Saturday, September 18, 2004

Lehigh 34, Liberty 16

Looks like my optimism at the end of the 3rd quarter was well founded.

In the 4th quarter, things really started to click. A Kaloma Cardwell INT for a TD (a lock for a game ball this week) really put the game out of reach. TE Adam Bergen's TD in the corner of the end zone was the icing on the cake. That second half was fun to listen to!

Overall, aside from a few slipups (a muffed extra-point attempt that was returned for 2 points by Liberty, a sloppy play on the onside kick that game Liberty another possession, an INT by Keating and Borda, a fumble by Borda) this was a very impressively executed game on all sides of the ball (200 yards rushing, Borda 20-for-27 passing, 3 receiving TDs, 3 interceptions, holding the vaunted Liberty rushing attack to under 200 yards). The Mountain Hawks have a lot to be happy about going into the bye week.

Making this win even more impressive is how Lehigh responded after falling behind 6-0 - by taking over the game completely. You just get the feeling that this could be a rallying point for the team for the rest of the year.

In the postgame comments, Coach Lembo noted about the physical play of Liberty in the first half - and how Lehigh responded by "racheting up their physical play a notch... especially without Royce Morgan in the lineup." Rath confirmed Liberty's physical play.

Overall, a very satisfying win over a scholarship school in their own house. Tomorrow I can't wait to pour over the stats to pick out the virtual game balls. I think there will be a lot to go around. Kardwell and Alfsen are finding themselves permanent fixtures in tha game-ball category.

(Come on Liberty, down by 18 under a minute, is it really necessary to go for a TD and call 2 timeouts?)

Around the league
Did I say that New Hampshire would beat Willam and Mary in a shootout? I meant to say, W & M will beat UNH in a defensive struggle, 9-7.

Did I say Maine would be worn down from their tough early schedule? I meant to say, Maine would drive for the winning drive in the 4th quarter, miss the extra point, and will hold on to score a massive upset over SEC member Mississippi St., 9-7.

Did you, like me, predict up to 6 members of the 1-AA Top 25 would lose? Of course you did, especially Montana (of course) losing to Sam Houston St. (not over yet, but not looking good for the Grizzlies), James Madison (of course) shutting out Villanova at home, and (of course) Richmond going into McGuirk Stadium in Springfield and dominating UMass.

I of course am joking. I mean, seriously, are we are in bizarro-world? There was also Duquesne's manhandling of Georgetown, Hampton's dismantling of Western Illinois, and Colgate holding off a pesky Dartmouth team by only 2 points at home. And I thought Georgia Southern would win over Wofford, but 58-14?

One thing's for sure: the polls will be a' shifting. If Youngstown St. can beat McNeese, we might see some great movement for Lehigh and Colgate in the polls on Tuesday.

Tomorrow: Game Balls going into the "bye" week

Lehigh 14, Liberty 6, end of 3rd quarter

Got the Audio back. Yahoo! Broadcast does not suck as bad as previously reported.

Lehigh's "O" Line is finally coming through as its dominant self. Rath having a whale of a game - already a lock for a game ball. Aside from a few little glitches (from what I've heard), Lehigh has played an outstanding game.

Go Lehigh - keep it up. I'm feeling good that we're going to close this one out.

Lehigh 7, Liberty 6, halftime

Well, my Yahoo! Broadcast crapped out in the middle, so last I heard Liberty was driving, and... silence. It looks like Lehigh and Liberty swapped TDs, and Liberty missed or had a blocked extra point.

Yahoo! Broadcast is a piece of crap. They will be hearing from me about this.

Lehigh 0, Liberty 0, 1st quarter

This could have been 7-0 or 10-0 if Borda didn't make 2 costly mistakes. The interception was tough since it was in the end zone in triple coverage - sounds like an ill-advised pass. Other than that, the "O" line has impressed by dominating the Liberty front seven, the defense has "bent but not broken", and even the special teams stuffed a fake FG attempt on 4th-and-2.

