BETHELEHEM, PA – It took all of three plays at the beginning of the second half for Fordham to retake the lead.
The Mountain Hawks, up 21-17 in the first half thanks to a scoop-and-score and a kickoff return for touchdown, couldn’t keep the nation’s No. 1 offense from scoring on the very first series of the second half, yielding a 2 play 76 yard scoring drive as QB Tim DeMorat, the nation’s leading passer, found WR Mekai Felton for a 13 yard touchdown.
The Rams (5-1, 2-0) would never trail again.
DeMorat and the potent Rams offense lit up the Lehigh defense for 499 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, on the way towards 632 total yards on the afternoon. WR MJ Wright caught only 4 passes, but he had a banner day with 223 yard receiving and 2 TDs against the Mountain Hawks (1-5, 1-1).
“We were in the football game and had the chance to win it in the fourth quarter but we weren’t able to close the loop and obviously we have the result that we’re not happy with,” Lehigh head coach Tom Gilmore said. “I thought the kids played with a lot of heart and a lot of energy. We did a lot of good things against a really good football team and I think there’s a lot more to work on that we can build on moving forward.”
Dream Start Not Enough
Gilmore couldn’t have dreamed of a more ideal start for his team against the top offense in the country.
After WR Jalen Burbage took the opening kickoff 89 yards for a quick touchdown, on Fordham’s first offensive series DL Stephon Bland drilled DeMorat from his blind side and forced a fumble, where DE Dean Colton, for the second time in three weeks found the end zone. Colton’s first-ever touchdown came two weeks ago against Princeton when he reached up and intercepted a pass and took it to the house; his second-ever touchdown came from the scoop-and-score.
“He always runs the ball, so when you run the ball that much you’re gonna get rewarded for it,” Stephon said after the game. “We knew we had to get there, [put pressure on him], help our secondary out, can’t give him all day.”
Fordham wouldn’t stay down for long, however.
On Fordham’s next possession the Rams would get a huge touchdown by RB Julius Loughridge on a 42 yard run up the middle to cut the deficit to a single score.
After a huge penalty helped stall Lehigh’s first offensive drive and forcing a punt, DeMorat would find WR MJ Wright for a 48 yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 14, his first or two touchdowns in the game.
Fordham would claim their first lead after a 24 yard field goal by Brandon Peskin, but Lehigh would reclaim the lead with an impressive 15 play, 75 yard drive ending with QB Dante Perri connecting with WR Eric Johnson with a 6 yard strike.
“We want to play the best teams in the country, we have a seat,” Perri said. “We want to challenge ourselves. We got learn from those games, got to build off those games, and start putting it together more. I think we’re kind of moving in the right direction, we just need to finish.”
The 17-14 lead held at halftime, but the dream ended with Fordham’s second half explosion out of the gate.
Though Lehigh managed to keep Fordham’s leading receiver, WR Fotis Kokosioulis, under control most of the game (3 catches for 40 yards), that opened up opportunities for Wright and WR Dequece Carter, who had 3 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. His 40 yard catch made it 31-21 Fordham in the 3rd quarter.
Four of Fordham’s five scoring plays were of 40 yards or more, and the fifth was set up by a 63 yard connection from DeMorat to Wright.
An early 4th quarter touchdown, a Perri to WR Connor Kennedy strike, cut the deficit to 6 in the beginning of the 4th quarter, but MJ Wright’s second touchdown of the game, a 79 yarder, finally put the game out of reach.
“We took the right step as an offense,” Perri said. “We kind of got rid of the self-inflicted wounds. I had the one pick and I’ve got to clean that up, but for the most part we tried to cut down on the turnovers, the penalties and the missed assignments and for the most part, I think we did. Now it comes down to taking that next step. It’s a process.”
Lehigh travels to Cornell next week in their final non-league matchup, while Fordham returns home to host Stony Brook.
|1st||14:45||LEH – Burbage,Jalen 89 yd kickoff return (Van Dusen,Dylan kick)||0||7|
|1st||11:02||LEH – Colton,Dean 39 yd fumble recovery (Van Dusen,Dylan kick)||0||14|
|1st||08:12||FOR – Loughridge,Julius 42 yd run (Peskin,Brandon kick), 7 plays, 68 yards, TOP 02:45||7||14|
|1st||05:39||FOR – Wright,MJ 48 yd pass from DeMorat,Tim (Peskin,Brandon kick) 3 plays, 63 yards, TOP 00:55||14||14|
|2nd||11:20||FOR – Peskin,Brandon 24 yd field goal 14 plays, 63 yards, TOP 05:22||17||14|
|2nd||04:16||LEH – Johnson,Eric 6 yd pass from Perri,Dante (Van Dusen,Dylan kick) 15 plays, 75 yards, TOP 07:04||17||21|
|3rd||14:09||FOR – Felton,Mekai 13 yd pass from DeMorat,Tim (Peskin,Brandon kick) 2 plays, 76 yards, TOP 00:45||24||21|
|3rd||11:05||FOR – Carter,Dequece 40 yd pass from DeMorat,Tim (Peskin,Brandon kick) 6 plays, 66 yards, TOP 01:40||31||21|
|3rd||07:07||FOR – Peskin,Brandon 20 yd field goal 8 plays, 80 yards, TOP 03:08||34||21|
|4th||13:38||LEH – Kennedy,Connor 4 yd pass from Perri,Dante (Van Dusen,Dylan kick) 17 plays, 80 yards, TOP 08:23||34||28|
|4th||09:56||FOR – Wright,MJ 79 yd pass from DeMorat,Tim ( ) 2 plays, 81 yards, TOP 00:38||40||28|
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: