After a long winter, spring, and summer, the fall season kicks off Saturday afternoon when the football team heads to Fordham for the annual Liberty Cup.
Though the contest will open the season for the Lions, the Rams (3-0) have been undefeated in their first few games. Last week, they won a last-second thriller over Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Looking to spoil Fodham’s homecoming, the Light Blue will come in with its new quarterback, junior Brett Nottingham. The transfer from Stanford was officially named the starter on Wednesday, beating out sophomore Trevor McDonagh for the job. Second-year head coach Pete Mangurian said Nottingham’s experience set him apart in the QB competition.
“He’s practiced against a lot of different looks and a lot of different people. And he has the eye of a veteran, and he makes the people around him better,” Mangurian said. “At this point, we think we’re very fortunate to have a veteran quarterback that can play, obviously, at a high level. And Trevor is a guy that if anything ever happened, we have quality depth at the position.”
The Light Blue offense will be going up against a Fordham defense that has been more susceptible to the run than the pass, which could bode well for senior running back and co-captain Marcorus Garrett, who was selected for the first-team All-Ivy League in 2012. Nevertheless, Mangurian said the Rams’ effort-level on defense has impressed him.
“They play unbelievably hard, relentless-style defense,” Mangurian said. “They’ll come at you—they’ll blitz you and they’ll do those kinds of things. And with a lead, that’s very effective. So we’ve got to make sure that we control our part of the game as much as we can.”
Protecting the ball is always important, but could prove to be tough against the Rams’ defense. They’ve forced nine turnovers in three games—three interceptions and six fumbles—and Mangurian said the Lions cannot afford to give the Rams extra opportunities.
On offense, the Rams have a formidable running back of their own in Carlton Koonce, who ran for 250 yards on 35 carries in last year’s Liberty Cup. Mangurian said Koonce has “outstanding, unusual quickness.”
“Obviously, he’s had a lot of success,” Mangurian said. “He’s got one of the best jump-cuts I’ve ever seen. And if you’re not disciplined and you’re not in balance when he gets up on you with the ball, he can make you look silly.”
But the Rams’ offense is a balanced attack, as quarterback Michael Nebrich has had plenty of success throwing the ball. Last week against Temple, Nebrich threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard touchdown pass with four seconds remaining in the game to win it.
“They’ve got a big-play, big-strike offense,” Mangurian said. “They’re always pushing the ball down the field. The quarterback is dangerous with his feet and his arm.”
While Mangurian said this season doesn’t ride on one game, it’s always nice to start off with a victory.
“We’re going to be defined by the long haul of how we play,” Mangurian said. “If we work hard enough to give ourselves the opportunity to win, we’re talented enough to give ourselves the opportunity to win.”
Still, considering where the program is in its development, Mangurian said that the Lions have to focus on themselves.
“We have a lot of respect for Fordham, but it really comes back to us and how we play,” he said. “Our emphasis is going to be to play as well as we can possibly play, and if we do that, then the other stuff will take care of itself. So we’re going to focus on what we have to do to win more than winning itself.”
“But we want to win, obviously. That’s why you play this game,” Mangurian added. “We’re never going to minimize that.”
The team’s first chance for victory in 2013 will kick off at 1 p.m. at Jack Coffey Field in the Bronx.