KINGSTON, R.I. – On paper, the University of Rhode Island football team was no match for UMaine.
On a chewed-up field – amidst torrential rain and driving 30 mph winds – the Rams proved a worthy opponent Saturday.
Colin Gallagher’s 47-yard field goal – with the wind – in the second quarter was the difference as Rhode Island stunned 15th-ranked UMaine 3-0 at Meade Stadium.
It was a crushing defeat for coach Jack Cosgrove’s 5-3 Black Bears, who had a three-game win streak snapped and saw their Atlantic 10 title hopes severely damaged.
“It’s a hard, tough loss for us, but one we’re going to bounce back from,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine now likely will have to win its final three games to have a shot to make the 16-team NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.
“We have three games and we’ve got to win all three, starting with Northeastern,” said Bears senior quarterback Ron Whitcomb. “This is over with. We’re going to focus on them.”
On a day when scoring chances, and fans – there were 91 in the stands for the opening kickoff – were few and far between, the Bears failed to capitalize.
UMaine made five forays inside the URI 30-yard line, but came up empty each time.
“Defensively [our guys] did their job and offensively we were doing things, we just didn’t finish,” Whitcomb said. “That’s the frustrating thing, because it was right there for us. It’s not like they were eating us alive.”
UMaine had a solid ground attack, led by tailback Arel Gordon, who posted his fifth 100-yard rushing effort of the season with 29 carries for 128 yards. However, the abysmal weather conditions kept the Bears from establishing any balance.
Whitcomb attempted only nine passes, completing a career-low one and throwing an interception. UMaine maintained a conservative approach, especially late.
“It was awful difficult to grip the ball, to throw the ball, those kinds of things, so we’re trying to be smart with our selection of plays and look to things that have worked for us,” Cosgrove said.
UMaine’s best scoring chance came in the first quarter when the Bears went 56 yards on 10 plays and got as far as the URI 5-yard line. However, Devin McNeill’s 25-yard field-goal try from the right hash mark, with the wind, missed to the right.
The Rams answered by moving 50 yards on 14 plays, their only substantive drive and farthest penetration of the game. Gallagher lined up in the middle of the field and drilled a 47-yarder.
“I was fortunate we went out in the first half because the field was still slightly dry,” Gallagher said. “We kicked from one of the better spots on the field.
“With the wind at our back, all you really have to do is get that ball up in the air and knock it straight,” he added.
In the third quarter, the Bears twice moved inside the Rams 30 only to turn the ball over on fourth down on an interception and a Whitcomb fumble.
And in the fourth quarter, with the wind behind them, the Bears four times were unable to capitalize on outstanding field position – and failed to get a single first down.
“There’s no question that they were on their heels and we had a chance to win the game,” Cosgrove said. “We had the wind; things were in our favor. We just didn’t finish some drives and Rhode Island did some things on defense to factor into that.”
It was the first conference victory of the season for Rhode Island (3-5, 1-4 A-10), which had its own share of offensive struggles.
“It wasn’t just raining. It was a torrential downpour,” said URI coach Tim Stowers. “Our football team showed outstanding character in doing what we had to do to win the football game 3-0.”
UMaine’s defense afforded the Rams only 148 total yards. Linebacker John Wormuth made nine tackles and end Matt King made seven as the Bears held the potent option attack (215 ypg) to 116 rushing yards.
The Bears were in position to rally throughout the fourth quarter. Jonathan Calderon’s interception and 36-yard return to the URI 45 on the last play of the third quarter seemed to provide a spark.
UMaine went three-and-out, attempting two passes.
The defense quickly forced a punt, which went only 14 yards, giving the Bears the ball at the URI 36. Their options reduced by a sloppy field and the conditions, Whitcomb and Gordon alternated runs, giving the ball up on downs at the 31.
On the Rams’ ensuing punt, Jamaal Forman’s partial block gave UMaine the ball at the URI 31. Again, the play calls were basic between-the-tackles runs. On fourth-and-three from the 25, Whitcomb got 2 yards.
“I thought we were going to get it done in the second half and we didn’t,” Cosgrove said. “They made three or four stops on fourth down and their defense has to be credited with doing that.”
RAMS 3, BLACK BEARS 0
Maine (5-3) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Rhode Island (3-5) 0 3 0 0 – 3
URI – Gallagher 47 field goal
First downs 12 7
Rushing att.-yards 53-224 45-116
Passing comp.-att. 1-9 1-6
Passing yards 23 19
Total yards 247 135
Punts-avg. 4-42.8 8-24.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-0
Intercepted by 1 1
Penalties-yards 3-20 4-32
Maine: Gordon 29-128, Whitcomb 16-55, Fluellen 7-38, Randall 1-3; URI: Casey 22-66, Hughes 6-42, Allen 1-8, Pitt-Coombs 1-3, Butler 10-(minus 1), Evans 1-(minus 1), Cassidy 4-(minus 1)
Maine: Whitcomb 1-9-1-23; URI: Cassidy 1-5-0-19, Butler 1-0-1-0
Maine: Cotrone 1-23; URI: Allen 1-19