Saturday, November 13, 2004

Lehigh 21, Fordham 14, final

Lehigh does what they need to do by beating Fordham. A game which featured a defensive struggle, with field position and special teams playing a key role.

A thrilling (or nerve-wracking) fourth quarter was featured. Fordham completing a long pass to Lehigh's 5 yard line, and Brannan "Game Ball" Thomas snagging the interception out of the end zone.

Then the Lehigh offense chewed up 4 minutes off the clock, with WR Lee Thomas making a key grab; and TB Eric "Game Ball" Rath powering the 96-yard drive. Rath punched it in, making the score 21-7.

I thought that the game was over at that point. However, the big-play ability of Fordham QB Derric Daniels struck again, when he completed another 35-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 21-14.

Then, my nightmare continued, after Fordham recovered an onsides kick, and on the next play from scrimmage, DB Duane Smith got flagged for roughing the passer, setting up the Rams the Lehigh 34 with a little under 1:30 to play. Time to reach for the aspirin.

However, on a huge 4th down and one, Duane Smith stuffed Fordham RB James Prydatko, sealing the victory. Not the way I would draw it up, but I will take it! It was a game of trench warfare, hard hitting, and special teams. It's probably was a good game to get ready for what is coming next week from Lafayette. (Think that game is a "must-win"?)

The rest of the goings-on around I-AA now give a much clearer view of the postseason situation. With Lafayette winning and Colgate losing, the 140th edition of "The Game" will now be for more than a year's worth of bragging rights - it will also be for the Patriot League title and a I-AA playoff berth.

Elsewhere in games of note which may affect Lehigh, Delaware held on to beat Richmond, and William & Mary (as I predicted) held on to beat James Madison in the A-10. That loss, coupled with Furman's and Georgia Southern's wins, may have punctured the hope of any A-10 team being one of the top 4 seeds of the playoffs. However, it may have punched William & Mary's ticket for being the A-10 champion. Should Lehigh win, and some crazy stuff happen, Lehigh could still conceivably be to top seed in the East as well.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the I-AA playoff situation.. and just in case you needed any more hype for next weekend - I'll try to start the hype machine in earnest.

Lehigh 14, Fordham 7, end of 3rd quarter

Agony and ecstasy.

Fordham did what I knew they were capable of - converting a 3rd-and-10 and making a big 74 yard completetion for a TD, tying the game. But then, Lehigh came back for a 47 yard TD pass to Adam Bergen just before the end of the 3rd quarter, putting Lehigh back on top.

One breakdown for the defense, a blemish on what is otherwise a great day for them. Fortunately, it doesn't look like that slip-up will hurt us, thanks to Borda, Bergen and the offense.

Special teams have been excellent. Punting and kicking have been very good.

Now we need to do this for 1 more quarter! Go Lehigh!

(It looks like Colgate is going down big to Bucknell... and Lafayette is pulling away from Holy Cross.. so that means should Lehigh win, the 140th Lehigh/Lafayette showdown will be for the Patriot League title and a I-AA playoff berth!)

Lehigh 7, Fordham 0, halftime

After a TD scamper by Eric Rath on Lehigh's first possession of the game, both defenses have clamped down and kept this game at 7-0 Lehigh.

Miscues have helped keep the game close. Twice Lehigh have turned over the ball in the end zone. Several penalities have reversed key gains while Lehigh was driving.

Both defenses are having a great day shutting down the offense. And special teams have ruled the day. Next half, the special teams need to keep making a statement.

Stick around, this game is going to be interesting. For the second half, Lehigh's offense needs to just remain patient and keep going after Fordham's defense. And the "D" still needs to respect Fordham QB Derric Daniels' ability to make th big play.

See you end of the 3rd quarter.




Predictions of Other Games

Predictions of Other Games
In the Patriot League:
Georgetown at Davidson. Georgetown showed signs of breaking out of their offensive doldrums last week, and beating struggling Davidson handily will show this to the rest of I-AA. G'Town 38, Davidson 10.

Colgate at Bucknell. A must-win for the Raiders to keep their playoff and title hopes alive. Bucknell plays to build for next season, and to knock off their second playoff-bound team. I think Bucknell makes the statement for their outgoing seniors that they will be sticking around in the Patriot elite in a game which Colgate doesn't match up well. Bucknell 24, Colgate 17.

