Fordham wins playoff game at home
(Photos by Gary Quintal)
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, DECEMBER 1- On Saturday afternoon, for the second straight year, the Fordham Rams (11-2), the Patriot League title-ists, hosted the Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-3), the North East Conference champions, at Jack Coffey Field on the Fordham University campus in the Bronx in a first round contest in the FCS championship playoff.
Last year’s 37-27 victory by Fordham was the first football meeting between the two schools. It was also the first time the Pioneers qualified for the FCS Division I championship, and the first FCS playoff game hosted by Fordham.
The weather on Saturday was not a factor in the outcome of the important contest as skies were filled with clouds; winds were blowing for less than 10 miles per hour and the temperatures were in the 30’s.
The Thanksgiving weekend festivities held the crowd at the crucial playoff contest to a disappointing 2,442.
The Rams jumped off to an early lead, 14-0, after Mike Nebrich, the 2014 Offensive Player of the Patriot League, threw two touchdown passes in less than two minutes. At 12:11, Tebucky Jones, Jr. grabbed a one-yard touchdown toss, and at 10:43, Brian Wetzel scored after a 50 yard run after catching the second touchdown throw by Nebrich in the first quarter. The scores came on the second and third Fordham possessions of the game.
The Pioneers closed the quarter by cutting the Fordham advantage to 14-9.
Michael Marando began the second quarter by kicking the first of his three field goals in the contest. The 25, 23 and 38-yard kicks raised his career total to 45, a new Patriot League mark.
Jones and Wetzel, two seniors who were selected First Team All-Patriot League, each caught eight of Nebrich’s passes and each scored a second touchdown in the game. With nine seconds remaining in the first half, Wetzel caught a 14 yard touchdown pass. The first score of the second half was a 97 yard reception by Jones. Nebrich commented on his fourth touchdown pass, “It felt like it was a good time to call it.”
Jones bested 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive season and Wetzel for the third straight year.
The final touchdown of the game was a 26-yard rush by Fordham freshman Chase Edmunds, the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. The Rams scored 10 points in the final quarter while holding the Pioneers scoreless.
That result was a stark contrast to the regular season showing of the Pioneers in the final quarter. In their 11 regular season games, the Pioneers outscored opponents 80-22 in the fourth quarter.
Sacred Heart coach Mark Nofri honestly assessed his team’s performance after the conclusion of the game, “We didn’t play our best. They [the Rams] capitalized on it. Three or four times, we should have had touchdowns and we didn’t.”
Fordham’s head coach Joe Moorhead complimented Fordham’s opponent, “That was a quality opponent for the first round. We had to fight for every inch.” He then praised his own team’s performance, “This [game] was a point of reference of how we have to prepare for the next game. It was good enough to beat a quality opponent.”
The 44-22 final score was completely in sync with Fordham’s per game average this year. Fordham averaged 42.2 points and averaged giving up 21.6 points per game.
The victor, Fordham, will advance to the second round and travel to Durham, New Hampshire, to face the #1 seed of the FCS, the University of New Hampshire, on the afternoon of December 6.