Saturday afternoon at Brown Stadium will mark the 104th meeting between the two schools. The first game dates back to 1909 with the Bears holding a 73-28-2 series advantage. It’s a rivalry that’s been able to stand the test of time and is chock full of tradition.
They haven’t, however, always played for a trophy.
A new layer of intrigue was introduced nearly 40 years ago when the Rams and Bears began playing for something called the Governor’s Cup. The 2019 installment marks the 38th game since the ante was raised and the URI-Brown game entered into the Ocean State’s sporting annals as something else.
It’s been an evenly played series since the introduction of the Governor’s Cup with Brown holding a slight edge, 19-18. While this is a non-conference matchup, we’re talking about an in-state clash where there’s a significant piece of hardware at stake – one that’s presented to the winning team on the field following four quarters of intense gridiron action.
Rhode Island won last year’s encounter (48-0) and is out to make sure bragging rights remain alive and well in Kingston for the next 365 days.
“That trophy has been in our office for the past year and we plan on keeping it there. Brown plans on taking it, but that’s where the rubber meets the road,” said Rams head coach Jim Fleming after the conclusion of Thursday’s Governor’s Cup press conference at the R.I. Statehouse.
In the 2016 Governor’s Cup game, safety Momodeau Mbye made his mark when he recovered a fumble at the Brown 5-yard line. The Rams turned the third-quarter turnover into points in an eventual 28-13 victory. A native of Pawtucket. R.I., Mbye was a mere freshman when he helped to turn the tide in URI’s favor. After the game, R.I. Governor Gina Raimondo presented the Governor’s Cup to Mbye with a jubilant bunch of teammates standing behind him.
“Think about that the whole game. Only one of you is going home with that trophy,” said Raimondo.
Now a senior captain at URI, Mbye spoke about the importance of the annual URI-Brown showdown.
“Playing Brown, we’re playing for bragging rights in the state,” said Mbye. “Hopefully we can come out and dominate and see where that takes us.”
As representatives from each school mingled with state officials prior to the start of Thursday’s presser, you couldn’t help but fixate on the objects located on the table that was set up not too far from the podium.
There were two helmets that told the story of a head-to-head matchup that’s on tap. The helmets were positioned so that they were facing one another, URI on the left and Brown on the right. Positioned in the middle was a stern reminder of what’s on the line on Saturday afternoon.
In all its shiny glory, there was the Governor’s Cup – a prized possession that helps to define what this particular rivalry is all about.
“You’re playing against your rival, the guys you want to beat the most,” said URI senior offensive lineman Kyle Murphy. “No matter what, we’re going to be fired up for it. We don’t need to motivate each other. We know what’s at stake.
“It’s special to be able to go out and play in a rivalry game like this,” Murphy added.
Now in his sixth season as head coach of the Rams, Fleming owns a unique perspective that comes with having been a part of both ends of the URI-Brown rivalry. He spent the 1993 season as the Bears’ defensive coordinator.
“Back then, it wasn’t recognized as the big deal that it is now,” said Fleming. “You have to credit the leadership in the state for helping to bring extra attention to this particular game.
“Rivalry games mean a heckuva lot to both programs. You’re playing for something that’s significant where you walk off the field with a trophy,” added Fleming. “It’s hard to watch the trophy presented to the other side.”
After Saturday’s game, Brown and URI will head off in opposite directions and return to focusing on what needs to happen in order to contend within each one’s conference. Facing Princeton and Penn, or Albany and Elon, may carry more significant weight, but none of those future contests feature something on the line that’s so real that the winning team can’t wait to raise it up.
“It” is the trophy that’s part-and-parcel of the R.I. Governor’s Cup, the once-a-year college football rivalry game that continues to stand the test of time.
2019 YurView URI Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.