Holy Cross at Lafayette. With a Leopard win and Raider loss, next week's Lehigh/Lafayette game would become the Patriot League championship game. I'm thinking that will be the case, though I think the Crusaders will make it a lot closer than the folks in Easton would like. Lafayette 32, Holy Cross 28.

In the top 25:
Harvard at Penn. For the Ivy League championship game, logic tells me to not pick against Penn in the Ivy (where they have won somehting like 15 straight games). But Harvard has been a buzzsaw offensively these past weeks, whereas Penn have relied too heavily on their defense in their past four league games. The Penn streak ends today. Harvard busts the game open late. Harvard 34, Penn 21.

Towson at New Hampshire. Towson, who is playing out the string, would like nothing better than to deal UNH a league loss in order to get their first-ever A-10 league win. But that simply won't happen with their anemic offense. UNH 41, Towson 6.

William & Mary at James Madison. The game which will go a long way in determining the A-10 champion. The Dukes have been doing it with smoke and mirrors this year, but you can't deny that they are 8-1 with only a loss to I-A West Virginia . The Tribe are equally phenomenal, losing only to Delaware at the Tub and at I-A North Carolina. I think the Tribe are the right team to deliver the Duke's first I-AA loss, with their all-I-AA passing and recieving threats Lang Campbell and Dominique Thompson, with their defense doing just enough to win. Did I mention it would put the A-10 title race up in the air? W&M 28, JMU 24.

Delaware at Richmond. Would I love to be wrong about this game.. I don't see Richmond playing that perfect game against the Hens. The Hens "D" proves to be too tough, and the "O" proves to be too balanced. Delaware 24, Richmond 6.

Georgia Southern at Florida International. This game is going to be one big ugly in Miami. THe Golden Eagles will prove they can whup it up in Miami as well as Statesboro. GSU 58, FIU 3.

Furman at Wofford. Furman wins, and they will win the SoCon and probably get seeded in the I-AA playoffs. Wofford wins, and they can punch their ticket for the I-AA playoffs... but even if they lose, they still have a fighing chance. Wofford hasn't really yet beaten a quality opponent, and they won't beat a quality opponent today, even one coming off a huge win last week. Furman 42, Wofford 14.

Western Illinois at Western Kentucky. WIU can't stop anybody. The Hilltoppers have not impressed, but no way WIU will go into Bowling Green and beat a playoff-bound team. WKU 51, WIU 7.

Indiana St. at Southern Illinois. The Sycamores have lost 5 in a row. I'm banking on the fact that the #1 rated Salukis will make it 6. SIU 51, Indiana St. 9.

NC A&T at Hampton. The Pirates will make I-AA at-large playoff hopefuls around the land heave a sigh of relief by winning the game and clinching the MEAC title. Hampton 42, NC A&T 28.

Jacksonville St. at Eastern Illinois. This game looks like a real trap game to me... however... the Panthers are out of the playoff hunt, while the Gamecocks are one win away from clinching the OVC. Give me the scenario that all I-AA at-large teams are hoping for - but in a closer game that people expect. Jacksonville St. 24, EIU 22.

Sam Houston St. at Northwestern St. Sam Houston St. can do a lot of I-AA teams a favor by doing what nobody else has done this year - beat the Demons at Natchitoches. Can they? I think they. Although the Bearkat's defense gave up 47 points to hapless McNeese St. last week, I think they right the ship - but it will be a classic. Sam Houston 28, NW St. 27.

Sacramento St. at Montana. The Hornets pulled the shocker against Montana St. at home last week 38-28. They will find times in Bozeman much more difficult. Montana 38, Sac St. 17.

Eastern Washington at Montana St. The Eagles have been ripping through their schedule this year, and a win will clinch them a playoff spot. The Bobcats, after getting upset last week by Sacramento St., need a win this week to stay alive. The loser is definitely out of the playoff picture. Two deperate teams - who to choose? The Eagles are the hotter team - but the Bobcats are at home. After lots of thought, have to go with the hot team - the Eagles. MSU have squeaked by way too many cupcakes this year. It will be close, but EWU will prevail. EWU 31, MSU 28.

Northern Colorado/Cal Poly. Can Cal Poly get off the schneid, after losing 2 straight? I'm betting yes against a Northern Colorado team that surprisingly is still in the hunt for the Great West title (which does not come with an I-AA playoff bid). It will not be easy, but Cal Poly should pull this out in the end, keeing their playoff hopes alive. Cal Poly 24, NCU 17.

Lehigh/Fordham, 12:30PM: Be there!

