Saturday, November 20, 2004

Crushed

Crushed
A year ago at this time, we were waiting for the I-AA playoff committee to give us a hand and put us in the playoffs since they couldn't get the job done. Now it's a year later, and after a crushing loss to Lafayette 24-10 (a game where missed snaps and turnovers were huge), we're back in the same boat. We need a hand to get in the field of 16 this year, and I honestly don't know if we will get a shot or not.

I can choose to take this space to mourn, or to talk about our playoff shot.

I'm going to mourn later. There's lots of time to mourn. I'm going post the contenders right here, with reasons to take them, or dump them.

Contender #1: Lehigh
Take them because: All their wins have been against Division I schools. Quality wins versus Yale on the road, Fordham and last year's I-AA Championship runner-up Colgate at home. Only losses to then-ranked Villanova and archrival Lafayette. Won eight straight before losing last game of the year. 5 wins against teams with non-losing records.
Leave them because: They lost their last game of the year. 2 wins against I-AA mid-majors.

Contender #2: New Hampshire
Take them because: They beat I-A Rutgers, A-10 co-champion Delaware, and Villanova. Won their last 5 games. All their wins have been against Division I schools. Only lost to UMass and William & Mary.
Leave them because: 4th best team in A-10. 2 league losses. Lack of attendance draw wherever they would play.

Contender #3: Cal Poly
Take them because: They beat Montana State and North Dakota State. Would be the only representative from the Big West as the conference doesn't have an automatic bid.
Leave them because: Only won two of their last four, with two of those wins coming against a pair of 2-8 teams. Did not play all Division I opponents. Lack of attendance draw wherever they would play.

Contender #4: Wofford
Take them because: They are the third-placed team in the powerful SoCon. Win over ranked South Carolina State. Good effort in a loss against Furman.
Leave them because: Have not beaten a team with a winning record this year. Did not play all Division I opponents. Very unimpressive in their final game, winning only 13-12 against winless VMI.

Contender #5: South Carolina St.
Take them because: They're co-champions of the MEAC and have a 9-2 record.
Leave them because: They've only beaten 2 teams with a winning record, Bethune Cookman and Howard. Don't have a quality win to show the committee. Did not play all Division I opponents.

My picks for the field:
I'm ever the optimist.

Brackets:
East:
Hampton at 2) Furman
Lehigh at Delaware

South:
Lafayette at 3) William & Mary
Jacksonville St. at Western Kentucky

Midwest:
James Madison at 1) Southern Illinois
Eastern Washington at Northwestern St.

West:
Sam Houston St. at 4) Georgia Southern
Cal Poly at Montana

This would leave out UNH, Wofford and South Carolina St.

Keeping my fingers crossed until tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2004

November Surprise; Press go-round; Predictions of Other Games

November Surprise
There will be no in-game commentary for the game tomorrow, since I'm going to be in the press box for the Lehigh/Lafayette game. I'm going to be covering the game for http://www.I-AA.org, and there are rules concerning the dissemenation of the game directly from the press box.

As a public service, however, I'll list the places where you can catch the 140th meeting:
TV:
WFMZ channel 69 Allentown
Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh (DirecTV 627, DISH Network 448)
Radio:
ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320,
On the Web:
http://www.lehighsports.com ($$ required).

Press go-round
Here's the big list of press around the web regarding Lehigh/Lafayette. You'll please forgive me if I don't cut-and-paste these - there are just too many:
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh's Stability Has Been Its Strength
For Lehigh, Results Trump Expectations
Easton Express-Times:
Hawks Looking to Settle Matters For Themselves
Lembo - Proven Winner
Veteran Players Make Issue of Loss in '02
Brown & White:
120 Years In the Making
Freshmen to Alumni Rally With LU Cheer
Leopards Observe 'Lafayette/Lehigh'

One final note: those crazy kids over at the Brown & White have made their own blog with exclusive access to Lehigh practice. Although a "blog" in name only, and not nearly as cool as what you're reading now, I must concede that it has some good information about the practices leading up to Lehigh/Lafayette, making it a worthwhile read.

