OVERVIEW: The Rams of coach Joe Trainer have struggled out of the gate, losing to three teams with a combined record of 9-3. Rhode Island opened with a 41-6 loss at Monmouth, lost at Villanova 31-10 and then was beaten 32-7 at home by James Madison, which was ranked seventh in the FCS rankings at that time. Rhode Island also is currently on a nine-game road losing streak.
OFFENSE: The Rams have had little success running the ball, posting just 143 net yards rushing on 75 carries. That’s just 1.9 yards per run and 47.7 yards per game. Further, Rhode Island doesn’t have a rushing TD yet this season. The leading rusher is QB Ben Bentsen, a junior who has 65 yards. The top running back is sophomore Assani Mudimbi, who has just 57 yards on 24 carries. In the passing game, Bentsen has completed 48-of-79 passes (60.8 percent) for 440 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. That’s an average of just 146.7 passing yards per game. His top receiver is senior Brandon Johnson-Farrell, who has caught 16 passes for 158 yards, while senior Billy Morgan is close behind with 12 catches for 116 yards. Each has one TD catch. There are two seniors on the offensive line for the Rams, center Matt Greenhalgh and right guard Kyle Elliott, while both tackles are juniors in Andrew Bellizaire on the left and Kevin Mustac on the right.
DEFENSE: The Rams have been solid defensively, but the struggles of the offense have put too much pressure on the defense. Rhode Island has allowed 667 yards rushing (222.3 yards per game) while giving up 785 yards pass for 1,452 yards of total offense – an average of 484.0 yards per game. The team’s leading tacklers are senior free safety Clement Ani and sophomore linebacker Andrew Bose, each of whom have 27 tackles. Ani also has an interception and a forced fumble, while Bose also has recovered a fumble. Other leaders in the backfield besides Ani are sophomore “whip” Tim Wienclaw, who has 15 tackles; junior cornerback Mackenzie Elliott, who has 13 tackles and the team’s other interception; and junior cornerbacks Jamaal Bess and Donovan Walker, each of whom have 10 tackles. The other linebacker besides Bose is Doug Johnson, a senior who has 12 tackles. The leaders on the defensive line include senior Manee Williams, who leads the linemen with 12 tackles and leads the team with 2.5 tackles for loss, and junior James Timmins, who has nine tackles and curiously leads the team with three passes broken up (I assume these “break-ups” are tipped at the line).
SPECIAL TEAMS: It’s interesting to note that the Rams’ punter also plays defense –- sophomore whip Tim Weinclaw. He has punted 18 times and averages 39.2 yards per punt. He has just two longer than 50 yards but has dropped six inside the opponent’s 20 with no touchbacks. … Senior Dylan Smith will handle the place-kicking and kickoffs. He is perfect on two extra points and has made all three of his field-goal attempts, but none of those attempts were longer than 29 yards. … Senior Brandon Johnson-Farrell is listed as the punt returner, but Rhode Island is yet to return a punt this season. Part of the reason for this is opponents haven’t kicked the ball very long, averaging just 33.4 yards per punt. … Johnson-Farrell also is one of the team’s kickoff returners, averaging 21.7 yards per return. Senior Billy Morgan has returned six kickoffs an average of 24.5 yards.
BG KEYS TO VICTORY: 1. Focus, focus, focus. Don’t look back at the past few weeks, and don’t look ahead to next week. The team’s focus must be on this opponent –- and on playing well this week. 2. Stuff it. With the exception of the Virginia Tech game –- and truth be told, only PARTS of the VT game –- BG has been generally strong against the run. URI doesn’t run the ball well, so stuffing the run to allow the defense to pin its ears back and feast on the pass is important. 3. Make plays. By all accounts the Rams defense has been worn down, not beaten, the first three weeks of the season. Wearing that defense down again is one route to victory, but fans would feel better about this team if the Falcons could make big plays against URI.