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2018 Week 6, Fordham: Game Breakdown and Fearless Prediction

It's time to go full nerd and do a full-blown breakdown of the Fordham Rams.

The first point of information about the 0-5 Rams you need to know is that they are young, and rebuilding. 

Joe Conlin is their first-year head coach, and you had better believe that he and his team would love nothing better than to get Conlin's first head coaching victory against Lehigh, a team that Fordham has beaten in four of the last five meetings between these two programs.

But the 2018 Rams are vastly different than the team that suited up QB Kevin Anderson and current Arizona Cardinal RB Chase Edmonds on their roster.  Anderson, who was a transfer from an FBS school (Marshall), had loads of experience and additionally used a redshirt year at Marshall, and Edmonds, as any reader of this blog would know, stepped in immediately as a freshman on Rose Hill and it was abundantly clear he was a generational talent running the ball.

For Fordham, this team is adopting a new philosophy under a new coaching tree.  Gone is the Joe Moorhead/Andrew Breiner tree, having finally settled down at Mississippi State.  In is Conlin, a long-time Yale assistant coach who has made stops at a ton of different great, powerful FCS college football programs, including both New Hampshire and Havard as well as the Bulldogs.

So growing pains. certainly, were to be expected, especially with a schedule that included an FBS team (UNC-Charlotte), an FCS Playoff team (Stony Brook) and a historically good CAA team (Richmond).


Before getting into the Ram depth chart, first let's take a look at Lehigh's game notes and injuries this week.

After a bit of an offensive line shuffle last week, the notes show that the same starting five: OT Chris Fournier, OG Nick Rosen, C Tim Wagner, OG Jackson Evans, and OT Justin Gurth.  

Senior WR Luke Christiano is still out, which means for the second straight week freshman WR Austin Dambach will be starting in his spot.  Dambach was one of the few bright spots for Lehigh last week, getting his first collegiate reception and TD grab, while the return of freshman WR Ray Falcone is also welcome in order to bring depth to the receiving corps.

On defense, SS Kareem Montgomery is doubtful to return this week on defense, which might mean freshman DB T.J. Rakowsky might see time with the 2s when senior SS Sam McCloskey needs to take a breather.

Breaking Down Fordham
Offense

The Rams run a similar base offensive set as Lehigh, with a 3 WR set, a TE, and single RB.  It's a set that allows for some flexibility with a pocket QB or a running QB, though it tends to work better with a mobile quarterback that can take off with the ball and run. 

Like Lehigh, their goal is to achieve a good balance between the run and pass to make the offense go.  So far, though, with their young team, they've been struggling to find consistency.

On top of the depth chart currently this week is freshman QB Tim Demorat, and it is clear that he is the future of the Rams.  However last week, late in the game, Conlin yanked Demorat and put in senior QB Luke Medlock - where he promptly threw an interception in Fordham's 23-11 loss to Georgetown.

Demorat has been the more accurate of both Fordham quarterbacks, completing 60.8% of his throws, but both quarterbacks have been under enormous pressure from opposing defenders - the Fordham offensive line has given up on average more than four sacks a game.  It hasn't helped that the Rams haven't been able to really balance out their offense since they've fallen behind in many of their games.  Although both are able to take off and run in certain situations they haven't been big ground gainers.

Fordham has struggled mightily running the ball in general, averaging (and this is not a typo, incredibly) 1.0 yards per rush.  Listed atop the depth chart at running back is 5'9, 185 lb RB Tyriek Hopkins, who did create a semblance of a running game against Georgetown, rushing for 57 yards and averaging 3.6 yards per carry.  In power running situations, 6'1 senior RB Colton Smith might get the nod instead. 

Fordham WR Austin Longi
Speedy junior WR Austin Longi (27 catches, 311 yards, 1 TD), senior WR Corey Caddle (20 catches, 236 yards, 1 TD), senior TE Isaiah Searight (15 catches, 236 yards, 1 TD) and junior WR Joe Ferraro (5 catches, 66 yards), are the veteran group of receivers that lined up in last year's prolific offense that torched Lehigh's defense for 45 points.  They are a veteran group that have gone off before, and will probably be a part of any big offensive day that Fordham will have now or in the future.

That day will happen once the Fordham offensive line figures things out.  Senior C Dominic Lombard anchors the line, but the rest of group, with two freshman on the left side and one sophomore on the right, have had their problems.  It is Lehigh's defense's job to make sure that they keep struggling this week, if possible.

Defense

Fordham's bigger changes have come on defense, where Conlin has brought Paul Rice and Yale's 4-2-5 hybrid defense to Rose Hill.  Rice was the position coach of Yale DB Matthew Oplinger, who spent some time in Cardinals camp this preseason along with Chase Edmonds.  Like the offense, the defense is still a work in progress, though at least some of that comes from the FBS and CAA competition.

In some ways Fordham's defense resembles Lehighs: their front six/seven are aggressive and get lots of tackles for loss, but also like Lehigh, they haven't done as effective a job getting turnovers as they should.

The D line's front four is pretty young, with three sophomores (Ellis Taylor, Mike Marinelli, Anthony Diodato) and one junior (Max Roberts).

Roberts has paired up with the Fordham linebackers, sophomore LB Glenn Cunningham (right) and freshman LB Ryan Greenhagen, to really be an effective force disrupting opposing offenses.  Together they have combined for 15 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.  Cunnningham and senior LB Noah Fitzgerald have the team lead in tackles so far with 39 on the season, and the linebacker rotation is something that seems to be working very well for the Rams.

The Ram secondary is experienced, with  senior CB Dylan Mabin (18 tackles, 2 pass break-ups), senior SS Antonio Jackson (1 INT) and junior CB Jesse Bramble (1 INT) all playing against Lehigh last year.  Senior FS Bryce Petty (29 tackles) too, is a defensive back that is experienced as well, starting three games last season, and joing this grep is senior ROV Lawrence Menyah (27 tackles, 1 1/2 TFL).

Special Teams
Sophomore P/PK Andrew Mevis hasn't been able to showcase his field goal talents a lot this season, but in the past he has shown to be an excellent kicker and he's one of the better punters (40.0 net) in the Patriot League.

The same return units from last year are starters this year as well. DB Dylan Mabin is a proven threat on kickoffs (who had a touchdown last year) and is joined by WR Corey Caddle on that unit.  WR Austin Longi handles punts and his longest return on the year has been 18 yards.

LFN's Keys to the Game

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  It's somewhat of a cliche to say for a team to take one game at a time, but for this Lehigh team it's absolutely critical to do so.  The best way to not have a particular loss linger is to go out and execute as if that last loss never happened.  It feels like this team in particular really, really needs to do that.

2. Give It To Bragalone.  RB Dominick Bragalone is a player that Lehigh can ride to victories, and he needs to work the ball early and often in this one.  Testing the Fordham defensive front with all sorts of runs - direct plunges, counters, and sweeps - I'd like to see them all, including mixing in a healthy helping of RB Rashawn Allen as well when the opposition starts over-focusing on Dom.  Dom needs to be leveraged for victory this week, I feel.

3. Sack Feast.  Aggressive blitzing and attacking this offensive line is a tempting proposition this week given Fordham's struggles in this area.  A return to the defense from St. Francis (PA), with plenty of sacks and aggressiveness, would go a long way towards a win.
Fearless Prediction

It's been a tough week on South Mountain with plenty of distractions.  The loss to Princeton.  The sense that something is amiss amongst this team. 

Fortunately for Lehigh fans, the key part of their record remains 0-0 - still perfect, yet winless, in Patriot League play.  The key preseason goal of Patriot League Championship threepeat and setting the standard of FCS Playoff appearances every Thanksgiving are still there for the taking.

Not to put too fine a point on it, that chance starts here. 

I look at this team and this roster and I see a team that is simply too good and too talented to be kept down.  Any thoughts or debates about comparing Lehigh to the best in the Ivy League, CAA or any other league in FCS frankly doesn't matter.  Anyone still staring at their stats or awards from last year frankly don't matter.  It's the here and now, the execution on Saturday, that matters.  That is all.

Lehigh 38, Fordham 14

Comments

Anonymous said…
Predicting a Lehigh win - what a shock. Rinse and repeat.
Anonymous said…
Chuck, we love you...but predicting holding an opponent to 14 points for an entire game is delusional to the point of absurdity.
Anonymous said…
15 already halfway through the second quarter...
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the memories Andy
Unknown said…
In his comments after the game Andy seemed like he was in shock, and that he did not know what to do to right the ship
Anonymous said…
The problem is...who really wants to watch another game this year? This is tortuous.
Unknown said…
The game was absolutely painful to watch.
This is very useful information for me. Thank you very much!

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