Predictions of Other Games
Lastly, since I've got an early day, I'm going to (quickly) post my predictions of other games right now.

In the Patriot League:
Bucknell/Duquesne.
Bucknell is too strong right now for a mid-major to take them. Bucknell 38, Duquesne 10.

Holy Cross/Georgetown. Go ahead, pick this game, I dare you. These teams are evenly matched and have more talent than you think. I think the Cursaders prevail in a close one. Holy Cross 21, Georgetown 20.

Colgate/Fordham. This will be a pride game for some Patriot League players who are true warriors. Evenly matched, I think Fordham has a slight edge at home. Fordham 24, Colgate 21.

In the Top 25:
Yale/Harvard.
The "other game" is no contest. Harvard 45, Yale 10.

New Hampshire/Maine. Maine pulls of the upset, but UNH still make the playoffs handily. Maine 31, UNH 27.

Villanova/Delaware. Unfortunately for Lehigh or Lafayette, I think Delaware manages to win this game at home. Delaware 21, Villanova 17.

James Madison/Towson. Are you kidding me? JMU 49, Towson 0.

Richmond/William & Mary. Another upset I'd like to happen that won't. W&M 42, Richmond 10.

South Carolina St./NC A&T. Soutch Carolina St. may just sneak into the field with a win, and I think they will. SC St. 42, NC A&T 21.

Montana St./Montana. Meaningless for the playoffs, a demoralized Bobcat team should get beat by a Grizzly team that is looking to make a statement. Montana 31, Montana St. 10.

Western Kentucky/Florida International. I-A Florida International will win this game as the Hilltoppers rest a little before finding out on Sunday who they play in the playoffs. FIU 35, WKU 21.

Texas St./Sam Houston St. The Bearkats take care of business and get that Southland bid wrapped up. SHS 45, Texas St. 14.

Northwestern St./Stephen F. Austin. Here's the upset that puts Wofford in an at-large spot. SFA 27, NW St. 21.

Cal Poly/Sacramento St. Here's another feeling I have for an upset. This upset puts South Carolina St. in the Field of 16. Sac St. 41, Cal Poly 34.

GO LEHIGH! I'll post late Saturday with some thoughts!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Lehigh/Lafayette Preview - the 140th Meeting

Lehigh/Lafayette Preview
Just in case you weren't already juiced up for this game, here's my preview of the 140th meeting for all to read and enjoy.

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 (Doubtful)
OL Rob Sandie (Questionable)
WR Gerran Walker (Questionable)
DE Tom Alfsen (Questionable)
CB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
OLB Jason Murray (Questionable)

I seriously doubt we need to worry about any of the "Questionable" Mountain Hawks not playing in this huge game this weekend. Of note, however, is Randy Rovesti being upgraded to "Doubtful" (he had been out the past three weeks). Perhaps he will see some time - it will be interesting to see.

Scouting Lafayette
The Leopards, predicted by everybody to finish no higher than fifth in the Patriot this year, are now in the position of playing for a share of the Patriot League Championship and an I-AA playoff berth. They have truly shocked the world to get to this point - by squeaking by Bucknell, by dominating Fordham, and by shocking A-10 Richmond -- all on the road.

They have made a living of not being what they seem upon first glance. Brushed aside as a pushover by most opponents, they surprised a lot of people with these three big victories. They've done it with trick plays, clutch special teams play, and a bruising running game. But to capture their season as "lucky" or their offense as "gimmicky" doesn't come close to defining the Leopards. This team is dangerous, and more multi-faceted than they might seem.

Offense
Most rushing offenses play an option set, and run at you with that set early and often. Lafayette, on the other hand, rushes mostly between the tackles, and keeps enough other weapons in the arsenal to be multi-faceted.

Early in the year, sophomore QB Brad Maurer split time at QB with senior Pat Davis, but those game seem long ago. Maurer is now clearly a full-game guy. Last week against Holy Cross he was 14 for 19 with 163 yards passing. He is also a constant rushing threat, averaging 50 yards per game. He's extremely mobile and accurate, and can pull the trigger effectively. A very promising young QB.