Let's hope Borda settles down and makes some better decisions out there.

Holy Cross vs. Harvard on CN8

If you have to get your 1-AA football fix before Lehigh/Liberty at 7PM tonight, CN8 in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey viewing area is broadcasting the Holy Cross/Harvard game today at 12:30PM. I will be watching.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Other games, 9/18/2004 + 1 more press account of Lehigh/Liberty

Other games to follow today

In the Patriot League:

Holy Cross at Harvard. The Crusaders, now holders of 1-AA's longest losing streak at 12 games (tied with Norfolk St.), travel to Boston to face Harvard in their season opener. If Holy Cross struggled against mid-major Duquesne and 1-AA independent San Diego, wait until you see what a quality Ivy opponent will do to them. Harvard 58, Holy Cross 10.

Dartmouth at Colgate. When this was put on the schedule, the Big Green was probably thinking they could be competitive. Think this mid-level Ivy opponent will hang with the 1-AA championship runners-up from last year, especially after losing a hard-fought battle with UMass the week before? I didn't think so either. Colgate 41, Dartmouth 17.

Georgetown at Duquesne. Which Duquesne will show up? The one that manhandled Holy Cross 31-7? Or the one that got handled by mid-major Robert Morris 34-14 (which really wasn't even that close)? Georgetown, after losing a tough game to Lafayette last week, I think should have the edge in this game against a limping Dukes squad. Georgetown 24, Duquesne 14.

Cornell at Bucknell. Bucknell played a tough game against Villanova 16 days ago, and they return home with their heads held high, whereas Cornell is somewhat of an unknown quantity in their opening game of the season. But Cornell, picked to finish last in the Ivy by the Sports Network, won't pull any upsets here as Bucknell rolls. Bucknell 42, Cornell 13.

Fordham at Columbia. Last week Fordham scored only 14 points against mid-major Albany. That's not a typo - 14 points. However, Columbia will be looking to fill the void of a bunch of seniors lost to graduation, and I think Fordham wins this game - but it's a defensive struggle. Fordham 13, Columbia 0.

Lafayette at Princeton. Can Lafayette open at 3-0? The Leopards next test will be a Palmer stadium for the Tigers' home opener. The Tigers were a tough team last year against Lehigh, and many of the same offensive players remain. This one will be a dandy I think, with Princeton taking it in a nailbiter. Princeton 22, Lafayette 20.

In the Top 25:

William & Mary at New Hampshire. Think the Wildcat faithful are happy to see their team come home, after upsetting last year's 1-AA champion and 1-A Rutgers in consecutive weeks? Is Ricky Santos eating karma for breakfast? Think the Tribe are happy to go on the road for a second straight week and lose to a better team (in a now-rocking stadium)? UNH wins a shootout. UNH 45, W&M 38.

James Madison at Villanova. The Wildcats scraped by against 2 Patriot opponents in back-to-back weeks in Bucknell and Lehigh. How will they do against JMU, a team which predictably pounded Lock Haven 62-7? I think they actually do even better. Villanova 17, JMU 3.

Cal Poly at Montana St. The Bobcats beat Division II Adams St. 19-0. If they score 19 points against a quality team like Cal Poly, they won't win the game. I don't think they get that many. Cal Poly 24, Montana St. 10

Furman at Gardner-Webb. G-W needs this game to be considered for an at-large berth come 1-AA playoff time. Can they do it against a SoCon contender? I think they play a lot better than in the first two weeks in an emotional game, but Furman wins it in the closing minutes. Furman 38, G-W 35.

Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa. SFA upended a very good Northern Arizona team in overtime last week, but face a tough task in travelling to N. Iowa to play in the dome. I envision another thriller, with UNI winning the game since they need it more to not start out the year 1-2. UNI 24, SFA 21.

Maine at 1-A Mississippi St. First Montana, then Northern Colorado, then 1-A Mississippi St.? The Black Bears don't do cupcakes in the first weeks of the season. However I think the punishing schedule works against them here against one of the not-so-good teams in the SEC. A banged-up Maine team won't be able to run with the Bulldogs for 4 quarters. Miss St. 35, Maine 21.

