After a much-needed win at Miami one week ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies get back to work on Saturday afternoon as the Rhode Island Rams come to Blacksburg. This is the second-ever meeting between the two schools as they met back in 1980 with the Hokies coming away with a 34-7 win.
This game was scheduled early in the year as the Hokies were looking to replace East Carolina on the 2019 schedule. The FCS Rams happened to be the perfect opponent at the time and this game was scheduled. While this isn’t a game to excite Virginia Tech fans, the Hokies can ill-afford to look over a 1-4 Rhode Island team on Saturday.
The Rams, whose colors bear a slight resemblance to North Carolina – Tech’s opponent next week in Lane Stadium – began the season 0-4 with losses to THE Ohio University, Delaware in 3 OTs, New Hampshire and Stony Brook. Rhode Island finally jumped into the win column last week with a heart-stopping 31-28 win over Brown University, of the Ivy League, in a battle for Rhode Island pride.
On offense, RI’s running game shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge for a Virginia Tech defense that has given up its share of big plays. The Rams average just 75 yards on the ground per contest and a meager 2.9 yards per attempt. Junior Zoe Bryant is their leading rusher with 304 yards on the season. He has also caught 15 passes out of the backfield.
So, while the Rams struggle to run the football, they are quite prolific at throwing the football. Rhode Island averages 343 yards passing per contest. Quarterback Vito Priore, a 6’2” junior from Atlanta, is having a strong season for the Rams. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,717 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Fortunately for the Hokies, he isn’t a guy who will beat you too often with his legs. He was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week last week, when he passed for 389 yards and three scores in the win over Brown.
The Rams have a solid core of receivers in 6’3” senior Aaron Parker, 6’3” junior Isaiah Coulter and 5’10” senior Ahmere Dorsey. Parker is a terrific player who has caught 42 passes for 682 yards and six scores this season. He is one of the better wide receivers the Hokies will face this season and has broken numerous school records.
Defensively, the Rams have struggled in all areas this fall. The Rams are allowing 233 yards rushing per game, while also giving up 256 yards through the air. This could be a potential opportunity for Tech’s running backs to have a big day. Linebacker Branyan Javier-Castillo leads RI in tackles with 52 and also TFLs with five. He has also picked off two passes.
If the last two seasons have taught us anything, it’s not to overlook anyone on the schedule The Hokies struggled to beat Furman last month and while Rhode Island isn’t as strong of a team as Furman, the Rams should not be overlooked.