Senior RB Joe McCourt is probably the best running back in the Patriot League right now (and yes, I remember that Jamaal Branch still plays for Colgate). With over 1,000 yards and 14 TDs (including 5 last week versus Holy Cross), he is a difference-maker on offense who also catches the ball out of the backfield. He is big and powerful, and he has proven difficult to stop by any of Lafayette's opponents. Spelling him is a "change of pace" runner, sophomore Jonathan Hurt who is also a bruiser.

At the fullback position is seniot Brandon Green and junior David Nelson. Although they are primarily blockers, they do get the ball as well as a third or fourth backfield option.

The Lafayette "O" Line is also probably the best in the Patriot League. Larger than their Lehigh counterparts, the line boasts 4 seniors and likely an all-team selection in RT Joe Ungrady. The fact that all FBs, RBs, and Maurer average more than 4 yards a carry (!) is a testament to their effectiveness.

The receiving corps doesn't have any one dominant receiver to key on - which makes defending them more challenging, since there's no one guy to key on. Maurer passes to junior WRs Joe Ort and Brandon Stanford, as well as McCourt. And don't forget TE Chad Walker.

I can't emphasize enough - don't be fooled about their lack of a go-to receiver. They have multiple targets that all can pass the ball effectively. Coach Frank Tavani has definitely crafted an offense which plays to his strengths.

Defense
On defense, Lafayette plays a blitzing base 4-3 that doesn't have a single starting senior. They have at times given up yardage in chunks (like giving up over 200 yards rushing and passing to Richmond), but also have impressed at times, like only giving up 70 yards rushing to Fordham.

Junior DE Andrew Brown is the cream of the defensive line, with 50 tackles 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions to go with his 2.5 sacks. Sophomore DE Marvin Snipes also leads the team in sacks with 5.

The linebacking unit features juniors Blake Costanzo and Maurice Bennett. Together they have 8.5 sacks and 156 tackles. They are good tacklers and effective blitzers.

The secondary could be considered a weak spot, where juniors Larry Johnson and Tye Murphy and the safeties have only 4 interceptions on the year.

Special Teams
Junior CB Larry Johnson is the primary return man for the Leopards. He's the speediest player on their team, and has a healthy return average, if no TDs. Senior P Mike "Downtown" Davis is probably the equal to Lehigh's Kyle Keating. Sophomore PK Rick Ziska has gone 6-11 this year in field goals, with a 48 yard boot to his credit.

Keys to the Game
1.Takeaways. Got to take care of the ball on offense, and not hand points to the Leopards. Giving the Leopards a short field with their running game could hurt Lehigh. Must protect the ball, and win the giveaway/takeaway battle.
2.Trenches. Both lines need to win those tranch battles. The "D" needs to block those run lanes between the tackles. The "O" line needs time to set up the offensive gameplan.
3.Time of Possession. If the Brown & White can win the battle of time of possession, they will go a long way to winning the game. Every play the Lafayette "O" is kept off the field will keep the Lehigh "D" that much fresher in the 4th quarter.
4.Tempo. The Mountain Hawks need to dictate the tempo of the game, especially offensively.

Fearless Prediction
In my opinion, anyone who's predicting a Lehigh blowout hasn't been paying attention to the Leopards. They are a solid team who, if allowed to lull you to sleep, will win the game. They are effective at what they do. Ultimately, though, I still think Lehigh will prevail in the 140th meeting. But it won't be settled until the 4th quarter.

Lehigh 31, Lafayette 27

"The Biggest Game in I-AA Saturday"

Matt Dougherty's column
I haven't finished my Lehigh/Lafayette 140th Meeting preview yet, but national I-AA columnist Matt Dougherty of the Sports Network has a pretty lengthy preview of the game:

Matt Dougherty: Week 12: Agony and Ecstasy

In it is the following quote, to be re-broadcast loud and clear through the media, blogosphere, and internet:

"I’ll be traveling to this game for many reasons. It’s a close drive on a busy Saturday. It’s a rivalry. The winner gets the automatic berth to the playoffs. And It’s the biggest game in I-AA Saturday."

Emphasis added!

