Football is off to a shaky start here in the Ocean State. Rhode Island’s favorite pro team was humiliated in its season opener last week, its flagship state university is 0-2, and its top business school lost by eight touchdowns last Saturday.
The good news is that the Ocean State’s Ivy League entry at long last kicks off its season on Saturday, and its Division III team is undefeated.
Let’s proceed in reverse order. Salve Regina University, the consistent winner from Newport, is 2-0 after victories over Worcester State Montclair State of New Jersey. The Seahawks won each game by a touchdown. They will play at Dean on Saturday.
Brown launches its 140th season Saturday afternoon at Brown Stadium against Bryant. The pre-game story line is Bryant’s rookie head coach, James Perry, matching wits against his college coach, Phil Estes. Perry was Brown’s record-smashing quarterback in the late 1990s and as a senior led Brown to the 1999 Ivy League championship in Estes’s second year as a head coach. Sub-plots include Brown trying to rebound from a rare 4-6 finish in 2016 after two consecutive .500 seasons and Estes starting his 20th season on the Brown sideline. Junior Nick Duncan of St. Louis, who appeared in the Columbia finale last season, will start at quarterback for the Bears.
Now for the bad news. Bryant is 1-1 but could easily be 0-2. The Bulldogs needed a 29-point fourth quarter to beat Merrimack, 49-41, in Perry’s debut two weeks ago. They lost three of five fumbles and had two passes intercepted. Merrimack shredded the Bryant defense for 546 yards, 469 through the air. Last week at Orono, Maine routed Bryant, 60-12, the worst defeat in Bryant’s time as a Division I program. Quarterback Price Wilson threw five interceptions, and the Bulldogs lost three of four fumbles, running their total to 13 turnovers in two games. Maine pounded Bryant’s defense for 536 yards, 381 on the ground. Josh Mack rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. He scored on runs of 66 yards and 60 yards.
The University of Rhode Island continues to search for victories. The Rams showed resolve in their 30-27 triple overtime loss at Central Michigan in their Aug. 31 season opener but then reverted to their losing form, falling behind Stony Brook, 21-0, in their home opener last week before losing 35-18. Quarterback Tyler Harris has been intercepted eight times, six at Central Michigan. Harvard, a perennial Ivy League contender, will head to Meade Stadium in Kingston on Saturday for its first game of 2016.
And the New England Patriots? After their embarrassing 42-27 loss to Kansas City last week, the Pats are in New Orleans to play the Saints on Sunday. They can’t play as poorly as they did against the Chiefs. Tom Brady completed only 16 of 36 passes for 267 yards and did not toss a touchdown pass. Kansas City’s strategy of dropping eight defenders in pass coverage stymied Brady’s short game. The Pats rushed for 124 yards but failed on two fourth-and-less-than-a-yard situations. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the most prolific passer in the NFL last year, could have a big day against a Pats defense that gave up big play after big play.