Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lehigh 33, Delaware 34, final

Speechless.

Missed XP. Hard to tell if it was shanked or blocked - I say blocked.

We had this game in our hands. We were up by 2 TDs - twice! - in the 4th quarter. But our weary defensive front seven gave up 3 TDs and the game was tied. Delaware kicked it into another gear I didn't think they had. I think a full-strength Matt Purdy might have helped.

And in OT, in one of the most incredible drives *ever*, Borda was getting drilled every play and still standing after getting hit. He may have been concussed. And then Rath, who clearly said "Give the ball to me" after the timeout, went out there and got an incredible 4th down conversion, and took incredible punishment to convert the TD.

And then, sad to say, the blocked XP.

What can be said? I felt that Delaware was getting away with murder most of the game, though not in the biggest drives that counted. Missed holding, missed facemasks, incredible spots, the phantom fumble. Lehigh poured their blood out there trying to get this win. And they were good enough to get it. As tired as they were, they had it. THEY HAD IT.

Oh man. It's going to take me 2 weeks to get this out of my system. The last game in 2004, we lose a 1-point heartbreaker to James Madison, and now this. I hope we get another opportunity to play an A-10 team this year. I hope. We had them.

More tomorrow or (more likely) Monday.

Lehigh 27, Delaware 27, .20 seconds left

Nervous. This still can be done.

Delaware has been great. Got to give them credit. Now, let's just pull this out.

Lehigh 20, Delaware 6, mid-4th quarter

"Lehigh has sucked the life right out of this building"

BWAH HAH HAH HAH!

2 point conversion - Borda - good!

Lehigh 12, Delaware 6, end 3rd

Despite the egregiously missed calls by the officials; despite the horrible call on the "fumble"; despite some of the worst homer announcers on CN8 the land has ever seen; we find Lehigh driving at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Borda, please put this away now?

Lehigh 12, Delaware 6, mid-3rd quarter

Despite CN8's version to the contrary, the blown snap by Delaware is actually good for Lehigh. Someone should fax a stat sheet to them saying that a safety is 2 points for Lehigh. Also, the stat that 9 points came off of Delaware tunrovers, whoop-ee.

I ain't giving back the points.

Lehigh 10, Delaware 6, mid-3rd quarter

More kissy-faces by the CN8 crew:

"Two unfortunte plays by Delaware caused the punt". How about, great Lehigh defense and hard hard hitting?

I hope we don't regret missing that FG. Come on, Lehigh, I like how we look here. Just got to keep things up defensively.

Lehigh 10, Delaware 6, mid-2nd

How bad in favor of Delaware are these announcers? Can they kissy-face Keeler and Delaware a bit more?

I loved the stunned silence over the crowd when Lehigh was up 10-0. CN8 had one heck of a TV shot.

I like what I've seen so far from Lehigh. It looks like this game will be a toss-up for all 4 quarters. Here's hoping for a good end of this half.

Lehigh 10, Delaware 0, end 1st quarter

You are watching the game on channel 69 in the Lehigh Valley, CN8 up and down the eastern seaboard, right?

Hard to picture a better start for Lehigh. A FG set up by dominating field position, 3 punts by Delaware's marginal punter, a nice Borda run up the middle set up by a turnover, and best of all total domination by Lehigh. We're establishing the run, we're making Delaware's mistakes pay, and, well, this is great.

My Yuengling is tasting really good right now. Let's do the same next quarter, shall we?

Can't Resist: Bulletin Board Stuff

From Tubby Raymond:

Del Online: Who would a Lehigh fan enjoy beating more, Delaware or archrival Lafayette?

Tubby: "Delaware, I would think. Here, I go again ... It's because of their selectivity of schedule. They really don't play anybody that could beat them. They've created a cloistered league [the Patriot] for themselves to play each other. So, when they play us, it's like the World Series."


After one interview, I all of a sudden remembered why I hated Delaware.

Here's hoping a member of the "cloistered league" brings one home for the Patriot League.

7PM. I'll be here.

