Saturday, October 01, 2005

Lehigh 49, Harvard 24, final

A great game for Lehigh. The story of this game is the 3rd quarter where Lehigh took 2 consecutive Harvard turnovers into TDs, thus putting the game out of reach at that point. Throw out the meaningless TD by Harvard late in the game, Lehigh simply dominated the 3rd quarter, and you knew when Murphy yanked O'Hagan to start the 4th quarter he was basically throwing in the towel.

"Graz" always seems to play well, but when it's a big game he really turns it up a notch. Every Harvard play he seemed to be either in on the tackle or around the ball, and his 2 INTs were huge. If he had an 18 tackle day I wouldn't be surprised. He's a lock for a game ball.

Borda, after a tough first half, really came back in the second and got the job done. I was impressed how he shrugged off the early problems and took over, with zip on his passes, good decisions and 2 nice TD runs.

This has definitely been the closest Lehigh has come this year to a "perfect game". That 3rd quarter showed what Lehigh football can be in 2005. Aggressive defense which created turnovers. "Offense with a scalpel" as Borda, "TNT" Rath, Thompson and the whole receiving crew surgically pick apart a defense. Solid special teams returns all day, without exception. Not "perfect", but the best execution all year.

Now, as the league slate starts, the games are even more meaningful, and Holy Cross looks to be an upstart team that may not be an easy "W". Holy Cross/Yale appears to be going to the wire, while Lafayette/G'Town is surprisingly close at half. Games to watch!

More tomorrow. Great win by the Hawks today.

Lehigh 35, Harvard 17, end 3rd quarter

Oh yeah.

Ahye's INT sets up Borda-to-Zebluim. And now I spy "Graz" with his second INT of the day! Mark my words, "Graz" is a lock for Patriot Defensive player of the week.

Now we're driving yet again, and I have a big, big, warm and fuzzy about beating this ranked team. What a great quarter after going down 17-14! Lehigh put it all together and played up to their potential.

I think it's safe to say that we finally have started to see the Lehigh team we wanted to see all year. "TNT" Rath automatic again in the red zone. He may get Patriot Offensive player of the week too.

Let's keep it going!

Lehigh 21, Harvard 17, mid-3rd quarter

A great, effecient drive by the offense. Borda has regained the confidence now. Great call on 3rd down, lining in shotgun and then lining up and sneaking it for the 1st. Great open shot to Zebluim (which should have been called a TD, but who's complaining) to set up the punch-in. "TNT" Rath is becoming automatic in the red zone.

Let's see how the Lehigh "D" responds now.

Lehigh 14, Harvard 10, half

Looks like this is going to be a close one all the way. Both teams are frighteningly similar, with stretches of great play, while getting done in by their own turnovers.

Borda: 3 INTs. I'm a bit concerned about Borda's throws. They haven't been crisp. He needs to regain his confidence, and fast. If I were Lembo I'd work on running often in the 2nd half to set up the pass. "TNT" Rath again is having a very good day running so far, with 1 TD and poised for more.

On defense Lehigh has been outstanding, holding Dawson to a miniscule amount of rushes and only 10 points. Graziani has been awesome. They'll need to keep this up in order to get the "W".

Just win, baby.

Lehigh 14, Harvard 0, early 2nd quarter

"Graz" well on his way to get a game ball early, especially with that red zone INT I just saw. A quality first quarter, except for that ill-advised pass by Borda in the red zone that led to his INT.

91 yard TD reception for WR Winfred Porter! Splits coverage and skies down to the end zone!

Lehigh looking great in the early going! "D" must coninue to shut down Dawson and the Harvard offense. Looks like Dawson and the defense are jawing at each other a little. Dawson appears to also be dinged up.

I'm liking what I'm seeing early.

Predictions of Other Games

Some other fun predictions for this glorious 1st day of October.

Patriot League:
Marist at Bucknell. Poor Bison. 2 QBs and their best RB out before Marist comes to town, and - again - they look like they will struggle to put points on the board. Heck, DB Dante Ross has been playing QB for them, and this week the injury list is no better. Unfortunately, a tragic season will continue with another loss. Marist 19, Bucknell 16.