Friday, November 12, 2004

The great forgotten game?

Forgotten game?
The Lehigh/Fordham game this weekend seems to be dwarfed by "that other Lehigh game" next weekend. The press seems to be taking a pacing break for what is likely to be a week's worth of features and spilled ink.

It's not even on the radar screen of the New York press - a turnaround from last year, when both Lehigh and Fordham were ranked and were poised to make a statement that year about their Patriot chances. Right now, Fordham is playing for pride - but they would love nothing better to ruin Lehigh's perfect league record this week.

For Lehigh, as I have sought to imply all week, this game is a real danger of being another letdown game. Fordham is no slouch. They have an experienced and talented defense, and have an explosive big-play offense that can put points on the board in a hurry.

Fordham has played 3 close games against Lehigh the past 3 years. They cannot be taken lightly.

Press
Allentown Morning Call:
Hawks Expect Another Close Call Against Fordham
Easton Express-Times:
Mountain Hawks Won't Look Past Final Home Game
Brown & White:
Bergen Steers Clear of Hoopla

Quotes:
"This is what Lehigh University senior safety and co-captain Karrie Ford will remember about Goodman Stadium... "Coming onto the field, seeing the fans screaming ... it's a great feeling," Ford said. "I love that feeling."

"We just have confidence in each other," said Ford, who celebrated his mother's birthday with a 40-yard touchdown on a fumble return for the final score against Georgetown. "That's something that may have separated us from the (Lehigh) teams that didn't quite get the championship."

''All of our goals are still in place, which means we're more focused than ever,'' strong safety Karrie Ford said. ''We have our long-term goals in mind, but to attain them we need to pay attention to the short-term goals and that's beating Fordham. Everyone in the program is mature enough to understand what's at stake.''

"I know the emotion's going to be high for all the seniors," Ford said, "because it's our last moment. I don't think that's going to overcome the emotion of playing for a championship."

"This is what senior nose guard Jim Norris sees when he looks at Lehigh's push for a Patriot League championship... "It's on us," Norris said. "We're not depending on anybody else. If we win out, we win that championship."

''Maybe those emotions will come out at the end of the game, but it can't get in the way of the game itself,'' senior nose guard Jim Norris said.... ''Our emotions will be high, but that's because it's another game on the road to a championship. To beat Fordham, we can't come out flat like we did against Georgetown. We have to play with emotion.''

"Yeah, it might be our last home game," Norris said. "But it's on the road to our goal... You can't win a championship by looking ahead. "

''Our staff and players have a lot of respect for their athleticism and how well they're coached,'' Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. ''Anybody who has been involved in this game for the last three or four years knows how intense, how physical it has been. You can feel the energy building within our team all week.''

''Their cover guys are very good athletes,'' Lembo said. ''Kornegay has size, speed, athleticism and experience, and their whole secondary plays with confidence. They're very similar to Colgate's secondary... 'They're not overly complicated schematically, but they just get after you.''

''We've shown the ability to play hard four quarters a couple of times this year,'' Fordham coach Ed Foley said... ''I hope that sooner or later, playing these close games will pay off.''We have to play smarter. We've had a huge amount of penalties called against us and some misfortune. And we haven't made enough plays. We just have to get over the hump and finish games.''

''I want to win by one point,'' Lembo said. ''That's the goal, winning. Sometimes we're too hard on ourselves around here. Every win is so precious and hard to come by... 'I can be critical of my guys. That's my job. I want to make them better. But I hope we don't get to a point as a football community where we take things for granted.''

[Ithink it'll take more than a point, Coach Lembo, but I get what you're saying.]

Adam Bergen: "We look at every single game as it is the most important game of the season. We know that we have to go out and play a good solid mistake-free game in order to beat any team in our league."

That's it! See you here for live commentary on Saturday! Go Lehigh! And seniors, it may be your last home game, so leave it all out on the field!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Playoff Scenarios... Lehigh on the road?

Playoff scenarios?
Lehigh fans are starting to look optimistically at possible playoff scenarios, as well as the national pundits of I-AA. Both are assuming that Lehigh will win their last two games and go 10-1 overall - a pretty lofty assumption with 2 games left against teams who would like no better than to eliminate Lehigh's postseason chances.

At first, I thought if Lehigh goes 10-1, that it would be a mortal lock that Lehigh would at least get a home game, or with (admittedly) a lot of help get the #1 seed in the Eastern bracket. However, it's becoming clear that there are possible scenarios where Lehigh goes on the road in the first round, even if they are 10-1.

