College Football: Rhode Island triumphs in strong showing over Merrimack

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Rhode Island’s overpowering offense lit up the scoreboard to topple Merrimack 42-14 during this Rhode Island football game.

How It Happened


Safety Malik Gavek created three turnovers – including a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown – and the offense exploded late as Rhode Island thumped Merrimack, 42-14, Saturday afternoon.

The Rams (2-7) snapped a three-game skid and recorded the first victory on the new Meade Stadium field turf by knocking off the visiting Warriors. Rhode Island scored the first two touchdowns of the day, striking late in the first quarter when Vito Priore hit Isaiah Coulter for a 17-yard strike with 3:31 to go in the period. Priore hit Ed Lee for a 9-yard touchdown pass at 10:04 of the second quarter to double the Ram lead.

Merrimack (4-5) capitalized on Rhody’s lone turnover of the day when it got an interception at the Ram 25-yard line. Three plays later, Matt Brehon ran it in from 2 yards out to cut the Rhody lead to 14-7 just 1:11 before halftime.

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Coming out of the break, it was all Rhode Island, as the Rams scored 28 unanswered points to put the game away. Gavek picked off a pass that was tipped at the line by defensive end Andre Bibeault. Gavek returned the interception 30 yards to make the score 21-7.

Early in the fourth quarter, Priore hooked up with Aaron Parker for a 16-yard touchdown pass that capped a 97-yard drive. The possession began after Bibeault forced a Merrimack fumble that was recovered by Gavek at the Rhody 3-yard line.

Rushing touchdowns by Naim Jones and Justice Antrum pushed Rhode Island’s lead to 42-7, where the score remained until a Merrimack touchdown by Jamari Venter with just 17 seconds left in regulation.

Inside the Box Score

  • Making his second career start, redshirt sophomore Malik Gavek had a game-high 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. He also had an interception return for a touchdown, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
  • Gavek has an interception in each of his first two career starts, as he also picked off a pass last week against Elon.
  • Linebackers Branyan Javier-Castillo, a senior, and Jake Fire, a redshirt sophomore, each had nine tackles. Javier-Castillo also broke up a pass.
  • Redshirt senior safety Momodou Mbye had his team-leading fifth interception, to go with eight tackles.
  • Senior cornerback Rashod Dickerson had seven tackles and one interception.
  • Redshirt junior defensive end Andre Bibeault had four tackles, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry and a tipped pass that led to an interception.
  • Senior wide receiver Aaron Parker had a game-high eight catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. He became the first Rhode Island receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards in one season since Bobby Apgar had 1,042 in 1994.
  • Parker also ended the day with 201 career receptions. He is just the second player in program history to reach 200 catches, joining Brian Forster, who had a program record 284 (1983-85, ’87).
  • Junior Isaiah Coulter had four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. It marked the eighth time that Parker and Coulter have both caught a touchdown pass in the same game.
  • Redshirt sophomore Ed Lee caught his first career touchdown pass.
  • Junior Matt Pires rushed for a career-high 79 yards, 66 of which came on the longest run of his career in the fourth quarter. The 66-yard run was Rhody’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
  • Senior Naim Jones ran for 77 yards on 16 carries, and junior Justice Antrum added 18 yards on three attempts. As a team, the Rams rushed for a season-high 155 yards.
  • Redshirt sophomore Davey Schaum-Bartocci averaged 42.8 yards on six punts. He had a career-long punt of 58 yards, and he placed four of his six punts inside the Merrimack 20 while allowing no punt returns.
  • Junior C.J. Carrick made all six of his extra point attempts, marking his fourth career game with six extra points. The only other Rhode Island player with four games of six or more was Colin Callagher, who also did it four times from 2004-06.
  • Redshirt sophomore safety Henry Yianakopolos made his first career start.
  • Several players made their Rhody debut. Freshman quarterback Darius Perrantes was 4-of-8 for 31 yards. Also playing for the first time were senior quarterback Alin Edouard, freshman cornerback Antonio Carter II, freshman linebacker Cole Brockwell, senior linebacker Justin Samardich, freshman guard Dimitrios Gkountoudis, freshman tackle Jordan Riendeau, freshman tackle Sean Connolly, freshman tight end Brady Roark and freshman kicker Henry Westermann.
  • The game captain was senior linebacker Branyan Javier-Castillo, while redshirt freshman guard Nick Correia was the anchor bearer.
  • Attendance for the game was 3,091.

What’s Next
Rhode Island hits the road for a game at William & Mary Saturday, Nov. 9. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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