Football Booted by Lehigh, 34-31
Sept. 29, 2012
Bethlehem, Pa. - It was more of a prize fight than a football game when Fordham and Lehigh squared off today in a matchup of Patriot League foes. Each team hit the other with its best shot and each team was able to get up off the canvas after taking the blow. But in the end, it was the Mountain Hawks who got in the last jab, booting a 22-yard field goal as time expired to pull out a 34-31 win over the Rams at Goodman Stadium.
With the loss, Fordham falls to 3-2 on the year while 11th-ranked Lehigh stays perfect at 5-0.
"When you play a quality opponent like Lehigh, a team that's talented well-coached and disciplined, you have to play a full sixty minute game," said Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead. "But I'm proud of our guys. They played a great game and I thought we played well enough to win but Lehigh made one more play than we did."
The Mountain Hawks were determined to stop Fordham running back Carlton Koonce, who rushed for a career-high 250 yards at Columbia last week and entered the game ranked fifth in the NCAA FCS in rushing yards/game, but Koonce still gained 105 yards in the game on 30 carries. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
While Lehigh was preoccupied with stopping the Fordham running game, senior quarterback Ryan Higgins took advantage of the situation, passing for a season-high 373 yards and two touchdowns against the Mountain Hawks, who entered the game leading the conference and ranking 15th in the NCAA FCS in passing defense, surrendering just 148.50 yards/game. Higgins completed 28 of his 41 passes while sophomore receiver Brian Wetzel also connected on a scoring pass to Nick Talbert as the Rams gained 391 yards through the air, the best single game of the season for Fordham.
Lehigh led by seven, 31-24, entering the fourth quarter with Fordham possessing the ball on its own 48 following a 17-yard Koonce rush. Two incomplete passes later, the Rams faced a third-and-ten from the 48 when Higgins found Wetzel for a 21-yard pickup, giving Fordham a first down on the Lehigh 31.
Three plays later, the Rams again faced a third-and-long and this time Higgins hooked up with Wilson to gain the eight yards and a Fordham first down. Six plays later, Higgins was forced out of the pocket and rolled to his right when he saw a wide open Wilson in the end zone for the tying score with 11:42 left.
The Fordham defense dug in, not allowing a Lehigh first down, and the offense moved to the Lehigh 39 on the next possession but a third down pass attempt fell incomplete and the Rams punted the ball back to Lehigh.
Lehigh threatened to score, getting the ball to the Fordham 37 but a third down pass was incomplete and the Mountain Hawks punted the ball back to Fordham.
The Rams took over on their own 12 after the punt and on first down were called for intentional grounding, moving the ball back to the one. Fordham could only move the ball out to the seven before punting it away.
A 21-yard punt return gave the Mountain Hawks excellent field position on the Fordham 39 with 1:39 remaining. Five plays later, Lehigh faced a third-and-six from the Fordham 18 when quarterback Michael Colvin hit Josh Parris with a 13-yard pass, setting up the 22-yard game-winning field goal Jake Peery as the clock hit 0:00.
Fordham scored the first 14 points of the game, finding the end zone on each of its first two possessions, before Lehigh scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead, but the Rams scored just before the half to cut the deficit to 24-21 at the break.
The Rams delivered the first blow, scoring on the first possession of the game. Fordham took the opening kickoff and drove from its own 35 to the Lehigh 39 where the Rams faced third-and-five. But Higgins found Talbert over the middle for a seven-yard gain and a first down. Five plays later, Higgins capped the drive with a three-yard scoring rush to put Fordham up 7-0, 3:31 into the game.
Fordham took over on its own 20 following the Lehigh punt and Higgins found Wetzel, who had gotten behind the Mountain Hawk defense, for a 40-yard gain, putting the ball on the Lehigh 40. Four plays later, Wetzel took the ball from Koonce on a double reverse and found Talbert in the right corner of the end zone with an 18-yard scoring strike to give the Rams a 14-0 lead with 7:24 left in the first.
The two quick Fordham scoring drives woke up the Lehigh offense as the Mountain Hawks went 81 yards on nine plays on the ensuing possession, scoring on a 16-yard rush by Keith Sherman, and then, after a three-and-out from Fordham, took over on the Fordham 25 following a 30-yard punt return. The Mountain Hawks covered the 25 yards in just four plays with Colvin covering the final three to knot the game at 14 with 12 seconds left in the first.
The Fordham offense again went three-and-out to start the second quarter and Lehigh drove to the Fordham six where Peery connected on a 23-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead with 9:46 left in the half.
The Fordham offense again couldn't pick up a first down and Colvin guided the Mountain Hawks on another scoring drive, covering 80 yards in 13 plays with Lee Kurfis hauling in a five-yard scoring pass from Colvin with 3:11 left in the second to make it a 24-14 game for Lehigh.
The Ram offense then kicked it into gear after a 35-yard Wetzel kickoff return as Higgins hooked up with Greg Wilson for 42 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Higgins then found Koonce in the flats with a screen and Koonce took it 21 yards to the end zone to cut the Lehigh lead to three, 24-21, with 2:43 remaining in the half.
The Rams had another scoring chance just before the half as Austin Hancock picked off a Colvin pass and returned it to the Fordham 31. Fordham moved the ball to the Lehigh 37 but Higgins was sacked for a loss of nine yards on second down and the Rams couldn't pick up the first down on the next play, punting the ball back to Lehigh.
On their second possession of the second half, the Mountain Hawks took over on their own 25 following a punt and Colvin immediately found Sherman with a 70-yard gain, putting the ball on the Fordham five. Two plays later, Zach Barket took it in from the one for a 31-21 Lehigh lead with 9:32 left in the third.
Later in the quarter, Fordham drove from its own 21 to the Lehigh six where Patrick Murray connected on a 23-yard field goal to cut the Fordham deficit to seven, 31-24, with 1:54 left in the period.
Wetzel caught seven passes for 112 yards for the Rams while Talbert finished with seven receptions for 107 yards and Wilson hauled in five passes for 99 yards.
The Rams return to action next Saturday, October 6th, as they host the Georgetown University Hoyas in a matchup of Patriot League and Jesuit schools on Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 PM.