In a back-and-forth affair, the Rams fell just short for their sixth consecutive loss to Holy Cross.

Fordham Football Comes Up Short in Overtime Against Holy Cross, 53-52

The Rams could not muster a win in the high-scoring Ram-Crusader Cup despite six total touchdowns from DeMorat

The Fordham football team dropped its pivotal matchup against the College of the Holy Cross (HC) on Oct. 29, 53-52. The Rams appeared poised to defeat the Crusaders for the first time since 2016, but an impressive double end-around hybrid “Philly Special” two-point conversion by Holy Cross brought the game to an end in overtime. 

The victory in Worcester sent the crowd — over 17,000 strong — home happy as Holy Cross emerged as strong favorites for the Patriot League title. Holy Cross, who entered the contest ranked fifth overall in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), is now 8-0 on the season and 4-0 in Patriot League play.

Holy Cross began with a blazing start. After two rushes for little gain, dual-threat quarterback Matt Sluka, HC ’24, connected with Jalen Coker, HC ’24, for a 58-yard touchdown. The two would haunt Fordham throughout the game, with Coker’s 6-foot-3 frame creating mismatches across the field. 

Just over two minutes into the game, Holy Cross had a 7-0 lead, but the electric Fordham offense responded swiftly. Tim DeMorat, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’23, led the unit in an uptempo, no-huddle pace as if to force Holy Cross onto its heels. The Rams pushed into Crusader territory before Brandon Peskin, Gabelli School of Business at Rose Hill (GSBRH) ’24, nailed a 39-yard field goal to put the Rams on the board. 

This failed to deter the Holy Cross offense. The Crusaders started off with prime field position after a 52-yard kick return and quickly established their rushing attack. Sluka started the drive with a 10-yard rush, but running back Peter Oliver, HC ’22, dominated the advance downfield. Oliver rushed twice for 12 yards to approach the redzone. Then, on Fordham’s 6-yard line, he thrusted the ball past the goal line to give Holy Cross an assertive 14-3 lead.

Fordham emerged on its next drive determined to strike back. The Rams established their own running game, with DeMorat, Julius Loughridge, FCRH ‘25, and Trey Sneed, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ’23, taking turns rushing into the Holy Cross defense. That was until DeMorat floated a jump ball into the end zone for Dequece Carter, GSBRH ’23, who turned back and secured it through traffic for an improbable 29-yard touchdown. Fordham now found itself back within a score as the first quarter expired, 14-10. 

The Rams defense carried the momentum into Holy Cross’ next drive, with star linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, Gabelli Graduate School of Business ’23, making a crucial stop on third down to force a punt. “Punt” is a generous term for the following play, as the ball skidded off the side of the foot of punter Patrick Haughney, HC ’23, and traveled a total of 11 yards, setting the Rams up with impeccable field position on their own 40-yard line. 

However, DeMorat and the offense could not take advantage of the set up. An ugly set of plays that ended with an intentional grounding penalty pushed Fordham back into its own territory. The offense stalled, and the Rams were forced to respond with a punt of their own. 

In only five plays and 55 seconds, Fordham strutted into the endzone, with another touchdown to Felton giving the Rams a 24-21 lead going into the half.

The Crusaders launched a laborious 12-play, seven-minute drive that marched all the way to Fordham’s 1-yard line before Sluka jostled himself past the goal line, giving Holy Cross a hard-earned 21-10 lead. 

Fordham’s offense returned to the field unfazed by its brief rest. DeMorat led a 66-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard rope to Mekai Felton, FCRH ’24, for a touchdown. Holy Cross defenders pleaded for an offensive pass interference call, but the score stood 21-17 and Fordham was within a touchdown once again with 3:45 remaining in the half.

Sluka trotted back onto the turf with an opportunity to swing the momentum in Holy Cross’ favor and extend its lead, but the Fordham defense was up to the task of stopping him. As Sluka rushed, Greenhagen made another decisive stop on third down before chaos ensued. 

The Holy Cross offense remained on the field and committed to a fourth down conversion. Sluka sprinted up to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to draw the Fordham defensive line offside, and it appeared to work as multiple Rams jumped in anticipation. The referees determined that Sluka had illegally initiated the movement and Holy Cross was penalized with a false start. 

Fordham’s defense refused to budge. An impressive goal line stand forced Holy Cross to settle for a field goal, tying the game at 31. But the drama was only just beginning.

Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney was incensed at this call and his anger with the officiating crew earned his team an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the Crusaders back another 13 yards. This series provided Fordham with fantastic field position to launch an effective drive before the end of the half. 

In only five plays and 55 seconds, Fordham strutted into the endzone, with another touchdown to Felton giving the Rams a 24-21 lead going into the half. Holy Cross had an opportunity to tie the game as time expired, but the 47-yard kick of Derek Ng, HC ’23, sailed wide. 

The second half started slowly for both teams. There was no scoring during the first three possessions of the third quarter, until Fordham received the ball with 9:48 remaining. The Rams pounced on Holy Cross with a multifaceted approach, combining effective rushing and passing into a lethal six-minute drive. They marched all the way to the Crusaders’ 1-yard line before DeMorat ran the ball to extend Fordham’s lead to 10, 31-21. 

