Saturday, October 23, 2004

Lehigh 40, Bucknell 17

If Bucknell didn't score a meaningless TD at the end of the game, my original prediction - Lehigh 41, Bucknell 9 - would have been almost exactly on the mark.

Borda had a fabulous day - again. 5 TD passes, nearly 400 yards passing. Looks like Borda will be getting another game ball from me, and he might again be Patriot League offensive player of the week for the third straight week! Gerran Walker, more than 100 yards receiving, 1 TD, and Adam Kovacs also had more than 100 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Game balls for them as well!

The defense was unbelievable. Sack after sack. 2 big turnovers. I'll comb over the stats to see who the players of the week, but Nelson and Lawrence will be getting balls I'm sure.

Two key injuries during the course of this game that we'll have to see about this week. FS Kaloma Cardwell was carted off the field (as a precaution) and his ankle put in an air cast, but it's not clear how bad the injury is. OL Jim Petrucelli is another problem - if he's out, Lehigh will be starting with their sixth different OL configuration next week in the "Patriot League Title Game" against Colgate.

The turnover problem seemed to not be a factor in the second half for Lehigh. Instead, we got 2 huge turnovers that set up 14 points for us that in effect put the hammer down on the Bison. Still, taking care of the ball will be emphasized this week in practice. Penalties were also a big problem - I don't have the stats, but the game seemed sloppy with lots of flags.

The kicking game needs to be addressed in the worst way. 1 missed FG, 2 missed extra points, and another kickoff out of bounds is simply unacceptable.

Lembo took the team into the locker room directly after the game - only one interview in the postgame show. Lembo seems to want to get the team focused on the Colgate game next week. And I agree with that 100%. Lehigh/Colgate is the de facto Patriot League championship game, and the troops need to be focused on Colgate right here, right now. If we kick like that, have penalties like that, and turn over the ball like that, against Colgate, we will lose, period. Just look at how they manhandled Holy Cross this weekend 41-7 - they'll be coming into Bethlehem high and confident.

Overall, however, a good day versus Bucknell. This could have been a trap game, and Lehigh got the job done despite the sporadic sloppy play. Tune in tomorrow for game balls.

Lehigh 27, Bucknell 10, end of 3rd quarter

Exchange of touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. Sounds like we're doing a decent job holding things together.

OL Jim Petrucelli, who started today, is out of the game, meaning next week we'll have a brand-new OL alignment - again - against Colgate.

One more TD would make me start to relax. Too many penalties for Lehigh killing drives!

Go Lehigh!

Lehigh 20, Bucknell 3, halftime

If you subtracted the bad errors by Lehigh - 4 turnovers(!), a missed extra point, and a missed FG, we'd be able to go back to our tailgates at halftime while our beers were still cold.

Having said that, even with those mistakes, we're looking like we're in good shape. 300 yards of offense, and our "D" held the Bison to only 2 first-half first downs. The two-minute drill at the end of the half, like last week, gives us momentum going into the second half.

Borda has had a great day if you subtract the 2 fumbles. Senior WR Adam Kovacs has 2 TD passes, including a clutch 4th-down conversion in the corner of the end zone for a TD.

Into the second half, I'm looking to keep up the defensive pressure, and HOLD ON TO THE BALL! And make those kicks! Go Lehigh!

Lehigh 13, Bucknell 0, mid-2nd quarter

Borda sounds awesome. 8-for-8. Gerran Walker with a fumble, but we got the ball back on the ensuing posession.

Massive kicking problems for Musilek. Kickoffs out of bounds, a missed FG, and a missed extra point. The field sounds like a wet mess.

Offense has been great, and defense has taken care of business.

Bergen just fumbled, and Bucknell has the ball at the Lehigh 30.

More at halftime. Should be 20-0. and Lehigh dominating. Now, instead, Lehigh could be only up 13-6.

Predictions of Other Games

Predictions of other games:

In the Patriot League:

Lafayette at Fordham. A very intriguing game; a must-win for both teams. Lafayette is coming off their 14-13 upset of Bucknell, and Fordham is coming off a penatly-marred, turnover-filled loss to Brown. It will be a nailbiter all the way - the question is, can Lafayette give the ball to Joe McCourt nearly 40 times like they did last week? My feeling is, Fordham finds a way to pull this off by stacking eight a the line and forcing Maurer to throw. Fordham 17, Lafayette 13.

