Football Loses 17-13 to Holy Cross to Fall to 1-9

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

Time ran out on Fordham Football on Saturday, as the team dropped a 17-13 heartbreaker to Holy Cross for its ninth loss this season.

The Rams were trying to rebound after last week’s 41-0 drubbing at the hands of nationally-ranked Colgate. With two games left in one of the most disappointing seasons in program history, the Rams had little to lose with their Patriot League chances out the window after last week.

Saturday’s first two drives ended in punts, as winds of over 20 m.p.h and frigid temperatures affected both offenses. After losing the coin toss, Fordham head coach Joe Conlin, in an exceptionally savvy move, decided to play in the face of the wind to start the game so the team could have the wind at his back in the fourth quarter.

Fordham’s second drive went far better than its first, as freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat hit wide-open tight end Isaiah Searight up the seam for 58 yards and the first points of the game with 9:42 to go in the first quarter. The catch was the senior’s fourth touchdown catch of the season and DeMorat’s 11th toss for a score.

Both teams traded punts for the rest of the first quarter, and interestingly enough, Holy Cross was unable to pin Fordham inside its own 20-yard-line despite having the advantage of the wind.

Fordham’s next drive got down to the Holy Cross 38, and the Rams were faced with a fourth-and-one at that spot. The handout went to senior running back Colton Smith, and he was stonewalled inches short of a first down. Smith was pressed into duty after freshman running back Naim Mayfield was unable to travel with the team because of illness. Holy Cross got something going on the next drive, and the Crusaders got inside Fordham territory for the first time of the afternoon. The drive came to a screeching halt, though, when senior quarterback Geoff Wade ran to the left and tried to throw over the middle and was intercepted by Fordham senior Dylan Mabin. However, Fordham was unable to take advantage, and the ceremonious trading of punts continued until inside of five minutes to play in the first half.

With about four-and-a-half minutes to play in the half, Holy Cross punter Cody Wilkinson came on for yet another punt. It was blocked by junior Jesse Bramble, and Fordham received possession at the Holy Cross 43. But again, the Rams’ offense sputtered, and sophomore Andrew Mevis came on to punt after three straight DeMorat incompletions.

Holy Cross’ next possession went 13 yards in eight plays and took over three minutes off the clock, leaving the Rams with just 47 seconds to work with from their own 42. Fordham took seven plays to go 21 yards and called upon Mevis to try to hit a career-long attempt from 54 yards away with the wind whipping behind him.

And hit it he did. Mevis’ kick, which might have had enough distance from 65 or even 70 yards out, gave Fordham a 10-0 lead going into the halftime break. Conlin’s decision to play the elements paid off in spades. Fordham’s defense held Holy Cross to just 79 first-half yards.

The second thirty minutes, however, would be the Rams’ undoing.

After a Holy Cross punt to open the second half, Fordham was stopped at its own 42. Mevis came on to punt into the Worcester wind and attempted a low, end-over-end boot to knife through the gusts. Instead, the Crusaders blocked his kick and took over possession 21 yards away from Fordham’s end zone. Two plays later, Wade hit an unguarded Derek Mountain on an exquisite throw-back play to the left after a rollout to the right to bring Bob Chesney’s team within three points.

On Fordham’s next drive, junior running back Tyriek Hopkins was dispossessed by Holy Cross defensive lineman Jake McArdell in his own territory, and the Crusaders took possession at the Fordham 41 after standout linebacker Ryan Brady recovered the loose change. Senior receiver Jonathan Lumley had a chance to recover the fumble but continued to block downfield anticipating that Hopkins would still be running. To the Fordham defense’s credit, it held the Crusaders to a three-and-out and a punt, but the offense continued to struggle.

With about three minutes left in the third quarter, wide receiver and former quarterback Blaise Bell passed the ball on a trick play to fellow wideout Martin Dorsey. The trickery worked, and Dorsey hauled in the pass at Fordham’s eight-yard-line. Three plays later, Wade went back to Dorsey to give the Crusaders a 14-10 lead with 2:15 left in the third quarter.