W. Kentucky at E. Kentucky. An old-fashioned Kentucky rivalry game, this game pits the Gateway's W. Kentucky Hilltoppers versus the OVC's E. Kentucky Colonels. I've seen nothing that leads me to believe any OVC team is in the same league as the Gateway teams (especially early in the season), and I think W. Kentucky spanks the Colonels in their own house. WKU 29, EKU 17.

Wofford at Georgia Southern. The SoCon title game in Week 3? It very well could be, with Wofford and Georgia Southern fully expecting to be playing in December this year. Can Wofford upset GSU for a third straight year? All I can say for sure is if there are more than 150 yards passing combined for these run-happy teams, I'll be surprised. I have a funny feeling that GSU isn't going to take being beat 3 years in a row, especially at home. GSU 17 Wofford 14.

Youngstown St. at McNeese St. McNeese St., the incredible upset candidate last week, tries to lick its wounds and return home to face the YSU Penguins. After losing to SE Louisiana 51-17 last week, any offensive coordinator must know that you can throw on the Cowboys - and YSU has just the QB to do it, Tom Zetts. I don't see McNeese fixing their secondary problems this week as YSU pulls the upset. YSU 41, McNeese 21.

And one more press clipping
There was one more press report for the Liberty game, from the Express-Times:
Lehigh picks up, moves on


"Villanova's behind us," coach Pete Lembo snapped. "We're moving on. For me, the glass is always half-full. We were well-prepared, the game plans were effective, we played hard for 60 minutes. The kids came out of the weekend with their heads high and a real positive attitude.

"How can you not be optimistic about what we can do, beginning this week and down the road?"

"Josh Cooney's a guy who's been playing on and off for us since his freshman year," Lembo said. "I'm anxious to see him play a lot of snaps out there. He's a very intelligent, tough football player."

"They've got a 300-pound offensive line, some outstanding tailbacks," Lembo said. "They've got big, strong kids, they play very hard they're one of the best rushing teams in the country."

"It is going to be our first big test as a defense to stop the running game here," Cooney said. "Can't wait."

"Coming off a loss, you always want to get a win as quick as you can," Cooney said. "I think we're going to be real hungry coming back."

I really like the positive attitude Coach Lembo, who takes the correct attitude down to Liberty. And I like Cooney's attitude about the challenges ahead. I read stuff like this, it makes me feel like the position is in good hands. I have a good feeling about this weekend.

Oh yeah, and finally...
Here's Matt Dougherty's take on Lehigh/Liberty:
Sports Network Predictions: Week 3

No. 24 Lehigh (1-1) at Liberty (1-1), 7:00

Lehigh has to be kicking itself after missing a golden opportunity for a quality win. The Brown and White had Villanova on the ropes with a 16-0 edge in the first half, but couldn’t sustain the running game or defensive effort and fell, 22-16. It was a tough loss to take for a team that was one of the last left out of the playoffs a year ago. Liberty played a good first half at Kent State a week ago, but really Kent State is no better than Lehigh. The Brown and White get back on track with a win. Final Score: Lehigh 31, Liberty 21

Something to put on the mantlepiece. A national columnist saying that "Kent St. is no better than Lehigh". It's quotes like that which make this Engineer proud.

Go Lehigh! Tune in tomorrow at 7PM for Lehigh/Liberty commentary!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Royce Morgan out for year; PBS Special

Royce Morgan out for Year
It's official - the local press has declared that junior DT Royce Morgan is out for the year:

Morgan loss tests Lehigh
Morning Call:
Putting Villanova Behind it

"All-Patriot League defensive tackle Royce Morgan suffered a season-ending compound fracture of his right leg along with torn tendons while trying to defend a lateral late in Saturday's third quarter -- leaving the Mountain Hawks scrambling to replace him. "

[I think the characterization of Lehigh "scrambling" to replace him in inaccurate. Junior Josh Cooney actually started for Morgan against Stony Brook, and it was clear he was going to step in following his departure.]