Holy Cross at Colgate. Colgate hasn't broken out and pounded any opponent all year. Holy Cross is coming off a good win against a decent Dartmouth club. Colgate should take care of business, but they don't play big enough to dominate. Colgate 27, Hoy Cross 20.

Georgetown at Monmouth. Duquesne beat Monmouth earlier in the year. Monmouth is a better team, and playing at home. Monmouth rolls. Monmouth 31, Georgetown 10.

In the Top 25:

Hofstra at New Hampshire. Hofstra might be able to take UNH with a healthy QB, but not as they stand right now. UNH makes its case today. UNH 38, Hofstra 10.

William & Mary at Delaware. Should be a great game, but Delaware should be able to barely pull out this rivalry game at home in another defensive game. Delaware 20, William & Mary 18.

Penn at Yale. One of the better games on the Ivy schedule this year. Can a vetern Yale team take down mighty Penn? What a hard game to pick. Give me Yale in a minor upset. Yale 23, Penn 22.

Harvard at Princeton. Some say Princeton is looking to make a statement versus the Crimson. I see the Crimson, who could be the best team in the Ivy this yer, rolling. Harvard 31, Princeton 7.

Hampton at South Carolina St. Ranked MEAC school Hampton has been strong all year while SC St. could be their best chance to knock them off. The Pirates have been shaky defensively, and they lose to the home team in another upset. SC St. 30, Hampton 21.

Northeastern at Maine. Maine could be playing the role of spoiler here, even though they may still make the playoffs if they run the table. They should be able to beat an overrated Northestern team. Maine 23, N'Eastern 0.

Northern Colorado at Sam Houston St. Sam Houston St. should roll over NCU at home, even though this makes me nervous since the Southlnd conference has been strangely inconsistent this year. Sam Houston 35, NCU 3.

Cal Poly at North Dakota St. Could ND St. knock off an undefeated, confident Cal Poly team? They will come close, but come up short. Cal Poly 27, ND St. 23.

Southern Illinois at SMS. SMS shouldn't have the guns to stick with the Salukis. SIU 31, SMS 21.

Towson at Villanova. Villanova, playing desperately to stay in the playoff hunt, take care of business against Towson. Villanova 31, Towson 9.

Wofford at Appalachian St. The SoCon game of the week, this is a do-or-die for both teams. Hard to pick since App. St. must be down after getting hammered by Georgia Southern, yet the SoCon has caught up to Wofford's style of play, so App St. will not be taken by surprise. I think App St. manages this game and bounces back at home. App St. 31, Wofford 17.

James Madison at Richmond. JMU will be playing for the A-10 title eventullay, while Richmond will be fighting Towson for the title of worst A-10 team. Even at home, this shouldn't be close. JMU 37, Richmond 10.

South Dakota St. at Montana St. Montana St., as they always do, play better as the season goes along. SD St. is a good up and coming team, and will be eager to make their case for Big Sky membership next week. All this points to a close MSU victory. MSU 16, SD St, 14.

UC Davis at Southern Utah. UC Davis falls out of the Top 25 this year after underrated SUU takes care of them at home. SUU 31, UC Davis 10.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Final Press Roundup; My Favorite 1-AA Columnist; Problems in Easton

Final Press Roundup
A few more articles on this weekend's tilt:
Express-Times:
Kicking Game Gets Emphasis for Stretch Run
Morning Call:
"O" Line is Enjoying the Possibilites
Lewisburg Standard-Journal (Bucknell):
Bison's Gridiron Karma Due to Change

Your quotes:
"Bucknell head football coach Tim Landis has to shake his head in amazement when he looks back at the Bison's three losses this year, realizing that each loss basically hinged on one key play.

"The Bison... lost their first heartbreaker in Philadelphia against nationally-ranked Villanova - the season opener - when a fourth-and-goal play from the Wildcat 1-yard line was snuffed out. Bucknell dropped a double overtime decision to Penn on its home turf in week five - a decision that would never have come to overtime were it not for a holding penalty that negated a Daris Wilson 30-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. "

[Rough.. no matter how you look at it.]

"[Bucknell coach Tim] Landis said Wednesday, ''We need Darius in there because he makes things happen. He's just putting too much pressure on himself right now to make big plays. I'm sure both he and John Henry will play this week. As for who will start, it will be based on how practice goes.''

"When you play a very good defense like this," Bucknell coach Tim Landis said, "you actually have to go in with a little more in your passing arsenal."

[Yeah, right. ]

"Quarterback Mark Borda and tailback Eric Rath, among others, have praised an offensive line that has remained consistent while absorbing injuries and position shuffling."

''The biggest difference in Bucknell is their defense,'' Lembo said. ''It's remarkably improved. Last year , you could count on them being in an eight-man front. It was a pretty simple package they were running. But they have gone through a metamorphosis in the offseason. It's much more of a risk-taking defense and our offense is in for a big challenge.''

[I don't see the turnovers they're getting by being opportunistic... but that's just me.]

"Bucknell, you can never count them out," [Justin] Terry said. "Obviously, they have the potential to burn you in a couple of ways. You definitely can't overlook them."

"A team that's 3-3 but really just a couple plays away from being an undefeated football team," Lembo called the Bison. "This is a team that's very, very capable. We have to be at our best. We have our hands full."

[But demoralized...]

"With both sides of the ball running like well-oiled machines, a faulty kicking game has the potential to turn Lehigh's smooth run toward the top of the national rankings into a frustrating sputter... 'Our kickoff situation continues to be a work in progress," Mountain Hawks coach Pete Lembo said.

Struggling Justin Musiek had one field goal blocked and suffered the same fate on an extra point try last weekend, turning a nail-biting 30-24 comeback victory over Yale even tighter. What's more, his short kickoffs became such a concern that Lehigh turned to backup offensive lineman Charlie Giacamorro to handle the kickoff duties against Yale.

Highly-regarded freshman Matt McNelis, an all-state kicker at Altoona (Pa.) High School last season, has missed the past few weeks with mononucleosis.

"I'm optimistic he'll be back this year," Lembo said. "Whether or not he'll be back this week, I can't say."

"They've got perhaps the best kickoff returner in the country in Dante Ross," Lembo said.

[The kickoff game is definitely a concern going into this week.]

My favorite 1-AA columnist
Scott Garner of 1-AA.org is a Georgia Southern grad who shares my passion for 1-AA football. He writes a regular column called the "Cult of 1-AA" that is far and away the best national column about the sport today. There are others that are more informative, or know more obscure statistics, but you can't beat his column for at least 4 or 5 genuine belly-laughs.

For example, take his diary of the Georgia Southern/Appalachian St. game last week, a must-read piece if there ever was any:

"In this very column, I’ve explained how “homers” (sportswriters who are little more than glorified cheerleaders) are snickered at by their fellow sportswriters. And when guys who go through life looking like sportswriters snicker at anyone—anyone—then something is terribly awry. "

"To say that I drink my fair share of beer is an understatement. The fine people at Budweiser would send flowers to my funeral if I expired suddenly. They would also cut production at both the Jacksonville and Atlanta plants."

"Sports writers can get on their high horse and talk about how nasty fans are or how stupid the discourse between two sets of rival fans is, but the truth is that the fans are what drive the rivalry. The fans pack the stands and yell and curse and brawl, and although it’s not very sporting, it keeps the rivalry fueled and burning. If App State fans didn’t tear down goal posts and GSU fans didn’t end every argument with “yeah, well how many championships have you won,” then the rivalry would die out and this would be just another Georgia Southern-McNeese State or Appalachian State-Eastern Kentucky game. Sure, the opponents would be better than average, but fans add the real zest to all these proceedings. I’m not advocating hooliganism, here, but I say the fans should keep lighting into one another. May the victor taunt the loser. May the loser swear revenge on the winner."

Enough quotables - just read it. I really liked it since more than just the Xs and Os of a game, he gets the whole feel of the game down pat, from the first sip of beer in the parking lot to the last play from the press box.

I'm thinking, Lehigh/Colgate. I should do the same thing.

Lafayette troubles
Speaking of kicking a school when they're down, an ugly Lafayette boardroom fight on athletic scholarships has now erupted onto the pages of the Morning Call.

Lafayette Lags in Hoopster's Grades
Key Lafayette Donor Wants Rothkopf Out Now
LC Fumbles the Ball Once Again

Here's the timeline, for those of you that are not in the know. A few weeks ago, the Lafayette board of trustees had a vote on whether they should offer limited athletic scholarships in some sports, notably basketball. It was defeated by a 21-11 vote, with those 'no' votes very bitter and angry. As a matter of fact, two trustees reportedly quit the board over it, and will stop give money to the college.

