Fordham Upsets Temple, 30-29
Mike Nebrich to Sam Ajala TD Pass with four seconds left lifts Rams
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 15- WOW. There are many ledes that could be written for Saturday's Fordham-Temple football game at Lincoln Financial Field but that is the one that seems to be most appropriate is a simple, all uppercase, WOW. For the Rams used a touchdown pass and PAT with four seconds left to earn the school’s first ever win over an NCAA FBS team, 30-29.
Last Tuesday, as the team was exiting the practice field, head coach Joe Moorhead commented that the players didn’t realize that they were going to go on the road and have chance to beat an NCAA FBS team. Somehow between Tuesday and Saturday, the Rams received that message as Fordham used an explosive offense, gaining over 500 total yards, and a bend-but-don’t break defense, in a game that featured more reviews than an opening night Broadway play, to advance to 3-0 for the first time since 1988.
The last time the Rams defeated a team in what is now known as the FBS was when Fordham opened the 1954 season with a 13-7 win over Rutgers. Since making the move to the NCAA FCS (originally I-AA) in 1989, the Rams have played five games against FBS opponents (Buffalo in 1993 and 1995, Army and UConn in 2011 and Cincinnati last year), dropping all five.
Junior Mike Nebrich quarterbacked the offensive outburst, completing 23 of 36 passes for a career-high 320 yards and two scores while senior Carlton Koonce rushed 27 times for 168 yards and one touchdown. Koonce’s 168 yards brings his career total at Fordham to 2,162, good for seventh on the Fordham all-time rushing list.
Fordham’s Sam Ajala led all receivers in the game with seven catches for 134 yards and the game-winning score while Tebucky Jones grabbed seven passes for 105 yards.
After a relatively low scoring first half, the second half went back and forth, and it seemed likely that the team with the ball last would win, which is almost what happened. Trailing 29-23 with 13 seconds left, the Rams lined up at the Temple 29 where Nebrich took the snap and rolled out of the pocket to the right. Just before he got hit, he lofted a pass to the end zone that seemed to be intended for junior Brian Wetzel. But Ajala outleaped his defender and came down with the ball in the end zone for the score to tie the game at 29.
Temple called a time out before junior Michael Marando was able to attempt the point after and then asked for a review to determine whether Ajala was pushed out of bounds or went out on his on the scoring play (the third review of the drive). When the touchdown was upheld by the replay official, the Owls again try to ice Marando by calling a time out before his attempt. But following the second time out, Joseph’s Sullivan’s snap to Wetzel was perfect and Marando calmly put the ball through the uprights to put Fordham up 30-29.
The Owls still had one last chance as they fell on the ensuing kickoff on their own 25 but DeAndre Slate, one of just three Fordham pass rushers, got to Temple quarterback Connor Reilly and sacked him to end the game.
The Fordham offense was firing on all cylinders from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving to the Temple one but Koonce, who had a 48-yard carry on the third play of the game, lost three yards on fourth and goal and the ball was turned over to the Owls.
Temple moved out to the Fordham 33 but on fourth and six, Stephen Hodge got to Owls quarterback Clinton Granger and sacked him, forcing Granger to fumble and the ball was recovered at the Fordham 45 by Nick Merino.
The Rams couldn’t take advantage of the turnover but did use the second Temple turnover of the game, a Levon Williams interception, to get on the board. The Williams interception gave the Rams possession on the Temple 25 but Fordham couldn’t move the ball and settled for a 44-yard Marando field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 49 seconds on the clock.
The score would stay at 3-0 until Fordham attempted a fake punt that was sniffed out by Temple as Brett Biestek was tackled short of the first down and the Owls took over on the Fordham 41. Eight plays later, Granger rushed it in from the one to give Temple a 7-3 lead with 10:27 remaining in the second.
The lead was short-lived for the Owls as the Rams took the ensuing kickoff and took just four plays to cover 75 yards, the big play a 40-yard completion from Nebrich to Tebucky Jones one play before a Koonce 16-yard scoring rush as Fordham went up 10-7 just 1:24 later.
The Owls missed out on a chance to pull to within one when a Jim Cooper 23-yard field goal bounced off the left upright.
The Rams increased their advantage to six as Marando hit a 47-yard field goal as time expired to cap a 14-play, 50-yard drive.
Fordham boosted the lead to 13 midway through the third as Koonce kept a drive alive with a 21-yard carry on fourth and one from the Fordham 43. Koonce then gained 16 yards on a carry before Nebrich hooked up with Wetzel for an 18-yard scoring strike with 6:21 on the clock.
Reilly came on to quarterback the Owls and the Temple offense responded, covering 88 yards on ten plays to make it a 20-14 game on a four-yard run from Kenny Harper with 3:03 left in the third.
On the Owls first possession of the fourth quarter, Reilly capped a 77-yard drive with a 15-yard keeper to put Temple up for the first time in the game, 21-20, 2:15 into the quarter.
The Rams regained the lead, 23-21, when Marando connected on his third three-pointer of the day, a 24-yarder, with 7:03 remaining.
Temple again answered quickly, taking advantage of a long kickoff return to score on a seven-yard Reilly pass to Chris Coyer and go up 29-23 with 4:34 on the clock.
After Temple went up 29-23 the Rams took over on their own 29 with 4:29 remaining. The Rams faced a fourth-and-two from the Temple 49 but Nebrich was able to pick up the two yards for the first down. Three plays later, Fordham again faced a fourth down call, needing six yards to keep its upset hopes alive and Nebrich again came up big, picking up a few inches over six yards to keep the Rams in the game and give himself the chance for the game-winner. Both fourth down plays were reviewed by the officials.
Stephen Hodge led the Fordham defense with eleven tackles, nine solo, including one sack and he forced a fumble and broke up a pass. Victor DiFusco added eight tackles for the Rams while Hancock finished with seven.
The Rams will return to action next Saturday, September 21, as they host Columbia University on Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 p.m. for Homecoming 2013. The game will also be the annual Liberty Cup game.