Strong performances from Hill, Smith help Rams beat New Hampshire
Senior receiver Matt Pires (right) caught one of four passing touchdowns for URI in last Saturday’s win against New Hampshire. PHOTO CREDIT: Siobhan Richards
The push for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs is alive in Kingston.
The University of Rhode Island Football team held control all throughout Saturday’s game, coming up with a 28-3 win over University of New Hampshire on senior day.
The win moved the Rams’ record to 7-3 and 4-3 in conference play.
After a tough stretch in October, Rhode Island Head Coach Jim Fleming believes his team is back on track and playing better football.
“This game was dominated from start to finish,” Fleming said. “When you look at the past 10 quarters, that’s the kind of football I think we expect out of each other.”
Right off the bat, Rhody held all of the momentum. Just three plays in, quarterback Kasim Hill found Jaylen Smith for a wide-open swing pass, and he did the rest. The freshman running back took it 81 yards to the house to give them a 6-0 lead.
On the point-after attempt, senior kicker C.J. Carrick connected on his 257th point, setting the record for most points scored in program history. Quarterback Jayson Davis previously held the record at 256.
The Wildcats got on the board later on in the first quarter with a short field goal, but that was all they were able to muster for the rest of the afternoon. URI kept their 7-3 lead until 1:38 left in the first half, when Hill threw his second touchdown to senior receiver Matt Pires in the back corner of the endzone. A missed field goal from Carrick as time expired in the second quarter kept the lead 14-3 in favor of the Rams.
Rhody would score a touchdown in each of the last two quarters, each one a pass from Hill on his way to a career-high four scores through the air. A 2-yard score for Smith in the third quarter and a 20-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter for senior receiver Ivory Frimpong sealed the team’s win in their final home game.
Smith finished with a career day, racking up 205 total yards of offense (117 rushing, 88 receiving). The performance helped him earn CAA Rookie of the Week honors this week. He never thought he would contribute this much in his first season, but knew to be ready said if the opportunity ever arose.
“I really never expected to [have this big of a role],” Smith said. “But I knew, ‘next man up’ –– if anyone gets injured, play your part.”
Even with their production on offense, Rhode Island’s defensive performance set the tone in their victory. UNH was held to just 159 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, senior linebacker L.B. Mack III strip-sacked UNH quarterback Tommy Herion. Mack, who has been phenomenal as of late for the Rams, finished the day with eight tackles –– two tackles for loss –– and two sacks.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out in my senior year in my last game,” Mack said.
On the next drive, Herion was intercepted by fellow senior Coby Tippett.
The Rams will close out the regular season with a trip to Elon next Saturday, a game that holds their postseason fate in the balance. A win could potentially send URI to the FCS playoffs for the first time in 36 years. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game can be streamed live on FloFootball.