Saturday, October 30, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

Predictions of other Games

Predictions of Other Games:
In the Patriot League:
Georgetown at Fordham. The Fordham defense is better than they showed last week versus Lafayette, and they'll prove it today. Fordham 27, G'Town 0.

Bucknell at Holy Cross. Bucknell has struggled, but they have too much talent to let this one slip away. The Bison right the ship. Bucknell 38, Holy Cross 10.

In the Top 25:
Villanova at Rhode Island. Villanova is starting to get it together, and they should beat up on the bottom-dwelling Rams. Villanova 31, Rhode Island 10.

New Hampshire at Northeastern. The Huskies have already been eliminated from the A-10 title hunt, but UNH isn't. Something about this game cries out "bad matchup" for UNH, and I'm going to take N'Eastern in a mild upset. N'Eastern 30, UNH 24.

South Dakota St. at Georgia Southern. Tweener game alert! No, I'm not saying that the Jackrabbits will beat the #1 ranked team in the country. Just that, the Golden Eagles have to let down somewhere, and now is an ideal time, before the huge Furman game next week. GSU 27, SD St. 17.

Maine at UMass. Maine, clinging to postseason life, should handle an improving UMass squad. Maine 30, UMass 20.

Delaware at Navy. Picking Delaware to upset Navy last year was not a trendy pick, when I correctly predicted it. This year, it is a trendy pick, even though all the production of last year's offense and defense has graduated, and Delaware has struggled with the likes of Towson and UMass. And Delaware won't sneak up on a Navy team that has last year's humiliation fresh on their minds. Navy 31, Delaware 17.

Northwestern St. at North Dakota St. Having had 10 days to think about their embarassing loss to Nicholls St., my hunch is that the Bison deal the Demons their second straight loss. ND St. 29, NW St. 17.

Sam Houston St. at Stephen F. Austin. It seems like every Southland game, you just predict the exact opposite of what your gut says, and you'd be right. For example, the Bearkats have won 6 straight and seem to have the title wrapped up, while the Lumberjcks got humbled by Texas St. So, following my logic, look for the Lumberjacks to win and throw the Southland into a mess. SFA 24, Sam Houston St. 17.

William & Mary at Towson. A fired up William & Mary doesn't let down against a tired Towson team. W&M 41, Towson 10.

Western Illinois at Southern Illinois. Would love to take WIU in a tweener game for SIU, but the problem is, the Leathernecks haven't shown the ability to stop 1-AA competition this year. Plus, they're on the road. No way. SIU 38, WIU 21.

Illinois St. at Western Kentucky. An improving Illinois St. still can't beat the Hilltoppers on the road, especially since WKU can't afford to lose the game. WKU 30, Illinois St. 17.

UC Davis at Cal Poly. Pundits have been saying Cal Poly is going to be upset one of these days, and here it is, the matchup problem they've been looking for. UC Davis 20, Cal Poly 10.

Montana St. at Northern Arizona. Can the Bobcat defense keep the Lubmerjacks' offense at bay? I'm thinking yes, as we see Nothern Arizona's playoff aspirations hit the dirt. MSU 27, NAU 13.

See you at the game!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Prognosticators Pick Lehigh; More Press; Booters

Progonsitcators Pick Lehigh
Since the Colgate/Lehigh game is one of only 2 showdowns between ranked teams this week, there was a lot of speculation on the outcome of the game.
1-AA Preview picks Lehigh
Sports Network Picks Lehigh
Express-Times: Michael Blouse picks Colgate

For the record, I picked Lehigh to win 27-24 (see Wednesday's post).

Personally I think Michael Blouse went to Lafayette, don't you?

Press Roundup
LehighSports.Com:
The Hospitable Southerner (Neal Boozer-Gallman)
Morning Call:
Lehigh, Colgate Brace For Telling Contest
Brown & White:
Clash of the Titans

Striking in the pre-game press conference and the press was the lack of trash-talk. If you clip the quotes, you'd think it was any other game being played this weekend.

