Rams Look to Reclaim Governor's Cup Against Brown Saturday

Rams Look to Reclaim Governor's Cup Against Brown Saturday

Game Notes - PDF

Today's game marks the 97th meeting with in-state rival Brown, with the Bears leading the all-time series, 68-26-2. The series began in 1909, and Brown is the rival Rhode Island has faced most often in school history, followed by Connecticut (92 meetings) and Maine (90 meetings). Brown won the first 23 times it played the Rams. Rhode Island has won six on the last 10 meetings between the teams. 

Since 1981, Rhode Island and Brown have competed in the annual Governor's Cup, the unofficial state championship game. The Rams lead the Cup series, 16-14, including an 8-5 record at Meade Stadium. Brown is the reigning Cup holder, winning last season's contest 35-21 behind quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero, who threw two touchdown passes and rushed for two more. Rhode Island quarterback Steve Probst had scoring runs of 73 yards and 61 yards to lead the Rhody offense. 

This is just Rhode Island's second home game of the season. Over the last three seasons, the Rams are 7-4 at home. Rhody enters today's game looking to snap an overall losing streak of six games. The last Ram victory was a 24-21 victory against William & Mary at Meade Stadium on Nov. 5 of last season.

Senior wide receiver Billy Morgan had 123 all-purpose yards at Bowling Green last week, marking the third time in four games he has topped 100 yards in a game. Morgan led the team in receptions (5), receiving yards (50) and kick return yards (73) in the Bowling Green game. He leads Rhode Island with 391 all-purpose yards, which ranks 10th in CAA Football. Morgan also went above the 100-yard mark against Monmouth (102) and Villanova (108).

Several Rams made their Rhode Island debuts last week at Bowling Green. Sophomore quarterback Dan Farley led the team with 30 rushing yards on five attempts, and also completed 4-of-6 passes for 18 yards. Freshman wide receiver Xavier Ferland caught two passes for 14 yards. Freshman cornerback Tyrone Jenkins had two tackles, while linebacker Tarik Pusey appeared on defense and made one stop on special teams. 

Junior cornerback Mackenzie Elliott made his first start for the Rams, stepping in for an injured Donovan Walker. Elliott finished the game with six tackles and one pass break up. For the season, Elliott is fifth on the team with 19 tackles. He also has one interception and two pass break ups.  

Senior free safety Clement Ani continues to lead all defensive backs in CAA Football with his average of nine tackles per game. Ani has made exactly nine stops in all four games this season, giving him a team-high 36 tackles for the year. He has 21 solo stops and 15 assists.  

Rhode Island's defense had a season-best seven tackles for loss at Bowling Green last week. Senior Manee Williams had two tackles for loss, including a 10-yard sack. Junior linebacker Ali Muhammad made 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, and finished the game tied for the team lead with nine tackles overall. Also making tackles for losses were junior James Timmins, freshman Greg Doutre, sophomore Selwyn Nicholas and freshman Ekpen Idouze. 

Sophomore David Hansen recovered a fumble for Rhode Island while covering a punt last week at Bowling Green. It was the first of his career for Hansen, who also has two special teams tackles this season. 

Wide receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell was limited to one catch for zero yards at Bowling Green. He and Billy Morgan are tied for the team lead with 17 catches apiece. Johnson-Farrell has 163 career catches - the fourth most in school history. He needs two more catches to tie Dameon Reilly for third on Rhode Island's all-time list with 165 receptions. The top two receivers in school history are Cy Butler (189) and all-time leader Brian Forster, who made 284 catches during his career from 1983-85 and 1987. 

Brandon Johnson-Farrell's 59-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Bob Bentsen against James Madison was the No. 3 play during ESPN's SportsCenter broadcast on Sept. 22. With the touchdown, Johnson-Farrell became just the sixth player in school history to ecclipse 4,000 all-purpose yards. He now has 4,100 yards in his career, which ranks him fifth in Rhode Island history. The other five members of the 4,000-yard club are Cy Butler (5,380), Chris Poirier (4,691), James Jenkins (4,515), Wendell Williams (4,346) and Brian Forster (4,046).  

Through three games, Brandon Johnson-Farrell has 222 kick return yards, while Billy Morgan has 220. The duo's success in the kicking game has Rhode Island on pace to challenge the school's record for total kick return yardage in a season, 1,296, which was set in 2009.  

