Fordham Drops to 1-7 After Loss to Lafayette

Freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat threw two second-half interceptions in Saturday's loss to Lafayette. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat threw two second-half interceptions in Saturday's loss to Lafayette. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

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Freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat threw two second-half interceptions in Saturday’s loss to Lafayette. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

By Jimmy Sullivan

The rain and wind cranked all afternoon at Jack Coffey Field on Saturday as the Fordham Rams lost 21-13 to Lafayette and fell to 1-7 on the season.

The weather was a big part of the story in this one, as cold temperatures, a driving rain and a howling wind made playing conditions difficult. The wind consistently blew towards Keating Hall, and the rain caused various puddles to form on the artificial surface.

The weather had an effect on both offenses; Lafayette kept it on the ground for 58 of its 67 offensive plays, and both teams combined for just 164 yards through the air.

“It was really very frustrating,” Fordham head coach Joe Conlin said of his offense’s second-half performance. “We had a couple opportunities to make plays, and we didn’t. We had dropped balls, we cut guys loose in protection and things like that.”

Fordham didn’t gain much traction with its first drive of the afternoon, and the Rams went four yards in the wrong direction in three plays. Lafayette got a penalty-induced first down on the next possession, but the Rams stopped the Leopards on fourth-and-two from Fordham’s 38-yard-line. The next two possessions ended in punts, and Fordham eventually got possession with under five minutes left in the first quarter and still no points on the scoreboard.

Fordham finally got something going on its next possession. The Rams converted on a fourth down play with Naim Mayfield running it up the middle, and on the next play, which was also the first of the second quarter, freshman quarterback Tim DeMorat hit sophomore wideout Hunter Harris over the middle for 20 yards. Two plays later, DeMorat connected with senior tight end Isaiah Searight for an eight-yard score to give Fordham a 7-0 lead with 13:51 left in the second quarter.

Lafayette had an answer on its next drive, however.

The Leopards kept it exclusively on the ground for eight plays and 75 yards on a drive that eventually ended in a Selwyn Simpson 38-yard touchdown scamper. Prior to that drive, quarterback Sean O’Malley was one-for-four with just five passing yards. Simpson’s second touchdown in as many weeks tied the game at seven with 9:48 to go in the half.

Fordham’s next drive lasted just three plays and started inauspiciously with a Dylan Mabin fumble on the kickoff. However, sophomore punter Andrew Mevis flipped the field with a 66-yard punt that stopped dead outside Lafayette’s goal line. Two plays later, Noah Fitzgerald recovered a Lafayette fumble four yards outside the end zone, and Fordham’s offense converted with a four-yard touchdown pass from DeMorat to senior Austin Longi. After a botched extra point, the Rams led 13-7 with 7:51 left in the first half.

The next three drives finished in three-and-outs as the rain and wind continued to wreak havoc on the playing conditions. On a Fordham drive that started with 2:52 left in the half, Tim DeMorat struggled to handle a snap from the shotgun. Even though the officials ruled that DeMorat recovered the fumble, the call was changed on review, and Lafayette got possession at Fordham’s 39 with 99 seconds left in the first half. After three straight runs, the Leopards kept it on the ground for fourth-and-short, and the Leopards turned fourth down into a home run as C.J. Amill broke free for a 31-yard touchdown scamper. Lafayette took a 14-13 lead late in the half, and that would be the score heading into the locker room. But despite being outgained 150-88 and 145-(-15) on the ground, the Rams were only down by one.

After halftime, Lafayette converted on a fourth-and-one around midfield but could not do any more. Jacob Bissell’s fourth punt of the day rolled to the three-yard line before the Leopards special teams unit downed it. Fordham didn’t get anything going and punted after three plays.

Selwyn Simpson started the next drive from the Lafayette 45 with a 51-yard run down the right sideline all the way down to the Fordham four-yard-line. Simpson got two more runs on the drive, and he punched the last one into the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon with 8:26 to play in the third quarter; that score made it 21-13 Lafayette.

The next four drives after Simpson’s touchdown all culminated in punts. Lafayette kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground, and while the offense had its ups and downs, the strategy seemed to work.

Fordham’s first possession of the fourth quarter did not go smoothly. Naim Mayfield went down trying to make a block in pass protection, and DeMorat nearly hit Hunter Harris with a deep ball over the middle before a Lafayette defender broke it up. Lafayette’s next drive featured more of the same; penalties, rushing plays and a drive-ending punt.

“I thought we did a better job of getting off of blocks,” Conlin said of his defense’s second-half performance against the Leopards’ rushing attack. “I thought our secondary did a better job of coming up and filling in than they did in the first half.”

DeMorat’s first throw of the next possession was intercepted by Lafayette corner Eric Mitchell. Lafayette actually threw it twice on the next possession, but once again punted on Fordham’s end of the field. The Rams got it back with 6:34 to go; the team needed 90 yards and a two-point conversion to tie the game.

But, following a common theme for the Fordham offense, the Rams could not get anything going. After a completion to Searight on first down, which was the freshman’s second completion of the second half, DeMorat was sacked on second and threw an incompletion on third, leading to a punt inside Fordham’s end zone.

Lafayette could have ended the game with points on the next drive, which looked promising after C.J. Amill picked up a first down to the Fordham 25. However, the drive stalled, and kicker Jeffrey Kordenbrock missed on an ugly field goal attempt from 46 yards to keep the Rams alive.

DeMorat started the next drive with completions to seniors Jonathan Lumley and Austin Longi, but the team was pushed back by a false start by freshman Phil Saleh. Running back Tyriek Hopkins then made the most of a swing pass and got the Rams down to the Leopards’ 42. On second down, DeMorat tried to force a pass to Jonathan Lumley over the middle into double coverage.

It did not work.

The freshman was intercepted by junior defensive end Keith Earle with under two minutes left to seal the deal for the Leopards, who took three kneel-downs to ice the game after the pick. The loss sent Fordham to 1-7 overall and 1-2 in the Patriot League, which means that the Rams will be fighting for their conference lives next week when they take on league-leading Colgate. A loss eliminates them from conference title contention.

“We need to take what is given to us,” Conlin says. “We got the easy throws we gotta make, and we gotta do a better job of maintaining our blocks, and we obviously have to protect the quarterback better.”

DeMorat was sacked four times on the afternoon, and the offensive line struggled like it has all season long. The freshman was pressured for most of the afternoon and was not afforded the adequate time to throw.

“If you give up a sack late, it’s not a big deal, but if guys get through right now and immediately get in the quarterback’s vision, it kind of just screws everything up,” Conlin said.

Fordham’s rushing offense, which has shown signs of improvement the past few weeks, took a major step back on Saturday as it went for -20 net yards if you include DeMorat’s sacks. Mayfield and Hopkins combined for just 25 rushing yards on 13 attempts, and the Lafayette defense did not give the tandem any room to run.

With Saturday’s loss, Fordham will need a miracle just to have a chance at winning the Patriot League. The team that was projected to finish second in the conference before the season now has its backs firmly against the wall, and the Rams face a must-win game against Colgate next Saturday.

Fordham is trying to salvage something from what may be about to become a lost season. To do that, they’ll first have to beat the best team in the Patriot League. The wind will not be at their backs.