Football Drops Huge Game Against Holy Cross


Tim DeMorat and the Rams came ever so close to slaying the demons, but fell short in the end. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Heading into Saturday’s game against the College of the Holy Cross, Fordham Football was on a quest to prove they have enough to win a Patriot League title. The Rams hadn’t defeated the Crusaders since 2016, back when now Denver Broncos running back Chase Edmonds scored four touchdowns in a 54-14 win at Yankee Stadium.

This year had the promise to be different, with Fordham possessing one of the premier offenses in the Football Championship Subdivision led by senior quarterback Tim DeMorat, senior wide receiver Fotis Kokosioulis and a plethora of other weapons.

But unfortunately for the Rams, Saturday’s matchup between two of the top teams in the FCS ended in heartbreak.

In an instant classic, Holy Cross defeated Fordham 53-52 in overtime at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in Patriot League play, while the Rams fell to 6-2 on the year and 2-1 in-conference.

Holy Cross was led by an outstanding day from quarterback Matthew Sluka both through the air and on the ground. The junior totalled 294 yards passing and 174 yards rushing to go along with five total touchdowns. Other Crusaders with big days included receiver Jalen Coker, who hauled in three touchdowns on six catches for 131 yards. 

Fordham, who have been known this season for their prolific aerial attack, switched things up a bit on Saturday. The Rams running game took center stage against Holy Cross, with sophomore Julius Loughridge and graduate student Trey Sneed both contributing over 100 yards rushing. 

DeMorat still had a big day, although he was not as accurate as he’s been for most of this season. On 19/38 passing, DeMorat threw for 256 yards and five touchdowns. Those five scores brought his season total to 38, breaking both the Fordham and Patriot League record for touchdowns in a single season. Senior receiver Dequece Carter was also impressive, totaling 107 yards and three touchdowns on just four receptions, while junior Mekai Felton had two touchdown catches on 92 yards receiving.

Holy Cross started on the front foot, opening the scoring just two minutes into the first quarter. Sluka found Coker over the middle of the field for a big 58-yard touchdown to give the Crusaders the early 7-0 advantage. The Rams answered back with a 39-yard field goal from junior Brandon Peskin, but Holy Cross quickly scored again on a touchdown run from Peter Oliver to make it 14-3 Crusaders.

With a minute to go in the first, Carter made an unreal touchdown catch on third and long to get Fordham back within four. The teams then traded scores in the second quarter, with Sluka punching it in for Holy Cross and Felton hauling in another long touchdown from DeMorat to cut the Crusaders lead back down to four at 21-17.

Just before the end of the first half, the Rams took their first lead of the day. DeMorat once again found Felton in the endzone for the score to give Fordham the 24-21 advantage heading into halftime.

The back-and-forth nature of the contest continued throughout the third quarter, with both offenses striking once in between a few defensive spots. For Fordham, DeMorat perfectly executed a read-option play on first and goal for his first rushing touchdown of the day. But, just as they did all day long, Holy Cross had an immediate answer. On their first play following the Fordham touchdown, Sluka had a beautiful option of his own, rumbling 66 yards down the field to set Holy Cross up with a first-and-goal situation. Oliver punched it in for the Crusaders, cutting Fordham’s lead to three at 31-28 moving into the final quarter of play.

Early in the fourth, Fordham’s defense stood strong in a goal-to-go situation, forcing Holy Cross to kick a field goal to level the game at 31. But after that, the offenses went to work.

Julius Loughridge took over on Fordham’s ensuing possession. Loughridge ran for all of Fordham’s 71 yards on the drive, including a 34-yard score to put the Rams back up by seven. The Houston native’s 121 total rushing yards on the day were a career high.

Coker replied with a touchdown catch off a slant to immediately nullify Fordham’s advantage, but the Rams came right back with a 38-yard touchdown from DeMorat to Carter to go back up seven. A huge fourth down stop forced by the Fordham defense gave the Rams the ball back with just 3:40 to go at the Holy Cross 46-yard line up 45-38.

Just one or two first downs would have iced the game for Fordham and delivered a huge victory against the Patriot League’s premier school. The team was in a similar position in their only other loss this year against Ohio University, but once again the Rams couldn’t seal the victory on offense and handed the football back to Holy Cross with barely any time having elapsed.

Starting from their own 20 with three minutes to play, the Crusaders marched down the field and tied the game on a 15-yard touchdown from Sluka to Coker. Fordham couldn’t answer with a minute to go in their final possession, sending the game into overtime.

The Rams got the ball to begin overtime and wasted no time in striking first. On the first play of OT, DeMorat found Carter in the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown, putting Fordham up 52-45. Now, all the Rams needed was a stop to secure victory. 

But Holy Cross would not go away once again. Even after a holding penalty pushed the Crusaders back to 2nd and 22, the Fordham defense could not hold strong. Sluka hit Justin Shorter for a nine yard score to get Holy Cross within one.

Then, instead of kicking the extra point to send the game into double overtime, Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney opted to go for two. The entire game, and possibly the conference championship, all came down to one play. A Holy Cross conversion would mean a victory for them and in all likelihood another Patriot League title, but a Fordham stop would shake up the conference at last.

The Crusaders ran a reverse on the two-point attempt, catching Fordham off guard and allowing Asante Ayir to waltz into the endzone with the game winner. The gutsy call from Chesney spelled doom for the Rams, who fell to Holy Cross by a final score of 53-52.

After the game, Fordham head coach Joe Conlin was visibly down and disappointed. “Obviously a frustrating loss,” he said. “We had a lot of opportunities to put that game away. We have to execute better down the stretch, particularly in the fourth quarter on offense and defense. I’m proud of the kids, they played as hard as they could and left it all out there. We have to do a better job as coaches of putting them in a position to win football games.”

Although it was a deflating defeat for the Rams after getting so close to a monumental victory, all hope is not lost for the group. While their Patriot League title hopes seem axed at this point, Fordham are still very much alive for an at-large FCS playoff bid. The Rams will likely have to win out in their remaining three games for this to remain the case.

Next up for Fordham is another Patriot League road test, this time against Bucknell University. Bucknell has had a rough season thus far, sitting at 1-7 overall and 1-3 in conference play. The Rams will look to get back on track this Saturday against the Bison in Pennsylvania. That game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start and can be streamed live on ESPN+ or listened to on WFUV 90.7.