Football Retains Liberty Cup with Win over Columbia
Sept. 17, 2011
Bronx, N.Y. - There was a little something for everyone at today's Liberty Cup football game between Fordham and Columbia on Jack Coffey Field. Like defense? There were eight sacks. Like offense? The two teams combined to gain more than 600 yards. Like NCAA records? There was one matched when Fordham's Nick Womack returned an interception 100 yards for a score and the Rams rode that momentum to a 21-14 win over the Lions to retain possession of the trophy for the second straight year.
With the win, Fordham evens its record at 1-1 on the year while Columbia opens its season with a loss to the Rams for the second straight year.
The Fordham defense turned in a strong game, recording five sacks and six tackles for loss while also intercepting two passes and holding Columbia to just 73 net rushing yards, while the offense did its part with freshman quarterback Peter Maetzold completing 22 of 30 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns and senior running back Darryl Whiting rushing for 100 yards on 18 carries.
"This is a great win for Fordham on the tenth anniversary of the Liberty Cup," said head coach Tom Masella. "I talked to the team on Wednesday and I told them we had 39 Fordham alums that passed away that day and as a former fireman, I lost a lot of friends that day. I know this game means a lot to the people involved with this football program. In a small way they look at that football score and it brings a smile to their face."
But it was Womack's interception return that got the Rams on track. Trailing 7-0 with 3:43 left, Columbia faced a fourth and goal from the Fordham two when Womack stepped in front of a Sean Brackett pass in the end zone and raced down the left sideline 100 yards for the score to knot the game at seven. It was the third 100-yard play in Fordham history, the first two being kickoff returns.
"No question that was the biggest play of the game by far," said Masella. "We're ready to go down fourteen to nothing and it doesn't look like we have anything going when he brings that back and switched the whole game around."
The score remained 7-7 until Fordham's second possession of the third quarter. Taking over on their own 35 following a punt, the Rams picked up five yards on two Whiting rushes before Maetzold connected with Sam Ajala on a short pass that Ajala turned into a 60-yard touchdown to give Fordham a 14-7 lead with 5:45 left in the third.
After the Fordham defense held Columbia to a three-and-out, with Jake Rodriquez and Womack sacking Brackett on third down, the Rams got the ball on their own 30 following a punt. On second down from the Fordham, 46, Maetzold found Brian Wetzel with a 23-yard pass to put the ball down on the Columbia 30. But three plays netted only two yards and Michael Marando was wide left on a 45-yard field goal attempt.
On Columbia's first possession of the fourth quarter, Brackett drove the Lions from their own 20 to the Fordham 18 where a Luke Eddy field goal attempt from 35 yards sailed wide left.
The Rams moved quickly on the ensuing possession, covering 80 yards on five plays, the big play being a 44-yard Whiting run that put the ball on the Columbia 20. Two plays later, Maetzold hit Carlton Koonce in the end zone with a 16-yard scoring strike to increase the Fordham lead to 14, 21-7, with 5:19 left in the game.
Three incomplete Brackett passes forced the Lions to go for it on fourth down but Andre Delaire sacked Brackett back to the Fordham 47. On the first play from scrimmage, Whiting fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Columbia's Zach Olinger on the Fordham 48. Nine plays later, Mike Stephens hauled in a 10-yard pass from Brackett in the end zone to cut the Fordham lead to seven, 21-14, with 1:40 remaining.
The Rams kneeled on the ball three times before throwing a long pass in hopes of using all of the clock but the pass fell incomplete with two seconds left, allowing Columbia one last chance. But Brackett's Hail Mary pass fell to the turf at the Fordham ten and the Rams celebrated their third win in the past four years in Liberty Cup games.
Koonce led all Fordham receivers with five catches for 32 yards while Ajala caught four balls for 76 yards and the touchdown.
Defensively, Michael Martin led the Rams with nine total tackles, four solo, and he forced a fumble while Rodriquez made eight stops, six solo, including two for loss and 1.5 sacks, and Andre Delaire had eight tackles, five solo, including one sack and he intercepted a pass.
The Rams will next be in action next Saturday, September 24th, as they travel to Kingston, R.I., to face the University of Rhode Island Rams in Meade Stadium at 1:00 PM.