The teams continued to trade stops into the fourth quarter, and things would remain this way until the final 10 minutes of the game. On a third-down play from Holy Cross’ 43, senior receiver Austin Longi dropped a lateral from DeMorat. Brady got his second fumble recovery of the day at the 47-yard line. On the next drive, Wade was stripped on the run by sophomore linebacker Jeremy Imperati. Freshman Ryan Greenhagen tried to pick up the ball and run with it instead of falling on it. The ball eventually rolled out of bounds, and the Rams missed their opportunity at a stop. Running back Miles Alexander went for a four-yard run on the next play, and kicker Derek Ng drilled a 37-yarder into the teeth of the wind.With 7:37 to play, Holy Cross led 17-10.

Fordham held possession for the next 5:15 and got all the way down to the Holy Cross nine-yard line. However, DeMorat was sacked and threw incompletions on the next two plays. Mevis cashed in from 35 with 2:15 to bring the Rams within four. And that is where things started to get really weird.

Holy Cross was faced with a third down and three yards to get from their own 30 after a Fordham pseudo-onside kick attempt failed. Wade found Mountain for two yards, but Mountain was inches short of the first down, and Fordham senior Larry Menyah forced him out with 1:53 to go. Holy Cross eventually punted, and the Rams got it on their own 41 with 107 seconds to play.

Fordham had a fourth-and-five with about a minute left. DeMorat looked for Searight, and the senior made an insane catch over the back of the defender to move the chains. Fordham continued to push towards the red zone and got there when DeMorat hit senior wideout Corey Candle near the sidelines with 35 seconds left. Candle was stopped with forward progress in bounds but the clock stopped for the chains to move. A clock issue pushed the time down to 23 seconds left. The referees announced that the clock would start on their signal, meaning that Fordham would have to get up to the line and quickly run a play.

Then, DeMorat inexplicably used 15 of the 23 seconds remaining to figure out what to do. Fordham’s offense did nothing for this time until snapping it with eight or nine seconds to play. A holding call pushed the Rams back to the 29, and a Hail Mary attempt fell to the ground to give Holy Cross it’s fourth win of the year and send Fordham to 1-9.

While the referees probably erred in their handling of the situation, there is no excuse for what Fordham’s offense did (or didn’t do) at the very end of the game.

Fordham outplayed Holy Cross on Saturday. The Rams outgunned them 295-221 and looked like the better team for large chunks of the game.

Fordham has one more game left in this God-forsaken season; it will be against Bucknell on Saturday. The lights are about to go out on this season, and it can’t be saved.

Football Drops to 1-8 After Another Blowout Loss

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

Fordham’s football team did not send its seniors off right on Saturday.

The Rams lost 41-0 to Colgate University; the result earned Colgate, the 11th-ranked team in the country, at least a share of the Patriot League title while the Rams fell to 1-8 in what Fordham coach Joe Conlin called an “unforgivable” effort on senior day.

“We didn’t execute today,” Conlin said. “We didn’t play the type of football that I want us to play. It’s not what Fordham Football is going to be, so to send these seniors off on a performance like that, to me, is unforgivable.”

A Colgate team that had given up six total points in its last six games heading into the day imposed itself on Fordham’s offense. Freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat was sacked eight times and the Rams were outgained 562-28 in total offense on the afternoon.

Colgate picked up a first down on the first play of the afternoon with a 10-yard scamper from quarterback Grant Brenaman, but Fordham’s defense held strong and forced a punt. Fordham was heading towards a similar fate on their first drive, but a shotgun snap from senior center Dominic Lombard went astray, and Colgate recovered the loose ball at Fordham’ eight-yard-line. Two plays later, the Raiders took advantage with a four-yard touchdown run from James Holland, Jr. to put Colgate in front 7-0 just 3:43 into the game.

Fordham continued to struggle on the next possession, with two DeMorat incompletions and a three-yard run from junior running back Tyriek Hopkins. In two drives and six plays, Fordham had just a punt and a lost fumble to its offensive ledger. Colgate also went three-and-out on the next possession, in part due to a false start penalty on third down and short yardage. Fordham had more issues on the ensuing possession and nearly lost another fumble on another poor snap from Lombard. TySean Sizer’s punt return put the Raiders near midfield.

