By Anthony Pucik
After a close loss to No. 2 ranked Villanova at home last weekend, the Fordham Football team welcomed back its alumni, as well as members of the Fire Department of New York, for Homecoming and the 14th annual Liberty Cup matchup with the Columbia Lions. The matchup remembers over 80 Fordham and Columbia alumni who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and has been a tradition ever since. Adorned in jerseys with the American flag on the shoulder pads and helmets with FDNY, New York City Police Department and Port Authority Police Department on the back nameplates, the Rams were able to retain the Liberty Cup for a sixth straight season in what could be the final time the two face off in a 44-24 victory.
“I tip my hat to coach [Al] Bagnoli and his staff,” head coach Joe Moorhead said. “Columbia is a much improved football team. They did some very good things on both sides of the ball.”
Junior quarterback Kevin Anderson started the game off on a sour note with his first interception of the season, but a missed 41-yd field goal by Lions kicker Cameron Nizialek kept the game scoreless. Anderson redeemed himself two possessions later when he hit senior tight end Phazahn Odom for a 28-yd touchdown pass to put the Rams up 7-0.
The Lions got on the board in the second when junior transfer quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, out of the University of Florida, completed a 12-yd touchdown pass to junior Cameron Dunn to tie the score. Fordham responded on the next possession when freshman Austin Longi caught an Anderson pass from three yards out to put the Rams back up seven. A 31-yard field goal from Nizialek brought Columbia back to within four, but a last minute drive from Fordham ended in an incredible one-handed touchdown catch from junior Robbie Cantelli that gave Fordham a 21-10 lead heading into the half.
“It was an awesome play,” Anderson said. “I had to lead him a lot more than I’d like to and I kinda missed my spot. That was all Robbie Cantelli.”
The Rams got on the board first in the second half when sophomore running back Chase Edmonds broke a 73-yd run down to the Lion one yard line on the first play from scrimmage, and then punched it in for the touchdown to make it 28-10 Fordham. Columbia quickly responded with a 98-yd kick return touchdown from junior Alan Watson to cut the Rams lead to 11. The Lions were the next to score after a 15 play, 80-yd drive ended in a Mornhinweg one-yard touchdown run, making it 28-24 Fordham.
In the fourth, the Rams scored on their first drive when Anderson found Edmonds in the end zone from three yards out, but a missed extra point from junior Makay Redd kept the lead at 10 for Fordham. After a defensive stop, Fordham scored through the air again, this one a 41-yd touchdown to Odom to make it 41-24. A Redd 34-yd field goal late in the fourth gave Fordham a 20-point lead that they would not relinquish. An interception by junior Marcus Fulmore sealed the victory for the Rams with 2:09 to play in regulation, and Fordham retained the Liberty Cup and improved to 2-1 on the season. Since Moorhead took over the program three years ago, Fordham has not lost two games in a row.
Anderson’s early interception was his only mistake, as he went 22-30 on the day for 330 yards and five touchdowns, while also adding 70 yards on the ground. The performance earned Anderson Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“Kevin did a great job,” Moorhead said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic, a great skill set and when you combine great preparation with great effort and execute well, these are the kind of days we’re capable of seeing.”
Edmonds got off to a slow start, but picked it up in the second half and ended with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown, along with 45 receiving yards and a touchdown. Mornhinweg looked extremely comfortable behind center for the Lions as well. Splitting time with sophomore Anders Hill, Mornhinweg was 21-25 for 187 yards and picked up two touchdowns on the ground.
Bob Ahrens, executive producer of WFUV Sports, was the honorary coach for the game and was given the game ball, the first honorary coach in three years to receive the honor.
Despite the victory, there was some concerning news on the Fordham side. Senior guard Garrick Mayweather was slow to get up early in the first quarter of the game due to a lower leg injury and did not return, but was seen testing the injury out on the sidelines throughout the game. Sophomore safety Caleb Ham was also injured in the game and did not return.
Fordham moved up two spots in the FCS Coaches’ Poll to 16 in the country after the victory. The Rams look to make it two in a row when they host Monmouth University on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1 p.m.