Overtime: No Role Models

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in October 2018.

The weekend before last, I was watching the fourth quarter of the Chiefs-Patriots Sunday Night Football game when an extraordinary thing happened.

Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, otherwise known as the only good player left on my fantasy team after I traded away Todd Gurley (facepalm), caught two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 75-yard bomb to tie the game at 40 late in the fourth. I was really happy, and not just because the Chiefs were going toe-to-toe with the NFL team I hate the most.

I was losing my mind because Tyreek Hill was on my fantasy team, and his two late scores put me ahead for good in my matchup that week. That probably speaks to my sorry mental state more than anything, but a win’s a win.

But what if I told you there is a more troubling personal side to the electrifying, lightning-fast star of the NFL’s best offense?

Hill was arrested in Dec. 2014 and sentenced to three years of probation in 2015 for assaulting his then-pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal. The details are gruesome and harrowing, and the incident got Hill dismissed from the Oklahoma State football and track teams. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and has terrorized NFL defenses ever since. To be fair to Hill, he completed his probation in August and even reconciled with Espinal, as the two got married just last month. I’m not against the Chiefs giving him a second chance, but you can’t have Hill’s on-field heroics without his off-field troubles.

Another example of this is Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader. Many fawned over his dominance in this year’s playoffs, and he was used in a Swiss Army Knife role coming out of Milwaukee’s bullpen. However, some of us are old enough to remember when Hader was in hot water after years-old, insensitive tweets exposing several different prejudicial phobias were uncovered on his Twitter account. I’m old enough to remember this because it happened three months ago. We were all shocked when this happened, but in the ensuing weeks, several other players were caught with old prejudicial tweets on their accounts. It was a trend, and it led to many more questions than answers.

All of this is troubling in and of itself, but it leads to a larger point in sports: when we build athletes up as perfect, upstanding citizens all of the time, we are absolutely begging to be disappointed.

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley once said, to the tune of a lot of controversy at the time, that he was not a role model. He could not have been more on-the-nose if he tried. When we make these people societal role models, we set ourselves up for failure. To an extent, professional athletes sign up for public scrutiny, and they can’t live remotely normal lives. But we use athletes to demonstrate to ourselves and others the “right way” to do things (whatever that means). When they don’t do that, we burn jerseys, wonder how this could happen and search for answers until the next time someone else does the exact same thing.

To that end, I ask this question: why are athletes put on this pedestal in the first place?

While the majority of athletes seem to be good, upstanding citizens, others are not. We need to accept that. Sometimes, our heroes disappoint us, and that’s just a part of life. We cannot simply put athletes above reproach, particularly when they play for our team. Sometimes, that’s okay; like many Mets fans or New York area sports followers, I am going to tell my children about how good of a citizen David Wright was when he played for the team. The problem is this: we give athletes too much influence over our behaviors. Sometimes, this is okay (see: bat flipping), but other times, it isn’t. Athletes are influencers, but we shouldn’t treat them as gods, because if we do, they will never reach that standard. Worse than that, we’ll be left with the pieces.

Of course, this does not mean that athletes should ever get a pass when they screw up and we should hold them to a higher standard than we would for others. But parents, listen closely: do not, do not, do NOT use an athlete as the sole example of good behavior for your children. Players need to worry about themselves and make sure they are doing the right thing without consideration of the pressures of the public eye. We don’t need to act shocked when they mess up, because they will. Often.

Professional athletes are really good at what they do, and we should expect them to be. But if we expect them to all be perfect all the time, we are going to be incredibly disappointed.

Joe Conlin Gets First Career Win at Fordham

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in October 2018.

Fordham Football has its first win of the season, and head coach Joe Conlin has the first win of his coaching career. The head coach told WFUV that the win “feels pretty special,” and it does, both for him and Fordham.

The Rams defeated Lehigh University by a stunning score of 43-14 to win their first game of the season. Junior Tyriek Hopkins rushed for 117 yards, and freshman running back Naim Mayfield added 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Rams had several scintillating performances on the day.

Freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat easily had his best game of the season. The Merritt Island, Florida native completed 14 passes on 23 attempts for 299 yards for two touchdowns, which went for a combined 160 yards. The tone for the day was set when he hit senior wideout Austin Longi for a 45-yard bomb into double coverage on the first play of the game. The Rams ended that drive by missing a field goal, but it was clear that Fordham’s passing offense was set on making big plays downfield, which it has sorely lacked to this point in the season.

The game started with a painful sequence of turnovers and punts that does not need to be rehashed Fordham did not score in the first quarter for the sixth straight game to start the season, which continued a troubling trend. The Rams struck the first blow offensively in the second quarter when DeMorat hit senior Jonathan Lumley on a short pass over the middle. Lumley then took care of the rest, as he rumbled 73 yards downfield for the first points of the game. It was only the fourth catch of the season for Lumley, who had a frustrating start to the year leading up to Saturday’s game. Then, because this is the Patriot League and one does not simply kick extra points in the Patriot League, the Rams brought their kicking unit onto the field and got a two-point conversion on a trick play. Fourth-string quarterback Sean Holland fired a screen pass to tight end Jack Gildea, who followed a convoy into the end zone for two points. The score was 8-0 Fordham.

The wide receiving unit had its best game of the season, and two men stood out in particular. Seniors Austin Longi and Corey Caddle both went for over 100 yards on the afternoon. Longi caught five balls from DeMorat for 108 yards, including the first play of the night. In the second quarter, he hauled in a 40-yard strike that got Fordham down to the Lehigh one-yard-line; the play was initially ruled a touchdown but was brought back to the one-yard-line upon further review. However, Mayfield scored the first of his two touchdowns on the next play, and no harm was done for the Rams.

Caddle only made three catches, but he made the most of them. His biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when he took a DeMorat pass for 87 yards and a score. It was the second monster touchdown of the day for the Rams, and it was also the longest touchdown for Fordham since 2015.