Tune in later today for my (in the spirit of Fox News) "fair and balanced" preview of Lehigh/Lafayette.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Lehigh/Lafayette - Through the Years

"The Game", The Rivalry, The Blue-Collar Brawl
This weekend Lafayette will host Lehigh at Fisher Field, unfolding yet another fascinating chapter in this storied rivalry. For both Lehigh and Lafayette fans, this is a huge game as it is every year, made even more huge with the tantalizing possibility that there will be an I-AA playoff bid on the line as well. Win the game, and you're in the playoffs. Lose, and you will be sweating on Sunday.

Today I'm going to spend the time to recount the history of this storied rivalry - how this game became the most-played rivalry in college football, and how the "blue-collar brawl" defines Lehigh fans.

Harvard/Yale: The "Other" Game
To the uninformed, the dull, and the most of the national college football media circuit, many folks think that Harvard/Yale is to be considered "The Game". Ha! Lehigh/Lafayette has more on the line (especially this year), is more historic, and has a longer and richer history than that "other" game. Witness the statistics:

Number of meetings:
Harvard/Yale: 120 (through 2003)
Lehigh/Lafayette: 139 (through 2003)

Streak of consecutive years with at least 1 game played:
Harvard/Yale: 1945-2003
Lehigh/Lafayette: 1897-2003

I-AA Playoff teams involved in the game this year:
Harvard/Yale: 0
Lehigh/Lafayette: at least 1

Also worthy of mention is: No two schools' rivalry has as long an unbroken yearly streak as Lehigh/Lafayette. Also, no two schools' rivalry has played as many games as Lehigh/Lafayette.

So, what's to debate? Lehigh/Lafayette's "The Game". Harvard/Yale is clearly "the other game".

Lehigh/Lafayette Through the Years
The first year "The Game" was played was in 1884, when Lafayette and Lehigh played each other twice, once in Easton, and once in Bethlehem. Lehigh got crushed both times, by a combined score of 84-4. This is very likely to have been just the beginning of the bad blood between these two schools in this "blue-collar brawl".

Lehigh's first win came in 1887 by a 10-4 count. Lehigh would proceed to win 13 of the next 17 contests (going 13-3-1 in that span), and then Lafayette started their own span of football doominance. A rivalry was born.

Overall, Lehigh is 62-72-5 against the Leopards. The longest Lehigh losing streak was from 1937-1949, where the Engineers went 0-11-1 against hated Lafayette during that span. The longest consecutive Lehigh winning streak? Fast forward to 1995-2001, where Lehigh had won seven straight against the Leopards.

In more recent memory, since the Patriot League was formed in 1988, Lehigh leads the rivalry, 10-5. In that span, Lafayette has won the outright Patriot League championship 3 times (1988, 1992, and 1994), and Lehigh has been won the outright Patriot League championship 5 times (1993, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001) and been co-champions of the Patriot League once (1999, with Colgate) during that span.

In 2002, Lafayette finally broke Lehigh's longest winning streak in the series, beating Lehigh 14-7 at Fisher Field in Easton, breaking a 7-game winning streak. It was an ugly day for the Lehigh offense, battered down by injuries and not playing well after having their expectations for a 1-AA national championship run squashed by a Colgate team that beat them 28-0 at Murray Goodman. Missed field goals, turnovers, and overall lack of execution doomed the Brown & White to have their first loss to the Leopards since 1995.

Not all the players on the field will remember this particular game, but many will. The memory of Lafayette's celebration will surely be something they won't want to see again Saturday.

Last year, Lehigh redeemed themselves at Murray Goodman, coming on top in a 30-10 win. Senior RB Jermaine Pugh had a dominating day, racking up 265 all-purpose yards, including a punt return for TD which sealed the deal for Lehigh in a game that had been close for 3 quarters. The only negative to an otherwise great Lehigh victory was the fact that the I-AA playoff commitee (in this humble reporter's opinion) completely shafted Lehigh by not giving them an at-large berth to the I-AA playoffs. Still, at least we had beaten Lafayette, thus by definition having a successful season.

