Football Takes Down Lafayette, 38-27

Carlton Koonce

Nov. 10, 2012

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Maybe it was the emotion they felt from honoring Ty Campbell, a five-year-old boy "adopted" by the Fordham University football squad last year who lost his battle with brain cancer last month but whose family was honored as special honorary captains today. Or maybe it was the sentiment of playing without its top defensive player, Michael Martin, who missed the game due to an injury. Whatever the source, the Rams dug in and battled back in the second half to defeat Lafayette College, 36-27, on Jack Coffey Field in a battle of Patriot League schools.

With the win, Fordham improves to 6-4 on the year and clinches its first winning season since the 2007 squad finished 8-4, while Lafayette evens its record at 5-5.

The day started with a special pregame ceremony as, Lou and Cindy Campbell, Ty's parents, and his brother, Gavin, joined the Fordham captains at midfield for the coin toss. The Rams honored Ty's memory by wearing gold shoelaces and towels since gold is the color of pediatric brain cancer and accepted donation through their Uplifting Athlete charity.

To make the day even more special, several former Rams were in attendance, including current Arizona Cardinal John Skelton along with his brother, Stephen, who is on the Cardinals' practice roster.

On a down note, Martin missed his first game since his freshman year after suffering an injury during practice during the week. He leads the Rams in total tackles with 93 and is second on the team with 9.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. But head coach Joe Moorhead wasn't about to let Martin's absence effect the outcome of today's game. "Last night, I told the guys that when someone gets injured the player who replaces him has to do as good a job or better at that position. And I think Kassim Forbes and Christopher Hodge did an outstanding job filling in for Mike and I think the defense played one of their best games of the year, especially in the second half."

The Fordham offense was led by the one-two-three punch of Carlton Koonce, Ryan Higgins and Brian Wetzel. Koonce gained 189 yards on 31 carries with one touchdown while Higgins completed ten of 18 passes for 150 yards and two scores and Wetzel caught three passes for 100 yards, including an 89-yard scoring strike, the fifth longest pass play in Fordham history. The longest was a 98-yard play from Skelton to Asa Lucus (both former players were in attendance today).

With his 189 rushing yards Koonce brings his season total to 1,364, the third best single season total in Fordham history. He is just 113 yard shy of Kirwin Watson's school record of 1,477 yard set in 2003. The game was his third straight 100-yard game and his seventh of the season (Watson holds the record with eight 100-yard games which he accomplished in both 2002 and 2003).

Higgins is also climbing the Fordham single season and career passing yards list, bringing his season total to 2,554, the eight best single season in school history, while Higgins now has 5,007 career passing yards, the fourth most in school history.

Not to be outdone, Wetzel now has 855 receiving yards this fall, the eighth best single season at Fordham, while his 58 receptions this year is the seventh best total in school history.

On special teams, kicker Patrick Murray had an "average" day, booting a pair of field goals, averaging 48.4 yards/punt on five kicks and sending four of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. The two field goals increase his school and Patriot League record to 23 for the season and moves his career total to 36, the third most at Fordham.

The Rams trailed 20-17 at the half, but the Fordham defense dug in on the first possession of the second half, forcing the Leopards to punt.

The Fordham offense couldn't move the ball and Lafayette took over on it own15 following a punt. But on the first play from scrimmage, Jake Dixon intercepted a Zach Zweizig pass on the Lafayette 29 and returned it to the 25. Six plays later, Higgins found Wetzel in the end zone with a ten-yard scoring strike to put the Rams up, 24-20, 5:50 into the third.

Jordan Chapman (10) returns an interception 64 yards for a touchdown

Later in the third, Lafayette faced a fourth-and-five at the Fordham 41 when Jordan Chapman stepped in front of a Zweizig pass in the flats and returned it 64-yards for a touchdown to increase the Fordham advantage to 31-20, with 39 seconds left in the third.