Predictions Of Other Games

Here's my weekly prediction of games around I-AA. Hopefully I can do better than 17-7 last week.

Patriot League
Massachusetts at Colgate. I guarantee that Colgate will do better than most people think in this game. Not enough to guarantee a win, mind you, but I think they will regain some respect. UMass 27, Colgate 20.

Fordham at Duquesne. This actually could be an interesting game. I think Fordham pulls this out, but it will be a barn-burner. Fordham 35, Duquesne 32.

Georgetown at Holy Cross. If the Hoyas win, and all of a sudden they are 2-0 in the league and (please don't laugh) a PL title contender. No, really. If the Crusaders win, and their PL campaign will get off on the right track. I think the Hoyas win, and turn some heads. G'town 24, HC 21.

Richmond at Lafayette. I relly don't see how the Leopards lose this game, especially since Spider coach Dave Clawson seems to be purposely marginalizing his most exciting player in Stacey Tutt. Lafayette 31, Richmond 7.

Bucknell at Stony Brook. The Seawolves pay for Bucknell's meltdown against Georgetown in week 1. Bucknell 38, SB 9.

Top 25
#1 James Madison at Coastal Carolina. The Dukes wil prove to I-AA nation that they deserve their #1 ranking, and the Chanticleers will prove why they are not ready for the I-AA playoffs just yet. JMU 44, CC 9.

#2 Furman at Western Carolina. The Catamounts just don't have the horses to compete with the Paladins. Furman 38, WCU 17.

#3 Montana at Oregon (I-A). Yeah, sure, it WOULD be great if Montana could knock off Oregon, but it ain't happening. Oregon 63, Montana 13.

#18 North Dakota St. at #4 Northwestern St. I think the Demons are going to be #1 in the country before long, and this win will go a long way in proving it to people. The Bison just can't hang with N'Western St. in Nachitoches. N'Western St. 27, NDSU 13.

Eastern Kentucky at #5 Western Kentucky. This should be a great "Battle of the Bluegrass", and I really think the Colonels are going to take it outright. EKU 29, WKU 28.

McNeese St. at #7 Georgia Southern. Eagle fans will take 2 surprisingly close wins in a row, this time vs. McNeese playing their opener. GSU 31, McNeese St. 28.

Minnesota-Duluth (D-II) at #9 Northern Iowa. Northern Iowa schedules another quality opponent... if you're a D-II school. Drake and then this. GPI take note! NIU 33, MD 13.

Union(KY) (NAIA) at #11 Southern Illinois. "Cupcake week" continues for the Gateway. SIU 77, Union 0.

#14 Sam Houston St. at Houston (I-A). I smell a barn-burner, with the Bearkats getting the I-A scalp against a poor Houston team. SHS 45, Houston 41.

#15 William & Mary at VMI. Can VMI's woes ever stop? Not against mighty Bill & Mary. W&M 31,VMI 6.

Stephen F. Austin at #17 Montana St. The Bobcats opened my eyes last week, and I think the punish a so-so Southnd team at home. MSU 34, SFA 17.

Chatanooga at #19 Jacksonville St. The Gamecocks, after losing a heartbreaker to Furman, should bounce back nicely here. JSU 31, UT-C 20.

#20 Hampton at Howard. Howard will play spiritedly in this quasi-riva;ry game, but Hampton should pull this out in any case. Hampton 31, Howard 21.

Sacramento St. at #21 Cal Poly. I don't think Sac St. can stay in the same area code as Cal Poly here. CP 30, Sac St. 10.

#23 Appalachian St. at Kansas (I-A). I think the Mountaineers keep this close before finally falling. Kansas 34, App St. 24.

Winston-Salem St. (D-II) at #24 South Carolina St. Nah. SCSU 45, WSS 10.

William Penn (NAIA) at #25 Maine. I give the Black Bears a pass sincethey played I-A Nebraska so tough last week. They deserve this "breather". Maine 60, WP 3.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Press Roundup before the "Blue Route Battle"

Your press roundup is just below, just in case you weren't pumped up enough for the "Blue Route Battle". Tomorrow I'll be blogging about the game from the comfort of my home, with Yuengling in hand. Why? It's not because I couldn't get a ticket - you'll just have to check on I-AA.org on Sunday to see why. Sure is strange to not go to Delaware for such a big game, though.