Cornell at Colgate. Always a big rivalry game, the Big Red have to be licking their chops after watching the Raiders be so up-and-down. But this game puts the Raiders at an important crossroads. My bet is the Raiders pour it on Cornell's porous pass defense and get a big "W" before conference play. Colgate 28, Cornell 17.

Holy Cross at Yale. Another team at the crossroads, Holy Cross may be, just may be, a legitimate contender in the Patriot title race. With only losses at nationally-ranked Delaware and Harvard, a lot of eyes will be on the Crusaders in this game. Yale isn't an easy place to play, but I think the Crusaders make a long-awaited statement that they're back. HC 38, Yale 34.

Lafayette at Georgetown. No trap game here for the Leopards. They took care of business with Fordham, and I can't see them not taking the Hoyas seriously. Lafayette 42, G'town 6.

Top 25:
Villanova at #1 New Hampshire. The "curse of the #1 team" lives today. Villanova is the worst kind of unranked team - a team which is better than you think. Everyone thinks UNH is invincible, Talley is trying to get their egos on overdrive through effuse praise - 'Nova has the upset in the bag. Villanova 41, UNH 34.

#2 Western Kentucky at Indiana St. The "curse of the #2 team" lives today. Indiana St. is... a really awful team. What, you thought I would take the Sycamores? Get real. WKU 54, ISU 0.

#3 Delaware at Towson. Delaware fans are worried that their 3-0 team isn't as dominating as they should be. This is kind of like the Brazilian National Soccer team complaining that they didn't score enough goals in their 5th World Cup victory. Hey, enjoy the wins. JMU's coming soon enough. Delaware 45, Towson 27.

Weber St. at #4 Montana. Montana won't struggle either in this clash. Montana 31, Weber St. 7.

Missouri St. at #5 Southern Illinois. Hum de dum. If only they all were this easy to pick. SIU 56, MS 7.

#6 Northern Iowa at Western Illinois. Another upset special here. A rivalry game outside the friendly confines of the Panthers' UNI-Dome, the Leathernecks, despite their recent struggles, have the capactiy to pull off the upset, and I'm beting they do here. WIU 31, NIU 28.

#7 James Madison at #23 Hofstra. Hofstra enters the latest game in their 'stretch of hell', as they take on the defending national champions. The Pride at home, coming off a tough double-OT loss to Furman, will be sharp, while the (relatively) untested Dukes already have a loss to Coastal Carolina. I think the Pride's deadly 1-2-3 combination of QB Clarkson, WR Colson and WR Ellis will make mincemeat of the national champs, who may not even know what hit them. Hofstra 51, JMU 24.

Gardner-Webb at #8 Furman. A classic trap game, Furman should still win this easily, but it won't be *that* easy. Furman 34, GWU 21.

#9 Cal Poly at Northern Colorado. The 'Stangs are for real. The NoCo Bears may be renamed the NoSco Bears after today. Cal Poly 29, NoCo 0.

Nicholls St. at #10 North Dakota St. 2 hurricanes and 2 cancelled home games, and then you're asked to travel to Fargo, ND for a road game. Life is cruel indeed for the Colonels. Here's hoping they put up a spirited battle. NDSU 30, NSU 17.

#24 Portland St. at #11 Eastern Washington. I was so tempted to take the Vikings here. But, geez. Not at home against an angry Eagles team. This won't be an easy win, but the Eagles have got to prevail here. EWU 29, PSU 20.

Delaware St. at #13 Hampton. My new game is: Guess how many points Hampton will win by this week. Will it be 30? Will it be 10? Will it be 10, but it should be 30? Only the Shadow knows for sure, and he sure as hell ain't telling me. Hampton 30, DSU 10.

Idaho St. at #16 Montana St. Everyone's favorite Big Sky darlings, the unheralded Idaho State Bengals, will come crashing down to earth once they actually play a game outdoors. Against a nationally-ranked team that could be the best in the Big Sky. Sayonara. MSU 38, ISU 10.