Fordham took a 22-6 lead into the locker room behind touchdowns from Lumley, Mayfield and a rushing score from DeMorat. Joe Conlin tried to get him more involved in the running game throughout the contest, and it seemed to pay off. DeMorat’s rushing TD came at the end of an especially impressive drive at the end of the first half, as the Rams held possession for 4:10 before scoring with just 16 seconds left on the clock. The freshman quarterback looked poised, and his head coach noticed.

“Timmy played his heart out,” Conlin told WFUV. “It was great to see him kind of take command, and he was a different kid on the sideline this week than he was last week. We felt good about the gameplan and his role in it.”

Lehigh was expected to make adjustments out of the halftime locker room. The defending Patriot League co-champions were on the ropes and needed a response to get off the mat against the winless Rams. The Mountain Hawks were even booed going into the locker room, which was an unusual response from the fans of a team that has won at least a share of the last two Patriot League titles.

They didn’t have one in them.

Lehigh quarterback Brad Mayes, a first-team all-Patriot League selection in 2017, led the Mountain Hawks down the field late in the third quarter. On a third-down play to the end zone, he was intercepted by Fordham junior Jesse Bramble. The next Fordham drive ended with Caddle’s long touchdown, and after the 14-point swing, Fordham led 29-6.

The Rams were set after that; they added fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Hopkins and Mayfield for good measure. Lehigh scored a meaningless touchdown and two-point conversion with just under 12 minutes to play, but the Rams had salted away the victory long before that. With the win, Joe Conlin finally gets off the schneid as the head man at Fordham, and the Rams are in the win column for the first time since November 18, 2017.

What was particularly impressive on this afternoon was Fordham’s running game. It wasn’t just that Mayfield and Hopkins were prolific, but it was the manner in which they were. Hopkins hit the hole with an exceptional burst on Saturday, and his late touchdown run was the best proof of that. Mayfield was hardly ever taken down on first contact, and he often kept the pile moving for extra yards when it appeared as though the play was dead. Last year, it was D’Angelo Palladino rushing for 299 yards in the absence of Chase Edmonds. This year, it was Mayfield and Hopkins combining for 206 yards in the absence of Palladino, sophomore Zach Davis and senior Colton Smith. Fordham’s reinforcements have burned Lehigh in back-to-back seasons, and the Rams put up nearly 200 net rushing yards after having averaged just 24 yards per game in their first five contests.

One of the other standouts for Fordham was still in high school last year. DeMorat continues to improve, and if there were any questions about Fordham’s quarterback situation, the freshman answered them on Saturday. Joe Conlin is not taking his quarterback’s performance for granted.

“He’s still a freshman, and next week, God only knows, that’s how it is with freshmen, but today, he played like a grown man.”
“God only knows” is an accurate forecast for this Fordham team. After coming into Bethlehem as double-digit underdogs, they left as 29-point victors.

God only knows what will happen when Fordham hosts Bryant on Saturday. But this week, the Rams are winners. It’s the first time the team has been able to say that in 2018, and it’s the first time Joe Conlin has ever been able to say that as a head coach.

Football Takes Tough Loss Against Georgetown, Remains Winless

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in October 2018.

It was another Saturday in the fall, and it was another frustrating loss for Fordham’s football team.

Fordham lost to Georgetown University 23-11, its fifth loss in a row to start the season. The Rams had their chance to win this one, but it ultimately went down as a loss in the first Patriot League game of Fordham’s season.

Both offenses got off to extraordinarily slow starts, with the first four drives of the game all ending in punts. Georgetown was doomed by multiple false start penalties, and Fordham freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat was nearly intercepted on one occasion.

Georgetown started their third possession on their own 28 with 5:27 left in the first quarter and finally got to work. After Winston Jackson Jr. ran it twice for 11 yards, the Hoyas completed a screen pass for 12 yards to Brandon Williams. Williams got another 12-yard catch just two plays later, and Georgetown kept the drive alive with a 29-yard screen play to Jay Tolliver. The Hoyas finished the drive when Gunther Johnson hit Cameron Crayton in the end zone after senior defensive back Dylan Mabin fell down in coverage. After the score, Georgetown ran one of the wildest trick plays you will ever see, as the long snapper flipped the ball diagonally to Christian Tate, who ran it into the end zone to make it 8-0 with 59 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Fordham’s next drive started out much like their others, but the offense reclaimed some momentum with a 32-yard strike down the sideline to senior Isaiah Searight on a third and long. Two plays later, fill-in running back, junior Tyriek Hopkins (both junior running back D’Angelo Palladino and sophomore Zach Davis were out) broke off a 15-yard run to set up the Rams at Georgetown’s 13.

Hopkins got the ball on every play the rest of the drive and finished the series with a 2-yard score. Sophomore kicker Andrew Mevis missed his third extra point of the season, however, and the score was 8-6 with 12:50 left in the half. Yes, you read that right: 8-6.

Both teams went three-and-out and punted on their ensuing drives. Georgetown’s possession featured a frustrating play on a quarterback keeper. Quarterback Gunther Johnson kept the ball on a read option, instead of handing it to his running back, who got destroyed on the play. The referees thought Johnson had given up possession, so they blew the play dead after Johnson had gained five. It looked like he had a chance at a lot more, but the inadvertent whistle killed the play, and the Hoyas were forced to punt.

Georgetown’s snap went awry and punter Brad Hurst launched the ball from his own five-yard line out of the back of his team’s end zone for a safety. This already-bizarre game got even weirder, and Fordham tied it at eight.

Three more punts followed, and Georgetown got it back on its own 21 with 1:32 left in the half. Williams made back-to-back acrobatic catches to get Georgetown to the Fordham 32. Then, on the next play, Williams dropped a pass that went right off his hands and would have gone for a touchdown if he had caught it. A short run and a sack came next; Johnson fumbled on the sack but Georgetown recovered. After a penalty for running into the kicker, Georgetown went for it with 25 seconds left in the half. A short pass to Jackson Saffold fell four yards short of the marker, and the teams went into the locker room tied at eight.

