The last time the Yale football team played Fordham, graduated two-way star Dale Harris ’17 nearly single-handedly defeated the Rams, rushing for four touchdowns and recording three solo tackles. But his efforts fell just short as the Bulldogs dropped a 44–37 affair.
A year later, the Elis (2–0, 1–0 Ivy) will look to avenge last season’s loss when they return to Coffey Field this Saturday at 6 p.m. for a rare primetime contest. Although Team 145 will not have Harris this time around, it enters Week Three of the 2017 campaign looking to maintain an unblemished record against a struggling Fordham side (1–3, 0–0 Patriot). The Rams have given up at least 31 points in all four of their contests thus far, which bodes well for a Yale offense that has averaged 52.5 points a game. However, it will be up to the defense to prevent a high-scoring battle reminiscent of last year’s and prevent Fordham from winning its eleventh straight contest against Ivy League competition.
“They’re very good,” head coach Tony Reno said. “You start with their offense because that’s what they’ve been most prolific at. Not to understate their defense, but they’ve scored a ton of points … [Their] quarterback’s back from last year. They have two very good slot [receivers], two good outside guys, a big tight end and arguably the best back in the country.”
Much of the Rams’ poor early-season performances can be attributed to a combination of extremely tough competition and an injured star running back. The team from the Bronx kicked off its season with two of its first three games against Army, a Football Bowl Subdivision team, and No. 8 Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision semifinalist last year.
To make matters worse, the Rams have been without their workhorse, All-American running back Chase Edmonds, a household name for FCS fans and NFL scouts, who suffered a left ankle sprain in the second game of the season. It’s unclear whether Edmonds, who has rushed for 5,400 yards and 63 touchdowns so far in his career, will lace up for Saturday’s game. Taking these factors into account, Fordham will present Yale with a much tougher test than a typical 1–3 football team.
With or without Edmonds, Team 145 will need to stop the run if it hopes to slow the Rams’ explosive attack. In its first game without Edmonds two weeks ago, Fordham gained a measly 26 rushing yards en route to a 21-point performance. However, last week, the team found its groove in a 40-point showing with 167 yards on 5.6 yards per carry. The Rams’ running attack was able to open up the field for quarterback Kevin Anderson, who threw for 366 yards and five touchdowns.
The reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week threw for 270 yards and five touchdowns against the Elis last season and needs just one more touchdown pass to break former NFL player John Skelton’s all-time school record. Yale’s defensive front, which registered 11 sacks against Lehigh and Cornell, will be integral both in limiting a Fordham rushing attack that averaged 229.7 yards per game in 2016 and applying pressure on Anderson.
“It definitely helps that we have some coverage behind us so we have time to get a rush,” defensive end Kyle Mullen ’19 said. “I think the defensive line is playing well because we’re being aggressive by maintaining rush lanes and working together.”
Two large reasons for Fordham’s offensive success are offensive linemen Anthony Coyle and Ben Hartman, a pair of 6-foot-5-inch seniors who were both All-Patriot League selections last season and compose the left side of the Rams’ offensive front. In the two games both players started, against Bryant and Central Connecticut State, the Rams surrendered just two sacks and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
The Rams also boast a pair of talented wide receivers in Corey Caddle and Austin Longi. Caddle is ranked seventh in FCS play in receptions per game, and also leads the team with 363 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Longi, a 2016 All-Patriot League selection, has seen limited game action after suffering an injury versus Army, but his injury status remains unknown heading into Saturday. The Bulldogs hope their secondary, laden with experienced starters, can build off a successful performance versus Cornell in which it forced two interceptions, including a pick-six by defensive back Hayden Carlson ’18.
“We have a lot of senior leadership on the team,” Carlson said. “[Our secondary] has played a lot of football, so we have a lot of different experiences. We’re all coming together and playing as one whenever we’re out on the field. It’s reflective in the way we play and how aggressively we play as a defense”
Cornerback Caleb Ham, who returned an interception for a 63-yard touchdown against the Bulldogs in 2016, anchors Fordham’s defense. Its secondary also features defensive backs Dylan Mabin, who leads the FCS in passes defended, and Antonio Jackson, who ranks sixth in the FCS in interceptions per game. The Ram’s passing defense should pose an interesting test for quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 and Yale’s receiving corps, which ranks third in the country in team-passing efficiency.
With the Bulldogs heading into the Bronx for the second straight season, they will look to counter Fordham’s recent dominance at Coffey Field. The Rams have won 29 of their last 32 home contests and suffered their last home defeat in a 14–7 loss to nationally ranked Villanova in September of 2015.
“This is our toughest test yet, on both sides of the ball,” Reno said.
Yale kicks off against Fordham at 6 p.m., in the school’s ninth all-time meeting, with the Bulldogs leading the series 5–3.
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