The Leopards threatened on the ensuing possession, driving to the Fordham 26 where they faced a fourth-and-14. But Austin Hancock was able to break up a pass headed for Brandon Hall and the Rams took over on downs.

After the Rams went three-and-out, the Leopards took over on their own 24 but on the first play, Zweizig overthrew his intended receiver and the ball was intercepted by Brendan Melanophy, who returned it to the Lafayette ten. Four plays later, Murray connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it a 34-20 game with 3:32 left in the game.

The Leopards answered with a ten-play, 75-yard drive, capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Shoop to Jamel Smith as Lafayette cut the Fordham lead to seven, 34-27, with 1:25 remaining.

The Rams recovered the on-side kick but couldn't pick up a first down so Murray booted the ball away, placing a punt that was downed on the Lafayette four. On the first play from scrimmage, Lafayette was whistled for holding in the end zone which was an automatic safety for the Rams, who took a 36-27 lead with 27 seconds left to secure the win.

Things didn't start out so well for the Rams as they took the opening kickoff and drove to the Lafayette 30 but a fourth-and-one Koonce rush lost two yards, giving the ball to Lafayette. The Leopards wasted little time in pulling out a trick play as Zweizig took a pitch back from running back Ross Scheuerman and found a wide open Mike Duncan with a 49-yard pass, putting the ball on the Fordham 19. Three plays later, Zweizig hit Mark Ross in the end zone with a 21-yard scoring pass as Lafayette took a 7-0 lead 3:05 into the game.

Things didn't improve on Fordham's next offensive possession as Higgins was intercepted by Shane Black at midfield and the Leopards turned the miscue into a 26-yard Ryan Gralish field goal to take a 10-0 lead midway through the first.

Fordham got on the board on the next possession, ignited by a 63-yard gain from Koonce on the first play of the drive to bring the ball to the Lafayette nine. Three plays later, after back-to-back four-yard Koonce carries, Koonce finished the drive with a one-yard scoring rush to pull the Rams to within three, 10-7, with 6:17 left in the first.

The score remained 10-7 until early in the second quarter when Scheuerman took it in from the five to give Lafayette a 17-7 advantage 1:06 into the period.

Brian Wetzel (24)

The Rams used another big play on their next possession to score again, this one the 89-yard scoring strike from Higgins to Wetzel on second-and-19 from the Fordham eleven as the Rams made it a 17-14 game with 12:43 left in the half.

Once again, the Leopards answered with a scoring drive of their own, with Gralish kicking a 37-yard field goal just over five minutes later to give Lafayette a 20-14 lead.

Murray matched Gralish's three-pointer with one of his own from 31 yards with 3:30 left in the half to help the Rams trim their deficit to three, 20-17, at the break.

Defensively for the Rams, Ian Williams led all tacklers with a season-high 14 stops, 12 solo, while Forbes finished with seven stops, four solo, and Hancock chipped in with six stops and broke up a pair of passes.

The Rams return to action next Saturday, November 17, as they close out the 2012 season by hosting the Colgate University Raiders, who clinched the Patriot League title today with a win at Lehigh, on Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 p.m.

Fordham has now won two of the past three meetings with Lafayette but the Leopards lead the all-time series, 21-9-1... The Rams were held to a season-low nine first downs and the 150 passing yards was also a season-low... Fordham possessed the ball for only 21:47 compared to 38:13 for Lafayette... The Fordham offensive line did not allow a sack for the first time in 2012 and for the first time since the Rams held Assumption without a sack in 2010... The Rams were whistled for 13 penalties for 140 yards, both season highs... The last time Fordham returned an interception for a touchdown was a 100-yard return from Nick Womack in last year's win over Columbia...The three Fordham interceptions are the most in a game for the Rams since the 2009 squad picked off Cornell five times... Williams previous season-high for tackles was eleven against Cincinnati... Wetzel now has six 100-yard receiving games on the year... Melanophy carried the Fordham ax onto the field prior to the game.