KINGSTON, R.I. – Terrance
Fox (Piscataway N.J.) established career bests with 11
catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, but the University of
Rhode Island football team defeated the eighth-ranked University of
New Hampshire, 28-25, at Meade Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the
Colonial Athletic Association opener for both schools.
Trailing 25-21 with 2:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Rhode Island defensive end Victor Adesanya sacked UNH senior quarterback R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.), forcing a fumble that was recovered and returned 39 yards for a touchdown by defensive lineman James Timmins, allowing the Rams to grab the lead for the third and final time, 28-25.
New Hampshire (1-2 overall, 0-1 CAA) had its last drive halted when Toman's pass on 3rd-and-11 from the URI 42-yard line was intercepted by safety Matt Urban, preserving Rhody's first victory over the Wildcats since 2003.
Toman finished the day 31 of 44, both career highs, for 284 yards and two touchdowns and was the Wildcats' leading rusher with 15 carries for 25 yards and a score.
Rhode Island (1-2, 1-0) parlayed an early UNH turnover into a 3-0 lead with 10:37 left in the first quarter. After the Wildcats stopped the Rams' opening drive, the ensuing punt glanced off the leg of a UNH player and was recovered by URI at the 'Cats' 7-yard line. Facing third-and-goal, Rhody junior quarterback Steve Probst was stuffed on a keeper by UNH sophomore linebacker Matt Evans (Hanover, Mass.), forcing the Rams to settle for Louis Feinstein's 20-yard field goal.
The Wildcats struck right back on their first drive, going 70 yards in just six plays to grab a 7-3 lead with 7:59 remaining in the first quarter. Sophomore wide receiver Joey Orlando (Bethlehem, Pa.) made his first two catches of the season during the drive, including a 25-yard reception from Toman on a fade along the right sideline to put the ball in Rhode Island territory. Two plays later, Toman faked a handoff, rolled to his right, found a lane and then outran the Rams' defense for a 28-yard touchdown. Sophomore kicker A.J. DeLago (Menands, N.Y.) added the extra point.
The UNH defense shut down URI's next drive, highlighted by the first career sack for sophomore defensive tackle Randi Vines (Santa Clara, Calif.), making his first career start, on 3rd-and-20. The Rams were forced to punt from their own 16, and Fox returned the punt 16 yards to the Rams' 44-yard line.
Fox would reap the benefits of the great field position by concluding a six-play, 44-yard drive at 3:47 of the opening stanza with his first touchdown reception of the season. Fox took a Toman screen pass and followed a key block from senior wide receiver Kevon Mason (Quincy, Mass.) along the right sideline for a 19-yard score. Junior quarterback Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) hooked up with senior wide receiver Chris Chandler (Wakefield, Mass.) for the successful two-point conversion, staking the 'Cats to a 15-3 advantage.
Rhode Island trimmed the deficit to 15-10 with 13:14 left in the second quarter on a five-yard pass from Probst to junior wide receiver Anthony Baskerville. The 3rd-and-1 pass play concluded a seven-play, 66-yard drive.
On URI's next scoring drive, Probst called his own number and rumbled 58 yards down to the UNH 6-yard line. Again, the Wildcats' defense held, and all the Rams would come away with was Feinstein's second field goal of the game, a 23-yarder with 3:04 left in the half, cutting New Hampshire's lead to 15-13.
At the start of the second half, Toman accounted for all 57 yards of a 10-play drive, completing six passes for 55 yards and rushing for two yards before redshirt freshman Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) kicked a 26-yard field goal, the first of his career, staking New Hampshire to an 18-13 lead with 11:38 remaining in the third period. Fox had two grabs for 30 yards on the drive, and Mason added two receptions for 13 yards.
The UNH defense forced turnovers on each of URI's next two possessions, with senior defensive back Ryan McGuinness (Howell, N.J.) picking off Probst at the Rhode Island 42-yard line with :45 remaining in the third quarter, and Dino Vasso (Crum Lynne, Pa.) registering his first interception of the year, snatching a Probst throw at the UNH 42-yard line with 12:45 remaining in the fourth period.
The Rams finally broke through with an eight-play, 80-yard drive culminating in Probst's two-yard touchdown run with 8:13 remaining. Probst kept it himself for the two-point conversion, as Rhody reclaimed the lead, 21-18.
Toman then went to work, orchestrating a four-play, 60-yard drive in just 1:17 to put the Wildcats back in front. The signal caller went 4-for-4 on the drive, connecting with Orlando (career-highs: 6 catches-81 yards) for passes of four and 33 yards before Fox hauled in a two-yard pass and then was on the receiving end of Toman's 50th career touchdown pass, a 21-yarder with 6:56 left that lifted the UNH to a 25-21 lead following MacArthur's PAT.
The Rams' next drive was snuffed out when 'Cats junior defensive end Brian McNally (Cornwall, N.Y.) came around left end to sack Probst on a 3rd-and-13 from the URI 23 with five minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats next take to the gridiron Saturday, Sept. 25, against Lehigh University at Cowell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. For ticket information, call 1-800-745-3000, visit the Whittemore Center box office weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. or CLICK HERE.