Fordham Football Loses Heartbreaker, Drops to 3-2


Running back Carlton Koonce, FCRH ’13, was unable to break through against the Mountain Hawks. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)


Running back Carlton Koonce, FCRH ’13, was unable to break through against the Mountain Hawks. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

On Sept. 29, the Fordham Rams opened the 2012 Patriot League season at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. It was a tough game for the Rams, as they lost 34-31 to the Mountain Hawks in the final seconds of the game.

The Rams’ first game of the season, against Lock Haven University opened up the Joseph Moorhead era after he was named head coach for the team last December. “It feels great. It’s been great to come to a school where I received an education. To come back and lead this team makes me feel honored and humbled,” Coach Moorhead said.

Entering Saturday’s matchup, Fordham’s record was 3-1 after defeating Cornell, Columbia and Lock Haven, but losing out to Villanova. Defeating Columbia made it possible for Fordham to win the Liberty Cup championship for a third consecutive year. But when Moorhead was asked about which game he found most challenging, he found it quite difficult to choose. “That’s a tough question. All had challenges, I would say. Villanova was a challenging game. They won a championship a few years ago, and they are one of the best teams in the country. It was really tough.” In the Villanova game, Fordham led the first half 13-7, but Villanova came back in the second half to a victory of 28-13. It was the only game this season in which Fordham’s offense scored less than 20 points.

The game Moorehead was personally looking forward to the most was against Lehigh, who were the Rams’ first opponents of the conference and were undefeated for the season. The Mountain Hawks are ranked #11 in the country. The key to winning against Lehigh, said coach Moorhead, was two things especially. The first thing was to win the turnover battle. Secondly, the offense should create explosive offensive plays, with the defense limiting explosive plays from Lehigh.

The first half of the Lehigh game proved very difficult for Fordham. With 7:24 minutes left to play in the first quarter, Fordham was leading 14-0. However, Fordham defensive back Ian Williams, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’14, was charged with pass interference, which helped to set up Lehigh’s first touchdown. After the Rams failed to respond, Lehigh tied up the game at 14-14 with another touchdown, 12 seconds before the end of the first quarter.

The Mountain Hawks had 24 unanswered points before Fordham finally got back on the board with a touchdown late in the second quarter. By the third quarter, Lehigh lead Fordham with a score of 31-24 after the Rams kicked a field goal and the Mountain Hawks scored another touchdown.

Fordham tied the game in the fourth quarter, 31-31, after quarterback Ryan Higgins, FCRH ’13, tossed a touchdown pass to Greg Wilson, FCRH ’13, with 11:42 left to play in the game. The game remained tied until the very end, when Lehigh’s Jake Peary kicked a field goal, ensuring a 34-31 win over Fordham.

One player that has generally been explosive this season is senior running back Carlton Koonce, FCRH ’13. Koonce was named the Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Week for two weeks straight. He had a career high rushing 250-yard game and two touchdowns against Columbia on Sept. 22, after rushing 176 yards with two touchdowns against Cornell on Sept. 15.   “I’m very excited about Carlton. He is one of the leaders on the team. He’s a good kid both on and off the field. He is very talented but he still has plenty of time to improve,” Moorhead said. In Lehigh’s game, Koonce never really had a break out play. The Mountain Hawks did a great job stopping the Rams’ running game. He was limited to many small gain plays, though he did have a touchdown in the second quarter. Koonce either had no gain or a loss of yards on multiple plays.

Fordham committed many other mistakes and penalties, including Williams’ passer interference in the second quarter and Higgins’ intentional grounding in the fourth quarter, which led to too many yards lost. Although he had a great game, with 28/41 completions and 373 yards, Higgins was sacked four times by Lehigh’s defensive line. Kicker Patrick Murray, FCRH ’13, was not able to make a 51-yard field goal and the Rams also failed to convert an Austin Hancock, FCRH ’15, interception into points. In the end, the Rams offense had a tough time scoring and the defense could not stop the running game from the Mountain Hawks.

The Rams are now 0-1 in the Patriot League for this season, and 3-2 overall. The next game will be on Oct. 6, when the Rams return home to play Georgetown University in another conference event.