Saturday, October 16, 2004

Lehigh 30, Yale 24

An amazing game... of which I missed most of the good stuff.

I recorded the first half of the game, where Lehigh was down 21-10. Yale had an impressive first half where the Bulldogs executed almost perfectly offensively and defensively. At the end of the first half Lehigh put together an impressive two minute drill to get an important field goal.

The second half, of course, is where all the fun happened, and, of course, is where my taping got screwed up. What I was able to tell is that Lehigh clamped down and went ahead 24-21, and then Yale tied the game at 24 at the end of the 3rd quarter with a field goal.

Lehigh missed a field goal, and pulled it out as Borda scored on a 5 yard TD run, and then held Yale on 2 seperate drives.

I'll write something tomorrow on this. I may just go over the audio a little bit, but tonight, I'm going to have to suffer with the Red Sox. Tomorrow I'm going to wake up and be elated that Lehigh is 5-1, but right now I'm a depressed Red Sox fan that is pretty aggravated that he was unable to use a VCR to record a pretty darned great game.

Check in tomorrow.

Predictions of Other Games

Predictions of other games:
In the Patriot League:
Holy Cross at Dartmouth. Dartmouth could easily be 3-1. This battle of winless teams won't be close. Dartmouth 45, Holy Cross 13.

Colgate at Cornell. You now have to ask - how good is Colgate? Good enough to beat Cornell is the answer. Cornell should be motivated, so the game will be closer than it should be, but the Big Red just can't exploit Colgate enough to win. Colgate 29, Cornell 26.

Lafayette at Bucknell. Easily the game of the week, the winner will be 2-0 in the Patriot and will be able to brand themselves "Patriot Contender". That team just has to be a battle-tested Bucknell, who should simply overwhelm the Leopards on the ground. Bucknell 31, Lafayette 13.

In the Top 25:
UMass at New Hampshire. 4 straight UMass losses? Make it 5 as UMass falls into serious disarray. UNH 39, UMass 17.

Appalachian St. at Georgia Southern. A delicious game pitting the two best in the SoCon so far. Power running versus awesome passing. After two straight emotional wins, hard to see App. St. going into Statesboro and knocking off the home team with a third straight impeccble performance. GSU 35, App. St. 25.

Northeastern at Harvard. 4-0 Harvard should be fired up to take on 3-2 N'Eastern in a game the Huskies absolutely must have. They find a way to win one more week, but it's another shootout. N'Eastern 38, Harvard 35.

Richmond at Villanova. Villanova's knockout blow is delivered by Richmond in an 'upset'. Richmond 20, Villanova 17.

Rhode Island at William & Mary. The Rams aren't good enough to beat the Tribe on the road. The Tribe should roll. W&M 38, URI 7.

Western Carolina at Wofford. Wofford dominates WCU at home and vent some frustrations. Wofford 37, WCU 10.

Delaware at Hofstra. I think Delaware, after winning a thriller versus Maine last week, and looking ahead to a big game versus William and Mary, get caught with their pants down in Hempstead, NY. Hofstra in the upset of the day. Hofstra 45, Delaware 34.

James Madison at Maine. Up and coming James Madison travels to Maine to take on the Black Bears. The Bears can't afford to lose again, and they win convicingly at home. Maine 24, JMU 7.

Stephen F. Austin at UC Davis. 2 intriguing teams. SFA is 4-1, only losing to 1-A Florida International, and UC-Davis is 5-0 beating nobody very impressive. Oddly enough, SFA has scored 24 points in their last 4 games. They brek that improbable streak and win the game, too. SFA 30, UC Davis 14.

McNeese St. at Northwestern St. In the preseason, this game looked like a championship game. Now, it's a battle between a rebuilding team and a budding 1-AA power. N'Western St. 44, McNeese 17.

Montana at Eastern Washington. Easily the biggest game in Eastern Washington in some time. EWU is strong, but are they stronger than the Grizzlies? At home, I think they take this game, but it's close. EWU 27, Montana 23.

Western Kentucky at Southern Illinois. Another great Gateway matchup. This one will be close. I think SIU, playing against one of the toughest defenses in the nation, comes up just short, and the Hilltoppers hand the Salukis a surprise loss. WKU 21, SIU 20.

Go Lehigh! Look for my wrap-up later today!

