#6 Villanova Wildcats (0-1) vs. #16 Fordham Rams (1-0)
When: Saturday, September 12, 2015, at 6 p.m.
Where: Coffey Field, Bronx, NY
Fordham’s Previous Season Record: 11-3, Lost to New Hampshire in Second Round of FCS Playoffs
Key Players for Fordham: #22 Chase Edmonds (5-9, 196) So., RB; #14 Kevin Anderson (6-2, 195) Jr., QB; #43 Stephen Hodge (6-2, 196) Sr., LB; #18 Niko Thorpe (5-10, 230) So., LB; #30 J.Q. Bowers (5-9, 189) Sr., DB
Scouting Report: Despite graduating two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Michael Nebrich and three 1,000-yard receivers, the Fordham Rams seem to be doing just fine for themselves. With Nebrich gone, Fordham turns its eyes to Kevin Anderson at quarterback. Anderson spent most of last season on the bench after transferring in from Marshall. The junior quarterback looked impressive in his debut for the Rams, completing 15 of 22 pass attempts for 322 yards. He also added another 34 yards and a rushing touchdown. However, expect most of the ground work to be done by Chase Edmonds. Edmonds is coming off of an amazing freshman season in which he racked up 1,838 yards and 23 touchdowns. His play earned him the Jerry Rice Award, an award given to the most outstanding freshman in the FCS. He played an integral part in Fordham’s 37-35 upset win over Army, where he rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Edmonds also caught six passes for 140 yards. His record breaking freshman season is a testament to his athleticism. Now with a year of experience under his belt and the losses of some dynamic players on offense, expect Edmonds to take an even greater role this time around. Gone are the days of Brian Wetzel, Tebucky Jones Jr., and Sam Ajala, the receiving corps is now led by the trio of tight end Phazahn Odom, and receivers Robbie Cantelli and Ben Johnson. While Edmonds may have had more receiving yards in the season opener, these three will be the primary targets for Anderson. They have waited in the backseat for a while and this season is now their time to shine. As for the other side of the ball, linebacker Stephen Hodge is back in action. The fifth-year senior missed all of last season due to an injury he sustained during fall camp. The last time he set foot on the football field, he led the FCS in solo tackles and was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Another linebacker, Niko Thorpe, showed promise in the season opener against Army. Thorpe tallied a game-high 11 tackles in a game that featured little defense. He had a limited role last season, mainly playing on special teams, but now he is stepping up to a bigger role. As for the secondary, ballhawk J.Q. Bowers will be leading the air traffic control unit. Bowers is back as a starter, although he has had significant playing time since his sophomore season. In the win over Army, Bowers had an important second quarter pick that allowed Fordham to maintain the into halftime.
Outlook: Villanova was in a similar situation last season. After losing to FBS Syracuse, it opened up FCS play with Fordham and won in convincing fashion. The Wildcats have another opportunity to do the same by bouncing back with a game against Fordham. Although the Rams have graduated a number of key players, they continued to flow smoothly on offense without a hitch. Chase Edmonds played a huge role in the win and will have most of the offense run through him. It will be vital for Villanova to wrap up on defense. The Wildcats had a number of missed tackles that allowed UConn to extend the play. Villanova cannot afford to make the same mistakes on defense. Last year Villanova completely shut him down, the Wildcats will have to channel that same defensive intensity. Edmonds had nine carries for a loss of five yards, his worst game of the 2014 season. However, I don’t see that happening this time around. I see him having a more tamed performance compared to last season. Should the defense falter under the high-powered Fordham offense, Villanova will need to keep up. The Wildcats had some great and not-so-great plays on offense. They’ll need to be a little more consistent for this game, I’m sure they got most of their early season jitters out of the system. For the Wildcats to win, they will need to have that rhythm and flow that they had last season. There are some new starters on offense, so its only natural. They can find solace in the fact that Fordham struggled to contain Army’s scrambling quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. While the defense played pretty well overall against UConn, holding them to 20 points, the Wildcats were worn out in the second half. They cannot allow that to happen against this offensive minded team. It’ll be a pretty tough road game for Villanova.
