Updated 9/23 at 1:15 a.m.
Columbia’s 2013 football season got off to a rough start on Saturday afternoon, as the Lions (0-1) fell to Fordham 52-7 and lost two of their star players to season-ending injuries.
The Columbia offense had trouble establishing a rhythm and failed to score until the fourth quarter. The defense did not fare much better. Despite forcing four turnovers, the Lions allowed the Rams (4-0) to rack up 52 points on 606 yards of total offense.
“Obviously not what we anticipated, but we couldn’t sustain drives for a lot of reasons,” Columbia head coach Pete Mangurian said. “When you play a good team that’s explosive, it can get out of hand in a hurry. And that’s what happened.”
The Lions caught a bad break right from the get-go in Rose Hill. On the Lions’ first defensive possession, just 2:18 into the game, senior defensive end and co-captain Seyi Adebayo went down with an injury and limped off the field. Adebayo, who missed almost all of last season and was playing on a surgically repaired knee, got back in the game only to limp off the field once again.
The team announced Sunday afternoon that Adebayo will undergo season-ending knee surgery in the coming weeks, and that Nottingham had season-ending surgery for a wrist injury (see story, p. 1). Adebayo’s injury will end his collegiate career.
“He’s a big loss right then,” senior linebacker and co-captain Zach Olinger said. “But we let the ball start rolling, and we didn’t stop it. It’s unacceptable for anyone to have 260 yards rushing on us.”
Though Fordham’s first drive ended in a missed field goal, the Rams got on the board later in the first quarter. An eight-yard carry by running back Carlton Koonce capped off an 80-yard drive and put the hosts up, 7-0.
The Lions had a prime scoring chance early in the second quarter, as a couple of great throws by junior quarterback Brett Nottingham got Columbia deep into Rams territory. But Nottingham was picked off at the Fordham three-yard line, prematurely ending what had been a promising drive.
Fordham tacked on a second quarter field goal to extend its lead to 10-0, before an unusual sequence of plays extended Columbia’s deficit to 17-0 in the second half.
After a punt pinned the Rams at their own one, Fordham threatened once again thanks in large part to a pair of face-mask calls that gave the Rams 30 free yards. The Lions seemingly defused the threat when Rams’ quarterback Mike Nebrich fumbled at the Columbia 16.
But on the ensuing possession, Fordham corner Ian Williams blindsided Nottingham and the ball squirted into the endzone. Rams’ defensive lineman Brett Biestek fell on it to give Fordham its second touchdown of the afternoon.
“It was huge because we were kind of teetering on the brink right there,” Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead said of the play. “Really it was the turning point in the game in my mind.”
Led by Nebrich, the Fordham offense took off from there. The Rams tacked on another three touchdowns, all of which came through the air, and at the end of the third quarter the home team was sitting on a 38-0 lead.
Nebrich would finish the game with 347 yards on 32-of-38 passing to go along with the three scores. The junior signal caller—who suffered a season-ending injury against Cornell just three games in to the 2012 campaign—added 86 yards on the ground to spearhead the Rams’ attack.
“We trust him with everything that he does,” said Rams wide receiver Brian Wetzel, who caught two of Nebrich’s touchdown passes. “We know that he’s going to make time back in the backfield. And we know that if we do our job and get open downfield, he’ll get us the ball.”
With the floodgates opened, the touchdowns kept coming for the Rams in the fourth. Fordham was up 52-0 by the time Columbia scored its first touchdown with 3:27 to play in the game.
The Light Blue finally got on the board when junior wide receiver Ryan Flannery caught a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Trevor McDonagh, who came in for Nottingham, to make it 52-7.
But the score was far too little, far too late. Fordham closed out the win to remain unbeaten.