"Dick Biddle's voice never came through the speakerphone clearly at Lehigh's weekly luncheon Wednesday... After each question, Biddle's voice seemed to trail off with only a few words audible to the ears of the media and audience gathered at Starters Pub to get a preview of Saturday's Colgate-Lehigh showdown at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem.

"What was heard from Biddle, the Colgate football coach, was typical coach-speak, anyway; gems like, ''One team's going to be undefeated in the league and the other is going to have a loss.''

Biddle and Lehigh's Pete Lembo were careful to acknowledge Lafayette, which is off to its best start since 1988 and is also unbeaten in the league. The Leopards remain on both teams' schedules.

''When you play against a great defense like this, you have to stay balanced,'' Lembo said. ''Based on what's working and what looks you're getting, you may gravitate one way or the other.''

“Branch is most effective late in the game because of his durability,” Lembo said. “He can carry the ball 30 to 40 times and still have the power to run you over.”

“We have to tackle well and have great pursuit,” he said.

''It's the game I've been looking forward to all year,'' said offensive guard Adam Selmasska. ''I didn't get to play in the game last year, so I'm real anxious for this one.''

''On almost every play they blitz or bring zone pressure,'' said Selmasska, a junior from Easton. ''We have to work on our keys and be ready for whatever they bring at us.''

''It's going to be an intense, physical game,'' Lehigh nose guard Will Mitchell said. ''It doesn't matter where we play it; it's going to be emotional.''

CSTV Game of the Week
Colgate/Lehigh is CSTV's game of the Week. If you get DirectTV you will be able to watch the game on channel 610. In the Lehigh Valley you'll be able to watch the game on Service Electric TV2.

Also, on CSTV's web site, I found a great Lehigh picture:



Nice pic of Adam Bergen, eh?

Finally...
Couldn't resist this gem from the Brown & White:
School Spirit Needs a Boost

"I was running late for the football game last Saturday and I saw something that was disturbing and sad at the same time... As a Lehigh bus pulled up carrying students to the game, a flock of students was sprinting toward it so that they could guarantee themselves a ride home — just as the opening kickoff could be heard in the background. "

It seems like Mr. Thornton, as a real Lehigh football fan, encountered last Saturday a gaggle of "booter" Lehigh fans. The new definition: when the football is first booted to start the game, they are on the bus home (possibly to do a little "booting" in their rooms after too much alcohol consumption).

Memo to Mr. Thornton: Your heart is in the right place, but I seriously doubt these "booters" will change their behavior as a result of your piece. Morally questionable? Sure. Would you want one of them covering you in a foxhole? Never. But are they in your foxhole? Yes.

Like Billy Carter to Jimmy Carter, or Roger Clinton to Bill Clinton, these inebriated, mentally challenged fans can be annoying, and sometimes you'd like to smack them upside the head and say, "What the hell were you thinking?"

But they are Lehigh fans, not Delaware fans. They are on the team, so no matter how much we'd like to smack them around, we can't. We must learn to observe, be amused, and study Adam Bergen's stats a bit more.

Hope, though, they come into the game tomorrow too.

Tomorrow: 1-AA Predictions; Audio Blogging from Murray Goodman



Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Patriot League Championship Game" Preview

The Red Sox
I called my Dad after the Red Sox' win tonight in the World Series. I told him, "Did you ever think in a million years you would ever see this day?"

But there we were. We did. We never trailed in a World Series completely devoid of drama. In Game 3 during the pregame warmups, I told my wife, "They're scared. I don't think they're going to win today."

Finally, everything went right, after 86 years.

Thank you, Red Sox!!!!!! Our suffering is over!

(Now, where are those ALCS and World Series shirts we ordered?)

Lehigh/Colgate Preview
If it's Wednesday, then that means it's time for my preview of this week's game - Lehigh/Colgate, this Saturday at Murray Goodman stadium in South Bethlehem.