You know things are bad when a paper quotes one of the board members as saying, "'I'll double Arthur Rothkopf's salary if he steps down now, and I'll give five times his salary between now until the end of his term as a gift.'' Ouch!

Furthermore, a study has come out illustrating that, paradoxically, "Lafayette men's team has failed to meet the school's own academic goals for freshmen recruits in three of the last four years." Since Lehigh started offering limited scholarships in basketball in 1999, Lehigh has met their academic goals for their athletes every year. Offering scholarships, the study asserts, actually attracts a better caliber of athlete to the university scholastically.

What does this mean? It means there is a war going on in the boardroom in Easton, and it's extremely ugly. There are a significant number of alumni, and some board members, who feel that Lafayette is falling further and further behind the rest of the Patriot League in athletics. Even worse for Lafayette fans, Lehigh seems to be pulling away from them in a multitude of sports. Last year's Patriot League Men's basketball crown may have been the final straw.

For football, this hasn't had too much of an impact, since all teams don't offer "athletic scholarships" (though they do offer grant-in-aid which sometimes functions effectively as a scholarship). But who knows how much worse this boardroom rift might get - might it infect the whole athletic department? It must be.

There is an impact, however. To me, it seems like a prospective football player looking at Lehigh versus Lafayette would see it this way. Lehigh has brand-new facilities, a brand new endowment from Murray Goodman, top-flight training rooms (good enough for the Eagles to use in August), and a seemingly unwavering commitment to athletics. At Lafayette, you have warring between the athletics department and the university, an older stadium, people hinting not so long ago that the football team needed to be dropped to Division III.

Pretty compelling case for Lehigh, even though all this nonsense doesn't directly impact football, eh?

Having said all this, I think Lafayette needs to wake up and smell the coffee. It seems to me Rothkopf is clinging to a vision of the Patriot League as "Ivy League Lite". To me, it has grown well beyond that original vision into a full-fledged quality sports league.

Scholarships have come to the Patriot League in basketball, and I feel ultimately it will spread to all other sports (including football). Scholarships won't make us a big-money, corrupt football program like Miami(FL) at our level. What it will do is allow Lafayette to compete against, say, Drexel for that very good 5'6 point guard with a 4.0 GPA by evening out the playing field.

Tomorrow: Lehigh/Bucknell! Tune in here for predictions of other games, and commentary!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Preview of Lehigh/Bucknell

Hey, you!
Tear yourself away from baseball for a minute to check out this Lehigh/Bucknell preview! I know it's not easy (this is coming from a lifelong Red Sox fan, see previous post), but there are important games to be played in this Patriot League season, and they continue this weekend at Murray Goodman stadium.

But first..
I thought, going into this week versus Bucknell, that it would be interesting to read the following piece in the Express-Times on the strategy that Lafayette used beat Bucknell:
Tavani takes page from Tuna's playbook

Something sticks out at me about this article, quoted below:

"Lafayette, lining up in more two-tight-end sets than maybe anyone in the country but Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions, went straight at the Bison.

"It didn't matter the Leopards only had six yards rushing and just one first down by the end of the first quarter. Tavani's club had a plan ... the Leopards weren't afraid to tell the Bison: "here we come, try and stop us."

By game's end, McCourt sloshed his way to his third consecutive 100-yard game with 167 yards on 33 carries... McCourt's rolled to 360 yards on 69 attempts... "We just stuck with the game plan and pounded them," McCourt said. "They knew it; we knew it. They knew we were coming right at them."

Lafayette played an extremely straighforward game against Bucknell. They ran, they ran, and ran some more in between the tackles. They only passed 10 times the entire game (versus 48 rushing attempts). Granted, that is how they seem to be playing right now. But they didn't think to do much else rather than run in-between the tackles.

To this partial observer, this smacks to me of attempting to exploit a weakness against the run. And it's not like they've shown to be weak against other teams in this area (they held Penn to 105 total rushing yards). Has Lafayette determined that this is a major weak spot?

Lehigh/Bucknell Injury Report:
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OLB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
OLB Jon Guynes (OUT)
K Matt McNeils (Doubtful)
TE Steve Burant (Questionable)
OL John Reese (Questionable)
CB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
LB Claude Kershner (Questionable)
DE Matt Mohler (Questionable)

Though the list is growing, it's not that different from last week. The only new faces are OLB Jon Guynes and DE Matt Mohler. Sophomore LB Travis Stinson steps into Guynes' place backing up Anthony "Graz" Graziani on the outside. (Sophomores have really been doing a great job on the team this year.)

