Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lehigh Mountain Hawks 42 at Fordham Rams 59 (NCAA Football, Patriot League) - October 24, 2015

After the Blue Jays were eliminated in painful fashion on Friday night, I needed to get out of the house on Saturday and start focusing on the fall and winter sports. There were a few options, but I chose to visit Fordham, one of the few schools in the city where I have yet to see a game. Their football team, ranked #10 in the FCS, was hosting Lehigh in Patriot League action. The Rams usually play in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but it doesn't support football, so they get to experience some different opponents every fall.

The campus is located in the Bronx, about 30 blocks north of Yankee Stadium and close to the Fordham Road stop on the 4, B, and D trains. There is a Metro North stop right next to the campus, but these tickets are a bit costly and trains are infrequent, thus the subway is your better option. You can take a Bx12 SBS bus from the subway stops, or just walk about 20 minutes through an area of New York City which sees few tourists. Incidentally, the Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo (free admission on Wednesdays, which combines well with basketball) lie just north of campus, but the southern side is much more urban.

Once you cross Webster Street, take the small entrance to campus, letting the security guard know that you are heading to the football game. Once inside, you will be amazed at the contrast between the city and the university. The campus is filled with beautiful Gothic buildings (that's the Duane Library above) and you will pass several on your way to Coffey Field, the Rams gridiron. You will know you've arrived when you see the small monument to the Seven Blocks of Granite, the nickname given to two groups of linemen between 1929 and 1937. The most famous name is Vince Lombardi, who now has some trophy named after him.

There are three retired numbers above Section 6 including Lombardi's. The other two are more tragic as both honour players who passed away while playing for Fordham; Cornelius Murphy in 1931 (likely the deadliest football season in history) and Bill Tierney, who died while warming up for a game in 1996.

There is a single grandstand with tickets running $10 for general admission ($5 for seniors), which are the benches on either side of the 35-yard lines. The other sections have seat backs and are more expensive, but they don't sell out so you can sit at the top without worry. Bring a couple of paper towels to clean your seat as birds seem to occupy the stadium during the week and leave a few souvenirs for less observant fans.

Food is pretty basic, with pretzels and hot dogs going for $3.50 and bottles of Coke products for $2.50. Usually I advise readers to eat before or after the game to avoid overpriced food at the stadium, but college football can be a drawn-out affair and items here are reasonable. There is a Checkers along Fordham Road if you like fast food, but otherwise you might as well grab something from the concession stand to tide you over.

The field is surrounded by trees, which are quite colourful during the foliage season in mid-autumn. It is hard to believe you are in New York City when you are here. And you will be here for a long time.

The game started around 1 p.m. and didn't end until damn near 5. In that time, Fordham scored 8 touchdowns (that is their first above) and a field goal, while Lehigh managed a meagre 6 touchdowns. The key play was a blocked conversion that left Lehigh trailing 14-13. They went for two on their next score and their quarterback, Nick Shafnisky, ran into the end zone and was hit by a Fordham player. That knocked Shafnisky out of the game with a hip injury, and Brad Mayes, a freshman, replaced him. Although Lehigh led 21-17 at the half, Mayes struggled to move the Mountain Hawks on their first few drives of the second half, and Fordham took a 52-28 lead behind running back Chase Edmonds (below) who scored three touchdowns, including a run of 60 yards.

But Mayes found his footing and led Lehigh to two scores that cut the deficit to 10. Edmonds had been injured on a previous drive and looked to be concussed, but he was fine, and appeared on the next possession to clinch the game with a 75-yard touchdown that made it 59-42. Edmonds finished with a school record 347 yards as Fordham moved to 7-1 on the season.

This was one of the worst football games I have seen, at least aesthetically. No defense and dozens of extended TV timeouts for a game that wasn't even televised. Pace matters in sports and if this is a typical FCS game, I won't be coming back. Last week's Ohio State game was much quicker despite being nationally televised in the evening. Still, I would recommend paying a visit to Coffey Field if you haven't yet; it is one of the more attractive areas in New York and really, $10 for football is a bargain.


The Fordham cheerleaders have to do pushups after every Ram score, with one pushup per accumulated point. Safe to say they'd like to see some defense too, as they had to perform 121 pushups on the afternoon.



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