Originally published in The Fordham Ram on November 19, 2016.
It is all in the hands of the FCS Playoff Selection Committee now. With a 36-22 victory over the Bucknell Bison, Fordham Football’s season record now sits at 8-3. The Committee will announce the field on Sunday at 11 a.m., and while Fordham certainly has a chance of sneaking in as one of the lower seeds, it will need a lot of help from other teams.
But before they could worry about their competition for a postseason spot, the Rams had to take care of business outside of the Bronx, something they had yet to do under first-year head coach Andrew Breiner. Their three losses — against Navy, Monmouth and Lehigh — all came on the road (last week’s win against Holy Cross was technically a road game as well). Additionally, the Rams were without two of their biggest playmakers, as sophomore receiver Corey Caddle and graduate student linebacker David Barletta were both out with injuries.
Bucknell came into this game as the antithesis of Fordham Football. The Bison were giving up the fewest total yards per game and the second-fewest rushing yards and points per game, and they were also ranked ninth in the country in time of possession. Everything pointed to a grind-it-out kind of game, which goes in the face of Fordham’s explosive offense.
All of this made it incredibly important for the Rams to set the tone early, and they did not disappoint. A long return on the opening kickoff from senior return man and defensive back Jihaad Pretlow put the Rams on the Bucknell 39-yard line. The offense worked its way into the end zone via seven plays, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown reception by sophomore receiver Austin Longi from senior quarterback Kevin Anderson.
The Fordham defense clearly came out to play, which they did not do in their last true road game at Lehigh. Bucknell barely crossed midfield on its first drive of the game and had to punt.
The Rams’ next drive lasted exactly one play. Anderson tried to complete one of the quick outs that have become a staple of the Fordham offense this year, but the Bison had clearly done their homework. Safety Bret Berg stepped right in front of the pass and returned it 12 yards into the end zone to tie the game up at seven.
The Rams took the mistake in stride on their next drive, continuing to go with an air attack. Two long completions to sophomore tight end Isaiah Searight (21 yards) and Longi (14 yards) and a couple of Edmonds runs had the Rams threatening on the Bucknell 20. However, two sacks and an incomplete pass left Fordham facing fourth-and-18 on the Bucknell 28, so senior kicker Makay Redd came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt. Abdullah Anderson of the Bison found his way to the ball, blocking the kick away and keeping the score tied.
The next two Bison drives were three-and-outs, with an ineffective Fordham drive that also resulted in a punt sandwiched between them. After the second Bison three-and-out, the Rams reached the red zone again after an 18-yard completion to Longi set them up on the Bucknell 13. Two incomplete passes and a short Edmonds run later, Redd was called on, this time for a 27-yard attempt. Once again, the kick was blocked. It looked as though Redd kicked the ball at too low of an angle, allowing Abdullah to get a hand on it for a second time.
Luckily for the Rams, their defense continued to bail them out and keep the game tied. After yet another three-and-out for the Bison, the Rams finally managed to take advantage of the defense’s stellar performance. After taking over on their own 34, an 18-yard rush and 19-yard reception for Edmonds put the Rams on the Bucknell 29. They eventually worked the ball down to the 4-yard line, where Edmonds punched it in for six, as well as his 60th career touchdown. Sophomore kicker Alejandro Cardenas replaced Redd for the extra point, which he drilled to put the Rams up 14-7.
The next drive for Bucknell once again ended in a punt, this time from the Fordham 29-yard line. It was a fourth-and-21, so going for it was out of the question, and the Bisons’ starting kicker, John Burick, went down with an injury earlier this season, so it seemed as though head coach Jeff Susan was reluctant to send an inexperienced kicker out for a 46-yard attempt. Luckily for Bucknell, Berg — the safety who picked off Anderson — has done well since being impressed into the punter position, and the ball was downed on the 1.
The ball being down on the 1-yard line immediately turned into a safety, as Anderson bobbled the shotgun snap and then fell in the back of the end zone, giving the Bison two points and the ball back.
As the story of the game went, Bucknell’s post-safety possession was just another three-and-out. Anderson and the Rams then finally found the end zone again on a rainbow pass to senior receiver Robbie Cantelli for a 74-yard score. The ball traveled around 30 to 35 yards in the air. That touchdown brought the score to 21-9, where it remained at the half.
The Bison finally achieved success against the Rams on the opening drive of the second half, completing multiple long passes and eventually finding themselves on the goal line, where they scored after a fumble by running back Chad Freshnock was recovered in the end zone.
The next two drives for both sides were ineffective, with a turnover on downs and a punt for the Rams and another three-and-out and another punt for Bucknell.
When the Rams got the ball back with a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, it became the Chase Edmonds show. He toted the rock for 24 yards to open the drive, followed by two more gains of six and 12. After a 33-yard completion to Cantelli put the Rams inside the Bison red zone, Edmonds punched in his second score of the day from the 1-yard line. A two-point conversion completion to Searight put Fordham up 29-15 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bison worked their way into Fordham territory on the next drive, but strong defense and an offensive holding penalty resulted in a turnover on downs. After the Rams punted the ball back, Bucknell made a late attempt to make it a game.
The Bison pulled off a 10-play, 58-yard drive that burned 4:29 off the clock, finishing with a touchdown to make it a one-score game. Quarterback John Chiarolanzio completed three passes of over 10 yards and capped the drive with a 1-yard rush up the middle to make it 29-22 with 2:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After the onside kick failed, it looked as though the Rams would be content to run out the clock with Edmonds. He had different plans, however, ripping off a 44-yard rush to the left side all the way down to the Bucknell 3-yard line. Two plays later, he was in the end zone for the third time on the day to bring the score to the final of 36-22.
While the Rams may not make the playoffs, they will at the very least walk away with an 8-3 record, 5-1 in the Patriot League, in Breiner’s first season as head coach.
- Edmonds finished the day with 181 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. If today ends up as Fordham’s final game, he will finish the season with 1,799 yards and 19 touchdowns.
- Anderson was 17 for 32 for 327 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. The pick-six was Anderson’s first interception since the Oct. 8 game against Lafayette.
- Longi led all Fordham receivers with eight catches for 114 yards and one touchdown. It was his second 100-yard game in a row.
- The Rams put up 500 yards of total offense despite Bucknell’s defensive reputation and dominant time of possession (34:36 of the 60 minutes).
- Fordham’s defense held Bucknell to just 275 yards, including five three-and-outs.