Lehigh Injury Report
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
TE Steve Burant (OUT)
FS Kaloma Cardwell (OUT)
OLB Jon Guynes (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
ILB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
WR Adam Kovacs (Questionble)
OLB Jason Murray (Qestionable)
DL Jim Norris (Questionable)

Cardwell's absence leaves a big void in the secondary - a defensive co-captain and excellent player. Sophomore DB Courtney Elder will have to show if he is made of the same stuff, but the Nation is officially nervous. Can he do it? At linebacker, Breninger and Graziani move up to the role of sole starters this week with the injuries to Rovesti and Murray. They will be asked to shoulder a big load this Saturday. TE Burant is out, but sophomore TE Landon Maggs should ably step up in the 2 TE set.

History of this rivarly
Lehigh and Colgate have played regularly nearly every year since 1960, playing each other a grand total of 42 times. Lehigh is behind in the all-time series, 16-24-2.

The winner of the Lehigh-Colgate game has gone on to at least a co-championship of the Patriot League title in each of the last seven years. Lehigh has won 5 outright Patriot League titles (with one co-title shared with Colgate), and Colgate has won 2 outright titles (with two co-titles - the second shared with Fordham in 2002).

Furthermore, three times the Lehigh/Colgate game alone has determined the winner of the Patriot League title - in 1998, 2001, and 2003. The three games could not have been more different. In 1998, Lehigh would win 41-22 in a game which featured a burst of second-half offense that finished the (then) Red Raiders. Lehigh that year won the title and beat Richmond for their first 1-AA playoff win before giving eventual champion UMass all they could handle.

In 2001, they played a back-and-forth game in Hamilton, NY. Lehigh held on for a 25-22 win, won the title, and beat Hofstra in Lehigh's first hosted 1-AA playoff game.

Last year, Colgate won 17-10 in a defensive battle, with 6 turnovers (including 4 by starting QB Chris Brown), and 300 yards offense... both teams combined. Kyle Keating punted into his own man in the end zone, and QB Mark Borda saw time as an ineffective Keating was pulled in a game where Lehigh struggled offensively. Colgate of course won the title, and went all the way to the 1-AA Championship game against Delaware. Along the way, RB Jamaal Branch won the Walter Payton award.

Scouting Colgate
Colgate is a dangerous team that last year was the class of the Patriot League. This year, they are still the class of the Patriot League until somebody knocks them off their perch. Is Lehigh going to be that team?

Offense
Colgate runs a dangerous offense. Although not that different from last year, it is subletly different in some ways. What hasn't changes is that it still is a multifaceted dangerous attack involving a brusing all-1-AA runner, an underrated mobile QB, and a dangerous deep receiving threat.

In 2002 a then-inexperienced QB Chris Brown made his fist collegite start gainst Lehigh and ate up our defense, rushing for 4 TDs and putting our Patriot League title hopes up in smoke. Now a senior, it seems like teams have started to finally solve him. With 10 TDs and 8 interceptions, combined with a 53% completion percentage, his statistics seem downright ordinary this year. Having said that, he is a dangerous runner and is deadly if he gets the passing game going.

Payton-winner RB Jamaal Branch could be the most talented player in the Patriot League. All you need to do is see his 208 yards and 4 TDs last week for proof. He can run inside, outside, and is a bruising back. Someone you need to be aware of at all times.

This year's "O" Line features 2 senior bookends at both tackles, and is a solid sizeable line. They miss TE Josh Frieser from last year, and instead have sophomore Jeff Brown in at TE. He doesn't catch as well as Frieser, and seems to have had trouble filling his shoes. A solid line, if not as great as last year.

Senior WRs Luke Graham and DeWayne Long are Brown's primary targets. They are tall, talented receivers who have all of Colgate's passing TDs this year. There doesn't appear to be a solid #3 receiver after these two.

