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With spring practices now wrapped up around the country, will look at where each of Nebraska’s 12 opponents in 2021 currently stands coming out of spring ball and heading into the summer.

Today we preview the Fordham Rams, who come into Memorial Stadium for the Huskers home opener on Sept. 4.

The Rams are coming off a shortened spring season where they went 2-1, with their only loss coming to eventual Patriot League champion Holy Cross 34-24. The Crusaders went on to the spring FCS playoffs, losing to South Dakota State in the first round, as they received the Patriot League’s automatic bid.

To learn more about Fordham, we caught up with their long-time media relations director Joe DiBari, who has been at FU for 24 years.

Spring overview 

First of all, Fordham has never played a Power Five program in their modern-day history, but before World War II, they were a top-level program in college football. They took part in the 1940 Cotton Bowl and the 1941 Sugar Bowl.

The Patriot League itself was founded on the same principles as the Ivy League. When the conference was founded, there were no athletic scholarships allowed for any sports. For a short while, the Rams played in the Atlantic 10 for all sports but football, before the Patriot League eventually began allowing athletic scholarships in the late 1990s.

Fordham currently operates with 60 football scholarships, as the FCS maximum allowed is 62. The only difference is all football players have to meet the Patriot League admission standards in order to play sports. Those are set by the conference. Patriot League athletes also cannot redshirt for development reasons. They can only redshirt if an injury happens.

The challenging thing this past year was Fordham didn’t have a fall season, and the COVID restrictions in New York City barely allowed for them to practice. Players had to be masked on the field and were restricted to positional work and very little team drills. The school did not get the thumbs up to play this spring until late January, and the Patriot League then moved on putting together a four-game schedule, with a championship game. The winner of the championship game got the league’s automatic bid in the spring FCS playoffs.

During the shortened spring season, the Rams only got three of their scheduled four games in, losing to eventual Patriot League champion Holy Cross by 10.

In order to play Nebraska, the Rams had to cancel their game with Central Connecticut State. They will play two FBS teams in 2021. Along with playing the Huskers, they also play at Florida Atlantic.

Returning starters 

The Rams return 18 of their 22 starters from the 2019 season. In total, they have 10 of 11 back on offense, losing only a wide receiver.

Then on defense, they have to replace three starters from 2019.

On special teams, they will have to replace both their kicker and punter. They added a Division III transfer Nick Leinenweber this off-season to take over the starting kicker job. He made his only field goal attempt this spring.

Patriot League offensive player of the year QB Tim DeMorat.
Patriot League offensive player of the year QB Tim DeMorat. (Fordham University)

Offensive star: QB Tim DeMorat 

In the shortened spring season, the Rams return the Patriot League offensive player of the year in quarterback Tim DeMorat. In three games he completed 92-of-129 passes for 1,049 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns on the ground.

He led the Patriot League in completion percentage and finished second nationally in all of FCS football with a mark of 72.1 percent. He also led the conference in passing yards per game (349.7) and finished seventh nationally.

Heading into this season he ranks 10th nationally for all returning FCS quarterbacks in career passing yards (5,356). Over his career, he’s thrown 36 touchdown passes, which is good for fifth all-time in Fordham school history.

Patriot League defensive player of the year LB Ryan Greenhagen.
Patriot League defensive player of the year LB Ryan Greenhagen.

Defensive star: LB Ryan Greenhagen 

Fordham’s defense will be led by linebacker Ryan Greenhagen, who was the Patriot League defensive player of the year this past spring.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Greenhagen led the Rams with 22 tackles, including two tackles for loss and one sack. He only played in two of Fordham’s three games, leading the Patriot League averaging 11 tackles per game this spring.

In a 40-8 victory over Colgate, he led the Rams with 16 total tackles. In 2019 he was a first-team All-Conference selection.

Safety Stephen Williams II.
Safety Stephen Williams II. (Fordham University)

Spring surprise: Stephen Williams II

One player to keep your eyes on in 2021 that wasn’t a factor in 2019 is safety Stephen Williams II.

He didn’t see much action two years ago, but he led the Rams this spring with two interceptions, to go along with nine tackles and two pass deflections.

Biggest question: Can their defense get stops? 

We know Fordham will have an explosive offense at their level led by DeMorat.They also have a pair of talented receivers coming back in Fotis Kokosioulis and DeQuece Carter.

The biggest question they must answer is can they get consistent stops on defense. That will be the deciding factor on if the Rams have a shot of winning the Patriot League this fall.

Early outlook on Fordham vs. Nebraska 

DiBari: “They’re just excited to go play a Power Five. I’ve never seen a game at Nebraska, but I’ve had friends who have been there and they just said the atmosphere, it’s just electric, and you come out of the tunnel with that packed stadium. It’s hard not to get excited about that. It’s something that at our level, these guys especially, they haven’t experienced that before. Personally, I think I’m looking forward to it too. I’ve been at Fordham for 24 years, and this will be the biggest football game we’ve had.”

Overall 2021 win-loss expectations 

DiBari: “Holy Cross ended up winning the shortened spring season this year. They also won the 2019 championship. We went up there this year, they were our first game. We went up there and we battled with them and we lost by 10 and there was a blocked field goal that they returned for a touchdown, and then an interception just before the half that DeMorat threw in the end zone. You take obviously, those two big plays that we could have been right there with them. I think Holy Cross will be picked to win the league again in the fall, but I think we’ll be either two or three right behind them.

“In the non-conference, we play two FBS games – Florida Atlantic two weeks after Nebraska. That game had already been scheduled a few years ago. I think, record-wise, it’s probably not going to be great, but I think it’s all going to come down to winning the Patriot League. We have received one at large bid for the NCAAs, but those are tough at our conference to get because of the strength of schedule. I think we’re going to be really concentrating on winning the Patriot League.”