Say what? Sure enough, take a look at Matt Dougherty's mock playoff column:

Projected Matchups and Seeds:
East:
Wofford at No. 2 James Madison
William & Mary at Georgia Southern
Hampton at No. 3 Furman
Lehigh at Delaware

West:
Jacksonville State at No. 1 Southern Illinois

Eastern Washington at Western Kentucky
New Hampshire at No. 4 Sam Houston State
Cal Poly at Montana

Yep. Unbelievable but true in the wild and wacky world of I-AA playoff seeding.

Why would this outrage occur, should the "Dougherty seeding" come to pass? The answer: Attendance figures. I-AA wants to pick not just the best teams, but also want to pick the best representatives of I-AA when it comes to home venues. But here's the rub: if a team finishes in the Top 4 seeds (which are reserved for the league champions with the most impressive records), they are guaranteed home games (if they want them) for at least 2 rounds. So you'd never see William & Mary or James Madison (two schools that averaged less attendance per game than Lehigh and Delaware last year) not get a home game if they get a Top 4 seed.

That leaves 4 possible other playoff home games. But since the remaining teams are not "seeded", it's up to the I-AA selection committee to decide which team is more worthy of a home game. And more often than not, it appears to be going to certain teams, like Delaware, Montana, Western Kentucky, Furman, or Georgia Southern.

Were you taking notes? Here's the short version. The committee chooses the Top 4 seeds, but doesn't really have an option to exclude the A-10, Gateway, Southland, Big Sky or SoCon champs if they have 1 or 2 losses. After that, it's a free-for-all based on the whims of the playoff selection committee, which suspiciously have gone more often than not to Western Kentucky, Montana, Delaware, or Furman.

Now, to be fair, it's completely understandable to have some of these teams to host a first round playoff game. Georgia Southern lost to I-A Georgia and #2 Furman. Should Furman win the SoCon title, of course the Golden Eagles should play the first round at home.

Similarly, I have a hard time denying Western Kentucky this year a home game if their only losses were to 1-A Kansas St. and #1 Southern Illinois.

But Delaware, should they win out, will be 8-3. Sure, one of those losses was to Navy, and two other losses were to ranked opponents, James Madison (#4) and New Hampshire (#7). But look down their schedule, and you see only 1 team they have beaten that is still ranked: #10 William & Mary.

Oddly enough, even though Delaware lost to New Hampshire in week 1, they are still considered 5-1 in the A-10. That's because the New Hampshire game by mutual consent was considered a "non-conference" game.

Now, let's say Lehigh goes 5-0 in the Patriot League and goes 10-1. Should a team that goes undefeated in their league really have to go on the road to play a team who lost 2 games to teams within their own division? According to the way the stars appear to possibly be aligning - yes.

It's sad too, because last year Lehigh was in the Top 25% of I-AA schools in average attendance. (This year could top last year in attendance, too.) Of the teams mentioned in Mr. Dougherty's column, only the "magic four" of Delaware, Montana, Furman, and Georgia Southern outdrew Lehigh last year. Two of the playoff teams, William & Mary and New Hampshire, had less average attendance per game than Holy Cross. But with 3 of the "magic four" not being top seeds, Lehigh could get squeezed out of having the chance again to host a home game.

If they do end up having to go to Delaware to play a game, it will just show one thing: the I-AA community thinks of Lehigh, yet again, as not in the same league as Delaware. It will be interesting to see how the Mountain Hawk players respond to being "snubbed", if this indeed does come to pass.

In the meantime, I guess it's time to root for Villanova a week from Saturday.

Coming up: Lehigh/Fordham Press

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Lehigh/Fordham Preview

Lehigh/Fordham Preview
Against my better judgement, I decided to leave my playoff atricle for tomorrow so I could bring you the most important Mountain Hawk task at hand, which would be previewing this weekend's Lehigh/Fordham game.

Before we all get out the champagne, it is vital that Lehigh players, coaches, and fans remember that we need to win our last two games in order to win thte outright Patriot League title and I-AA playoff berth, and *maybe* a first-round game. (More on that tomorrow.) Lose either of these next two games, and Lehigh won't only possibly forfeit their chance at the title, they could easily also miss their chance at the I-AA playoffs as well.

Having said that, winning this Saturday will mean that Lehigh will clinch at least a share of the Patriot League title for 2004. This adds to the importance.