On the first play of the next drive, Holland, Jr. busted loose once more. He took off on a run up the middle, broke through the hole and beat the Fordham defense for 52 yards and a score. The score gave Colgate a 14-0 lead with 5:56 left in the first quarter.

Fordham moved the chains on the next drive for the first time in the afternoon, but was unable to do anything else and punted from its own 37-yard-line.

Colgate then marched downfield to Fordham’s 26, but Holland, Jr. fumbled and senior Antonio Jackson, in his last home game in a Rams uniform, recovered and brought it back to the Colgate side of the field. Fordham, however, went in the wrong direction with a two-yard loss from running back Naim Mayfield and a ten-yard loss on a sack by Colgate’s Coco Coleman.

Colgate did not fail to take advantage of Fordham’s offensive ineptitude.

The next drive started with three runs from Holland, Jr. and an acrobatic 24-yard catch from tight end Nick Diaco. Running back Alex Matthews took it down to the one-yard-line on the next play, and took it to the house one play later. With 11:37 left in the first half, Colgate led 21-0 and showed why it was the 11th-ranked team in FCS heading into the afternoon.

The next drive followed the same pattern for Fordham: short run, incompletion, sack, punt, and Colgate got it back on their own 39.

Conlin said protecting the quarterback will be a top priority for the team as the year winds down.
“Every week, we cannot sustain drives,” he said. “We gotta do a better job of protecting the quarterback and being a little more consistent on the ground.”

Even if you take DeMorat’s eight sacks out of the equation, Fordham only rushed for 33 yards on the afternoon. Hopkins and freshman Naim Mayfield combined for just 16 yards on the day.

Both teams traded punts on each of their next drives. Colgate continued to do whatever it wanted on the next drive, as a 23-yard strike to Owen Rockett got Colgate to the Fordham 10. The Raiders punched it in the end zone on the next play on a short pass to running back Malik Twyman, but a chop block by Rockett knocked Colgate back 15 yards. Eventually, the Patriot League leaders settled from a 28-yard field goal from Chris Puzzi to make it 24-0 with 4:38 to play in the first half.

The Rams were able to get a first down on the next drive on a 10-yard connection from DeMorat to senior receiver Corey Caddle. Disaster struck on the next play, though, as DeMorat was intercepted by Ben Hunt on a throw over the middle.

“Timmy probably had his worst day,” Conlin said. “He’s not using his legs like he used to, and there are times when he just doesn’t have a chance. Other times, he’s not using his legs like he did so well against Central Connecticut and Bryant. You’ve got a 17, 18-year-old kid going up against one of the best defenses in the country, and a really well-coached defense, so he’s gonna have struggles.”

After the pick, Colgate was faced with a fourth-and-four at the Fordham 25 and quarterback Grant Breneman converted with a 23-yard toss to Rockett. Breneman kept it on a read option for a touchdown on the next play to make it 31-0 Raiders, and that would be the score heading into the locker room.

The second half started with more of the same, and despite a pretty 15-yard throw from DeMorat to senior Isaiah Searight, Fordham punted for the seventh time in the game. The Rams got a stop on the next possession, but their offense still could not get anything going. After a completion to Austin Longi on second down, DeMorat endured his fifth sack of the day at the hands of Colgate’s Dillon DeIuliis.

The Raiders completed a third-down pass for 29 yards to Rockett on the next possession. Sacks by freshman Ryan Greenhagen and sophomore Glenn Cunningham with Colgate inside the 10 forced the Raiders to kick another field goal from 43 yards, and Puzzi had his field goal blocked and returned to the Fordham 45 by Anthony Diodato.

Fordham crossed midfield for the first time in the half with an 18-yard throw from DeMorat to Searight. Fordham stalled at that point, and the Rams were stopped on fourth-and-10 from the Colgate 37.

Fordham almost got it back on the next play, however, as Glenn Cunningham forced a fumble from Holland, Jr. and Ryan Greenhagen made the recovery. However, the initial ruling that Holland was down stood, and the Raiders kept the ball. Malik Twyman ended the drive with a seven-yard run to make it 38-0 Colgate early in the fourth. Fordham punted on the next drive.

