With Nebrich Injured, Maetzold Leads Fordham to Wild Win Over Bucknell

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Peter Maetzold assumed the quarterback duties after Michael Nebrich was forced from the game with a knee injury. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

By DAN GARTLAND

EXECUTIVE SPORTS EDITOR

Over the course of this historic season, Fordham has had more impressive wins than its 23-21 victory over Bucknell on Saturday afternoon, but none more nerve-racking.

The first bit of drama occurred in the first quarter, when star quarterback Michael Nebrich left with an injury. He went back to the locker room and emerged in the second quarter wearing a track suit, making it clear his day was done.

Without Nebrich, the quarterback duties fell to junior Peter Maetzold.

Peter Maetzold assumed the quarterback duties after Michael Nebrich was forced from the game with a knee injury. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

Peter Maetzold assumed the quarterback duties after Michael Nebrich was forced from the game with a knee injury. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

“You really never know when your number’s going to be called, in a backup role like that,” Maetzold said. “You’re just thinking, ‘Fall back on your preparation and what Coach told you on the headset and what he told you throughout the whole week.’ You just got to calm down and remember what your coaching is.”

Maetzold did a fine job in relief of Nebrich, completing 21 of 35 passes for 318 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His numbers were not quite as gaudy as the ones Nebrich had been putting up this season but were still quite good, especially considering he had not seen extensive action since his freshman season, and does not take as many reps in practice as the starters do.

Maetzold’s performance may have surprised some, but not Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead.

“Not many people are privy to what goes on in our preseason camp, but Peter was absolutely lights out in our preseason camp and did an unbelievable job, so we had the utmost confidence in him,” Moorhead said.

Moorhead was also impressed with Maetzold’s ability to stay calm.

“One of Peter’s biggest strengths — aside from his physical tools — is he has a very even-keeled demeanor,” he said. “You talk about never be too high, never be too low, stay on the same plane, and I think that’s one of the positive things that he was able to do throughout the game. Throughout the good plays, throughout the negative plays, he was able to maintain an even disposition and lead us to a lot of second half points.”

As a freshman in 2011, Maetzold started four games, before losing the starting job to Ryan Higgins, GSB ’13, who was a junior at the time.

“I like to think so, but that was two years ago,” Maetzold said when asked if he relied on that experience to help him on Saturday. “I guess you take everything with you, so I know what it’s like to play in the Patriot League against a big opponent, so I felt pretty ready…. When you get a couple plays under your belt, it’s just playing football again.”

But Nebrich’s departure was not nearly as unnerving as the game’s frantic finish.

With 55 seconds left, Fordham lined up in the so-called “victory formation” to take a knee and let the clock run out. Bucknell had only one timeout, so if Fordham kneeled the ball three times, the Bison would be unable to get it back. Instead, Bucknell overpowered the Fordham offensive line and forced junior quarterback Maetzold to fumble. Bucknell recovered and all of a sudden the Bison had new life.

“Did we just lose the game because of that?” Maetzold said he was thinking after the play.

It is a play rarely seen in football. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano once infamously attempted the play only to fail and draw criticism for turning a fairly routine play into a potentially dangerous one. It is worth noting that Bucknell head coach Joe Susan served under Schiano as an assistant at Rutgers.

“It was good coaching by those guys,” Moorhead said. “We had not seen that on film. They played that play harder than we did and they won the play… They played that play hard and my hat’s off to them for getting the ball back.”

Five plays later, Bucknell was at the Fordham 34. Brandon Wesley, the Bucknell quarterback, looked deep left for receiver Josh Brake. The ball was underthrown, but Fordham’s Ian Williams drew a questionable flag for pass interference, setting up Bucknell in field goal range at the Fordham 19.

On the next play, Wesley ran to his right to set the ball up in the middle of the field, hoping to make the field goal attempt easier for kicker Derek Maurer. With eight seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Bucknell needed to spike the ball to stop the clock. Wesley took the snap but never appeared to have full control of the ball before it hit the ground. It could have easily been ruled a fumble. The play could have also been impacted by a new NCAA rule which states that a spike must occur with at least three seconds on the clock. As pointed out by WFUV’s Mike Watts, the tape shows that the ball had not been snapped by the time the clock hit three seconds. Moorhead ran about 30 yards onto the field to argue with the referees.

“I certainly have my interpretation of the rule, and what occurred, and what I saw, but at the end of the day we found a way to overcome it,” he said.

After the spike, Bucknell lined up for a 37-yard field goal with two seconds on the clock and the Bison down 23-21.

Maurer had missed a 31-yard attempt earlier in the game. His longest career field goal is 38 yards, and he has not attempted one longer than 41 yards, so the 37-yard attempt was on the edge of his range.

His kick was a low, driving one and Williams and Jordan Chapman were able to jump up and block it to preserve Fordham’s perfect season and send the capacity crowd at Jack Coffey Field into a frenzy.

The play was a microcosm of what worked for Fordham all day:  The Rams’ defense and special teams repeatedly came up with big plays.

“Our defense and special teams were able to step up big,” Moorhead said. “I said it in the locker room after the game: Our offense is the unit that gets the most accolades and the most praise, but on a day where we weren’t necessarily firing on all cylinders offensively, the defense and special teams played lights out.”

The win gave Fordham its first 10-win season since 2002. At 10-0, the Rams have two games remaining: this week at Lafayette, and the following week at Colgate. The Leopards are 3-6, while the Raiders are 4-6.