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Although Maine likely needs to win both of its two remaining games to have any chance of earning an at-large berth for the FCS playoffs, Maine coach Nick Charlton said his team isn’t looking past Saturday’s home game against Rhode Island. URI coach Jim Fleming seems to have one eye on the future, however.
The Rams, long removed from the playoff picture, have used their last two games to take a look at freshman quarterback Darius Perrantes, who made a relief appearance during URI’s 42-14 triumph over Merrimack on Nov. 2 and then made his first collegiate start in last Saturday’s 55-19 loss to William & Mary.
The Rams (2-8, 0-6 Colonial Athletic Association) have used junior Vito Priore at quarterback for most of the season. Priore leads the CAA in passing yards per game (290.7).
“Playing both guys has been interesting,” Fleming said. “We’re excited about Darius. We think he’s a good player. We think Vito’s a good player. With this redshirt rule when you have a chance to be able to experience what these kids can do, they’ve earned some opportunity to play. So we fed some snaps to Darius. He’s done a nice job. Threw some nice balls, so we’ve got a healthy quarterback situation that we’re gonna have to manage for the next two games and into next year.”
Perrantes, a freshman, completed 4 of 8 passes for 31 yards against Merrimack, and connected on 12 of 21 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns (one interception) against William & Mary.
Priore finished the William & Mary game 10 of 23 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“[Perrantes has] a little bit more in terms of the ability to extend plays, although Vito surprises you with his ability to do that as well,” Fleming said. “There’s certain things that we can do that we will do with Darius that we probably wouldn’t try to do with Vito. They both sling the rock extremely well. They both have good control of the offensive scheme and they’ve got people they can deliver the ball to who will go up and make some plays for them. They both had their moments on Saturday. We’re hoping to get the best out of both of them as we go forward.”
Maine (5-5, 3-3 CAA) will carry a three-game winning streak into Saturday’s game, and has scored 112 points in those three victories. After Saturday’s contest, the Black Bears will wrap up the regular season with a road game against rival New Hampshire.
Senior wide receiver Earnest Edwards had his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season in last Saturday’s 31-17 victory over Elon. Edwards caught five passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in that win, and has scored at least one TD in 15 of his last 16 games.
Edwards, who is second on Maine’s all-time receiving list (2,523 yards), also tossed the fifth TD pass of his career against Elon.
“He’s very special,” Charlton said. “He’d be a great player anywhere. He’s been a tremendous player here. He’s a special talent. ... He’s very coachable. He loves playing the game. He blocks on the perimeter.
“[Earnest is] like the rest of our guys right now. They’re playing for more games and we know what we have to do this weekend.”
URI committed five turnovers in its first six games, but has turned the ball over 13 times in its last three losses. The Rams had four turnovers in the third quarter of a 35-28 loss to Albany; five turnovers in a 38-13 loss to Elon; and turned the ball over four times in the first half of last Saturday’s 55-19 loss to William & Mary.
URI’s first three CAA losses came by an average of five points, but the Rams have been outscored by 68 points in their last three conference losses.
“The difference is turnovers,” Fleming said. “We got to get it corrected.
“We managed the ball very well in the first part of the season. You don’t look back very much because you’re always looking to the next week, but close losses have a way to wear on you a little bit and I think that certainly has an emotional impact on you.”