ORONO – The University of Rhode Island snapped UMaine’s 14-game winning streak at their expense a year ago in Kingston, Rhode Island, and the Rams ended a 25-year drought in Orono on Friday night with a 34-17 victory at Morse Field in Alfond Stadium.
The game was moved to Friday night from Saturday afternoon to stay ahead of Hurricane Lee.
The Rams, ranked 20th in the country in one poll and 21st in another, improved to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the Coastal Athletic Association, while the Black Bears fell to 0-3 and 0-1.
URI had lost the last 10 meetings in Orono dating back to its last win on Oct. 10, 1998.
This time, URI scored 10 unanswered points in the second half to transform a 24-17 halftime lead into a comfortable 34-17 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Black Bears’ ineffective offense was held to a measly 57 yards in the second half and gained just 13 yards on 10 plays in the third period.
URI outgained UMaine 440-271 in the game.
Quarterback Kasim Hill threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kahtero Summers for the Rams and Ja’Den McKenzie and Gabe Sloat added touchdown runs. Ty Groff kicked a pair of field goals.
Freshman running back Tristan Kenan ran for two touchdowns for UMaine and Cody Williams kicked a 37-yard field goal.
URI converted 13 of 18 third downs, while UMaine was just 3-for-11.
“The offensive line played a great game tonight,” said Hill. ”[Offensive coordinator Patrick Murphy] was dialing it up and everybody was locked into what they had to do. Everybody went out and executed whether we were passing it or running it.”
“Their offensive line was a little more physical than we were and that’s not something we can accept on the defensive side,” said UMaine sophomore linebacker Darius McKenzie, who had a game-high 11 tackles.
UMaine head football coach Jordan Stevens said URI was “able to convert and hats off to them.”
“It’s a great football team,” he said. “Kasim Hill does a great job. It’s a unit that has been together and you see it especially in those [third down] situations. When they have to have it, they are able to do that. Their continuity and chemistry on offense is what stood out.”
The Rams showed tremendous balance. Hill completed 18 of 32 passes for 234 yards and URI ran for 206 yards on 42 carries.
McKenzie rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries and Sloat added 56 on 11. Summers caught 6 passes for 130 yards and four other receivers had at least two catches.
Safeties Jordan Colbert and Brent Jackson paced the Ram defense with nine tackles each and linebacker A.J. Pena had 1 ½ sacks among his seven tackles.
Kenan ran for 82 yards on 18 carries, Joe Gillette caught 6 passes for 42 yards, and Derek Robertson completed 21 of 31 passes for 187 yards.
Safety Abdul Stewart followed McKenzie in tackles with nine and he also had an interception. Tackle Isziah Henderson had seven tackles and end Xavier Holmes had a game-high three tackles for lost yards among his five overall tackles.
UMaine averaged just 2.85 yards per play in the second half.
“We’ve got to be better. It’s that simple,” said Robertson. “We have to execute better. And it starts in practice. We have to have better practices.”
Hill said his team was motivated by the fact it hadn’t won in Orono since 1998.
“That was important to us,” said Hill.
The Black Bears opened the game with a well-orchestrated 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by Kenan’s two-yard run.
Head coach Jim Fleming’s Rams answered with a 47-yard field goal following a 10-play, 44-yard march.
The Black Bears failed to pick up a first down on their next three possessions and URI took a 10-7 lead with 12:20 left in the second period on a 35-yard pass from Hill to Summers.
A 41-yard punt return by Sloat set up the go-ahead drive.
The Black Bears took the lead 3:41 later following a Justyn Haynesworth recovery after Latrell Couchman forced a Deon Silas fumble.
Kenan finished off a three-play, 35-yard drive with a 15-yard run.
Kenan was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for spiking the ball after his TD run and UMaine, for some unknown reason, punted the ball instead of kicking it off and was assessed a five-yard penalty for that.
That forced the Black Bears to kick off from their own 15-yard line.
URI took full advantage of a short field, needing just three plays to cover 42 yards with Hill finding Summers for a 37-yard TD pass with 7:26 left in the half.
URI expanded its lead to 24-14 when McKenzie dashed 17 yards to complete an eight-play 56-yard drive with 2:27 left in the half.
The Black Bears were able to cut the lead to seven as a pair of Robertson passes to Montigo Moss covering 23 yards enabled Cody Williams to close out the half with a 37-yard field goal.
Groff kicked a 42-yard field goal with 6:21 left in the third quarter to make it a two-score game and Sloat sewed up the win with a 10-yard run with 9:12 remaining in the fourth.
UMaine took the ensuing kickoff and put together its best drive of the half, reaching the URI 19-yard line.
But Fredrick Mallay intercepted a Robertson pass in the end zone to end the drive.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Black Bears as they travel to Virginia on Saturday to face No. 4 William and Mary, the CAA preseason favorite in the coaches poll. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
URI visits Villanova for a 2 p.m. contest.