My Experiences With "The Game"
My first game was in 1988, travelling to Fisher field in one of a fleet of school buses that took many fans over to the game. I was but a freshman then, going to only my third game of the year. Back then, not having the I-AA playoffs to play for, the goal of the game was twofold: 1) for Lehigh to win, and 2) to storm the field to get souvenirs from the game, such as the end zone markers and bits of the goalposts. In anticipation of the amount of people who would be storming the field, security had been beefed up, and the metal goalposts were replaced by wooden ones to make for easier tearing-down. Even though security was tightened, there were always fights between fans, and ultimately there were scores of arrests.

That day, it seemed like every time the offense touched the ball either Lafayette or Lehigh scored. Ultimately Lafayette prevailed 52-45, although Lehigh never really took the lead as much as they kept the game close. Lafayette won the Patriot championship that year, and after storming the field with my buddies, I managed to get one of the end-zone markers. (Which was stolen from me by some girl, but that's a story for another time.)

Back in my college time, to most fans the "Game" was not as important as 1) having fun at the tailgate (e.g. drinking beer), and 2) the mere act of storming the field. Most fans didn't bother studying Mark McGowan's passing statistics or Bryant Appling's tackles for the year (like me) - they were there because, well, you just had to be there. Fraternities scored large chunks of the goalposts, and hung them proudly in their living quarters.

In 1990, I hitched a ride to Fisher Field with a few friends in a VW Bus which happened to have a lot of "liquid refreshment" in it. We got to the game early, ate burgers at many tailgates, had (er) some of that liquid refreshment, and saw Lehigh dominate the Leopards 35-14. This game was my first Lehigh victory, and during the postgame I got a "piece" of the goalpost. I say "piece" for my goalpost shard couldn't have been more than 3 inches long - as 2 fraternities were fighting over a huge piece, a little shard came off in my hands. Triumphantly, I headed back to campus, my souvenir tucked away in my coat pocket.

The Lehigh/Lafayette game during my senior year in 1991 could be considered the final days of this "goalpost" era. In that game, in defiance of the "traditions" of the wooden goalposts, Lehigh erected metal goalposts, and got the local authorities involved in keeping order. (No Patriot League title was on the line since Holy Cross had the championship wrapped up.) Even though students and fans were repeatedly warned not to storm the field (in which Lehigh dominated, 36-18), many fans still did storm the field (myself and my friends not being among them). The fans on the field, frustrated at not being able to rip down the goalposts, picked up hunks of turf and started to throw them at the cops trying to restore order on the field. Not surprisingly, the cops went out and beat up a lot of the "fans" on the field that day, in front of many horrified students and alumni. Not a banner day for the Rivalry.

In the years that followed, my friends and I all got jobs or went to graduate school. But every year, we would have our yearly reunion to see Lehigh and Lafayette. Slowly the game stopped being about beer and riding over to the game in a VW Bus and storming the field to rip apart the goalposts and instead got to be about elaborate tailgates, meeting old friends, announcing engagements, and collecting in the spirit of beating the hated Leopards.

My friends Greg and Ginny have a centrally-located house in Easton (both rabid Lehigh fans), and their house has become a pilgrimage every year for our Lehigh "gang". The tailgates have gone from hockey-puck burgers in the parking lot to gourmet buffalo wings, chips, dips, cakes and desserts. Children have started to appear at the party and game. It's a great time to get back together and get caught up with old friends - and get psyched for Lehigh's I-AA playoff possibilities.

Best and Worst Lehigh/Lafayette games
Worst game:1994 at Fisher Field, where Erik Marsh ran roughshod over the Lehigh defense and blew the Engineers out for the Leopards' third Patriot League title. It's the only game where I felt physically ill afterwards (and no, it's not because of the beer).

Second worst: 2002, with Lehigh losing 14-7 at Fisher Field. It was a game marred by Lehigh miscues and errors, and the Leopards executed more cleanly, capping off a very disappointing 7-4 season for Lehigh.

Best game: Easily 1995, where Lehigh won the Patriot title, 37-30 in overtime (the first overtime Lehigh/Lafayette game). Brian Klingerman caught a one-handed grab just after night fell in Murray Goodman to give Lehigh the win, after Lehigh came back from a 16 point fourth-quarter deficit. It seemed like if a third overtime period were needed, it was debatable if there would have been enough light to play the game! (Murray Goodman doesn't have lights.)

