Nebraska Routs Fordham Football in Huskers’ Home Opener, 52-7

Rams unsurprisingly crushed in first game of 2021 despite Greenhagen’s dominant defensive showing

Fordham+vs.+University+of+Nebraska%2C+a+tackle

COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS

In a blowout game against an elite offense, Ryan Greenhagen, GSBRH ’22, racked up 30 total tackles for Fordham.

By PATRICK MOQUIN

It could have been worse.

As expected, the University of Nebraska (UN) Cornhuskers trampled the Fordham football team 52-7 on Saturday in a virtually unwinnable game for the Rams. Facing a vastly superior opponent from the mighty Big Ten conference, Fordham players showed flashes of ability but the team was unable to mount a serious challenge by the end of the game.

Going into the game, there were no illusions that Fordham could compete for four quarters against Nebraska. Though both teams are Division I programs, the disparity in reputation alone was enough for many to write off Fordham completely. Through good and bad seasons, Nebraska has been a mainstay at the highest level of college football for 60 years. With the Rams’ Lombardi days far behind them, the team now exists on the very fringes of the sport.

For Head Coach Joe Conlin and the Rams, the benefits of participating in such a lopsided game went beyond a potential victory on the field. In addition to a $500,000 bonus and paid travel expenses for the team, given to Football Championship Series (FCS) schools competing against more competitive Football Bowl Series (FBS) rivals, Fordham also had the opportunity to play in front of a televised audience in Memorial Stadium.

Conlin’s goal to “play a good football game” in one of college football’s most storied venues reflected the team’s excitement ahead of a very special season opener.

As the Rams excitedly prepared to make some noise in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers were entering the same game with different objectives in mind. In the team’s season opener last week, Nebraska lost in an upset against the University of Illinois, immediately jeopardizing the entire season in the first week. If the team hopes to remain in high-tier bowl contention in 2021, games against softer teams like Fordham will remain must-win situations for the rest of the year.

If the Rams had managed to play all four quarters like their first, it’s possible that Nebraska could have been in for another scare.

The Rams took the field in front of a crowd of over 80,000 Nebraska fans. They seemed no more intimidating than they have in front of 7,000 at Coffey Field in recent seasons. In that sea of unfamiliar scarlet red, Brandon Peskin, Gabelli School of Business at Rose Hill (GSBRH) ’24, began the game like any other, kicking off to initiate play with a juggernaut.

If the Rams had managed to play all four quarters like their first, it’s possible that Nebraska could have been in for another scare. While the Cornhuskers managed to strike first on a four-yard rushing touchdown from quarterback Adrian Martinez, UN ’23, they were also stopped on multiple occasions by a determined Fordham defense. Though the game was far from over, the Rams only trailed 7-0 after 15 minutes.

Though the first quarter went better than expected, signs of wear were already showing on the Fordham roster. Running back Zach Davis, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ’22, and Jeff Ciccio, FCRH ’22, exited the game on the same play with unrelated injuries. Ciccio suffered an ankle injury and did not return, while Davis managed to play on, only exit again later in the game with a shoulder injury. The team was competing — at a price.

Fotis Kokosioulis celebrates after the touchdown against Nebraska
Fotis Kokosioulis, FCRH ’22, celebrates Fordham’s only score against the University of Nebraska in the second quarter on Saturday. (COURTESY OF FORDHAM ATHLETICS)

On the opening drive of the second quarter, Fordham earnestly teased one of the greatest upsets in college football history, as quarterback Tim DeMorat, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’22, threw a 31-yard touchdown to Fotis Kokosioulis, FCRH ’22. Nick Leinenweber, FCRH ’22, converted the extra point to tie the game, 7-7, with 14:14 remaining in the second quarter.

Following what would be Fordham’s only score of the game, the Nebraska offense responded immediately with a field goal on its next drive. Down three, the Rams remained undeterred and again drove into their opponents’ territory to set up a field goal attempt of their own. With an opportunity to tie the game again, Leinenweber’s kick was blocked as Nebraska’s special teams hounded the kicker immediately after the snap. The score remained 10-7.

With momentum firmly on their side, it didn’t take long for the Cornhuskers to find their stride on offense. What would have been bad news for many teams proved to be a death knell for the Rams, as Nebraska eventually scored on every single drive in the second and third quarters. After the field goal, every score was a touchdown.

The result will convey what everyone already knows: Fordham is simply a step below the upper echelons of college football.

In the same two quarters in which Nebraska turned a 7-7 tie into a 38-7 blowout, Fordham appeared relatively hapless. Following the blocked field goal, the Rams only managed 58 total yards on their six subsequent drives. DeMorat threw his second and third interceptions in this span as well after throwing one early in the first. Without any lengthy offensive possessions, the defense began to fatigue and Nebraska took full advantage.

The game was well in hand by the fourth quarter, but the Cornhuskers never geared down their offense and scored another touchdown in the opening minute to go ahead 45-7. Even after Fordham defensive back Natani Drati, GSBRH ’22, forced a fumble on Nebraska’s next drive, the team’s defense easily stifled DeMorat and prevented Fordham from converting on the turnover. 

In the closing minutes of the game, Marvin Scott III, UN ’25, found the end zone from six yards out for Nebraska’s sixth rushing touchdown of the game to make the final score 52-7. Though the Rams were competitive early in the game, the result will convey what everyone already knows: Fordham is simply a step below the upper echelons of college football.

Nebraska won a must-win game and Fordham mixed it up for a while against one of the big boys.

It is arguable that the player most deserving of commendation on either team is Fordham linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, GSBRH ’22. While Fordham’s defense struggled as a unit alongside a flagging offense, the reigning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year recorded 30 total tackles, 13 of them solo, outnumbering the tackle totals of the top seven Cornhusker defensemen combined. If such dominance couldn’t be curbed by a Big Ten team, one can only imagine what Greenhagen will be capable of against Patriot League opponents later this season.

From a competitive standpoint, a game like this one reveals very little about the overall quality of the two teams in question. Nebraska will not be considered a Big Ten contender on the basis of a blowout victory against an FCS team, and a blowout loss for Fordham does not spell woe for the team’s Patriot League run later this season. Nebraska won a must-win game and Fordham mixed it up for a while against one of the big boys. In many ways, things went according to plan.

The two teams will now separate indefinitely as they pursue the same goal at opposite ends of the college football world. In two weeks, Nebraska will play the role of underdog in a matchup against Oklahoma University, ranked second in the country in the most recent Associated Press poll. Meanwhile, as Memorial Stadium fades behind them, the Rams will return to Coffey Field and the familiar bleachers of scattered maroon for their home opener against Monmouth University on Sept. 11.