Permit me to go on a little bit before my press roundup.

I'm a Lehigh guy, and I want to see Delaware beaten like nobody's business. I sense a lot of bravado on Lehigh's side, and there is an eerie quiet on the Blue Hen side. But make no bones about it - this is going to be a dogfight. Delaware will have more talent on the field than Lehigh. It will take a perfect team effort to win, even a flawed Delaware team, in the Tub.

It's going to be a sellout crowd down there, and it will absolutely be electric. There will be a lot of TVs tuned to Channel 69 and CN8 as well on Saturday night. It will be an opportunity for Lehigh to show, on a national stage, how good Lehigh (and the Patriot League) is. Yeah, you heard right. It may be televised only on CN8 and Channel 69, but believe me when I say that this game has the attention of all of I-AA nation.

But it will not be easy. Lehigh cannot afford to make mistakes. Fumbles, interceptions and penaties could be killers. Only by playing a mistake-free game will Lehigh have a chance - a chance - to win. Anyone who thinks that Lehigh will show up and win becuse it's Delaware's first game of the year is fooling themselves. Don't lose because you thought you would show up and win.

Don't be fooled by Keeler. Don't be fooled by the papers. Inexperience? Rebuiding? Ha. The Hens are talented, deep, and they will be ready for Lehigh. Don't expect anything less tham 60 minutes of tough football.

7PM tomorrow. Be there however you can.

Allentown Morning Call:
Increasingly Rare Lehigh-Delaware Match Is One to Savor
Keeler Carries On Tradition

Easton Express-Times:
Graziani Set For Electric Matchup

Delaware News-Journal:
Blue Hens Hoping To Grow Up Fast
Lehigh Already Has A Game Under Its Belt
Brown Recovers In Time for Hens Opener

It's a lot to break down, but I'l try now.


Lehigh-Delaware. Still has a nice ring to it.

Even though it hasn't happened since 2000 and has happened just six times since the Blue Hens visited Bethlehem in 1987, the final year of Taylor Stadium, it remains one of I-AA football's most special rivalries.

So it wasn't a surprise that Saturday's series renewal at elaware
Stadium sold out faster than any game in Blue Hens history.

It's not only a matchup between the nation's 10th ranked team
(Delaware) and No. 14 (Lehigh) and a game that could have NCAA playoff implications, it's also a revival of a series that evokes memories of great players, teams and coaches.

It's a game that, in the eyes of many on both sides, should be on the schedule every year.

"I was excited about this game from the minute that [athletic director] Joe Sterrett and I were able to get it on the schedule three or four years ago," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere down there. My memories of our games in 1999 and 2000 are quite vivid... But this is the reason why we're in this profession. This is the reason why our players dedicate so much time and energy. They have a great opportunity, a great challenge."

"When you talk to our alumni, next to the rivalry with Lafayette
[college football's most-played series], the games they refer to the most are the games against Delaware," Lembo said. "The classic matchups between [former coaches] Tubby Raymond and John Whitehead ... it doesn't take long to understand
and appreciate that.

This will be K.C. Keeler's first taste of the rivalry as a head
coach... He recalls a special atmosphere on Lehigh-Delaware game days as a player, although Keeler was 1-2 vs. LU.

"This shouldn't be a once-in-a-blue-moon game," Keeler said. "We should be playing each other more often. It's a game that's good for both programs. We're both top-15 teams on a regular basis and it should be an outstanding atmosphere. It's what college football is all about."

Lembo said that if the opportunity presents itself again, Delaware will be put on the schedule, preferably, at home. After this year, Villanova is on Lehigh's schedule for five years, which limits options.

So, everybody involved had better savor Saturday.

"The experience for these kids of playing in front of 22,000 people is something that they're going to remember for a long time," Lembo said. "Remember, Delaware is the state's team. It's like a I-A atmosphere."

