KINGSTON, R.I. - As far as Villanova coach Andy Talley was concerned, the Wildcats brought a perfect formula with them for Saturday's Colonial Athletic Conference game at Rhode Island.
A perfect formula for disaster.
Rhode Island capitalized on three turnovers plus a blocked punt and shocked third-ranked Villanova, 17-14.
"We were not able to run the ball today," Talley said after Rhode Island (4-5, 3-3) held Villanova (6-3, 4-2) to 68 rushing yards, which was 133 yards below the Wildcats' season average. "If you take the running game away from us and force us to throw, throw, throw, that's not who we really are. Rhode Island did a very good job on our running game because they were more physical up front than we were.
"Their defensive-line guys were more physical than our offensive-line guys. When that happens, forget about it. We did all of the things that you need to do to allow a team to upset you."
The way Villanova played in all aspects was particularly disheartening for Talley.
The Rams' Jarrod Williams intercepted a Chris Whitney pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
With the game tied, 7-7, in the fourth, Villanova's Dorian Wells caught a Whitney pass but fumbled. Rhode Island recovered at its own 43. That set up a 19-yard field goal by Rams kicker Lou Feinstein with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left.
Four plays later, Rhode Island's Willie McGinnis blocked a Mark Hamilton punt and returned the ball 23 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rams a 17-7 lead.
After Whitney threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Norman White and Villanova's defense forced the Rams into a three-and-out, Whitney fumbled when he was sacked. Rhode Island's Ali Muhammed recovered the ball to clinch the upset.
Rams quarterback Steve Probst ran for 101 yards on 18 carries, which marked the first time in the Wildcats' last 24 games that they allowed a 100-yard rusher.
"I was very disappointed with our offense," Talley said. "We really didn't perform very well. My hat's off to my old friend Joe Trainer [the Rhode Island coach who had been a defensive coordinator for Talley]. I think he did a great job with his team and had them ready to play.
"They were very emotional - much more emotional than us. They played the way a CAA team should play. They got after it physically, got some turnovers, and in general played much better than we did."