Football Falls to Eighth-Ranked Lehigh
Oct. 15, 2011
Bronx, N.Y. - It's always difficult playing a top ten team. But it's more difficult when that top ten team has a potent passing offense and you're starting two true freshmen and a redshirt freshman in the defensive secondary. Such was the case for Fordham on Saturday as the Rams fell to Lehigh University, 34-12, in a matchup of Patriot League schools on Jack Coffey Field.
With the loss, Fordham's fourth straight, the Rams fall to 1-5 on year while Lehigh, who entered the game ranked eighth in the latest Sports Network/Fathead.com top 25 poll and ninth in the FCS Coaches Poll, improves to 6-1.
The Mountain Hawks entered the game with the second-ranked passing offense in the NCAA FCS, averaging 365.8 yards/game and they added to that today with 416 passing yards.
"I told the team after the game that we played hard, which I was happy with, but we didn't play well," said head coach Tom Masella. "We knew going into the game that we would have to score points on offense to have a chance to win but we couldn't come up with the big play when we needed it. But give credit to Lehigh. That was one of the best Patriot League teams I've seen since I've been at Fordham."
Despite the statistical edge, the Rams trailed 20-5 at the break and pulled to within eight, 20-12, with a touchdown early in the second half. That score was set up by an Ian Williams interception in the end zone, one of two picks on the day for the redshirt freshman. Taking over on the 20, Ryan Higgins completed a short pass to Darryl Whiting for a five-yard gain before getting sacked back to the 20. On third down, Greg Wilson got behind a Lehigh defensive back and hauled in a pass at midfield before streaking into the end zone unscathed to make it a 20-12 game 4:41 into the half.
But Lehigh responded with a six-play, 82-yard drive, capped by a seven-yard Matt Fitz touchdown run as the Mountain Hawks regained a 15-point advantage, 27-12. The big play of the drive was a 50-yard pass from Chris Lum to Ryan Spadola to put the ball on the Fordham 19.
The Rams threatened on the ensuing possession, moving from their own 41 to the Lehigh 24 but a Higgins pass was tipped and intercepted by Mike Groome on the Lehigh 17 and he returned it to the 29.
The Mountain Hawks couldn't take advantage of the turnover but later in the third they took over on their own 23 following a punt. Three plays later, Lum found Spadola deep over the middle with a 62-yard scoring strike as Lehigh took a 34-12 lead on the final play of the period.
After the Rams went three and out, Lehigh took over on its own five following a 57-yard Patrick Murray punt. Lum drove the Mountain Hawks down to the Fordham 17 where he found Jake Drwal with a scoring pass on third down and ten to make it a 10-0 game with 3:42 left in the first.
The Rams then put together a potential scoring drive with the big play being a 48-yard completion from Higgins to Wilson that put the ball on the Lehigh 30. Four plays later, the Rams had a second and one call from the eight when Whiting fumbled and the ball was recovered by Lehigh's Fred Mihal on the eleven.
The Fordham defense held Lehigh to three plays, forcing the Mountain Hawks to punt. Patrick McGee burst through the line and was bale to block Divers' punt attempt with the ball rolling out of the end zone for a safety with seven seconds left in the quarter.
After the free kick, Fordham moved from midfield to the Lehigh 20 where Michael Marando connected on a 37-yard field goal to cut the Fordham deficit to five, 10-5, 2:50 into the second.
Lehigh responded with a quick scoring dive, covering 80 yards on nine plays in 3:23, taking a 17-5 lead on a two-yard pass from Lum to Zach Hayden with 8:47 left in the half.
Later in the second, the Mountain Hawks moved from their own 14 to the Fordham 19 where Divers kicked a 36-yard field goal on the last play of the half to send Lehigh into the locker room with a 20-5 lead.
Higgins completed 15 of 34 passes for 253 yards and one touchdown with Wilson catching three of those passes for 150 yards and one score and Carlton Koonce grabbing three passes for 22 yards.
The Rams will return to action next Saturday, October 22nd, as they travel to Easton. Pennsylvania, to face Lafayette College in a meeting between Patriot League schools at 1:00 p.m. on Fisher Field.