Blue Hen football has NFL-level status, not only in Newark, but
throughout Delaware. On Interstate 95, near the stadium in which the Wilmington Blue Rocks play baseball, one will see a large billboard featuring Delaware quarterback Sonny Riccio. Last year, Keeler was on that billboard, hoisting the national championship trophy.

"I'd match our tradition against any school in the country. People are tailgating four hours before the game. There's been a book written about this program, and I'll have a radio show tonight in a place that is getting to be too small to accommodate all the fans who want to be there. When you're a Blue Hen,
you're a Blue Hen for life."

"It's going to be great," [LB Anthony] Graziani said. "I've been
looking forward to this the past couple of years when I saw it on the schedule. I went down to Delaware back in high school, when we played them in the playoffs. There will be 22,000 people there. Everybody's going to be fired up.

"If we could go down there and pull this out, everybody will have a little more pep in their step."

"Every year, they're one of the best programs in I-AA, ranked pretty high," Graziani said. "We want to be put up there. They're ranked higher than us every year. This is an opportunity. We can surprise some people."

"You just see it in their eyes, it's the competitor in all of us,"
Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "This is the reason our players work so hard -- for these kinds of opportunities."

Saturday is Delaware's opener... Does that give the Mountain Hawks the edge?

"Every team in the country makes some mistakes and has some questions to be answered in the first game with new players in the lineup," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said Tuesday. "I think we were able to define a little bit of who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses may be. I'm sure Delaware will be
going through a little bit of that Saturday night.

"The flip side of that is, the game was televised, and certainly the Delaware folks get a snapshot of what we're all about and have a little less of a fear of the unknown in terms of who we are, what we do well and what we don't do so well. We have a lot of unknowns in terms of our preparation for Delaware, having just seen them on film from a year ago."

Both [Assistant Coaches Justin Bateman and Tony Trisciani] are familiar with Delaware. And both say their units better be a little smoother this weekend.

"I'm not happy with how we tackled last week," Trisciani said. "We've got to play physical, play downhill. We've got to be very good."

"We've got to stop the run," Bateman said. "If you don't stop
something, they're not like a lot of teams where they'll give you a chance to recover. Delaware will just keep running it."

With Keeler in charge, the Delaware offense is much more like
Lehigh's. "It's very similar, right down to the terminology," Lembo said. "When Tubby was there, they were famous for the Wing-T and so many college and high school teams modeled themselves after the Delaware Wing-T. But that has changed."

Delaware's no-huddle spread offense is the offspring of a scheme born in the late 1980s at Lehigh, which is ironic considering Lehigh often operated the Delaware Wing-T offense before that.

"We're playing a very good Lehigh team that has the benefit of having an opener under their belt," Keeler said. "They're very talented in their skill positions offensively. They know what their strengths are. They play well to their strengths."

What about Delaware?

"It's a good group, a talented group," Keeler said. "The thing that makes you nervous is Saturdays and how they're going to react."

Junior Kyle Campbell, a third-year starter at safety, said he likes what he sees.

"They're definitely showing they're athletic enough to play," he said of the youthful players around him on defense. "It's about experience now. When a guy can think and everything around him slows down, you know he's picking it up."

"I told our players and coaches, there's no excuse for youth," Keeler said. "We have to find a way. How good are we? Can we find a way to get these guys to the highest level they can be? It's just the nature of who we are and what we do that we're not going to hide behind that youth.

"What happens Saturday night is anyone's guess.. We prepared hard and I think we've gotten some great work done. But with all those new kids out here, it's going to be interesting."

"I like [the challenge of stopping Lehigh]," said [DB Roger] Brown, who also has been a standout sprinter on UD track teams. "I feel as though we have enough talent and our coaches will put us in the right positions to make the plays. We feel as if we can match up with anybody.

"They try to set you up, pick you apart and hit the big play.
Basically, you have to be extremely disciplined in what you do and not get away from that, because that's how they'd beat us, with big plays."