Twyman added insult to injury on the next possession with a 55-yard sprint on a beleaguered Fordham defense. Colgate’s drive stalled, and kicker Chris Puzzi barely made a 35-yard field goal into the teeth of the wind to make it 41-0 Raiders with 8:54 to play, and that would be the final score.

When everything was said and done from Jack Coffey Field, Fordham had punted it 11 times, lost 50 yards in the running game and earned just over half a yard per play. Conlin was particularly frustrated with his team’s performance in both the run and pass games.

“If you’re inconsistent in two phases, the call sheet starts to look like a foreign language,” Conlin said. “We gotta do a better job of executing, we can’t have these unforced errors and bad snaps and stuff like that. That stuff’s unacceptable, and that’s the mark of a bad team and obviously, we can’t have that stuff if we want to be a good team.”

The Fordham Rams are not a good team. They have been officially eliminated from any chance at contending for a Patriot League title this season, and this outcome was several weeks in the making. The Rams faced one of the best teams in the country on Saturday, and were thoroughly out-classed in every phase of the game.

Fordham has two more games this season against Holy Cross and Bucknell; both will be on the road. The Rams have an opportunity to salvage a lost season with better performances at those venues the next two weeks.

After Saturday’s blowout, it would be nearly impossible for the Rams to sink lower.

Fordham Drops to 1-7 After Loss to Lafayette

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

The rain and wind cranked all afternoon at Jack Coffey Field on Saturday as the Fordham Rams lost 21-13 to Lafayette and fell to 1-7 on the season.

The weather was a big part of the story in this one, as cold temperatures, a driving rain and a howling wind made playing conditions difficult. The wind consistently blew towards Keating Hall, and the rain caused various puddles to form on the artificial surface.

The weather had an effect on both offenses; Lafayette kept it on the ground for 58 of its 67 offensive plays, and both teams combined for just 164 yards through the air.

“It was really very frustrating,” Fordham head coach Joe Conlin said of his offense’s second-half performance. “We had a couple opportunities to make plays, and we didn’t. We had dropped balls, we cut guys loose in protection and things like that.”

Fordham didn’t gain much traction with its first drive of the afternoon, and the Rams went four yards in the wrong direction in three plays. Lafayette got a penalty-induced first down on the next possession, but the Rams stopped the Leopards on fourth-and-two from Fordham’s 38-yard-line. The next two possessions ended in punts, and Fordham eventually got possession with under five minutes left in the first quarter and still no points on the scoreboard.

Fordham finally got something going on its next possession. The Rams converted on a fourth down play with Naim Mayfield running it up the middle, and on the next play, which was also the first of the second quarter, freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat hit sophomore wideout Hunter Harris over the middle for 20 yards. Two plays later, DeMorat connected with senior tight end Isaiah Searight for an eight-yard score to give Fordham a 7-0 lead with 13:51 left in the second quarter.

Lafayette had an answer on its next drive, however.

The Leopards kept it exclusively on the ground for eight plays and 75 yards on a drive that eventually ended in a Selwyn Simpson 38-yard touchdown scamper. Prior to that drive, quarterback Sean O’Malley was one-for-four with just five passing yards. Simpson’s second touchdown in as many weeks tied the game at seven with 9:48 to go in the half.

Fordham’s next drive lasted just three plays and started inauspiciously with a Dylan Mabin fumble on the kickoff. However, sophomore punter Andrew Mevis flipped the field with a 66-yard punt that stopped dead outside Lafayette’s goal line. Two plays later, Noah Fitzgerald recovered a Lafayette fumble four yards outside the end zone, and Fordham’s offense converted with a four-yard touchdown pass from DeMorat to senior Austin Longi. After a botched extra point, the Rams led 13-7 with 7:51 left in the first half.

The next three drives finished in three-and-outs as the rain and wind continued to wreak havoc on the playing conditions. On a Fordham drive that started with 2:52 left in the half, Tim DeMorat struggled to handle a snap from the shotgun. Even though the officials ruled that DeMorat recovered the fumble, the call was changed on review, and Lafayette got possession at Fordham’s 39 with 99 seconds left in the first half. After three straight runs, the Leopards kept it on the ground for fourth-and-short, and the Leopards turned fourth down into a home run as C.J. Amill broke free for a 31-yard touchdown scamper. Lafayette took a 14-13 lead late in the half, and that would be the score heading into the locker room. But despite being outgained 150-88 and 145-(-15) on the ground, the Rams were only down by one.

