The University of Rhode Island football team returned home after losing two straight games to host the University of New Hampshire in a Coastal Athletic Association Conference Matchup on Saturday afternoon.
The teams last met in 2022, when a called touchdown for New Hampshire that was in fact a drop, kept the Rams out of the playoffs. Rhode Island came into the game with a chip on their shoulder.
The contest began with a defensive stop on either side. Rhode Island stuffed a fourth and one attempt from New Hampshire, and the Wildcats forced the Rams to punt. However, on the third drive of the afternoon, New Hampshire marched 44 yards on eight plays to set up a checkdown pass to fourth-year Dylan Laube for a touchdown. They left the drive with a 7-0 lead.
Both sides punted after the score, leaving the ball back in Rhode Island’s hands. The Rams began the drive at their own 20-yard line, but proceeded to march down the field over eleven plays.
A personal foul on New Hampshire tacked on 15 yards to fifth-year John Erby’s 17-yard reception, placing the Rams in the red zone. Finally, fifth-year Ja’den McKenzie broke four tackles on his 10-yard trot to the endzone and the game was tied 7-7 with 7:39 left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats swung back quickly, though. Third-year quarterback Max Brosmer unloaded four passes all to different receivers for 57 yards to bring New Hampshire to the URI 20-yard line. Brosmer finished the drive on his own accord – a read-option play left the top-passer in the CAA with plenty of daylight to run down the left side and UNH took the lead back, 14-7.
URI’s next possession was also a success, as the third play of the drive resulted in a touchdown. Seventh-year quarterback Kasim Hill threw a pass across the middle of the field, past the outstretched arms of a defender and into the hands of fifth-year Kahtero Summers, who took a long gallop into the endzone for a 44-yard score. Rhode Island tied the game at 14-14.
However, it was UNH that struck last, as a last-second 28-yard field goal from second-year Nick Mazzie gave the Wildcats the lead going into halftime 17-14.
After halftime, URI started with the ball and made their possession count. A 22-yard rush from McKenzie and a 26-yard reception from Summer were a part of a six play stretch that placed the Rams at the UNH 4-yard line. McKenzie delivered the final blow. A 4-yard run to the left side concluded with a truck into the endzone. URI took their first lead of the day, 21-17.
The two following drives both resulted in punts before UNH found their offensive stride. A long 14-play drive from the Wildcats, highlighted by a 22-yard reception from Laube, was capped off with a field goal from Mazzie to make the game 21-20 URI.
Rhode Island followed this up with a touchdown drive that leaked into the fourth quarter. Headlined by a 32-yard reception from second-year Marquis Buchanan, McKenzie dashed in for his third score of the afternoon, extending the lead to 28-20.
New Hampshire wasted no time on their response. The 11-play sequence was finished with a pass from Brosmer to fourth-year Logan Tomlinson over the middle, who dragged two Rams into the endzone with him for the 13-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was also successful, and a reception from second-year Caleb Burke tied the game 28-28.
Following the touchdown, three straight drives resulted in no score as the clock wound down, increasingly raising the chances of overtime. When Mazzie lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt, the crowd at Meade Stadium held their breath and released in exclamation as a kick that looked good the whole way drifted right at the last moment and kept the game tied with 52 seconds remaining.
Rhode Island’s heavy passing offense then trotted out onto the field and did what they did best, launch the ball downfield. The crowd erupted as Erby found himself wide open downfield and reeled in a 49-yard reception to set Rhode Island up at the UNH 8-yard line. With two seconds left, first-year Ty Groff stood over the game-winning field goal, and sent the ball into the air. The one predicament – the hand of UNH fourth-year Charles Briscoe III that slapped the ball out of mid air and sent the game to overtime.
Despite the chaotic end to regulation, URI Head Coach Jim Fleming was not concerned after the blocked kick.
“At that point in time you don’t need to [get your team ready for overtime],” Fleming said. “Our kids know, you play a game like that, back-and-forth the way it was, [you say] ‘Okay, the field goal got blocked. Who is going to go into overtime and do something?’”
Rhode Island won the toss to begin extracurricular play and elected to start on defense. An offensive pass interference penalty on Tomlinson set UNH back 15 yards and the Wildcats were never able to gain a first down. That brought Mazzie back out with a chance to redeem himself. Mazzie stood over the 36-yard attempt, and hooked the kick left, leaving Rhode Island only needing a field goal to win.
Rhode Island’s attempt went much smoother than UNH’s. A 23-yard rush for McKenzie placed Rhode Island on the one-yard line and he came back the very next play, punching the ball in for the win. McKenzie flipped over the line of scrimmage and into the endzone for his fourth touchdown of the day, sending Meade Stadium into a state of celebration. The Rams won 34-28.
Reflecting on the result in 2022, second-year AJ Pena ensured that this game did in fact mean more to the locker room.
“This win meant a lot, especially for the guys that were here last year, Jake Fire and Henry Yianakopolos,” Pena said. “I told them before this [game], I’m playing this for them… I’m just so happy we got the job done finally.”
Fleming, Pena and the rest of the Rams are now in their bye week, but host North Carolina A&T at Meade Stadium on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. for Senior Day.