Friday, October 15, 2004

A really quick Lehigh/Yale preview; Other Games

Back on the Blog
We are back and ready to blog once again! I finally have a moment to breathe after our vacation and before our busy weekend to whip up a dish of previews and predictions for this week in Lehigh sports.

No live commentary this week
Due to all the busy-ness in my life this week, you won't get live in-game commentary by me again for the Lehigh/Yale game. (In the Lehigh Valley and beyond, the game will be broadcast live on Channel 69 WFMZ, so you intrepid fans will be able to follow the game that way. As a matter of fact I'm going to be taping the game and watching it later in the day.)

However, I will come on to give my thoughts on the game after I finish watching the game in full. So please by all means watch this space tomorrow for in-depth analysis!

But really quick reactions about the week in Lehigh football
How did we lose a point in the national rankings after demolishing Holy Cross? BLEAH! We get no respect. If we are worse than 5 A-10 teams, I'll eat a shoe.

Congratulations for Mark Borda getting Patriot League Player of the Week honors! To go along with his virtual Lehigh Football Nation game ball, of course.

Glad that's out of my system.. now on to the preview.

Lehigh/Yale: Injury Report:
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
K Matt McNeils (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OLB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
TE Steve Burant (Questionable)
OL John Reese (Questionable)
WR Gerran Walker (Questionable)
CB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
LB Claude Kershner (Questionable)

McNeils' illness may mean Kyle Keating may be backing up QB and kicking duties, should anything happen to starting kicker Justin Musilek. Other than that, an encouraging injury report, as long as CB Neal "NBG" Boozer-Gallman and WR Gerran Walker are ready to go. If they're out, we lose an awful lot of speed on both sides of the ball. CB Brannan Thomas and WR Winfred Porter would start in their place.

Before Lehigh/Yale: My yearly rant about the Ivy League
Every year, teams in the non-scholarship Patriot League schedule to play teams in the non-scholarship Ivy League. Every year, members of some schools (which shall remain nameless) in the A-10 whine about how poor the competition is in the Ivy League, and how instead the Patriot League should schedule more difficult opponents (like, for example, West Chester (D-II), Lock Haven (D-II), or Central Connecticut State (1-AA mid-major), to take some examples of "tough" A-10 opponents).

Why do people bash the Ivies? Largely because people feel that since the Ivies don't offer athletic scholarships, they must implicitly be inferior to those that do offer athletic scholarships (like, for example Mississippi Valley St. or Coastal Carolina). To these detractors, I say yet again: The Ivies are like a box of chocolates - you don't know what you're gonna get. Some years the Ivies have teams stacked with future NFL players and solid teams that could give any ranked 1-AA team a run for their money. Other years, they field teams that would have a hard time beating 1-AA mid-majors. The trouble is, aside from Penn which always seems to have great teams, you never know which Ivy team is going to be good or bad.

Ivy league teams start after everyone else. The Patriot League usually are the Ivy League's opening game for the season. So Ivy teams usually have two or three game films to look at when evaluating a Patriot League school (not to mention nine months of rest), while the PL school has to look at some scrimmage of questionable utility after having designed killer gameplans for two or three straight weeks, never mind the list of inevitable injuries. This has got to be a challenge for a PL coach.

There is the impression out there that Ivy league football is a bunch of glasses-toting nerds in football uniforms -- nothing could be further from the truth. Ivies frequently get great students who also are great football players -- just look at starting Dolphin QB Jay Fiedler (Dartmouth) or starting Viking center Matt Birk (Harvard). Just because some schools offer athletic scholarships doesn't mean they are automatically great; so why do people automatically assume that schools that don't offer athletic scholarships are automatically terrible?

The Ivy League does not, however, have the opportunity to play in the 1-AA playoffs. It seems like every few years the Ivy League presidents have to get on their high horses and single out football for exclusion for postseason play. Every year they trot out the usual reasons for not participating -- football playoffs would interrupt with finals, we want our players to be scholar/athletes, not athlete/scholars, the fact that 1-AA is a subclassification rather than a full classification of Division I. And to be perfectly honest, all these reasons are pure bullcrap. If you cut out all the rhetoric, here's what the Ivy presidents are saying: We really hate football and everything it stands for, so we're going to prevent them from playing a tournament which would really show the true competitive level of the program.

Lehigh Nation's position on this issue is the following -- Why don't the Ivy presidents stop making decisions on what's best for Ancient Eight football teams, and ask the players and coaches what they think should happen? I think that if they want to play in the 1-AA playoffs, they should be allowed to play. And in addition, I think they would do very well. Last year Penn finished the season undefeated, and I think they would have given Colgate a run for their money, if not Delaware, the eventual 1-AA playoff champs.