Prediction: Villanova 28, Fordham 35
Chris Stanziale interviewed WFUV’s Fordham University radio broadcaster Kristian O’Hara to get a different take on the Rams and the upcoming game.
Q: How do you feel Fordham will do for the rest of the year riding off the momentum of their huge win against Army? Would you say that it’s a program changing win?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s a program changing win but, what we would like to make a common place win. What I mean is that this win is part of the culture Coach Moorhead is trying to form and instilling amongst the team. We’ve shown gradual improvement since he’s been here and should have won the Patriot League a few years ago but recruiting violations got in the way. Fordham has two playoff wins under him, and he is creating a culture of excellence.
So back to the Army game, Fordham was 0-4 against Army going in, so it forms the culture we have here. In regards to the rest of the year, I feel that it won’t be determined by the Army game. While, I don’t want to be dramatic, I think how our season will turnout will be determined this Saturday. A win means we have a great shot of being undefeated. While I’m not saying it’s a sure thing I think it’s probable. We play teams that are decent but not up to the skills the Fordham, such as Bucknell and Holy Cross. If we beat Nova we should run the table theoretically and start looking toward a first round bye and home game at Rose Hill. However, Villanova is our toughest opponent. I was talking to some of the guys and the sense around campus is if we take care of business on Saturday we can beat anybody and get into the playoffs.
Q: Who or what impressed you the most about the Rams performance vs Army?
A: Kevin Anderson had a great game. As you know, he had not played a down in college before. He didn’t get off to a great start for him as he fumbled first play. But he came back on the next drive and showed tremendous poise. The numbers were there, throwing for over 300 yards, proving he didn’t let the moment get too big. He is a transfer from Marshall and has sat the past two years, but he finally got a shot last week and made the most of it.
Q: Who are your most important players on both sides of the ball after seeing this team in action after one week?
A: I think the obvious choice on offense is Chase Edmonds. He has accolades galore and is the best player on the team. On defense, I think it’s a bit tough to call but I think Stephen Hodge is the key component. He ended up missing last year with an ACL injury, but is looking to establish himself again. He was a preseason All-American in 2014 and is this year’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the Patriot League. He is the veteran presence for this linebacking core and the defense.
Q: Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw had a day against the Rams defense between running and throwing the ball. Do you think the Rams can stop a similar type of quarterback in John Robertson?
A: The main concern with Army was defending the read option. In the booth we stressed that they needed the front seven to create several tackles for a loss. Basically, we cannot have them run up and down the field. While the defense didn’t do a great job, they did just enough and forced Bradshaw to make plays he wasn’t comfortable making. I feel the same has to be done to contain Robertson. The main idea here is to just keep Robertson in the pocket and not let him beat him with his arm. We all know he can run, but we feel we can test his arm and let him make the plays to beat us. And if he comes out and makes the plays, then you can only tip your cap to him. It comes down whoever controls the line of scrimmage. If the Fordham line can contain the edges and force him to stay in the pocket, or apply pressure and make him think they can win this game.
Q: Chase Edmonds tore up the Army defense with over 100 yards rushing and receiving. What makes him such a special player? Do you think he can duplicate such a performance against a ‘Nova defense led by award-winning LB Don Cherry?
A: What makes Chase so special is his elusiveness and he’s hard to bring down. From the press box, we could see that he would make guys miss with relative ease. It was amazing to see him shift one way and as the defender commits, he shifts back the other way on a dime. His shiftiness helps him create such high volume games. He is like the energizer bunny back there. With the ball in his hands you feel safe. He will have some success this game but to duplicate the success is going to be awfully tough. I’d like to see Fordham offense rely more on the receivers this game but there is no doubt that Edmonds is the straw the stirs the drink.
Q: What are your keys for Fordham to knock off ‘Nova?
A: I think this comes down to mentality for Fordham. Villanova really outclassed and outplayed us last year and made it known that “this is our house and you’re not going to beat us”. Fordham should come into this game trying to return the favor and show Villanova that they are the better team. Come out with the same mentality Nova did last year: Protect home field advantage with an attitude. They have get into the mentality of imposing and chase that will the team showed against Army and show Nova that we are going to play like a more experienced team.
Q: Your prediction for Saturday?
A: Fordham 31, Villanova 27.