Second Best: 1993, Lehigh dominating the Leopards, 35-19, for their first-ever Patriot championship, on a bitter cold day. It also was the end of the Hank Small era at Lehigh.

I have only missed one Lehigh/Lafayette game, and I will be there this weekend, hopefully cheering the Engineers to a big "W" - and a I-AA playoff spot.

Tomorrow: "The Game" Breakdown

Monday, November 15, 2004

Press; Game balls: Rankings

Press
From the annals of the online press comes today's press roundup. It must be said: when Fordham was ranked in the I-AA Top 25 last year, all the major New York papers (like the New York Times and Daily News) were falling over themselves to write about their "beloved" Rams and couldn't get over the upsides of Kevin Eakin and Kirwin Watson. But now that the team is in the middle of the pack in the Patriot... not even one crummy writeup of the game. That's New York fans for you - don't let the bandwagon run you over on the way out of town.

Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh Defense Preserves Victory
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh a 'Low Maintenance' Team
Brown & White:
Hawks One Victory From Title

Choice Quotes:
"A big Fordham bomb early in the fourth quarter covered 44 yards and left the Rams three yards away from tying the game, maybe a play or two away from causing chaos in the fidgety Goodman Stadium stands... It was about then that the Mountain Hawks imposed the will of a champion.

"We looked around at each other," Lehigh cornerback Brannan Thomas remembered, passion rising in his voice, "and said 'We've got to get firm right here... No more."

"Thomas stepped up with an interception in the end zone on the very next play, then Eric Rath fueled a 96-yard touchdown drive that produced his second touchdown of the day as Lehigh overcame a feisty Fordham team, 21-14.

''That whole drive was Eric, our fullback and the line,'' Borda said. ''It wasn't that hard to complete a 15-yard pass to Lee.''... Lembo, though, said it's not that quite easy.''Mark's being humble because he probably doesn't feel he had his best day, and that's fine,'' Lembo said. ''But he also made some big plays when we needed them.''

"Of course we're happy with that [beating Forhdam]," said Borda... "But nobody feels like we really won the Patriot League without winning next week."

"That's the reason we came to Lehigh," said Rath, a former two-time All-State performer at Pius X High School. "Mark and I, being local boys, we grew up watching Lehigh."

''It's a low-maintenance team,'' Lembo has said repeatedly. ''Especially with the skilled-position guys on offense, where you sometimes have to deal with big egos, we've had no problems.''

Head Coach Pete Lembo said his team is not concerned about any playoff implications yet.“If we don’t win this Saturday, it doesn’t matter – chances are we aren’t going,” he said.

Going into Saturday’s game against Lafayette, Lembo said the formula for success is simple.“I think what we need to do is play with consistency in all three parts of the game for 60 minutes,” he said.

[Quote of the week coming up...]

''These guys have worked extremely hard since the end of last season,'' Lembo said. ''They've been extremely hungry, they've been very low maintenance, they've done the right things on and off the field. I've been hard on them and pushed them hard, but I'm proud of them. They deserve to be called champions.''

Game Balls
If it's Monday, that means it's time for... Lehigh/Fordham game balls. It should be pretty obvious who the suspects are this week. In a switch, I'm offering 2 special teams game balls and only 2 offensive game balls this week. Without any further ado.. here they are:
Offense:
Sophomore RB Eric Rath (149 yards rushing, 2 TDs)
Senior TE Adam Bergen (2 receptions 55 yards, 1 big TD)
Defense:
Senior OLB Anthony "Graz" Graziani (15 tackles, 2 sacks)
Senior CB Duane Smith (3 tackles, the final defensive stop of the game)
Sophomore CB Brannan Thomas (had the play of the game - INT in the end zone)
Special Teams:
Junior PR Gregg Petrosky (86 yards of punt returns)
Freshman PK Matt McNeils (mistake-free kicking)

Congratulations to all! A great mix of underclassmen and seniors with honors this week!

