Originally published in The Fordham Ram on September 14, 2016.
It took until the second week of the season, but new head coach Andrew Breiner was able to collect his first win as Fordham Football head coach as the Rams beat the Division II Elizabeth City State University Vikings 83-21. Those 83 points were both a school and Patriot League record, and made for quite the home opener. “It feels great”, said Breiner. “To be able to get the win in front of the home crowd is very special.”
The Rams were coming off of a disappointing start against FBS opponent Navy last week, where they lost 52-16, including trailing 21-10 after the first quarter. But according to junior defensive back Caleb Ham, the Rams put that behind them.
“Practice was full of energy from both sides of the ball every day,” said Ham. “Everyone had a clean slate to start the week.”
Fordham used that week of practice to fully flip the script, hanging up 38 unanswered points on the Vikings in the first quarter alone. While the first drive only resulted in three points from the leg of senior kicker McKay Redd, the offense found its gear on the next possession.
After the Rams defense forced a quick three and out, they quickly found the end zone for their first touchdown on the day, a 38-yard reception by junior receiver Robbie Cantelli from senior quarterback Kevin Anderson, making it 10-0.
The defense scored their first touchdown of the day when sophomore linebacker Noah Fitzgerald returned a fumble for a touchdown just two plays into the Vikings’ next drive.
The Rams kept up the pressure on both sides of the ball. After forcing another three and out, there was another touchdown for Fordham almost immediately, this time a 36-yard scamper by senior running back Kendall Pearcey.
With Fordham already up 24-0 less than ten minutes into the game, the Vikings went for it on fourth and three from their own 29, but quarterback Daquan Neal was stuffed at the line for a turnover on downs in unnecessarily favorable field position. The Rams continued the onslaught, with Anderson finding sophomore wideout Austin Longi for a 21-yard touchdown just two plays later to make the score 31-0.
The points kept coming for Fordham, the next score being a 54-yard burner of a rushing touchdown for junior running back Chase Edmonds, making the score 38-0.
The defense for Fordham had been clearly stalwart up to this point, as the Vikings finally converted their first first down on their next possession at the tail end of the first quarter. “As a defense we were hungry, searching for our first win and looking to improve from the previous week,” junior defensive back Caleb Ham said after being pushed around by Navy last week. They certainly did, holding ECSU to just 220 yards of offense.
Redd notched another field goal at the start of the second quarter to make it 41-0, and then Rams got the ball right back after senior linebacker George Dawson came down with a ball that was popped in the air. That drive broke the Rams scoring streak at six, as they turned it over on downs.
After Anderson and Cantelli linked up for their second touchdown pairing of the day to make it 48-0, this time on a 17 yarder, the Rams gave up a quick 14 unanswered.
The first came on the best drive of the game for the ECSU Vikings, culminating in a QB keeper touchdown for Neal. On the Rams’ next possession, Anderson tried to orchestrate a two-minute offense, but his luck with escaping near-interceptions came back to Earth when he was picked off and the Vikings returned it for a touchdown.
Despite the rough end to the first half, the Rams still had a commanding lead and many were surprised to see the majority of the Fordham starters come back on the field.
“I didn’t like how we finished the first half, particularly on the offensive side of the ball,” said Breiner. “I thought we got a bit sloppy and I didn’t want to take those guys out of the game until I felt like we finished the right way.”
The starters certainly tightened it up with Pearcey and Anderson scoring in the first two drives. The first ended in a six-yard score for the former and the second a three-yard connection with Longi for the latter.
The defense did the same in their two drives, forcing a punt and a turnover on downs.
Already up 62-14, the Rams then made their substitutions. They gave another touchdown, but still scored more of their own, including maybe the nicest pass of the day from junior second-string QB Luke Medlock to sophomore wide receiver Jordan Allen for an 82-yard score.
“It was encouraging to see Luke Medlock go in and operate the offense the way its intended,” said Breiner. “You don’t always get a chance to get your number two quarterback game reps and Saturday’s game provided us with that opportunity and he capitalized on it.”
Looking stellar in his Fordham debut, freshman running back D’Angelo Palladino saw a lot of work in the second half as the Rams tried to work down the clock. He racked up 116 yards on 19 carries including one touchdown, enough to have him named Patriot League Rookie of the Week.
Fordham’s last touchdowns following the Medlock-Allen connection were another scoop and score, this time off of the kickoff by freshman Jesse Bramble, and Palladino’s 17-yard rush.
Both sides of the ball showed out for the Rams. All three running backs totaled over 100 yards rushing, with Edmonds collecting 155 on just 16 carries and Pearcey collecting 115 of his own on just 12 carries to go along with Palladino’s 116. Through the air, Anderson was an efficient 18/28 for 255 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Edmonds’s efforts put him at 3,711 rushing yards for his career and 45 rushing career touchdowns, both second-best in Fordham history.
The Rams defense piled on the takeaways with four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Dawson had interceptions on back to back drives in the first half, with sophomore defensive backs Lawrence Menyah and Tyler Long corralling the other two. Outside of the two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, junior defensive lineman John O’Boyle and sophomore linebacker JM Nocket picked up the other two.
The Rams now sit at 1-1, but are headed into an early bye week before their next matchup against the University of Pennsylvania.
“This year, the bye week comes so early,” Breiner said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take a little time and focus on fundamentals and techniques while also working on some scheme and getting ready for UPenn.”
Fordham will take on UPenn at 1 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Jack Coffey Field in the Homecoming game.