"Despite some key injuries, most notably a season-ending broken leg sustained by defensive tackle Royce Morgan in the second half Saturday, the mood is decidedly upbeat around South Mountain."

"He was a big part of the defensive line," said Josh Cooney, a former Allentown Central Catholic player who will step into Morgan's spot in the starting lineup. "The whole defensive line's going to have to step their game up."

''Royce was a great player and I'm going to have to go in there and step my game up as much as I can,'' Cooney said. ''I've played mostly as a backup as a freshman and sophomore and started last week at nose guard, so now I'm going back to tackle. We can definitely pull together. It's not like one person goes out and we're going to crumble. We'll be fine. This week will be a test for us, because Liberty can run the ball.''

"We're not going to cradle up and die here," said Cooney, who stands in at 6-1, 255 pounds. "It's not going to be like a catastrophe. I've started at tackle before, played a lot of nose guard."

''Josh has been in the fire before and we're confident he can get the job done,'' Lembo said.

The View from the Nest
Losing Morgan for the year hurts, no matter how you say it. Last year's sack leader, he was a force inside against both the run and pass, and he will be missed. You don't just lose an all-Patriot League teamer and not feel an impact.

Junior Josh Cooney needs to step up and show he can play at nose guard, sure. He's not as big as Morgan, and he does have big shoes to fill in all aspects of defensive line play. But it's all the members of the front seven, especially ILB Owen Breninger and DT Tristan Lawrence, that as a team will have to fill Morgan's shoes.

Having said that I'm fairly confident that the starting front seven will be OK. Cooney is a fine player and I am confident he will get the job done at NG. It's the sophomore backups on the line - Matt Mohler, Tyrell Jenkins, and Paul Fabre - that will be interesting to see what they can bring to the table. With Liberty's punishing running game, we may see any one of these three sophomores (as well as backup NG, senior Jim Norris) in the game on Saturday.

I'll be looking closely as to how the front seven performs against Liberty's big offensive line.

PBS Special: the Lehigh/Lafayette Legacy
My wife always surprises me. Kim never was a big football fan when she met me at a Lehigh/Princeton game in 1999, but slowly but surely, after I've dragged her to innumerable Lehigh games over the years, she's really becoming quite the fan. When I mentioned the PBS documentary airing on WLVT PBS in the Lehigh Valley, she was actually eager to see the documentary on the Lehigh/Lafayette rivalry. (Obviously I've married extremely well.)

We enjoyed the 1-hour program a lot (despite the curious oversight of not mentioning my Lehigh Football Nation blog anywhere on their program, nor during the pledge breaks). Narrated by the "voice of the Phillies" Harry Kalas, the program documents the 2003 Lehigh/Lafayette game, and in the process goes over the history of the rivalry, talking to living members of Lafayette and Lehigh squads from the 40s to today. The early rivalry is also covered by Todd Davidson, one of the the authors who penned the authoritative resource on the rivalry, Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette.

I enjoyed it so much that I contacted WLVT and CSTV by email in an effort to see if CSTV might want to broadcast the documentary on the lead-up to Lehigh/Lafayette on their station.

It's funny, as many stories came out of the documentary, it seems like there are so many more than can be contained in the special. I was happy to learn of many of the stories from living alumni from the '40s and '50s, but I was a little disappointed that I didn't see any Lehigh football alums from my years at Lehigh (1988-1992). I wanted Erik Bird's story in '91 to be told - how Bird, our kicker at the time, had an injury to his right foot. But he wanted to play in Lehigh/Lafayette that year so bad, he kicked the entire game left-footed. (Tragically, he died only a month after he played in the game.)

