Fordham’s disappointing 24-10 loss to the Villanova Wildcats on Dec. 7 brought an end to the Rams’ best football season in 60 years. The Rams, the 2002 Patriot League co-champions, advanced to the I-AA playoffs for the first time since moving to I-AA in 1989. Fordham reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA I-AA playoffs after defeating the Northeastern University Huskies 29-24 on Nov. 30 in Brookline, Mass. Against Northeastern, senior kicker Matt Fordyce kicked an NCAA Division I-AA playoff record five field goals to lead Fordham to victory. Fordyce’s five field goals broke the old playoff mark of four set by three different players, most recently by Shonz LaFrenz of McNeese State in 1998. The five field goals also set a Fordham and Patriot League record. Also a prominent offensive force was junior quarterback Kevin Eakin, who completed 20 of 37 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, and junior running back Kirwin Watson, who rushed 21 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore wide receiver Steve Porco finished the day with six catches for 68 yards while junior Javarus Dudley had six receptions for 36 yards. Sophomore tight end Erik Conroy caught three passes for 112 yards. Sophomore linebacker NaQuinton Gainous led the Fordham defense with 11 total tackles, six solo, including a sack. Senior defensive back Gerome Robinson had nine tackles, five solo, including one for a loss. Robinson also had two pass deflections, while senior defensive lineman Aymen Aboushi made seven stops. At Villanova the following week, the Wildcats were led by senior quarterback Brett Gordon, who completed 26 of 30 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore running back Terry Butler, who carried 19 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. Villanova took the opening kickoff and drove to the Fordham 10 where freshman Adam James kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 3-0 with 8:32 left in the first quarter.

The Wildcats would extend the lead to 10-0 on a trick play as Gordon hit senior wide receiver Brian White in the flats and White pitched the ball to freshman running back Martin Gibson who took it in from the Fordham 25. The 10-0 lead would hold until the third quarter when the Rams would drive 66 yards on 11 plays to the Villanova 14 where Fordyce connected on a 31-yard field goal to cut Fordham’s deficit to seven, 10-3, with 7:17 remaining in the third. Villanova responded with a 66-yard, 13-play drive of its own with Butler taking it in from the four for a 17-3 Wildcat lead with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Rams trailed 17-3 in the fourth quarter when freshman defensive back Chris Anzano blocked a Villanova punt, which was picked up by Adam Foley on the Villanova 12 and returned to the one-yard line. Two plays later, Kirwin Watson scampered around the right side for the score, pulling the Rams to within a touchdown, 17-10, with 9:49 remaining. The Wildcats took the ensuing kickoff and drove 76 yards on 13 plays with Gordon finding Butler with an eight-yard touchdown pass as Villanova regained a 14-point lead, 24-10, with 3:29 left. Villanova’s drive took 6:20 off the clock and didn’t allow the Rams a chance to mount a comeback. The big play on the drive was a fourth and one carry for Butler from the Fordham 26 that gained three yards and kept the drive moving. Junior defensive back Dan McGrath led the Fordham defense, which held the Wildcats to ten points under their season average, with eleven total tackles, ten solo.

Gainous also made 11 stops, nine solo, including a sack. Eakin finished the day completing 16 of 30 passes for 115 yards while Watson carried 15 times for 54 yards and the touchdown. Junior tight end Travis Johnson led Fordham receivers with four catches for 47 yards while Porco made three catches for 24 yards. Despite being defeated in the quarter semi-finals, the Rams are poised to be a force to be reckoned with next season, when the nucleus of the young team returns for another season.