Football Retains Liberty Cup with 20-13 Win over Columbia
Sept. 22, 2012
Bronx, N.Y. - Fordham head coach was a quarterback in his playing days with the Rams which means he is partial to throwing the football. But senior running back Carlton Koonce may be changing Moorhead's mind as he rushed for a career-high 250 yards, the second straight week he set a career-high in rushing, to lead the Rams to a 20-13 Liberty Cup win over Columbia at the Baker Athletic Complex.
With the win, the Rams improve to 3-1 on the year, Fordham's first 3-1 start since the 2004 season, while Columbia evens its record at 1-1. The Rams also retain possession of the Liberty Cup for the third straight year and now lead the all-time Liberty Cup series with the Lions, 7-4.
All week, Moorhead preached to the team that teams wins games and today was a perfect example as every aspect contributed to the victory, with Koonce pacing the offense, the defense holding the Lions to one touchdown and Patrick Murray leading the special teams with a pair of field goals, including a 51-yarder.
"At the end of the day, good football teams find a way to win games when they're not playing at their peak offensively," said Moorhead. "Along with that, the credit goes to the defense. They played absolutely lights out. We talked last night about the fact that it's a team game and whether you win 61 to 60 or two to nothing, at the end of the day it's about putting it in the left-hand column instead of the right-hand column."
Koonce's 250-yard game is the third best single game performance in school history and just six yards shy of the Fordham NCAA FCS record of 256 set by Kirwin Watson against Holy Cross in 2001 (the overall Fordham record is 272 set by Chip Kron against Georgetown in 1985).
Koonce scored both of Fordham's touchdowns, including a 92-yard run in first quarter, tying the Patriot League mark for longest touchdown run in league history. It was also the second longest rush in the NCAA FCS this season.
The game featured more twists and turns than a Stephen King novel and more changes of momentum than a physics experiment, with the teams combining for seven turnovers and the Rams being whistled for nine penalties, but as Moorhead reminded his charges after the game, all that mattered was that the Rams scored more points than their opponent, thanks to a bend-but-don't break defensive effort.
The big defensive plays came late in the fourth quarter, the first a Michael Martin ball strip and the second a fourth down stop by the Rams. On the Martin forced fumble, Columbia was facing a second and ten from the Fordham 14 with just under five minutes remaining when Alec Fisher rushed for a yard but before he could be called down, Martin yanked the ball from his hands and start running the other way. The only problem was that an official blew an inadvertent whistle which stopped the play. After the officials huddled, they ruled that the ball was fumbled and the Rams took possession on their own 13.
After the Fordham offense went three-and-out, the Lions took over on their own 45 with 3:10 remaining. Columbia moved to the Fordham 28 where the Lions faced a fourth-and-13. Columbia quarterback Sean Brackett escaped pressure and got off a pass into the end zone that was caught by Marcouras Garrett. However, a flag was thrown at the line of scrimmage as Brackett crossed the line before throwing the ball and was called for an illegal forward pass, giving the ball back to Fordham who ran out the clock.
The game started off on the wrong foot for the Rams as Fordham fumbled the opening kickoff and Columbia recovered the ball on the Fordham ten. But the defense kept Columbia out of the end zone and the Lions had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Luke Eddy.
The Fordham offense got off to a slow start, going three-and-out on its first possession and fumbling the ball back to Columbia on the second. But on the third series, the Rams took over on their own eight and, after an incomplete pass, Koonce took the handoff from Ryan Higgins around the right side and down the sideline, outracing the defenders to the end zone for the 92-yard touchdown run.
After the Fordham defense got the ball back for the offense, Koonce led the Rams down field, moving from their own 30 to the Columbia 18 with Koonce gaining 29 of the yards himself on the ground. On first down from the 18, Higgins found Koonce in the end zone with a scoring strike to give the Rams a 14-3 lead with 1:12 left in the first.
Columbia quickly got the seven points back as three plays later, Brackett connected with Louis DiNovo on a short pass in the right flat, and DiNovo raced 60 yards for the score to cut the Fordham lead to 14-10 with 15 seconds left in the first.
Late in the second, Columbia took over on its own eleven and moved to the Fordham six when Brackett threw two straight incomplete passes and Eddy came in to boot a 24-yard field goal to make it a one-point game, 14-13, with 34 seconds left in the half.
The Lions threatened on the first possession of the second half, moving to the Fordham 28 but Eddy's 45-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
On their second offensive series in the second half, the Lions moved to the Fordham 35 but a fourth down pass attempt fell incomplete as Austin Hancock got to Brackett, forcing him to hurry his pass.
The score remained 17-13 until Fordham took over on the Columbia 41 following a short punt. The Rams couldn't pick up a first down but Murray came on to kick a 51-yard field goal to give the Rams a 20-13 lead just under two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Hancock led the Rams with 12 total tackles, including three solo and one sack, and he recovered a fumble, while Martin finished with seven stops, six solo, including one sack and he forced two fumbles and recovered one.
On special teams, Murray connected on two of his three field goal attempts (he missed a 43-yarder in the second quarter - his first miss of the year), punted seven times for an average of 43.6 yards/punt with three being downed inside the 20 and he drilled all four of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
The Rams will next be in action next Saturday, September 29th, as they travel to Bethlehem, Penn., to open Patriot League play with a matchup with Lehigh University at Goodman Stadium at 12:30 p.m.