Defense
Colgate plays the same defense as Lehigh, an aggressive 4-3 that is opportunistic and plays to get turnovers. In Colgate's game notes, they cavalierly say: "In the last 26 games, only 4 runners have managed to gain over 100 yards rushing against the Raider defense." Two of those games were their only losses this year - Steve Baylark of UMass, and Rob Carr of Yale. This might indicate a vulnerability versus the run.

Their two defensive ends - seniors Matt Spack and John Latek - are bona-fide pass rushers. They are tough players that need to be contained at the line of scrimmage. Unlike last year, they are a bit smaller up the middle with juniors Josh Wurst at Chris Petrone.

Junior Jared Nepa is the cream of the linebacking crop. He has a real nose for the ball, having had his hand in 5 different turnovers. Juniro Zach Dollar and senior Antrell Tyson don't have as much game experience as Nepa, but don't let that fool you - these guys have plenty of talent.

In the secondary, sophomore SS Geoff Bean anchors an opportunistic secondary that seems to get the ball an awful lot. He is the feature guy in this defense, and seems to be a budding star. Overall the secondary has 7 interceptions, so Borda will have to protect the ball and not force it too much. These guys along with Mr. Bean - senior Andew Bogle, junior Chris Williams, and sophomore Andrew Moore - form a secondary to be reckoned with.

Special Teams
For such a tough team, Colgate's special teams have been average this year. Although talented, their return team hasn't returned any kicks for TDs this year. Their kicker, senior Lance Schwrtzberg, is 30 for 47 lifetime in field-goal tries.

Keys to the game
1.Win the turnover battle. Colgate is too good a team to be handed points. Borda, Rath, and Thompson must hang onto the ball in order for the Brown & White to have their best chance to win.
2.Wrath of Rath. Rath couldn't pick a better time to have a breakout game. If he gets a 100 yard game, that could go a long way in bringing Lehigh this victory. It might be able to be done between the tackles.
3.Score early. An early score putting Colgate behind the 8-ball could make Brown have to win the game in the 4th quarter using his arm instead of having Branch running at us protecting a lead. Anything we can do to make Branch run the ball less, the beter.
4.Trench game. This type of game is frequently won in the trenches. The "O" Line who dominates the line of scrimmage and the "D" Line that gets the most penetration usually wins. The Mountain Hawks have to make sure that on this day they are that team.
5.Kicking. For Pete's sake, no missed extra points or field goals. That could be the margin of victory for Colgate.

Fearless Prediction
This game will be tough; this game will be close; and a raucous Goodman crowd will somehow put that last field goal through for Lehigh and put the Engineers in the driver's seat.

Lehigh 27, Colgate 24

Coming of Friday: A November 1st Surprise?; Fear the Leopards?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Lehigh/Colgate: The Patriot League Championship Game; Press; Polls

Lehigh/Colgate: The Patriot League Championship Game
Here's something to whet your appetite for what I'm calling the "Patriot League Championship Game": Lehigh versus Colgate, in South Bethlehem, this Saturday.

Lehigh coming into this game has won their last 5 contests, and is nationally ranked at #12 in The Sports Network's weekly poll. At 6-1, they are 2-0 in the Patriot League, their only loss coming to Villanova 22-16 in early September. In their last 5 games, their offense has averaged 38 points a game amd the defense has been giving up less than 17 points a game.

QB Mark Borda has won Patriot League Offensive Player of the week for 3 consecutive weeks, including last wek where Lehigh beat Bucknell 40-17 in a game where Borda passed for 5 TDs.

Coach Lembo was not happy with the execution in the game, however, with poor kicking, 4 fumbles, and too many penalties. After the game, he held a closed-door meeting with the players where he reportedly laced into the team. Not much was said to the press about the Colgate game this week by Lembo, but it was definitely the undercurrent for the tirade and the mood after the game. "I have no complaints about [Mark Borda's] attitude, his work ethic or his ability to run the offense. But he needs to play better, overall, next week than he did this week in order for us to win.''

