Xavier Martin Rushes for Four Touchdowns as Fordham Beats Columbia for Liberty Cup

Costly Lions Penalty Leaves Door Open for Rams Comeback


Published: October 2, 2008

The Fordham University football team rallied from eight points down on Sept. 20 to defeat the Columbia University Lions. Running back Xavier Martin, FCRH ’11, rushed for 155 yards and scored all four of the Rams’ touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to capture the Liberty Cup for the second straight year, awarded annually to the winner of the all-New York City matchup in honor of alumni from both schools lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Xavier Martin, FCRH ’11, breaks a tackle en route to a four-TD afternoon. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

The defending Patriot League champions’ comeback was largely a result of a costly Columbia miscue. Trailing 22-14 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Lions’ defense forced Fordham to go three-and-out inside their 20 yard line, presumably giving Columbia excellent field position on the ensuing drive. But on the punt, the Columbia coach attempted to switch return men at the last minute, resulting in confusion and a five yard illegal participation penalty that gave Fordham a first down and new life.

Quarterback John Skelton, FCRH ’08, connected with Asa Lucas, FCRH ’10, on the next play for a 21 yard pickup, sparking what would be a 17 play, 86 yard drive culminating in a two yard Martin score.

“It seemed to get our team going,” Fordham head coach Tom Masella said of the penalty. “Before that we just kept sputtering and sputtering, and that call gave us some more life and our offense took off from there. It was a big play, no question about it.”

Down by two after the touchdown, Masella took a chance and held the kicking unit on the sideline while John Skelton, FCRH ’10, connected with tight end Stephen Skelton, FCRH ’11, over the middle for the two point conversion. The play marked the seventh time the brothers from Texas have hooked up this year and John’s first reception for points.

“It was getting late [in the game], and we thought we had a good two point play and we happened to get the right coverage,” Masella said. “Skelton to Skelton: I hope we hear that a lot more often.”

Two possessions later, receiver Richard Rayborn, FCRH ’09, snagged a 47 yard pass from Skelton, setting up a five yard plunge from Martin and putting Fordham up 29-22.

The long pass to Rayborn was one of Skelton’s few long completions, as he and the Rams offense tended to stick to short screen plays for most of their passing yardage.

The offensive success enjoyed by the Rams was offset by a poor defensive showing in the second quarter, where the Lions scored all 22 of their points. The final score of the frame, a 56 yard completion from Shane Kelly to Austin Knowlin featured several missed tackles by the Rams defense as Knowlin sprinted down the sideline.

Columbia backup signal caller M.A. Olawale also gave the Fordham defense trouble by running the option offense with tailback Ray Rangel, a look the Rams seldom see in the Patriot League. “They caught us off guard a little with the option, but our coaches went in at halftime and settled our guys down and got them to play disciplined football,” said Masella. “But when you don’t see it and you don’t practice it, it’s hard to adjust on the fly. Our kids played a great second half.”

Skelton had trouble protecting the ball at times, fumbling once and throwing an interception to linebacker Drew Quinn during Columbia’s explosive second quarter. The junior quarterback faced substantial pressure most of the afternoon and responded best when not trying to force difficult plays. He did just that on the interception to Quinn, inducing a 22 yard return for a Columbia touchdown.

Luckily for Fordham, Columbia was less adept at stopping the run, and the offensive line was able to open up plenty of holes for Martin to sneak through. Aside from his first score of 27 yards on a draw play between the tackles, the sophomore running back amassed most of his 155 on short bursts.

“I was just getting three yards a pop, four yards a pop,” said Martin. “That’s how I ground it out. I wasn’t expecting big gains because they’re a good defense.”

The Liberty Cup win brings Fordham’s record to 2-1 on the season as they look ahead to the start of their Patriot League schedule and defense of their title.