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Husker opponent preview: Everything you need to know about the Fordham Rams

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Fordham Rams

2020: 2-1 (played shortened spring season)

2020 offensive yards per play: 5.73 (24th in FCS)

Defensive yards per play: 4.42 (15th in FCS)

Turnover margin: plus-6 (ninth in FCS)

Penalty yards per game: 39 (16th in FCS)

Coach

Joe Conlin (8-18 at Fordham, 8-18 overall)

Conlin is far from the first coach to struggle at Fordham. Since Jim Crowley — who coached an offensive lineman named Vince Lombardi — posted nine straight winning seasons from 1933-1941, two Fordham coaches have posted winning records in their career: Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. But Conlin, a former defensive lineman at Pittsburgh, knows what big-time college football looks like. He knows how to prepare his players for the crowd at Memorial Stadium. And just like he did at Yale, Conlin transformed Fordham’s offense into one of the best in the Patriot League. The last time the Rams played a full season (2019), they led the conference in points per game (24.4) and yards per game (351.8). The defense, on the other hand, should afford the Huskers plenty of scoring opportunities. Fordham has allowed at least 408 yards and 28 points per game in all three full seasons under Conlin.

Offense

Type: Spread

Coordinator: Kevin Decker

The Huskers will boast size and speed advantages at most positions, but Fordham will counter with tempo. The Rams rarely huddle and they like to throw short to test opponents’ tackling ability. In 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback Tim DeMorat, Fordham has its perfect offensive orchestrator. The senior was Patriot League offensive player of the year last spring. He completed 72% of his passes in three games and he’s not afraid to take deep shots, either (8.1 yards per attempt). Fotis Kokosioulis (20 catches, 278 yards) and DeQuece Carter (19 catches, 274 yards) lead a receiving corps that featured four players who caught at least 13 passes during the spring. The Rams didn’t run the ball much (29 attempts per game), and if Nebraska pulls ahead early as expected, they won’t run much Saturday, either. But that doesn’t mean running back Trey Sneed (18 catches, 129 yards) won’t require the Huskers’ attention.

Defense

Type: 4-2-5

Coordinators: Jameson Zacharias

The Rams have allowed 196 and 171 rushing yards per game in two full seasons under Conlin, and allowed 156 in three games under Zacharias last spring, which was his first stint as their defensive coordinator. Fordham often plays five defensive backs to combat the various spread attacks it encounters in the FCS. Zacharias might add a bigger body to the mix against the Huskers, but Nebraska still should be able to create running lanes. Linebackers Glenn Cunningham (23 tackles) and Ryan Greenhagen (22 tackles) will be the players to watch; both earned All-Patriot honors in May. Fifth-year captain Jesse Bramble, who missed last season with an injury, returns at cornerback. The Rams allowed 219 passing yards per game in 2019.

Players to watch

DeMorat: DeMorat throws an accurate ball with pace. Coaches say he’s making quicker decisions, which makes sense for a fourth-year starter. Before last spring, however, he’d never completed 60% of his passes.

Carter: Carter averaged 13.6 yards per catch as a freshman and 14.4 last spring. He’s paired with a quarterback who isn’t afraid to throw deep. Nebraska needs to keep track of him.

Fotis Kokosioulis: Kokosioulis is an All-Patriot League receiver and returner. He was on pace for 80 catches and 1,112 yards last season. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Cunningham: Linebacker might be the difference between 3- and 10-yard runs this weekend. He’s used to covering lots of space, but can he run with the Husker playmakers?

They said it

“What we’ve done better in our secondary has been eliminating yards after catch. We’re playing a little bit closer on routes, being a little more physical with wide receivers, and those guys are running to the football better than they ever have.” — Conlin on the Rams’ improved secondary.

“That was tough emotionally, especially on the seniors. But once we were able to line up and compete, the guys were more than excited to do that.” — Conlin on Fordham playing a shortened season last spring.


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