The second half started with a punt from each team, with Georgetown punter Brad Hurst fired a 60-yard bomb to flip the field early in the third quarter for Georgetown. Fordham took that drive and made something of it, but with possession at the Hoya 43, senior Tristan Nevotne picked up a holding penalty on first-and-10. That didn’t stop the Fordham offense, and DeMorat converted a third-down toss to senior receiver Austin Longi to move the sticks. The drive stalled at the Georgetown 19, as DeMorat was unable to connect with Corey Caddle on third-and-nine. Senior kicked Kyle Facibene was called upon in lieu of Mevis to attempt the 36-yard field goal, and he drilled it with flying colors to give Fordham an 11-8 lead. Facibene’s one kick of the day was impressive, and it will be interesting to see where that position goes moving forward.

On the next drive, Georgetown running back Herman Moultrie ripped off a 41-yard run to get the Hoyas down to the Fordham six yard-line. Two plays later, Moultrie punched it in to give Georgetown a 15-11 edge with 36 seconds left in the third quarter. The Hoyas did not concede the lead for the rest of the game.

Hopkins set the tone for Fordham on the next drive, as he nearly broke off a touchdown run and got another first down. DeMorat hit Searight for an 18-yard pass to get the Rams inside Georgetown’s 35-yard line. However, Fordham couldn’t get anything going from there, and senior backup running back Colton Smith suffered a right leg injury on a third-down run that got no yards. Fordham tried to go for it on fourth down, but a false start penalty on freshman Austin Glazier forced a Mevis punt instead. His kick went about 15 yards in the air before rolling dead at the Georgetown two-yard line.

After two positive running plays, a third-down pass from Johnson was intercepted by junior defensive back Jesse Bramble as he fell out of bounds at the Georgetown 28. Fordham only got one yard in the next four plays, though, and DeMorat’s fourth-down pass attempt to Jordan Allen fell harmlessly to the turf. Fordham’s defense got yet another stop on the next drive and gave the ball back to the offense with 7:09 left on Fordham’s 28. The Rams couldn’t take advantage.

“It’s very frustrating,” head coach Joe Conlin said of his team’s inability to take advantage of the opposing team’s mistakes. “If you want to be a great team, you gotta play complimentary football.”

Fordham’s next drive was emblematic of the game up to that point: DeMorat’s first pass was rushed and incomplete to junior receiver Joe Ferraro and his second was deflected then intercepted by Jethro Francois. Georgetown got down to the Rams’ one-yard line before being shut down on fourth-and-goal trying to run a trick play eerily reminiscent of the Eagles’ “Philly Special” Super Bowl play. A fumble by wide receiver Josh Tomas was recovered by sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Diodato, and Fordham took over at its own five-yard line with 2:21 to play and a chance to win it.

And then, to start that drive, an old face returned to the Fordham offense.

Senior backup quarterback Luke Medlock was sent to the bench after the Stony Brook game in favor of DeMorat. Conlin was looking to catch lightning in a bottle by bringing Medlock back in; the move had nothing to do with DeMorat’s health.

“Timmy was a little late on some reads,” Conlin said. “We just wanted to give Luke a chance, see if he could change something up, see if he could drive us down the field.”

It didn’t quite work out that way for the Rams.

Medlock’s second pass of an supposed game-winning drive was easily intercepted by Francois on the Georgetown sideline. Moultrie punched in a touchdown after Francois’ return went all the way back to the Fordham one-yard-line, and despite a botched extra point that was laden with hilarity after Georgetown’s long snapper illegally completed a pass into the end zone for a two-point conversion (it was called back), the score was 21-11 in favor of Georgetown with only two minutes left in the game. A safety on the next drive, which featured DeMorat instead of Medlock, made it 23-11, and that would be the final.

“Obviously, a frustrating loss,” Conlin said. “I thought the defense played tough. With the exception of one drive, I thought those guys did a great job. It seems to be a common theme, we just put them in too many difficult situations.”

It was another rough week for Fordham’s offensive line, as it conceded five sacks for the third time in the last four games.

“We have to do a better job of protecting our quarterbacks, and I think our quarterbacks have to help themselves out with staying on their reads and getting the ball in play faster,” according to Conlin.

The loss drops the Rams to 0-5 on the season, and things do not get easier from here. Next up for Fordham is the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, who were picked to finish second in the preseason Patriot League poll and are currently 1-4 following a 66-7 loss to 23rd-ranked Princeton. After that, Fordham faces Bryant, Lafayette and Colgate to close out its home slate and enter November.

Fordham has not won a game this season. After today’s loss, Coach Conlin pinned the blame on himself, but a team does not lose its first five games in this fashion with only one person to blame. This has been a collective failure to this point in the season for the Fordham Rams, and the team disappointed in its most winnable game to this point in the season.

Fordham is 0-5. Lehigh is next. The Rams hope that more losing is not in the offing. The precedent has been set, and it isn’t good.

Fordham Drops Homecoming Game 24-13 to Central Connecticut State

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

Fordham’s homecoming did not turn out to be a festive occasion for the school’s football team.

The Rams lost their fourth game in a row by a score of 24-13 to Central Connecticut State University. The loss drops the Rams to 0-4 as they head into a much-needed bye week before Patriot League play starts on Oct. 6. The main headline heading into the afternoon was whether or not the Rams would start freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat in place of struggling senior Luke Medlock. Fordham head coach Joe Conlin answered in the affirmative, and DeMorat would start Fordham’s annual homecoming game.

The game started with Zach Davis getting two carries for 20 yards on the game’s first two offensive plays. Davis played in his first game since sustaining an injury in the first game of the season against Charlotte, and he made an immediate impact. However, two straight throws from Tim DeMorat fell incomplete, and the Rams were forced to punt.

Central Connecticut State’s first drive was more successful, as the Jake Dolegala-led offense walked all over the Fordham defense for five plays and 72 yards. The drive ended on a touchdown when Arthur Gilmore broke wide open on play action after a Fordham defender fell down. After just three minutes and 46 seconds, Fordham was trailing 7-0 after their second slow start in as many weeks.

