Since beating Connecticut one month ago, the University of Massachusetts has fallen off a cliff.
The Minutemen dropped their third straight game on Saturday to Division I-FCS, and old Yankee Conference rival Rhode Island 35-22, Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
UMass drops to 1-8, after losing the game in front of 7,284 fans on homecoming. Rhode Island improves to 6-3.
The Minutemen did have 335 yards in total offense and ran off 64 plays. Rhode Island ran off eight fewer, but gained 337 yards. The UMass defense, for the third consecutive week, had trouble stopping drives. Rhode Island had one three-and-out drive in the entire football game. That's not going to win a lot of games.
If there is a positive out of this game, it's the fact that Ellis Merriweather ran for 118 yards on 30 carries. It's the fourth time in eight games that he has gone over 100 yards.
In his second start, and first since the season opener, quarterback Tyler Lytle was 15 of 28 for 227 yards and one touchdown. He was also sacked four times.
The day actually did not start too bad for the Minutemen. While they had a quick three-and-out on the game's first drive and Rhode Island scored a touchdown on it's first drive, UMass bounced right back.
Coby Tippett's 56-yard punt return set the Rams up on the UMass 8-yard line. Three plays later, Rams quarterback Kasim Hill scored on a 2-yard run. The PAT made it 7-0.
UMass came right back and marched the ball down the field. Lytle, making his first start since the opener at Pittsburgh, had been watching game tape. He knew Merriweather was a weapon, and the running back carried the ball seven times on the opening drive for 53 yards. Lytle finished off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. However, Cameron Carson's PAT missed, and the Minutemen were down 7-6.
UMass took its only lead early in the second quarter. The Minutemen started a drive on their 49 and methodically moved to inside the URI 25. The drive stalled on the Rams 21, and Carson came back out and drilled a 39-yard field goal. So with 12:49 left in the second, the Minutemen held a 9-7 lead.
There was still too much time for Rhode Island to get something going, and the Rams did. They scored a pair of touchdowns in the quarter, both on passes from Hill. And with 2:45 left, Rhode Island led 21-9.
Just before halftime, the Minutemen scored. Lytle led an eight-play, 75-yard drive and found Josiah Johnson in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass. The kick made it 21-16 at intermission.
Rhode Island scored two touchdowns in the final 2:50 of the third quarter, which broke the backs of the Minutemen, and it was too much to come back from.