Give Me Liberty: Fordham Takes Cup, Downs Columbia


Fordham defeated Bucknell on Saturday to advance to 8-2 on the season. (Laura Chang/The Observer)


Fordham dominated the homecoming game offensively, thanks in part to Sam Ajala (right), FCRH ’15, who caught a 60-yard pass for a touchdown. (Laura Chang/The Observer)

Last Saturday the Rams had a homecoming to remember, as they defeated the Columbia Lions in their annual match-up for the Liberty Cup. This marks the second straight year that Fordham has won possession of the cup.

The game showcased Fordham’s talent in all aspects of the game, with the team excelling on both offense and defense.  Quarterback Peter Maetzold, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, completed 22 of his 30 passes for a total of 212 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Ram’s passing success also opened up many opportunities for running back Darryl Whiting, FCRH ’12, who ran 100 yards in 18 attempts.

There’s no question the team’s offense was strong enough to take down Columbia, but it was a tenacious defense that was the nail in the coffin for the Lions, as Fordham linebacker Nick Womack, FCRH ’12, matched an NCAA record when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown. It was the third 100-yard play in Fordham football history. The excellent defense did not stop there, as the Rams also had five sacks, six tackles for a loss of yards and two interceptions, while also holding Columbia’s running game to just 73 total yards.

However, the key to victory was the shift in momentum created by the interception. The first quarter of the game was largely three-and-outs for both teams, but Columbia had the edge first downs. Columbia carried that momentum into the second quarter, where they scored a touchdown within the first minute of play. Columbia threatened to score again, late in the first half, driving the ball into the Fordham’s red zone.

But suddenly, the momentum of the game changed when Womack intercepted a pass from Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game with three minutes and 27 seconds left in the half. The interception was the catalyst Fordham needed to get going and they never looked back, scoring another unanswered touchdown in the third quarter. Kiersten Johnston, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’15 saw the game-changing interception and said, “It was amazing. I’ve never seen a crowd react with such excitement. Every yard [Womack] ran, the crowd seemed to cheer louder and louder.”

From then on, the Rams fed off the energy of the crowd and played some great football. They were unsuccessful on their first drive of the second half, but following a Columbia punt the Rams meant business. After two rushes for five yards by Whiting, Maetzold connected with wide receiver Sam Ajala, FCRH ’15 for a short pass that fooled the Columbia defense, and led to a 60-yard touchdown to put Fordham up 14-7 with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter.

Down a touchdown, the Lions had to find a way to break through the Fordham defense and they did it using an effective running game and short but direct passes from Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett. The Rams stopped the Lions on third down on Fordham’s 18-yard line, but the Lions were in field goal territory. However, the kick from Columbia’s Luke Eddy was unsuccessful and the score remained the same.

The Rams got the ball back and moved down field with purpose, covering 80 yards in only five plays with the drive ending in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Maetzold to put the Rams up 21-7 with five minutes and 19 seconds left in the game. It would be the end of the scoring for the Rams, but that is all they would need for victory.

The next Columbia drive resulted in a turnover on downs with Fordham’s defense making yet another big play. Fordham started from their own 47-yard line. The first play of the drive, a run by Whiting, resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Columbia. Nine plays later, Columbia found Fordham’s end zone, cutting the lead to one touchdown with less than two minutes to play in the game.

Attempting to end the game, the Rams took a knee three times to run the clock down, but there was still just enough time for Columbia to get the ball back for one more Hail Mary play. When Brackett’s long throw failed to connect with his receivers, the crowd erupted in cheers and screams as Fordham had beaten their Liberty Cup rivals. “The crowd was very enthusiastic no matter what happened to Fordham. I would love to go back and see those guys play. The excitement of the crowd, the thrill of a touchdown, the entire experience was something I would love to do again and again” Johnston said.

Fordham, now 1-1 on the season, will play their next game this Saturday at the University of Rhode Island (0-2) at 1 p.m.