Lehigh Injury Report
TE Steve Burant (OUT)
OL John Reese (OUT)
FS Kaloma Cardwell (OUT)
OLB Jon Guynes (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
LB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
RB Eric Rath (Questionable)
DL Will Mitchell (Questionable)
OLB Jason Murray (Questionable)

The new names on the list are fairly significant. Although questionable, RB Rath's status may mean RB Marques Thompson gets the majority of carries, or it may mean more carries to the junior FB Greg Fay or... sophomore TE Pete Morrelli, who has been converted to backup FB. It will be interesting to see how much Rath plays.

Defensively, Mitchell's and Murray's potentially limited availability could be a concern. Senior DT Jim Norris may see a lot of snaps (this being senior day as well), and sophomore backup OLB
Travis Stinson may get more time. You also might see senior OLB Mike Horvath in there too.

Let's hope we can avoid the injury bug this weekend so we can go to Easton relatively healthy.

History
Fordham is 1-15 lifetime against Lehigh. This is a rivalry bugun in 1923, however what they don't tell you is that Lehigh and Fordham had a 56 year gap in this series! (1923 to 1989) Some rivalry! It would be more telling to say that Fordham sturggled against Lehigh after joining the Patriot League, and until two years ago was generally an afterthought in the football title race. Their lone win against Lehigh came in 1997, when they won 42-35 in overtime to beat a rebuilding Lehigh team who that year started freshman QB Phil Stambaugh en route to 3 straight Patriot League titles.

The past 2 years have been bitterly fought battles between the Engineers and the Rams. In 2002 the two teams played a classic in the Bronx, with Lehigh coming out on top 26-23 in OT after Matt Douglas went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 50 yarder if memory serves me right. Matt was PL and Sports Network's Special Teams Player of the Week that week. In 2003, RB Jermaine Pugh had a career day rushing the ball during an extremely well-fought game at Murray Goodman, with Lehigh on top 23-16.

Scouting Fordham
New coach Ed Foley, who replaced Richmond-bound coach Dave Clawson, must have known he had a challenging task at hand. Even though he had a good defensive unit that featured some all-league players, the Rams had to replace a starting QB, RB, and premier wideout. With a 5-4 record, you could consider Fordham to have at least done a decent job at rebuilding. However, when you look at those wins and losses, you see something else: Fordham has feasted on 2 mid-majors (Albany, Duquesne), a 1-7 Ivy team (Columbia), and a pair of 2-7 Patriot League teams (Georgetown and Holy Cross).

Looking further at the numbers, you see some even more troubling trends: Fordham has the 6th best offense in the Patriot League, and that includes 2 wins against Holy Cross and Georgetown. They also have the 6th best rushing defense in the Patriot as well.

(Of course, Lehigh gave up 380 yards against the 7th rated offense in the league - Georgetown - last week, so maybe this doesn't mean anything.)

Offense
The "O" is a young team with not a lot of senior leadership. They play a basic pro set. They have struggled against the better teams they have faced. Still, they have big play ability and can win a game with that singlehandedly.

Sophomore QB Derric Daniels has been a success passing the ball, with 19 TDs on the season. He is also very mobile. However, he is not a very accurate passer at this stage of his career, especially under pressure. Still, he has a flair for the big play, and given enough time he will make things happen.

The Rams largely run a "running back by committee", and have 3 to 4 different backs carrying the pigskin a game. The biggest threat is junior RB Jamaal Hunte, averaging almost 90 yards a game, with 5 TDs on the year. He also can catch the ball out of the backfield. The other RB is junior James Prydatko, and the FBs are sophomore Tristan Martin and junior Mikal Welch.

The receiving corps is led by senior WRs Steve Porco and Rashawn Haynes, who have 9 TDs on the year and must be contained in order to contain the Rams. TE James Caffarello is also a receiving threat with 200 yards on the year.

The "O" line features 2 seniors, C Jared Amatuzzo and RT Sam Weatherford. The line is a bit undersized, however, and has struggled to protect Daniels or carve out an effective running game.

Defense
The Rams play a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. They have struggled against the run, but have a solid veteran team that boasts the preseason Patriot League defensive player of the year.

The "D" Line boasts 3 seniors. The line is anchored by senior DT Aki Jones. He's the Ram sack leader with 5. This group can definitely get to the QB, so they must be respected. Lafayette and Bucknell, however, have exploited this group with a run-first mentality. It will be interesting if Lembo tries to exploit it.

