The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Football bounces back with victory over Fordham

Sophomore wide receiver Elijah Steward leaps for a catch against Fordham. (Photo by George Varkanis for GoLeopards)

The football team (8-2 overall, 4-1 Patriot League) landed back in the win column last Saturday as it beat Fordham (6-4 overall, 2-3 Patriot League) by a score of 24-16. The victory moved the Leopards up one spot to 22nd in the FCS Coaches Poll rankings.

Coming off a heartbreaking loss against Colgate the prior week, the Leopards needed a win to jump over Holy Cross in the Patriot League standings. 

“We got humbled by Colgate,” senior linebacker Marco Olivas said. “Looking back, it was good for the team. It showed that we can be beaten by anyone if we don’t show up and do our jobs.”

The game got off to a slow start, as neither team put points on the board in the first quarter. Although Fordham took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Maroon and White offense immediately got to work.

Sophomore running back Jamar Curtis broke off for a 40-yard run in his first action since sustaining an injury against Georgetown. Sophomore quarterback Dean DeNobile then found senior tight end Mason Gilbert and senior wide receiver Carl Smith for big completions before connecting with sophomore wide receiver Elijah Steward for a seven-yard touchdown catch. The score gave the Leopards their first lead of the game at 7-3.

Smith attributed the success of Lafayette’s passing game to the offensive line, who he says “takes control of the game.”

“We have a great group of guys up front that take lead of the game,” Smith said. “They win in the trenches and that allows everything in our arsenal to work for us.”

The Leopards took the lead into halftime. After forcing a three-and-out for the Rams, the Maroon and White offense strung together another impressive offensive possession. They burned nearly eight minutes of clock on a 14-play, 73-yard drive before DeNobile punched in a touchdown from one yard out with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

While the offense certainly shined on Saturday, the defense stepped up when it needed to. Although the Rams’ offense had averaged over 30 points per game prior to coming to College Hill, it was held to just three points in the first 50 minutes of play. Olivas deemed the performance “a team effort.”

“We took practice seriously this week,” Olivas said. “We all watched a lot of tape, made sure we responded to our assignments and ultimately we prepared the best we could.”

Olivas, who is one of the team’s captains, said that keeping the defense in order is part of preparing for each game.

“Having this experience is important, especially considering we have a lot of young guys on our defense,” Olivas said. “Part of my job is to show them how we operate and respond to adversity.”

A 24-yard field goal from freshman kicker Jack Simonetta gave the Leopards a 17-3 advantage with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Fordham found the endzone on its next drive, giving the Rams their first score in over 30 minutes of play. Both teams traded touchdowns on their next two possessions, as Curtis found the endzone on a three-yard rush. The Leopards’ offense would then chew the last three minutes of time, securing the victory.

Curtis, who ran for 204 yards on Saturday, was awarded Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors. This is Curtis’ first time receiving the award in his career, as he rushed for his second career 200-yard game. 

The Leopards will travel to Lehigh on Saturday for the 159th edition of college football’s longest-played rivalry. More importantly, a Lafayette win would clinch the Leopards’ first Patriot League Championship title and automatic bid to the NCAA DI FCS Football Championship since 2013. According to Smith, the team is treating the game as a championship.

“Offensively, we want to do what we’ve been doing,” Smith said. “This is a championship game for us, so we want to play our best game and we’re going to put our full effort into it.”

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Dan Sullivan
Dan Sullivan, Staff Sports Writer

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