Rhode Island vs Harvard: URI Pulls Off Major Upset for First Win of 2017

Rhody football picked up their first win of 2017 this afternoon, and it was a big one. The Rams took down Harvard at Meade Stadium.

It’s still early, but 2017 is shaping up to be a different season for Rhode Island football. First they took an FBS team to the absolute wire on opening night. And this afternoon they pulled off one of their most surprising wins in years. URI took down Harvard — one of the best teams in the FCS — in a 17-10 thriller at Meade Stadium. The win gets the Rams on the board as they now sit at 1-2 on the season.

As the score indicates, this one was a battle. And Harvard landed the first punch. After Rhody had to punt on the opening drive, the Crimson were buried deep in their own territory. But despite starting on their own 12, Harvard marched all the way to the Rhode Island four yard line. But the Rams defense wouldn’t break, holding the visitors to a field goal and a 3-0 lead for the nerds.

The two teams traded punts again as the game spilled into the second quarter, but then URI found pay dirt. On a first-and-10 play from his own 49, Rhode Island QB Tyler Harris found Aaron Parker for a 51-yard bomb off a pump fake to give Rhody their first lead of the game at 7-3.

The Rams ‘D’ forced a three-and-out on Harvard’s ensuing drive, and then they struck again. Rhode Island pieced together a 13-play, 51-yard drive that stalled at the Crimson four yard line, but a field goal extended their lead to 10-3. But Harvard answered quickly. The Ivy Leaguers needed just six plays to tie the score, aided by a 57-yard run from Charlie Booker.

But as quickly as the Crimson knotted things at 10-10, Rhody was able to break the tie. URI used the Harris-to-Parker connection once again — this time for 39 yards — setting up a one-yard scamper from Harris to give Rhode Island at 17-10 lead.

And that capped the scoring. Not just for the first half, but for the game. The next four Harvard drives looked like this: Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt. But eventually, the Crimson put together a threat. Midway through the fourth quarter, Harvard marched 76 yards all the way to the URI seven yard line. But on a fourth-and-one, Rhody’s Jose Duncan sacked QB Joe Viviano, forcing a fumble recovered by the Rams.

URI had a fumble of their own later on in the fourth, giving Harvard one more chance at tying things up. But a last-second shot at the end zone sailed incomplete and the Rams found the win column for the first time this year.

And it started with defense. Rhody bent, but didn’t break as they allowed just one TD on the afternoon. And in addition to the forced fumble, he ‘D’ was aided by five sacks, which helped hold the visitors to under 200 (192) yards passing.

As for the offense, Harris turned in his first clean box score of the season. The red-shirt junior completed 12 of 19 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown, while adding another TD on the ground. Aaron Parker once again starred in the receiving game, catching three passes for 103 yards and a score. And although they didn’t find the end zone, the two-headed rushing attack of Harold Cooper (18 carries, 80 yards) and T.J. Anderson (18 carries, 62 yards) was huge when it came to sustaining drives.

So that’s what a win looks like. And slowly but surely, we’re starting to see what this URI team is capable of. We’ll have much more coming tomorrow.