The linebacking unit's monster is OLB NaQuniton Gainous, who is the team's leader in tackles. All 3 starting linebackers are seniors, and have good skill in rushing the passer. They also are solid tacklers.

In the backfield, the unquestioned leader is CB Tad Kornegay. With 7 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, he's the heart and soul of the defense and a force to be reckoned with. This preseason player of the year is the guy that Borda needs to be aware of at all times.

Special Teams
Sophomore PK Micah Culkey is a superb kicker, with 2 40+ yard field goals to his credit this year. However, the Rams in the past few games have had to fall back to their 4th string long-snapper for snapping duties, so there have been some special-teams struggles of late.

Sophomore DB Cary Williams and backup RB Jame Prydatko are the return team. Although they have no TDs among them, they are a crew capable of big things.

Keys to the Game
1.Special Teams. Before the Lafayette game, it will continue to be vital that Lehigh's special teams get thier act together. This game must be a coming-out party for special teams, with good kickoffs (none out of bounds), low return yardage, and good execution on punts and kicks.
2.Stick to your guns. Although tempting to pound the ball at the line and not pass the ball at Kornegay, the balanced offensive attack should be the rule here. Mix the run and pass to keep all units off balance.
3.Pressure on Daniels. Tom Alfsen and the rest of the "D" Line, will really do the whole team a favor if they keep constant pressure on Daniels, forcing him into mistakes rushing and passing.
4.Shut down the dynamic duo. Porco and Haynes are the stars of the offense. The DBs need to blanket these guys and not make them a factor.

Fearless Prediction
My big question is: Will the Brown & White start out flat like they did against Georgetown? I am not sure if the team is overconfident. If the Engineers play like they are capable, I think they will win this going away. However, I think the Hawks are getting a bit too cocky, and may be scared in the first half in a classic "letdown" game. However, I think Lehigh will win out in the end.

Lehigh 28, Fordham 20

Coming up: Delaware/Lehigh... at the Tub?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Press; Game balls: Rankings

Postgame press from Lehigh/Georgetown
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Wins, Takes Over Patriot Lead
Lehigh Suffers Letdown but Wins Anyway
Easton Express-Times:
Walker keeps Lehigh right on course
Hoyasaxa.Com:
Lehigh 49, Georgetown 18

Quotes:
"The pale complexion of Pete Lembo's face late Saturday afternoon matched the color of the sidewalk outside Lehigh's locker room at Georgetown... Lembo's queasiness had nothing to do with some uneasy moments his Mountain Hawks encountered against the host Hoyas.

"Lehigh... lacked the intensity and crispness it has had in recent weeks and used a few big plays by the offense, defense and special teams to overcome its inconsistency.

"Special teams miscues kept the Hoyas out of contention time and time again against the #9-ranked Engineers (aka Mountain Hawks), in a game where the Georgetown offense showed some of its best efforts all season. Time and time again, when momentum seemed to be turning Georgetown's way, the special teams turned it right back.

"Statistically, the Hoyas held their own with Lehigh, but suffered mightily in doing the little things that are needed to win.

[Not that Lehigh did either...]

''I'll have to go back and watch the film, but I believe we had as many dropped balls today as we had against Lafayette two years ago when we had 11,'' Lembo said. ''I bet we came pretty darn close to that many today. That's one thing that upset me and I didn't like the overall intensity of the defense in the first half. And we gave up some big plays on special teams.''

"Georgetown's last score came on a 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.... Lembo: ''The kick was too far to the middle of the field, which puts a lot of extra stress on our coverage and we didn't do a good enough job of adjusting to it,'' Lembo said.

''We've got to pick things up, obviously,'' Lembo said. ''It just felt like everybody was taking their turn to make a mistake. There were a lot of good things going on, but it seemed like everyone from the long snapper on down the roster had a potentially costly mistake.''

''I couldn't tell you the reason why, we're just very disappointed that it occured,'' tight end Adam Bergen said. ''A lot of people may have been laying back after what happened last week and maybe some were looking ahead. I don't know.''

''We came out pretty flat today,'' Bergen said. ''We know we can't afford to do that in the next two weeks because those teams can beat us. Sometimes its human nature to have a letdown, but we have to get through it. This game was just as important as last week's game.''

"It's always good to come away with the win," [Gerran] Walker said. "But some of the mistakes we made should never happen. If Georgetown's supposed to be the worst team in our league, we're in for trouble."