Personally speaking, I can't believe that Ivy teams would want to not compete at the highest level of their craft. It's like setting up a chess tournament and playing some of the best players in Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and then turning around and calling yourself "world champ" without playing some very good chess players who happen to be in New York. I don't think it's right to actively deny these young men the chance to know for sure how they stack up with other 1-AA schools, no more than I believe it's right to actively deny a biology major to compete with the best students for the best grade.

Scouting Yale
Aside from being the place where George Bush, his son, and John Kerry all went to school, Yale has one of the oldest and most storied programs in all of football. Before 1994, they also had a history of spanking Lehigh. In 12 all-time meetings between the two schools in 100 years, Lehigh was outscored 475-39!

Since those dark times, Lehigh has now won the last 3 games in the series, the latest one being in 2002 where a then-unknown 4th string QB named Kyle Keating led Lehigh to a 14-7 victory in a driving rainstorm at the Yale Bowl (seating 68,000).

Yale boasts an experienced team that is 3-1 this year, and has already claimed the scalp of Colgate at home a couple of weeks ago. In that game they won on a last-second 39 yard field goal. Last week they beat Dartmouth in Hanover, NH 24-14, benefitting greatly from 5 Big Green miscues. They are on a roll and could be a very dangerous team.

This game could show us what Lehigh is made of. In between 2 important league contests, this is a classic "tweener" game that could be hard to get up for. If Lehigh gets up for this game and dominates, it could mean really good things the rest of the year.

Offense
Senior QB Alvin Cowan is on the "Payton Award" watch list, and could be the best QB that Lehigh faces all year. Mobile and accurate, he is averaging 180 yards passing a game. But not far behind talent-wise is senior RB Robert Carr, who has has 3 100-yard rushing days this year. Carr also last week has shown to catch passes out of the backfield as well.

These two are team leaders who are extremely talented and pose a formidable 1-2 punch. It will be a challenge to bottle them both up.

Cowan's two favorite targets are Chandler Hendley and Ralph Plumb who both average more than 75 yards a game and have 7 TDs among them. They are fast and dangerous.

The offensive line may be a potential weak spot. Though sizeable and talented, they have given up several sacks a game.

Defense
Like Lehigh, Yale plays a "bend but don't break" type of defense that goes for the big turnover. Yale and Lehigh are both ranked in the top 10 nationally in takeaways.

(Due to either lack of funding, or excessive interest in the presidential elections, Yale's game notes don't offer a great insight in their defense but I will do my best.)

The tale of the Yale tape is an undersized line that doesn't get a lot of sacks. The strength of the defense is a great secondary which has done it all, from forcing fumbles to grabbing interceptions.

Special teams
Their speediest players on offense, Carr, Hendley, and Plumb, double up as return men and are very effective. K Andrew Sullivan has had decent range in getting a 37 yard field goal 2 weeks ago to upset Colgate.

Keys to the game
1.Trenches. This game will be won by the better OL and DL. The OL must carve out huge chunks of yardage for the RBs. The DL must get good pressure on QB Cowan.

2.Rath and Thompson. Hammering the front seven with the running game early and often will be important to wear them down.

3.Don't force the ball. Borda needs to build on his great game last week and not force the ball against a great secondary. Test, but don't force.

4.Contain Carr to contain Cowan. It's easy to key on Payton-watched QB Cowan. But the key to containing him will be to spy Carr and shut him down if at all possible.

Fearless Prediction
Everything in my gut points to a close game. But I think the Engineers are up to the challenge this week. Lehigh wins a very close, hard-fought 60 minutes. Lehigh 24, Yale 21.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Vacation; Press Roundup; Game Balls; Weekend Roundup

Vacation
This week, we are going on vacation in the Poconos, where your correspondent has no access to the internet, or any access to any of the research he would need to write up a competent Lehigh/Yale preview. So the next post you'll see here is Friday.

However, your intrepid correspondent will be back on Friday with the Lehigh/Yale preview and weekend predictions, so, come back Friday fo rthe whole scoop!

