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KINGSTON â No matter how good Rhode Island football coach Joe Trainer felt about his teamâs preparation, mindset and execution last season, the reality was the Rams suffered through an embarrassing 0-11 season with 10 of the losses coming by three touchdowns or more.
Needless to say, there needed to be some changes heading into spring practice.
The Rams had a chance to show off the changes theyâve made in Saturdayâs annual Blue-White game at Meade Stadium.
While the defense, which gave up over 5,200 yards last season and 6.9 yards per play, was missing influential senior linebacker Doug Johnson, the squad showed in the 80-66 victory over the offense that it was ready to get better. According to one of the teamâs four captains, James Timmons, the defenseâs mindset is simple.
âThere are three things we can control and thatâs what were trying to do,â Timmons said. âWeâre just trying to get better as a defense as a whole, make sure everyone knows their assignments and techniques and play as hard as you can.
âWe were just saying after last season we can only control what weâre going to do. We can play hard, play fast and know our techniques. We have talent so we canât worry about that.â
âWe have the motivation of never feeling like that again,â
senior quarterback Bobby Bentsen said. âThat was a low point in a lot of our lives. Thereâs not much positive in being 0-11, but moving forward thereâs a lot of positive energy.â
As the teamâs head coach Trainer has to focus on all areas of the field, but as coach who moved up the ranks because of his defensive acumen, last yearâs inability to get off the field on third down â teams were 62-for-132 on third downs against URI â and an inability to make big plays was particularly frustrating.
Trainer said heâs seen his team work hard since the season-ending defeat 55-6 defeat to Maine on Nov. 17.
âIn life donât stress about things that are beyond your control,â Trainer said. âIâm not bragging, but weâve had a phenomenal offseason. Guys got bigger and stronger and there was no drama, which sometimes you have. Iâm just really excited.â
URIâs offense, which really struggled to generate first downs and point all of last season, actually looked the stronger of the two units to start Saturdayâs annual scrimmage. Bentsen hit Xavier Ferland and Jawaun Wynn for two big pass plays before East Providenceâs Robbie Delgado scored a two-yard touchdown.
What became clear early is the Rams want to run a high-tempo offense. While URIâs attack will never be confused for Oregonâs Blur offense, the Rams still hope to keep defense confused with a no-huddle approach.
âI think being up tempo gives you a lot of advantages because it keeps the defenses off balance,â Bentsen said after completing 18 of 29 passes for 158 yards. âThereâs so many things you can do as an offense to get the defense back on its heels. You have to keep the ball moving, because weâre not moving you canât go fast.â
âWeâre going to be as fast as we possibly can,â Trainer said. âWeâre going to be up-tempo. Weâre going to be like a Clemson or an Auburn or some of those guys.â
The speed of URIâs attack ground to a halt over the next few drives because Timmons, Dave Zocco, Greg Doutre and the defense started imposing its will. The defense, after giving up the gameâs first 13 points using the coachesâ modified scoring system, scored 29 of the gameâs next 30 points.
Defensive back Rondell Lane produced the defenseâs biggest play of the afternoon, picking off a Danny Fenyak pass and running it the other way for a touchdown.
Timmons, who started every game last season, believes the 2013 defense, which is relying on more athleticism in the back seven, will be better.
âI think we are better,â Timmons said. âEverybody knows what we have to do and now itâs just playing as a team. Thatâs all we can control.â
The offense, which uses a zone-read attack run out of the shot-gun formation, played better in a quicker second half. Bentsen punctuated the afternoon with a 16-yard touchdown run on the final play of the afternoon.
Bentsen said the biggest key Saturday was to come out of the scrimmage healthy because a number of projected were injured this spring.
âOur goal as an offense was to finish the spring healthy because we have a lot of guys hurt right now,â Bentsen said.
âWe were keeping it up tempo and we were trying to show the fans what weâre looking like going into next year.â