Polls
Lehigh stays steady at #8 in the Sports Network poll, and #9 in the ESPN/USA Today (no Any Given Saturday poll this week so far):
Sports Network (#8)
ESPN/USA Today(#9)
Dopke.com(#10)

Coming up: Lehigh/Lafayette Memories; Lehigh/Lafayette Preview; More Lehigh/Lafayette Stuff You Won't Want To Miss

Sunday, November 14, 2004

1994; Weekend Pick Recap

1994
If I were the Lehigh coach, I would pull out a tape of the 1994 Lehigh/Lafayette game and show it to the players. It is the nightmare situation that all Mountain Hawks must guard against.

That year, Lafayette's Erik Marsh ran roughshod over Lehigh for 214 yards in a 54-20 manhandling that wasn't even close. Marsh ran left, right, through the tackles, around the outside - everywhere. It's the ugliest Lehigh/Lafayette game I ever saw - what I saw of it. Lehigh was down 28-7 and half, and midway through the 3rd quarter me and my friends all left, unable to withstand any more. That year in Easton, the Leopards celebrated their last Patriot League title for a long time to come.

Fast forward to 2004. Joe McCourt, as of last week, broke Erik Marsh's all-purpose yards mark last week against Holy Cross. A Leopard team with a very similar style of smashmouth running is on the field in Easton, even if they run the ball more with QB Brad Maurer than the 1994 Lafayette team. It's also the best Lafayette team to put on pads since that 1994 championship-winning team.

Although there have been other years where the Patriot League title was on the line, no Patriot League title match between Lehigh and Lafayette has meant a ticket to the I-AA playoffs for the winner, and a long I-AA selection Sunday for the loser. This will be the first. In a game which means the most for players, alumni, and fans, this one is going to be for even more - punching the winner's ticket for the I-AA playoffs.

For Lehigh, they could still possibly make the playoffs even if they lose on Saturday. They would even still be co-champions. But sharing the title with Lafayette, and losing the I-AA playoff bid to them, on top of losing the game - I don't think any playoff success could make up for that awful trifecta.

Weekend Pick Recap
This isn't a typo: I went (are you ready?) 17-1! Again, I lament that you can't really make money doing this. So many teams to thank: Lehigh (of course), Lafayette, Bucknell, Georgetown, New Hampshire, Delaware, Georgia Southern, Western Kentucky, Hampton, Montana, and Cal Poly.

Really right:
William & Mary/James Madison.
Predicted score: W&M 28, JMU 24. Real score: W&M 27, JMU 24. The Dukes seemed right for the plucking, the Tribe seemed to be the team that could do it - and I nailed it.

Southern Illinois/Indiana St. Predicted score: SIU 51, Indiana St. 9. Real score: SIU 59, Indiana St. 10. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I got lucky with the final score of this blowout over a completely overmatched team.

Kinda right:
Harvard/Penn.
I felt Harvard would come out on top here, but I didn't think Harvard would manhandle Penn so badly. Still, I did predict Harvard would score 34 points against Penn's vaunted "D", and they did get 31. Not bad.

Jacksonville St./Eastern Illinois. I thought this would be a close game, and I largely was right - the Gamecocks were only up 17-13 at half. I had a 2 point squeaker, but I'll take this 10-point win as a close win as well.

Was I ever wrong!
Sam Houston St./Northwestern St.
After leading 17-14 after the 1st quarter, I figure I had this one pegged right as a back-and-forth, nip-and-tuck affair. Then, Northwestern's "D" and special teams got serious. It's the punt return for a TD that put the Demons up by 3 scores to knock this one out, and I'm thinking, Where did the Bearkat offense go?

Would you believe I picked Penn St. over Indiana and Temple over Syracuse to win as well this week, in addition to picking that Muhlenberg would win a 5-way tie to qualify for the Division III playoffs?

Er.. Would you believe.. I picked Pitt over Notre Dame, Boston College over West Virginia and DC United to win soccer's MLS Cup?

How about.. Oklahoma, USC, and Scott Petersen being guilty?

(With apologies to Get Smart.)

Tomorrow: Press; Game Balls; More hype than you can shake a stick at
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