OK, now are you excited? And I don't find myself agreeing with Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler much, but I do agree with him on one thing: Lehigh/Delaware should happen more often. It is good for both programs, and it is what college football is all about.

7PM. CN8, Channel 69, or Newark. Be there.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lehigh/Delaware Preview

As promised, here's your Lehigh/Delaware preview.

About Lehigh and Delaware

Lehigh and Delaware are physically separated by about 100 miles - 60 of which are on I-476, or the "Blue Route". However, Delaware and Lehigh are separated by more than the Blue Route.

They're also separated by the number of scholarships - the Hens have 63 full scholarships versus Lehigh's 50 or so grants-in-aid.

They're also separated by the number of transfer students - though I'm not sure how many Delaware has currently, they do have more than Lehigh's 2 transfers.

They're separated by quality of their conference -- the A-10 claims the last two I-AA championship winners (one of whom was Delaware), while the Patriot League is still looking for its first I-AA championship in their history.

Finally, Delaware has owned Lehigh in the "Blue Route Battle" - they have won 9 of the last 10 meetings, including a 47-22 mauling in 2000 in the latest game in this rivalry (in the I-AA playoffs, no less).

For Lehigh, beating full-scholarship schools from the Atlantic 10 is sweet... but nothing compared to beating Delaware. When it happens, of course. For the past 20 years, for better or worse, Delaware is the yardstick that Lehigh is measured against, and for the past 20 years, Delaware as a general rule has been the better team. As a diehard Lehigh fan, in my heart I am going to be rooting for the Mountain Hawks to pound the despised Blue Hens. It could very well make my season. But my brain keeps looking at this won-loss record for the past 10 meetings. Delaware is a formidable team. They always are.

How big is this game? There's been certified message-board smack on this game ever since June. This game was the fastest Delaware home-game sellout in their history (prompting a mini-row about Lehigh's ticket allocation). Matt Dougherty has called it the "I-AA Game of the Week". This is big.

Win, and Lehigh will be seen as not only the Patriot League favorite, but they will be seen as one of the best I-AA teams in the country. Lose, and all of a sudden the Mountain Hawks could be faced with requiring the autobid in order to qualify for the I-AA playoffs.

Let's break it down.

Lehigh Injury Report
OL Shaun Strickland (questionable)
FS Courtney Elder (questionable)
CB Calvin LaMont (questionable)
DE Matt Mohler (questionable)
CB Andrew Nelson (questionable)
LB Matt Purdy (questionable)

There are a lot of banged-up defensive players, and it is difficult to forsee who might be starting at any of these positions. If we miss all 3 starters from this list - CB Andrew Nelson, LB Matt Purdy, and DE Matt Mohler - the ramifications could be huge, with a slew of sophomores needing to jump in to take vital roles.

Mohler is backed up by junior DE Paul Fabre. In my opinion he's a very promising player, so I don't think the line would skip a beat if he was the starter - even though Mohler got 2 sacks last week against Monmouth.

Backing up Nelson are sophomore CBs Daynin Blake and Aaron Gilliard, who collectively got picked on last week against Monmouth. Give the nod to Gilliard for the start, but he will have to improve from last week against another talented set of receivers.

Matt Purdy's backup is sophomore LB Rashaun Gasaway - a promising linebacker, but still an unproven commodity.

The potential lack of depth in the secondary, with Courtney Elder and Calvin LaMont banged up, is also a concern. Look for sophomore DBs Laquan Gasaway and Ernie Moore to see some more time if so.

Offensive Breakdown
Senior QB Sonny Riccio, a transfer from the University of Missouri, takes the starting QB reins for the second straight year. Averaging 207 yards passing per game last year, he has had a bit of an erratic arm with 14 interceptions on the year - more than 1 per game.

Further complicating matters for Riccio is the fact that his #1 and #2 targets from last year, WR Justin Long (dismissed from team) and WR David Boler (ACL tear) are out for the year. In their place, senior WRs Joe Bleymaier (a transfer from Arizona State) and redshirt freshman WR Kervin Michaud take their place, but I'm sure that both are extremely talented. If there's a problem with Riccio and this duo, senior TE Justin LaForgia (a transfer from Cincinnatti University) is also a deadly pass-catching option.