Coastal Carolina at #17 South Carolina St. Another upset special. The Chants will need this game to have any shot at the I-AA postseason (which they desperately want), while the Bulldogs are largely unproven early in the year. I think the Chants play as if their lives depended on it, and they get the win here. CCU 31, SCSU 27.

The Citadel at #19 Western Carolina. I'm dying to take the Catamounts as an upset special. However, this game simply ain't it. WCU 27, The Citadel 10.

South Dakota St. at #21 Texas St.
The Bobcats, I hate to say, are proving to be the class of the Southland, and they ain't going to lose this one at home. TSU 35, SDSU 18.

#25 Wofford at Chattanooga. How I want to take Chatty here. Wofford is such a flawed team, like so many middle-ranking SoCon teams. But I just can't. Wofford 21, Chatty 18.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Press Roundup; Pundits Pick Lehigh; Injury Report

A huge game tomorrow as Lehigh plays Harvard on national TV. Hey, man, I love the Red Sox too, but what's more important, the Red Sox on their march to another inevitable World Series title, or the game that's going to determine the direction of our beloved Lehigh's football season? (Besides, the game starts at 12:30 EST, and the Red Sox don't start until *at least* 1PM.)

As promised, here's the official Lehigh Football Nation injury report, followed by the Lehigh Football Nation Press roundup and digest.

Injury Report
Junior FS Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Sophomore DB Daynin Blake (Hip, Questionable)
Junior LB Travis Stinson (Shoulder, Questionable)

As banged-up as our secondary is, I have complete confidence in junior FS Julian Austin in the starting role for Elder, while sophomore Erine Moore steps into Blake's backup position. Stinson's injury is more worrisome, with junior Chris LaMont stepping in if Stinson is unable to go. All in all, the injury report looks a lot better than it did at the beginning of the year. My prediction is unchanged.

The pundits are picking Lehigh in a close, tightly-fought game:
Matt Dougherty, Sports Network: "A strong effort by Borda and the Lehigh offense will be the difference, and the Mountain Hawks will go to Harvard Stadium and put an end to the Crimson win streak again. Prediction: Lehigh 31, Harvard 27."
Eric Gemunder, "The Crimson offense has been potent this year, averaging over 30 ppg, but they've also let up nearly 30 a game on defense. I don't think their defense will be solid enough to stop the Lehigh attack, and am picking the visiting team to come away with the win. Lehigh edges Harvard."

Press Roundup
Allentown Morning Call:
Harvard's Streak Not Lehigh's Focus
Easton Express-Times:
Petrosky, Lehigh Look Forward to Tough Challenge
Brown & White:
Hawks Prepare For Crucial Match At #15 Harvard
Boston Globe:
Hands Off (reg req'd)

Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game at Harvard could be against Muhlenberg, Kutztown, or just about anybody, and the Mountain Hawks would be just as anxious.

"It gives you extra motivation to bring home a win in front of your family," said Lehigh nose guard/long snapper Eric Rakus, who was born in Springfield, Mass., moved to Suffield, Conn., and expects to have about a dozen family members in the stands at 30,898-seat Harvard Stadium.

"We're just champing at the bit to get on the field again," said junior nose tackle and long snapper Eric Rakus Wednesday during Lehigh's weekly media luncheon at Starters Pub.

"You always want to put on a show when you're playing in front of people you grew up with, people that love you. We definitely respect Harvard, 13 (wins) in a row is nothing to sniff at. We'd rather be the one to break that streak."

"I hope that the players can look back at last week and realize that what we didn't do in practice may have had an impact on how we played," Lembo said.

He said Tuesday's drills went well, but he also asked the team after practice: "Can we get a little bit better [Wednesday], can we get better on Thursday, can we do it for the next seven weeks, three days a week? The jury is still out."

"Without a doubt, we're excited to be going up there to play in front of a huge crowd and try to end their streak," punt returner Greg Petrosky said. "It should be a great atmosphere and we're looking forward to it."

"Lehigh is the best team we'll have played," said [Harvard Coach Tim] Murphy. "They're one play away from being undefeated [they lost in OT to Delaware]. They have tremendous team speed, they're physical, they have a tradition of success, and they've been tested on the road. They've got a very talented offense, they've got probably the best quarterback we'll see this year in Mark Borda, along with an explosive wide receiver [Gerran 'G'] Walker. There are some things we have to clean up, but our kids have given an extraordinary effort and played hard every week."

