By Derek Mancini
It looks like nothing is getting in the way of the now No. 15 Rhode Island Rams so far this season. Rhody improved to 4-1 on the season after cruising past long-time rival Brown to capture their second Governor's Cup in the last three seasons. The 48-0 victory was Rhode Island's largest margin of victory ever against Brown, and the biggest win over any opponent in 67 years, dating back to a 52-0 win over Brooklyn in 1951.
It was more of the same in the Rams' win Saturday on a gorgeous fall day at Meade Stadium, an offensive explosion supported by a dominate defensive performance. The one difference was that it happened without star quarterback and senior captain JaJuan Lawson, who was sidelined with an injury. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Vito Priore stepped up in a big way, with some help from the receiving core that's been giving defenses fits all season long. Once again, it was the cousin-duo of Aaron Parker and Isaiah Coulter that came up with the big plays, with both scoring in the same game for the third time this season. Parker had a game-high 108 receiving yards on 6 catches, including two touchdowns, while Coulter caught three passes for 83 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass from Priore.
But it was redshirt senior wide out Marven Beauvais, a Rhode Island local from Cranston, who had a breakout performance the day his team battled for the Governor's Cup. Beauvais had a career-high nine catches, finishing with 105 receiving yards and a 44-yard touchdown catch, the longest touchdown play of the day.
The passing game was supported by the best rushing attack Rhody has had all season. The Rams ran for a season-high 214 yards. Redshirt junior Zoe Bryant, Jr. had a career-high 92 yards on 15 carries, averaging 6.1 yards-per carry. Junior wide receiver Ahmere Dorsey, who has dominated on special teams this season, saw some time in the backfield for the first time this season. He rushed for a career-high 78 yards and scored his first rushing touchdown. Dorsey showed a lot of promise as a running back, and it'll be interesting to see if he gets more carries this season.
It also helps when the defense doesn't give the opposing offense a chance. Rhody's shutout of Brown was the team's first since a 20-0 victory over Delaware back in 2015. The Rams held Brown to just 122 yards of total-offense, less than half of the Bear's average coming into the game of 366 total yards-per game. Another Rhode Island local, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Andre Bibeault, also had his breakout game. The Cumberland native recorded the first two sacks of his career.
Head coach Jim Fleming will now turn his team's focus back onto the CAA conference, as Rhody prepares to face the 3-2 Maine Black Bears. Maine is coming off a conference victory over Villanova last week, and both Rhody and Maine will come into Saturday's game 2-0 in league play. This will be the biggest game of the season so far, and a win will help Rhody's chances of winning the conference. Here are some key takeaways coming off last Saturday's win.
Priore could be a future star in Rhody
There's no doubt that when senior quarterback JaJuan Lawson returns from injury, he will be back under center as the team's starter. But redshirt sophomore Vito Priore's performance against Brown was eye-opening, and maybe even a glimpse into the future.
In his first career start, Priore threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns on 19-of-25 pass completions. His longest and best pass of the day came in the second quarter when he connected with Beauvais on a 44-yard strike that pushed the score to 27-0 just before the half.
The Priore name is no stranger to Rhody football. Vito's father played His father, John Priore, was also a quarterback for the Rams back in the 1980's. When asked about if his father was on his mind during the game, Vito said it wasn't. Which shows just how focused and prepared he was, and his play showed that.}
"I've always been of the mindset that when you're prepared for something, you don't get nervous," Priore said after the game. "So, I've felt like I was prepared and I wasn't nervous at all."
For a sophomore making his first start filling in for a quarterback that has played as great as Lawson has, it was impressive to see Priore's poise. He also handled adversity well, not letting a first quarter fumble throw him off his game. All his throws were laser tight, including a huge 4th down conversion play to Parker that was good for a 33-yard gain.
There are two things that Fleming and his staff could take from Priore's winning start. One is they without question have a dependable backup going forward for the rest of the year. The second is they might have found their quarterback of the future post 2018.
Parker continues to add to his legacy
It definitely helps a young quarterback when he is able to throw to dependable receivers, especially when they're as good as junior Aaron Parker. He continued his strong 2018 campaign with another huge performance, eclipsing the 100+ receiving yard mark for the third time this season.
Parker also surprisingly did something he's never done before, by having his first multi-touchdown game of his career. He scored his first touchdown of the game in the second quarter on a 19-yard touchdown to give Rhody a 10-0 lead. Parker's second touchdown catch, a 10-yard grab in the corner of the end zone, was his 15th touchdown catch of his career. He is now tied for fifth in Rhode Island history, sharing the spot with Tony DiMaggio (1982-1985) and Darren Rizzi (1989-1992).
Parker also reached his 100th career catch on the 33-yard 4th-down conversion catch in the 4th quarter. With Parker only being a junior, he has a great chance of climbing even further up these rankings, and at the end of his tenure be known as arguably the best receiver in URI football history.
Mack and Bibeault lead pass rushing charge
Rhody's dominating effort on defense started and ended with its ability to get to the quarterback, racking up 7.0 sacks in the game. Rhode Island is now second in the conference with 17 sacks, thanks in large part to junior defensive end L.B. Mack III. Mack's sack resulted in a 10-yard loss for Brown, and he now ranks fifth in the FCS with 1.20 sacks per game.
Defensive lineman Andre Bibeault had a breakout game racking up two sacks for a loss of 11 yards. He is the third different Ram in five games to record 2.0 sacks in a game this year. L.B Mack III did it twice and senior linebacker Nas Jones did it once.
Jones also added a sack of his own, as did junior defensive lineman Brandon Ginnetti, senior linebacker Justin Hogan, redshirt freshman Tyler Wipper, and Jake Fire and Keith Wells combined for a sack. The combined seven sacks led to a loss of 38 yards for the Bears. It will be important for the Rams to continue to get pressure on the quarterback, especially with important conference games coming up. A consistent and stifling pass rush gives this defense a well-needed edge.
Rhode Island senior journalism major Derek Mancini will check in throughout the season with his Tuesday Take for GoRhody.com. Before his current internship with the communications office, Mancini interned with WPRI 12. In high school, he was part of a state championship football team for North Providence in 2013.