Brandon Johnson-Farrell already is the top kick returner in Rhode Island history, posting two of the top five kick return seasons in Rhode Island history. He holds the URI record for kick return yards in a season with 907 during his freshman season in 2008. Last season, he had 653 kick return yards, the fifth highest single season total in school history. 

Rhode Island ranks third in CAA Football as a team in kickoff return average at 23.2 yards per return. Seniors Brandon Johnson-Farrell and Billy Morgan rank fourth and fifth in the conference in kick return yards, respectively. Johnson-Farrell has 222 and is averaging 22.2 yards per return. Morgan has 220 kick return yards, and is averaging 24.4 yards per return. Junior Mackenzie Elliott doesn't qualify for the league leaders, but he gained 26 yards on one return against Villanova, showing Rhode Island has several capable weapons on the kick return team. 

Sophomore Theo Russell had his first career punt return at Bowling Green. Russell took the punt back 18 yards. It was the first punt return of the season for the Rams.  

Quarterback Bob Bentsen continues to be an accurate passer from the pocket. Through four games, he has connected on 58.9 percent of his attempts (56-of-95). He is the most accurate passer in school history among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. For his career, Bentsen has completed 59.4 percent of his throws (149-of-251).

When sophomore quarterback and Warwick, R.I. native Bob Bentsen made his first start against Delaware on Oct. 22, 2011, it marked the first time a Rhode Island native started under center for the Rams since Narragansett's Steve Holland did so vs. Towson on Sept. 12, 1992.  

Kickers Dylan Smith and Connor McHugh have performed well in their first three games with the Rams. Smith has made all of his field goal attempts, hitting tries from 22, 25 and 29 yards. The Rams are one of just five CAA Football schools to make all of its field goal attempts this season. McHugh has handled the kickoff duties and averaged 55.3 yards per kick. His kicks have allowed the coverage unit to limit opponents to average just 15.1 yards per return thus far.

In addition to starting on defense, Tim Wienclaw is the punter for Rhode Island this season. He has punted for 1,029 yards already this season, and his 67-yard punt against James Madison is the second longest in CAA Football this season. He has three punts of 50-plus yards, and is averaging 39.6 yards per punt. Seven of his punts have been placed inside the 20-yard line. 

Saturday marks the 26th consecutive start at right guard for senior offensive lineman Kyle Elliott. It is the longest streak for any of the current Rhode Island starters. Elliott came to Rhode Island as a quarterback, then switched to defensive line before making the move to offense.  

Senior Kyle Elliott finished his undergraduate degree in finance last spring. He was named the top senior finance student at URI, earning the University Excellence Award in Finance. 

After starting the final 10 games of the 2010 season, offensive lineman Andrew Belizaire began 2011 as the starting center. An injury ended his season after just four games. Belizaire is back this season. The red-shirt junior is manning the left tackle spot. 

Rhode Island's offensive line has allowed just six sacks through four games, which ranks second best in CAA Football. Only Richmond, which has given up one sack in five games, has allowed fewer in the conference. 

Sophomore Robbie Delgado scored his first career touchdown on a 2-yard plunge for the Rams last week at Bowling Green. It was Rhode Island's first rushing touchdown of the season. The Rams rushed for a season-high 96 yards last week, as four different players logged at least five carries.

Rhode Island scored its first two-point conversion of the season at Bowling Green. Lined up for the extra point, quarterback Bob Bentsen scooped in the snap and scrambled for a bit before finding fullback Justin Favreau in the end zone for the conversion. 

After turning the ball over five times in the first two games of the season, Rhode Island has committed just one turnover in the last two games combined.

Senior Clement Ani and junior Mackenzie Elliott each intercepted against James Madison, the first two picks of the season for Rhode Island. It was the second interception of Ani's career, and the first career pick for Elliott. 

Of the 85 players on the Rhode Island roster, 38 are in their first season with the Rams. Several of the newcomers are expected to have an immediate impact this season. Of the 38 newcomers, 16 have have seen action through the first four games.  

Rhode Island's roster has players from 12 states. There are 21 players from the home state of Rhode Island, and 14 each from New York and New Jersey. The Rams also have 11 players from Massachusetts and six each from Maryland and Pennsylvania.  

