After the Lions blocked Marist’s extra point to edge the Red Foxes 10-9, Columbia football entered last year’s Liberty Cup with a chance to get to 2-0 for the first time since 2006. Unfortunately for Light Blue fans, Fordham running back Carlton Koonce had different plans for that Saturday afternoon.
After Columbia opened the scoring with a field goal, Koonce responded with a 92-yard touchdown run. Not five minutes later, the New Jersey-raised back caught an 18-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Higgins to give the Rams an early 14-3 lead. Koonce tallied 250 yards on 35 carries, and the Rams topped the Lions 20-13.
This weekend will provide another opportunity for Koonce to take on the Light Blue defense as Columbia opens its season against Fordham on Saturday afternoon for the Liberty Cup.
“It’s a rivalry game and there’s a lot at stake with the battle of New York City and the Liberty Cup,” Koonce said. “I remember it coming down to the final possession as it seems it does for every Fordham-Columbia game.”
Koonce has had an integral role in the Rams’ success for the past couple of years. During the 2012 season, Koonce rushed 300 times for 1,596 yards, smashing Fordham’s single-season rushing record and earning first-team All-Patriot League honors.
“It felt good,” Koonce said. “Any time you’re coming out here and putting in the effort and you apply that to the field and have that outcome, it feels great. I just hope to continue that and keep building from that success.”
Last Saturday, Fordham topped heavy favorite Temple 30-29 on the road as quarterback Michael Nebrich hit wide receiver Sam Ajala in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown with only four seconds remaining. After defeating Temple, Fordham stands 3-0 on the season. The Rams are ranked 21st in the national FCS polls.
Koonce, whose cousin Steve Smith won Super Bowl XLII with the New York Giants, tallied 194 total yards on 27 rushes and four receptions in the victory.
“It wasn’t one of those games where we were just hoping to compete with a team like that,” Koonce said. “We came out expecting to win just like any other game.”
Nebrich, who completed 23 of 36 attempts for 320 yards and two touchdowns, emphasized the importance of the huge victory for the Rams.
“It was a big win, not only for me, but for this program,” Nebrich said. “I came to Fordham with Coach Moorhead to win games like these.”
Based on how he has played in the first three games of the 2013 season, it’s unlikely that Koonce will stop ravaging defenses. Koonce has averaged 113.7 yards per game through three contests.
“I just want to see the team continue to improve and build upon last year’s success and try and get better each and every day,” he said.
Koonce’s success on the ground—as well as receiving from the backfield—will determine the Rams’ success both on Saturday and for the rest of the season.