BRONX, NY – It was not a battle many had predicted.
Fordham, welcoming famous alumnus Joe Moglia back for the the renaming of their stadium, scheduled Lehigh for his (and their) homecoming weekend.
Most Fordham fans there – those who braved the rain and windy weather early on, anyway – probably expected an easy Ram win. Fordham was picked to finish second in the Patriot League in the preseason; Lehigh fifth, barely above the joint last-placed teams Bucknell and Georgetown.
But that’s not how things turned out.
It took three long drives, two defensive stops, and two long field goals – one of them PK Brandon Peskin‘s career long of 45 yards – for Fordham (4-2, 1-1) to escape Lehigh’s (1-5, 0-1) upset bid, 38-35.
It was a rally that was as impressive as it was frustrating and heartbreaking for the visitors.
“We didn’t finish,” Lehigh head coach Kevin Cahill told me. “It goes back to what we did in the first half. With just over four minutes to go they went down and scored a touchdown and a field goal. Then they came out in the second half and scored a touchdown. That’s 17 points in what I call ‘the middle eight,’ last four minutes of the first half, first four minutes of the second half. You can’t give up those points.”
Lehigh had built a 21-7 lead after three touchdowns from QB Brayten Silbor, one on a big 51 yard pass play to WR Dylan McFadden, another a one yard touchdown run after a long 51 yard run by first year RB Luke Yoder, and the third a 19 yard pass that found WR Geoffrey Jamiel for a 19 yard strike.
“We all took last week’s loss to heart,” Silbor told me. “We came out focused this week for practice, and we didn’t want the same thing to happen. Obviously, the result is not what we wanted, but I feel like all the preparation, all the hard work and the fight was there today. I’m really proud of my guys.”
But before the first half Fordham QB CJ Montes would orchestrate an 11 play, 70 yard drive, going 6-for-7 passing on the drive, rushing for 7 more yards and finishing it with a 3 yard touchdown run by RB Julius Loughridge.
And after a 3-and-out, Fordham got the ball back with just under two minutes to play, Montes would then find WR MJ Wright on three straight downs to eventually set up a 27 yard Peskin FG to make it a 21-17 game at half.
Then, after the opening drive of the 3rd quarter, Montes would direct a 9 play, 83 yard drive that took about five minutes off the clock and resulted in Loughridge’s second rushing touchdown of the game, giving Fordham a 24-21 lead at the time.
After Fordham retook the lead, both the offense and defense came together to have Lehigh surge to another double digit lead.
Lehigh’s defense forced a critical turnover to get the Mountain Hawks back in the game as first-year LB Will Parton hit Jacob Rodriguez, who fumbled. First-year DL Jadin Nelson recovered, and after a Fordham penalty Lehigh was in business at the Rams’ 47.
“Will did a great job,” Cahill said. “Will stepped in, had a huge sack. It’s always next man up for us. It’s been that way since day one. Our kids believe it and our kids trust each other and they push each other.”
Silbor’s second touchdown pass to Jamiel covered five yards and put the Mountain Hawks up 28-24 with 4:57 remaining in the third.
“He keeps improving every week,” Cahill said of Silbor. “We’ve seen small growth and then there was a big growth this week. You can see he is getting more and more comfortable and making better decisions.”
After stuffing Loughridge on a 4th and 1 deep in Lehigh territory, Silbor helped put together a 7 play 88 yard drive, ending with a thrilling 7 yard touchdown run to put the Mountain Hawks up 35-24 with 11 minutes to play.
“I got hit what? Twice today?” Silbor said. “The O line opened up so many holes that run to run through. Shout out to them. That’s the reason we did so well.”
But CJ Montes and the Rams rallied from that 11 point deficit, scoring the game’s last 14 points – a touchdown pass from Montes to Wright, a two-point conversion, and Peskin’s game-tying and game winning kicks.
“What happened at the end of the game can’t happen,” Cahill said. “We have to learn how to close out a game and that game should’ve been closed out.
“Today is the day you step forward and say, ‘Freaking stinks that we lost.’ We have to deal with that. But I’m proud of the way the kids battle.”
|10:47 – LEH – McFadden,Dylan 52 yd pass from Silbor,Brayten (Garrido,Nick kick) 8 plays, 79 yards, TOP 04:09||7||0|
|12:02 – FOR – Montes,C.J. 4 yd run (Peskin,Brandon kick), 15 plays, 90 yards, TOP 06:14||7||7|
|08:42 – LEH – Silbor,Brayten 1 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 8 plays, 75 yards, TOP 03:20||14||7|
|07:05 – LEH – Jamiel,Geoffrey 17 yd pass from Silbor,Brayten (Garrido,Nick kick) 4 plays, 31 yards, TOP 01:30||21||7|
|02:36 – FOR – Loughridge,Julius 3 yd run (Peskin,Brandon kick), 11 plays, 70 yards, TOP 04:24||21||14|
|00:02 – FOR – Peskin,Brandon 27 yd field goal 13 plays, 76 yards, TOP 01:46||21||17|
|10:43 – FOR – Loughridge,Julius 2 yd run (Peskin,Brandon kick), 9 plays, 83 yards, TOP 04:14||21||24|
|04:57 – LEH – Jamiel,Geoffrey 5 yd pass from Silbor,Brayten (Garrido,Nick kick) 4 plays, 47 yards, TOP 00:54||28||24|
|11:21 – LEH – Silbor,Brayten 7 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 7 plays, 88 yards, TOP 03:33||35||24|
|08:50 – FOR – Wright,MJ 14 yd pass from Montes,C.J. (Allen,Jaden pass) 5 plays, 85 yards, TOP 02:26||35||32|
|01:54 – FOR – Peskin,Brandon 42 yd field goal 11 plays, 56 yards, TOP 03:34||35||35|
|00:00 – FOR – Peskin,Brandon 45 yd field goal 7 plays, 62 yards, TOP 00:52||35||38|
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
Reach him at: this email or click below: