Originally published in The Fordham Ram on October 19, 2016.
It was an ugly win, but a win-loss record does not discriminate. With Yale fully committed to stopping junior running back Chase Edmonds, who was coming off of a historic game last week, the Fordham offense had a whole different look than it has so far this season. After taking a 21-15 lead late in the first half, the Rams never looked back, even in a rough second half, eventually coming away with a 44-37 win.
It was clear from Fordham’s opening drive this was going to be a different kind of game for the offense. Yale sold out defensively to contain Edmonds.
“The offense has what is commonly known as a ‘pass-run option’ in our run game,” said head coach Andrew Breiner. “What Yale was presenting was a look where they had an advantage in the box as far as defenders, and our offense is designed that if you add defenders to the box then in the run game the ball gets distributed to the edge.”
Senior quarterback Kevin Anderson and the Rams’ offense obliged, with Anderson completing four straight passes that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown strike on a slant over the middle to senior receiver Robbie Cantelli. With eight in the box, throws over the middle have greater success, as the corner has no safety help to step in front of the route if the receiver beats them off the line.
On Yale’s first play from scrimmage, the ball was thrown deep towards senior defensive back Jihaad Pretlow, who was then hit with a flag for pass interference. The Yale drive would be extended again on what would have been a third-and-1 just inside the red zone to a first and goal from the half-yard line after junior defensive back Caleb Ham was hit with a personal foul. The Bulldogs found the end zone on a read option by quarterback Tre Moore, and then convert on a two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.
The two penalties were another example of how the Rams did not look like themselves on Saturday. Coming into the game, they were fifth in the FCS for fewest yards given up to penalties. On Saturday, they committed 12 for a total of 110 yards.
The Rams continued to stay committed to the passing attack, and their next two drives fizzled out. They had their first rushing attempt of the game on their third drive, but it was for senior running back Kendall Pearcey, who spells Edmonds every third series.
Edmonds finally got the ball on the first play of their first drive, immediately ripping off a 16-yard rush up the right side. On the next play, the Rams used the reestablished ground threat to run a play action pass, and Anderson was able to find sophomore receiver Corey Caddle for a 55-yard touchdown and a 14-8 lead.
Yale took the lead back on their next drive thanks in large part to the Rams once again having trouble on runs up the middle, this time being victimized for a 56-yard rush.
Yale held onto their 15-14 lead for one Fordham drive before Anderson once again found the end zone through the air, this time a 15-yard strike to sophomore receiver Austin Longi. The touchdown was precipitated by another long run up the middle for Edmonds and another shorter gain of six, which put him over 1000 yards on the season in just the sixth game. He is the fastest rusher to 1000 yards in Fordham history.
The Rams scored one more time before the end of the second half, with Anderson hooking up with Caddle over the middle again for a 27-15 lead, following a failed two-point conversion.
While the Rams looked good, albeit different, in the first half, the wheels came off a bit in the second half. After giving up just 122 yards of offense in the first half, the Fordham defense allowed Yale to rack up 331 yards in the second half. The offense sputtered as well, failing to score until late in the third quarter.
Despite the on-paper statistics, the Rams were able to maintain their lead. They let Yale get deep into Fordham territory, but were bailed out by a forced fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker George Dawson. The ensuing Rams’ drive was stalled out by another penalty and led to a punt.
After both teams traded three and outs, Yale was marching again. Once again the Rams forced a key turnover, this time a pick-six from Ham led to the first points of the second half.
The Bulldogs answered right back, moving methodically down the field again, this time finally finding the end zone to make the score 34-23.
The Ram offense seemed to have snapped out of its stupor on their very next play, with the second Anderson-Cantelli connection resulting in a 69-yard touchdown thanks to a nice throw from Anderson over the top of the defense. Despite looking sluggish for the majority of the quarter, the Rams still managed to end the quarter with a 41-23 lead.
The fourth quarter was really more of the same. Yale scored a touchdown to open the quarter at the end of an eight play, 73-yard drive. They forced a crucial three and out on the Rams next possession to have a chance to cut the lead to one possession, but the Rams’ defense finally stood tall in the second half and got a huge stop on a fourth and short attempt around midfield. The offense salted away the game with one final drive, including another long rush for Edmonds that managed to get him over 100 yards on the day, and culminated in a short field goal from senior kicker Makay Redd. A touchdown for Yale with under a minute left brought the game to what would be the final score following a botched onsides attempt, 44-37.
Anderson finished the day 18 for 27 with 270 yards and his five touchdowns, which ties his career high, and no interceptions.
Despite not getting the ball too much, Edmonds still managed to eclipse 100 yards, getting to 121 on 18 carries. It was his first game without a touchdown since the opener at Navy, which was also the only game he was held under 100 yards.
The unsung hero for the Rams was senior punter Joe Pavlik, who had seven punts for a cumulative 268 yards, with two of the punts downed inside the 20.
While the defense and offense had their issues – the defense allowed Yale to convert on 11 of 18 third downs, the offense needed to punt seven times, including five three-and-outs – each stepped up when needed. The defense forced the two crucial turnovers, and when the offense was not punting they were scoring touchdowns and not turning the ball over.
“Today was just a total team win,” said Anderson.
“At 4-2, I’m pleased with how we are approaching each and every week and I’m pleased with the results,” said Breiner. “You can ask Kevin or any other player: I am pleased but never satisfied and they know that. I have high standards for them.”
The Rams will look to make their back-to-back wins into a streak next Saturday at home against Georgetown at 1 p.m. The Hoyas are the first of the Rams’ five straight games against Patriot League opponents to close the season.