Rams score 21 points in fourth quarter
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 30- If the appropriate lead for Fordham’s win over Temple two weeks ago was “Wow”, a fitting lead for this week’s game at Saint Francis University might be “Whew”, as in “Whew, that was a close one. The Rams scored 21 unanswered fourth quarter points to pull away from a determined Red Flash squad to pull out a 38-20 win on DeGol Field.
With the win, the Rams improve to 5-0 on the year while the Red Flash falls to 1-3. It is the first 5-0 start to a season for a Fordham squad since the 1988 team also opened the season 5-0. The win is also Fordham’s fifth non-conference win of the year, the most non-conference victories for the Rams since the 2003 squad also won five non-conference games.
The win was spurred by special teams play as freshman Jorge Solano took the opening kickoff 96 yards for a score, the third longest kickoff return in school history, and junior Brian Wetzel set a school record with an 84-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that set up Fordham’s final score.
“Saint Francis did a good job on us defensively in the first half,” said Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead. “They did some things to keep the ball inside and we had a difficult time picking up some of the pressures but we made some adjustments at halftime and we came out and were able to move the ball in the second half.”
The Fordham offense was once again led by the one-two punch of quarterback Mike Nebrich and running back Carlton Koonce. Nebrich completed 31 of 41 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns while Koonce had his third straight 100-yard game, gaining 126 yards on 23 carries with one score.
Nebrich’s favorite receiver was Tebucky Jones, Jr., who hauled in nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Rams led most of the game until a 71-yard scoring run by Kyle Harbridge, who entered the game fourth in the NCAA FCS in rushing yards/game, put Saint Francis up 20-17 with 3:21 left in the first.
The Rams responded with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. The big play was the third play as the Rams faced a third and nine from their own 26 but Nebrich found Sam Ajala with a 13-yard gain and a first down. Fordham would get the ball to the Saint Francis 23 where Nebrich was forced out of the pocket but found a wide open Jones in the end zone to give the Rams the lead for good, 24-20, nine seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Red Flash moved into Fordham territory on the ensuing possession but the Fordham defense held firm on a third and five from the Rams’ 20 and Saint Francis kicker Lance Geesey missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt.
Fordham took over on its own 20 and Nebrich and Koonce went to work, with Nebrich connecting with Jones on a 45-yard pass on third-and-15 from the Fordham 15. Two plays later, Koonce rushed for 21 yards to the Saint Francis eight and, on the next play, took it around the left side for the score as Fordham took a 31-20 lead with 9:15 remaining.
The Fordham defense held the Red Flash to 21 yards on the next series and the Red Flash were forced to punt. Wetzel fielded the punt on the Fordham 12, avoided the first tackler, and then took it 84 yards to the Saint Francis four. Three plays later, Nebrich hit Wetzel over the middle with a three-yard scoring strike as the Rams extended their lead to 38-20 with 4:49 on the clock.
A final Saint Francis scoring drive was stopped by an Ian Williams interception in the end zone with 1:40 left.
After the Rams took the 7-0 lead on Solano’s kickoff return, Nebrich made it a 14-0 game on the Rams’ second offensive possession, capping it with a ten-yard touchdown toss to Dan Light with 4:48 left in the first.
The game would remain 14-0 until the Red Flash scored on a 67-yard scoring rush from Harbridge early in the second.
The 14-6 score would hold until early in the third quarter when a 66-yard carry by Harbridge put the ball on the Fordham two and he took it in from there on the next play to cut the Fordham lead to two, 14-12, 1:23 into the second half.
Later in the third, a Fordham drive stalled on the Saint Francis 22 where Michael Marando connected on a 39-yard field goal to bump the Rams’ lead to five, 17-12, with 3:40 remaining in the third.
It took the Red Flash just one play to change the score as Harbridge took the handoff and raced 71 yards to pay dirt on the next play from scrimmage and Saint Francis took a 20-17 lead 19 seconds later.
Jake Dixon led the Ram defense with seven tackles, four solo, while Stephen Hodge, Jordan Chapman, Levon Williams and Jake Rodriques each added six stops.
The Rams return to action next Saturday, October 5, as they host the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks on Jack Coffey Field in a battle of undefeated Patriot League teams at 12:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network.