Maine sinks No. 15 Rhode Island with last-second field goal
KINGSTON — There was a lot at stake in Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association showdown between No. 15 Rhode Island and Maine, as the Black Bears pulled off their second straight nail-biter of a win. The Black Bears went 54 yards in 51 seconds to set up kicker Kenny Doak for a 39-yard game-winning field goal in 38-36 victory at Meade Stadium.
Both teams came into their 97th all-time meeting nationally ranked and they were knotted in a four-way firstplay tie with Elon and Towson at 2-0 in the conference. It was the first conference loss for Rhode Island (4-2, 3-1 CAA), especially stinging in front of a standing-room-only crowd for Homecoming.
“This was a very difficult loss,” URI coach Jim Fleming said. “One which had a wealth of things happen that, quite honestly, I have never seen before. Two good football teams battled their tails off. And we were able to bring it back and get in a position to win it.
“Never ever in my life have I kicked off from the 35yard line before – I thought about squibbing it or doing something crazy. What happened is on tape; it’s on film for here and eternity. The evaluation of that tape is very valuable for everybody.”
Maine (4-2, 3-0 CAA) has won the last 11 meetings between the two teams. In a rivalry that dates back to 1911, history has been kind to Maine as they now lead the all-time series 60-34-3.
“The bottom line is we had plenty of opportunities,” Fleming said. “First loss in conference, we’ve got to load up go down to Stony Brook.
“My guys are tough guys, a lot are beat up, but we fought in a crazy war and end up losing a game. It kind of breaks your heart, and it will be a test of character to get up and get ready to work [Sunday].”
Just 2:48 into the opening quarter, Maine, which came into the game with the top-ranked run defense in the CAA, went up 7-0 on a 66-yard fumble recovery by senior defensive back Jeff DeVaughn.URI made it 7-3 on a 32-yard field goal from sophomore kicker C.J. Carrick.
In his second start since replacing injured starting quarterback JaJuan Lawson, redshirt sophomore Vito Priore went 19-for-40 for 256 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His first interception came in the back of the end zone in the first quarter. Late in the first, Priore hit junior wide receiver Aaron Parker on 52-yard post route along the visitor’s sideline. It was Parker’s fifth touchdown of the season to give URI its first lead.
Priore opened the second quarter with a 21-yard pass to senior Tyler Burke, who had three catches for 43 yards. After important catches from Parker (nine receptions for 124 yards) and Isaiah Coulter (three catches for 30 yards). junior playmaker Ahmere Dorsey ran in a 4-yard score to put URI ahead by nine.
Maine made it 16-14 on a 1-yard run from running back Joe Fitzpatrick in the second.
Senior Nas Jones, who led URI with 12 tackles, intercepted the first pass of the second half. With Dorsey (41 total rushing yards on eight carries) working out of the Wildcat formation and junior running back Zoe Bryant (59 rushing yards on 17 carries) doing the run game legwork, URI went up 30-14 with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
Dorsey, who had 162 return yards, returned a punt to the 30-yard line to set up the drive. Bryant ran in the first from six yards out and plunged the second one in from the 1-yard line.
The Rams produced a good defensive stand in the red zone on the next position, as they nearly made a play that could have changed the outcome. Ram redshirt sophomore Kwadin Brown got his hands on a pass and the ball bounced on his body as he fell to the grass. Jones picked it up out of the air, but the play was called incomplete.
Later in the thrid quarter, Ferguson (30-for-48 with two touchdowns and one interception) hit redshirt freshman receiver Devin Young for a 10yard touchdown. Ferguson opened up the fourth quarter with a four-play 24yard drive and a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Micah Wright (10 catches for 125 yards), making it, 30-28, after a two-point conversion attempt failed.
At 2:28 in the fourth, Maine took their first lead since the first on a 9-yard run from Ferguson, going up 35-30.
Priore drove the Rams 75-yards down the field on ten plays in 1:37, ending it with a two-yard touchdown to Parker. Earlier in the drive, redshirt senior Marven Beauvais made a great 21-yard grab on a long third down conversion. Maine – who was penalized 16 times for 197 yards – also hurt themselves, as they gave URI at least one first down by roughing the passer.
The physicality between the Maine defensive backs and the URI receiv- ers was a mini-battle all day, and Parker was right in the mix, getting mauled as he ran routes and occasionally voicing his frustrations to the referees. Priore kept with Parker as his target, hitting the receiver in the corner of the end zone as Parker boxed out and out-jumped his defender for a touchdown grab to put URI ahead. The Rams tried a similar play on the two-point conversion, but Maine snuffed it out.
“We just ran the basic concept that we usually run,” Parker said of his second touchdown, which put URI ahead at the time, 36-35, with less than a minute to go. “I ran the fade, and my quarterback trusted me to go get it, and I got it down.”
“That was very big,” DeVaughn said of Parker’s two-point conversion attempt that they stopped. “We knew we had to make one more stop to just give a chance to Kenny.”
With their penalties piling up, Maine got into the weird situation where URI was kicking off from inside the 50-yard line. URI kicked through the uprights, and Maine was looking at a long field for their final drive.
“To overcome what we overcame,” Maine head coach Joe Harasymiak said. “On the road and dealing with the circumstances during the game, that is what this team is about. We were up against it today, but these kids showed how bad they wanted to win. The ball doesn’t lie.”
“Like coach said,” Parker continued, “we’re going to get back to the drawing board, come out in practice and compete like we usually do. But now we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, so we’ve got to take it the next level up in practice.”
URI travels to Long Island Saturday to play Stony Brook
The No. 15 Rhode Island football team led visiting Maine by a point with just under a minute left in Saturday’s CAA contest, but the Black Bears won the contest, 38-36, a 39-yard field goal by Kenny Doak at Meade Stadium.
In his second start since replacing injured starting quarterback JuJuan Lawson, redshirt sophomore quarterback Vito Priore (17) threw a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in a 38-36 defeat to Maine Saturday at Meade Stadium.