Overtime Heartbreak for Rams at Monmouth

Originally published in The Fordham Ram on October 5, 2016.

football-courtesy-of-fordham-athletics

Austin Longi reels in a 54-yard touchdown reception from Kevin Anderson in the waning moments of the first half. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

It was a tale of two halves for Fordham Football this past weekend in central New Jersey in a wild game against the Monmouth Hawks.

The first half featured some of the most impressive plays of the Rams’ young season. The first touchdown of the game was an explosive 77-yard sprint to the end zone by junior running back Chase Edmonds. The point after attempt was blocked, putting the Rams up 6-0.

After sophomore linebacker Noah Fitzgerald recovered a Monmouth fumble, senior quarterback Kevin Anderson uncorked his prettiest throw of the season, finding junior wide receiver Robbie Cantelli for a 25-yard score, putting the Rams up 13-0 with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter.

The Hawks took advantage of a sometimes-soft Fordham defense on their next drives, putting points on the board on three of their next four possessions. They got on the board after working 53 yards down the field in decent sized chunks, but were held to just a field goal after a Fitzgerald tackle in the backfield.

After a turnover on downs from the Rams, the Hawks got the ball at midfield. The teams then traded fumbles before the Hawks hung onto the rock long enough to notch a second field goal, making the score 13-6 with 12:02 left in the half.

After forcing a Rams punt, the Hawks burnt most of the clock marching down the field for their first touchdown. It was death by a thousand cuts for the Rams defense on the drive, with the Hawks running 16 plays and picking up six first downs before Welch punched it in for the touchdown, making the score 13-13 with 1:30 left in the half and the Rams reeling.

However, the Rams ripped off an incredible 14-point swing in the remaining 90 seconds. On just the third play of the ensuing drive, Anderson notched his second passing touchdown of the day, hitting streaking sophomore receiver Austin Longi for a 54-yard touchdown.

The Fordham defense gathered its third fumble recovery of the game on the first Monmouth play when freshman linebacker Max Roberts gathered up a dropped backwards pass.

The Rams immediately turned that turnover into points, with Edmonds bursting into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and making the score 27-13 Fordham heading into the half. That touchdown was the 49th of his career, moving him past Kirwin Watson and giving him sole possession of the career rushing touchdown record at Fordham.

The swing seemingly put the team back on the right track. “That gave us a huge boost heading into halftime,” said Anderson.

The defense came out strong to start the second half, but after a few missed opportunities by the offense everything started to crumble.

After the Fordham defense forced a three and out to start the half, the teams traded fumbles before the Rams squandered a major opportunity by failing to convert on a fourth and five on the Monmouth 28 yard line.
The Hawks took advantage on the very next play, finding speedy wideout Reggie White, Jr. on a bubble screen for what became a 72-yard footrace to the end zone that White won easily.

That touchdown was the start of a 21-0 run by the Hawks.

They turned another turnover on downs – this time on their 31 – into a touchdown on another Williams to White connection, this time for 18-yards.

With the game tied at 27 with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Rams offense stayed sluggish and went three and out. Much like their first touchdown drives, the Hawks methodically moved the ball downfield, covering 63 yards in 13 plays and, most importantly, using up 6:45 of the clock. They punched it in from the nine with Ed Royd and take a 34-27 lead. “As a defense, we lost focus,” said Ham.

With their backs against the wall and reeling from ineffectiveness on both sides of the ball, the Rams finally woke up thanks to their star running back.

With less than three minutes left on the clock, Anderson handed the ball off to Edmonds, who seemed to be bottled up just a few yards past the line of scrimmage. However, he worked his way out of trouble and then bowled over a Monmouth defender in the open field to spring loose. He got a block downfield and found his way into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown that tied the game right back up. It was a huge shot in the arm for the Rams.

“He’s obviously a tremendous player,” said Breiner of Edmonds. “A guy that, when you need a big play at the end, he’s able to dial one up.”

The defense used the energy from the huge run to get a similarly huge stop, forcing a Monmouth punt with 1:40 left on the clock and a tied game. The Rams were in trouble twice, but Anderson made use of his feet both times to give the Rams a shot at the win, including a 20-yard scamper with a video game spin to put the Rams on the Monmouth 30 with five seconds remaining.

“We fought. We were down late and we didn’t put our heads down,” said Breiner. “We got back and tied the score and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end with the long field goal attempt.”

Senior kicker Makay Redd came on for the 47-yard attempt but would mishit the ball, sending it too low and too far right and sending the game to overtime.

The Hawks won the toss and chose to play defense first. Once again Edmonds stepped up, punching the ball into the end zone after a long completion to Longi put the Rams on the two. All the pressure was now on the Fordham defense that had struggled mightily but looked stout in the final moments of regulation.

Unfortunately for Fordham, the momentum did not carry to overtime. The Hawks scored just as easily as the Rams, and then decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win. With three receivers bunched on the right, Williams dropped back to pass. To the dismay of the Fordham faithful, White was somehow left wide open for an easy conversion and the 42-41 win. “We went with a man coverage and obviously we cut somebody loose,” said Breiner.

Ham further elaborated, saying, “We just didn’t communicate with each other.”

With the loss, the Rams are now 2-2 heading into their first Patriot League game against Lafayette.
“Once it comes down to conference play, in the Patriot League, it’s almost like you could lose all your non-conference games,” Anderson said. “When you play in conference, any team can beat any team.”

“This week is a big week for us as we enter league play,” said Ham. “These games are more important than anything because it can determine our postseason play.”

The Rams will take on the Leopards at Jack Coffey Field at 1 p.m. this Saturday.

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