Nov. 18, 2007
Center Valley, Pa. - In the postseason for the first time since 2002, the Fordham Rams found out Sunday that they will travel to the University of Massachusetts in first-round action of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday at Noon in a game televised on ESPNU.
The Rams sealed their playoff spot when they knocked off Holy Cross, 24-21, to claim the Patriot League's automatic postseason spot on Nov. 3. Fordham (8-3, 5-1) had its six-game winning streak snapped when it lost its season finale to Bucknell on Saturday, but still became the first team to claim the Patriot League title outright since Colgate did so in 2003. Fordham rebounded from a 3-8 overall and 1-5 Patriot League record in 2006, and was picked to finish sixth in this year's Patriot League preseason poll.
Fordham won its second all-time Patriot League Championship, and now embarks on its second stint in the postseason. The Rams accomplished both feats in 2002, when they won a first-round playoff game at No. 4 seed Northeastern, 29-24, before falling to Villanova, 24-10, in the quarterfinals for an all-time playoff mark of 1-1.
Massachusetts is in the postseason for the second year in a row after losing to Appalachian State in the 2006 Division I Football Championship game. The Minutemen (9-2, 7-1 CAA) earned the CAA's automatic playoff berth after sharing the conference title with Richmond.
Fordham and Massachusetts had to go through similar paths to post their final records, as the teams faced three common opponents: Colgate, Holy Cross and Rhode Island. The Rams came out with the better mark in those games, going 3-0 against the competition while Massachusetts was 2-1 with a loss to Rhode Island. Both teams hosted Holy Cross and traveled to Colgate and Rhode Island.
The Rams entered this week ranked No. 18 in The Sports Network FCS top 25, while Massachusetts had the No. 8 ranking.
While the Rams will encounter the Minutemen for the first-ever meeting between the schools, Patriot League teams have grown familiar with Massachusetts as a postseason opponent over the years. The matchup will mark the fourth playoff meeting for Patriot League schools against the Minutemen, making them the most-played opponent in the League's postseason history. Patriot League champion Lafayette fell, 35-14, in first-round action at Massachusetts a year ago.
The Patriot League has a 1-2 all-time postseason mark against Massachusetts. The Minutemen beat Lehigh, 27-21, in the quarterfinals in 1998. Colgate knocked off Massachusetts, 19-7, in the first round in 2003 on its way to a national championship game appearance, and the Minutemen won the game against Lafayette last year.
Patriot League teams have a 7-14 all-time record in the postseason, and a 5-9 mark in first-round action. Saturday's game will add another chapter in the long playoff history against the Colonial Athletic Association (formerly Atlantic 10). The Patriot League has a 4-10 record against CAA teams, and has faced at least one CAA opponent in every season since first entering the playoffs in 1997. The League's success against the CAA has all come in the first round, with a 4-6 all-time record in opening matchups.
The winner of the Fordham/Massachusetts contest will take on the winner of the Eastern Illinois/Southern Illinois game in the quarterfinals on Dec. 1. Southern Illinois is the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
Other first round matchups include Delaware State at Delaware, New Hampshire at No. 1 seed Nothern Iowa, James Madison at Appalachian State, Eastern Washington at No. 2 McNeese State, Eastern Kentucky at Richmond and Wofford at No. 3 Montana.