Junior safety D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie scooped up the fumble forced by defensive end Josh Kania and took it to the house to solidify a 39-17 win for the Wildcats football team Saturday against the University of Rhode Island Rams.
“We practice exactly what [the coaches] game planned for today. It was just guys up front doing their job and guys in the secondary coming to make plays,” senior captain linebacker Ryan Farrell said about his defense after the game.
The defensive score came 45 seconds after sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight’s second touchdown pass to classmate Neil O’Connor made it 32-17, UNH. Knight threw for 207 yards, a career-high, and the two touchdowns as he led the Wildcats to the 39-17 victory. O’Connor, a sophomore, stepped up in a young receiving core and hauled in six catches for 85 yards to lead his team.
Drummond-Mayrie’s fumble recovery was the Rams’ third turnover of the game and marked the third straight game that the UNH defense has scored a touchdown. Rhode Island also threw an interception and lost a fumble in UNH territory on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. The opportunistic defense shut down the Rams’ running game, holding them to 85 yards on 31 carries, forcing URI to try to beat them in the passing game.
The Wildcats weren’t the only ones forcing turnovers, as twice the Rams secondary intercepted Knight. The URI defense also had four sacks and solid pressure on the quarterback throughout the day. However, Knight was able to be effective with his feet, rushing for 64 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
UNH controlled the pace of the game with their rushing attack, winning time of possession battle as well as running the ball on 59 percent of their plays. The running back duo of senior Dalton Crossan and junior Trevon Bryant combined for 121 yards on the ground. Bryant gave the Wildcats offense a burst of energy in the second half, leading a touchdown drive he capped off with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 22-10 midway through the third quarter.
“Dalton and Trevon were able to run a little bit, open up a lot of stuff [for me] in the passing game,” Knight said following the win.” We’re playing with more confidence, the more games, the more reps we get under our belts help a lot with [third down] situations.”
In a rotation of young receivers, O’Connor and redshirt freshman Malik Love stood out as they’ve led the group in catches and yards the last two weeks. O’Connor’s first touchdown came on a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone on third down. An unusual play that happened with O’Connor on Saturday was that he threw a two-point conversion complete to defensive end Kyle Reisert on a trick play to make it 15-7. Head coach Sean McDonnell emphasized with his team all week that they were going to be aggressive and he displayed it with that call, as well as going for it on fourth down four times, and converting three.
“I told the kids we were gonna be pretty aggressive today,” McDonnell said after the game, “That’s why we took the ball to start the game, that’s why we put in the ‘muddle’ and went for two there.”
The Wildcats (2-2, 1-0) have now won six straight and 12 of the last 13 against the Rams. UNH has won 58 of the 90 meetings all-time against URI, with the first meeting being in 1905. Up next, the Wildcats will welcome the College of William and Mary to Wildcat Stadium for homecoming weekend, next Saturday, on Oct. 1.