The other thing to note is that although OL John Reese is questionable for the game, he's been replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Jim Petrucelli (at right tackle), making this week's "O" line lineup the 5th different lineup in 6 games. Lehigh fortunately has been able to hold things together, however, and in the process has given a lot of looks to the sophomores.

Preview of Lehigh/Bucknell
Lehigh has a 35-29-3 record against Bucknell, starting in 1888 with a 74-0 win over the Bison. Since 1950, Lehigh has played Bucknell every year, and the games are frequently close: in fact, 7 of their last 11 meetings have been decided by a TD or less. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, these games had Patriot League championship connotations seemingly every year. Although difficult to fathom now, with Lehigh being so dominant and Bucknell having struggled of late, the games against Bucknell were more highly regarded that the games against "weak" Colgate.

Last year Lehigh crushed an ineffective Bison team 45-9 in a dominating victory on both sides of the ball. To be fair, the Bison were pretty banged up and demoralized after getting knocked out of the Patriot League title hunt the third to last week of the season.

This year, Bucknell comes into Bethlehem after suffering a crushing loss to Lafayette at home, 14-13, where PK Ryan Korn had his game-winning FG try blocked with three seconds left, recovered by Bucknell, and denied a game-winning TD at the half-yard line. Bucknell should be coming into Bethlehem working hard to try to salvage a season filled with promise and a potential Patriot League title run.

Killing Bucknell this year has been turnovers. Their defense hasn't been forcing many, and the offense has been giving the ball away too often. If you read the press reports, Landis and the team seem to be looking for answers about their problems, and it doesn't seem like happy times in Lewisburg after high hopes.

Offense
The Bison team features the triple-option offense. As anyone who has played with an option team on NCAA Gamebreaker will tell you, it requires an athletic quarterback that can run to the outside and pass the ball fairly effectively. The triggerman for this offense is the very talented senior QB Darius Wilson, a converted wideout. Wilson has a lot of talent, but last week he was pulled after fumbling 4 times (in the first half!) against the Leopards and senior backup QB John Henry Jackson came in to relieve him. Jackson had no TDs and was ineffective against Lafayette's defense.

When Wilson is on, he can do it all. He's the Bison's leading rusher on the year, and also has an impressive 75% completion percentage. His weakness is 5 interceptions and a major case of fumble-itis last week. Looks like being opportunistic against Wilson could be a good thing.

The main back who would normally be working with Wilson would be junior FB Blamah Sarnor, but he is out this weekend against Lehigh. In his place will start senior FB Frank Lazio who is no slouch, but doesn't have the same level of talent. The starting slotbacks will be junior Mike Cangelosi and talented sophomore St. Mary's transfer Kenny Davis. They are averaging 4 and 6 yards a carry respectively, so you have to respect all of these rushing threats.

The Bison's have a pair of strong receivers: senior WR Nisan Trotter and senior TE Ian Nutt. This duo has accounted for almost 80% of the Bison's receiving yards, and 6 of 7 of their recieving TDs. Defending Nutt should be similar to the defense covering Bergen in practice, so there could be an advantage there for Lehigh.

The "O" line features 2 seniors in a line that is geared for run blocking (3 if you count Nutt). At over 200 yards rushing per game, it's clear that they have been effective to date implementing Tim Landis' offensive style.

Defense
Bucknell plays a base 4-4, with lots of linebackers getting back in coverage. It looks a bit similar to Albany's "D" (who had a strange 3-5-3 style formation), which may also favor the Mountain Hawks. They are loaded with experience, featuring 6 seniors.

Bucknell's defense also appears to be similar in one respect to last year's club. In their wins against Georgetown, Cornell, and Columbia, they were surprisingly effective. But in their losses, the Bison's opponents were able to adequately execute pretty much what they wanted. Penn and was able to rack up more than 300 yards passing, Lafayette was able to get a huge rushing day by Joe McCourt, and Villanova was able to gain through the ground and through the air effectively.

Senior DE Corey Mayo anchors the "D" line, and senior ILB Kevin Ransome leads the linebacking unit. Mayo is one of the better "D" linemen in the Patriot League and is leading Bucknell in tackles for loss. Ransome is the team's leading tackler and team co-captain.

