Fordham Nabs First Win With Record Offensive Numbers

Last-Minute Drive Knocks Off Upstart Old Dominion, 34-28 on Homecoming


Fordham linebacker Michael Hickman, FCRH ’11, sacks quarterback Thomas DeMarco on the Monarchs final drive, forcing a fumble which Fordham recovered to seal their first win. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

Published: October 8, 2009

It was easy to find the positives in the Rams’ first victory of the season.

In a record-setting performance, Fordham amassed 687 yards of total offense against Old Dominion University in the Homecoming Game at Rose Hill on Oct. 3, with quarterback John Skelton, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’10, throwing for a career-high 402 yards and a previously anemic running game breaking out for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 34-28 win.

But after starting the season 0-3, the victory doesn’t mean Fordham has overcome its early-season difficulties just yet.

For starters, the homecoming win came against a fledgling Old Dominion program fielding its first football team in 69 years. And for the second game in a row, special teams errors put the Rams in a dangerous position.

But with 1:59 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Rams down 29-28, Fordham marched 81 yards on a scant five plays for a game winning score.

The quick touchdown left Old Dominion plenty of time to mount a comeback, but on second-and-10 at the Fordham 45 yard line, linebacker Michael Hickman, FCRH ’11, got free on the right side and dropped Monarchs quarterback Thomas DeMarco sending the ball to the turf. Defensive back Bryson Wilson, FCRH ’11, recovered for Fordham, sealing the team’s first win.

“Sometimes hard work and perseverance pays off,” said Fordham head coach Tom Masella. “We’ve had three tough games but they continue to work hard… today it looked like we might have had another one slip away but they found a way to win. It’s a credit to all our players.”

The Rams gaudy offensive numbers were a testament to the field position battle waged by Old Dominion, as Fordham was forced to attempt long drives all afternoon, starting from inside their own 30 yard line 12 times. Fordham responded with five scoring drives of 70 yards or longer.

The highlight of the afternoon and of the Fordham season thus far, was the game-winning 81 yard quick strike with less than two minutes to play. Skelton threw back-to-back completions to begin the drive, the first an 11-yard strike to Jason Caldwell, FCRH ’10, and the second a 47-yard hookup across the middle with Brad Pierre, FCRH ’12, who previously had just two catches on the season.

From there, running back and Staten Island native Xavier Martin, FCRH ’10, took over, breaking off rushes of nine and 11 yards before bouncing off two Old Dominion defenders on the right side of the line for a three yard score.

The Rams then tried to widen their lead to seven with a two-point conversion. It initially looked like Fordham succeeded with a Steven Skelton, FCRH ’11, catch, but a penalty negated the play and the Rams failed to convert after that.

The Hickman sack on Old Dominion’s ensuing possession spoiled any chance of a comeback.

Failed PATs (point after touchdown), were a theme of the afternoon for Fordham. In addition to the negated two-point conversion, kicker Kevin Heinowitz, FCRH ’13, failed to convert two point-after attempts, with Old Dominion blocking a try in the second quarter and another try sailing wide right seven minutes later.

Fordham started the fourth quarter with a costly special teams mistake, when, in the pouring rain, Asa Lucas, FCRH ’10, dropped a punt inside the Fordham 20-yard-line after signaling for a fair catch. A horde of players swarmed the loose ball and Marquis Johnson eventually fell on it in the endzone for a Monarchs touchdown, narrowing the Fordham lead to 25-22.

A Heinowitz field goal four minutes later extended Fordham’s lead 28-22, but the Monarchs responded with a 12-play 93-yard driving culminating in a 17 touchdown pass from DeMarco to Carlos David to put the Monarchs up 29-28.

As evidenced in the ensuing game-winning drive, the Rams passing and ground games appeared to be in sync for the first time all year.

Skelton’s 402 yards and two TDs were complimented by a relentless rushing attack from Martin and Darryl Whiting, FCRH ’12, who had 187 and 101 yards, respectively. Each back added a touchdown.

“That’s how I’ve envisioned it for a long time,” Masella said. “We’ve got two pretty good backs. It looks like Daryl Whiting had a coming out party today. I haven’t seen numbers out of an offense like this in a long time.”

Martin attributed the success of the running game to the young Fordham offensive line.

“The [offensive] line just got to the linebackers,” Martin said. “The problem’s been that the offensive line hasn’t been getting to the second level. They’ve had the [defensive] line blocked every game, but the problem was they weren’t getting to the second level. Today, they got to the second level and I could see all the cutback lanes.”

With the run established, Skelton had no problem picking apart the Monarchs secondary.

“Since we got our running game going, it helped open up the passing game,” Skelton said. “We’ve had turnovers all season, and we weren’t able to overcome them. Today that was the difference.”

Masella said of his quarterback’s performance down the stretch, “He made some big-time throws. There’s no better person to put it in their hands when you need to get a score to win a game than John.”