Tim DeMorat for the first time since 2018 is not the quarterback up at Rose Hill for the Fordham Rams. The three-time Patriot League Football Offensive Player of the Year and Fordham career leader in completions, passing yards, and passing scores finished as the runner-up for the 2022 Walter Payton Award presented to the NCAA FCS Offensive Player of the Year.
Too bad they can’t allow DeMorat to play another year after graduating with honors. Good news, the Rams have discovered that sophomore CJ Montes is following in his footsteps after throwing for 319 yards and five touchdowns to lead Fordham to a 46-16 win over Wagner College Saturday evening in the home opener.
And, yes, at times Montes resembled his predecessor. Last week in his debut as the successor it was respectable as Fordham lost 34-13 in their season opener at Albany. Montes completed 18 of 31 passes for 198 yards, but that wasn’t DeMorat.
Montes said it would get better and this was a confidence builder. Joe Conlin, in his sixth year as head coach and guiding the winningest New York area college football team since 2012 with 73 wins, said his quarterback was sharp, beginning with the first throw.
True. Wagner lost their season opener and was not projected to be one of the stronger opponents on the Fordham schedule, 1-11 last year. And the Rams will be tested soon against Patriot League opponents such as Holy Cross, Lafayette, Colgate, Lehigh, Bucknell, and Georgetown.
In league play more will be known about Montes. Saturday evening on a perfect night for football at Rose Hill, this quarterback was fun to watch. He threw the ball with efficiency, scrambled, got the Rams to convert on third down, and his defense also helped a bit. Junior linebacker James Conway led the way with 13 tackles, seven solo, and he forced a fumble. Sophomore linebacker Marc Pretto added nine stops, five solo, including a sack.
But those five scores also included rushing for 58 net yards and ten carries that resembled his predecessor.
“We ran well,” Conlin said. “CJ scrambled well. I think there are a couple of situations where we made some mistakes ’cause we didn’t execute but for the most part we ran the ball well. We did a really good job on offense on third down. Defensively that was great to see.”
Fordham converted on eight of 14 third downs and held Wagner to converting four of 14 and are 9-2 at home over the past three years.
But it was Montes who was drawing the attention and his targets responded, different from last week when many of the Rams believed they were not on their game. Against Wagner, though, Montes connected with grad student MJ Wright for eight catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Grad student Garrett Cody grabbed six passes for 102 yards and one touchdown.
And on the ground, junior Julius Loughridge gained 85 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown.
Montes could not be reached for comment, not injury related. Regardless, his performance was not a loss for words. Something said this was going to be a special night as Montes connected with senior Mekai Felton on a 44-yard strike that led to his first touchdown five minutes into the game. It was a 92-yard drive that gave Fordham a 7-0 lead.
This wasn’t DeMorat up at Rose Hill. It was Montes and the Rams with eleven graduate student players that includes 17 seniors, thus there is a familiarity for the new quarterback. Also, freshman running back Jacob Rodriguez scored his first collegiate touchdown on a five-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
“Go back to game one any movement in the right direction especially third down, we’ll take it,” Conlin said. “Did a great job tonight stopping the run. You can stop the run, you get the quarterback, force turnovers like we did ….”
The coach was referring to everything that led to their first win of the season at the home opener. But it was Montes who stole the show. Perhaps three years from now they will be putting the freshman in company with DeMorat.
Too soon for that talk. Montes and his coach are looking at their meeting next Saturday at the University of Buffalo. Any replicable performance like this one, then the early comparisons about his predecessor can commence.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com.Rich Mancuso