Their three DBs in their base 4-4 are strong players with lots of experience. CB Jerome Acy is a 5th year senior, along with senior Virgil Rush and speedy junior Dante Ross. But with having 3 DBs, someone's going to be open. And the DBs are only credited with 3 takeaways all year.

Special Teams
On special teams, Ross is an outstanding kick returner with 2 kickoff returns for TDs already this year. He's probably the best return man in the Patriot League and will need to be contained. PK Ryan Korn has a great leg for kickoffs and long field goals (his longest this year was 47 yards!)- but an important 39-yard kick last week was blocked, so you may wonder about his confidence level this week.

Keys to the Game
1. Kick away from Ross. Ross has shown to be a great kickoff and punt returner. Don't make him have a chance to affect the game - kick away from him.
2.Be aggressive with Wilson. When Wilson's on, Bucknell is a very tough team. The defense's job is to keep Wilson out of rhythm passing and pounding him when he runs the ball. That means "Graz" and Jason Murray need to get outside to contain him effectively.
3.Work the 3 DBs. Guys should be open with that 3 DB set, especially WR Gerran Walker and TE Adam Bergen - find them.
4.No letdown. This game is a must-win, like all league games. Colgate is next week, but taking care of business first against Bucknell is the ONLY priority.

Fearless Prediction
Like last year, I don't think Bucknell matches up well with the Mountain Hawks, and I believe Lehigh gets another big win before "The Patriot League Title Game" next week versus Colgate.

Lehigh 41, Bucknell 9

Coming up tomorrow: My favorite 1-AA columnist; Feuding, Lafayette-style

Red Sox win! Yankees collapse!

You'll have to forgive me for taking a night off to celebrate Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star.

Honest to God, this is an excerpt of an email I sent to my family after staying up Sunday night to watch Game 5:

"[A]fter having seen the Sox being mismanaged, battered and bruised; inexplicably seeing Derek Lowe yanked in the 6th; having seen Mike Timlin in said inning give up 2 runs with not a single ball leaving the infield; after seeing countless Sox opportunity wasted inning after inning; with unhittable Mariano Rivera pitching an impeccable inning of relief, going into the 9th inning, I had an odd thought:

"WE'VE GOT THE YANKEES RIGHT WHERE WE WANT THEM!"


And I have to brag, since I was right! Here we are! If you didn't know before I was also a member of Red Sox Nation, you know now (although "Lehigh Football Nation" is a pretty good hint).

O, how I've waited for this day. The Yankees - the only team ever - ever! - to blow a 3-0 series lead! What an epic collapse! Could it be the curse of Ramiro Mendoza?

Who's your daddy now?

Should I write-in David Ortiz for president on election day? Maybe Curt Schilling? Terry (gulp) Francona? 4 more games in Fenway, starting on Saturday! I love this team!

I'll have the Bucknell preview done tomorrow morning! I promise! But tonight belongs to the Red Sox!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Awards; Polls

Borda snags Patriot League Player of the Week... Again
Oops... Borda did it again.
Patriot League Names Weekly Award Winners

After the second straight impressive week, where he outdueled Yale's Payton award candidate QB Alvin Cowan, Borda snags his second consecutive honor. Most impressive was the 0 interceptions and 0 fumbles.

To think, my pick in August was to have Keating start the season. Congratulations, Mark, for making me happily eat some crow.

Yale Game Balls
You've seen this segway before.. time for LFN's virtual game balls! This week they go to:
Junior QB Mark Borda (Patriot League Off. Player of the Week)
Sophomore WR Lee Thomas (6 catches, 124 yards)
Sophomore RB Eric Rath (117 total yards, 2 TDs)
Senior TE Adam Bergen (4 catches, 45 yards)
Senior P Kyle Keating (4 punts, 41.2 average)
Junior FS Kaloma Cardwell (10 tackles, 1 pass defensed)
Senior OLB Anthony "Graz" Graziani (7 tackles)
Junior ILB Owen Breninger (7 tackles)
Senior DE Tom "Alf" Alfsen (6 tackles)
Senior DE Tristan Lawrence (5 tackles, 1 sack)
Junior DB Andrew Nelson (forcing fumble in last 2 minutes)

Not easy to give out game balls this week - everyone seemed to be a big contributor in this week's win. Congrats to one and all for Lehigh's best game - so far - of this 2004 season.

One Last View from the Nest
Lots of positive press from the regular media, and this blog. But Lehigh, although getting better and better as the season progresses, still hasn't put together the perfect 60 minutes that tells me, "This is a team that will go deep in the 1-AA playoffs".

