Rams Clinch Patriot League Title In Thrilling Win Over Bucknell

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Rams Clinch Patriot League Title In Thrilling Win Over Bucknell

Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

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Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

Senior quarterback Peter Maetzold threw for 284 yards and two touchdown in the Rams’ win. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

By Max Prinz

It is a long road back to the top.

For the first time since 2007, the Fordham Rams are Patriot League Champions.

The Rams defeated Bucknell 30-27 in overtime last Friday night when senior quarterback Peter Maetzold connected with his classmate Tebucky Jones for a 10-yard touchdown pass to clinch the team’s first league championship in seven years.

“It was probably a combination of excitement and relief,” coach Moorhead said of the thrilling victory. “I was proud of what these kids have been able to do in a three-year span, to go from 1-10 to one of the top 10 teams in the country and Patriot League champion, speaks volumes of their character, their resolve and their ability to handle adversity.”

Fordham also assured itself of a second consecutive playoff appearance, clinching an automatic bid in the F.C.S. playoffs as the winner of the Patriot League. For Moorhead’s team to reach these heights just three years removed from a 1-10 season is remarkable.

“At the very first team meeting we talked about [how] we wanted to win a national championship, and win the Patriot League,” Moorhead said. “I think these kids really bought into that and got it turned around.”

“We didn’t talk about what had happened in the past,” he added. “We talked about what we wanted to build the program on and building a foundation.”

In their first overtime contest under Moorhead, the Rams looked prepared and confident. Bucknell got the ball first to open the extra period, but the Rams’ defense stood tall, giving up just a four-yard gain, forcing an incomplete pass and registering a sack, to hold the Bison to three points.

The high-powered Fordham offense took over after the field goal, knowing a touchdown would secure a victory. The Rams wasted little time, scoring in just four plays. Maetzold, starting in place of senior Mike Nebrich for the second straight game, found senior Sam Ajala for an 18-yard gain to give the Rams a second and goal on just their second play of the period.

Two plays later, Maetzold took the snap and looked to his left. Jones ran a gorgeous route to the corner of the end zone, completely fooling his defender in the process. Maetzold’s pass was right on the money to give the Rams the win.

Though they emerged victorious, the Rams did not play their best game Friday night. The running game, which has been huge all season, struggled to get going against the Bison.

Chase Edmonds struggled slightly against Bucknell, but still managed to record his ninth 100-yard game of the season. He also finished with two touchdowns. Samuel Joseph/The Ram
Chase Edmonds struggled slightly against Bucknell, but still managed to record his ninth 100-yard game of the season. He also finished with two touchdowns. Samuel Joseph/The Ram

Talented freshman Chase Edmonds finished with 103 yards and two touchdowns, but it took a while for him to get going and, as a result, the Rams were unable to knock Bucknell out of the game. The offensive line struggled in the passing game as well, surrendering six sacks.

The Rams even trailed the Bison at one point Friday night. Although they went into the halftime break with a 17-10 lead, the Rams allowed the Bison to score 14 unanswered points and take a 24-17 lead with 3:15 left to play.

As they have all season, the Rams responded. Maetzold masterfully orchestrated a hurry-up drive to tie the game. The Friendswood, Texas native led the Rams 75 yards in just four plays to knot the score at 24-24 with a little more than a minute left.

The Rams’ ability to respond was something Moorhead said he was very proud of.

“When things were going bad offensively there weren’t guys pointing fingers at each other — it was just ‘Alright, what do we need to do to fix it,’” Moorhead said. “I think a team that’s not built on a solid foundation and isn’t able to battle adversity, that’s a team that isn’t able to drive down and score. It’s about our seniors and the type of culture that these guys have created.”

Now assured of a Patriot League title, the Rams have just two games remaining on their schedule. They will take on Georgetown in their final conference matchup this Saturday, before travelling to take on Army, an FBS team, the following week.

“There are still things these guys want to accomplish,” Moorhead said. “In [the Georgetown game] specifically, an opportunity for our team to be the first [Fordham team] to go undefeated in Patriot League play, a chance for the seniors to be undefeated at home two years in a row.”

A win against the Black Knights could make the Rams more likely to receive a first-round bye and give the team an extra week’s rest.

“We’ll play where they tell us, but obviously to get to the championship it’s a four or five game gauntlet,” Moorhead said. “If we have to play a first round game, we understand it, we did it last year. We’ll let the next two weeks and where the seedings fall dictate what we do in the postseason.”

Saturday’s matchup with Georgetown, the penultimate game of the year, is slated to kick off at 1 p.m.

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Max Prinz is the Assistant Sports Editor for The Fordham Ram.