Then again, maybe Lehigh learned a lesson in the loss to Delaware and Cuff.

"That one still stings," Rakus said. "We're going to use it as fuel."

"This is a team that is every bit as good as Delaware, if not better," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said... [B]oth have great surrounding casts. Harvard's offensive line over the last five years has been one of the best in the country. I remember when we played them in 2002, you couldn't even see [Lehigh defensive lineman] Mike Gregorek because they were so big up front."

Tim Murphy: "O'Hagan has done a super job for a young kid. He's far from perfect but he's made the plays in crunch time."... With primary receivers Rodney Byrnes and Corey Mazza out indefinitely with injuries, Murphy and the 15th-ranked Crimson will see who steps up at practice this week from among four or five candidates.

Harvard coach Tim Murphy said Dawson's 1,302 yards last season came in 10 less-than-complete games because the Crimson were so far ahead most Saturdays that Dawson sat out large blocks of time late in games.

"He's very, very similar to Delaware's Omar Cuff [who ran for 101 yards and three scores against Lehigh]," Lembo said. "They are both very quick, very explosive. They don't waste a lot of movement.

Junior defensive back Julian Austin thinks they can shut down the high-powered Dawson... "He's pretty good but our defense should be strong enough to contain him," Austin said. "We have been working hard this week on tackling, knowing our assignments and playing with more energy. We should be ready."

"It has all the makings of a great football game," Head Coach Pete Lembo said. "If there was ever a time we needed to put 60 minutes together, it's this week."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Preview of Lehigh/Harvard

Yeah, I'm working on about 2 hours of sleep. Yeah, I've done a pretty poor job as a self-described Lehigh football fanatic hyping everyone up for what could be one of the most important games on Lehigh's schedule in regards to the I-AA playoffs. But here I am, and here is this week's Lehigh/Harvard preview.

This is going to be a huge game, with much of I-AA nation tuning into CSTV nationally (and to channel 69 in the Lehigh Valley) to watch. (Not to neglect that the radio play-by-play will be on AM 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley as well.) With Lehigh ranked at #12, and Harvard at #14 according to the Sports Network, I-AA nation wants a few questions answered:

1) Is Harvard as good as some people say they are?
2) Is Lehigh *really* a candidate for the I-AA championship, or are they just a bunch of hot air like the rest of the Patriot League?

From the Mountain Hawk perspective, this will very likely be the highest-ranked team they will play for the rest of the year. A win here against a ranked opponent would put them in a good position leading into the Patriot League schedule. If they win this game and get the Patriot League auto-bid, home playoff games could be a possibility down the road. If they win the game and don't get the Patriot autobid, the I-AA playoff committee could point to this game as a "quality win" that may put the Hawks in as an at-large bid. Lose, and it would seem like Lehigh would have lost any fudge room concerning the playoffs - they would need the autobid to get in the playoffs most likely. No doubt this is a big game.

Lehigh Injury Report
No injury report yet, but I will come out with this tomorrow, once the Lehigh game notes come out.

A Little About Harvard
Harvard is riding the longest undefeated streak in Division I football right now at 13 games, and if you look at their game notes for this game they are very very proud of that fact. Last week they kept their win streak alive with a nail-biting, come-from-behind double-overtime win against Brown, 38-35. During the game, starting in the 2nd quarter, coach Tim Murphy played it like a playoff game, going for 2 2-point conversions and being successful with both. On what has to be considered one of the gutsiest calls ever, coach Murphy also elected to *run* the ball against the Bears with 15 seconds left and no timeouts on the Brown 3 yard line, and junior RB Clifton Dawson delivered to put the game into overtime. Coach Murphy appears to be a dogged sort, but considering that the Crimson's last losing season was in 1998, it's hard to argue with his results. If he sees a weakness, he'll come right after it.

