Nov. 3, 2012
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell senior RB Tyler Smith rushed 29 times for 179 yards and the Bison scored 20 unanswered points in the second half as they snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 27-24 victory over Fordham Saturday afternoon at chilly Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Bucknell forced three turnovers and registered 217 yards on the ground as it defeated the Rams for a second straight year and a fifth time in the last seven meetings overall.
Smith, who has battled injuries all season, made a triumphant full-time return to the lineup as he registered his fourth career 100-yard rushing game and crossed the goal line three times - twice on rushes and once on a reception. His 208 all-purpose yards were a season high and lifted his career total to 3,834, while he moved into the top 10 (9th) in program history in career rushing yards (1,785). Smith, who rushed for 204 yards against Fordham a year ago, now has 445 career rushing yards against the Rams.
The big run for Smith was a 76-yard dash that gave the Bison their first touchdown - and a 7-6 lead - with just over nine minutes to play in the first quarter. It was Bucknell's first run of more than 70 yards in five years.
Bucknell (2-7) trailed 21-17 late in the third quarter and it had the ball at the Fordham two-yard line with a chance to take the lead again. The Bison went for it on fourth-and-inches, but Smith's run around the outside was stopped and Fordham took possession. Bucknell's defense proceeded to not allow a first down and force a punt, giving the offense excellent field position.
Five-time Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week Patrick Murray punted the ball from the end zone to Kyle Sullivan, who returned it 10 yards to the 35-yard line. A 15-yard personal foul penalty moved the ball up to the 20-yard line and two plays later Smith ran across the goal line from 14 yards out to give Bucknell a 24-21 lead it would not relinquish.
Fordham (5-4) tried to re-take the lead on its next drive, but Matthew Steinbeck intercepted his team-high fifth pass of the year and returned it 78 yards to set up Sean Cobelli's second field goal of the game, and 10th of the year, to make it 27-21.
Hampered by a holding call, the Rams were forced to go for a 39-yard field goal on the next possession, cutting Bucknell's lead in half. The Bison then took over with 6:10 to play, but managed just one first down and were forced to punt. Ryan Gutowski, who averaged 39.8 yards on his five punts after missing a game with an injury, booted a 42-yard kick into a stiff wind, giving Fordham a long field.
The Rams' final drive started on their own 19-yard line. Thanks to three pass completions of more than 10 yards by quarterback Ryan Higgins, Fordham got to the Bucknell 36-yard line as it neared field goal range for Murray, especially with the wind at his back. After an incomplete pass, Higgins dropped back to pass and DE Samuel Oyekoya chased him down for a 13-yard sack, pushing the Rams back near midfield. After a long incomplete pass to Brian Wetzel that went through both Steinbeck and Wetzel's hands, Joseph Francis picked off a Higgins pass, clinching the victory for Bucknell. It was the first career interception for Francis, who has played in 42 games in his career.
In addition to the near-game clinching sack, Oyekoya had five tackles, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Overall, Bucknell forced three turnovers, had four sacks and registered nine tackles for loss. Even Byers led the defense with a career high-tying 12 tackles, while Beau Traber and Sean Sellers had seven tackles and one sack apiece.
Fordham opened the game with two field goals and a pair of second-quarter touchdown runs by Carlton Koonce, who finished with 116 yards on the ground, gave the Rams a 21-7 halftime advantage.
The Bison comeback started early in the third quarter as a 22-yard field goal by Cobelli capped an 11-play, 42-yard drive that opened the stanza. All 42 yards in the drive came on the ground.
Bucknell then forced a Fordham punt and came back down and scored a touchdown to make it 21-17. A 12-yard pass from Brandon Wesley to Kyle Sullivan on third-and-11 kept the drive alive and Wesley later found Smith on a 26-yard touchdown pass.
Wesley was 10-for-22 passing for 100 yards in the game. He broke Scott Auchenbach's 23-year-old program record for career pass attempts (767).
The Bison were much-improved on third downs Saturday, converting 7 of 15 after being successful on just 31 percent this season entering the game.
Bucknell capitalized on a number of mistakes by Fordham, which was penalized 10 times for 97 yards. The Bison were flagged just four times.
The Rams dominated the time of possession in the first half, possessing the ball for nearly 20 minutes. That statistic was reversed in the second half when Bucknell had the ball for 19 minutes.
The Bison's average drive start was their own 41-yard line, while Fordham's was its 28. The good field position Bucknell had could be attributed to a number of factors, including turnovers and kick returns. Freshman Brian Regan averaged more than 31 yards per return.
Higgins finished the game 23-for-40 for Fordham, but he did not throw a touchdown and was picked off twice. Koonce was his favorite target as he caught seven passes, many shoveled to him near the line of scrimmage.
Bucknell will look to win two in a row for the first time this year when it hits the road for the final time in 2012 next week. The Bison will travel to Washington, D.C., to take on Georgetown. Bucknell owns a four-game winning streak against the Hoyas.