Football Allows Huge Fourth Quarter in Holy Cross Loss


Dylan Balsamo, Assistant Sports Editor

This past Saturday, Fordham welcomed current and former members of the university to celebrate its annual Homecoming. The day was so blisteringly cold that this reporter is still recovering from dried out knuckles and ridiculously chapped lips.

However, the main event of the day, held on Jack Coffey Field, was the Ram-Crusader Cup, the annual Patriot League conference football matchup between the Rams and the Holy Cross Crusaders. If you left before the fourth quarter, the final result may be quite surprising. At the end of the game, the score was 49–27 in favor of Holy Cross.

The score was 14–0 Rams at halftime, and at the end of the third, the game was tied at 14. The final 15 minutes of the game spelled disaster for a Fordham squad that now has a 1–4 conference record to go along with its 3–8 record overall. Meanwhile, the Crusaders not only claimed the Ram-Crusader Cup, but they also stand at 6–5 overall and 4–1 in the conference, with a chance to win the 2019 Patriot League title next weekend.

After the game on Saturday, Fordham head coach Joe Conlin had few words to say regarding the loss, and it is hard to blame him. After all, the first half saw perhaps the team’s best football this season.

The Rams defense was absolutely exceptional during the first quarter in particular, as the four Crusader possessions all resulted in punts, with the first three coming in the form of three-and-outs. Fordham did not allow Holy Cross to have much time with the ball. As Holy Cross would prove much later on in the afternoon, when it has time to score, it gets the job done quite effectively.

Unfortunately, while Fordham held onto the ball for both more plays and more time in the quarter, all four of its possessions also ended in punting the ball away, so the first 15 flew away scoreless. In the opening drive of the second quarter, however, the Rams were able to put points onto the board, as Zach Davis ended an 80-yard drive with an eight-yard run into the end zone, giving the Rams a 7–0 lead.

Before the half was over, the Rams made it into the end zone once more. Capitalizing on a 42-yard one-handed catch by freshman wide receiver Dequece Carter that was reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams made the score 14–0 after Carter’s one-yard catch with just six seconds on the clock in the second quarter.

As the teams went to the locker room for the half, Fordham held onto a 14–0 lead over the Crusaders. Once the second half was set to commence, the temperature had dropped and the Rams’ fate suddenly shifted.

The third quarter began with Fordham kicking the ball off and almost winning it back after a Holy Cross fumble. The initial call of a Fordham ball was eventually overturned, however, and that was just the first of many things in the half to go wrong for the Rams.

About halfway through the quarter, Holy Cross finally scored in the form of a 57-yard run from running back Domenic Cozier, cutting Fordham’s lead down to one scoring play.

The next three drives would see the Rams going three and out, the Crusaders missing a field goal, and then the Rams going three and out again. It was in response to that second three and out that Holy Cross evened up the score. They needed just two plays to go 40 yards, thanks to receiver Spencer Gilliam’s 36-yard catch from a throw by quarterback Connor Degenhardt. The score was 14 all.

On the next drive, the Rams had a chance to reclaim the lead when junior kicker Andrew Mevis took a 48-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked by the Crusaders.

With that play the third quarter came to an end. It was not a disaster yet, but the lead Fordham had worked so hard to maintain had vanished.

On their next possession, beginning the fourth, Fordham took back the lead. In just 43 seconds, the Rams went 90 yards in three plays and scored with sophomore quarterback Tim DeMorat’s 32-yard pass to his junior receiver Hamze El-Zayat.

The score was 21–14 in favor of Fordham. It looked like the disaster had been averted. But, what soon became very clear was that on this day, disaster was unavoidable.
On three straight drives, Holy Cross scored three touchdowns, and they scored them quickly.

Degenhardt scored the equalizer on a three-yard end zone trot, Cozier scored his second of the day to take the lead, and Peter Oliver scored an insurance touchdown on a 45-yard run of his own. In the spaces between these three possessions, Fordham went three and out twice.

After Oliver’s run, the Rams took the ball back, and on the third play of their drive, DeMorat’s pass was intercepted and returned 42 yards by John Smith for another Crusader touchdown. Then, Fordham drove again, and after four plays, DeMorat was intercepted again, this time by Chris Riley. Two plays later, Degenhardt ran the ball for a four-yard TD.

Before you could think, or even dare to look at the scoreboard, Holy Cross led the game 49–21 with just over a minute to play.

The walls had come crashing down to leave Fordham in the freezing cold on Homecoming Saturday. The Rams would score one more touchdown on the final play of the game on a 13-yard catch by Carter, but they did not even bother to try and get the extra point, leaving the final score 49–27.

Coach Conlin’s expression in the postgame was one of disbelief. You could sense his emotions, a combination of dumbfoundedness over what had just happened and knowing disappointment as to why and how it had happened.

“We didn’t tackle well at all,” he said. “I actually don’t think we tackled well the whole game, but it was more of a factor in the second half.”
Conlin also said that ultimately, it was their “inability to stop the running game” that lost them the game. That inability is why Cozier finished with 170 rushing yards and Oliver secured a 45-yard run. The Crusaders only had the ball for 26:10. That was all they needed.

The Rams now have one final game left: it’s this coming Saturday afternoon at Jack Coffey Field at 1:00 p.m., hosting the Bucknell University Bison.
The 2019 season has been a rough ride for Fordham football, and Saturday definitely showed it.