Another thing I would have liked to have seen is a contrast between the history of the cities of Bethlehem and Easton, and how the identity of the cities are wrapped up in the teams. In the documentary, during the early rivalry, an attempt was made to put the rivalry in historical perspective regarding the big historical happenings of the day (the Great Depression, WWII, the Vietnam War, etc.) I think it might have been nice to get more local, covering more of the happenings of Bethlehem Steel over that time (though they did mention Bethlehem Steel's drawdown of operations in the '80s) and other local happenings.

After we finished watching the show, what do you think struck my my wife the most? Not the compilation of all the history and the interviews with Lehigh and Lafayette legends. No, it was the fact that Lafayette is winning the all-time rivalry, 82-72-5. "I thought Lehigh was good," she said. "You told me all these years that Lehigh is good, and now I find out that Lafayette is leading the all-time series!"

I was speechless.

Not sure if I'll be blogging tomorrow, maybe only Saturday. Go Mountain Hawks, go down to Lynchburg and grab us a "W"!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Preview of Lehigh/Liberty

Preview of Lehigh/Liberty
It's come time for Lehigh Football Nation to do their weekly preview of the upcoming game. This week the Brown & White travel all the way down to Lynchburg, VA (possibly into the heart of the remains of "crazy" hurricane Ivan) to face the Liberty Flames under the lights on the turf of Williams stadium.

Injury report for the game:

WR Gerran Walker (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OL Tom Toth (Doubtful)
DL Paul Fabre (Questionable)

Morgan's and Walker's unavailability this week, though not surprising, still hurts. Lehigh will have to make do with the same WR set they had last week, juniors Kevin Zebluim and Winfred Porter, and senior Adam Kovacs. Junior Josh Cooney will fill in for Morgan at DT as he did last week.

Toth's unavailability may have led to the "O"-line shakeup this week, moving C Justin Terry to LT, LT Jason Russell moving to RT, and sophomore John Reese gets a chance at C. I'll be looking closely at this lineup to see how they perform, and if they continue to show improvement. The new setup will take adjustment, and it will be interesting to see Reese in his first start.

10 things you didn't know about Liberty University
1. Liberty University was founded in 1971 by the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell, and is based in Lynchburg, VA.
2. Unsurprisingly for a school named for something as American as "liberty", their school colors are red, white, and blue.
3. Surprisingly for a school founded by Dr. Falwell, their team name is the "Flames", which to me is more evocative of "That Other Place", or "Not Heaven".
4. They don't have a mascot, but continuing the all-American theme, their logo is a flame-like bird which suspiciously resembles a bald Eagle.
5. Denver Broncos TE Duane Carswell is a Liberty Alumnus.
6. Liberty only played 1 Patriot League school before this weekend, that being Towson St. They played 9 times, going 6-3 in that span, from 1983-1992.
7. The Lynchburg Ledger, has more articles on the Virginia racing coalition, barbershop quartets, folk trios, and bowling than they do on any Liberty University sports. (How much more Lawrence Welk can you get?)
8. There is no evidence that the students of Liberty indulge in Lynchburg Lemonade, which consists of triple sec, Jack Daniels, sweet & sour mix, and Sprite.
9. The dress code for students is: business casual (no jeans), but ties are not required. Except for "spirit days" where jeans are OK to wear -- as long as you wear a red shirt. (Business casual where I work consists of optionally wearing a washed shirt, jeans, shorts, or jean shorts, so I think any Liberty graduates would be in for a rude awakening working there.)
10. Liberty was 6-6 last year under head coach Ken Karcher. 3 of their wins were against fellow Big South schools, 1 MEAC win, 1 Division II win.. and one was against A-10 foe Hofstra.

Liberty is an experienced team that isn't to be taken lightly. They return 35 juniors and seniors and have proven that they have talent to challenge for the Big South title. After a tough couple of years, last year they won their last 4 games, their last over Hofstra. They have senior leadership in most of the skill positions and won't lay down for the Mountain Hawks.