Just as the game appeared to be slipping away, Sluka responded with his longest play of the game. In a designed rush, he got to the outside and sprinted up the sideline for 66 yards to Fordham’s 8-yard line. Oliver followed with two rushes to get into the endzone and shrink the Rams’ lead to three. Sluka’s dual-threat capabilities tortured Fordham throughout the game, as he accounted for 465 total yards, 261 passing and 174 rushing. 

The Holy Cross offensive unit stayed on the field, as they set up for a two-point conversion to win the game.

After a Fordham three-and-out, the Crusaders began another drive. They made it to the Rams’ 8-yard line with a chance to regain the lead as time expired in the third quarter. 

But Fordham’s defense refused to budge. An impressive goal line stand forced Holy Cross to settle for a field goal, tying the game at 31. But the drama was only just beginning. 

Loughridge dominated Fordham’s next drive. The impressive young running back ran the ball four times for 71 yards on the Rams’ ensuing possession, with his longest rush going for 34 yards and a touchdown to give Fordham a 38-31 lead. 

The shootout continued, as it only took Sluka two minutes and 37 seconds to lead the Holy Cross offense back up the field and reconnect with Coker for a 12-yard touchdown. With just over eight minutes remaining, the score was once again tied. 

Like a heavyweight bout, the two teams’ exceptional offenses fired jab after jab at each other. The Fordham offense immediately responded with a rapid possession of its own. DeMorat glided up the field with the help of a few strong rushes by Sneed before finding Carter, who got behind the Holy Cross secondary for a wide-open 38-yard touchdown. Fordham once again possessed a seven point lead, 45-38, with only 5:48 remaining in the game.

The Crusaders couldn’t get anything going on their next possession. Fordham forced a fourth down on the Crusaders’ own 42-yard line, and the Holy Cross offense stayed on the field to try to convert it with just over four minutes left. Sluka found a receiver, but he was stopped short of the first down and the Rams received the ball, up by a touchdown late in the fourth. 

Fordham, already in Holy Cross territory, had the opportunity to put the game out of reach. The Fordham offense only needed a handful of yards to enter field goal range and extend its lead to two possessions. But the Rams’ drive floundered and they managed to only muster one yard before punting the ball away. They shaved just 26 seconds off of the clock.

Sluka did not waste his opportunity. The Crusaders’ drive started at the 20-yard line. Back-to-back completions to Justin Shorter, HC ’25, combined for 63 yards to quickly advance down the field. Two plays later, Sluka found Coker once again, who muscled his way into the end zone to tie the game at 45 with 1:24 remaining. Fordham failed to gain any momentum after the ensuing kickoff and the most consequential Patriot League game of the season was sent to overtime. 

Fordham lost the coin toss and Holy Cross deferred possession to the Rams. This meant that Fordham would receive the ball first, giving the Crusaders an opportunity to better prepare for their offense’s situation. 

It is nearly assured that the Crusaders will now win the Patriot League championship, as they own the tiebreaker with Fordham and have yet to lose a conference game.

DeMorat scored on the very first play of the untimed overtime period. A beautifully drawn play left Carter completely open in the middle of the field, as he pranced into the end zone for a 25-yard score. 

Now, the Holy Cross offense knew what it was up against. The possession started slowly with a few rushes for short gains and a holding penalty that pushed the Crusaders back. The Rams defense managed to force Holy Cross to third down, but Sluka connected with Shorter for a nine-yard touchdown that brought the Crusaders within a point. 

The safe play would have been to take the extra point, knot the game once again, and continue with the overtime period. But Chesney and Sluka agreed that scoring was no issue for either of the offenses in the contest. The Holy Cross offensive unit stayed on the field, as they set up for a two-point conversion to win the game. 

All eyes were on Sluka. He had been making plays throughout the day. He could find the end zone with his arm or his legs. The ball was snapped and Sluka handed the ball to Shorter coming across the backfield. As he sprinted horizontally, Ayir Asante, HC ’23, who had not recorded a reception in the contest, swept behind him and received a lateral. Asante sprinted into the open field and strolled into the endzone, ending the game with a final score of 53-52. 

DeMorat threw five touchdown passes and rushed for one more. Loughridge and Sneed each rushed for over 100 yards. Carter and Felton each finished the game with over 90 receiving yards and multiple touchdowns. But it was the Crusaders who emerged from the shootout with the Ram-Crusader Cup. 

The FCS Week 9 Game of the Week lived up to the hype, and Holy Cross has now won six consecutive meetings between the two teams. It is nearly assured that the Crusaders will now win the Patriot League championship, as they own the tiebreaker with Fordham and have yet to lose a conference game. 

Fordham still has much to play for, as the Rams have one of the most dynamic offenses in the country and could make a run into the 24-team FCS Championship tournament. And despite the devastating loss, the contest underlined Fordham’s ability to battle with elite FCS competition.

The season will continue when Fordham takes on Bucknell University on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Rams will look to dominate the last-place Bison and reassert themselves as a dominant FCS force.

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