''If you look at our week of practice, some of the guys — not everybody — were laid back because we were playing Georgetown,'' Walker said. ''Some of them went through the motions. Hopefully, you'll never see that again.''

[Nice job of Walker there handling that.]

The good news is that the bad stuff came in a 31-point win. The Mountain Hawks simply must make sure the sloppiness was an aberration and not the start of a trend... ''I sensed a letdown and what's most frustrating to me is that I'm confident that our staff did everything they could to prepare the kids and guard against it,'' Lembo said... ''Our guys need to understand that when you're in first place and you're in the position we're in, everybody is going take their best shot at you. We're not that good that are going to watch tape and simply be intimidated.''The way we're going to win games, whether it's against Georgetown, Fordham or Lafayette, is to play harder and execute. We did that at times, but not with enough consistency. The bottom line is that we got a lopsided win, but there was enough there that we'll certainly be able to keep the players humble this week.''

I'd like to add something to the end of this. It was good to see the senior Adam Bergen and junior Gerran Walker really step up to the plate in the postgame press conference and not let individual performances get in the way of disappointing team play. The leadership both showed there will serve Adam well in the NFL, and will server Gerran well next year.

Game Balls
This week's game balls go to:
Offense:
Junior QB Mark Borda (15-30, 288 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs)
Sophomore RB Marques Thompson (99 yards rushing)
Senior TE Adam Bergen (7 receptions, 79 yards, 2 TDs)
Defense:
Junior DT Josh Cooney (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery)
Senior SS Karrie Ford (40 yard fumble recovery for TD)
Senior OLD Matt Purdy (7 tackles, 1 TFL)
Special Teams:
Junior WR Gerran Walker (89 yard return for TD, plus 61 yards receiving, TD)

Congratulations to all! Walker can take that game ball to go with his award for Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week!

Polls
Lehigh has jumped up in ranking to #8!
Sports Network (#8)
ESPN/USA Today (#9)
Dopke.Com (#12)

Are you ready for the last home game of the year against Fordham? If Lehigh wins the game, they will clinch at least a share of the Patriot League title.

Coming up: Lehigh/Fordham Preview; more November surprises?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Thoughts after Georgetown game; Patriot Playoff situation; Prediction Results

Thoughts after Georgetown game
Well, we got the win 49-18. Pretty? At times. Ugly? For sure at times. But pretty or ugly Lehigh did what they had to do, and they won the game.

The number that pops out at me is 384 yards of total offense from one of the weaker offensive teams in the Patriot League this year. Not only that, they mixed things up pretty well too - 197 yards rushing and 187 yards passing. Think about that a minute. The defense that completely shut down Payton award-winner Jamaal Branch the previous week turns around and gives up nearly 200 yards rushing to the Hoyas. Yep, and those were the same guys in the uniforms this week - I checked.

Kickoffs, punts, and kickoff coverage had one nice play at the beginning of the game... and then, seemed to decide to take a nap the rest of the day. Kickoffs out of bounds... kickoffs almost out of bounds... the long-snapper snaps the ball over P Kyle Keating's head, resulting (admirably) in a 7 yard punt... a kickoff right down the middle of the field, resulting in the Hoya's first-ever kickoff return for a touchdown in the history of their program... a missed field goal.

For such a blowout win, coach Lembo and the troops sure have a lot to work on this week.

Patriot Playoff Situation
Here's the early report on the Patriot League possibilities for the playoffs. Eliminated this week from the race was Fordham, who got their second league loss in Lewisburg against Bucknell by the score of 21-20.

In control of their own destiny:
Lehigh. Should Lehigh beat Fordham this weekend, they would at least clinch a shared Patriot League title. Winning against Fordham and Lafayette would guarantee Lehigh the Patriot League title, a I-AA playoff berth, and (IMO) probably a home playoff game.

Lehigh has an outside chance to get the top seed in the east by running the table, and having a variety of upsets happen in the A-10 in the final 2 regular season games involving James Madison, William & Mary, and New Hampshire. Stranger things have happened; however, it will require bottom-dwellers Richmond and Towson to spring an upset or two.

Still alive but need help:
Lafayette. Lafayette needs to win their last two games versus Holy Cross and Lehigh. Should Fordham also run the table by beating Lehigh and Colgate (or any combination of 2 Lehigh losses and 1 Colgate loss), Lafayette would win the Patriot title outright. Possible, but unlikely.