It seems like the coaches are emphasizing (cliche alert) that it's definitely one game at a time. In this case, it is true. The games during the next couple of weeks will likely determine the Patriot League Championship against the two other teams that arguably are the class of the league: Bucknell and Colgate.

The Bison coming up this week are a tough out. They took Penn, Lafayette and Villanova down to the wire. A few different plays, and they would be undefeated. And they should be coming into Murray Goodman absolutely desperate to win to get their season back on track. For them, it's a playoff game.

As for Colgate, this game the past 2 years has made-or-broken Lehigh's postseason chances. It's our "playoff" game - are we good enough to win? We need to prove it - we haven't been able to the past 2 years.

First, we need to eliminate Bucknell this week. I think Lembo and the staff know that. Time to put the impressive Yale win beind us, and put these upcoming "playoff" games into perspective.

Polls
Lehigh jumped up 2 spots in ESPN/USAToday and SportsNetwork.com:
ESPN/SportsNetwork (16/16)
Dopke.Com (23)
AnyGivenSaturday(15)

The "overrated A-10 teams above Lehigh" mercifully have dropped to 2 (William & Mary and Maine). The Tribe may just drop to Delaware this week, hopefully bouncing us a little higher up in the polls.

Coming up: My favorite 1-AA colmnist; Lehigh/Bucknell Preview

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Press Roundup; View from the Nest; Weekend Wrapup

Press Roundup
Glowing press reports about Lehigh from Saturday's come-from-behind victory against a very good Yale squad:

Lehighsports.com:
Lehigh rallies and holds on for big win at Yale
Morning Call:
New Heroes Emerge in Lehigh's Win at Yale
Express-Times:
Borda triggers Lehigh Comeback
Brown & White:
Lehigh rallies to defeat Yale
Hartford Courant (reg'n required):
Losing Control

Your choice quotes:
"Lehigh rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 21-7 for its fourth straight win and fifth in six games overall. The nonleague triumph over a team that beat Colgate gives it a boost heading into the critical five-week stretch of Patriot League games that closes the season."

This was a great game against a great team," said Yale coach Jack Siedlecki, a former Lafayette assistant. "That's as good a start as this football team is going to have. But we did not sustain it."

Blame Lehigh's fired-up defense, which allowed just three points in the second half after being torched in the first half -- and again at halftime.

"It was not fire and brimstone in the locker room," Lembo insisted. "Coach (defensive coordinator Shannon) Morrison challenged the defense a little."
"It was more on us than anything," Graziani said of Lehigh's miserable first half. "We were missing tackles, a couple blown assignments."


"In the second half, they just played harder," said [Yale QB] Cowan... "They came out and played us tough. They had a different level of intensity."

"[Lee] Thomas, a sophomore who had caught just four passes all season, made six receptions for 124 yards. His 16-yard reception got the game-winning drive started.

"Freshman [Sedale] Threatt, a fourth- or fifth-string QB who wasn't listed on the pre-game roster, had a 12-yard carry on Lehigh's first possession of the second half. It helped set up a TD that cut Yale's lead to 21-17.

''Even when things don't go right, our kids don't put their heads down,'' Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. ''They know how to pick each other up. We showed a lot of character against a very good team."

"We didn't run the ball well in the second half," [Yale coach Jack] Siedlecki said. "We had to put the ball in the air because they were stopping the run....Then they got into a rhythm with their quarterback. Probably 10 times in the game we had him shut down and forced him to scramble [for gains]. It was hard to contain him. You can play great defense against the pass but not for more than six or seven seconds."

"But even at the alma mater of both George W. Bush and John Kerry, Lembo couldn't put a spin on his emotions...''I was very worried until the last play,'' he admitted.

[Couldn't put a spin on his emotions... nice.]

"[Yale] threatened twice in the final two minutes...The first threat ended when the Bulldogs (3-2) lost their first fumble of the year. Lehigh cornerback Andrew Nelson stripped Yale's Chandler Henley of a reception at the Lehigh 45, and teammate Duane Smith recovered... ''Andrew was upset because it was his guy who caught the pass,'' said linebacker Anthony Graziani, who was a key part of the defensive revival with seven stops. ''But Andrew was able to come back and make the play that sealed the game.''

"It was neat to see a situation occur on the field," Lembo said, "that we practice all the time. We spend a lot of time working on causing turnovers. We knew, in this game, turnovers would be a key."

