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Know Your 2015 Opponents: Fordham

The past two years have been ones of Ram nightmares for Lehigh fans.

Even though it seemed like QB Michael Nebrich was never 100% healthy as a Fordham Ram, he always seemed like he was plenty nimble enough to step up in the pocket and drop forty or fifty points on Lehigh's defense.

But now, it's a new year.  Nebrich has graduated, as well as an eye-popping thirty-two other Fordham football seniors, many of whom had key responsibilities on both offense and defense.

Head coach Joe Moorhead knows his 2015 Fordham Rams will look different.  But exactly how different?

And will the Rams be able to simply reload and win a second straight title and qualify for a third straight FCS playoff appearance?

If the preseason polls are any indication, Fordham was picked to win it all for the second consecutive year.

The relationship between the Rams and Mountain Hawks can be summed up in several numbers.

23-2:  Lehigh's career record against Fordham prior to the 2013 season.

0-2:  Lehigh's record against Fordham in the past two years.

50.0:  The average number of points the Mountain Hawks have given up to the Rams in the last two years, a 52-34 loss in the Bronx in 2013 and a 48-27 pounding in Murray Goodman last year.

1,190: The total amount of offensive yardage the Rams racked up against the Mountain Hawks.  If you insist on breaking it down further, 542 of those yards were rushing yards, and  676 were passing yards.

73%: Nebrich's completion rate against Lehigh's defense (46/63 passing).

We Can Keep Up With These Numbers; We're Patriot League
You get the idea.

The last two years against Fordham, Lehigh has been defined largely by the fact that they were unable to stop the Ram offense in any significant way.

"Going into it from a defensive standpoint, controlling the run game was going to be very important.," coach Andy Coen said after the 2014 loss.  "Obviously, we weren't able to do that. We gave up too many big runs in the run game. We were hoping to contain them and get after the quarterback in the pass game. Obviously, we weren't able to do that, so that was disappointing for us."

For Lehigh, the only thing that makes things somewhat easier is that so many of last year's Rams aren't going to be suiting up against Lehigh this year in the Bronx.

"For us to lose close to half of our scholarship roster and the amount of production on both sides of the ball," Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead told me at Patriot League Media day, "it's a tremendous compliment from the other coaches in the league that think that highly of us to be the preseason favorites.  We have big shoes to fill, and it's a matter of getting our inexperienced talent to gel quickly."

On offense, Fordham loses their starting quarterback, their top four receiving targets and three of five starting offensive linemen.

Two transfers from FBS schools are competing for the top spot at quarterback, junior QB Kevin Anderson (Marshall) and sophomore QB Luke Medlock (Florida International).  Neither have attempted a pass in a college football game, but both were two star recruits in the Rivals database out of Florida.

"Kevin starts camp as the No. 1 simply because he's had a year in the system," Moorhead explained to me.  "Whomever makes the most of the opportunity will end up being the guy we go with."

Chase Adding To His Helmet Sticker Collection
Helping the winner of this QB competition will be the winner of last year's Jerry Rice award for the best freshman FCS player, sophomore RB Chase Edmonds.

He'll look to bust the Fordham record book even further, after a season where he ran for 1,838 yards and scored 24 touchdowns.  He also returned kicks as well, allowing him to average an eye-popping 176 yards per game.

If you're in a position to reload, having a guy who scored 24 touchdowns to build around is a pretty great place to start.

"Up front, senior OL Garrick Mayweather is a three year starter, we'll be counting on him," Moorhead said of Chase's blocking group up front.

Defensively, Moorhead also told me he lost their tackling leader, tackle for loss leader, and interception leader from last season as well.

Hodge Helped Beat Temple In 2013
However senior LB Stephen Hodge returns to the team after sitting out all of 2014 with an injury, giving the young Rams a very good starting point on the defense.  In 2013 he had 124 tackles and 93 solo tackles, so if he's healthy, the Rams will have a very solid foundation.  Senior DB J.Q. Bowers, who started four games and spent a lot of time in the Ram secondary as a nickel back, will also get a long look on the defense in maintaining the Rams' status as Patriot League champions.

Fordham looks like a team that has a lot to replace in order to repeat their feats of 2014.

And they'll need to be ready on Day 1, as their unforgiving schedule gives the Rams Army and top-ranked Villanova in consecutive weeks.

However, Moorhead also has shown to be a wizard at finding scholarship guys like Edmonds to step in right away and contribute, as well as finding quality FBS transfer players (like Nebrich) to come in and be great Patriot League players.

They'll need to get on level ground before Patriot League play, but it's a good bet that they will by the time they host Lehigh in October.

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