More likely, if Lehigh were to win against Fordham and Lafayette beats Holy Cross next week, the 140th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette would involve a battle for a share the Patriot League title.

Should Lafayette win "The Game", and Colgate loses at least once versus Colgate or Bucknell, Lafayette would share the Patriot Title with Lehigh, and by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker win the automatic I-AA playoff berth. This is a distinct possibility.

Should Lafayette win "The Game", and Colgate win both of their games, a strange situation arises with 3 co-champions. The I-AA playoff representative would be voted in by the four other league members. I've got to believe that Lehigh would win this vote, but of course, stranger things have happened.

Colgate. Colgate needs to win their remaining games versus Bucknell and Fordham and hope Lafayette beats Lehigh on November 20th for a shot at a co-championship. As mentioned above, the I-AA playoff representative would be voted upon, but I don't think Colgate would win that vote.

No matter what happens in "The Game", by winning their remaining games the Raiders would at least be a possibility for a road I-AA playoff game as an at-large bid. The at-large possibilities are a huge muddle right now, however.

Clear division contenders in the OVC (Jacksonville St.) and MEAC (Hampton) need to win some games and clinch, so they don't take any extra I-AA playoff spots.

In the SoCon, Furman's win over Georgia Southern didn't help matters for Colgate, as it looks like the Golden Eagles will be taking up a precious at-large spot. Wofford could be a bubble team (unless they beat Furman this weekend), but you have to count them in at this point.

In the A-10, 1 division champion and up to 3 at-large spots are possibilities for Delaware, James Madison, William & Mary, and New Hampshire. Only 3-loss Delaware looks to realisitically have a shot to be eliminated from contention - unless Richmond and Towson can pull some upsets.

Colgate will be big Montana St. fans this week... and then big Montana fans the following week. Should Montana St. beat Eastern Washington, and Montana beat Montana St. the following week, there will be no Big Sky at-large teams invited to the party.

Similarly, for the Southland, Colgate fans will be rooting hard for Sam Houston St. to beat Northwestern St., and give NW St. their 4th loss. Nicholls St. losing one of their last two games would also be a big help, although I think Colgate would be in over Nicholls St.

Basically, Colgate is asking for a lot from the football gods if they want to make the I-AA playoffs. Personally I'd love for them to make it. But it won't be easy.

Weekend Pick Recap
Another very good week, going 13-5 overall. If you take the notoriously unpredicatable Southland and Atlantic 10 games out of my picks, it becomes an even-more impressive 10-2. Lehigh, Holy Cross, New Hampshire, Southern Illinois, Montana, Hampton, Western Kentucky, Eastern Washington, and Sam Houston St. helped me out. Delaware didn't, losing to James Madison.

Really right:
Harvard/Columbia. Predicted score: Harvard 38, Columbia 7. Real score: Harvard 38, Columbia 0. Guess I thought Columbia was going to get a fumble return for a TD, because they weren't going to score a TD any other way.

Nicholls St./Stephen F. Austin. Predicted score: Nicholls St. 40, SFA 17. Real score: Nicholls St. 41, SFA 23. What makes this prediction even more impressive was that SFA was the team that was ranked in the Top 25, not Nicholls St.!

Kinda right:
Lafayette/Colgate. I thought Colgate would win the game a bit more than the 22-19 margin, but I was right that about the outcome - Colgate simply willed themselves to win the game at home.

Penn/Princeton. I thought this would be a very close game, and a field goal miss by Princeton missing right by about the length of a football kept me in the win column. Less scoring than I thought, but I'll take the 2 point win 15-13.

Should have been right:
Furman/Georgia Southern. The Golden Eagles has opportunity after opportunity to put this game away... and couldn't. Had they converted one - just one - I'd have knocked this one out of the park.

Fordham/Bucknell. The Fordham special teams lost this one for me, as the long snappers' two-hopper to the holder spelled doom for the go-ahead field goal that would have put me in the winner's circle here.

Was I ever wrong!
Texas St./Northwestern St. Um, I meant Northwestern St. was going to score 44 points! Not Texas St.! What you read my prediction on the blog last week that Texas St. was a good team? You must have been reading the Bucknell blog... yeah that's it...

William & Mary/Villanova. After making me look like a genius in the first half, the bad bad Villanova offense from the beginning of the year reared its ugly head, and all of a sudden William and Mary had a rout on their hands.

Tomorrow: Press; Game Balls
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