No. 8 Fordham Beats Yale 52-31

Jeff Schmittgens intercepts a pass. (photo by Ron Waite, Photosportacular)

Rich Runs for 159 Yards, Touchdown

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale football team had already knocked off one nationally ranked team this season. On Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field, No. 8 Fordham avoided being the second team on the Bulldogs' list of upset victims. The Rams kept their perfect record intact, posting 614 yards of total offense and beating Yale 52-31. This was the fourth time this season Fordham has scored 50 or more points in a game.

With the win, Fordham (8-0, 2-0 Patriot League) avoided the fate that had befallen Cal Poly; the Mustangs were ranked No. 18/19 when the visiting Bulldogs pulled off a 24-10 win two weeks ago. Rams quarterback Michael Nebrich and wide receiver Sam Ajala vexed the Elis all game long Saturday, starting on the second play from scrimmage when they combined for a 68-yard touchdown toss. That was the first of four TDs for Ajala, who broke the school record for receiving yards in a game with 282 (on 10 catches).

"We just try to take advantage of what [opposing defenses] do," said Ajala. "Every week we try to make big plays."

Freshman wide receiver Robert Clemons III returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to get the Yale offense started at the Fordham 32. A Bulldog fumble ended that drive after three plays, though. The next Yale drive saw the Bulldogs get to the Fordham eight before another fumble gave the ball back to the Rams.

"If we come out of those drives with scores, it's a different game," said Tony Reno, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football.

Junior defensive tackle Jeff Schmittgens ended Fordham's next drive with his second interception of the season, nabbing a pass from Nebrich at the Yale 19 and returning it to the 36. The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on that turnover, but the next Fordham drive ended with another interception -- this one by sophomore safety Cole Champion, his third of the year, at the Rams 32. Three plays later, senior quarterback Henry Furman scored from 17 yards out on a keeper to tie the game with 2:18 left in the first.

But that would be the last time the score was close, as Fordham responded with three straight scores. Nebrich and Ajala combined for another touchdown toss, this one a 29-yarder, to make it 14-7 Fordham with 22 seconds left in the first.

Fordham then became the first team to register a sack against Yale's offensive line, getting one on the Bulldogs' first drive of the second quarter to force a punt. The Rams then drove 53 yards in eight plays to go ahead by 10 points thanks to a 43-yard field goal by Michael Marando.

Yale drove deep into Fordham territory late in the second quarter before losing another fumble, this one at the Fordham 18. The Rams moved quickly down the field after that -- getting a 50-yard completion from Nebrich to wide receiver Tebucky Jones to get the ball to the Yale 41 -- but a sack by sophomore defensive lineman Carl Kreitzberg stopped the drive at the Eli 43.

Another 68-yard touchdown pass from Nebrich to Ajala extended Fordham's lead to 24-7 early in the third. The Bulldogs answered with an 18-yard field goal from junior punter/placekicker Kyle Cazzetta, but Fordham stormed down the field again for another touchdown, this one a six-yard ramble by running back Jared Crayton that made the score 31-10 with 4:33 left in the third.

A 58-yard run by freshman tailback Candler Rich highlighted Yale's next drive, the longest run of the season by a Bulldog. Three plays later, sophomore quarterback Morgan Roberts fired one to junior wide receiver Deon Randall in the end zone to pull Yale within two touchdowns with 2:38 remaining in the third. That six-yarder was Roberts' first career touchdown toss.

The first play of Fordham's ensuing drive was a 43-yard completion from Nebrich to Ayala, setting the tone for another quick touchdown. Nebrich then scored on a seven-yard keep up the middle.

Nebrich and Ajala combined again, this time for a 34-yard touchdown, to make the score 45-17 with 12:28 to play. Nebrich finished with 421 yards passing, completing 19 of 26 passes.

"They have got some very talented receivers," said Reno. "[Nebrich] puts the ball out, front shoulder, and lets them run to it."

Rich broke off a 48-yard touchdown run, his first career score, with 10:41 remaining. He finished the day with 159 yards on 11 carries.

An interception thrown by Roberts with 7:59 to play, Yale's fourth turnover of the game, enabled Fordham to tack on another touchdown. This one came on a one-yard run by Crayton with 5:20 left. Roberts then threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Randall with 2:31 remaining to make the final score 52-31. Randall finished with nine catches for 60 yards and two scores, though his efforts were overshadowed by Fordham's aerial show.

"That was a great football team that we played," said Reno. "What they have done in the first seven weeks speaks for itself. We made some mistakes in the early going that hurt us."

Yale (3-2, 1-1 Ivy League) travels to Penn next Saturday.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity