Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bye Week; Predictions Of Other Games

This is the bye week, as you've problably noticed by the lack of a preview, press roundup, and postings the past couple days. For those that care, here are my picks this week for the games that are going on today.

Patriot League:
Colgate at Dartmouth. Dartmouth will be better, but Colgate I'm sure will be eager to prove that their win against UMass was no fluke. Colgate 21, Dartmouth 10.

Princeton at #21 Lafayette. I'll be attending this game as part of my duties as diarist. This looks to be a defensive struggle. It seems unlikely that Princeton will sneak up on the Leopards this year, and they are eager to go 3-0. Look for a lot of defense, and a Leopard win. Lafayette 17, Princeton 6.

Bucknell at Cornell. The Bison can't seem to get anything right lately (despite a lot of injuries), but it's hard to picture them righting the ship at Cornell. Cornell 31, Bucknell 13.

Brown at Georgetown. Georgetown's home opener in their new refurbished stadium will be a great day for Hoya football, and the Hoyas will be game to play the Bears. I think the Bears pull it out, however, as they shake off the rust and win in the 4th. Brown 31, G'Town 14.

#16 Harvard at Holy Cross. An upset here? No way. The Crusaders will find out the hard way that the Crimson ain't Sacred Heart. Harvard 42, HC 14.

Columbia at Fordham. This "Liberty Cup" battle is always close, and I think Fordham pulls out a win they need to have. Fordham 31, Columbia 28.

Other I-AA Top 25:
Western Oregon (D-II) at #2 Eastern Washington. Smackdown. EWU 63, WO 0.

#3 Southern Illinois at Western Michigan (I-A). Southern Illinois will be game, but Western Michigan will pull it out at the end in the Saluki's fist good test of the season. WMU 24, SIU 21.

West Chester (D-II) at #4 Delaware. Smackdown #2. Delaware 77, WC 0.

#5 Northern Iowa at Iowa (I-A). As much as I'd like to make Panther Nation happy, with Iowa's embarassment to State last week, this should get ugly fast. Iowa 56, NIU 3.

South Dakota State at Montana. Montana at home. Period. Montana 41, SDSU 15.

#7 New Hampshire at Towson. The Wildcats will crush any faint hope the Tigers have this season of challenging for the title.. UNH 35, Towson 3.

Delaware St. at #8 James Madison. Just what the Dukes ordered. JMU 63, DSU 10.

#9 William & Mary at Rhode Island. This game will be closer than people may think, but it's hard to see a loss here. W&M 27, URI 17.

Weber St. at #10 North Dakota St. The Bison will continue to dominate. NDSU 48, Weber St. 12.

Samford at #11 Furman. Furman stuggling for the third straight week? Hard to picture it. Furman 31, Samford 16.

#12 Montana St. at #19 Cal Poly. The game of the week. Montana St. looks to me a monster out of the Big Sky, and I think they take this one. MSU 35, Cal Poly 28.

#13 Northwestern St. at Louisiana-Lafayette (I-A). The brutal road strech of the Demons continues. I can't see the upset after 3 bruising weeks. LL 35, NW St. 13.

#14 Georgia Southern at Wofford. The Eagles in a must-win? Sure looks like it. Despite their problems, I think the Eagles end up on the winning side. GSU 24, Wofford 17.

#17 Sam Houston St. at Texas Tech (I-A). Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. TT 55, SHSU 10.

#20 Coastal Carolina at Appalachian St. If the Chants win this, I'm a believer. But it's awful hard to win in Boone. I'm thinking, letdown game. App St. 35, Coastal 24.

#22 McNeese St. at Southern Mississippi (I-A). This will be closer than you think, but Southern Miss should prevail in the end. SM 30, McNeese 21.

#23 South Carolina St. at Bethune-Cookman. This is where I smell the upset this week. B-CC 25, SCSU 22.

Stony Brook at #24 Hofstra. Hofstra handles another cupcake. Hofstra 55, SB 3.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More Pix

More pix from the game, courtesy of GoHens.Net. Hard hit from the Lehigh secondary!

"TNT" Rath sweeping right.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New Blog Poll; My AGS Top 25; My Cruddy Picks

New blog poll to your right, there. How optimistic are you about the 2005 Mountain Hawk season? Vote!