Three members of last year's team reached the NFL in 2012. Former wide receivers coach Ari Confesor is in the scouting department of the Kansas City Chiefs. Former Director of Operations Dan Silva is in the Indianapolis Colts scouting department. Former left tackle Jason Foster was in training camp with the Colts before being cut in August. Former Ram Matt Hansen is injured, but is still with the Atlanta Falcons, while Virgil Gray is with the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. 

In April of 2011, senior center Matt Greenhalgh donated his bone marrow to an anonymous leukemia patient in Florida. On Aug. 19, Greenhalgh got to meet Ken, the cancer patient, during an event at the Florida Hospital - Orlando. 

"It was a surreal experience," Greenhalgh said. "They called Ken up and introduced him. He explained his story, and then they said, 'Could his donor Matt please join him up here in front of everyone.' I was turning red, and everyone stood up and started clapping. The first thing (Ken) said was, 'This is Matt, and he saved my life.'" 

Each year, the football team holds a bone marrow registration drive in support of the National Marrow Donor Program. On March 17, 2011 Greenhalgh found out he was an exact match, and he went through with the donation a month later.

"The fact that I could impact one person's life so much by doing such a simple thing, sitting in a chair for a couple of hours and basically getting some blood drawn, it's just unreal."

Defensive backs coach Ryan Mattison underwent a procedure to donate bone marrow earlier this week at Mass General Hospital in Boston. He became the third person from the Rhode Island athletics family in 18 months to serve as an exact marrow match through the football team's annual bone marrow registration drive on behalf of Be the Match and the National Marrow Donor Program.  

Senior Matt Greenhalgh made a donation for an adult male in April of 2011, and former women's rowing captain Grace Rignanese was a match for an 18-year-old girl last January.

Mattison was back at work one day later, reporting to work just hours after leaving Mass General, where he'd been kept overnight for monitoring following the procedure. 

"I had no reservations about going though with the donation," Mattison said. I'm happy to be able to give the opportunity at life for a child. Knowing that within hours of them taking my marrow sample, the recipient would get was pretty exciting to hear." 

Mattison, who joined head coach Joe Trainer's staff in February, helped recruit people to register for the marrow drive last April. However, it wasn't until talking with Trainer during the drive that he signed up as a potential donor, a decision that very well may have saved the life of his recipient.

"While we were helping people register, Coach Trainer approached me and asked if I had thought about doing it. I realized, 'You know what? I'm asking people to sign up, but I hadn't thought about it myself,'" Mattison said. "I read over the materials, and decided to do it. I didn't expect it to happen right away, but it happed very quickly. 

"I am a faithful person, and I believe things happen for a reason. If I don't get hired to coach here, this doesn't happen."

Over the last four years, the Rhode Island football team has added more than 900 new registrants to the National Marrow Donor Program. 

Junior defensive end James Timmins and senior linebacker Doug Johnson was named to the CollegeSportsMadness.com CAA Football Football Preseason All-Conference team. Both players - and tight end Joe Migliarese - also were named to the College Football Performance Awards Watch List this summer as well. 

Timmins earned first-team honors from College Sports Madness. During his sophomore season, Timmins finished sixth in the conference in tackles for a loss with 13 for 50 yards, He played in 10 of 11 games and was ninth in the CAA Football with 4.5 sacks for 31 yards. 

Johnson, a third-team selection, made an immediate impact as a junior transfer from Dean College. In 2011, he was a CAA Football Third-Team All-Conference selection after finishing second on the Rams with 79 tackles.

Senior tight end Joe Migliarese is expected to play a major role in the Rhode Island offense this season. He was named to the 2012 Phil Steele Preseason All-CAA Football Team. Last season he ranked fourth in the Rams with 19 catches for 202 yards. He averaged 10.6 yards per catch and had three touchdowns.  

Brown quarterbacks coach Liam Coen spent the 2011 season as the quarterbacks coach at Rhode Island. A Portsmouth native, Coen began his coaching career at Brown under head coach Phil Estes in 2010. Coen was the Harry Agganis/Harold Zimman Award winner as the Outstanding Senior in New England Football following his senior season at Massachusetts. He also spent time with the Alabama Vipers of the Arena Football League before starting his coaching career. 

Dating back to the 1993 season, URI is 14-65 all-time versus ranked opponents. The Rams have faced one ranked team thus far in 2012, falling to No. 7 James Madison in the third game of the season. Last season, Rhody defeated two ranked foes - #13 Delaware (38-34) and #19 William & Mary (24-21). Rhode Island has defeated a nationally-ranked opponent in four of the last five seasons.