BRONX, N.Y. – One of the most exciting and intense Bucknell football games in recent memory took place Saturday in front of a spirited sellout crowd at Jack Coffey Field. The Bison overcame a 10-point deficit to take a 21-17 lead in the fourth quarter over No. 6/7 Fordham, but came out on the wrong side of a 23-21 decision in a game that was not decided until a potential game-winning field goal attempt was blocked as time expired.
The entire game featured wild momentum swings, but the final minute was especially crazy. Fordham (10-0) was set up in the victory formation ready to take a knee with under a minute to play. Bucknell’s defense penetrated the offensive line and forced a fumble to take possession of the ball at its own 35-yard line and a chance to drive and win the game.
Two Brandon Wesley completions brought the Bison to midfield and then a pass interference call moved Bucknell to the Fordham 19-yard line and into field goal range. A rush by Wesley to center the ball and then a quick spike set up the potential game-winning field goal followed. With no timeouts left, the field goal unit ran onto the field. Derek Maurer lined up for a 37-yard attempt, one yard shy of his career-long, but the trajectory was low and was blocked, clinching the Fordham win.
“I always tell our team that the game is not over until they call you off the field,” said Bucknell head coach Joe Susan. “When you play against a team this good, you have to take advantage of your chances. This was a good college football game, but it is a tough one from an emotional standpoint. Our guys will bounce back and be ready next week.”
Bucknell (4-5), which was trying to win its fourth straight overall and defeat its second ranked opponent in three weeks, held the high-powered Rams offense to a pair of third-down touchdowns and three field goals. Fordham improved to 10-0 despite playing most of the game without record-setting QB Michael Nebrich, who left the game with an injury in the first quarter.
Wesley completed 20 of 40 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, while CJ Williams led the Bison with 63 rushing yards on 15 carries. Wesley completed passes to nine different receivers with Bobby Kaslander leading the way with five catches for 85 yards.
The game featured nine total turnovers and neither team scored points directly off the turnovers until Bucknell’s final touchdown with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bison had a chance to win the game earlier in the fourth quarter when they took possession of the ball at their own three-yard line with four minutes to play after a 41-yard Fordham punt. Bucknell managed one first down on three straight rushing plays, but three consecutive long incompletions by Wesley resulted in a punt and set up the wild final minute.
The Bison found themselves trailing 17-7 five minutes into the second half when Fordham backup QB Peter Maetzold completed a 63-yard touchdown pass to Sam Ajala on 3rd-and-8 and Ajala zig-zagged into the end zone.
Bucknell used a number of unconventional plays during the game as Williams completed a pass to Wesley, WR Josh Brake completed a pass to Williams for a touchdown and the Bison attempted a flea flicker that ended with an interception. The 23-yard touchdown pass from Brake to Williams after a screen brought Bucknell to within 17-14 midway through the third quarter.
The Bison forced a turnover on the ensuing kickoff and took possession at the 24-yard line. Two plays later Williams was attempting to get into the end zone, but he fumbled.
A Matthew Steinbeck interception gave Bucknell the ball back once again and four plays later Wesley completed a five-yard strike to Brake for put the Bison up 21-17. A 21-yard completion to Kaslander helped set up the touchdown.
A long pass to Kaslander also set up Bucknell’s first score in the first quarter when he hauled in a 26-yard pass with one hand and two plays later Wesley ran around the outside from two yards out to tie the score at 7-7.
Fordham converted two field goals in the fourth quarter, including a final one with 8:09 remaining, to take the late lead.
The Rams entered the game averaging more than 40 points per game and were held more than 17 below their average thanks to four forced turnovers. Evan Byers led the defense with a career high-tying 14 tackles and four tackles for loss, while Clayton Ewell added nine stops and one tackle for loss. Steinbeck’s interception was the 11th of his career, putting him into sole possession of seventh place in program history.
Maetzold was 21-for-35 passing for 318 yards in a reserve role, while Carlton Koonce rushed 28 times for 84 yards. Fordham finished with 494 yards of total offense, while Bucknell totaled 414.
Bucknell will return to league play next Saturday, Nov. 16, when it hosts Georgetown at 1 p.m. Senior Day ceremonies will take place prior to the contest.