Defense wins games. A statement uttered by coaches since sports clichés began, was shown to be true in Fordham's 21-14 win over Columbia at Jack Coffey Field. In a game with eight sacks between the two teams, and outstanding defensive plays on both sides, it was Fordham's 100-yard interception for a touchdown that proved to be the key play of the game.
Columbia's defense put on a show of their own, holding Fordham scoreless after two trips inside Columbia's 30-yard line. Seyi Adebayo and Owen Fraser combined for a tackle for a loss and a big sack respectively on Fordham's second possession in the first quarter, which turned the ball over to Columbia on downs.
On the ensuing drive, Fordham's Andre Delaire picked off Columbia's Sean Brackett to the Columbia 20, but Fordham's first penalty pushed them back to the 30 for an illegal block in the back. This time is was Zach Olinger and Adebayo that combined to keep Fordham off the scoreboard. Adebayo sacked the Rams' freshman quarterback Peter Maetzold for a loss of nine yards on third and seven from the Columbia 14 yard line. Fordham attempted a 40-yard field goal that went wide right.
Columbia took advantage of a Fordham penalty to close the first quarter. Patrick Murray's punted from the Fordham 19 but the Rams were called for interference, which put the Lions on the Rams 33 yard line.
Brackett found Mike Stephens, one of two Columbia receivers to have over 100 yards receiving on the day, for a 19-yard gain and put the Lions on the Fordham 14. Two plays later, Brackett found Kurt Williams for the score. Williams also had more than 100 yards receiving on the day. Luke Eddy converted the PAT for the 7-0 lead.
After consecutive three and out series by both teams, Columbia's defense held the Rams scoreless after starting a drive on the Columbia 35. Neil Schuster, Mike Waller, Olinger, and A.J. Maddox combined for tackles on the drive. Josh Martin blocked the 41-yard field goal attempt to give Columbia the ball on its own 32.
The Lions pushed the ball down the field behind a combined 42-yards receiving by Stephens and some short gains on the ground by Brackett. On second and goal from the Fordham six, Brackett was sacked for a loss of seven but on the next play, Brackett used some tough moves and kept for 11 yards. On fourth and two, Nick Womack picked Brackett at the goal line and raced 100 yards to tie the game.
"We talked all week about limited unforced turnovers," Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football Norries Wilson said. "We didn't' do that today, and we have a lot to work on before next week."
Fordham scored the go-ahead touchdown on its second possession of the third. Starting the drive on its own 35, Maetzold found Sam Ajala for a 60-yard touchdown score to go up 14-7 midway through the third quarter.
After Columbia drove down to the Fordham 18 and failed to convert a field goal, Fordham tacked on another score early in the fourth on five plays, which spanned 80 yards. Maetzold connected with Carlton Koonce for a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Columbia cut the lead to 21-14 late in the fourth when Brackett led the Lions 48 yards on nine plays, culminating in a 10-yard Brackett-to-Stephens touchdown pass.
Brackett finished 18-32-2 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Stephens finished with a career-high 105 yards on eight catches and a touchdown. Williams totaled 104 yards on six catches and a score.
Maetzold was 22-30 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Columbia's defense, which played extremely well throughout the game, was led by Olinger who led all players with nine solo tackles an 12 total tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Marin had six tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss, while Adebayo added four tackles, which included one sack and three tackles for a loss. Healthy of for the first time in a year, Fraswer had four tackles with a huge sack and a tackle for a loss.
Columbia returns to action on Saturday, September 24, in its home opener at Robert K. Kraft Field. The Lions will host Albany and hold Northern Manhattan Neighbors Appreciation Day at Baker Athletics Complex.