Football Delights Homecoming Crowd with 34-27 Win over Cornell
Sept. 15, 2012
Bronx, N.Y. - All week leading up to today's game with Cornell, the Fordham football squad was reminded by head coach Joe Moorhead of Abraham Lincoln's quote: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe" as a way to encouraged his troops to finish strong. Apparently the Rams took Lincoln's words to heart to rally for 28 second half points, scoring on four of their final five possessions - including one in the final minute, en route to a 34-27 Homecoming win over the Big Red on Jack Coffey Field.
With the win, Fordham improves to 2-1 on the year while Cornell drops its season opener.
"All the credit for this win goes to the players and the assistant coaches," said Moorhead. "We came in at the half and sat down as an offense, sat down as a defense, and diagnosed how they were attacking our different formations and personals and put a plan together of what we wanted to do in the second half. The position coaches relayed that to the kids and we went out and called our game, stayed aggressive and the kids executed."
If you like offense, Jack Coffey Field was the place to be on Saturday as the two squads combined for almost 1,000 yards of total offense, with the Fordham attack led by the one-two punch of senior running back Carlton Koonce, who gained a career-high 176 yards (123 in the second half) on 31 carries with two touchdowns, along with senior quarterback Ryan Higgins, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards (191 in the second half) and two scores.
The last time these two schools faced off, Fordham quarterback John Skelton, now with the Arizona Cardinals, set a Fordham school record with 420 passing yards, surpassing the old mark of 413 set by Moorhead. Today, Cornell quarterback Jeff Mathews played the role of Skelton, throwing for 489 yards, the third most in a game for a Cornell player in school history (Matthews also has the top two games).
The first half was fairly uneventful for both teams as Cornell held a 7-6 lead at the beak before the Big Red increased the lead to 14-6 when Mathews capped a 78-yard drive with a one-yard scoring rush midway through the third quarter.
The Rams quickly responded, taking just three plays to cover 83 yards, the big play a 63-yard pass from Higgins to Brian Wetzel that put the ball on the Cornell 15. On the next play, Koonce covered the final 15 yards for the score but the two-point conversion failed and the Rams trailed 14-12 with 6:17 left in the period.
After the Fordham defense stopped the Big Red on its own 41 as Mathews couldn't connect with a receiver on three straight passes, the Rams took over on their own 35 following a punt, which was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Cornell. Koonce and Higgins led the Fordham offense down field, with the big play being a 14-yard completion from Higgins to Wetzel on third-and-eight from the Fordham 48. Two plays later, Higgins found Sam Ajala over the middle and Ajala outran the defenders to the end zone and a 20-14 Fordham lead with 2:56 remaining in the third after a two-point conversion pass from Blake Wayne to Higgins.
On the ensuing Cornell possession, the Big Red moved from their own 35 to the Fordham 32 where John Wells attempted a 50-yard field goal that came up just short.
Cornell answered with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Mathews to a diving Luke Tasker in the end zone as the Big Red cut the Fordham lead back to six, 27-21, with 9:37 left.
Kevin Liard intercepted a Higgins pass on the Fordham 48 but the Big Red couldn't capitalize on the Fordham miscue, gaining just two yards on three plays and punting the ball back to the Rams.
Fordham took over on its own 29 following the punt and a 15-yard personal foul call on the Big Red. Koonce gained eleven yards on the first play from scrimmage and the officials tacked on another 15 yards with a personal foul call on Cornell. Five straight Koonce rushes put the ball on the Big Red ten and Koonce took care of the final ten yards on the next play to put Fordham up 34-21 with just under a minute remaining in the game.
Cornell scored on the final play of the game, a 19-yard scoring strike from Mathews to Grant Gellatly, for the 34-27 final.
The Fordham defense set up the first points of the game, forcing a Cornell fumble on the first play from scrimmage which Eli Tenuta recovered on the Cornell 33. On second down, Koonce gained 12 yards on a rush and later in the drive, Higgins found Wetzel for a 14-yard gain to put the ball on the Big Red 12. But Koonce couldn't gain a yard on third down and Patrick Murray came on to boot a 30-yard field goal to give Fordham a 3-0 lead 1:41 into the contest.
Late in the first, Cornell took over on its own 17 following a Fordham punt. Mathews moved the Big Red downfield, getting Cornell to the Fordham four where the Big Red faced a fourth-and-one. Cornell first elected to go for it but a false start call backed the Big Red up five yards and a Wells 27-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
The Rams responded with a 12-play, 68-yard drive, moving to the Cornell 12 where Murray booted his second field goal of the day, a 29-yarder to give Fordham a 6-0 lead with 9:00 left in the first half.
The Fordham field goal woke up the Cornell offense, who answered with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped by a 13-yard scoring pass from Mathews to Jesse Heon with 2:44 remaining in the second.
Wetzel led all Fordham receivers with eight catches for a career-best 153 yards and one touchdown while Greg Wilson caught five passes for 68 yards and Koonce four for 13.
Murray had a strong kicking performance for the Rams, connecting on the two field goals, punting four times for an average of 44.0 yards/punt and placing all seven of his kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.
The Rams will next be in action next Saturday, September 22nd, as they travel into Manhattan to face the Columbia University Lions in the annual Liberty Cup game at 12:30 p.m.