Leopards suffer heartbreaker to Fordham during homecoming

The+Leopards+fall+to+the+Fordham+Rams%2C+losing+a+heartbreaker+in+their+first+Patriot+League+contest.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Cole+Jacobson+24%29

The Leopards fall to the Fordham Rams, losing a heartbreaker in their first Patriot League contest. (Photo courtesy of Cole Jacobson ’24)

Nicholas Nathanson

The Leopards lost a nail-biter to the Fordham Rams, 42-41, this past Saturday, Oct. 2, to push the Leopards to 1-4 on the season and 0-1 in Patriot League play. The homecoming game was the Leopards’ first Patriot League competition of the season.

First-year dual-threat quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis shone brightly, completing 20 of 28 passes, thus amassing 354 passing yards in the game. The 41 points were the Leopard’s most in a game since 2014.

“We did a good job of maintaining drives and not turning the ball over,” Davis said. “A lot of the time, games like that can be sloppy with penalties and turnovers. We did a good job playing with discipline.”

Within the first six minutes of the game, the Rams opened up a two-touchdown lead and the game looked like it could get out of hand. The Leopards were determined to keep it close though, as they responded quickly.

A 46-yard reception by junior wide receiver Julius Young capped a seven-play 96-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 14-7. The Rams soon after scored their third touchdown in three drives to make it 21-7 at the end of the first quarter. 

After a few drives with no scores, the Leopards got the ball around midfield after a punt. Davis took advantage of the good field position, ending the drive with a three-yard touchdown by senior running back Selwyn Simpson, his second of the season. The score cut the Rams’ lead to 21-14.

Before the first half ended, Lafayette’s defense won possession back by forcing a punt. The Leopards turned their solid defense into strong offense, as they went on a 79-yard drive to the end zone. Senior fullback Ty Hranicka ran the ball in from the one-yard line to knot the game at 21 before the half.

The Leopards and Rams combined for 521 yards in the first half, with 406 yards coming through the air.

The second half brought more of the fast-paced action, with the Leopards scoring in a two-play drive less than a minute in the second half. Davis threw to junior wide receiver K. J. Rodgers for a 74-yard touchdown. The touchdown was the first of Rodgers’ career.

The Leopards followed up the touchdown by forcing another three-and-out. However, a well-placed punt left the Leopards with the ball at their own one-yard line and Davis was sacked in the end zone for a safety. The lead was cut down to five for the Leopards, 28-23. On their next drive, the Rams hit a 39-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to two. 

A few minutes later the Leopards found the end zone again, capped by a Davis rushing touchdown. Simpson amassed 41 rushing yards on that drive on just four carries. 

On the first drive of the fourth quarter, the Rams responded with a touchdown of their own. The lead was back to two again. After stopping the Leopards, Fordham scored again with a field goal. The Rams took the lead back, 36-35, with just over seven minutes to play.

On the next drive, the Leopards methodically went down the field in 11 plays. On a third-and-21, Davis found Young for a 23-yard pass and catch to extend the drive. A few seconds later, the Leopards were in the end zone. The Leopards could not convert the two-point try, leading 41-36 with just under two minutes to play. 

Fordham began the drive at their own 28 with one minute and 40 seconds to go. The Rams were marching down the field completing first down after first down. With 54 seconds left, the Rams called a timeout. They were at the Lafayette 34 yard-line. They scored moments later to retake the lead in front of a stunned crowd. 

The Leopards got the ball back with 28 seconds left, down 42-41. The Rams’ defense came up huge on the last drive of the game and sealed the win.

The Leopards put up their most yards of the season with 499, of which 354 came from Davis’ arm. His 354 passing yards are the most in a game by a Leopard since 2013 and seventh all-time. The last time a Leopard threw for 300 yards was back in 2019, and it was against Fordham.

On the ground, Simpson led the way for the Leopards with 110 rushing yards and a touchdown. Young and Rodgers led the way for the receiver corps. Each had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. 

Though the Leopards put up their highest yardage total of the year, their defense also surrendered the most.

“I don’t think this loss will affect a team like us, especially with the leaders and coaches that we have. We can just reset and be ready for next week,” Davis said.

The team will look to put this one behind them as it hosts Bucknell tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., on First Responders Appreciation Day.