Fordham’s next drive was promising; DeMorat hit Isaiah Searight for a 17-yard gain up the seam and got another first down running the ball. But a read option play from the Central Connecticut State 32-yard-line went rather poorly, as DeMorat and Davis miscommunicated on a read option play, and the Blue Devils’ Mike Mushaw ran it back to Fordham’s 40. Once Central Connecticut State got the ball back, they drove to Fordham’s 10 and were faced with a fourth down and one. The 6’6”, 235-pound Dolegala snuck it up the middle and got four yards over the left guard for a first, but the Blue Devils were stopped on 3rd-and-goal from the 11 when Dylan Mabin broke up a pass to the end zone (Mabin missed the last two games with a knee injury). Francis Cole converted a field goal opportunity from 28 yards away and Central Connecticut took a 10-0 lead with 2:25 to play in the first quarter.

DeMorat converted a third down on a quarterback keeper on the next drive, but the Rams were once again forced to punt. Then, on the Blue Devils’ next drive, Dolegala threw an interception to Antonio Jackson at the Fordham 20-yard-line. Jackson broke several tackles and his electrifying return ended at the CCSU 19. Two plays later, DeMorat hit Searight over the middle for the tight end’s first touchdown of the season. Despite another missed extra point from Andrew Mevis, the Rams took back the momentum and the lead was down to 10-6.

The Blue Devils’ next drive fizzled out with only one penalty-induced first down. Fordham took its next possession to the CCSU 39, but DeMorat missed an open Searight on 3rd down and the Rams were forced to punt it away. DeMorat couldn’t get anything done with the next drive, and the Rams lost yardage due to a holding penalty. Mevis’ punt was blocked and the Blue Devils got possession at the Fordham 30 with just under a minute left. After a Noah Fitzgerald personal foul, Arthur Gilmore hauled in his second touchdown of the afternoon. Central Connecticut State took a 17-6 lead into the locker room.

After getting a stop on their first defensive possession of the second half, Fordham moved quickly downfield. After grinding out a first down with three runs from Davis, Fordham got a nine-yard scamper from DeMorat, a 24-yard gain on a slant route from Austin Longi, and a 25-yard touchdown run from Davis. After scoring just 13 points in their past two games, the Rams reached that number with 11:11 to go in the third quarter.

Another punt from CCSU gave possession back to the Rams at their own 16. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Grant Ibeh jumped a short pass from DeMorat and ran it back 19 yards to the end zone to make it 24-13 Blue Devils.

“We made too many mistakes in the first half, and then the pick-six in the second half was critical,” Conlin said.

The next six possessions resulted in punts, and Fordham needed a score with possession and just under six minutes to go. On a fourth-and-10 play, DeMorat found Corey Caddle short of the sticks and he was not able to get the first down. Fordham got one more possession on the afternoon, but it ended with DeMorat taking a fourth down sack.

Other than the pick-six, DeMorat had a solid afternoon. He finished 17-of-27 for 181 yards and a touchdown. At times, the true freshman looked like a polished quarterback. At other times, he looked like a true freshman.

“I thought Timmy played tough,” Conlin said. “We just gave them the ball one more time than they gave it to us.”

There were positives to take away from this game for the Rams. The defense held CCSU to just 265 yards of total offense and 168 passing yards. If you take out the pick-six and the blocked punt near the end of the first half, the Rams’ defense only should have allowed 10 points.

“Those guys, they play their hearts out,” Conlin said. “They did a great job against the run, they gave up 265 [total] yards.”

Another positive for Fordham was the return of running back Zach Davis and cornerback Dylan Mabin from injuries they suffered in the first game of the year against Charlotte. Both made their presence felt; Mabin had four tackles and a pass deflection while Davis ran for 69 yards and caught for another 23. The Rams will need both to be healthy and performing at a high level if they want to have any success in Patriot League play.

Isaiah Searight also had his best game of the season, as he caught four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. DeMorat targeted him early and often, and it is clear that the freshman feels comfortable throwing to a 6’4”, 250-pound target.

Fordham is off next week, and that is almost certainly for the better. The team is 0-4 and has now been outscored 138-36 in those games. Granted, they are playing some very talented opponents. But for the first time all season, the Rams got themselves into a winnable game against an opponent they have beaten in years past. They simply weren’t able to get it done.

Two weeks from now, Fordham will take on Georgetown. After that, they go back on the road to face Lehigh. Joe Conlin’s team is going into its bye week at 0-4.

The Rams need answers, and they need them now.

Overtime: All the Way Back

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

Let’s say that you are a normal human being with a normal life. You have kids, you’re in good shape and you have a great life.

Then, all of a sudden, your back hurts. That pain results in you having back surgery. You feel better, but you still don’t feel quite right. Then, not quite 18 months later, you need another surgery. The month after that marks another procedure. You take the next year or so to get back into your regular life, but then, just over six months later, you need yet another surgery. You have just had four surgeries on the same general area of your body in 36 months.

This would be hard enough to overcome if you were an average person. But this happened in real life, to someone who is not the average person.

This past weekend, that not-so-average guy won a PGA Tour event.

Tiger Woods notched his first tournament win in five years on Sunday when he won the Tour Championship by two strokes over Billy Horschel. Woods’ third-round 65 all but sealed the victory. The win was Woods’ 80th career victory, which brings him within two of Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82.

Is it equivalent to winning the Masters? No. Should anyone care that it wasn’t? That answer is also no.

This is a man who didn’t have a swing as recently as a year ago and had serious doubts about his ability to come back more recently than that. A man who was well on his way to becoming the greatest golfer ever (he could still get there) was reduced to a shell of himself. On Sunday, that man completed his long road back to becoming one of the sport’s elite.

But Woods’ ability to come back and look like himself goes far beyond just one player or one round. Because, as hyperbolic as this sounds, Tiger Woods embodies the game of golf in 2018.

Don’t believe me? Let me give you some numbers. Saturday’s telecast of the third round of the Tour Championship garnered a 3.14 overnight rating, which was the highest rating for the third round of that tournament in 15 years. It was also the highest-rated third round of any FedEx Cup Playoffs telecast on record (dating back to 2007). People tuned into this tournament, which usually doesn’t get a lot of buzz, for one reason and one reason only. I think you can figure out what that reason was.

There’s more evidence to support this. This year’s final round of the Open Championship, which Woods led briefly before fading down the stretch, gathered a 5.0 rating, which was the best for that tournament since 2006. The previous ratings high for a final round at the Open was set in 2000. You know who hoisted the Claret Jug at the end of both of those tournaments? Tiger Woods.

