Halfway through the 2013 schedule and the Rhode Island Rams football team bears a strong resemblance Jekyll and Hyde. When the Rams have played well, they’ve played extremely well. But when things have gone wrong, well… everything is open to criticism. Which brings us to tomorrow’s game against the New Hampshire Wildcats. We had initially projected a Rhody loss to UNH over the summer, but at 1-3 (0-1), the Wildcats are certainly beatable. It just depends on which URI team shows up.
Here are out five keys to a road win for the Rams.
1. Slow Down the Wildcats’ Passing Game
New Hampshire uses a very efficient two-headed passing game, with both junior Andy Vailas and sophomore Sean Goldrich playing in each of the Wildcats’ four games this season. Both quarterbacks are the mobile type, but Goldrich has the ability to air it out a little more than his counterpart. Still, Vailas gets the start under center and gets a bulk of the snaps. Unlike Goldrich, he won’t go deep very often, but he certainly has the ability to dink and dunk a team to death. The Rams will have to have a solid game plan for both of UNH’s options if they’re going to be successful tomorrow.
2. Find A Way Without Semmes
The most glaring difference in Rhody’s offense tomorrow will be the absence of starting running back Justin Semmes, who is lost for the season following an ACL injury. So the onus is on Robby Delgado and Jordan Sebastian to do damage against a relatively weak New Hampshire run defense. The Wildcats have allowed over 100 yards on the ground in each of their four games this season, including giving up a season-high 352 against Towson last week. It’s certainly a game where Joe Trainer would love to have Semmes, but URI is going to need to make do without him.
3. Force A Mistake (Or Two)
Vailas has been a little interception-prone this season, throwing three picks in UNH’s four games. Two of them came last week in a 0 touchdown performance against the Tigers. If the Rhody defense can halt some drives by rushing the quarterback, tipping a few passes, and snatching an INT or two, they’ll put themselves in a great position to grab win number three.
4. Sustain Drives By Any Means Necessary
Make no mistake about it – Anthony DiPaula is doing a great job for URI since taking over the punting duties full time. That said, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for him to be on the field a little less than usual this week. The Rams have had a few too many three-and-outs this year, losing battles of both field position and time of possession. Keeping the Rhody defense off the field will be key against a tough Wildcats offense.
5. Stay Aggressive
We’ve harped on this before, but the Rams need to do a better job of playing from behind, especially in the second half. In a perfect world, Rhody will come out of the gate hot and never trail tomorrow afternoon. But if that doesn’t happen, Bob Bentsen and company need to remove any passive plays from the playbook and try to put pressure on an opposing defense. Being down double-digit points and running short-yardage plays isn’t cutting it. They’re going to need to try something different.
So what will it be? Will the Rams run the ball effectively, put together a strong defensive effort, and come away with a win? Or will they struggle to move the ball, give up a few big plays, and fail to mount a comeback after falling behind? We’re hoping it’s the former – all these questions will be answered tomorrow afternoon. GO RHODY!