Tim DeMorat, FCRH ’23, throws a pass as Phil Saleh, FCRH ’23, blocks a Holy Cross defender.

Football Preseason Preview

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to the College of the Holy Cross as Holy Cross University. As of Sept. 19, 2022, the article has been updated to refer to it as the College of the Holy Cross.

After former Head Coach Joe Moorhead left Fordham’s football program in 2015 to coach at Penn State, the Rams’ have struggled to earn back their once-great reputation. Since Moorhead’s departure, the team has had two head coaches: Andrew Breiner and current coach Joe Conlin. 

Under Moorhead’s leadership, Fordham had its most successful seasons in the recent history of the program. In 2013, the Rams had a 12-2 record and were ranked ninth nationally by the NCAA in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). 

Breiner maintained Fordham’s athletic reputation for the two years in which he served as head coach, 2016 and 2017. But once the team transferred to the hands of current head coach Joe Conlin, the Rams’ records sank. 

In Conlin’s first year as head coach in 2018, the Rams had a 2-9 season. Although his tenure at Fordham began shakily, he has a notable pedigree. He spent four years as associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Yale University. The year before Conlin became Fordham’s head coach, he led Yale’s football team to beat arch-rival Harvard, 24-3, winning the Ivy League football championship after a 37-year drought.  

During Conlin’s tenure as offensive coordinator at Yale, the team ranked 12th in the NCAA offensive FCS with 4,507 yards per game. Fordham Sports shared the details of Conlin’s Ivy League past. Under Conlin, Yale was “13th in passing efficiency (152.41) while also ranking in the top 22 in the NCAA FCS in red zone offense (14th), rushing offense (14th), scoring offense (14th) and fewest sacks allowed (22nd).”

Now, Conlin seems to be turning things around for the Rams — the team’s 2021 football season showed immense improvement. After a condensed spring season due to COVID-19, the team concluded the 2021 fall schedule with a 6-5 record, with their largest losing stretch being just three games. Notably, the Rams ended with a 4-2 record in the Patriot League, finishing the year in third place behind College of  the Holy Cross and Colgate University.

Fordham football’s losses are balanced by a host of impactful players who are returning for the new season.

Despite their overall upward trajectory, the Rams’ first game of the 2021 season against the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers was a disastrous loss, with the team only successfully making one touchdown and an extra point, ending the game 52-7. This anomalous loss can be chalked up to the Fordham program seeking out stiff competition from the Big 10 Conference, with the Cornhuskers being a far more talented team than any FCS competitor the Rams would face. After Fordham’s opening calamity, it lost its next two games before going on a six-game winning streak. 

According to Fordham Sports, during the 2021 season, “the Rams rank third in the Patriot League in fumbles recovered, 20th in the NCAA FCS, and rank third in the League in both tackles for loss and sacks per game.”

Quarterback Tim DeMorat, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’23, and linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) ’23, are returning for their final season — unless DeMorat continues his education at Fordham and is not drafted into the NFL. DeMorat has been named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons by the Patriot League. 

The hopes for 2022 are high considering Fordham’s performance last fall as well as the exciting roster.

2021 was DeMorat’s best year, recording nearly half of his 67 career touchdowns during the season. The 6’4” quarterback threw 31 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. When the season concluded, the star was named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year

If DeMorat continues to keep his stats at this level, there is a chance he could be drafted into the NFL by the time graduation comes. DeMorat’s equally stellar teammate, Greenhagen, was named the 2020-21 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year.

Although Fordham already has a handful of athletes who could potentially restore its reputation in the world of college football, the team lost a major piece of its offense this past off-season. In March of 2022, offensive lineman Nick Zakelj, GSAS ’21, was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2022 NFL Draft. Before that, Zakelj served as the 2021 team captain and led the Rams’ offensive line. 

There is another change to Fordham’s starting roster, as former wide receiver Hamze El-Zayat transferred to Eastern Michigan University. El-Zayat was a three-year starter with the Rams, and he caught 40 passes for 400 yards and one touchdown last season.

Fordham football’s losses are balanced by a host of impactful players who are returning for the new season. Last season,  DeMorat, wide receivers Dequece Carter, FCRH ’24, and Fotis Kokosioulis, FCRH ’23; offensive lineman Phil Saleh, FCRH ’23; and running back Trey Wilson III, FCRH ’24, were named First Team All-Patriot League. All are back with the team this year. 

The hopes for 2022 are high considering Fordham’s performance last fall as well as the exciting roster. The 2022 team captains are Jonathan Coste, FCRH ’23; Trey Sneed, GSAS ’24; DeMorat; and Saleh. 

Coste returned late in the 2021 season after missing time due to an injury sustained during spring training. But he has been a starter on the defensive line for three years and earned First Team All-Patriot League honors in 2020-21. 

Sneed, who was derailed by injuries last season, has a total of 1,177 rushing yards in his career. Last season, he provided the Rams with a total of four touchdowns. In 2020-21 he was also a First Team All-Patriot League selection.

Fordham looks to build on last year’s success and hopes are high that the team could compete for the Patriot League Championship.

Fordham football’s future looks bright, given that they continue to carry the same energy and approach as they did last season. Fordham may have no trouble returning to face rivals Bucknell University or Georgetown University, two schools that the Rams defeated by a landslide this past season. 

Conlin and the rest of the coaching staff have led the Rams toward a stunning 2022 season. 

A highlight for the Rams in the upcoming season is the homecoming game against University at Albany on Sept. 17. The team will also face Georgetown University in its Patriot League opener on family weekend, Oct. 1. The final regular season game is shaping up to be exciting as well, as it is against Colgate, a team that finished ahead of the Rams last season.  

Fordham’s primary rival will be Holy Cross. The Crusaders have won the last three Patriot League Championships and beat Fordham in the de facto Patriot League Championship last season. They are also predicted to finish first in the league for the upcoming season by the League office. 

The same poll projects the Rams to finish in second place, but the team earned two first-place votes. Fordham looks to build on last year’s success and hopes are high that the team could compete for the Patriot League Championship.

Luckily for the Rams, they will not be facing a team of Nebraska’s caliber this upcoming season. They will attempt to get off to a hot start with Patriot League Championship aspirations when the season officially begins and they face Wagner College on Sept. 1.

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