Colgate, on the other hand, is ranked #18 in the Sports Network Poll, is 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the Patriot League. Their two losses have come on the road to UMass (30-20) early in September, and to Yale (31-28) on a last-second field goal on October 2nd.

Colgate is coming off their third straight victory, a 41-7 shellacking of Holy Cross in Hamilton, NY. Walter Payton-award candidate RB Jamaal Branch rushed for 208 yards and 4 TDs, while sophomore SS Geoff Bean racked up his second straight Patriot League Defensive player of the week award by recovering three fumbles, forcing two fumbles, and intercepting a pass -- having a hand in 6 of Holy Cross' 8 turnovers on the day. The Syracuse Post-Journal probably put it best when they said that they "had done everything to the Holy Cross Crusaders except de-pants them."

In contrast to Lembo's explosion, the Post-Journal caught Colgate's coach Dick Biddle cracking a smile on the sideline after their dominant performance. But the importance of this week's game is not lost on their coach: "It'll be the biggest game of the season so far... It seems that the team that has won that one has gone on to win the league, so you can kind of control your own destiny (in terms of qualifying for the I-AA playoffs). We'll be ready. We won't back down. We'll play, believe me.... Our work is going to be cut out for us against Lehigh... We're going to bring our 'A' game."

Since 1997, Lehigh and Colgate have either been outright Patriot League champions or co-champions. Three times during this span, including last year, the outcome of the game has been all that has separated Colgate and Lehigh for the title. That's why this Satruday's game should be, in effect, the "Patriot League Championship Game".

Press
One last look at the press from last week's games - Lehigh and Colgate.

Morning Call:
Borda Excels Again, but Coach Not Happy

Syracuse Post-Standard:
Raiders' Day in the Sun

"Only the winning Powerball numbers might make Lehigh University football fans happier than the numbers Mountain Hawks quarterback Mark Borda is putting up... Each week, the junior from Bethlehem Catholic High is asked about his performance, and, after crediting others, he says he is getting more comfortable and his teammates are gaining more confidence in him... If Lehigh did have a quarterback controversy earlier this year, it doesn't now."

"Lembo, though, wasn't in the best mood after Lehigh's 40-17 rout of Bucknell and two Borda fumbles were among the things to sour his day... ''The fumbles are probably the thing that disappointed me the most,'' Lembo said. ''We had done such a wonderful job of that all season long. We dedicate practice time to it... So why we had problems today, I can't answer it. It certainly isn't from a lack of preventative measures. Maybe it was a wakeup call.''

If it was a matter of waking up his team, Lembo served the purpose of about 100 alarm clocks with a loud, colorful, postgame discussion that could be heard through closed doors.

"Coming into today we knew we had to play well to gear up for Lehigh and that's what we did," said [Luke] Graham, he of the long reach and sticky hands. "This is the type of game you want before a Lehigh. It gets everybody's confidence up and it's great for team morale."

"I think that was probably the first time we played well in all three phases," said the Colgate coach, whose club led 21-0 after one quarter and 34-0 at the half before easing up on the gas. "But I still don't think we've played our best football by any stretch of the imagination."

Polls
Sports Network (Lehigh #12, Colgate #18)
ESPN/USA Today (Lehigh #13, Colgate #19)
Any Given Saturday (Lehigh #11, Colgate #17)
Dopke.Com (Lehigh #17, Colgate NR)

Coming up: Don't fear the Leopards?; More Lehigh/Colgate

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Lehigh/Bucknell Game Balls; Weekend Recap

Writeups
Only one writeup I could find online, as the Morning Call surprisingly didn't have a writeup of the game, and the Brown and White website was down:

Express-Times:
Borda, Hawks Stay Hot

Quotes:

"I'm just happy that we won," said Borda, a former Bethlehem Catholic star who connected on five touchdown throws for the second time in three games. "I think I had an OK day. It was good to win this game."

