Thanks to a complete team defensive effort and a career-day from running back Tyler Smith ’13, the Bison football squad ended its losing streak with its second win of the season by coming from behind to defeat the Fordham Rams 27-24. The Orange and Blue improve to 2-7 on the season, while the Rams fell to 5-4.
Smith, who has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, turned in a performance for the ages, rushing 29 times for 179 yards, part of 208 all-purpose yards, and scoring three touchdowns. After falling behind 6-0, Smith broke off a 76-yard touchdown run to give the Bison an early 7-6 edge. It was the first rush of over 70 yards for the Bison in five years.
The Bison found themselves down 21-7 at halftime, but scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to propel the Bison victory. Head coach Joe Susan made a point to keep the team motivated at halftime.
“I brought them together when we got into the locker room and told them how important it was for us to keep our composure as we were on the verge of losing it at times in the first half,” Susan said. “I also told them that I sensed our opponent felt they had already beaten us.”
After closing the gap to 21-17, the Bison drove all the way down to the Fordham two-yard line, but Smith was stopped on fourth-and-inches. After the Orange and Blue defense forced a three and out on the ensuing possession, Kyle Sullivan ’14 returned the Fordham punt to the Rams’ 35-yard line. After a personal foul penalty on Fordham moved the ball up to the 20, Smith rushed in for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Bison a 24-21 lead.
‘This was the first game that [Smith] has been 100 percent healthy. His ability to make people miss in space was critical to his success,” Susan said.
On Fordham’s next offensive series, safety Matthew Steinbeck ’15 intercepted his fifth pass of the season, returning the ball 78 yards to set up a Sean Cobelli ’14 field goal that extended the lead to 27-21. The Rams then connected on a 39-yard field goal of their own to close the score to 27-24.
The Bison received the ball with 6:10 remaining, but only gained a single first down, giving Fordham a chance to tie or take the lead. Ryan Gutowski ’13 provided a 42-yard punt that gave Fordham the ball at their own 19-yard line. Fordham’s quarterback drove the Rams all the way down to the Bison 36-yard line, but a sack by defensive end Samuel Oyekoya ’13 pushed them back to midfield. Joseph Francis ’13 then picked off a pass to seal the second victory of the season for the Orange and Blue.
On top of his sack, Oyekoya also had five tackles (three for a loss), forced a fumble and recovered one. Evan Byers ’15 led the defense with 12 tackles, and Beau Traber ’13 and Sean Sellers ’14 had seven tackles and a sack each. The defense forced three turnovers total for the game.
“We made some adjustments as a unit, but the main thing was that we came out in the second half with a lot of energy,” Byers said. “Everybody just did their job and our playmakers made plays.”
Brandon Wesley ’14 was steady throughout the game, going 10-22 passing. The ground game powered the offense though, as they rushed for 217 total yards. The team was also much improved on third down, converting 7 of 15 third down opportunities.
The Orange and Blue return to action tomorrow when they travel to Washington D.C. to face Georgetown. Susan knows that young players are important to the team’s success as the season winds down to its final two weeks.
“They continue to improve. This team is good in understanding that the Fordham game is over. The next opportunity is the one we will focus on,” Susan said. “Each opponent brings a new challenge physically and mentally.”
Byers also explains how the feeling of earning the victory against Fordham can carry over to tomorrow’s game against the Hoyas.
“The feeling after getting the win versus Fordham was awesome,” Byers said. “Nobody on the team wants to lose again and we just have to use that as motivation to work hard all week and come out on Saturday and make plays.”