A slow moving nor’easter hovered around the entire Tri-State region on Saturday. More specifically, Rose Hill had it worse while also being hit by a secondary storm. Like the 25 mph winds swirling around campus, Lafayette’s thunder-&-lightening tandem of Selwyn Simpson and CJ Amill took turns in wreaking havoc all over a drenched Jack Coffey Field. Together, Simpson, the 6’2”/225 lb. sophomore and Amill, the 5’9”/180 lb. senior, combined for nearly 250 rushing yards as the Leopards bullied the Rams, 21-13. The one score difference wasn’t truly indicative of Lafayette’s dominance in the trenches as, while Simpson and Amill each enjoyed career days, Fordham was limited to -20 yards on the ground.
Disparity in stats aside, Fordham actually opened fairly well. Having been outscored 56-3 in the first quarter this year, and after a devastating end to last week’s contest against Bryant, head coach Joe Conlin made a point of starting positively. Not that things went as easily as planned. Facing a steady drizzle, empowered by that 25 mph wind, the Rams began with a disappointing three-&-out. More disappointingly, and while matching last week’s theme, the defense then kept Lafayette’s opening drive alive by jumping offsides on a 3rd-and-four. That same drive was later stopped however after a pair of Sean O’Malley incompletions led to a turnover on downs. The teams traded punts but that early stop gave Fordham the better field position for the remainder of the stanza. The quarter closed with Tim DeMorat finding a rhythm in going short while the second opened with a 20 yard bullet to set the Rams up at the Leopard’s 9. Two plays later the true freshman hit senior tight end, Isaiah Searight, for a 7-0 lead.
Facing the wind, Lafayette went strictly to the ground as Amill took four straight handoffs for 19 yards. Oddly, while the small speedster went straight up the gut, the bigger Simpson later made his gains around the edges, including a 38 yard burst to things up at 7. Whether through the tackles or around the ends, just as Lafayette established the run, their defense made sure to snuff out Fordham’s. Thanks to the league’s probable defensive freshman of the year, Malik Hamm (three sacks for 26 yards), they were able to get to DeMorat as well.
Still, Fordham punter Andrew Mevis held onto the field position advantage by pinning the Leopards back with several wind-aided blasts. This included a booming 66 yarder to the Lafayette half yard line. Two plays later O’Malley made his first but only mistake of the day in coughing the ball up at the four yard line. DeMorat offset an aggressive pass rush with a short screen to senior wideout Austin Longi who scampered home for the 13-7 lead. It stayed that way as a botched snap kept Mevis from adding the extra point. The teams traded punts but the wind continued to help Fordham with field position. That all changed with just 99 seconds left in the first half.
Already at midfield, Fordham looked for a two score lead when DeMorat fumbled a snap. He quickly fell on the pigskin and, by college rules, was immediately ruled down even before a Lafayette defender tapped him on his back. But as the ball squirted free from DeMorat’s belly, a second Lafayette defender, Billy Shaeffer, jumped into action to pounce on the loose ball. Even so, DeMorat turned to the nearest official as if to verify a blown whistle. Despite that whistle, and the call on the field, the zebras went to the video replay and later reversed the call. This proved to be the game’s turning point. Coach Conlin lividly screamed from the sidelines but his defense showed less fight in being pushed around by Lafayette’s line. This time, with the help of a double tight end set, Amill found the edges and later the end zone as Lafayette went up 14-13 at the break.
The Rams still had the wind on its side for the third but the Leopard’s running game nullified any advantages Mother Nature offered Fordham. Even without scoring points, Lafayette’s opening drive of the second half chewed five minutes off the clock while keeping Fordham’s offense off the field. Not that the home side did much upon finally getting on the field. Halftime adjustments unleashed a devastating pass rush on DeMorat while tailbacks Naim Mayfield and Tyriek Hopkins were both non-factors. After 6 second half possessions, Fordham was held to zero first downs, five punts and a telegraphed pick into the hands of Lafayette junior corner, Eric Mitchell. Meanwhile Simpson added to previous Amill gains while using a 51 yard sweep to set up another touchdown and a 21-13 lead. Afterwards Fordham did match Lafayette stop-for-stop but by then the damage was done. Only after a late Leopards drive ended with a missed field goal did the Rams ever look like they could sneak out a tying score.
DeMorat responded with a strike to Longi for Fordham’s first 1st down of the half. He then hit Hopkins for another first down as well as the Rams first foray into Lafayette territory of the half. Then, just as the sparse rain soaked home crowd began making some noise, DeMorat telegraphed another pick. With Lafayette only rushing three, Fordham’s often hurried QB was finally given time to throw. Unfortunately for the Rams, he carelessly threw it straight into the mitts of defensive end, Keith Earle who had dropped back to help his linebackers. At the expense of a few lost yards, Lafayette then took a few victory formation snaps to close out the victory.
With the loss Fordham drops to 1-7 (1-2 in the Patriot League) and are all but officially eliminated from league contention. They close out their home schedule next week with a tilt against first place Colgate (7-0; 3-0). Colgate had earlier beaten Lafayette 45-0 so the Rams will have to be at their very best just to stay somewhat competitive.