Last Week
Last week Liberty lost to 1-A Kent St. 38-10, a game where Kent went up 28-0 in the first half and never really looked back. Kent St. dominated in all phases of the game - offense (201 yards rushing, their QB 20-29 passing), defense (holding their QB to 9-26 passing with 3 INTs), and special teams (0 return yards).

The offensive breakdown
Liberty is led by redshirt senior Paul Troth. He appears to be a mobile option QB who has some success running and passing the football. So far this year he has struggled a little, however most of that can be attributable to his day at Kent going 9-for-26.

Dre Barnes, the Flames' best RB, is out for the Lehigh game. Filling in for him is senior FB Eugene Goodman - a very good back in his own right. He was the biggest bright spot against Kent with 139 yards on 30 carries - and has to be the man that Lehigh has to "spy" on most of the game. Junior Marcus Hamilton will also spend time in the backfield, but he's no slouch either. Liberty banks on their RBs and "O" line - they don't make any secret about it.

The "O" line is *very* big -- and experienced. The 180 yards rushing that they ran up against Kent is a good indication on how effective they are in run blocking.

At wideout, redshirt junior Lauren Williams highlights this crew, along with redshirt junior Ryan Grigsby and redshirt freshman Wynton Jackson. Williams appears to be the main threat when they pass, but Liberty is primarily a run-first team.

The defensive breakdown
Four seniors feature on the defensive line - Seth Reichart, Andre Gould, Michael Eminger and Rayshawd Barkley. Rechart appears to be the best of the bunch. Though experienced, the line is a bit undersized.

Nick Vaughn is another senior in the front seven, and the featured ILB. Rounding out the unit is redshirt junior Kenneth Kemp and redshirt sophomore Manny Rojas. This unit did give up 200 yards rushing, 144 yards passing to Kent St., and didn't sack their QB once.

The defensive backfield is populated by all underclassmen, but all withsignificant game experience. FS C.J. Moore is the best of the bunch. Again judging by last week Kent St. picked them apart pretty well.

Keys to the game
1.Keying on the run. With Morgan out, this task will be more difficult, but the task remains the same - key on Eugene Goodman and slow down that ground game.
2.Outside pursuit. With the option, the LB's need to be up to the challenge to contain the outside rushes by Goodman and Troth. Especially later in the game, after they've rushed the ball 40+ times.
3.Rushing behind the "O" Line. It's time for our patchwork line to settle down and dominate the smaller front seven of Liberty, and open some holes for Maruqes Thompson and Eric Rath.
4.Distance. In a bad-weather situation, it will be important for the entire team to keep the focus and determination up for a whole 60 minutes.

Fearless Prediction
With DT Royce Morgan and OT Tom Toth in the game and healthy, this would be an easy call for a "W". But the OL and DL really need to show me that they will step up in their absence. I have confidence, though,that Lehigh will do just that down in Virginia in the wind and rain, and "extinguish" the Flames.

Lehigh 27, Liberty 12

Monday, September 13, 2004

Some Final Words on Lehigh/Villanova; Rankings; Abdullah signs with Patriots

Lehigh/Villanova game wrapup
The local media had 2 more follow-up pieces today on the Lehigh/Villanova game:

Morning Call:
Despite loss, Hawks' effort deserves kudos
Lehigh cut to the chase by 'Nova

Some more cut-and-pastes from these two articles:
"[A] member of the media asked him if he thought Lehigh's injuries, particularly one to star defensive tackle Royce Morgan, had a factor in Villanova rallying from a 16-0 to beat Lehigh 22-16 in the much anticipated Division I-AA top 25 showdown.

''I would think that might have an impact to lose one of your best defensive lineman; obviously, that's going to make a difference against the run game in the second half,'' Lembo said.

"[F]rom this corner, there is nothing but kudos to be given for the way Lehigh, particularly its defense, played on Saturday.If Villanova is truly the eighth best I-AA team in the country — and the Wildcats are certainly big, physical and fast — then Lehigh isn't far behind and seems headed for a good season, as long as the injuries don't mount."