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of articles celebrating the "Best Fans in I-AA, and I had the Crimson at #8. Here's an excerpt of my then-assessment of their fan base:

Deep down inside, when you peel away the intellectualism, affluence and prestige, in every Harvard fan is a crazy McNeese State fan just waiting to come out - to let loose at the tailgate, to let loose a lusty "Yale Sucks!" in the stadium (even when you're playing Northeastern), to go Crimson crazy. Lobster canap├ęs instead of BBQ Ribs at the tailgates, perhaps - but the same, down-home, good ol' fashioned love of the Crimson and hatred for the opponents. Especially if it's Yale.

You'd think that Harvard fans would be pouring out of the woodwork agreeing with my analysis, right? You'd be wrong. One shockingly said that the Crimson fan base was "nothing compared to Yale's". It goes to prove something: Harvard fans are funny, even if it's completely inadvertent. In any case, I see a lot of them coming out to see the Mountain Hawks this Saturday, and we'll see exactly how rowdy they will be.

Offensive Breakdown
Former Lehigh TE and former Lehigh Coach Dave Cecchini was the architect of the Lehigh offense that you see today, and he is the Crimson's offensive coordinator. What that means is you're going to see lots of sets, spread offenses and aggressive play. Since the Crimson have scored more than 30 points in 12 of their last 13 wins, Cecchini I can safely say is an offensive mastermind, and the Mountain Hawks' defense will have their hands full stopping it.

In the first two weeks the Crimson have been breaking in sophomore QB Liam O'Hagan, and his results against two tough teams have been mixed. Against Holy Cross he had a solid game with 2 TDs and one interception, but against Brown he only went 17-for-34 with 2 interceptions. Still, he averages 282 yards passing a game and - importantly - almost 50 yards a game rushing. O'Hagan offers a multi-faceted attack which is reminiscient of Colgate's QB Chris Brown in 2003. Although a sophomore, O'Hagan is a talented kid not to be taken lightly.

If this team resembles the Raiders of 2003, then junior RB Clifton Dawson is the Crimson's Jamaal Branch - except that Dawson is even better. A Payton Award candidate, he's averaging 171 yards rushing his first two games, and his first two seasons he cracked the 1,000 yard mark playing only 10 games a year. Branch had a tendency to slow later in games, but Dawson has breakout quickness that can leave defenses in the dust. He also catches the occasional pass out of the backfield, making him a nightmare for any defensive coordinator. If we hold him to under 100 yards, we'll be lucky.

Harvard's leading receiver this year, junior WR Corey Mazza, is out indefinitely after suffering an injury in the Brown game, which potentially could be an opening for Lehigh. That means senior WR Ryan Tyler and sophomore WR Joe Murt become the starting wideouts. Tyler is more of a speedster, while Murt is a tall receiver who will be looking for his coming-out party. Harvard still has a talented group, but losing Mazza really hurts the Crimson. Senior TE Jason O'Neill hasn't caught a pass all year, and appears to primarily be a blocker.

The "O" line on the Crimson doesn't lose many battles, and just by looking at 6'5, 300 lb senior T Brian Lapham you know why. The Crimson line is big, experienced, and good, and probably better than Delaware's "O" line. Lehigh's front seven may have a rough time with this trench battle.

Defense Breakdown
On "D", the Crimson's 4-3, like Lehigh's, have given up a lot of points per game this year. Like Lehigh, their defense is a mixture of veteran stars with underclassmen looking to settle into their roles. Whichever defense gels into the better unit first may be the one that wins the game.

The "D" line's big star is senior DE Erik Grimm, with 8 tackles on the year including 2 for loss. Overall, the Crimson line is a bit undersized, with the biggest guy at 260 lbs, which could be yet another Lehigh opening.

In the linebacking unit, seinor LB Matt Thomas is the star, with 14 tackles and a sack. He's their Anthony Graziani. Like the front four, they are a bit undersized, but they are hard and sound tacklers and are very talented - the strength of the Crimson defense.

The big man in the defensive backfield is junior CB Keith Howell, with 11 tackles and a sack to his credit. Their tall corners appear to have a lot of potential, but a true freshman CB and a sophomore FS are starting, which Brown and Holy Cross attempted to exploit with some success. It will be interesting how they match up with Lehigh's passing attack.

