Dec. 7, 2013
TOWSON, Md. - Despite another outstanding performance from quarterback Michael Nebrich, Fordham could not keep up in the second half and fell 48-28 at Towson in a second-round game of the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Fordham rallied to tie the score 21-21 at the half, but Towson scored touchdowns on its first three second-half possessions on its way to the victory. The No. 4/5 Tigers, the seventh seed in the FCS playoffs, advance to face second-seed Eastern Illinois in the quarterfinals next Saturday. No. 9/10 Fordham has its season end with a 12-2 record, setting a school record for victories.
Nebrich had another spectacular game to finish a record-setting junior season. He finished 37-of-50 for 394 yards and four touchdowns without any interceptions, and also ran for 32 yards in the game. He set Patriot League postseason records for completions and touchdown passes, after setting the League's single-game postseason marks for passing yards and total offense in Fordham's 37-27 win over Sacred Heart in the first round last week.
Nebrich finishes the season completing 353-of-480 passes for 4,380 yards and 35 touchdowns with just seven interceptions, and 513 rushing yards and nine scores on the ground. He set Patriot League single-season records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense (4,893), touchdowns responsible for (44) and completion percentage (73.5%).
Fordham never led in the game, but hung tough throughout. After Towson scored the first touchdown on a one-yard run by Terrance West, the Rams answered to tie the score at 7-7 with 3:48 left in the first quarter on a 10-yard strike from Nebrich to Jorge Solano.
The Tigers added two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the second quarter for a 21-7 lead, and looked to be ready to pull away when Fordham punted from inside its own 10. But a roughing the kicker call allowed the Rams to keep the ball, and Nebrich threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sam Ajala to cut the margin to 21-14 with 6:32 left until the half. After Towson muffed Fordham's next punt, the Rams tied the score at 21-21 when Nebrich and Ajala hooked up from 37 yards on 4th-and-13 with 41 seconds to play. Towson fumbled the next kickoff, but Fordham missed a field-goal attempt for the lead as time expired in the first half.
Towson took less than two minutes to take a 28-21 lead in the third quarter. The Rams moved the ball into the redzone on each of their next two possessions, but were undone by a 15-yard penalty and a fumble on the first march and a pair of 15-yard penalties on the same play on another to be kept off the scoreboard despite the field position. Towson cashed in both times, with West scoring a pair of touchdowns that pushed the lead to 42-21 with 10:54 to play in the game.
Fordham was not done, as Nebrich finished another touchdown drive with a 20-yard pass to Brian Wetzel with 9:13 to play. But the Rams could not recover the ensuing onsides kick, and Towson put the game away on a 22-yard run by Darius Victor with 6:25 left to provide the final margin.
Ajala caught eight passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and sets a Patriot League record with 1,646 receiving yards for the season. Dan Light caught 13 passes for 122 yards from the tight end spot, tying the League postseason record for receptions.
Fordham becomes the first team in Division I history to finish with a 4,000-yard passer (Nebrich), 1,000-yard rusher (Carlton Koonce/1,462) and three 1,000-yard receivers (Ajala, Tebucky Jones/1,154, Wetzel/1,094).
Towson held a 490-426 advantage in total yardage, and 189-32 on the ground. Peter Athens went 13-of-15 for 301 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers, while West and Victor combined for 181 yards and four scores on the ground.
Fordham was trying to advance to the FCS quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. Patriot League teams fell to 10-21 in the postseason, and 6-13 in the Round of 16. League squads are 1-2 in the second round since the bracket expanded in 2010.
For the box score from Saturday's game, go here