To those who care about such things, my AGS Top 25 is below, with a handful of explanations:

1. Delaware
2. Montana St
3. Eastern Washington
4. Western Kentucky
5. Harvard
6. William & Mary
7. Montana
8. Northern Iowa
9. James Madison
10. Furman
11. Lafayette
12. Hampton
13. North Dakota St
14. Lehigh
15. Georgia Southern
16. Northwestern St
17. New Hampshire
18. Cal Poly
19. Coastal Car
20. South Carolina St
21. Grambling
22. Penn
23. McNeese St
24. Eastern Kentucky
25. Western Carolina

Win of the Week: North Dakota St
Loss of the Week: Massachusetts

Delaware at #1? I watched that Lehigh game. They deserve the #1 vote the way they came back. They are absolutely the best Atlantic 10 team right now with JMU and UMass losing, and Bill & Mary, New Hampshire, and Hofstra unproven.

Why Harvard at #5, and why Penn? I think they have an excellent team and will be Harvard's stiffest challenge in the Ivy. Since they and Harvard haven't played, we're still voting on potential, and I think both deserve this ranking.

Eastern Kentucky is 0-2. Why them? The Colonels are 2 plays away from being 2-0 against ranked teams. They deserve votes.

North Dakota St. is the biggest win of the week? In a week of incredible upsets, no upset was more eye-opening than the Bison's 35-7 thrashing of Northwestern St. on the road. Pure domination - and the Bison have all of a sudden gotten on my radar screen. Sure, Coastal Carolina beating James Madison was impressive, but it was a hard fought win - and at home.

UMass is the most significant loss of the week? No team was hurt more than the Minutemen losing to Colgate. Colgate had lost so much face the week before in losing to Central Connecticut St., and then turning around and upsetting UMass put the egg right on their faces.

Here's something early to ponder as well. Two non-playoff bid conferences (the Great West and Big South) had the biggest wins in their conferences' history this past weekend. Let's say you're the second-placed Patriot League team looking for an at-large I-AA playoff bid, but your competition is Coastal Carolina (who beat #1 JMU) and North Dakota St. (who walloped #4 Northwestern St.). Guess which two teams will likely get in first.

My Cruddy Picks
Let's see. 11-11, including an atrocious 1-4 in the Patriot League. And even the ones I got right weren't really right (Kansas 34, App St. 24 leaps to mind). If you get rid of all the bogus I-AA victories over non-D-I competition it's... (shudder)... 7-11!!! I'm not making any excuses - this is just really really bad. Time for the post-mortem so I can look ahead to next week.

Really Right: Southern Illinois 77, Union (KY) 0. Real score: SIU 82, U(KY) 7. Figures I would have to pull from the cheap non-D-I wins as one of the ones that is "really right".

Should have been right: Eastern Kentucky 29, Western Kentucky 28. One lousy stop and my prediction of the Colonels' upset would have been preserved - especially after a furious rally to take the lead late in the game. But the Hilltoppers managed the drive and got the lousy field goal to make it WKU 23, WKU 21.

Was I ever wrong!: N'Western St. 27, North Dakota St. 13. With all my horrible picks to choose from, this one stands out. It hangs in the air like an insult to your mother-in-law's face: "The Bison just can't hang with N'Western St. in Nachitoches." I hear it in slow motion... "The.... Bison... juuuust... cannn't..." The Bison, of course, proved me wrong shortly after the opening kickoff, and proceeded to humiliate me further in a 35-7 butt-whoopin'.

Monday, September 12, 2005

No Moral Victories; Game Balls; Rankings

No seriously, have you recovered from the game yet? I sure haven't. I still can't get over the fact that we were so close to the win. It's so hard to describe - there's so much potential in this 2005 squad - there were lots of positives coming out of this game - yet the loss still hurts.

It feels like Lehigh has moved beyond moral victories. We lost to the eventual I-AA champions by 1 point in 2004, and we lost to one of the toughest teams in I-AA by 1 point last weekend. The players may be able to hold their heads high, but I think we, as fans, get frustrated. It was so close. We feel like Lehigh is not very far from the James Madison's and Delaware's of the world - the very best teams in all of I-AA. Not long ago Lehigh was a team that looked to be respectable against teams the Atlantic 10. In 2005, we are starting to expect victories. It's a natural progression from the success Lehigh and the rest of the Patriot League has had in I-AA.

It doesn't matter that the starting punter, our top reciever, and both cornerbacks fell during the game. It doesn't matter that our starting QB survived a helmet-to-helmet hit on the final drive of the game. Lehigh is expected to pull these games out. There's lots of time to pull these games out, and I'm excited to see what the rest of the season will bring.

It's a bye week this week. This week I'll be scouting Lafayette for, but the rest of you might consider renting out "Rudy" and studying exactly how similar Eric Rath and Sean Astin look. Don't worry, Rath's nickname is still "TNT", but it may help ease the pain of the Delaware loss.