After halftime, Lafayette converted on a fourth-and-one around midfield but could not do any more. Jacob Bissell’s fourth punt of the day rolled to the three-yard line before the Leopards special teams unit downed it. Fordham didn’t get anything going and punted after three plays.

Selwyn Simpson started the next drive from the Lafayette 45 with a 51-yard run down the right sideline all the way down to the Fordham four-yard-line. Simpson got two more runs on the drive, and he punched the last one into the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon with 8:26 to play in the third quarter; that score made it 21-13 Lafayette.

The next four drives after Simpson’s touchdown all culminated in punts. Lafayette kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground, and while the offense had its ups and downs, the strategy seemed to work.

Fordham’s first possession of the fourth quarter did not go smoothly. Naim Mayfield went down trying to make a block in pass protection, and DeMorat nearly hit Hunter Harris with a deep ball over the middle before a Lafayette defender broke it up. Lafayette’s next drive featured more of the same; penalties, rushing plays and a drive-ending punt.

“I thought we did a better job of getting off of blocks,” Conlin said of his defense’s second-half performance against the Leopards’ rushing attack. “I thought our secondary did a better job of coming up and filling in than they did in the first half.”

DeMorat’s first throw of the next possession was intercepted by Lafayette corner Eric Mitchell. Lafayette actually threw it twice on the next possession, but once again punted on Fordham’s end of the field. The Rams got it back with 6:34 to go; the team needed 90 yards and a two-point conversion to tie the game.

But, following a common theme for the Fordham offense, the Rams could not get anything going. After a completion to Searight on first down, which was the freshman’s second completion of the second half, DeMorat was sacked on second and threw an incompletion on third, leading to a punt inside Fordham’s end zone.

Lafayette could have ended the game with points on the next drive, which looked promising after C.J. Amill picked up a first down to the Fordham 25. However, the drive stalled, and kicker Jeffrey Kordenbrock missed on an ugly field goal attempt from 46 yards to keep the Rams alive.

DeMorat started the next drive with completions to seniors Jonathan Lumley and Austin Longi, but the team was pushed back by a false start by freshman Phil Saleh. Running back Tyriek Hopkins then made the most of a swing pass and got the Rams down to the Leopards’ 42. On second down, DeMorat tried to force a pass to Jonathan Lumley over the middle into double coverage.

It did not work.

The freshman was intercepted by junior defensive end Keith Earle with under two minutes left to seal the deal for the Leopards, who took three kneel-downs to ice the game after the pick. The loss sent Fordham to 1-7 overall and 1-2 in the Patriot League, which means that the Rams will be fighting for their conference lives next week when they take on league-leading Colgate. A loss eliminates them from conference title contention.

“We need to take what is given to us,” Conlin says. “We got the easy throws we gotta make, and we gotta do a better job of maintaining our blocks, and we obviously have to protect the quarterback better.”

DeMorat was sacked four times on the afternoon, and the offensive line struggled like it has all season long. The freshman was pressured for most of the afternoon and was not afforded the adequate time to throw.

“If you give up a sack late, it’s not a big deal, but if guys get through right now and immediately get in the quarterback’s vision, it kind of just screws everything up,” Conlin said.

Fordham’s rushing offense, which has shown signs of improvement the past few weeks, took a major step back on Saturday as it went for -20 net yards if you include DeMorat’s sacks. Mayfield and Hopkins combined for just 25 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and the Lafayette defense did not give the tandem any room to run.

With Saturday’s loss, Fordham will need a miracle just to have a chance at winning the Patriot League. The team that was projected to finish second in the conference before the season now has its backs firmly against the wall, and the Rams face a must-win game against Colgate next Saturday.

Fordham is trying to salvage something from what may be about to become a lost season. To do that, they’ll first have to beat the best team in the Patriot League. The wind will not be at their backs.