Football Has Covered a Lot of Ground as 2021 Season Nears End

After battling through a pandemic and growing over Joe Conlin’s first few seasons at the helm, Fordham Football looks to once again be in position for Patriot League success as the season’s final act approaches.

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Despite a bye week, the Rams have been training hard as they get ready to face the next competition. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Dylan Balsamo, Managing Editor

Fordham Football currently finds itself in an interesting position with the Patriot League season nearing its eventual late-autumn conclusion. It’s a place where it has not found itself in a handful of years, which will make the end of the year very interesting. All of this to say, it’s a good position to be in.

The Rams are undefeated in three games in conference play and are winners of their last five consecutive games, which puts them at 5–3 overall. Who would not want to be standing there with three games to play?

The 3–0 mark through this point in conference play is their best start in the Patriot League since 2016, a season where they went 5–1 within the conference. They sit atop the Patriot League, tied with the College of the Holy Cross Crusaders, who also have a 3–0 record. A win of the Patriot League title this year would be Fordham’s first since 2014. That would also grant them the Rams first entry into the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) since their 9–3 season in 2015, when they were ranked 19 overall in the country among FCS schools. 

The outlook on the 2021 campaign for the Rams was certainly not as high during the opening few games of the year, after the program concocted a difficult non-conference schedule and fell in blowouts on the road to the University of Nebraska and Florida Atlantic University. Fordham began its current winning ways after that three game losing streak.

This season is already one of the most successful under head coach Joe Conlin, currently in his fourth season at the helm. Conlin’s first year saw a time of transition, with the team’s record suffering at a mere 2–9 (2–4 in the Patriot League). 2019 saw sincere improvement, not all of it clear in the final record of 4–8 (2–4). Conlin pointed out at season’s end in 2019 that, while that final tally was not a desirable one, the squad had performed better than that might indicate.

“I think these guys are gonna leave the season with a little bit of frustration,” Conlin said, honest yet ultimately optimistic. “We had an opportunity to win [the game against] Lehigh,… [we had a chance against] Lafayette, [for] two and a half quarters of the game against Holy Cross, we were the better team, [and the game against] Central Connecticut came down to a field goal on a last second drive. Those are four games right there where had we done some things a little bit better, they could have gone our way.”

2019 was a season that, had everything that went wrong changed its fortune, could have seen the Rams go 8–4. But ultimately that was not the case, and the Rams entered 2020 looking to have a better result over a 12-game season.

2020 had other plans.

FCS football was the last thing on anyone’s mind during the opening eight months or so of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the United States, but nevertheless, Fordham Football, unable to know when the Rams would play, had to stay on their toes and be prepared for whatever happened next. They did so by doing light training while following COVID-19 safety protocols in the fall during what would have been their 2020 season.

“We’ve been aiming to put our guys in a position where, no matter where or when we start playing, they’ll be ready,” Conlin said in a conversation back in early December of that year. “There are a lot of variables and possible scenarios, and we’re preparing for all of them here.”

The scenario that wound up happening was a truncated season in the spring — a very truncated one. The Rams only played three games in that season, going 2–1 and showing their potential in such a small sample size. The record was unfortunately not enough to win the Patriot League’s one-off North Division and face the South Division champion Bucknell University in the conference Championship game. That spot went to Holy Cross.

It was perhaps a disappointing result considering the potential to win the conference, but nevertheless, it proved that this era of Fordham Football is one with great potential.

Now back to the present: The Fordham Rams have three games remaining in their 2021 schedule, and while they find themselves in a place of great potential upside, winning the conference will not be easy. This coming Saturday, Nov. 6, the team will travel to Georgetown University before facing Holy Cross at Jack Coffey Field in their home finale the next week, then rounding out the regular season on the road against Colgate University.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, will have a home game against Lafayette College and road game against Bucknell to sandwich their affair with Fordham at Rose Hill, ensuring an enticing and perhaps exciting finish to the regular season atop the Patriot League standings.

It has been a long time coming for the Fordham football program to get to the place where it is now. And it seems like now, their time might have come.