Sports

R.I. battle pits football team against Rams

Both Ocean State teams seek ownership of Governor’s Cup, first win of season

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 3, 2014

Looking to rebound after dropping their first two games of the season, the Bears hope to find success this weekend against a URI team that has given up 44 points and over 550 yards of offense per game.

Though still winless, the football team is drawing confidence from its strong showing against Harvard ahead of Saturday’s matchup against the University of Rhode Island.

The Bears (0-2, 0-1 Ivy) looked like a different football team when hosting the Crimson Saturday, making plays on offense and defense that they had failed to against Georgetown in the season’s first game. Four turnovers against the Hoyas became one against Harvard, five penalties became three, and three points scored became 14.

But a loss remained a loss, as the Crimson scored twice in a dominant fourth quarter to turn a 14-13 deficit into a 22-14 win. Bruno gave the defending Ivy League champions all they could handle, and though it doesn’t show in their record, the Bears are feeling better about their season than it might seem.

“We definitely took some big steps in the right direction,” said quarterback Marcus Fuller ’15.

“I think we really demonstrated to Harvard and everyone that we’re a physical team,” said linebacker Xavier Russo ’15. “But we still lost the game.”

Head Coach Phil Estes P’18 emphasized minimizing mistakes after a sloppy loss in the nation’s capital and said the team “did a good job with that” against Harvard. But strong play aside, the coach and players wanted more from the team.

“We’ve got to get a win,” Estes said.

Fuller described the same feeling as wanting to “get the monkey off our back.”

Enter the Bears’ cross-state rivals, the URI Rams (0-4). The two teams battle every year for the Governor’s Cup, a trophy that will be awarded for the 99th time this weekend. Bruno has held it for the past three seasons and has dominated the all-time series. The Bears are 70-26-2 all-time against the Rams, including a 36-1 mark in the competition’s first 37 iterations from 1910 to 1951.

Lopsided history aside, any game with a trophy carries significance. Russo described the Cup as “a big deal in a lot of guys’ minds, kind of like the state championship.”

“There’s something tangible that you get,” Estes said. “That’s the one thing that makes it different from all the other games.”

But it won’t be the 1910 teams suiting up on Saturday, and the Bears are ready for a fight. The winless Rams “have something to prove,” Fuller said. “I expect a hard-fought battle.”

While URI may not be as exciting a rival as Harvard, the Bears are having no trouble motivating themselves for their upcoming game. Beyond obtaining the season’s first win and keeping a trophy, Russo described the importance of getting excited for every single game. “As a football player, what you have to be able to do is get yourself pumped up for any game,” he said. “When it comes Nov. 22, you want to have the best record you can have, and that means you’ve got to play really good games.”

In the end, whether the Bears are able to pull out the win depends on how much they can continue to improve.

“We need to continue to develop,” Fuller said, adding that he wants to see “similar growth” to the improvements the team made between the season’s first two games.

“We’ve got to be a better team together,” Estes said.

“We’ve got to score more than 14 points,” he added, specifically highlighting the offense. “We’ve got to do more with the opportunities that we have.”

“It’s about executing the simple things,” he added. “Do the little things right, and the big things happen.”

Estes and Russo both displayed optimism about the outcome of the game — “My expectation is that we’re going to go in, continue to play physical football, play our responsibilities, and come out with a W,” Estes said.

“I expect us to win this game,” Russo said. “I expect everyone on the team to play like they played versus Harvard, and I know for a fact that if we do that, we’re going to beat URI.”

“It’s a big game for us because we’re 0-2,” he added. “It’s a big game for them because they’re 0-4. Someone’s going to leave with a win.”

Kickoff at Meade Stadium in Kingston is at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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