Football Retains Liberty Cup with Victory Over Columbia
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 22- It had all the makings of a trap game for the Fordham football squad. Coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, an upset win at Temple, it would have been easy for the Rams to suffer a letdown. For the first half it appeared to be the case as the Rams amassed 338 yards of offense but only had ten points to show for it. But the second half was a different story as Fordham erupted for 42 points en route to a 52-7 Liberty Cup win over Columbia in front of a sellout Homecoming crowd of 7,026 on Jack Coffey Field.
With the win, the Rams, who entered the game ranked 21st in the NCAA FCS, improve to 4-0 on the season while Columbia drops its season opener. It is the first time that Fordham has opened a season 4-0 since the 1988 squad went 6-0 and the Rams’ first ever 4-0 start on the NCAA FCS level.
The win also ensures that the Liberty Cup remains at Rose Hill for the fourth straight year as the Rams take an 8-5 lead in the all-time series for the Cup.
“We really didn’t make an schematic adjustments at the half,” said head coach Joe Moorhead, who became the second fastest Fordham head coach to win ten games, doing so in his 15th game. “We had almost 350 yards of offense at halftime but only ten points. We weren’t capitalizing on opportunities in the red zone. I just reminded them to pay attention to detail and not turn the ball over and we capitalized better on our opportunities in the second half.”
The Fordham offense gained a season-high 606 yards and was led by junior quarterback Mike Nebrich, who competed 32 of 38 passes for 347 yards, his second straight 300-yard passing game, and three touchdowns and he rushed 12 times for another 85 yards. Eight of those passes went to junior receiver Brian Wetzel for 116 yards and two scores while senior Carlton Koonce led the Fordham rushing attack, gaining 158 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game, on 27 carries with two scores.
But the offense could not have gotten the job done without the play of the offensive line of starters Tom Fisher, Garrick Mayweather, Matt Stolte, Steven Tapia and Chris Watkins along with Mason Halter, who despite not being in the starting lineup due to illness last week, still came on to give the line depth.
“I said going into the game that the game would be decided in the trenches,” said Moorhead. “I think our lines on both sides of the ball did a great job today.”
Defensively, the Rams sacked the Columbia quarterback five times and allowed just 31 net rushing yards, 258 total yards.
The Rams got on the board first, moving 80 yards on nine plays, taking a 7-0 lead on Koonce’s eight-yard scoring run with 5:02 left in first.
The Lions threatened early in the second but Jordan Chapman intercepted a Brett Nottingham pass on the Fordham three. Nebrich then led the Rams downfield but the drive stalled at the Columbia 27 where Michael Marando booted a 38-yard field goal to give the Rams a 10-0 lead 4:10 into the second half.
Later in the second, the Rams’ defense held Columbia on a fourth-and-nine play on the Fordham 48 and Fordham took over with 1:48 left on the clock. Fordham moved to the Columbia four with one second left where they had one last chance to score before the half, but Nebrich was stopped shy of the goal line and the Rams settled for the 10-0 halftime lead.
After the Rams forced a Columbia three-and-out on the first series of the second half, Fordham advanced to the Columbia 35 but Nebrich fumbled after a 15-yard gain and the ball was recovered by Columbia on its own 16.
The Fordham defense stepped up, sacking Nottingham on the second play from scrimmage, forcing a fumble, which was recovered in the end zone by Brett Biestek for a Fordham touchdown and 17-0 lead with 10:29 on the clock.
The defensive touchdown sparked the Fordham offense which scored on its next four possessions, starting with a 29-yard scoring strike from Nebrich on a drive that was set up by a Levon Williams interception to build the lead to 24-0.
On their next offensive series, the Rams covered 64 yards on just five plays with Nebrich connecting with Tebucky Jones on a 15-yard pass to boost the lead to 31-0 with 45 seconds left in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, JQ Bowers forced and recovered a fumble on the Columbia 15 and Nebrich found Wetzel with his third touchdown pass of the day on the very next play as the Rams’ lead ballooned to 38-0 with 16 ticks on the clock.
The lead grew to 45-0 when Koonce accounted for 55 yards of a 67-yard drive, scoring from the one with 12:13 left, and then 52-0 when Columbia fumbled a punt return on its own two and, two plays later, Kendall Pearcey brought it in midway through the fourth.
The Lions got on the board late in the game, capping an 82-yard drive with an 11-yard scoring pass from Trevor McDonagh to Ryan Flannery with 3:27 left.
Ian Williams, Jake Dixon and Jordan Chapman each recorded a team-high six tackles for the Fordham defense, with Williams recording two sacks and two pass breakups.
The Rams return to action next Saturday, September 28, as they travel to Loretto, Pennsylvania, to face the Saint Francis University Red Flash at 12:00 p.m.