"Maybe the wear and tear of an all-day chase for a remarkable upset victory left Lehigh University's football team gasping a bit too much at the end... Or perhaps it got away from the Mountain Hawks on one gutsy coaching call... Quite possibly, it was taken away with two consecutive crushing penalties... When Lehigh finally figured out how a 16-point lead disappeared in a sea of 22 unanswered Villanova points, maybe it'll be better able to accept Saturday's maddening 22-16 loss... Or not. "

Sounds like the press reflects weird sort of relief.. frustration.. and promise that Lehigh fans are encountering right now.

One last view from the Nest
Think losing to #8 Villanova would lose us respect around 1-AA Nation? Well, check out this week's rankings.

Sports Network (#24)
ESPN/USA Today (#25)
Any Given Saturday (#22)
Dopke.Com (#16)

It's clear that the media, and the poll voters around the nation, have spoken. Not one poll had us drop from the Top 25 for losing this past weekend. Dopke.Com still is the "official' poll of Lehigh Football Nation for correctly placing us at #16 nationally.

It's time to put the griping about coulda, woulda, shoulda's to an end. It's time to put Villanova in the rear-view mirror and look ahead instead to full scholarship Liberty next week in Lynchburg, Va.

(Incidentally, if hurricane Ivan continues on its present course, this Saturday it could very well be in Lynchburg on gameday. Thanks to yukiama to pointing this out.)

Rabih Abdullah on the Patriots
It's true - with the uncertainty in the Patriots' backfield, the Pats have signed Lehigh RB Rabih Abdullah ('97) to a contract:
Patriots Notes: Monday 13 Sept

Congratulations to Rabih! He was one of the best running backs to come out of Lehigh in a long time. I was there when he broke the Lehigh (and I think Patriot League) single-game rushing record by rushing for 228 yards versus Cornell. Hope he gets a chance to show what he can do.

A look around 1-AA Nation: Quick Hits
Think I could have been more wrong about Rutgers beating UNH 56-0? I guess UNH is for real in the A-10.

Former Patriot League member Towson St. gave Delaware everything it could handle after falling 21-17, a gmae I thought would be so lopsided I didn't even pick the game. It's looking like transfers... aren't... everything. (Think Professor Snape in the movie Harry Potter.)

Maine, UNH, and Villanova are looking very tough this year. None of these schools have been invited (yet) to be part of the new Colonial Athletic Association (who in my opinion are going to found their football conference next year), as full-time or part-time members. Could it be that these schools are auditioning for the part of "future CAA member?"

Think that's outlandish? Think again. Late in July, the CAA talked to the America East in order to release Northeastern a year early from its contract so it could join the CAA in 2005 (Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 30th) . Rumor has it, though, that the CAA and America East talked about something else - the possible addition of Maine and UNH as football-only members to an expanded CAA.

For the CAA, this make a lot of sense. Northeastern gets more local games against more regional competition. Maine, and (now) UNH would look like a great addition to any football league. In 2005, will that be the A-10, or the CAA?

Coming up this week:
Preview of the first-ever meeting of the school that Jerry Fallwell founded, Liberty University, and Lehigh; Review of PBS Special.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Summing up Lehigh/Villanova

Summing up Lehigh/Villanova
How can a loss be so frustrating, yet still have positives? Like many other fans in Lehigh Football Nation, I'm struggling with what looked like very good team performance against the #8 team in the country, yet.. without Royce Morgan's serious injury... and Borda's interception... offensive holding and false start penalties which killed offensive momentum... Lehigh could have won this game.

Here's the press' take:
Morning Call:
Villanova rallies to nip Lehigh
Nothing wrong with LU's Effort
Lehigh falls to Villanova in Nailbiter

Some really fascinating stuff in these postgame reports:

"Clearly back on their heels defensively for most of the first half, the Wildcats kept listening to the audibles in Lehigh's no-huddle offense and began to sniff some plays beforehand as a result.

