Big stage, big stakes for Fordham at Yankee Stadium

(STATS) – It's rare that FCS programs get to play on a stage as grand as Yankee Stadium, so Fordham and Holy Cross will surely be feeling extra nervous – or extra motivated.

“It's gonna be awesome,” said Fordham receiver Robbie Cantelli, a New Jersey native and longtime Yankees fan.

For Cantelli's Rams and star Chase Edmonds, though, there's more at stake than just wanting to win a rivalry game in a renowned venue. The game is vital to the hopes of whether or not their names get called come selection time.

Whereas Fordham must defeat the Crusaders on Saturday in the Bronx to keep alive any chance of getting an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs, Edmonds might need a big day to stay in the race for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award.

These Patriot League Football foes first met in 1902, and the annual Ram-Crusader Cup is played in honor of Major Frank W. Cavanaugh – a World War I veteran who coached both Fordham and Holy Cross. The Crusaders are “hosting” the game even though it's being played a few miles from the Rams' campus because it originally was supposed to be held at Holy Cross' home in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“Having the opportunity this year to play a game at Yankee Stadium is something our players will remember long after their football careers are over,” Holy Cross director of athletics Nathan Pine said. “This will be a special event for everyone involved.”

It would be made more special for the Crusaders (4-6, 2-3) if they pull off an upset and shut down Edmonds in the process.

Fordham's league title hopes went by the wayside last weekend when Lehigh clinched the crown, but the Rams (6-3, 3-1) are far and away the Patriot's second-best team. They did receive an at-large bid last season after winning a playoff game in both 2013 and '14, and this year's squad has received votes in every single STATS FCS poll.

“If we're an 8-3 football team, the committee is at least going to have to talk about us,” Fordham coach Andrew Breiner said.

They surely need dominant performances this week and in the season finale at Bucknell to get at-large consideration. Edmonds might need the same to garner one of three finalist spots for the Payton Award despite being the FCS' top rusher by a wide margin.

Edmonds' 1,499 yards put him 284 ahead of second-place Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T. Cohen, though, is averaging more yards per carry (7.5 to 7.3) and has rushed for 15 touchdowns while Edmonds remains stuck on 12 after failing to reach the end zone in four straight games. Plus, Cohen has led the Aggies to the No. 10 ranking and an 8-1 record, and there may be room for only one running back among the offensive player of the year finalists.

So Edmonds can't afford to have another quiet day as he did last weekend, held to 73 yards on 21 carries in a 24-20 win over a Colgate run defense ranked fourth in the FCS. Plus, he lost a fumble for the second straight week.

“With all due respect to all the running backs in FCS football, Chase Edmonds is the best running back in FCS football,” Breiner said. ” … I believe in Chase Edmonds and I will always hand the ball to Chase Edmonds in a critical situation.”

The junior has totaled 304 rushing yards in two games against the Crusaders. He ran for four touchdowns against them last year, with the last coming in overtime to give Fordham a 47-41 victory.

It was the Rams' fourth straight win over Holy Cross, though the Crusaders lead the series 27-24-1.