"It wasn't totally sealed yet... Yale had one last crack and reached the Hawks' 31. But a desperation heave was caught five yards beyond the end zone by the Bulldogs' Ashley Wright on the final play."

"It's an exciting win," Lembo said. "For our kids, this is a great experience. Any time you can come from behind and beat a good team like we did today (Saturday), that'll make a lasting impression."

"We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "It turned out to be every second of that."

"I think it showed a lot of character," Lembo said, "fighting back and getting this win."

"[Coach Siedlecki said] I told the team this was a great game against a great team today."

The View from the Nest
Despite the compassionate (yet appropriate) response to my whining about my inability to properly use a VCR to tape a game [Get a TIVO], I did manage to get a good feel for the game and piece together all 4 quarters of the game.

Seeing firsthand how Yale dominated in the first half, I was nervous about Lehigh's prospects of winning the game. Yale played a perfect half of football, with no offensive turnovers, a great gameplan, and a fired-up defense that effectively bottled up the Lehigh offense.

The two minute drill at the end of the first half showed promise, however, resulting in an important three points. More importantly, it gave the offense confidence at the beginning of the second half.

In the second half, the defense came in with a renewed energy, and the "D" smothered the Yale RB Carr, holding him to under 100 yards rushing on the day.

Also importantly, when the offense had a chance, they took over the game and simply overpowered them. Hearing touted freshman QB Sedale Threatt get in for a couple QB rushing plays and get some extremely important yards was great. Hearing sophomore WR Lee Thomas make mincemeat of a veteran, talented, 1-AA secondary was even better.

Coach Lembo cited the character of the team, winning this game. What I'd like to cite is the team's hard work and determination. They never got intimidated or tried to depart from the gameplan. They came together, worked hard, and got it done.

Yale is an extremely good football team. A veteran, talented group, they have reason to believe that they can win an elusive Ivy championship this year. Lehigh has got to be proud that they managed to beat a very good team in their house.

And yet, the elusive 'perfect game' still eludes us. Kickoffs (out-of-bounds), field goals (1 blocked) and even extra points (1 blocked) are still a concern. I'm still waiting for the vaunted 'D' to put in a full 60 minutes. And although Rath and Thompson have had good performances, I'm still waiting for that truly breakout rushing game from one or both.

A superb win. And now the fun begins - the meat of the Patriot League schedule. The first game on the road back to the Patriot League title and the 1-AA playoffs is next week against Bucknell, who comes in needing a win against the Engineers if they are to harbor any title hopes. After losing a wild game against Lafayette 14-13, they are desperate for the win.

Next week, Lehigh needs to take care of business and knock out the Bison.

(And anyone who wants to buy me a TIVO player, just shoot me an email and I'll tell you where to send the check.)

Weekend Recap
An absolutely pitiful week, as I went an awful 6-9. I'm hard pressed to figure out which games belong in the "really right" category this week.

Really right:
Northwestern St./McNeese St. Predicted score: NW St 44, McNeese St. 17. Real score: NW St. 47, McNeese St. 17. Shama-lama ding dong!

Stephen F. Austin/UC Davis. Predicted score: SFA 30, UC Davis 14. Real score: SFA 22, UC Davis 19. It's not "really right", but in a tough week, I'll take it.

Should have been right:
Delaware/Hofstra. A classic "tweener" game against an underrated opponent, Pride gunslinger QB Bobby Seck leaves the game with an injury, and still the Pride couldn't hold on to a 12 point lead at home, giving up a 4-th and goal with just over 6 minutes left. Give me a healthy Seck, and Hofstra wins this one going away.

Lafayette/Bucknell. Bison QB Darius Wilson turned over the ball 4 times on fumbles. Hold onto the ball once more - once more! - and I've got to believe that the Bison, who dominated the Leopards in every other offensive category, would have at least eked out a vital win.

Was I ever wrong!
Dartmouth/Holy Cross. How was I to know that the Big Green would simply give up against the Crusaders? Being shut out at home to a team with miles less talent is a disgrace. I don't think the Big Green will win any more games this year, and they still have to play Columbia.

(tie) Harvard/Northeastern, UMass/New Hampshire, Richmond/Villanova, Southern Illinois/Western Kentucky. I'll spare the world the gory details, but it's not good when all the teams you picked in these games go out and then lose by more than 28 points.

Coming up tomorrow: Game Balls
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