Originally published in The Fordham Ram on October 26, 2016.
Fordham was able to take down Patriot League foe Georgetown 17-14 on Saturday, but the Rams looked very different than they have in their previous games this season.
For one thing, they needed to rely on junior running back Chase Edmonds even more than usual, which was fitting considering he was just 67 yards away from the school career rushing record.
The Edmonds-focused offense was necessary due to the absence of senior starting quarterback Kevin Anderson, who received a one game suspension for violating team rules. This meant junior quarterback Luke Medlock had to step in for his first career Fordham start.
But it was the defensive side of the ball that stepped up, as it saw the returns of junior linebacker Niko Thorpe and senior defensive lineman Manny Adeyeye for the first time this season. Thorpe was the Rams’ leading returning tackler coming into the season after racking up 78 total tackles last season. The Rams also got back senior defensive lineman Justin Vaughn, who had been having a stellar season before leaving the Lafayette game with an injury.
Head coach Andrew Breiner underscored the importance of having those defenders back on the field. “It brings an attitude. It brings a confidence,” he said. “I think it was easy to see that it gave us that juice. The defensive performance was just outstanding.”
The Rams defense played their best game of the season so far, holding the Hoyas to just 167 yards of total offense, including -2 yards on the ground. The strength of the defense allowed the Rams to grind out a tight victory.
Predictably, the game started off with a lot of Edmonds. He gained 40 yards on the opening drive, which was capped off with a pass over the middle to senior receiver Robbie Cantelli for a three-yard touchdown. The Rams were up 7-0 after the opening drive.
The Rams defense made their presence known right away, forcing the first of seven three-and-outs of the day on the Hoyas’ first drive. The stand included a tackle for a loss by graduate student David Barletta and a sack by sophomore linebacker JM Nocket.
Sophomore returner Corey Caddle misplayed the ensuing punt in the sloppy weather, letting the Hoyas recover the ball in Fordham territory. But the defense stepped right back up, with senior defensive back Jihaad Pretlow coming away with an interception early in the next drive.
Medlock took advantage of the new possession, uncorking a beautiful throw to split double coverage down the seam to once again find Cantelli, this time for a 37-yard score. With 3:48 left in the first quarter, the Rams were up 14-0 without their starting quarterback, and their backup had already thrown two touchdowns.
The Hoyas finally answered back on their next possession in really the only bad play of the day for the defense. Quarterback Clay Norris found a leaping Brandon Williams down the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown, making the score 14-7.
The first quarter would end with the same score, but the big story was still Edmonds: he racked up 60 yards on 12 carries in the first quarter, meaning he was just seven yards away from the record. However, the offense then stalled dramatically.
With the Rams having already given up one blocked punt on the day that the defense kept from being turned into points, the Hoyas special teams unit once again got a hand on a ball from senior punter Joe Pavlik. They recovered the ball on the Fordham 10-yard line, and there was nothing the defense could do. Try as they might, they could not keep Georgetown out of the end zone, and the Hoyas tied the game up at 14 with 11:27 left in the half.
At this point, turnovers for both sides started amassing in an incredible fashion, though none turned into points. The second quarter featured two Fordham fumbles and one Hoya fumble as well as an interception for each side, though none of the turnovers translated into points.
The offenses for both sides stalled for the rest of the half. Edmonds was actually held to -1 rushing yards in the quarter.
While neither team scored in the third quarter, there were some notable moments. The first came on a very run-of-the-mill rush for Edmonds up the middle for eight yards. With that carry, he became Fordham’s all-time leading rusher, passing Kirwain Williams with 4618 yards.
“Congratulations to Chase for breaking that record,” said Breiner. “That’s a special thing, to be a career record holder at a Division I institution.”
The team had to rely on Edmonds even more just one drive later, as Medlock was absolutely crushed and left with a concussion, leading to the entrance of sophomore Colton Smith.
Luckily, the other side of the ball was continuing its success, keeping Georgetown from even sniffing points.
“For the defense to have that kind of momentum and not let the momentum get away from us, for the whole team it was very important,” said Edmonds.
The Rams could almost taste a lead late in the fourth quarter, when they tried to convert on a fourth-and-1 on the goal line but were rebuffed. But the defense once again stood tall, with senior linebacker George Dawson laying a huge hit on the Hoya quarterback and forcing him to loft the ball into the air for an easy interception for junior defensive back Caleb Ham, his second of the day.
Facing a third and short with time ticking away, Smith made what may have been the play of the game. “They presented a look that they were going to blitz right into the run and Colton does exactly what we taught him to do on the very first day, which is throw out to the bubble,” said Breiner.
Smith completed that pass, his only completed pass of the day, which would help put the Rams in field goal range and allow them to take the 17-14 lead off the leg of senior kicker Makay Redd, a lead they carried to the final whistle.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of this football team,” said Breiner. “The adversity that we faced coming into the game, to have bad things happen – a lot of them within our control – turnovers, special teams errors, but no one flinched. No one panicked. Then Luke goes out. Again, no one panicked… It’s such a blanket term but that is the picture to me, the definition of a ‘team win’.”
With a record-breaking performance and incredible defensive play, the Rams were able to eke out another crucial Patriot League victory, bringing them to 2-0 in conference play and 5-2 overall. Their next game will be the biggest of the season, on the road this Saturday at 1 p.m. against Lehigh, the current leader in the Patriot League standings at 3-0.
“Next week, we’re going to have to really grit up and make sure we play complementary football,” said Edmonds. “We’re playing a great Lehigh team and that’s going to be fun.”