Football Falls to Ohio in Thriller

Despite a historic performance from Fotis Kokosioulis, the Rams fell to the Bobcats for their first loss of the year.


Fotis Kokosioulis had a record-breaking game. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Heading into Saturday’s matchup against Ohio University, Fordham Football was 2-10 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents, with their most recent win coming in 2015 against Army. For Fordham, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school, Saturday’s trip to Athens, Ohio represented a chance to add another win to this list. The Rams were outclassed last season in their two matchups against FBS teams (the University of Nebraska and Florida Atlantic University), so a positive showing would display real progress from a year ago.

Progress is an understatement, as Fordham took Ohio all the way down to the wire, eventually falling to the Bobcats 59-52. Behind another superb outing from senior quarterback Tim DeMorat and an unreal game from senior receiver Fotis Kokosioulis, Fordham’s offense showed they could deliver against an FBS opponent. While the defense once again struggled and the final score ultimately didn’t go their way, the Rams made a statement about their intentions this season as Patriot League play begins next week.

While DeMorat delivered once again, Kokosioulis was the story of this game for Fordham. He caught 13 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns, an insane performance from the Park Ridge, Ill., native. His 320 yards broke a Patriot League record, and his four touchdowns tied a Fordham school record. For his efforts, Kokosioulis was named FedEx Ground FCS Offensive Player of the Week and Patriot League Offensive Player of Week.

Fordham started off slowly in Athens, falling behind 14-0 after a quarter of play. The Rams offense barely saw the ball in the first quarter, with an eight minute scoring drive from Ohio taking up most of the period. That opening drive from the Bobcats would be the longest of the day, as the run-and-gun offenses of both teams soon took over.

The Rams got on the board early in the second quarter thanks to a 33-yard touchdown from DeMorat to Kokosioulis. Ohio responded with a field goal, but Fordham answered right back with another scoring bomb from the aforementioned duo, this one for 74 yards. After a nine-yard touchdown to senior receiver Dequece Carter got the Rams within three with under two minutes to go in the half, Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke led a perfect two-minute drill down the field. With six seconds to go, Rourke hit receiver Jacoby Jones in the endzone to make it a 31-21 game in favor of Ohio heading into halftime. 

Down against a very tough opponent, Fordham’s offense came out on fire in the second half. On the Rams opening possession of the half, DeMorat once again found Kokosioulis for another long touchdown to get Fordham within three. The Rams special teams unit faltered on the ensuing kickoff though, allowing Ohio’s Keegan Wilburn to take it 98 yards to the house. Back down 10, the Fordham offense kept things rolling immediately, with DeMorat finding MJ Wright for a 25-yard score to once again cut the lead back down to three.

The Fordham defense was finally able to get a stop, forcing a turnover-on-downs from Ohio in Rams territory. Sophomore running back Julius Loughridge then gave the Rams their first lead of the day with a two-yard score to make it 42-38. Another stop from Fordham gave the Rams the ball right back, allowing DeMorat to find Kokosioulis for a huge 84-yard touchdown. With a 49-38 lead, Fordham’s offense scored a touchdown on four consecutive possessions in the third quarter.

The Rams outscored the Bobcats 28-7 in the third quarter, but things began to falter for Fordham down the stretch. A Rourke touchdown to Tyler Foster got Ohio within three early in the fourth. Fordham responded with a field goal from junior Brandon Peskin to go back up six. On the ensuing Ohio possession, the Bobcats drove all the way down to the Fordham 11-yard-line. On fourth-and-two, sophomore Matt Jaworski forced a fumble to keep Ohio from taking the lead with six minutes and 24 seconds to go.

But after their explosive third quarter, Fordham’s offense stagnated late in the fourth in large part due to penalties. A false start backed the Rams up on their next drive, and they were forced to punt the ball back to Ohio. With the ball and looking for the game-winning score, Ohio fell victim to another fumble. This time, freshman Peter Chaloub came up big for the Fordham defense, stripping the ball away from Rourke to give the Rams the ball back in Ohio territory.

Up 52-46 with just three minutes and 19 seconds to go at the Ohio 36-yard-line, just a few more yards for Fordham would put them in field goal range. That would have put the Rams up nine and iced the game. Instead, Fordham went backwards, with a holding penalty and a personal foul knocking them all the way back to their own 49. The Rams were forced to punt, giving Ohio another chance to take the lead.

This time, the Bobcats did not falter, driving 67 yards down the field to take a 53-52 lead thanks to a Jones touchdown catch from Rourke. Fordham got the ball back with 52 seconds to go, but two more penalties forced them back deep into their own territory. On the last play of the game from their own 40-yard-line, Fordham fumbled a lateral attempt, allowing the Bobcats to scoop-and-score with no time remaining, cementing their 59-52 victory.

It’s hard to blame the offense after they put up 52 points, but undisciplined play down the stretch cost the Rams. The defense came up with two huge turnovers in the fourth quarter, but the offense could not capitalize. DeMorat finished the day with 503 yards passing and six touchdowns, another outstanding day from the senior who continues to lead the entire FCS in yardage and touchdowns. Last year, we saw DeMorat falter against higher quality opponents Florida Atlantic University and College of the Holy Cross, but he proved today that he can hang with top opposition.

It was also a historic day for Rourke, who set an Ohio school record with 527 yards passing to go along with four touchdowns. The Bobcats’ offense as a whole set a school record with 692 total yards.

Big plays were the name of the game for the Rams. In all, Fordham had four touchdown drives of two minutes or less and did not have a touchdown drive that exceeded four minutes. But all their production came in the middle two quarters, with Fordham struggling to start and end the game.

After the tough loss, Fordham head coach Joe Conlin shared his thoughts on the outcome. “Obviously a heartbreaking game, we didn’t execute well enough down the stretch,” he said. “Too many penalties were called by the MAAC officiating crew. Credit to Ohio, they were able to put plays together at the end to score one more than we had.”

This loss will certainly be a tough pill for Fordham to swallow. Yes, they put up a great fight against an FBS team, but Saturday’s game was winnable. Sloppy play offensively in the fourth quarter and lackluster defense throughout most of the game ensured Fordham fell just short of the finish line. The Rams will look to rebound on Family Weekend this Saturday against Georgetown University to open Patriot League play. That game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and can be streamed live on ESPN+ or listened to on WFUV 90.7.