It started to tumble down with an extramarital affair that came to light in 2009, and it ended with his myriad injuries. In between, there was inconsistent play, multiple swing coaches, multiple caddies, and just eight wins in nine years. It wasn’t the Tiger Woods we had come to know over the years.

And then, this year, he came roaring back. It started with him playing in back-to-back tournaments in February, which may not seem like a big deal, but for someone in Woods’ position, it clearly was. Then, he earned back-to-back top-five finishes in March at the Valspar and the Arnold Palmer. He suffered a dip in performance after that, which included a tied-for-32nd finish at the Masters before missing the cut entirely at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. After that, though, the Tiger awoke from his hibernation, and he tied for sixth at the Open in Scotland. His best major championship performance came three weeks later, when he finished second at the PGA Championship, two strokes behind Brooks Koepka. On Sunday, Woods’ wait for a win finally ended.

This is not just a great comeback story. This is a story about a man who was at the top of his sport, fell all the way to the bottom multiple times, and ultimately came back to something resembling his previous form.

This is also relevant because just about everyone is rooting for him to succeed, which hasn’t always been the case.

In 2000, a year in which Woods won three of the four major championships, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Bill Lyon wrote an article entitled “Isn’t Tiger Woods Actually Bad for Golf?” He wasn’t alone; several other experts expressed concern that Woods’ dominance was somehow bad for the sport. Their argument was that, much like some will argue with UConn Women’s Basketball, Woods was too dominant and people would get tired of seeing him bulldoze the field on a weekly basis.

I can say this was also true of me at a time. When I was young, I hated Tiger Woods. I don’t know what it was, but I always rooted against him up until he got hurt. It was probably based on nothing, but I enjoyed rooting for underdogs (as I still do), and Woods was always the opposite of that. However, I was always glued to the television when he was in contention at a major. Always.

Now, I’m acutely attuned to the leaderboard whenever Woods contends. This time, though, I’m on the other side of the rooting spectrum, along with just about everyone else who watched his rise, fall and eventual return to the top of the sport.

Fordham Football Drops Third Straight to Start Season

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

Fordham Football conceded its third blowout in as many games in the home opener on Saturday, falling 28-6 at the hands of Stony Brook.

An 0-3 start is not what Fordham Football wanted to begin this season. That being said, starting off against an FBS opponent and two nationally-ranked FCS teams is hardly an easy way to begin a campaign. A part of this probably should have been expected.

The way Fordham has lost its games in 2018, though, is concerning.

It was a night that started inauspiciously for the Rams, as the offense suffered a false start on the first play from scrimmage. After a completion by senior quarterback Luke Medlock to senior wide receiver Austin Longi and a run of no gain by junior running back Tyriek Hopkins, Medlock threw an interception to Stony Brook’s Jordan Scarbrough, who took it to the house. Medlock had just thrown his third pick in two games and his fifth overall interception of the year. It was déjà vu all over again for head coach Joe Conlin’s team.

Medlock’s second pick of the night came on the next drive and ended a promising Rams series at the Stony Brook 32. It came off a batted ball, and though it would be unfair to put blame on the senior quarterback, two turnovers to start the evening isn’t exactly the start he or the team were hoping for.

The Seawolves punched in their second touchdown of the night when quarterback Joe Carbone hit Nick Anderson for a 26-yard strike to push the score to 14-0. Desperately needing some signs of life on the next possession, Fordham instead gave the ball away before its offense could even come back on the field. Hopkins lost the ball on the kickoff, and after a Stony Brook recovery and two runs by Jordan Gowins, the score was 21-0.

After this sequence of events, the game was never in doubt. Hopkins had a particularly rough evening; he later muffed a kickoff and was tackled at his own three-yard line and also struggled in pass protection. Fordham’s offensive line has been generally poor so far this year, and the team is undoubtedly feeling the effects of losing stalwart lineman Anthony Coyle to graduation. On this night, though, the offensive line had arguably its worst game of the season.

If you want a sense of how things went for the Rams, they finished the evening with a net rushing total of -7 yards. That is not a typo. Negative. Seven. But what’s even more startling is that this stat is not an anomaly; in the first 12 quarters Fordham has played in the 2018 season, the team has ran for a net total of -19 yards. This stat rankles Conlin, who spent the past nine seasons as an offensive line coach at three different schools.

“We gotta do a better job up front,” Conlin said. “We gotta do a better job finishing our runs at the running back position.” Conlin also made sure to note that the offensive line started two freshmen (left guard Austin Glazier and right tackle Phil Saleh). But make no mistake; he is not treating the youth in their lineup as an excuse.

“We gotta be able to put guys in there and have success. That’s something we’ll obviously take a close look at because it’s unacceptable; the ground game on the season is unacceptable and we need to fix it.”

We already knew going into Saturday night’s game that the offensive line was an issue for the Rams. What many wanted to see was how Luke Medlock would fare after back-to-back pedestrian showings. His performance improved after the two early interceptions, but it was far from an unqualified success.

He ended the night with 149 passing yards and only completed 16 of his 37 pass attempts. After the home opener, Medlock has now thrown six interceptions and just one touchdown in the team’s first three games. In fairness to him, he was under consistent heat from the Stony Brook defense all night, and he likely would have fared better with more time to throw. Regardless, Conlin and the coaching staff opted, for the second straight week, to play true freshman Tim DeMorat in a relief role with the game already decided.

The Merritt Island, Florida native had his ups and his downs in his brief stint at quarterback. After hitting Isaiah Searight for 22 yards on his second play from scrimmage, he hit Stony Brook corner Damarcus Miller in the numbers on his fifth snap. And so it went for the rest of the game, but DeMorat flashed the potential that drew schools to him on the team’s final possession of the evening.

The Rams got back-to-back first downs with a 14-yard pass to freshman running back Naim Mayfield and a 26-yard strike to Longi which left Fordham at Stony Brook’s 31. After after a short completion to Searight, DeMorat hit senior receiver Corey Caddle with a 29-yard bomb to the back corner of the end zone. The throw was placed in the perfect position to allow Caddle’s speed to run it down. Yes, it was a topsy-turvy night (6-10, 96 yards, TD, INT), but DeMorat showed why Fordham should be excited about his future.