Press Roundup
Looks like the press, and Holy Cross, have anointed Mark Borda as their player of the week (as he won Holy Cross' Johnny Turco Trophy as the MVP of Holy Cross' homecoming game):

Morning Call:
Borda borders on spectacular
Express-Times:
Borda collects win, hardware
Boston Globe:
Lehigh crashes Holy Cross' homecoming party

Your quotes:

"I may have added more fuel to the fire for Lehigh,'' [Tom Gilmore] said. ''I tried to approach it as just another game. Now that it's over, I admit it was emotional. I mean I coached and recruited a lot of those guys. They played hard for me, and they played hard again today. They executed well. We didn't.''

"I recruited a lot of those guys and you don't walk away and completely detach yourself," said Gilmore. "[But] it doesn't matter who we played today. We played a good team and we didn't execute and we lost the game. I don't want to put it any other way. I'm disappointed. We really need to start doing things better."

[Looks like a long long season for coach Gilmore this year.]

''I felt more comfortable because I had gone up against his defense for a year and a half in practice,'' Borda said. ''We felt like we knew what he was going to do. We knew his tendencies.''

''We have a lot of weapons, and the line was great again,'' Borda said. ''I felt like I was throwing downhill. It wasn't like I was hot. A lot of guys could stand there with that time and find open receivers.''

"Borda has never had five TD passes in a game — ''not even in the backyard,'' he said.

"I felt good," Borda said. "I felt like I was throwing downhill."

"Borda was named the Turco Memorial Trophy recipient. The award, which goes to the most outstanding player in the Homecoming game, hasn't been won by a Crusader in three years.

''I don't know what the award is about,'' Borda said, ''but I will find out about it.''

"I don't really feel I'm taking their award," said Borda... "I'd rather take the win rather than an award any day."

[I like that Borda's saying all the right things. Heaping praise on his offensive line. And it's hard not to like the fact that Borda didn't know what the Johnny Turco award was. Honesty.]

"What he did was, he came out and executed the game plan well," said Lehigh coach Pete Lembo, whose team improved to 4-1 overall. "The big question was, could Mark have the kind of day we hoped he could have? It was nice to come out and get off to a good start."

"There's a special sense of urgency that has to be present when you're playing a league game," Lembo said. "We still haven't played 60 full minutes the way I think we're capable of. I think we're taking baby steps forward.

"I think we took another step today."

Another step to the Patriot League title and the 1-AA playoffs, we hope.

Game Balls
Lots to go around:
Junior QB Mark Borda (Johnny Turco award-winner)
Senior TE Adam Bergen (101 yards receiving, 2 TDs)
Junior WR Gerran Walker (140 all-purpose yards, 1 TD)
Sophomore RB Eric Rath (88 rushing yards, 1 TD)
Sophomore RB Marques Thompson (85 all-purpose yards, 1 TD)
The entire 'O' Line: (for outstanding protection)
Sophomore RT Jason Russell
Senior RG Jason "Rocky" Morrell
Senior C Justin Terry
Junior LG Adam Selmasska
Senior LT Rob Sandie
Senior LB Anthony Graziani (5 tackles, 1 INT)
Junior LB Owen Breninger (5 tackles)
Junior DB Andrew Nelson (3 tackles, 1 INT)
Junior DT Josh Cooney (5 tackles, 1 sack)
Junior FS Kaloma Cardwell (5 tackles, 1 TFL)
Senior DT Tristan Lawrence (3 tackles, 2 sacks)

Congratulations!

Weekend Recap
A great week. I went 4-1 in the Patriot League, and 9-3 in the Top 25, with a lot of very accurate scores. That put me at an eye-popping 13-4 this week.

Really right:

Lehigh/Holy Cross. Predicted: Lehigh 49, HC 17. Real score: Lehigh 42, HC 14.

Lafayette/Columbia. Predicted: LC 35, Columbia 17. Real score: LC 35, Columbia 14.

Should have been right:

Penn/Bucknell. Bucknell game Penn everything they could handle, and had they been able to stop a 4th quarter Penn drive, I would have made it 5-0 in the Patriot this week.

Cal Poly at Sothern Utah. SUU just couldn't get it done against a Cal Poly team fighting for respect. They may just have got it with this win.

Was I ever wrong!:

Furman/Appalachian St. I vastly overrated the mettle of Furman in exorcising their App St. ghosts. App St. pulled off a 30-29 win, whereas I predicted a 30-10 Furman domination.

Stephen F. Austin/Florida International. I though SFA was miles better than FIU, but FIU pulled out a narrow game on the road. Made my 44-0 blowout prediction look foolish.

See you Friday!
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