Georgia State Holds Off URI In Football Season Opener

(Photo courtesy: Connor Caldon / Video courtesy: Meghan Ellis)

University of Rhode Island Press Release

How it Happened
A wild season opener did not go Rhode Island’s way, as FBS Georgia State escaped with a 42-35 win over the No. 21/23 Rams Thursday night.

Georgia State (1-0) scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, building a 14-0 lead by the 4:15 mark of the opening quarter. The Panthers took the opening drive 76 yards in just four plays, as Darren Grainger hit Robert Lewis for a 39-yard touchdown strike just 1:24 into the game. After Rhody missed a field goal on its first drive, Georgia State came right back with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 9-yard touchdown run for Marcus Carroll.

Rhody (0-1) responded with an extended touchdown drive of its own, moving 75 yards on 12 plays. Kasim Hill found John Erby over the middle for a 20-yard pass to help cut the deficit in half. The momentum didn’t last, as Grainger again marched his team down the field, going over the top for a 42-yard scoring strike to Tailique Williams. On his first three drives, Grainger was 10-for-10 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

The Arena League action continued as URI once again drove inside the Panther 20, but an interception in the corner of the end zone thwarted the scoring chance. Rhody’s defense managed to force a three-and-out. A 17-yard Gabe Sloat punt return coupled with a 15-yard penalty on the play against Georgia State gave Rhody the ball at the Panther 30. The Rams capitalized five plays later when Hill found Sloat for a 15-yard touchdown pass that got URI back within one score at 21-14 with just 1:40 left in the half.

Rhode Island carried the momentum into the third quarter, scoring just three plays into the second half. Hill connected with a wide-open Darius Savedge on a 63-yard catch-and-run over the middle as the Rams pulled even at 21-21 just 48 seconds into the period.

The Rhody defense forced a punt for the third straight possession when Jordan Colbert broke up a pass on third-and-5. The offense again took advantage. Hill found wide receiver Marquis Buchanan, who weaved his way through several would-be tacklers and crossed the width of the field. He picked up a key block downfield from fellow wideout John Erby and took it in for a 28-yard touchdown, putting URI in front for the first time, 28-21. The drive was extended by a roughing the punter penalty against the Panthers six plays before the score.

Georgia State found its way on the ensuing drive. The Panthers needed just five plays to go 65 yards, as Carroll ran for a 23-yard touchdown, his second of the night. With 6:21 remaining in the third, the score was once again tied, 28-28. Disaster then struck for Rhode Island. With Hill struggling to put weight on his plant leg, his pass to Savedge sailed high and was intercepted by Gavin Pringle for an easy 21-yard pick-6 to put the Panthers back in front, 35-28.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Carroll gashed the Rams for a 63-yard run to the URI 12-yard line. He followed that with his third touchdown of the night on the next snap, pushing the Panther lead to 14 points at 42-28 with 8:16 to go.

On this night, that didn’t mean the game was over. Rhode Island needed just three snaps to get back within a touchdown. Hill and Buchanan connected on a 73-yard pass that brought the ball to the Georgia State 6-yard line. Hill ran it in two plays later for a 5-yard touchdown with 6:27 to go.

A key unsportsmanlike penalty on Georgia State set up a third-and-22 on the next possession, and cornerback Randy Jordan came up with a pass break up on a long attempt down the left sideline. After a punt, Rhody started its drive at its own 26 with 4:52 remaining. Three straight incompletions forced URI to punt, and Georgia State was able to run the clock out from there to hold on for the win. On fourth-and-1, the Panthers managed to just pick up the first down, according to some of the officials. The spot was measured twice, and then went to the booth for official review. The quick review confirmed the ruling, effectively ending the game.

Inside the Box Score

  • Rhode Island was 13-for-20 on third-down attempts and 1-for-1 on fourth downs.
  • Wide receiver Marquis Buchanan topped 100 receiving yards in his collegiate debut. He had a 28-yard touchdown grab on his first career catch, and he later added a 73-yard reception to set up URI’s final score.
  • Wide receiver Kahtero Summers had seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown on eight targets.
  • Wide receiver Darius Savedge had a career-high 88 yards on six catches, including a touchdown.
  • Running back Gabe Sloat made his first career start and had 113 all-purpose yards. He rushed eight times for 35 yards, caught four passes for 47 yards and one touchdown and returned two punts for 31 yards.
  • Quarterback Kasim Hill threw for a career-high 408 yards and matched his best with four touchdown passes. He also added a touchdown run.
  • His first touchdown pass of the season also was his 40th for the Rams, making him the third Ram to reach the milestone. He joined Tom Ehrhardt (78) and Chris Hixon (55) as the only URI players to reach 40 in their career.
  • Tight end Kevin Schaeffer also had the first catch of his career, a 25-yard grab.
  • Wide receiver John Erby had three catches for 38 yards, including his first career touchdown grab.
  • Safety Emmanuel Gomes led the defense with eight tackles, including one for a loss.
  • Running back Deon Silas rushed 10 times for 50 yards to lead the team.
  • Safety Jordan Colbert added seven tackles and a pass break up.
  • Cornerback Syeed Gibbs made his first career start and had six tackles with a pass break up.
  • Linebacker Evan Stewart had seven tackles, including five solo stops.
  • His second of the night was the 100th solo tackle of his career.
  • Punter Devin Walter made his collegiate debut with three boots for 108 yards, an average of 38.0 yards per attempt.
  • The last time URI and Georgia State was in 2012, the lone season in CAA Football for the Panthers. Georgia State made the jump to the FBS a year later and has been a full member of the Sun Belt Conference since 2013.
  • The game captain was wide receiver Darius Savedge, and the anchor bearer was right guard Nick Correia.
  • The attendance was 15,546.

What’s Next
Rhode Island opens CAA Football action against Stony Brook on Friday, Sept. 8 at Meade Stadium. The game will be played under the lights, with kickoff set for 7:05 p.m. on

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