put it past him to catch alumnus Brian Forster’s program record of 3,944 receiving yards.
Parker wasn’t the only one to reel in Priore’s passes. Coulter had himself a successful day, tying a career-high in passes caught with 10 in the game. He added 105 yards and a touchdown in a performance that wasn’t surprising to his head coach.
“He’s a dynamic receiver,” Fleming said. “The kid is a phenomenal player and is the total package guy. He works extremely hard which is very important to him. We’ve had knowledge all along that he has these games in him.”
The Rams are back underway at Meade Stadium in the second and last home game of the season under the lights, with kickoff at 7 p.m. Rhody will take on Stony Brook, who last season thumped the Rams 52-14 on Long Island. That week Rhody was coming off a heartbreaking loss to Maine the week before, and Coach Flemming is looking to use last week’s game as motivation against the Seawolves.
“Our guys have no quit on them,” he said. “We’re gonna fight to the last second and we just gotta have that last second turn our way. We’ve got plenty of experience in those tough losses and we have to learn from past performances that we can’t let last week affect us in the next weeks.”