Monday, November 23, 2015

Lehigh Rewrites Recent History And Throws Aside Lafayette In #Rivalry151, 49-35

All the Rivalry games are memorable in their own way for everyone in attendance, from the seniors playing in their last game to the kids playing on the grass embankment.

The there will be four plays that will be remembered the most, the four plays that defined this game for Lehigh and really demonstrated how tough this team was in 2015, and how tough they might be in 2016.

Most importantly, though, was the fact that Lehigh finally was able to chuck aside any doubts about winning a big game.

Wins against Lafayette are always important for the many Lehigh fans in the near-16,000 people who attend these games.  But winning this particular game was doubly important for this Lehigh squad that seemed to almost desperately need the win in order to demonstrate to the fans in the Valley who they are, who they were, and where they're headed.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Game Breakdown, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/21/2015

We break down the #Rivalry151 - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

One of the things that makes Lafayette such a dangerous and frightening team is the fact that they're 1-9, oddly enough.

As a Lehigh fan, despite the Xs and Os, you have to wonder if Lehigh will come out flat tomorrow, after a heartwrenching loss last week to Colgate, 49-42.

Coupled with that is the fact that Lafayette has had two weeks to contemplate the end of their football season, to get healthy, to come to terms with the end of their football careers.

Sometimes, even in a huge Rivalry game, with a Patriot League championship on the line last week, you wonder if the Mountain Hawks can bring it as intensely as they brought it to Colgate.

Despite the breakdown, despite the football side, the question is - can they?

Game Preview, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/22/2015

Chuck laid down on the couch, his therapist staring at his pencil.  He focused at a spor on the celing, listing to the pelt of rain on the thin roof overhead.

"Do you remember it now?" the balding doctor with the shaggy salt-and-pepper beard asked.

"I... I don't remember," Chuck said.  "I have a vague recollection, some faint memories, about being... excited.  About being excited for a football game, but not The Rivalry I expected.  It was being played... in a stadium I didn't recognize.  It was a dream.  A nightmare.  It had to be a nightmare."

"Go on," the doctor said.  "This is good.  Very good.  By confronting what.... happened last year, you can finally face up to it and defeat it.  Defeat your nightmare.  Defeat a year's worth of angst.  Defeat it."

"I don't know," Chuck said.  "It's all so hazy."

"Let's see if we can work this out," the doctor said.  "We'll work it out, and fix this."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fifity Years Ago: Fred Dunlap's First-Ever Win Comes In The Rivalry

Head coach Fred Dunlap's first season at the head of the Engineers wasn't going very well in 1965.

"Lehigh has impressed me very much," Dunlap was quoted as saying in The Brown and White.  "They're very warm people with a very healthy attitude in that they think very positively in competing with schools and teams in our league."

"Here you can easily get the team up for a big game, while at Cornell where you're dealing with bigger numbers and play the big school, the team is hurt by playing week after week of big games."

Nowhere, I think, was Mr. Dunlap's ability to grab the positive from a negative situation more on display than with the 1965 team.

Three times, against Cornell, Delaware and Bucknell, Lehigh would give up more than 40 points a game.  Loss after loss mounted, going into the final weekend of the season and the game against their hated Rival to go.

But Mr. Dunlap always had a way of being positive in the middle of a gloomy 0-8 season.  And on the final game of the season, it paid off with his first head coaching victory and being carried off on the shoulders of his players.

The Rivalry - My Book, and My Story

A hundred and thirty-one years ago, a college in Easton approached a bunch of students in South Bethlehem and challenged their newly-founded "foot-ball" team to a game.

Such are the simple origins of the football Rivalry between Lehigh University and Lafayette College.

The Rivalry is a big deal in the way that only a game contested one hundred and fifty other times can be.  It's inspired teams quitting in the middle of the game over issues of emotion and fairness.  It's involved postgame brawls, institutional needling, scientific raids of each other's campuses, pajama marches to serenade Moravian girls, pep rallies filled with smoke, and along the way was an integral part of the formation of the sport of college football, from the days of stocking caps to the days of leather helmets to facemasks to artificial turf.

It also inspires fanatical, crazy alumni like me to write books about it.

My book, The Rivalry, takes a look at the early days of the Lehigh/Lafayette football rivalry, and how Lafayette College and Lehigh University were founded, how their athletic departments were created, and (of course) how the football Rivalry got to be as emotionally and fiercely contested as it is.

It's available on Amazon and in the Lehigh Bookstore, and it's great reading for folks who want to know more about Asa Packer, Ario Pardee, the founding of both schools, and the origins of athletics at both schools, as well as the beginnings of the football Rivalry, which were as intense and fiercely fought as any Rivalry game in the modern age.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Horror, Sadness, Frustration, And Redemption

The morning of Friday the 13th, I was thinking about Lehigh going up to Hamilton and playing Colgate.  I was working on my game breakdown, trying to figure out if junior QB Nick Shafnisky would be able to be effective against the Raiders' run defense.

By the evening, I was tearfully trying to call my parents, with a profound sick feeling in my stomach, wondering if any of the many friends they have over in Paris were OK and out of harms way.

I don't know if these thoughts about Paris, this Saturday's game and The Rivalry will make much sense together.  But I will try.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Heartbreak in Hamilton As Lehigh Can't Get Last Five Yards, Fall 49-42 To Colgate

Five yards.

With all the offense, with all the touchdowns, with all the passing yards by junior QB Nick Shafnisky, all the rushing yards from freshman RB Dominick Bragalone, all the plays, all the yards of offense gained, and allowed, it came down to five yards.

1st and goal at the five.  A minute to play.  Five yards from the end zone, five yards from the opportunity to come from behind and make the score 49-48, and then to have freshman PK Ed Mish trot out and attempt the game-typing extra point, to tie the score for the seventh time on the afternoon, or possibly try a two-point conversion to get the win.  Five.  Yards.

It came down to four shots from five lousy yards.

The game was a thriller.  A classic.  Both Colgate, who would clinch a share of the Patriot League championship today, and Lehigh, who wouldn't, were incredibly evenly matched.  Every time Colgate scored, Lehigh responded with a touchdown of their own, never trailing by more than a score, but never leading, either.

It was a street fight down to the last minute.  To the last five yards.  And Colgate won that street fight.  Since they stopped the Mountain Hawks from getting those last five yards, they are now the champs.