College football in Rhode Island returns for another season Thursday night when the University of Rhode Island kicks off against Central Michigan at Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Bryant will follow on Saturday afternoon when the Bulldogs play host to Merrimack. Salve Regina will open Saturday at noon against Worcester State at Gaudet Field in Middletown.
As always, Brown will kick off last. The Bears will play their first game Sept. 16 against Bryant.
URI, 2-9 in 2016, will try to snap a 15-year losing streak this season. The Rams last posted a winning record in 2001. Coach Jim Fleming, starting his fourth season with URI, is counting on a pair of transfer quarterbacks to lead this latest attempt at winning. Strong-armed Tyler Harris came to Kingston from Central Florida. JaJuan Lawson arrived from New Mexico. Harris will start the opener.
Central Michigan plays in the Football Bowl Subdivision. URI is 0-14 all-time against FBS teams. The other non-conference highlights for the Rams are a home game against Harvard on Sept. 16 and a night game at Brown on Sept. 30.
The James Perry era at Bryant begins after a rare losing season (5-6) in Smithfield. Perry, the offensive coordinator at Princeton, succeeded Marty Fine, who resigned. Perry, the most decorated quarterback in Brown University history, likes to play fast on both sides of the ball. Three-year starter Dalton Easton is gone, and Perry is looking to transfers Devin Ray of Louisiana Tech and Price Wilson of Monmouth to direct this new attack. The Bulldogs have a challenging non-conference schedule with games at Maine, Brown and New Hampshire and a home date against Fordham.
Brown, an Ivy League contender for most of coach Phil Estes’s 19 years, will try to rebound from a 4-6 campaign that followed a pair of 5-5 finishes. Brown was 6-4 in 2013. Schedule highlights include the traditional early test at Harvard, a home night game against URI, a road trip to Stetson and a night game at Fenway Park against Dartmouth.
Salve Regina, which plays Division III football, is coming off an 8-2 season and a loss to Framingham State in the inaugural New England Bowl. The Seahawks will start the 2017 season in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, which replaces the New England Football Conference. Western New England, Endicott, Curry, Nichols and Becker are the other members.