The rushing attack will be led by sophomore RB Omar Cuff, a slasher who was effective in the Hens' final three games last year. He will be looking to build on last years' success - however, it's not at all clear who might back him up or spell him. Brusing junior Niquan Lee, or possibly true freshman Danny Jones, could be the backup.

Questions abound about the "O" line. Senior OL Rob Bergman (a transfer from Miami, FL) will be anchoring the line, along with senior OL Brian Sims, but after that there are serious questions. 320-lb sophomore Joel Holler (a transfer from Penn State) shows promise, but was a washout at Penn State since he couldn't keep his weight down.

Defensive Breakdown
The defense, as always, will feature many talented players from last year, as well as a host of new players that could have an immediate impact.

Senior DL Tom Parks will be the new leader in the front four for Delaware. He returns after a 48 tackle, 10 1/2 sack year. Sophomore DL Mike Sothern (a transfer from Penn State) and junior DL Rachid Stoury (a transfer from West Virginia) could be joining him.

Senior LB John Mulhern is the man in the middle for the Hens. With 80 tackles last year including 8.5 tackles for loss, he looks to be the leader of the front seven.

Junior DB Zach Thomas is the remaining holdout from last year's incredible secondary featuring Sidney Haugabrook and Garron Bible. Junior DB Bryan Durango (a transfer from Rutgers) could also feature in the secondary.

Special Teams Breakdown
Sophomore kicker John Nauss will be taking over the kicking duties on Saturday in his Blue Hen debut, while senior P Mike Weber had a pedestrian 37.2 net on punts. Rashaad Woodard would appear to be Haugabrook's heir apparent in the kick return department.

Keys to the Game
1.Hit hard, and hit early. It's Delaware's opener, while our beloved Mountain Hawks already have a game under their belts. An early score, before the Hens have a chance to react, could ultimately be the key to the game.

2.Double-team Bleymaier. Although I'm sure LaForgia is a great talent, and I'm sure Michaud is, Bleymaier is a proven commodity that can't be allowed to burn deep. There may be an opportunity to win if you make Michaud and LaForgia beat you instead of Bleymaier.

3.Field position. I think this will be a defensive struggle, so the punting game could take on new importance. Special teams could be extremely important in pinning the Hens deep and creating points for the Hawks.

4.Short game. Delaware's defensive backfield look to be very tough. That means the running game and the short passing game will be vital for victory. Establishing the running game will be huge, as well as getting those short outs to keep the chains moving.

Fearless Prediction
The key to this game will be Lehigh getting an early lead, having the defense come up with big plays, and making it stick. My heart says: yes, they can. My head says... reluctantly... yes they can.

Lehigh 17, Delaware 14

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My Blog Picks - how'd I do?

At 20-7, you'd think I'd be really happy, but I lost some doozies this week.

Really Right
Troy 27, Cal Poly 10. My score: Troy 27, Cal Poly 17. Troy was just too much for a game Mustang squad.

Should Have Been Right
San Jose St. 35, Eastern Washington 24. My score: EWU 28, SJSU 17. Had QB Erik Meyer not gotten injured, I think the Eagles would have pulled this one out.

Was I Ever Wrong
Central Connecticut St. 24, Colgate 22.
My score: Colgate 56, CCSU 10. With so many poor scores to choose from, this game has to win the Giant Turkey award. No way did I think the Devils could run with the Raiders, and I was oh-so-wrong.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Press Roundup; Game Balls

There's plenty of time to get hyped up for Lehigh/Delaware on Saturday. (If you haven't got your tickets yet, better head to your friendly neighborhood scalper, as it's already sold out.) In the meantime, let's wrap up last week's business first, starting with last week's game balls. It's no secret that one game ball will be going to the gentleman on your left, senior WR Gerran "G" Walker. With 311 all-purpose yards, including 144 returning yards, and 2 receiving TDs, he was a lock. On special teams and offense, he was a monster out there.

(Photo courtesy of the Brown & White, Doug Moquet.)

