When Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead met with reporters at media day on August 11, he started off by thanking members of the press for coming out to cover his team.
That's what happens when you give the media one heck of a story to cover, Joe.
Because of Moorhead, Fordham football is once again relevant. He took over a team that went 1-10 in 2011, and he's won 18 games in his first two years.
This year, Fordham won't just be competing to win games. The Rams have a legitimate shot at the Football Championship Series (FCS) title.
"It feels great," Moorhead said about where the program is. "To come in in year one [and] kind of establish the foundation of our program from a philosophical and expectation standpoint, [and to] go 6-5 and have a winning season, it felt good to get the program headed in the right direction.
"To be able to go into year two and build off of that to a degree of success I don't think any of us were anticipating. [And] now to go into year three and have these expectations.
"It's great for the school, it's great for the athletic department, it's great for our program. Most of all, I'm happy for our players."
Moorhead is all about the process. Perhaps that explains why his program has gotten better each year. Goals are great, Moorhead will tell you, but ultimately, it's what you do on the way to getting to those goals that matters most.
"We want to remain a process-oriented team as opposed to a goal-oriented team," Moorhead said. "Our goals here haven't changed since day one when we stood in the locker room and addressed the team.
"We have a series of goals that we want to accomplish. If you're focused on the goals rather than what it takes to get there, I think sometimes you lose sight of the little things necessary to develop a championship team."
After going 6-5 in his first year, Moorhead led the Rams to a 12-2 record last season.
As a result of what they accomplished a year ago, and with 15 of their 17 All-Patriot League players returning this season, the accolades have poured in. In July, Fordham was picked to win the Patriot League, and 13 Rams picked up preseason awards at the league's media day.
Moorhead said his players have done a good job staying focused on what they need to do as individuals to help the team win games instead of getting caught up in all the preseason hype.
"It's not easy for those guys, particularly with the amount of postseason recognition that we had last year and the amount of accolades that we received heading into this year," he said.
"They're kids. That's our job as coaches to remind them on a daily basis of the things that it takes to be successful—hard work, discipline, accountability, attention to detail—all those intangible things. And then your preparation, effort, execution on a weekly basis.
"You try to go 1-0 every week," he added.
That was a motto that worked well for the Rams last year when they emerged as a top FCS team. This year, they won't be sneaking up on anyone.
"That ended last year with the Villanova win and the Temple win," Moorhead said. "People have their bull's-eye on our back, we've got our bull's-eye on their back. We'll find out who has the best aim and the best shot, and we'll go from there."
Fordham will open its season on Aug. 30 at home against Saint Francis. The Rams won't start preparing for that game until Aug. 22. Moorhead said there's still a lot they need to work on in camp.
"We talk about the season in different phases," he said. "Right now, we're in phase four, which is preseason camp. We need to worry about our camp goals: to improve our knowledge of our scheme and our fundamentals and technique, and then come out and compete on a daily basis.
"At this point we're concentrating on what we need to do to improve [individually and as a team]."
Moorhead said stopping the run has been a big focus of preseason camp.
The Rams have an explosive offense, one that last year averaged 37.6 points per game and scored more than 50 points in four contests.
Defensively, however, they allowed 25.4 points and 202.4 rushing yards per game.
"The biggest thing that I'd like to see an improvement on is rushing defense," Moorhead said. "At the end of the day, we need to do a better job stopping the run."
Moorhead said that they've been working on that in practice and that it has just as much to do with the mental approach as it does scheme.
"We were very opportunistic on defense [last year]," Moorhead said. "The biggest thing that I talk about defensively as a barometer for success is scoring defense and forced turnovers. We gave up a lot of yards, but we were able to keep people out of the end zone."
As Moorhead pointed out, Fordham accomplished a lot last year—12 wins, a victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision School (Temple), a home playoff triumph and two wins over top-10 teams at home for the first time.
Still, what players and coaches remember is what Moorhead called the "sinking feeling" following the loss to Towson in the second round of the playoffs.
"As much as those things are memorable and are great moments for our team and for our program, the thing that sticks out to a lot of these guys is the sour taste in our mouth after the Towson game," Moorhead said.
"This year, I want us to be a team [that] thinks we can win a championship."
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.
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