IT’S HERE. Football season is upon us, Rhody fans, and the Rams will face off against… the Rams tonight. Rhode Island will take on Fordham in their season opener tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the Bronx as URI looks to improve on their winless season a year ago. We previewed the Fordham Rams in the off-season and actually predicted a Rhody loss, but make no mistake: this game is winnable. Here’s how the hometown Rams can start off 1-0.
1. Contain Koonce
Fordham is probably not the most ideal team for URI to open up against given Rhody’s struggles against the run last year. Senior running back Carlton Koonce set Fordham’s single-season rushing record last year with 1,596 yards, good enough to earn him Preseason All-American honors this year. It may be impossible to stop him, but Rhode Island needs to limit Konnce’s explosiveness. If they allow him to run wild, they’re likely headed home at 0-1.
2. Establish the Run
And while we’re talking about the running game, URI could use to put together a decent rushing attack of their own. Rhody averaged just 80 yards per game on the ground last year, but if they can establish a strong attack early, it could open things up for them in the passing game. Falling behind early will also be key in getting Jordan Sebastian and others going; Fordham’s best quarter a year ago was the first quarter.
3. Exploit Nebrich
If there’s one thing that Rhode Island has going for them, it’s that Fordham’s quarterback situation is significantly weaker than it was in 2012. Gone is stud QB Ryan Higgins, with junior Mike Nebrich stepping in as the signal caller. If they can force him to put the ball in the air more often than he wants to, Rhody should have the advantage at the quarterback position.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
21-7. That was Rhode Island’s giveaway-takeaway margin last season, which (obviously) won’t win you many games. URI needs to not only hang on to the football, but they need to try to snag a key turnover or two if they’re going to gain the upper hand tonight.
5. Dominate the Red Zone
Well this one is kind of obvious, right? Fordham is a lethal team inside the 20, scoring on 43 of 47 trips (including 29 touchdowns) in 2012. You can attribute a lot of that success to Koonce. Meanwhile, Rhody scored in just 16 of their 24 trips a year ago. URI needs better success on both sides of the ball in the red area this season, and they can start by making a statement tonight.
This is it – we’re now about three hours away from kickoff! Can the (good guy) Rams come away with a win tonight? Or will their losing ways continue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!