Also on offense, I'd be remiss in not giving a ball to QB Mark Borda for his 22 for 31 day with 344 yards passing, 21 yards rushing and 6 TD passes. His 6 TDs tied a record held by Scott Semptimphelter ('95) and Kyle Keating ('04). He torched the Monmouth secondary and was the reason why Monmouth's upset bid wasn't meant to be.

Finally, for our defensive game ball we offer it to senior LB Matt Purdy for his 10-tackle performance, including 1 tackle for loss. Congratulations to all the winners!

Oh, you wanted your press roundup? Well, here's the links and here's your digest.

Allentown Morning Call:
Borda's 6 TD Passes Lift Mountain Hawks
Lehigh's Walker Starts To Deliver

Easton Express-Times:
Walker Gives Lehigh Extra Juice

Asbury Park Press:
Swift Start by Hawks Slows in Second Half

"We came out in the second half and I thought we lost our composure," said Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan following a 54-26 loss to Lehigh (1-0) before 8,063 at sun-bathed Murray H. Goodman Stadium on Saturday.

"As long as I've been here we've never made that many mental mistakes," Boland said, referring to the third quarter meltdown. "It seemed like every play there was a penalty or or formation problem. We just can't have that... I don't think the score tells the story. We could have done a lot better if we didn't make those mistakes."

"I thought we had enough explosiveness on offense that we would be able to put some points on the board," Callahan said. "I thought we would be able to play pretty good run defense and get Lehigh into a situation where they needed to throw the ball. I don't know if that was such a smart idea, looking at it right now. Our pass defense wasn't as good as we hoped it would be or as good as we thought it was."

"While the game didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked early, nobody panicked," Lembo said. "We just kept plugging away. The defense settled down and played a lot better, especially in the third quarter."

Likewise, Lembo will have a lot of things to clean up for next week. How good are the Mountain Hawks?

"Time will tell," he said.

..........

["G" Walker] set the tone immediately with a 50-yard kickoff return and wound up with 312 all-purpose yards in the biggest day of his career. He caught seven passes for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns. His four kickoff returns produced 144 yards and he fit in an 11-yard carry on a reverse.

And the best news of all for Lehigh was that when it was over, Walker said he felt completely healthy.

''I try not to think about it, because in football, sometimes injuries happen,'' Walker said. ''I try to stay positive and do the things I can control and try to care of myself the best that I can. I worked real hard in rehab to get back [from a partial tear of his MCL last season] and a day like today makes it all worthwhile.''

"When you have a guy like Gerran or [former Lehigh tight end] Adam Bergen, you want to make an effort to get him a certain amount of touches," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "At the same time, you never want a game plan to be one-dimensional. We try to stay balanced, but certainly we try to feature our best players."

"A couple of the injuries Gerran has had, they're difficult to come back from if you're a skill player," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "If a lineman had those same injuries, maybe it wouldn't affect him as much. He's really worked hard to take care of his body."

"I'm happy for him. He has always been a low-maintenance kid. I've never had any qualms about his toughness or his attention to detail when it came to rehabbing his injuries. He's just one of those thoroughbred-type athletes that can't function with the type of injuries he has had."

"G (Walker) is a real special player out there," said Borda, who matched a Lehigh record by throwing six touchdown passes. "We can do a couple different things with him. My confidence in him is just growing by the minute."

...

Lembo was obviously pleased with the play of Borda, who shook off an early interception to complete 22 of 31 passes for 344 yards, and tied a school mark with six touchdown passes.

"He played like an experienced quarterback with a lot of poise, and stayed very positive on the sideline even after we had some protection breakdowns," Lembo said. "On his interception, he was hit as he threw the ball. We had a receiver coming open on the post, but he got hit.

"Mark didn't panic. He stayed optimistic and went right back out there and had himself a big day."

As you probably guessed by my consistent references in this posting, I'm liking the nickname for "G" for WR Gerran Walker, even if it does uncomfortably remind me of "G Money", or even worse, seminal rapper Warren G. Still, I give it my thumbs-up of approval.

