Football Scores Late to Knock Off Holy Cross, 36-32

Game MVP Carlton Koonce

Oct. 27, 2012

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Worcester, Mass. - Since he arrived at Fordham University, head football coach Joe Moorhead has instructed his team to Focus, Fight and Finish. Today, the Rams followed through on the final command, capping a 78- yard, 15-play drive with a one-yard Carlton Koonce touchdown run with eleven seconds left to record a 36-32 come-from-behind victory over Holy Cross on Fitton Field in the annual Ram-Crusader Cup game.

The win breaks a four-game losing streak for the Rams against the Crusaders and returns to the Ram-Crusader trophy to Rose Hill for the first time since 2007. Fordham improves to 5-3 on the year while Holy Cross falls to 1-7.

"This was a great effort by the team today," said Moorhead. "We fought until the end and came up with big plays when we needed them. This is a big game for both teams. It's one of those rivalry games where you throw the records out."

Another thing Moorhead said when he took over at Fordham was that he could see Koonce becoming a 1,000-yard rusher and it only took eight games for Koonce, who was named the game's MVP, to make that prediction come true as he finished with 176 yards on 35 carries with three scores. Those numbers bring his season total to 1,060 yards with eight scores. Koonce becomes seventh Rams to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau, the fourth on the NCAA FCS level. His total is already the seventh best single season in school history.

Not to be outdone, quarterback Ryan Higgins completed 38 of 56 yards for 407 yards and one score, setting career-highs for completions and passing attempts and coming up just six yards shy of his career-high for passing yards.

Over his last four games, Higgins has completed 126 of 177 passes (71.2%) for 1,347 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

Ryan Higgins

All told, the Fordham offense gained a season-high 569 total yards and ran off 94 plays. It was the second time this year that the Rams gained 500 yards of offense and it was the most yards gained by a Fordham team since a 686-yard output in John Skelton's final game in a Fordham uniform which came at Georgetown in 2009.

On special teams, kicker Patrick Murray had another ho-hum day, connecting on all three field goal attempts, punting six times for a 46.7 yards/punt average, and sending six of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Murray's three field goals bring his season total to 18, tying him with Matt Fordyce (2002) for the Fordham single season record. His 46.4 yards/punt average would also be a Fordham single season record.

After Holy Cross took a 32-29 lead on a 27-yard Ryan Laughlin touchdown run, the Rams took over on their own 22 with 3:17 left. Higgins completed one of three passes to place the ball on the 29 where Fordham faced a fourth-and-three. On the fourth down, Higgins found Brian Wetzel for a five-yard gain to keep the drive moving and he then completed four straight passes, the final two to Dan Light to move the ball to the Holy Cross 41.

Two more Higgins completions gained 20 yards (12 yards to Wetzel and eight to Light) as Fordham moved into field goal range on the Crusader 21. Three plays later, Higgins found Koonce in the flats and Koonce turned it into an eleven-yard gain and a first down on the Holy Cross eight.

After Koonce gained a yard, Higgins found Nick Talbert in the end zone but the officials ruled that the ball had not crossed the goal line. On the next play Koonce left no doubt, punching it in from the one with eleven seconds remaining to give Fordham a 36-32 lead.

The Rams opened the scoring, taking the opening kickoff and moving to the Holy Cross 19 where Murray connected on a 36-yard field goal 3:10 into the game.

The Crusaders responded with a scoring drive of their own, capping a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a 29-yard John Macomber field goal to knot the game at three with 8:37 left in the first.

Later in the first, the Rams took over on their own one following a Holy Cross punt and Higgins and Koonce led Fordham downfield, moving the ball to the Holy Cross 24 where Higgins connected with Wetzel over the middle with a scoring strike to put the Rams up, 10-7, with 1:23 remaining in the quarter.

Late in the first, Fordham's Jake Rodriques picked off a Steve Elder pass and returned it to the Holy Cross 42. The offense made quick work of the 42 yards with Koonce covering the final nine on the ground on a fourth-and-one call from the Holy Cross nine as Fordham took a 17-3 lead with 12:44 left in the second.

The score remained 17-3 until later in the second when Murray punted out of the end zone and the Crusader returned the 40-yard punt to the Fordham 34. Three plays later, Laughlin hit Gerald Mistretta with a 30-yard touchdown pass to pull Holy Cross to within a touchdown, 17-10, with 5:52 remaining in the second,

Fordham responded with a seven-play, 53-yard drive that was capped by a 45-yard Murray field goal to bump the Rams' lead to ten, 20-10, with 2:57 on the clock.

After the Fordham defense held Holy Cross to a three-and-out, Higgins executed the two-minute drill, taking over with 1:59 left and moving the Rams from their own 34 to the Holy Cross six where Murray booted a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the half. Higgins completed four of seven passes for 37 yards in the drive while Koonce picked up 23 yards on two carries.

Holy Cross opened the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Laughlin to Mike Fess to make it a 23-17 game 3:27 into the third.

The Ram seniors with the Ram-Crusader Cup

Neither team managed to score the rest of the third but the Crusaders took their first lead of the game early in the fourth when Laughlin connected with Fess on another scoring strike, this one from nine yards, as the Crusaders took a 24-23 lead with 11:06 left in the game.

The Holy Cross score seem to awaken the Fordham offense as the Rams covered 79 yards on 14 plays with Koonce taking it in from the one and Fordham retook the lead, 29-24, with 4:50 remaining when the two-point conversion failed.

But the Crusaders came right back, scoring just 1:28 later on Laughlin's 27-yard run with Laughlin hitting Mistretta for the two-point conversion to give Holy Cross a 32-29 lead.

Wetzel led all Fordham receivers with nine catches for 130 yards and one touchdown while Light finished with a career-high nine catches for 66 yards, Koonce caught seven passes for 64 yards, both career highs, and Talbert finished with six receptions for 51 yards.

Defensively, Rodrigues led the Rams with eleven total tackles, nine solo, to go along with his interception while Michael Martin made nine solo stops, including one for loss, and Ian Williams finished with nine stops, seven solo, and he picked off a pass.

The Rams will return to action next Saturday, November 3, when they travel to Lewisburg, Penn., to face the Bucknell University Bison in Christy Mathewson Stadium in a matchup of Patriot League schools at 1:00 p.m.

Notes The Rams wore yellow shoelaces in honor of Ty Campbell, a five-year-old boy who was adopted by the team in 2011 but lost his battle with pediatric brain cancer on October 17... The game was Fordham's second on natural grass this year (the first was at Lehigh)... Holy Cross now leads the all-time series 27-21-2 and leads the all-time Ram-Crusader Cup series, 15-12... In his past two games against Holy Cross, Higgins has completed 61 of 97 passes for 645 yards and three touchdowns... The game was Koonce's fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year... Koonce's previous career-bests in receiving were six catches (at Georgetown last year) and 61 yards (at Penn last year)... Light's previous career-best for receptions in a game was eight, set last week at Cincinnati... Ian Williams leads the Rams with four interceptions this year... Mike Lombardi, a former Fordham student assistant coach who graduated last year, was at the game... He currently serves as a scout for the New England Patriots.