"A couple of times they yelled out 'yellow 19,' I think it was," Talley said. "And it was a screen (every time). So we started yelling 'screen' every time they yelled 'yellow 17,' or 'yellow 19.' And every time they yelled it out, it was a screen play. So obviously what they have to do is dummy that call."

This doesn't reflect well on the coaching staff, if the opposing coach is smart enough to figure out the play selections. It wasn't said by Talley that stealing Lehigh's signals caused them to win the game, but he implied it heavily. Certainly the game statistics bear him out.

"I get the feeling that you guys are sort of going in the direction of a tale of two halves here," Lembo correctly observed in his post-game press conference. "We didn't feel like that. We played a Lehigh football game, we played our butts off for 60 minutes.

"And (giving up) 219 yards of offense to a team as good as (Villanova is), I think our defense played their butts off."

Only the untrained eye could view this game as a collapse by Lehigh, Lembo intimated.

It is true that Lehigh did play their butts off for 60 minutes, and the Mountain Hawks unquestionably played tough. I have to back Lembo here, in the sense that I watched the game and saw how worn down the troops looked by the end of the game, especially defensively. I don't think of this game as a Lehigh collapse.

However, Lehigh did look like two different teams at times on Saturday. The first half they looked like they could go toe-to-toe with anyone in 1-AA and come out on top. Yet by the end of the game, there were still too many dumb penalties of both sides of the ball, one huge interception, and one golden missed opportunity on the goal-line stand that made this game a loss.

From this fan's view, the issue is still getting the offense and defense to gel more effectively. This team has lots of talent and can beat anybody in 1-AA.

''Any loss is a tough one,'' Lehigh tailback, Eric Rath, said. ''You don't want to come out of any game feeling like we do right now. We played well. We just didn't finish. That's our motto this year: finish. But this ought to give us a lot of motivation and get us ready for big games over the rest of the year.''

Amen brother Rath.

The View from the Nest
The message boards are not being very kind to Borda and the coaching staff for 'losing' this game. But from this fan's view, losing such a close game to Villanova early in the year is not a cause for alarm just yet.

Villanova's "D", you will see the rest of the year, is one of the best, if not THE best, in 1-AA nation. I'm amazed that Borda and the offense were able to rack up nearly 300 total yards against them, let alone 16 points (should have been 17 if one of the PAT's were not blocked). Last Friday, wouldn't everyone have been cheering if we could see the future and see that the offense would give us 3 scores?

To me, the turning point of the game was clearly losing Royce Morgan. Before then, Lehigh was getting good pressure on Burroughs, forcing turnovers, and dominating the game. When Morgan came out, Terry Butler and Burroughs started running though the tackles seemingly at will, resulting in 2 of the TDs. That, and the fact that Talley had figured out our playcalling system.

Overall, the Engineers were also really banged up by the 4th quarter, no doubt, offensively and defensively. Watching the game this was evident.

Although both units are still looking to really gel and break out, even a Lehigh team not firing on all cylinders gave #8 ranked Villanova all it could handle. That's something real positive to take out of this game.

My fearless prediction is that by the Colgate game, this loss will be forgotten, and we'll be looking forward to a possible "rematch" with Villanova in the playoffs. As long as we start a winning streak at Liberty, and keep on winning.

Game Balls
It is way too late for me to be doing this, but here are the game balls for Saturday:
Senior DE Tom Alfsen (9 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL)
Sophomore RB Eric Rath (128 all-purpose yards, TD)
Senior TE Adam Bergen (5 catches for 56 yards)
Senior DT Tristan Lawrence (6 tackles, 1/2 sack, 1 TFL)
Junior DB Kaloma Cardwell (9 tackles)
Junior DT Royce Morgan (5 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, 2 TFL)
Senior DB Neal Boozer-Gallman (1 tackle, 1 pass defensed, holding J.J. Outlaw to 40 yds receiving)

Coming up this week: Liberty in Lynchburg, VA, or "What do Flames and Jerry Fallwell have in common?" Also: Lehigh/Lafayette special on PBS
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