Some quick links:

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Not Ashamed of Loss at Delaware

Brown & White:
Hawks Collapse in 4th to Delaware

"We live in a critical world, but I'm not afraid of losing games," he said. "We play the best schedule we can play. You go out there and let it fly. I'm proud of how hard our kids played. They were incredibly resilient through a lot of highs and lows. And, I give credit to Delaware for coming back like they did. This was a great college football game.

"This one should hurt a little bit, but we'll recover," Lembo said.

"I had a blast," senior linebacker Anthony Graziani said after making a team-high 14 tackles. "I've never played in an atmosphere like this before. The crowd, the noise, the intensity, on and off the field, was great. It would have been better if the outcome turned out differently, of course, but I think the whole team enjoyed the opportunity to come down here and experience this.

"We weren't able to make enough big plays and stop them," Graziani said. "In the first half, we were making tackles. But in the fourth quarter, we missed some key tackles and missed some of our gap assignments and they had some big gains."

“Players got tired, and when you’re playing a top team like Delaware, that can’t happen,” sophomore offensive lineman Jimmy Kehs said. “We weren’t able to make some of the plays that we had made in the first three quarters.”

“We have played as hard as we can for two weeks now, so it’s nice to have a bye so we can work on some technical things,” Kehs said.

Game balls will go to:

Offense: (tie) Senior QB Mark Borda and senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath. Without even looking at the stat sheet, that last OT drive told me all I needed to know about their competitive fire and ability to get the job done. Borda went 32 for 52, 272 yards and 2 TDs. Rath also scored 2 TDs on 120 all-purpose yards.

Defense: (tie) Senior LB Anthony "Graz" Graziani, and senior DT Royce Morgan. "Graz" recorded 14 tackles and helped dominate the Hens in the first 3 quarters. Morgan recorded 6 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and a big Riccio sack. Both throttled Riccio all game.

Special Teams: Senior WR Gregg Petrosky had 60 yards in returns, and did a great job stepping in once Walker got hurt.

The Delaware loss didn't really hurt Lehigh in the rankings that matter. We are #16 in the Sports Network Poll (down only 2 spots) and #15 in the Any Given Saturday poll (down only 3 spots). By the time we finish playing VMI (and, of course, I'm hoping for the "W"), we could be where we started this past week - or better.

Tune in tomorrow when I reveal my Top 25 ballot, and I prove to the world how bad I suck at picking I-AA games.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Quick Press Roundup, and My Quick Thoughts

Lehigh left all their blood and spit on the field last night. We were without our starting cornerbacks, a top linebacker not at 100%, and defensive linemen banged up and bruised. Our top receiver was out. Yet we went into one of the toughest places to play in all of I-AA and were Delaware's equal the entire game. It is bitter; it is tough to swallow; but we can't forget that.

Someone ought to make a tape of the OT drive that resulted in the Lehigh TD, the one where senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath somehow managed to stretch and convert the 4th-and-2 for the first down, and found the drive to barrel around left and right for the TD - all the while when (I believe) Borda was concussed after receiving that (illegal?) helmet-to-helmet hit. We should play that before every game. That drive, more than any other, should typefy Lehigh football.

Yes, "TNT" is Rath's new nickname. Don't remember where I heard it, but it's perfect. You heard it here first. I won't do a full digest, but enough is below.

Finally, ngineer, K.C. Keeler and everyone else is right. We gotta do this again.

(Thanks to Any Given Saturday, and ngineer.)

Allentown Morning Call
Delaware rallies for 34-33 OT win over Lehigh
Mountain Hawks give Delaware a taste of the Patriot League

Easton Express Times
Lehigh denied in OT thriller

News Journal
Cuff's five TDs key Hens comeback
Blue Hen finds hometown motivation
After slow start, offense comes to life

Delaware State News
Hens rally for OT win

"I'm very confident that this team is resilient enough to recover emotionally from this, but we were getting quite banged up physically," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "They'll walk out of this with their heads up. I think we saw tonight that we can be a pretty good football team if we make some plays."

"Unfortunately, when the pace picked up, we were running out of bodies," Lembo said. "Our receiving corps got pretty banged up in the fourth quarter and late in the third."

"I thought our defense had a heck of a day, but they may have gotten tired and Delaware seemed to start finding things late," Lehigh quarterback Mark Borda said. "Still, it was a great experience. I had fun out there tonight. The final result is very disappointing, but the experience of the crowd and this atmosphere was phenomenal."
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