"We'll see," said Borda, whose big numbers give him a chance to win the Patriot League's Offensive Player of the Week for the third consecutive game. "Mental preparation is just starting right now. It's just a big week."

"I think our assistant coaches did a phenomenal job of preparing the kids for this game," Lembo said. "Going in Shannon (defensive coordinator Shannon Morrison) was a little bit more concerned about their package than he has been in previous weeks. Bucknell had outscored opponents 42-10 in the first quarter. We shut them out in the first quarter."

"That didn't stop an angry Lehigh coach Pete Lembo from smacking his team with an obscenity-laced tirade afterward, but it did set up next weekend's monster showdown between the Patriot League's top two powers.

"This is where you want to be, heading into November playing meaningful football games," said Lembo, who meekly insisted he was just sharing some thoughts with his team just after his booming voice shook the walls inside Lehigh's locker room. "I'm happy that we got a win. I'm happy that we're 6-1. I'm happy that we're undefeated in the league.

"I should probably be a little happier than I am."

"Smacking his team with an obscenity-laced tirade." Nice writing.

Game Balls
New policy: 3 game balls each week go to the offense and defense; and 1 game ball goes to the special-teams differencemaker.
This week's Game Balls go to:
Offense:
Junior QB Mark Borda (23-30, 385 yards passing, 5 TDs)
Junior WR Gerran Walker (183 all-purpose yards, 1 TD)
Senior WR Adam Kovacs (108 yards receiving, 2 TDs)
Defense:
Junior DB Andrew Nelson (8 tackles, 3 sacks)
Senior SS Karrie Ford (6 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
Senior OLB Jason Murray (4 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 1/2 sacks)
Special Teams:
Senior P Kyle Keating (2 punts, 52 yards average)

Weekend Pick Recap
My best week of the season - by far. I was an amazing 16-3! Thanks to New Hampshire, Harvard, Maine, Sam Houston St., Cal Poly, Southern Illinois, Villanova, James Madison, Montana St. and Southern Utah!

Really right:
Lehigh/Bucknell. Predicted score: Lehigh 41, Bucknell 9. Real score: Lehigh 40, Bucknell 17. I saw this as a blowout, and eventually it was. Scarily, had Lehigh not played so sloppy, it could have been an even bigger blowout.

Appalachian St./Wofford. Predicted score: App. St. 31, Wofford 17. Real score: App St. 38, Wofford 17. I thought App St. would bounce back after their humiliation at Statesboro, and I was right.

Georgetown/Monmouth. Predicted score: Monmouth 31, G'town 10. Real score: Monmouth 27, G'town 10. Monmouth could be the best mid-major in 1-AA, and G'Town had been struggling.

Kinda right:
Delaware/William & Mary. I thought it would be more of a defensive game, but Delaware pulled out the "W" for me in the final minutes. I had Delaware by 2 points. I'll take it!

Colgate/Holy Cross. I thought Holy Cross would make more of a game of things with their rushing game, but it wasn't meant to be. The Raiders finally had that breakout game everyone expected. Still, predictably, I had Colgate winning.

Should have been right:
Hampton/South Carolina St. If it wasn't for 4 turnovers for touchdowns for Hampton (that's not a typo), SC St. would have been more of a match for Hampton. 4 turnovers returned for TDs! That has to be some sort of record.

Was I ever wrong!
Lafayette/Fordham. Fordham is definitely not the same team of a couple years ago. Lafayette ran the ball right down their throats and won the game resoundingly. Lafayette? For real? We have to say they are.

Penn/Yale. Yale, although only losing 17-7, were never really in this game as Penn sucked the life out of Yale's attack with two long second-half drives. Picking against Penn in the Ivy is kind of like picking against the Harlem Globetrotters. Something I should have remembered, don't you think?

Tomorrow: Polls; Leopard watch?; Hyping up the "Patriot League Championship Game", Lehigh vs. Colgate
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