Football Falls at Bucknell, 27-24
Nov. 3, 2012
Lewisburg, Pa. - Unlike the past two wins for the Fordham University football squad, today's game at Bucknell University had no last minute heroics. But it wasn't for lack of trying as a last minute drive ended with a fourth down interception on the Bison 25 as Bucknell scored a 27-24 come-from-behind win over the Rams in Christy Mathewson Stadium.
With the loss, Fordham falls to 5-4 on the year while Bucknell snapped a seven-game losing streak to improve to 2-7.
Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead told his squad in the days leading up to the game that the team that which did best on third downs, both offensively and defensively, would win the game. And he was correct as Bucknell converted seven of their 15 third down conversions while holding the Rams to just four of 13.
Despite the loss, senior running back Carlton Koonce recorded his second straight 100-yard rushing game and his sixth of the season. He gained 116 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns and he also caught seven passes for 56 yards. The 116 yards brings his season total to 1,176, the fifth best single season in school history.
On special teams, senior kicker Patrick Murray booted three field goals for the fourth straight week, connecting on kicks from 41, 22 and 39 yards. The three fields goals brings his season total to 21, breaking the former Fordham single season record of 18 set by Matt Fordyce in 2002. Murray entered the game leading the NCAA FCS in field goals/game and is now averaging 2.33 three-pointers/contest.
The Rams trailed 27-24 with 2:22 remaining when the defense held the Bison on third down and Fordham took over on its own 19 following a punt. Quarterback Ryan Higgins went to work, finding Brian Wetzel with a 25-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage as Wetzel made an amazing catch while falling out of bounds and keeping his toes on the playing field.
Two plays later, Higgins threw a shovel pass to Koonce that gained 12 yards and then hooked up with Greg Wilson, who caught a ball that was tipped by a Bucknell defender, for a ten-yard gain, putting the ball on the Bucknell 36. But on second down, Higgins was sacked back to the Bucknell 49 and, after a third down incomplete pass to Wetzel over the middle, Higgins' fourth down attempt to Nick Talbert was picked off by Bucknell's Joseph Francis with 42 second remaining and the Bison ran out the clock for the win.
The Rams opened the game with the momentum as Wetzel returned the opening kickoff 79 yards to the Bucknell 19. But the Fordham offense couldn't move the ball and Murray came on to kick a 41-yard field goal to give the Rams a 3-0 lead 1:01 into the game.
Fordham maintained that momentum on defense as on Bucknell's second play from scrimmage, Michael Martin hit Victor Walker on the Fordham 48, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jake Rodriques for the Rams.
The offense was able to move the ball on its second possession, eventually getting the ball to the Bucknell one. However on second down, Koonce was tackled for a loss back to the five and a third down Higgins pass to Wilson fell incomplete as the Rams settled for a 22-yard Murray field goal.
The 6-0 lead didn't hold for long as on the first play from scrimmage, Smith took the handoff around the right side and raced 76 yards for a score to put the Bison up 7-6 with 9:16 left in the first.
Fordham threatened on the ensuing possession, moving to the Bucknell 36 but Higgins couldn't connected with Koonce on a fourth down pass attempt.
Late in the first, the Rams took over on the Bucknell 20 following a punt and Fordham covered the 80 yards on ten plays, the big play being a fourth-and-one carry from Koonce that gained three yards and gave the Rams a first down on the Bucknell 15. Three plays later, Koonce ran it in from the 14 to put Fordham up, 13-7, 1:56 into the second quarter.
The game remained 13-7 until Koonce capped an eleven-play, 70-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring run and Blake Wayne hit Talbert with a two-point conversion pass to give Fordham a 21-7 lead with 2:13 left in the half. Higgins completed four of five passes on the drive, including a 20-yarder to Wayne on third-and-14 from the Fordham 40.
Bucknell came out and established momentum in the second half, taking the second half kickoff and moving the ball to the Fordham five where Sean Cobelli connected on a 22-yard field goal to cut the Bison deficit to eleven 21-10, just under five minutes into the second half.
The Rams could only pick up one first down on their first possession of the half and punted the ball back to Bucknell with the Bison taking over on their own 39. Fordham appeared to have held the Bison as Bucknell faced a third-and-eleven from its own 38 but a 12-yard completion gave the Bison a first down. Four plays later, Brandon Wesley found a wide open Smith with a 26-yard scoring strike to make it a four-point game, 21-17, with 3:33 left in the third.
Higgins picked up 18 yards with a carry on the next play from scrimmage but he was hit and fumbled on the Fordham 43 and the ball was recovered by the Bison. Bucknell got the ball down to the Fordham two where on a fourth-and-one call, De'Nard Pinckney was able to get to Smith before he could turn the corner and tackled him for a loss back to the five and the Rams took over on downs.
Fordham couldn't take advantage of the defensive stop, and Murray was forced to punt out of his own end zone early in the fourth quarter as Bucknell took possession on the Fordham 20 following the punt and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Rams.
It took the Bison just two plays to cover the 20 yards, the final 14 from Smith as Bucknell took a 24-21 lead just under two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Following the score, the Fordham offense moved into Bucknell territory but on second-and-nine from the Bucknell 25, Higgins was intercepted by Matt Steinback on the Bucknell 12 and Steinback returned the ball 78 yards to the Fordham 10.
The Fordham defense rose to the occasion, allowing Bucknell to get to the Fordham six but Martin and Chris Hodge sacked Wesley for a loss back to the ten where Cobelli kicked a 28-yard field goal to increase the Bison lead to six, 27-24, with 9:04 remaining.
Fordham responded with a scoring drive of its own, but could only come away with three points on a 39-yard Murray field goal with 6:10 left. The Rams got the ball to the Bucknell 26 but a third down completion was called back by a holding call on the Rams and a third-and-20 completion from Higgins to Koonce gained 14 yards and Fordham settled for the field goal to cut the Bucknell lead back to three, 27-24.
Higgins completed 23 of 40 passes for 267 yards while Wetzel caught five passes for 59 yards and Wilson and Dan Light each hauled in four passes.
Defensively, Martin led the Rams with 12 total tackles, five solo, including one sack while Rodriques made ten stops, four solo, including three for loss and one sack.
The Rams return to action next Saturday, November 10, as they host the Lafayette College Leopards on Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 PM.
Notes Head coach Joe Moorhead celebrated his 39th birthday on Friday as his wife, Jennifer, had a cake delivered to the hotel to commemorate the day... The Bison have now taken two straight from the Rams and lead the all-time series, 18-10... The Rams are happy that Bucknell's Tyler Smith is a senior... He gained 179 rushing yards this week after gaining over 200 yards against the Rams last year... Smith's 179 yards was the most for a Fordham opponent this year... Koonce has gained 993 yards and scored nine touchdowns over the past seven games... The Higgins interception in the fourth quarter was his first over the past five games as he saw a streak of 221 passes without an interception snapped... Over the past five games, Higgins has completed 149 of 217 passes for 1,614 yards.