Lafayette Hands Fordham Its First Loss of the Season

Peter+Maetzold+got+the+start+at+quarterback+due+to+Michael+Nebrich%E2%80%99s+knee+injury.+He+threw+four+interceptions+in+the+loss.+%28Photo+by+Michael+Rezin%2FThe+Ram%29

Peter Maetzold got the start at quarterback due to Michael Nebrich’s knee injury. He threw four interceptions in the loss. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

Peter Maetzold got the start at quarterback due to Michael Nebrich’s knee injury. He threw four interceptions in the loss. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

Peter Maetzold got the start at quarterback due to Michael Nebrich’s knee injury. He threw four interceptions in the loss. (Photo by Michael Rezin/The Ram)

By DAN GARTLAND

EXECUTIVE SPORTS EDITOR

On the way to compiling a 10-0 record, Fordham had some tremendous upsets, with wins over No. 8 Villanova, an FBS-level Temple team and No. 10 Lehigh. But the Rams had the tables turned on them on Saturday afternoon, falling to Lafayette, 27-14.

Fordham was without its star quarterback, redshirt sophomore Michael Nebrich, who suffered a knee injury in the Rams’ narrow victory over Bucknell last week. Nebrich was in uniform, with the conspicuous addition of a bulky knee brace. He warmed up with the team, but spent the game confined to the sidelines, holding onto a towel slung over his shoulders.

Junior Peter Maetzold started in place of Nebrich, making his first start since Oct. 1, 2011. Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead said Nebrich was available “for emergency purposes only” and would have only seen the field if Maetzold suffered an injury.

Maetzold looked strong in relief of Nebrich against Bucknell, but struggled Saturday against Lafayette. He completed a mediocre 22 of 39 passes for 305 yards. He also threw four interceptions, including three unlucky ones which bounced off his receivers’ hands and into the arms of Lafayette defenders.

“Overall, I saw what we expected,” Maetzold said of the Leopards’ defense. “A lot of the mistakes were just execution errors. They did mix it up, though, with a couple new blitzes.”

Fordham had five turnovers overall, but also forced four Lafayette turnovers. When the Rams did force takeaways, though, they could not turn them into points.

Maetzold was asked to pass the ball often, because the Lafayette defense made it difficult for Fordham to run. Redshirt senior running back Carlton Koonce only had 17 carries for 92 yards.

“I would have liked to have run the ball more, but some of the things that they do with pressures — in the numbers and the angles and where they bring them — it makes it difficult to run the ball successfully,” Moorhead said. “Obviously, with Carlton, we would have liked to have seen him with more than 17 carries. You only have a certain number of blockers to cover up the people on these blitzes, so we had to throw the ball a little more than we would have liked.”

Fordham’s defense was gashed on the ground (245 yards rushing allowed) but came up with big plays when necessary, only to see the offense squander the opportunities it was given.

“Offensively, we didn’t capitalize on our possessions,” Moorhead said. “The defense did a good job, particularly in the early stages of the second half, getting some three-and-outs and getting off the field and giving the offense an opportunity to get the ball in decent field position. We just weren’t able to move the ball effectively into scoring position and capitalize on those opportunities.”

The loss casts a certain amount of doubt on Fordham’s postseason chances. The Rams are ineligible for the Patriot League championship, and the automatic playoff bid that accompanies it, because they began offering athletic scholarships before the rest of the league. Now must hope to secure one of the 13 at-large bids to the FCS playoffs.

“My comment to the team after the game was, ‘Things that we want to accomplish as a team are still in front of us,’” Moorhead said.

Fordham is ranked 12th in the latest poll from The Sports Network, and 11th in the FCS coaches’ poll, after having been ranked fifth in both polls last week. The Sports Network projects the Rams to earn a spot in the playoffs and play their first-round game at home.

Before the team can worry about the postseason, though, it must first set its sights on Colgate. Fordham travels to take on the defending conference champion Raiders this Saturday. If the Rams lose, all hope of a playoff berth is almost certainly lost. A win does not guarantee a playoff spot, but it would be hard for the selection committee to ignore an 11-1 team with three marquee victories.

“To us, it’s a one-game season to see if we earn another game,” Moorhead said. “I feel confident in what we’ve done. We’re 10-1 with the opportunity to be 11-1. The only thing we can control is how we prepare this week and how we play against Colgate. If we’re fortunate enough to win, then hopefully the body of work we put together is good enough to earn us a postseason bid.”

Still, a 10-1 record is quite impressive for a team that was 1-10 only two years ago.

“It shows how far we’ve come as a program that we’re stinging after a loss, but we’re still 10-1,” Moorhead said. “They should never accept losing, and it should never feel good, but there’s only a certain amount you can beat yourself up about it.”