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Fordham Wins Battle for Patriot League Title


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Win Against Holy Cross Guarantees Share of Championship, Postseason Play

By ROB BEATSON
Asst. Sports Editor
Published: November 15, 2007

Fordham University’s Nov. 3 game against the College of the Holy Cross Crusaders had all the makings of a high-scoring shootout, featuring the top two offenses in the Patriot League battling to preserve their undefeated records and claim a share of the conference championship. Although it initially appeared the sellout crowd of 8,300 at Jack Coffey Field would get the offensive fireworks most observers expected, the game was ultimately decided by defense and ball control down the stretch. By the time the final whistle sounded on that cold and windy afternoon at Rose Hill, Fordham escaped with a 24-21 victory, preserving their unblemished record and winning a guaranteed share of the Patriot League title.

“Our kids in the locker room were the only ones who believed [this] was possible,” said Fordham head coach Tom Masella. “They have been working since day one and haven’t stopped since…I am so proud of this team.”

In a game that was evenly matched on the offensive side of the ball (384 total yards for Holy Cross to 334 yards for Fordham), the Rams were able to capitalize on a few lucky breaks in the second half.

“I think it came down to the bounce of a ball, and it bounced our way today,” Masella said.

The biggest bounce of the afternoon found its way into the hands of long-snapper/linebacker James Crockett, FCRH ’10, who recovered a botched punt return by Holy Cross in the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the Rams a 21-7 edge. On the play, Ben Dato’s, FCRH ’08, kick got caught in the blustery winds just enough to force a drop by the Crusaders’ return man.

“The ball took a perfect bounce to me,” Crockett said. “I thought ‘Am I dreaming?’”

Crockett’s dream game was far from over, however.

Following a fourth-quarter Holy Cross touchdown that narrowed the Rams’ lead to three points, Fordham was forced to punt with 1:26 remaining in the game. The Crusaders looked poised to make a last-minute comeback, driving the ball 25 yards into Fordham territory, but Holy Cross quarterback Dominick Randolph’s next pass attempt went straight into Crockett’s hands for the interception, sealing the Rams’ victory.

“As a team, we played our assignments [today],” Crockett said, still clutching the ball he intercepted in the final seconds. “That’s something we pride ourselves on, our discipline. That’s been a knock on us in the past, that we haven’t been the most disciplined team, but today everyone played their assignments well.”

In the first quarter, it appeared Fordham’s offense was going to be too dominant for the Crusaders to stop, as the Rams scored 14 unanswered points off of two 72-yard touchdown drives.

Just over two minutes into the game, Jonte Coven, FCRH ’08, took a handoff and bounced off the line to the left side to break a draw play for a 61-yard touchdown run.

Fordham’s fourth possession yielded another score. Quarterback John Skelton, CBA ’10, rolled to his right and found Cody Kritzer, FCRH ’09, open on the goal line, where the big tight end was able to make the catch and dive for the touchdown to extend the lead to 14 points.

The 26-yard touchdown pass was set up by Xavier Martin, FCRH ’11, who carried the ball for 46 yards over three consecutive plays on the drive.

After opening up the early lead, the Rams let their ground game do most of the work the rest of the contest. Fordham amassed 289 yards on the ground, 168 courtesy of Coven.

“It was hard to throw the ball today in that wind,” Masella said. “When we went up two scores we said ‘Let’s run the ball and make them beat us rather than giving [the game] away on turnovers.’”

The Crusaders were playing without their two starting safeties and allowed 14 of the Rams’ 19 first downs to come via the run.

“[Fordham] had continuous success running the ball today,” said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore. “Our run defense support just wasn’t there.”

The win brought the Ram-Crusader Cup back to Rose Hill after Fordham lost last season’s match-up in Massachusetts. With this recent victory, the Rams have now won six of their last seven games against Holy Cross.

More importantly, the win raised Fordham’s record to 8-2 on the season, 5-0 in the conference, and guaranteed the team both a piece of the Patriot League title and a trip to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) postseason.

The Rams have now won six straight games, the longest such streak since 1988.

After the game, Coven was asked how he thought the 2007 team’s performance fit in with the long tradition of gridiron success at Fordham.

“We’ve been waiting for this for four years now,” he replied. “We persevered and got through the bad years. Now we want to keep the
tradition rolling.”

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Fordham Wins Battle for Patriot League Title