Football Falls to Villanova, 28-13
Villanova, Pa. - The Fordham University football squad knew that it would be in for a much different game than the opening contest of 2012. Instead of a Division II team at home, the Rams traveled to Villanova, a perennial NCAA FCS playoff contender and the 2009 national champions. And the Rams gave the Wildcats all they could handle in the first half before succumbing to the Wildcats, 28-13, in Villanova Stadium.
With the loss, Fordham evens its record at 1-1 on the year while Villanova also goes to 1-1.
The Rams managed to move the ball against Villanova, compiling 312 yards of offense, just 50 yards less than NCAA FBS team Temple accumulated last week against the Wildcats, but most of it came in the first half as the Rams built a 13-7 halftime lead. The offense couldn't sustain a drive in the second half, forcing the defense to be on the field for almost 20 minutes of the second half, as Villanova scored 21 unanswered points.
"My hat is off to Villanova," said Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead. "They played a great second half. I'm executed about our effort tonight but the bottom line is we need to execute better. We didn't make plays in the second half on offense which caused the defense to be on the field too long."
For the second straight week, the Rams won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first and for the second consecutive week, Fordham scored on the opening drive. This week, the drive was aided by senior punter Patrick Murray who lined up to punt on fourth down and 12 from the Fordham 29 but instead rushed for 25 yards to give the Rams a first down on the Villanova 46.
Two plays later, the Rams faced a second and 20 from the Villanova 43 when Ryan Higgins completed back-to-back passes to Carlton Koonce (14) and Sam Ajala (9) to gain 23 yards and a first down on the 20. Michael Nebrich took care of the final 20 yards himself on five rushes, the final a six-yard scoring run to give Fordham a 7-0 lead with 7:50 left in the first.
The lead didn't last long as the Wildcats returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to the Fordham 15 and, after a holding penalty moved them back to the 25, John Robertson found Norman White open the end zone to knot the game at seven.
After the Villanova score, Jared Crayton returned the kickoff 41 yards to set the Rams up with good field position on the Fordham 41. A 14-yard gain by Koonce on second down moved the ball across midfield but the drive stalled on the Villanova 32 where Murray came on to nail a 50-yard field goal, the second straight week in which he hit a 50-yard field goal, to put the Rams up 10-7 with 4:41 remaining in the first.
Villanova moved the ball to the Fordham 39 on the next series but the Rams' defense came up big as Michael Martin got to Robertson in the backfield and forced a fumble, which moved the ball back to the Fordham 46. On the next play, Martin again got to Robertson, sacking the quarterback for a loss of 19 yards to the Villanova 35 where the Wildcats punted the ball back to the Rams.
The Fordham defense came up big again in the second quarter as a Murray punt pinned Villanova back on its own eight. The Wildcats couldn't pick up a first down and punted the ball back to the Rams, who took over on their own 43. Nebrich led Fordham downfield but his pass attempt fell incomplete from the Villanova 19 and Murray came on to boot a 37-yard field goal and give the Rams a 13-7 lead with 4:53 left in the half.
On the next drive, Villanova again went for it on fourth down, this time from the Fordham 38 but Robertson's pass attempt was incomplete and the Rams took over with just over two minutes left in the second. Fordham drove to the Villanova 19, with Nebrich picking up a big first down on third and four from the Fordham 46, but Higgins was intercepted in the end zone on third and four from the Wildcats' nine with 17 seconds left as the Rams settled for the 13-7 lead at the break.
The Rams' defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, but the Fordham offense couldn't move the ball either, punting it back to Villanova as Murray downed a punt on the Wildcats' three.
Villanova picked up a big chunk of yardage on the first play from scrimmage as Kevin Monangai rushed for 44 yards. Five plays later, Monangai took it in from the one to give Villanova its first lead of the night, 14-13, with 9:12 left in the third.
After the two teams traded possessions, the Rams had the ball on their own 25 when Higgins attempted a deep pass over the middle that was picked off by Villanova's Ronnie Akins on the Villanova 38. Two plays later, Robertson took off from the 38 but was caught from behind by Ian Williams, who knocked the ball out of Robertson's hands on the Fordham 27. But the ball took a fortuitous Villanova bounce right into Clay Horne's hands, and Horn covered the final 27 yards for the score and a 21-13 Villanova lead with 2:33 remaining in the period.
The Rams then moved the ball to midfield but Higgins was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-one play from the Villanova 48 and the Rams turned the ball over on downs.
The Wildcats took advantage of the field position, covering the 52 yards on ten plays, with Robertson taking it to the end zone from the eight to close out the night's scoring 4:09 into the fourth quarter.
Nebrich gained 107 yards on 22 carries with one score, becoming just the second Fordham quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in a game, joining teammate Blake Wayne, who accomplished the feat in 2010.
Fordham will next be in action next Saturday, September 15th, as they host the Cornell University Big Red on Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 p.m. as part of Homecoming Weekend.