Special Teams Breakdown
Sophomore K Matt Schneidel has gone a perfect 4-for-4 on FGs, but none over 35 yards, so it remains to be seen how good his leg really is. Senior P Mike King is merely average so far this year, Senior Ryan Tyler and Neil Sherlock return kicks, with their longest being 33 yards.

Keys To The Game
1.Mental toughness. This doesn't only mean getting the VMI near-loss and the Delaware loss out of our heads. It also means focusing on holding onto the ball, making few mistakes, and executing the gameplan. It will take a higher level of concentration than the troops have shown thus far.
2.Dawson Challenge. Lehigh Football Nation's challenge is this: Keep Dawson to under 100 yards rushing an the Mountain Hawks will win the game. That means controlling the trenches against an awfully great Crimson front line. Rise to the challenge!
3.Rath rampage. Lehigh may like to pass the ball, but I see a light front seven as a great way to attack this defense. Rath, Fay, Thompson and Borda perhaps on some rollouts, may be able to move the ball effectively with a varied straight-ahead and sideline running attack. That could set up the pass quite nicely.

Fearless Prediction
Harvard is a great team, but with Mazza out, it really hurts the Crimson. At the risk of sounding like a homer, I think the Crimson just doesn't match up well against the Mountain Hawks, and Lehigh will play better than they showed last week at VMI. You'd better tune in to see which way the Lehigh season goes - this week, it will go one way or the other.

Lehigh 35, Harvard 10

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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

Check out a new blog poll. To your right, there. Please vote.

Were you wondering who was one of the "jokers" who voted Harvard #1 in their Top 25 Any Given Saturday Poll? That would be me. Here it is below.

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

Harvard at #1? Yep. They survived a true test against a great Brown team, and they are a spectacular team. I did have them at #4 last week, so it's not exactly a stretch to put them #1.

You *choke* actually dropped Lehigh? I sure did. Their near-miss to VMI didn't deserve the status quo. Granted, it was only one spot to #14.

Eastern Kentucky?!?! At 1-3? Yep. They're the best the OVC has to offer, and just you watch - they have agood shot to go 8-3. They are a very strong team.

Finally, at this late hour, my picks from last week. I was an amazing 14-2 this week! Barely missing Harvard over Brown and Idaho State over Eastern Washington, I'm proud of my predictions this week. That's how it should be every week!

Really Right: Lafayette 27, Fordham 10. I predicted Lafayette 28, Fordham 14, but more importantly, it really showed that Lafayette is a playoff contended and Fordham is a pretender.

Should Have Been Right: Idaho State 34, Eastern Washington 30. I predicted a close one, with EWU 28, ISU 26. Trailing 31-30, the Eagles blew an extra point that made all the difference. Rather than driving for a FG, they had to go for TDs, and instead the Bengals nabbed 2 interceptions to seal the game. That missed extra point killed me.

Was I Ever Wrong!: New Hampshire 35, Dartmouth 30. In a week where I did a pretty good job, my biggest goof was thinking that Dartmouth could hang with Ricky Santos & company. By halftime - halftime! - the Wildcats had their 35 points (to Dartmouth's 10) and my bid for a close game was really really wrong.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Poll; Press Roundup; Game Balls

As you may have expected, the press roundup ain't pretty (though this picture, courtesy of Chuck Steenburgh via the Morning Call, is). It doesn't seem like anyone's real happy - all of Lehigh Nation is disappointed at a squeak-it-out win, and VMI is upset that they couldn't take advantage of all of Lehigh's "gifts". If I added the message board chatter from Any Given Saturday, it would get even more ugly and harsh. There are a lot of things I look at again in the box score that feel like dodged bullets. A missed VMI FG in the 3rd quarter that could have been the difference. A VMI backflip on the interception return that caused the 2-pt conversion try to be from the 18 yard line - which cost them the tie. Finally, junior FS Julian Austin's interception from the 21 yard line - had it been dropped... that could have been the difference.

