By Peter Schwartz
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Let’s face it. The local NFL season hasn’t been very enjoyable.
The Giants are into their bye week at 3-4 while the Jets are 1-6 and have lost six in a row. But in the Bronx, there’s a football team that is having a terrific season and appears to be headed for another trip to the playoffs.
After a 12-2 campaign in 2013 that featured a victory over an FBS opponent (Temple) and a playoff win over Sacred Heart, the Fordham Rams are off to a 6-1 start and come out of their bye week bringing a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s Patriot League contest at Lehigh.
Fordham is atop the Patriot League (2-0) and the Rams are ranked 12th in both the FCS coaches poll and The Sports Network Top 25.
“For the second year in a row we’ve been able to have some success on the field,” said head coach Joe Moorhead. “There were high expectations coming into this season. We’ve played some really good football.”
Fordham has been particularly impressive on the offensive side of the ball.
The Rams, coming off of a 60-22 win over the University of Pennsylvania on October 11, are No. 3 in both passing offense and scoring and are ranked fourth in total offense.
“I’m very happy,” said Moorhead, now in his third season as Fordham head coach. “We have very talented players and I think our coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball does an excellent job of putting our kids in position to be successful.”
Moorhead returned to his alma mater in 2012 and guided the Rams to a 6-5 record before last year’s breakthrough season. He was a three-year starting quarterback for the Rams and served as team captain during his senior season.
Since he knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, it’s no surprise that the offense is driven by senior signal caller Mike Nebrich, who finished 5th in Walter Payton Award voting last year and is a strong candidate again this year. He has completed 170 out of 261 passes for 2,304 yards, 21 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.
Over the last two seasons, Nebrich is 17-2 as the starting quarterback since transferring from the University of Connecticut. He set a school record with 566 yards against Penn while tying a Fordham record with six touchdown passes.
“Michael has done a tremendous job not resting on his laurels and building off of the success that he had last year,” said Moorhead, who recruited Nebrich at UConn when he was the Huskies’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
However, success is not something that Fordham has had when it comes to playing at Lehigh. The Rams are 0-13 all-time on the road against the Mountain Hawks heading into Saturday’s game.
Moorhead is well aware of how tough it is to play at Goodman Stadium.
“I’m a part of that, too,” said the 2013 Patriot League coach of the year. “I was 0-2 here as a player. Our kids understand the history of it.”
By the time kickoff comes at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Rams will have had plenty of time to prepare for the game as they are coming off of their bye week.
Considering the five-game winning streak and how prolific the offense has been, did the break come at a good time?
“It did,” said Moorhead. “It’s a fine line when you have things rolling on both sides of the ball and special teams and you want to keep things rolling. But, at the same time, you have guys banged up on both sides of the ball so we were happy to get an opportunity to get those guys healed up.”
Moorhead has done an amazing job in turning around the Rams in just three seasons. He inherited a team that finished 1-10 in 2011 and now Fordham has their sights set on the ultimate goal.
“I think our kids got a taste of the things that it takes in the postseason to be successful,” Moorhead said. “If we’re able to handle our business and we’re afforded the opportunity to get into the postseason, one of the things that we’ll be able to do as a team is bridge the gap from being a team that loses in the second round to taking the steps to a national championship.”
When it comes to college football in our area, Rutgers has grabbed a lot of the attention with its move to the Big 10. However, perhaps the best story in the area is taking place at Jack Coffey Field.
That’s where big things are happening for the Fordham football program. And the Rams just might be hosting another home playoff game or two.
Unless there’s a miracle, that’s one or two more home playoff games than you’ll see this year at MetLife Stadium!
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