Bronx, N.Y. – It was a study of two diverse football programs. One is one of the oldest in the NCAA, playing its first game over 125 years ago. The other is brand new, reinstating a program this fall after dropping the sport in 1940. One is led by a senior quarterback who has set every school passing record. The other by a redshirt sophomore who is playing in his fifth NCAA game. But the football Gods have a way of leveling the playing field as the old, Fordham, had to mount a late comeback to upend the new, Old Dominion, and pick up its first win of year before a Homecoming crowd on Jack Coffey Field.
With the 34-29 win, the Rams snap a four-game losing streak dating back to last year and go to 1-3 on the year while the Monarchs fall to 3-2.
“We certainly know how to make it interesting,” said Fordham head coachTom Masella. “That was a great college football game that came down to the end. It looked like we were going to let it slip away but the guys worked hard and persevered and made the big plays at the end.”
The story of the game was the potent Fordham offense, led by record-setting senior quarterback John Skelton. Skelton completed 28 of 42 yards for a career-high 402 yards and two touchdowns as Fordham compiled a school-record of 687 yards of total offense. The 402 passing yards ties Skelton with Gary Brennan for the second best single game in Fordham history. The school record is a 413-yard game by Joe Moorhead in 1995.
“It’s nice to get the monkey off our backs,” said John Skelton. “It was a good team win and good to see the running game get going which makes the passing game easier.”
But Skelton wasn’t alone in leading the offense as junior Xavier Martin and sophomore Darryl Whitingboth rushed for more than 100 yards. Martin finished with a career-high 187 yards on 25 carries while Whiting gained 101 yards, surpassing the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career.
“Number 19 can’t do it all by himself,” said Martin. “He’s the best quarterback I’ve played with but we knew that we would have to get the running game going to be successful. The offensive line did a great job for us today.”
The final scoring drive displayed both the running and passing game as Skelton completed all three of his pass attempts and Martin gained 23 yards on the ground as the Rams erased a 29-28 deficit to take a 34-29 lead with 1:59 remaining. Skelton started the drive from the Fordham 19 with a completion to Jason Caldwell for an 11-yard gain and then found Brad Pierre over the middle for a big 47-yard gain. Martin took over at that point rushing for 20 yards on consecutive carries and he capped the drive with a three-yard scoring run to give the Rams the lead.
But the game was far from over as Old Dominion took the ensuing kickoff and drove from its own 21 to the Fordham, 45. On second down and ten, Michael Hickman sacked Monarch quarterback Thomas DeMarco causing DeMarco to fumble and the ball was recovered by Fordham’s Bryson Wilson with 51 seconds left. The Rams then kneeled on the ball to ice the game.
The game started out with the Old Dominion offense showing its stuff, taking the opening kickoff and driving 77 yards on just four plays to take a quick 7-0 lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from DeMarco to Nick Mayers.
The Rams responded with a scoring drive of their own, taking over on their own 28 after the kickoff. Skelton connected on the first of ten passes on the day to his brother, Stephen Skelton, with Stephen turning it into 52-yard gain, placing the ball on the Old Dominion 20. Fordham would get the ball down to the nine but John Skelton was sacked on third down and Kevin Heinowitz came on to boot a 35-yard field goal to cut the Fordham deficit to four, 7-3, with 9:29 left in the half.
Neither offense managed to put together much of a drive the rest of the quarter and the teams exchanged punts early in the second before Fordham took possession on its own nine following a punt. After Martin picked up 12 yards on first down, Skelton and Skelton struck again for a 13-yard gain and John Skeltonfollowed that with an 18-yard completion to David Moore. A third straight Skelton completion, this one toMichael Shorter, picked up nine yards but an offensive pass interference penalty backed the Rams up to their own 37. On second down, John Skelton rushed for ten yards and he then found Moore with a 24-yard pass play to give Fordham a first down on the Monarchs’ 29. On the next play, John Skelton foundStephen Skelton in the end zone with a scoring strike to give Fordham a 9-7 lead after the extra point sailed wide.
Fordham again started its next drive deep in its own territory following a punt but Martin and Skelton moved the Rams down field. The big play was a fourth-and-inches call from the Fordham 46 as the John Skelton drew Old Dominion offside with a hard count, giving Fordham a first down across midfield. Four plays later, the Rams faced another fourth and one call and this time Skelton faked a handoff to Martin, running around the left side to pick up the first down on the Old Dominion 39. Two plays later, Skelton hooked up with Moore with a 36-yard touchdown pass to give Fordham a 15-7 lead with 1:50 remaining in the half.
Fordham wasn’t done scoring in the half. After the defense held the Monarchs to three pays, the Rams took over on their own 20. Skelton directed the two-minute offense to perfection, moving the Rams down to the two where Heinowitz kicked a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the half to give Fordham a 18-7 lead at the break.
The Rams came out to start the second half and seemed to take control of the game with a quick scoring drive, taking the kickoff and moving out to their own 43 where Whiting broke through the line and rambled 57 yards for a score and a 25-7 Fordham lead 1:38 into the half.
But the Monarchs capitalized on a Fordham turnover later in the quarter as Whiting fumbled on the Fordham 21 with Mychael McJunkins recovering the ball for Old Dominion on the Fordham 24. Two plays later, DeMarco connected with Mayers on a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut the Fordham lead to 25-14 with 5:47 left in the third.
The game would stay 25-14 until the Monarchs punted the ball early in the fourth and Asa Lucas fumbled the return which Marquis Johnson recovered in the end zone for Old Dominion touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from DeMarco to Mayers was good making it a 25-22 game with 10:51 remaining.
Fordham responded with a 57-yard drive, moving down to the Old Dominion five where a third down pass fell incomplete and Heinowitz came on to kick a 23-yard field goal to put the Rams up six, 28-23, with 6:56 left in the contest.
DeMarco took over on the next Old Dominion possession, throwing eight passes, completing five, and running twice, to get the ball to the Fordham 17 where he hit Carlos Davis in the end zone for a 29-28 Old Dominion lead with 3:06 left.
Stephen Skelton caught a career-high ten passes for a career-best 138 yards for the Rams while Moore finished with six receptions for 132 yards and Caldwell added five for 54 yards.
The Rams will next be in action next Saturday, October 10th, as they host the Bryant University Bulldogs on Jack Coffey Field at 6:00 p.m.
Notes: The previous school record for total yards in a game was 667 against New Haven in 1977… John Skelton’s previous career-high was 383 yards against Columbia earlier this year… His career numbers are now 613 completions for 7,557 yards and 51 touchdowns, all school records…Martin’s previous career-high was 186 yards which he accomplished against Georgetown last year…The last time Fordham had two running backs rush for more than 100 yards was 2007 when Martin and Jonte Coven each turned the trick…The last time the Rams had two receivers with more than 100 receiving yards in a game was 1999 with Kendel Creer (171) and Gerry McDermott (142) doing it against Harvard…The last time a Rams kicked three field goal in a game was 2004 when Micah Clukey booted three against Georgetown…Fordham raised its Homecoming record to 20-17-1 since 1970…All football alumni in attendance were honored at halftime, including the family of Frank “The Bull” McCaffrey, on the 100th anniversary of McCaffrey being named one of Fordham’s first All-Americans.