But in every season, there's one game where nothing seems to go right - a tipped pass goes for a 90 yard TD run, muffed punts, interceptions, fumbles, penalties - and it has been said that it's the near-losses that show the character of a great team, not necessarily the wins. Some players come out and really show what they're made of, and the team is better for it. As badly as Lehigh struggled at times, there were positives that may pay dividends for the rest of the year.

It didn't affect the polls at all. Lehigh actually went up to #11 in the Sports Network poll, and they are #13 on Any Given Saturday. So the near-miss didn't really affect anything in the long run.

The defense played pretty well overall, especially in the second half. When Lehigh needed to run the ball, with senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath or senior FB Greg Fay, it was there. Senior WR Gerran "G" Walker had 178 all-purpose yards. As silly as it sounds, if you take away the turnovers we could have won 35-13 or 42-13. It's not the end of the world.

It's pretty clear who the game balls go to. These guys should be on your Lehigh watch list if they're not already.

On offense, game ball goes to senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath. 118 yards rushing and 3 TDs seals that game ball without a doubt. Also, he held onto the ball well in a key drive at the end of the game. That gets him Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week.. and a game ball.

For defense it's tougher, as senior DT Royce Morgan and senior LB Anthony "Graz" Graziani had good days, but junior DB Julian Austin gets the nod today. Returning a fumble for a TD probably would have been enough as it was, but also nabbing the game-ending interception couldn't have been bigger if he tried. Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week... and a game ball.

Special teams again goes to senior WR Gerran "G" Walker. 97 return yards to go with his 178 all-purpose yards makes him a constant threat to be reckoned with. He gets yet another Game Ball.

Your press roundup, and digest, are below.

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Tops VMI In Spite Of Itself
Lehigh Played Better

Brown & White:
Hawks Escape VMI With Victory

Roanoake Times:
Generous Guest Turns Into Grinch

It was homecoming at VMI on Saturday and Lehigh brought gifts. The Mountain Hawks, ranked 13th in Division I-AA, heaped offerings in the form of penalties and turnovers at the Keydets' feet.

But the Keydets couldn't get the bows untied.

Despite seven Lehigh fumbles, three interceptions and a handful of critical penalties, the Mountain Hawks held off VMI for a 28-26 victory at Alumni Memorial Field.

During a halftime radio interview, Lembo had called the first half "the worst half of football" he had seen during his eight years at Lehigh.

His mood hadn't brightened much by day's end, but he could still smile, because the silver lining could be that Lehigh had learned a lesson without losing a game.

His 13th-ranked Mountain Hawks hung on to beat VMI 28-26 Saturday before a Homecoming crowd of 6,524 at Alumni Memorial Field.

Few Mountain Hawks victories have ever been greeted with as little celebration.

"I'm real disappointed," Lembo said. "It wasn't pretty on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We showed glimpses of being the kind of team we can be, and then we seemed to fall apart again with some incredible miscues."

"We found a way to win a game that we probably didn't deserve to win," Lembo said...
VMI quarterback Jonathan Wilson agreed.

"They turned the ball over so many times, they gave us so many opportunities, the defense got us good field position and we'd get to the red zone and couldn't do anything with it," Wilson said. "We know we should have won the ball game."

"If we play this way again next week, we're going to get blown out," Lembo said.

"Obviously, we didn't play our best football, but we're not going to walk around with frowns," Borda said. "When we get home and look at this game film, we'll all realize we have tons and tons of work to do. We won today, but we have a long road ahead of us."

[Coach Lembo did have some praise:] "We came out and ran the ball well and ran it when we needed to,'' he said. ''I was pleased how well we were able to control the line of scrimmage in the run game. And there were certainly times when we stepped up and made plays on defense and on special teams. There were glimpses of the type of team I think we can be.''

Rath chalked it up as another learning experience, and, fortunately, this gridiron classroom didn't require a loss as tuition payment.

"We're disappointed," he said. "We got the 'W' but as a player at Lehigh, sometimes the 'W' isn't enough. We had a lot of miscues.

"We want to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the Patriot League and we didn't show that today," Rath said. "The good thing about football is that there's next weekend. That's what we're going to look forward to.

"The first couple of weeks we opened up the offense and threw it around a lot," Rath said. "We have talented receivers, a good quarterback and a line that pass protects well.

