Courtesy of Bryant Athletics
SMITHFIELD, R.I. â€“ Bryant tailbacks Jordan Brown (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Mike Canfora (Verona, N.J.) each rushed for over 100 yards and freshman wide receiver Jordan Harris (Lincoln University, Pa.) hauled in four passes for 98 yards as the Bulldogs kicked off their third year of Division I play with a 44-30 win over visiting Fordham Saturday before 5,113 sun-soaked fans at Bulldog Stadium.
The win avenges last yearâ€™s 35-7 loss to the Rams in the Bronx, N.Y. and marks just the second win over a Division I FCS opponent outside of the Northeast Conference.
â€œI am happy with our performance,â€ said coach Marty Fine. â€œI thought our kids played hard and handled adversity very well.â€
The Bulldogs (0-1) set the tone early by striking quickly against the Rams (0-1), driving 74 yards in four plays for the first touchdown of the game just over two minutes in. Junior quarterback Mike Croce (Waterbury, Conn.) hit Harris for an 11-yard pickup on the first play of the contest, setting the tone for things to come two plays later. After Canfora was stopped by the Fordham defense for no gain, Croce connected with Harris in the back of the end zone for a 44-yard score to put the Bulldogs up, 7-0.
â€œFordham is a great team,â€ said Croce. â€œThey are very athletic, but we played very hard today and it was a great win for us to start the season after a hard training camp.â€
Fordhamâ€™s first possession didnâ€™t last long, as the Bulldog swarmed the Rams for a quick three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, Bryant once showed its speed, as Brown blew past the Ramsâ€™ punt coverage unit and raced 70 yards to put Bryant up, 14-0.
The Bulldogs would stretch their lead again after freshman speedster Michael Perry (Dunmore, Pa.) blocked a Patrick Murray punt with nine minutes to go in the first, giving the Bulldogs the ball on the four-yard line. Canfora would tiptoe into the end zone three plays later to make it 20-0.
In the second half, the Bulldogs led by as much as 36-16 following a Brown two-yard touchdown run into the end zone. But Fordham would pull to within six, 36-30, following touchdown runs by Xavier Martin for three yards and a four-yard run by Blake Wayne with 12:49 left on the clock.
On Bryantâ€™s ensuing possession, the Bulldogs faced a first-and-15 from their own 38, but Brown again came through as the sophomore raced 62 yards down the far sideline to give the Bulldogs a little breathing room. Following a Canfora successful rush to complete the 2-point conversion, the Bryant defense rose to the challenge down the stretch.
Sophomore tackle Chris Sywetz (Bergenfield, N.J.) came up big all afternoon, in particular on Fordhamâ€™s next drive following the Brown score. With the ball resting on the Bryant six-yard line and the Rams facing fourth-and-goal, Sywetz forced Wayne to hurry his throw, which would fall incomplete giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.
Fordham would have one last chance in the final seconds, but Wayne was intercepted in the end zone by Bryant corner Mike McGowan (Franklin, Mass./Bishop Feehan) to seal the victory.
Senior linebacker Jason Riffe (Newton, Mass.) finished the day with 14 tackles, including seven solo stops while Addison Lynch (Braintree, Mass.) finished with seven on the afternoon.
The Rams amassed 502 yards of total offense on the day, thanks in part to a strong outing from Wayne, who completed 20-of-34 passes for 223 yards and rushed for 98 yards on the ground in the contest.
â€œI think we had lots of kids do things well today,â€ said Fine. â€œA lot of kids played hard and were physical. They trained hard this summer, and it showed.â€
Bryant will host Saint Anselm College next Saturday at 1 p.m. Fordham returns home next Saturday to host Rhode Island in a 6 p.m. kickoff.