Bronx, N.Y. – The Fordham football Rams defeated Holy Cross 24 to 21 on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Jack Coffey Field on the Rose Hill campus. With the win, Fordham clinched a tie for the Patriot League crown and the team moves on to its second ever NCAA FCS playoff, the first since 2002.
The Rams, undefeated in their previous five games, took the lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it, much to the delight of a standing-room-only crowd of 8,300 (Fordham’s largest crowd on the NCAA FCS level), at Coffey Field. Rams sophomore James Crockett sealed the Crusaders’ fate when he intercepted the ball at the Fordham 20 with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The Rams’ win put the team at 8-2 overall on the year, a perfect 5-0 in the Patriot League, while Holy Cross fall to 6-3 overall, 3-1 in the conference. The Rams also regained possession of the Ram-Crusader Cup after losing it to Holy Cross following last year’s loss. Fordham has now won six of the last seven match-ups with the Crusaders.
The game featured the top two offenses in the Patriot League but it turned into a defensive battle, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Noel, which brought gusty winds to Jack Coffey Field.
“I told the TV guys during the week that it wouldn’t be a high scoring game,” said Fordham head coach Tom Masella. “We run very similar offenses and so our defenses are used to it. And it was also hard to throw the ball with the high winds today.”
The Rams countered the winds with a strong running game, led by senior running back Jonte Coven, who gained a career-high 167 yards on 29 carries, including a 61-yard touchdown run.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for four years,” said Coven. “And now that it’s here it’s a phenomenal feeling.”
The Rams got on the board first, taking over for their first possession, following a Holy Cross punt, on their own 28. Four plays later, Coven turned the left side and raced 61 yards to the end zone and a 7-0 Fordham lead 2:22 into the contest.
Later in the quarter, Fordham took over on its own 28 following a punt and three straight runs by Xavier Martin netted 46 yards, putting the ball on the Holy Cross 26. On the next play, John Skelton found Cody Kritzer with a pass on the ten and Kritzer took it in for a 14-0 Ram lead with two seconds left in the first.
The Crusaders got on the board midway through the second quarter, covering 66 yards on five plays with Randolph hooking up with Ryan Maher on a short pass that Maher turned into a 30-yard scoring play with 7:43 remaining in the half.
The game would remain 14-7 until the Rams lined up to punt from midfield in the third quarter. Josh Jenkins attempted to field the punt on the Holy Cross four but he fumbled the ball into the end zone where Crockett fell on it for a 21-7 Fordham advantage with 4:18 left in the third.
Holy Cross answered immediately, covering 64 yards on six plays with Randolph finding McDermott in the front corner of the end zone to cut the Crusaders’ deficit back to seven, 21-14, with 2:32 left in the third.
The Rams took a 24-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter as Adam Danko connected on a 32-yard field goal with 6:30 remaining, capping a 13-play, 61-yard drive for the Rams that ate up 6:21 on the clock. Fordham converted on three third downs on the drive before it was halted on the Holy Cross 14.
Holy Cross responded quickly, moving 60 yards on seven plays with Dominic Randolph connecting with Brett McDermott on a two-yard scoring strike with 4:06 left to make it a 24-21 game. Randolph completed all six of his pass attempts on the drive for 51 yards and he rushed for the other nine.
Following the ensuing kickoff, the Rams took over on their own 21 with three straight Coven carries picking up nine yards as the Rams faced a fourth and one from their own 29. After a Holy Cross timeout, Skelton kept on a quarterback sneak, picking up two yards and a first down. On the next play, Coven took a handoff outside and fumbled, but the ball went out of bounds before Holy Cross could gain possession.
The Fordham drive stalled two plays later and the Rams punted the ball back to Holy Cross with 1:26 remaining and the Crusaders out of timeouts.
Randolph moved the Crusaders down to the Fordham 42, completing a big third and ten pass from the Holy Cross 45, before he had a pass picked off by Fordham’s James Crockett on the Fordham 20 with ten seconds left. It was just the sixth interception thrown by Randolph this year.
Crockett led the Fordham defense with seven tackles, four solo, including one for a loss and two pass deflections, while Earl Hudnell also came up with seven stops, four solo, including three for a loss.
The Rams will next be in action on Saturday, Nov. 17, as they close out the regular season with a Patriot League match-up against Bucknell on Jack Coffey Field at 1 p.m.