"Today, we ran it more and the offensive linemen did an outstanding job. The linemen were calling for more running plays in the huddle and as a tailback, you love to hear that. Plus, Greg Fay had one of the best days since he has been at Lehigh and he's on his way to becoming one of the best fullbacks in the Patriot League."

In addition to making several lead blocks, Fay, a senior from Jackson, Tenn., ran twice for 13 yards and caught three passes for another 23 yards.

"I was in the right place at the right time," said Austin, a junior strong safety who also scored Lehigh's first touchdown with a 34-yard fumble return. "Give the credit to [linebacker] Matt Purdy because he made the hit to pop the ball free and I was just there to catch it."

[VMI QB Jonathan] Wilson looked to Price again in the middle of the field [on the game's last drive], but the ball was high and tipped off Price's fingertips and into the arms of Lehigh's Julian Austin.

"I should have took it myself or thrown it in the dirt and we could've set up a field goal," Wilson said. "I saw [WR Greg Price] for a second and I thought I could take it.

"I made the wrong decision throwing the ball."

"We have yet to play a complete game," junior strong safety Julian Austin said. "We have a lot of work to do. We know we played poorly, and it could have cost us a win [at VMI]. But fortunately, it didn't. Now we have to go back and work to get better."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A thought on Lehigh/VMI; My Annual Tribute

Something from my press roundup from Friday really resonated with me after some reflection on yesterday's lo.... I mean, win.

"I've been telling our guys for two weeks that whether you're playing Army, Navy, Air Force, the Merchant Marine Academy, Coast Guard or any of the service academics, it's different," Lembo said. ''What these guys do from 3 to 6 daily at practice or from 1 to 4 on Saturday game days may seem like vacation to them. It's the easy part of their day.

"So, you know they are going to be very passionate, very physical and they will play you to the final whistle whether they're up 14 or down 14. Our guys need to understand that and respond."

It's redundant that the Lehigh players didn't totally understand this. But what really needs to be emphasized that the rest of of the teams on the schedule are going to be the same way. The target is on our backs now. Always. We were fortunate to get a win, and every game from here on in, against Ivy or Patriot opponents, is going to require 60 minutes of football. The funny thing is, this was evident on Wednesday.

Learn the lesson. Move on.

I wanted to take this time to make a special tribute to my wife. September 25th holds a very special day for us. It's the anniversary of the day we met at a Lehigh football game.

On September 25, 1999, the first ever night game at Palmer field, that Kim and I met for the first time, wandering amongst the the dark trees on Princeton's campus looking for the stadium.It was a picture-perfect night for football. Single and carefree, I had somehow convinced my friend Matt to go to the first night game at Palmer Stadium in Princeton with me after he had come back from the Yankee game earlier that day. I drove down from Connecticut to meet him in central New Jersey to pick him up. That day the Yankee game fatefully had run late, and we got going late to the game. So we found ourselves wandering around the Princeton campus after dark, with the game in the end of the first quarter.

And that's where we met Kim and her friend. Kim wasn't even a Princeton alumna, nor had she ever seen a I-AA football game before that day. She had been volunteering for the Red Cross and was helping recovery efforts from Hurricane Floyd that had passed through earlier that week. (Seems like a stiff rain compared to Katrina and Rita now, but I digress.) She got a bunch of complimentary tickets from the Red Cross, and at the last minute decided to go to the game.

We bumped into each other struggling to find the biggest landmark on campus. She and her friend needed help finding the stadium, which we eventually found. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Think Kim realized at the time that her future husband would then expose her to many more Lehigh football games -- Lehigh/Lafayette, Lehigh/Colgate, and the thrills of I-AA playoff games? Much less having him spend his precious spare time writing a weblog about the experiences. Not to mention

Although we're disappointed that Lehigh doesn't play Princeton this year, now that we're married and looking back on the day, it's incredible that it's been 6 years to the day since we met there, and that we've been through so much in that time - moving several times, changing jobs, getting married, having a family. And it's great that through these years, we look back at the day, and Lehigh games, as a very special time and place in our lives.
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