Tomorrow: A really quick Weekend Roundup; and maybe something to get you pumped for Lehigh/Delaware

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sunday Thoughts on Lehigh/Monmouth and...

As much as I'd like to talk about Lehigh's unbelievable offensive performance on Saturday, on a perfect day in Murray Goodman, my thoughts keep drifing back to another score on the day:

Central Connecticut State 24, Colgate 22.

Yes, Mark Borda played like a champ with 6 TDs going 22 for 31. Yeah, Gerran Walker had one of those days that receivers just dream about. But Colgate, losing to Central Connecticut State, could be the most significant development of the week.

When I picked CCSU to be beaten by Colgate 56 to 3, I obviously did no research on the Devils whatsoever. What did I know? I knew they played in the Northeast Conference. I knew that they were #6 in the Sports Network I-AA mid-major poll, and that's about it. I felt like they weren't as good as Monmouth. I also knew that even though Colgate has some question marks on offense, they always seem to have a Chris Brown or a Jamaal Branch hiding in the wings just waiting to get into the starting lineup, and that this past Satruday they were going to go out there and send a message to the rest of the Patriot League that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

But, that didn't happen. QB Mike Saraceno struggled mightily. The Raiders turned over the ball 7 times. They couldn't get the big TD when they needed it, and instead settled for FG after FG. And, on the next to last play of the game, they gave up a 66 yard pass play (presumably in the prevent defense) to set up the Devils' winning FG.

And this was from a team that fully expected - and may still be expected - to be challenging for the Patriot League title. Who lost to a team that many feel will be the 2nd placed team in the limited-scholarship NEC conference. It was one thing to have Monmouth beat up on Georgetown last year when they weren't expected to compete for the Patriot League title. It's quite another when a legitimate Patriot League title contender falls to a limited-scholaship NEC team that plays a brand of football that is considered a step below I-AA playoff play.

That sends shockwaves through the whole conference, not just Hamilton, NY.

Adding to the shock, most teams in the conference struggled early against their out-of-conference foes. Fordham, who is expected to challenge for the Patriot League title, fell hard to a doormat of the A-10, 34-20. Holy Cross fell behind 14-0 to middling NEC member Sacred Heart before pulling away to cruise 56-28. Even Marist of the limited-scholarship MAAC was within 3 against Lafayette midway through the 3rd quarter before the Leopards pulled away for a 40-21 victory. And Monmouth of the NEC was up against Lehigh 14-10 midway through the second quarter with all the momentum on their side.

That's the scariest thing of all. It could have been Lafayette. It could have been Holy Cross. It could have been us. Play a sloppy game, have things fall apart, and it can be you. In the first half, being a Lehigh fan on Saturday was nerve-wracking. At no time in the first half did I feel like our defense had Monmouth in check. They racked up 300 yards passing against our defense. They made many key 3rd down conversions. At halftime I was very, very worried that Lehigh could be an upset candidate. Monmouth played an inspired game, with great offensive production - and on a different day, they could have had Lehigh's scalp.

Should I not be worried? Should I expect the NEC to be much improved over years past, when Lehigh beat Monmouth 56-10 and Fordham beat Marist 46-0? Lehigh, Lafayette and Holy Cross did manage to right their ships and roll to easy wins in the end. Or were they also just a few plays away from a CCSU-like victory? Maybe the NEC in 2005 will prove to be an excellent conference. But maybe it won't be up to Patriot League snuff, just like all the other years. And we could have lost to Monmouth.

You can bet that the rest of I-AA nation is looking at CCSU beating Colgate and collectively saying, "See, the Patriot League isn't that good." True or not, that will be the perception in this coming week. Some might even point to Lehigh's early struggles and say "gee, there's not that much separation between Lehigh and Monmouth, or CCSU, or Marist".

The only way to shut up the critics and to change that perception is for Lehigh to beat Delaware this coming Saturday.

Tomorrow, we'll see game balls and the media wrapup. And I promise I'll start whipping you up into a frenzy for Lehigh/Delaware, I promise.
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