SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. - The furious wind gusts and steady rain were expected yesterday, but what happened at Meade Stadium was not.
A game with miserable conditions and bizarre plays ended with unranked Rhode Island upsetting No. 3 Massachusetts, 12-6, in overtime. The first Colonial Athletic Association victory of the season for the Rams snapped the Minutemen's 13-game CAA winning streak.
UMass's offense could not muster a point, as the 6 came courtesy of three safeties, tying an NCAA record the Minutemen had also equaled in 2005.
The third safety tied the score at 6 and forced overtime.
But in the extra session, quarterback D.J. Stefkovich scored on third and goal from the 1-yard line to give URI (2-7, 1-5) a 12-6 lead on the first touchdown of the game. A botched extra point gave UMass (7-2, 5-1) an opportunity to win on its possession, but the Minutemen failed.
UMass picked up one first down but could not advance beyond the Rams' 17, as Rhode Island defensive back Adrian Owen intercepted UMass's Liam Coen shy of the end zone on fourth and 12.
"We're not having a very good season, and a lot of people, pretty much everybody, doubted us," Owen said. "To beat the No. 3 team means we are capable of being good."
UMass coach Don Brown said the weather was a factor, but did not make excuses for the loss. Wind gusts were estimated at 32 miles per hour throughout the game. UMass's Brett Arnold submitted a 1-yard punt into the wind, followed by a 59-yard bomb with the breeze.
The team with the wind at its back had the advantage, and late in the third quarter the Minutemen, trailing, 6-4, tried to capitalize. UMass stopped the Rams at their 38 on fourth down, taking possession. UMass reached the 8-yard line but was unable to get in the end zone before the end of the quarter. When the fourth quarter began, the Minutemen, now going into the wind, were faced with fourth and goal from the 3. They could attempt a 20-yard field goal or go for the touchdown. Brown decided to go for it, but running back Matt Lawrence was stopped at the 1.
"I kind of went with my players on that," Brown said. "They felt if they could get it, it would have been a nail in the coffin. We've gone for it a lot this year on fourth down and been successful."
Even though UMass turned the ball over on downs, the Rams were backed up and tagged for another safety when Stefkovich slipped in the end zone, tying the score, 6-6.
The numbers were dismal for both teams. There were eight fumbles, three of which resulted in turnovers. Coen completed 7 of 22 passes for 22 yards and two interceptions. The Minutemen gained just 139 total yards, while the Rams had 171. In a game with limited opportunities, Brown said there would be moments of second-guessing.
"There are so many calls that can come back and haunt you in a game like this that we found a way to be on the right side of over the last two seasons," he said, "and today we were on the wrong side."
Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com