Football Falls to Lehigh in Overtime

Lehigh+and+Fordham+played+a+thriller+on+Saturday%2C+but+it+was+the+road+team+who+got+the+last+laugh+at+Jack+Coffey+Field.+%28Courtesy+of+Fordham+Athletics%29

Lehigh and Fordham played a thriller on Saturday, but it was the road team who got the last laugh at Jack Coffey Field. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Dylan Balsamo, Assistant Sports Editor

Over this season, we have seen Fordham Football grow and improve as a team and a program, even if not every week has resulted in a victory. But at the end of the day, if a team wants to get anywhere, there are some games that they just have to win.

That was the case this weekend in a Saturday afternoon home matchup for the Rams against Lehigh University. It was the Rams’ second game of conference play in the Patriot League in 2019 and their first one in the Bronx at Jack Coffey Field. In a game that saw overtime, Fordham came up short, as the Mountainhawks’ game-winning touchdown left the Rams with a 30–27 home loss.

While Lehigh walked away from the game 3–3 overall and 2–0 in conference play, the Rams finished Saturday looking at a 3–5 overall and 1–1 Patriot League record. Fordham had a very strong game offensively, including 330 yards on the ground, but they also committed 11 penalties. It’s almost possible to win a game when you do that, especially when one of those penalties allowed the Mountain Hawks a new set of downs that handed them a touchdown and the victory.

Before overtime, Fordham and Lehigh were caught in a back-and-forth game that would stand as an adrenaline highlight at both of their respective seasons’ ends.

In a first quarter that resulted in four punts between the two teams, the Mountainhawks got on the board first, at the 8:39 mark quarterback Tyler Monaco’s 10-yard pass to receiver Austin Dambach ended a quick drive that was three plays and under 1:30 to give themselves a 7–0 lead.

Fordham owned most of the second quarter, having two drives of 65 yards or more that resulted in scoring plays. Within the first 30 seconds of the quarter, the Rams’ junior running back Zach Davis, in the middle of a career season, put the cap on a three-minute drive by running 2 yards into the end zone and tying the game for Fordham at 7–7.

On the next drive, Fordham’s junior defensive back Dervin Hylton Jr. picked off a Monaco pass at the Rams’ 12 and gave his squad a chance to get itself on the scoreboard again. Fordham spent the next seven minutes bringing the ball 68 yards downfield, setting up its junior kicker Andrew Mevis to kick a 37-yard field goal and put them on top of the Mountain Hawks 10–7. It was right before the end of the first half, however, that Lehigh’s receiver Devon Bibbins caught a 4-yarder from Monaco and put his team on top of 14–10.

That was the score as the game went to halftime.

On the first drive of the third quarter, Fordham had the ball and made an immediate impact. On the third play of the drive, the Rams were on their own 42 yard line when sophomore quarterback Tim DeMorat took the ball himself and ended up running 58 yards to the end zone, capping off a 70-yard drive in style. The Rams had back the lead at a 17–10 score.

Before quarter three was over, the Mountainhawks finally responded, as their kicker Austin Henning kicked the longest field goal of the day at 45 yards to level the score at 17 before the final 15 minutes of regulation.

After trading punts for the first half of the fourth quarter, Lehigh running back Zaythan Hill earned himself one of the longest runs in school history, going 94 yards on a touchdown run — just 1 yard short of the program record of 95 yards. His score gave his team a 24–17 lead with 9:19 left to play. 

The Rams had a lightning-fast answer, though. Less than two minutes after Hill’s run, junior running back Trey Sneed went on a trot of his own, darting 40 yards to tie the game in dramatic fashion. After that came three more punts. Fordham had the ball in the final seconds and was in field goal range, but was unable to get Mevis the ball to kick in time.

Regulation was over. It was 24–24.

As college football overtime goes, each time started at the opposing 25 with first and 10. Similar to baseball extra innings, after both teams have had a chance to score, the team with the highest score wins.

The Rams had the ball first.

Fordham put itself in position, and, on fourth down, Mevis footed a 21-yarder through the uprights that put Fordham on top 27–24.

Next, it was Lehigh’s turn. A turnover would mean a Fordham win. A field goal would mean a second overtime. A touchdown gives the Mountainhawks the victory.

Lehigh itself got in position on fourth down, and Henning’s kick was good to send the game to what would seem like double overtime.

Then the flag came.

The Rams had been called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty. Lehigh got to go half the distance to the goal, and they had a new set of downs.

On second and goal at the 4, the Mountainhawks brought in their backup quarterback Addison Shoup, who nailed a 4-yard pass to his right for Bibbens in the end zone.

Game over.

It’s the kind of loss that really stings considering how many standouts Fordham had. Davis had more than 100 yards rushing by the end of the first half, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and the sixth of his career. Not to mention that Sneed ran for 69, and DeMorat, along with his 169 passing yards, also used his 54-yard touchdown yards to total 80 on the ground for the afternoon. The defense saw its usual stars of junior linebacker Glenn Cunningham and sophomore linebacker Ryan Greenhagen shine, but sophomore defensive back Anthony Tony-Itoyah had total sacks, seven of them unassisted. His teammate junior defensive lineman Ellis Taylor had two sacks among his 3.5 tackles for loss.

But that is not enough to defeat the performances that the Mountainhawks put up on Saturday: the 262 yards thrown by Monaco, the 128 yards run by Hill, the six sacks totalled by the Lehigh defense and the receiving performances of Bibbins (who had 83 yards) and Alex Snyder (who put up 128 of his own).

At least Fordham did not put up enough against Lehigh to make up for the 11 penalties they committed, and especially not the dealbreaker in overtime.

“A heartbreaking loss,” head coach Joe Conlin said of the game. “I thought the kids played their hearts out. We just didn’t play smart football, and obviously, that comes on the coaching staff… We gotta put our kids in a better position to be successful.”

The Rams will have some time to recover from the emotional turmoil of such a loss, as next week is their bye week. They have four games remaining in their season, the next one being a trip to Pennsylvania on Nov. 2 for a date with the Lafayette College Leopards at their home of Fisher Stadium at 12:30 p.m. 

Fordham is 1–1 in the Patriot League with four games to go and will need to come out of this bye week ready for a fate-deciding stretch.