Fordham football will look to continue its resurgence under coach Jim Moorhead this season, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday against St. Francis (Pa.) at Coffey Field in the Bronx.
A repeat of last year's 12-2 campaign, one of the finest in the school's long gridiron history, sounds tough for a program that went 1-10 just three seasons ago and has only two other 10-win seasons since 1970. But past results, especially those that took place before Moorhead's arrival in 2012, don't indicate future returns. Here are three reasons to believe the Rams can sustain their success in 2014.
Quarterback Mike Nebrich was the straw that stirred this team last year, propelling Fordham to the second round of the FCS playoffs. Nebrich, a dual threat as a passer (4,380 yards, 35 TDs, 73.5% completion rate) and rusher (513 yards, nine TDs), could once again contend for the Walter Payton Award, FCS's version of the Heisman Trophy. When Nebrich is healthy -- he missed the lone regular-season loss to Lafayette last year -- the Rams are as good as anyone they'll face.
...And he's not alone
Nebrich's three favorite targets from a year ago are back, too. Wide receivers Sam Ajala (93 catches, 1,646 yards, 14 TDs), Brian Wetzel (89 catches, 1,094 yards, 14 TDs) and Tebucky Jones Jr. (85 catches, 1,154 yards, five TDs) provide a trio of talented seniors for opposing secondaries to think about. On defense, top tackler Stephen Hodge returns to anchor the linebackers.
Fordham came out of nowhere when it climbed the rankings last year to eventually reach the top 10, but there's no surprising the FCS world this year. The preseason coaches' poll slotted the Rams at No. 12. Next week's meeting at No. 13 Villanova will have more impact on their season than just about any other on the slate, but a repeat of last year's 27-24 victory at home certainly would kick-start the Rams' run to another postseason berth.