Rams Shine Under Friday Night Lights, Defeat Lafayette, 42-18

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Rams Shine Under Friday Night Lights, Defeat Lafayette, 42-18

 Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram

Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram

Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram

Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram

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 Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram

Senior Tebucky Jones’s touchdown catch in the second quarter was the top play on Friday night’s SportsCenter. (Samuel Joseph/ The Ram)

By Max Prinz

What a difference a year can make.

Fordham football avenged one of its two losses from a year ago, defeating Lafayette, 42-18. The matchup with the Leopards was Fordham’s first Friday night game since 1976, a fact that was not lost on the crowd at Jack Coffey Field.

The game was also nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network, a fact head coach Joe Moorhead said fired his players up.

“This is the kind of night you dream about,” Moorhead said after the game. “A national-televised game, at home, under the lights against the defending Patriot League champion who ruined our undefeated season last year.”

Senior quarterback Mike Nebrich, who missed last year’s contest against the Leopards due to a knee injury, was a star under the Friday night lights. Nebrich completed 23 of 32 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.

“For me, it was a personal game,” Nebrich said. “They ruined our perfect season last year in a game I didn’t play. It was a game we really wanted and we just went out there and took it.”

Freshman Chase Edmonds continued his own streak of stellar play, rushing for 187 yards and two touchdowns and keeping the Lafayette defense guessing all night long.

The Rams started slow, both offensively and defensively, and were faced with their first deficit since September 6 at Villanova. The Leopards’ third drive was a ten-play, 54-yard field goal scoring drive that out-muscled the Rams’ defense.

Down 3-0, the Fordham offense woke up. The Rams used a penalty, a 20-yard catch-and-run by senior Sam Ajala and a 44-yard touchdown run by Edmonds to gain the lead.

The Rams came right back out on their next offensive drive and drove the down the field for a field goal of their own to take a 10-3 lead. Senior Michael Marando nailed a 36-yard field goal to cap a five-play 21-yard drive.

Nebrich led three more touchdown drives in a 3:38 span before the end of the first half, one to each of his senior receivers. Tebucky Jones’s touchdown was particularly notable. Jones caught the ball and juked a defender out his shoes, a play that top SportsCenter’s Top 10.

Well-executed as they were, none of those touchdown passes was the standout play of the first half. Following the touchdown pass to Jones, the Rams executed a surprise onside kick to get the ball right back to Nebrich. Senior Jordan Chapman made a stunning play, leaping into the air and tossing the ball back in-bounds to his teammate, freshman Caleb Ham. The play visibly frustrated the Leopards and put the game squarely in the Rams’ control.

“Coach Nate Slutzky [special teams coach] said throughout the week that they have a certain look, and we call it kick-pass,” Moorhead said of the onside kick. “He said on the third kickoff we’d like to try to it. He said [Lafayette’s look] was there, so we rolled the dice and it paid off.”

The Leopards, however, refused to lie down. Lafayette rallied in the second half, cutting the deficit to 34-18 and taking advantage of a sputtering Fordham offense.

The Rams snapped out of it in the fourth quarter, scoring once more to put the game out of reach. Just to be safe, Moorhead pulled out a trick play on the two-point conversion. Nebrich handed the ball to Edmonds who, instead of running, tossed it to senior tight end Dan Light.

Nebrich, who started the season slowly, has come alive in recent weeks.

“I think the biggest difference is my preparation,” Nebrich said. “Ever since the Villanova game I’ve been putting in a lot of extra hours in.”

The defense also made a significant contribution to the victory, holding Leopards’ running back Ross Scheuerman to just 39 yards on the ground.

“Our defense has played fantastic for the past four weeks,” Moorhead said. “Stopping this running back on the ground was no small feat. This kid’s an NFL-caliber running back and they do a great job on the ground. It was a Herculean task and the kids really stepped up to the challenge.”

The defense was bolstered by a particularly strong performance from senior Brett Biestek, who finished with four sacks. Biestek, a senior leader, had been quiet statistically in previous games, but broke out in a big way Friday night.

“The plays came tonight,” Biestek said. “The coaches said, ‘Don’t worry you’re not making plays; you will.’ Today I made a couple plays and it really helped the momentum turn, I thought.”

With the win, the Rams improve to 2-0 in the Patriot League, a fact Moorhead said he was proud of.

“There were a lot of things that motivated us for this game, but the most important thing was to get Patriot League win No. 2 and keep our streak rolling at home,” Moorhead said.

Next, the Rams take on UPenn on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m.

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Max Prinz is the Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.