BRONX, N.Y. – While it’s long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, the images racked up through 59 minutes of play between Lehigh and Fordham were enough to provide an endless supply of storylines.
When it was all said and done history will show that Fordham won the game 35-28 in front of nearly 7,000 fans at Jack Coffey Field on the historic Fordham campus.
And it was a comeback that the five greatest magicians in history would be proud of.
First, the great Houdini had to have smiled as he watched Fordham quarterback Tim DeMorat scamper in untouched from two yards out for what proved to be the final score of the game as the Rams used 21 unanswered points to escape with the win over the Mountain Hawks.
Kind of like Rocky and Bullwinkle pulling a rabbit out a hat to the delight of young fans.
The win allowed Fordham to improve to 3-0 in the Patriot League and 5-3 on the season. Lehigh, meanwhile, had struggled mightily all season leading into Saturday’s encounter, but played brilliantly on both sides of the ball that coach would otherwise be satisfied with if not for the final image on the scoreboard. Lehigh is now 0-2 in league play and 0-7 on the season.
The Rams began their eventual game-winning drive on their own 43 and running back Trey Wilson picked up 19 yards on three straight carries to move the ball into Lehigh territory. DeMorat connected with Garrett Cody for 35 yards to the Lehigh-3 and Wilson added a short gain of one yard before the Fordham signal caller scored on the very next play to give his team the lead for the first time in the game.
Despite the heroics, the visiting Mountain Hawks still had chance to win the game themselves.
Dante Perri completed passes to Roemello Miner for seven yards and to Johnny Foley to move the ball to Lehigh’s 36. He connected with Foley again two plays later for six more yards.
What happened next was akin to thunder and lightning.
Perri delivered a nice pass over the middle that Roemello caught and turned it into a 36-yard reception before Fordham’s Jesse Bramble punched the ball loose and teammate Mike Courtney recovered at the Fordham-22.
The play was confirmed on review and Fordham simply ran out the clock to secure the win.
While DeMorat’s favorite target on the afternoon, Fotis Kokosioulis was not heard from on the game-winning drive, it was likely the damage he did on the previous drive that caused the Lehigh defense to forget about Cody and DeMorat a few minutes later.
All Kokosioulis did on the drive was catch four passes for 51 yards, including three on third-down plays that kept the drive alive. His final catch of the drive moved the ball to the Lehigh-11 and DeMorat found tight end Jack Lynch wide open in the left corner of the end zone and kicker Nick Leinenweber’s PAT tied the game 28-28 with 3:57 remaining in the game.
Wilson ran for 15 yards on the drive and picked on another five yards on a short pass to start the drive before Fordham marched 85 yards for the tying score.
Zaythan Hill ran in from three yards out midway through the third quarter to give Fordham a 21-14 lead. He scored his third touchdown of the game on the first play of the final period as the Mountain Hawks extended their lead to 28-14 with 14:56 remaining in the contest.
Lehigh wasted little time in jumping on the scoreboard by moving 83 yards on six plays to open the game. Hill carried the ball on each of the final two plays and capped the drive with a dazzling 28-yard run that saw him bounce off several tacklers and spinning his way into the end zone to give his team a 7-0 lead just 2:18 into the contest.
It was the first touchdown of the season for Hill, and for Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks had entered the game with just three field goals to account for their nine points of the season.
They added to their point total near the end of the first period when Perri connected with Alex Snyder from just three yards out to put Lehigh back in front 14-7 with 1:02 remaining before halftime.
DeMorat, who had a hand in all five Fordham touchdowns, finished the game with 401 passing yards after completing 24 of 40 passes and throwing for the three touchdowns. He also 16 yards on the ground on three carries and the two touchdowns. Wilson was the leading ground gainer on the afternoon for the Rams. He rushed 12 times for 66 yards.
The combination of DeMorat and Kokosioulis has been reminiscent of Penn and Teller, another duo known for their own magic. Kokosioulis, entered the game with an FSC-leading nine touchdown receptions, finished the game with 157 yards on 10 catches. Garrett also had an outstanding afternoon for the Rams. He caught three passes for 111 yards, including a 65-yarder down the right sideline on Fordham’s first offensive play of the game that tied the game at 7-7.. Duquece Carter finished the game with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. His score came on a 17-yard pass from DeMorat with 49 seconds left in the first half that knotted the game 14-14. It was his eighth receiving TD of the season for Carter to keep him right on the heels of Kokosioulis
Lehigh had entered the game with some lackluster offensive numbers through the first six games of the season. The Mountain Hawks played much better than what they looked like on paper. After averaging just 136.8 yards per game on the season prior to Saturday’s contest, Lehigh erupted for 577 yards against the Rams.
Behind the play of Hill, who rushed for 159 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns in the game, the Mountain Hawks finished with 268 yards on the ground. They had come into the game rushing for just 36 yards per game. Perri, meanwhile, had an impressive day throwing the football for Lehigh. He completed 27 of 37 passes for 317 yards and one touchdown for a team that had been averaging just 100.8 yards per game through the air.
Roemello and Eric Johnson combined for 17 catches and 223 yards to help spearhead Lehigh’s aerial attack. Johnson finished the game with nine catches for 121 yards and Miner added eight catches of his own for 102 yards.
Fordham’s win capped a three-game homestand that saw the Rams win all three games by a combined 157-56. The Rams are idle next week and will return to action Nov. 6 at Georgetown. Lehigh, meanwhile, entertains Holy Cross next weekend in Bethlehem.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.