As for the present, Fordham may have an interesting dilemma with its quarterback situation.

“We gotta look at the film and things like that, but certainly we’ve taken notice of that,” said Conlin. “The team seems to respond to Timmy, he can make some plays and improvise and things like that, so we’ll see.”

Conlin also took a similarly noncommittal tact in his postgame interview on WFUV, and when asked if there was any scenario in which DeMorat could start next week, he said, “Everything is always in play,” he said “We tell these guys all the time that no one’s job is etched in stone, so everything’s in play, but that’s not a thing I can answer right now.”

If everything really is in play, then we will need to monitor the Rams’ quarterback situation closely in the coming week. The Rams take on Central Connecticut State at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, and then the team has its bye week before closing a three-game homestand with Georgetown on Oct. 6. It remains to be seen how much Conlin and his staff want to shake things up with a bye week coming right after Saturday’s game.

It should also be noted that both of DeMorat’s performances this season have come after the game has already been decided. If he is to be the starter at some point this season, he’ll need to prove that he can handle things in more pressurized situations. Medlock also has a major edge in experience, as he spent the last three seasons as Kevin Anderson’s backup and filled in capably when Anderson went down at various points last season. Despite his struggles, there is something to be said for Luke Medlock’s experience and expertise, even if his struggles make him look more like a freshman than a senior.

Fordham is 0-3. The Rams have been outscored 114-23 in those three losses. Their running game has quite literally gone backwards. Oh, and by the way, they may have a quarterback controversy on their hands, as well.

Football Endures Monster 52-7 Loss at the Hands of Richmond

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

The Fordham football team went into this week hoping to put its 34-10 season-opening loss to Charlotte in the rear view mirror. The team wanted to do some things differently this week, and even the Rams’ travel plans (making part of the journey to Richmond by bus on Thursday night and completing the trip on Friday morning) seemed to indicate a desire to put the events of the fateful Charlotte trip behind them. The team arrived in Richmond, Virginia for Saturday’s game on a mission to get head coach Joe Conlin his first career win.

And then, at 6:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the Fordham Rams ran into a brick wall at full speed.

Fordham fell behind on the fourth drive of the night when quarterback Kevin Johnson punctuated a 13-play, 69-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown scamper. Richmond went into the game as a heavy favorite, but at the end of the first quarter, the Rams were only down by a touchdown. Despite finishing the first quarter with zero first downs, Conlin’s team had to be happy to only be down seven after 15 minutes, particularly considering how poorly the offense fared.

The struggles would continue for Fordham into the second quarter, and a 55-yard bomb from Johnson to wide receiver Dejon Brissett about a minute into the second frame set up Johnson’s second rushing touchdown of the night, which made the score 14-0 in favor of the Spiders. Things improved slightly on the Rams’ next drive, but the team stalled at midfield and Andrew Mevis was forced to punt for the fifth time in under 20 minutes of game action. After a Richmond punt, Fordham and senior quarterback Luke Medlock put together their best drive of the game to date, with three first down passes, including two to senior Corey Caddle, who missed last week’s game for undisclosed reasons. Then, on a second-and-nine play from Richmond’s 26, Medlock was picked off by Dionte Austin; a drive that was filled with promise ended with a turnover. While it’s hard to find one turning point in a game that was decided by 45 points, the second-quarter Medlock pick was certainly one of the biggest ones on the night.

Richmond scored three more points before the end of the half and, in another deflating moment, Mevis pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right with 24 seconds remaining in the half. The Spiders took a 17-0 lead into the locker room. You may be thinking that Richmond coasted to an easy win from that point forward. I am here to tell you that they did a lot more.

On the first play of the second half, Johnson and Brissett connected for their second huge pass play of the day, and this time, it went for a 75-yard touchdown. With a good deal of fans still away from their seats, Richmond took a commanding 24-0 lead. On the next drive, Medlock wound up to attempt a third-down pass but was strip sacked, and his fumble was recovered by Richmond’s Andrew Clyde. Three plays later, Richmond was back in the end zone with a touchdown pass to Cortrelle Simpson. The rout was on with the Spiders leading 31-0.

Medlock would turn it over twice more before the fourth quarter began, and he would be removed from the game in favor of freshman Tim DeMorat late in the frame. The score at the end of three? Richmond 52, Fordham 0.

DeMorat did provide a bright spot in the fourth quarter, and he was able to engineer the only touchdown drive of the game for Fordham. He finished 5-6 for 66 yards on the night and also rushed for a touchdown. Medlock’s night was not nearly as favorable; he completed 17 of 32 passes for 125 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. The Rams also finished with a grand total of -3 rushing yards on the night, thanks in large part to junior D’Angelo Palladino and sophomore Zach Davis not playing. Note: NCAA statistics count sacks as negative rushing plays. Fordham quarterbacks endured five sacks on the evening.

Fordham has a three-game homestand coming up, and it will be spread over the course of four weeks. The team will take on Stony Brook University on Saturday, September 15 at 6:00 p.m., to be followed by a home game with Central Connecticut State the following week. The Rams have their bye week on Sept. 29 before conference play begins in the Bronx against Georgetown on Oct. 6.

Fordham could certainly use some home cooking after the last two games they’ve played. However, if they don’t turn things around soon, it may not matter where the Rams are playing their games.

Joe Conlin Embraces the Process as Football’s New Head Coach

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

Fordham football coach Joe Conlin, 39, is technically new to this.

The 2002 graduate of Pittsburgh University is in his first year as a head coach in college football. You would think that he might be working out the kinks in his first rodeo as the captain of a collegiate ship. However, you wouldn’t know it by hearing him speak, as he has hit the ground running with clear goals in mind for the Rams.

“I want us to take steps to becoming a dominant defensive football team,” Conlin said, when asked about his goals for the team in 2018. “I want [us] to be a much more aggressive defensive football team, and I think coach [Paul] Rice and the defensive staff are doing a good job of it.”

To speak to Joe Conlin for any period of time is to meet a man who craves the process of building a good team. Conlin started at defensive tackle for three straight seasons at Pittsburgh, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2000 and 2001. After the end of his playing career, Conlin held assistant coaching jobs at West Virginia Tech, New Hampshire and Harvard from 2003 to 2011. In 2012, he jumped from Harvard to Yale to become the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.

In 2014, he got his big break when he became Yale’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator. His first season in charge of the offense went swimmingly, as the team led all of FCS in total offense en route to an 8-2 record. However, an offense that averaged over 570 yards per contest in 2014 was barely clearing the mark of 300 per game two years later. As he has done throughout his career, Conlin rebuilt the offense into one of the best in the nation, and the 2017 Bulldogs ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision’s top 12 in total offense en route to its first Ivy League title in 37 years. The process of becoming a head coach officially ended in late December, when Conlin was named the Rams’ next head coach.

“As soon as Coach Conlin walked in the room…we knew that he was the kind of guy we were looking for,” Fordham Athletic Director Dave Roach said. “I always say, ‘it’s the X-factor,’ and I can’t necessarily explain it, but you can feel it, and it’s somebody who obviously knows the game, has great experience, can motivate student-athletes and be a great recruiter, and I just think Coach Conlin has the personality that can lead young men to do great things.”

The Conlin era at Fordham is still in its infancy, and as the new head coach says, the team is focused on big-picture goals instead of wins and losses.
“We want to play harder than any other team that we play against,” says Conlin. “[We want to] just play an inspirational brand of football in terms of how we play, how we prepare, the respect we show opponents and how much fun we have celebrating together.”

That’s right: fun. Joe Conlin is a serious coach who demands excellence from his players both on the field and in the classroom, but he wants his team to have fun, too. It’s a lesson he’s learned throughout his life-long love affair with the sport.

“We’d play in the backyard in our neighborhood, and it was a lot of fun,” Conlin opines. “I was the guy with an older brother three years older than me, so I had his friends basically knocking the heck out of me all the time. It taught me some hard lessons early on, but it’s a great game.”

Family is another very important thing to Coach Conlin; in addition to his family growing up, the Rams’ coach now has a wife, Karen, and two young daughters, Hannah and Katie. His daughters were visibly present when Conlin was introduced to the Fordham community at a meet-and-greet in January. While some coaches may become consumed by their job, Conlin keeps things in perspective.

“No matter what is going on after the worst loss, when your daughter runs up to you and gives you a big hug, it erases everything. They’re the absolute joy of my life. I feel like I have ninety little brothers, and I have two girls that are my angels.”

Football isn’t everything to Joe Conlin, but it has been his livelihood ever since graduating college. Over 15 years after receiving his degree from Pittsburgh, Conlin is the new sideline general in the Bronx. He’ll look to put a tough start to the season behind him, as the team has started 2018 with back-to-back losses. Conlin, though, will be most concerned with the team’s energy, physicality and execution. He’ll try to build the Rams into a force to be reckoned with in a methodical way and on a day-to-day basis, as only a detail-oriented, process-loving head coach can.

Football, Conlin Open With 34-10 Loss

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in September 2018.

“Short answer: everything.”

That’s what Fordham Football head coach Joe Conlin said when asked about what the team needs to improve on in advance of next week’s game against Richmond. The Rams dropped their season opener against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers. That quote could also apply to everything that went wrong for the Rams from the moment they left Fordham’s campus en route to North Carolina.

The team’s flight, which was scheduled to leave at 2:35 p.m. on Friday afternoon, missed that mark completely. After leaving shortly after 4:00, American Airlines Flight 1893 was unable to land in Charlotte due to weather concerns and was forced to land in Raleigh and refuel. After departing Raleigh in what can best be described as not exactly the shortest order, the plane landed at Charlotte Douglas International Airport around 9:00, only to get stuck on the runway for another hour because no gates were available to allow passengers to get off. The experience was a fatiguing one for the Rams, and it would not be the only delay they suffered in their brief time in the Queen City.

Kickoff between Fordham and Charlotte was scheduled for 6:04 p.m. In case you haven’t yet noticed the theme, that did not happen. The game did not start until 7:14 due to lightning within an eight-mile radius of Jerry Richardson Stadium. Once the game did start, both offenses struggled, and three of the first four drives of the night ended in punts. The only one that didn’t was Fordham’s first possession, which advanced to the Charlotte 32-yard line. On fourth down and seven, Conlin, in his first career game as a college football head coach, decided to go for it. The move did not pay off, as senior quarterback Luke Medlock failed to connect with junior wideout Joe Ferraro.

After two more punts, the 49ers broke through with the first big play of the evening, as running back Benny LeMay took a short pass for 71 yards and would have scored, were it not for a touchdown-saving open-field tackle by senior Dylan Mabin. That tackle turned out to be worth four points for the Rams, as Charlotte ended up having to settle for a Jonathan Cruz 24-yard field goal. After another Fordham punt by sophomoe Andrew Mevis, Charlotte kept the momentum going with a 10-play, 30-yard drive that started from their own 48. However, they were once more forced to settle for a Cruz field goal; this one, which was converted from 39 yards out, gave the 49ers a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Fordham’s next drive came down to a third-and-five on its own 30-yard line. Medlock dropped back and completed a rainbow deep ball to senior receiver Austin Longi for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Rams in front. Longi stepped up in a big way for a Rams team that was missing fellow senior wide receiver Corey Caddle, who was out for the game for undisclosed reasons. Longi finished the night with eight catches and 113 of the team’s 296 receiving yards.

For a Rams team that had question marks on offense, however, Longi’s long score would be the team’s only trip to the end zone.

Charlotte followed up Fordham’s score with a big play of their own, as LeMay broke off a 58-yard run to Fordham’s two-yard line before punching it in to make it a 13-7 game. Three more punts ensued before Charlotte went on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted the better part of five minutes. When they stalled ten yards short of pay dirt, though, Cruz missed what appeared to be a relatively easy 28-yard field goal. Fordham’s attempt to muster a late first-half score went by the wayside, and the 49ers’ kept their 13-7 lead heading into the locker room.

