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UNH’s next football foe, URI, beats Harvard

Boston Herald
September 17. 2017 8:49PM


SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Harvard opened its 144th season of football with an out-of-sync, 17-10 non-conference loss to Rhode Island on Saturday, but the Crimson defeat took on a much graver tone following a serious injury to freshman cornerback Ben Abercrombie.

URI visits the University of New Hampshire on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

On the game’s opening possession, Harvard forced Rhody to punt and Satchel Denton backed the Crimson up to their 10-yard line. On the first drive of the season, Charlie Booker III (13 carries, career-high 139 yards) broke three tackles en route to a 50-yard gain that brought the ball down to the Rams 4.

But quarterback Joe Viviano (17-of-32, 192 yards) was sacked by Rams defensive tackle Jose Duncan for a 15-yard loss and a subsequent holding call on Harvard center Ben Shoults sent the line of scrimmage back to the URI 30. Jake McIntyre came on to convert a 38-yard field goal with 6:39 left in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead.

Disaster struck Harvard with 13:32 to go in the second quarter. Rams quarterback Tyler Harris completed an 18-yard pass on third down to wide receiver Marven Beauvais, who was hit by a hard-charging Abercrombie along the Crimson sideline. Abercrombie immediately crumbled to the ground as trainers and medical personnel from both sides rushed to his aid.

The game was delayed for nearly 10 minutes while medical personnel worked feverishly on Abercrombie, who was placed on a backboard and loaded into an ambulance.

“We know that it looks like he has a significant neck injury and he’s at a Rhode Island hospital. Obviously, we’re very, very deeply concerned,” said an emotional Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “It’s difficult.”

Abercrombie was on Rhode Island coach Jim Fleming’s mind when he opened his postgame remarks.

“My first thought in spite of a great victory for the URI football team and program against a very quality Harvard football team, our prevalent thoughts on the game is on Ben Abercrombie and our hope for his speedy recovery,” said Fleming. “Things happen in the game of football and our hopes are that this thing works out for him well.”

The injury served to unnerve the Crimson. On the next play, Harris found receiver Aaron Parker clear behind the secondary for a 51-yard scoring bomb and a 7-3 lead for URI (1-2) with 13:14 left in the half.

C.J. Carrick booted a 21-yard field goal to give the Rams a 10-3 lead with 6:36 to play in the half.

Harvard responded quickly. Booker dashed around the left side for another huge run of 57 yards down to the URI 8. On the next play, Aaron Shampklin scooted untouched around the right side and the Crimson pulled into a 10-10 tie with 4:58 left before halftime.

URI wasn’t finished. The Rams drove the field and Harris found the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown on a QB keeper with 1:46 left. With the game’s final points, URI took the 17-10 lead into the half.

In a scoreless third quarter, each team punted twice, but the action picked up again in the fourth.

A Harvard drive took the ball down to the URI 7-yard line. But on fourth-and-1, Viviano, operating out of the shotgun, couldn’t make a handoff to Booker under pressure from Duncan and the ball popped loose. Rams defensive back Momodou Mbye picked up the fumble to give his offense the ball back with 5:56 to go.

Linebacker Chase Guillory provided the Crimson with one last shot when he forced a fumble by Rams back Harold Cooper (18 carries, 80 yards) that was recovered by safety Tanner Lee at the Harvard 27.

Viviano drove the Crimson to the Rams 25, but his desperation heave into the end zone intended for tight end Ryan Antonellis (three receptions, 58 yards) went for naught as time expired.

“We knew they were a different football team (from last year, when the Crimson won the matchup by 30 points),” said Murphy. “They were better coached than us today and deserved the win. I thought our kids played hard but on offense (but) we were out of sync.”


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