And then the lightning returned.

Shortly before both teams were supposed to restart the game, a fairly stationary thunderstorm planted its roots just outside of Jerry Richardson Stadium. The delay that ensued lasted for nearly another hour. It was after 10:00 before both teams were allowed to come out of their respective locker rooms. The game, which had been scheduled to start shortly after 6 p.m., had entered its fourth hour with only 30 minutes of game action having elapsed.

Once the teams finally did reach the field, the 49ers put a thumping on Conlin’s squad.

The Rams were given a golden opportunity to take the lead after recovering a muffed punt at Charlotte’s 19-yard line at the beginning of the second half. But the offense only mustered four yards on three plays and the Rams were forced to cut their losses and trim the lead in half on a 32-yard field goal by Mevis. After dodging the bullet, Charlotte took full advantage with LeMay’s second rushing touchdown of the evening, which came after a 60-yard pass from quarterback Chris Reynolds to wide receiver Victor Tucker. (Interesting side note: Charlotte and head coach Brad Lambert did not announce their starting quarterback until the start of the game.)

With the score now 20-10, Fordham was forced to send out Mevis for his sixth punt of the night, which led a backbreaking drive from Charlotte.

The 49ers were able to push past an excellent punt from Mevis that pinned them inside their own five, drive 97 yards down the field for a touchdown and take over eight minutes off the clock in the process. The 14-play drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown by Tucker, and Charlotte grabbed a 27-10 lead early in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game out of reach.

The game of wacky occurrences seemed to be complete. The operative word in that sentence is “seemed.”

Shortly after Tucker’s touchdown, the lights behind Fordham’s sideline went out. What seemed to be the only mishap that had not yet occurred was coming to fruition, but despite the possible dangers of playing in the dark, there were no delays and the game went on as planned.

The 49ers would get one more score before the end of the night, when Juwan Foggie picked off Luke Medlock with 4:34 to play and took it to the house. That was where the game would end, with the hosts from Conference USA matching their 2017 win total and starting the season with a 34-10 victory.

One would think that the American Airlines and weather mishaps would have hindered Fordham’s ability to play at a high level. Conlin is not making that excuse.

“They had the same delays we had,” he said. “We didn’t execute, [we] shot ourselves in the foot too often, we made some big plays, we had some opportunities… the attention to detail wasn’t anywhere close to where it needs to be for us to win football games.”

The team struggled with its blocking all evening, as Medlock was sacked four times and running backs Zach Davis and D’Angelo Palladino combined for just 29 rushing yards in ten attempts. Luke Medlock had a productive but efficient night, going 22-47 for 296 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Fordham’s offense was a far cry from the days of Chase Edmonds and Kevin Anderson, and the Rams’ defense was on the field for over 37 minutes on the night, which almost certainly contributed to that unit’s struggles in the second half. All in all, it was a frustrating Saturday evening for the Rams, and it wasn’t just because of their poor performance; Dylan Mabin left the game in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury and missed the rest of the night. It remains to be seen what Mabin’s status will be for Saturday evening’s game against Richmond.

The Rams haven’t gotten off to a great start in 2018. They’ll get to Richmond by bus, which means that there will be no runway snafus or delays to find a gate. But if the team’s opener taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected is only a motion away. The Rams can’t change the cards they’re given, but they’ll spend this week working on how they can play their hand, regardless of lighting or lightning.

Golf Comes in 7th at A-10 Tournament

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in May 2018.

The Fordham Men’s Golf team finished in seventh place at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at the Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. this past weekend.

Once again, the star for the Rams over the three-day tournament was senior James Mongey, who shot a three-day total of 225 to finish 10th overall among individual players. When asked about his impressive weekend, Mongey pointed to his experience on the course as the biggest reason for his success.

“I think having played the course my sophomore year helped a lot,” he said. “I got a feel for how the course plays. It is very difficult and tough to shoot low. You are going to make bogeys and par is always a great score, but I hit the ball great. I think if my short game was a little better, I might have won.” Instead, he finished seven strokes behind tournament champion Mike Blasey of Davidson College. Davidson also won the team tournament by shooting a three-day total of 891; Fordham finished 28 strokes behind that figure with a 919, which placed them seventh out of 11 teams.

Senior Joseph Trim and sophomore Tomas Nieves were also impressive for the Rams, as both finished tied for 24th place on the individual leaderboard with a three-day total of 231; Nieves shot a two-under 70 in his final round on Sunday. Senior Matt Schiller shot a 19-over 235 over the three days and junior Josh Madarang finished at 28-over with a 244.

Despite finishing seventh in the Atlantic 10 yesterday, this was a historically good Rams team. Schiller and Trim finished their Fordham careers with an 18-hole scoring average of 75.5, which ties both of them for first all-time among Rams golfers. Mongey’s career ended with a 76.6 average, which puts him in third on the all-time list. Out of the three, Trim played the most career rounds with 95, with Mongey and Schiller close behind with 91 and 88, respectively.

“I will look back on my time at Fordham with a lot of great memories,” Mongey said. “I will miss playing for coach (Paul) Dillon. I feel so grateful to have shared these experiences with him. I’ve formed great friendships as well, along the way.”

The Rams will lose Mongey, Schiller and Trim to graduation next season and will have to pick up the slack in the absence of, statistically, the three best golfers in the history of the school. Players such as junior Tommy Hayes, freshman Mithran Denbow, Nieves and junior Tommy Hayes, all of whom appeared in minor roles this year, will have to combine to fill the shoes of the departing seniors. Mongey, Schiller and Trim leave an outstanding legacy and their absence will be difficult for the Rams to overcome next season as head coach Paul Dillon heads into his 23rd year at the helm of the program.

Even though replacing the departing players will be difficult for the Rams next season, coach Dillon has proven that he develop young talent and will need to do so again if the Rams wish to replicate their success from this season. The improvement of the returning players will be key to Fordham’s success next season and beyond.
As for the year that just finished, though, the Rams have no complaints. “I think my game has improved every year,” Mongey said. “I’m optimistic my best is yet to come.”