Saturday, October 22, 2005
I've got to run now, but I'll have a complete update tomorrow. Colgate's defeat of Holy Cross given Lehigh a chance to get at least a co-Patriot League championship again this year. The Colgate game next week, as always, will be a huge game and a huge test.
As for the A-10 and Big Sky, it's best to just let the dust settle this week and see where everything ends up.
Here's my weekly predictions of other games this week.
Fordham at Georgetown. Winless Fordham will be playing their sixth road game in seven games this week, while the "surprising" 3-5 Hoyas will be trying for their first 2-win Patriot League season in their history. Call it a hunch, but I think Fordham pulls it together and gets just enough offense to win this. Fordham 17, G'Town 14.
Colgate at Holy Cross. The biggest Patriot League game of the week. How to break this down? The Crusaders don't turn over the ball, don't get penalized, and gain huge chunks of yards on offense. Colgate has been up-and-down, have a few great talents on offense and defense, and are very hard to figure. If the Raiders don't turn over the ball, they will win. Unfortunately, I think they will, and Holy Cross will take a huge step towards the title. (Hope I'm wrong.) HC 19, Colgate 16.
I-AA Top 25:
#1 Western Kentucky at Western Illinois. I'm done taking Western Illinois the rest of the year. (Which means, of course, you should pick the upset here.) WKU 38, WIU 13.
#2 Cal Poly at #10 Montana. The 'Stangs will show the world just how weak the Griz are this year - in their own house, no less. Cal Poly 35, Montana 6.
Elon at #3 Furman. Furman is way way overdue for an easy win, and they finally get one. Furman 34, Elon 17.
Northeastern at #4 New Hampshire. Although anything can happen in the Atlantic 10, as I'm rapidly discovering, the Wildcats at home should be too tough. UNH 44, N'Eastern 20.
Weber St. at #5 Eastern Washington. Everyone tells me Weber St. is not a bad team, but I don't believe it. EWU 49, Weber St. 13.
#6 UMass at Maine. Anything can happen, and this theoretically could be a letdown game... but I don't see an upset here. UMass 27, Maine 7.
#18 Northwestern St. at #7 Texas St. The Bobcats' first real test of the year against the well-tested Demons. I smell the Demons scalping the Bobcats here big-time. N'Western St. 28, Texas St. 10.
#23 South Carolina St. at #8 Hampton. In effect the MEAC championship game, you've got to believe that the undefeated Pirates are no fluke, and will be playing with something to prove. The Pirates in a blowout. Hampton 49, SC St. 10.
#9 James Madison at Delaware. Beware Delaware with their backs against the wall, at home, with plenty to prove. Delaware 31, James Madison 28.
Towson at #11 William & Mary. Towson may be better, but beating the Tribe in their house is something else altogether. W&M 45, Towson 17.
#12 Appalachian St. at Wofford. Call this wishful thinking if you want, but I think the Terriers spring the surprising upset here. Wofford 21, App St. 20.
#13 Northern Iowa at #25 Illinois St. This should be a playoff elimination game for both squads, though, with three losses, the Redbirds are on the brink anyway. The Redbirds seem to have a lot of fight in them, and if anyone can make that big run for the playoffs, it's them. I see them getting by the Panthers in an instant classic. ISU 35, UNI 34.
#14 Southern Illinois at Indiana St. This one, however, will not be an instant classic, with a mad Saluki team fighting for respect. SIU 44, ISU 17.
Missouri St. at #15 Youngstown St. The Bears are acutally not as bad a team as initally advertised, so I predict a closer game than expected in the Ice palace. I see a Penguin win, though. YSU 28, MSU 24.
UC-Davis at #16 North Dakota St. Though the Aggies are banged up, so are the Bison, and I'm looking at a low-scoring close affair, with the Bison on top. NDSU 14, UCD 13.
#19 Coastal Carolina at Liberty. The Flames, struggling mightily, don't seem to have the horses to pull off the upset. CCU 37, Liberty 7.
#20 McNeese St. at Southeastern Louisiana. Every week I pick the Lions, and every week they disappoint. No more. MSU 49, SeLa 0.
#22 Hofstra at Richmond. Richmond's title hopes end here. Hofstra 49, Richmond 31.
Northern Arizona at #24 Portland St. Nah. PSU 51, NAU 10.
No live blog updates today. If you want to the live audio commentary online, I'd suggest going to lehighsports.com to listen to the live play-by-play. Go Lehigh! I will still write my nightly wrap-up later tonight.
Friday, October 21, 2005
If you've listened to the Lehigh pregame press conference (reg'n and $$ required), you would have seen coach Lembo and two receivers who caught the biggest passes last week, junior TE Pete Morelli and senior WR Kevin Zeblium. But it seemed like all they were asked about was Sedale. It's also reflected in the press roundup this week.
Sedale is a sophomore. He's being asked to run one of the most complicated offenses in I-AA, and it simply takes time to take it all in. He's clearly a football talent; he seems like a good leader and seems like a great QB - in practice. Bucknell will be his first test as a starter. He is unproven, and entering the long shadow of Mark Borda. This will not be easy for Sedale.
I think it's fair to say that he'll be running a slimmed-down offense this week. He'll be learning on the fly. He will make some mistakes. He has a lot of potential, but I don't care who you are - if you've spent only a year studying the Lehigh offense, it's not going to be the same.
Here's a deal. If Threatt wins Patriot League Offensive player of the Week next week, with at least 300 yards passing and four scores, I will be more than happy to christen Sedale with the nickname "The Total Package" Threatt. But personally, my expectations are lower. I'd be happy with progress in running the offense, a minimal amount of mistakes, and - of course - a "W".
I'm starting a new feature in the blog: "What You Didn't Read". It's that nugget of information that you won't get in the press reports, but something that I feel is significant to next week's game.
Coach Lembo: "[Bucknell QB] Dante Ross is probably one of the two best athletes in our conference, and he's done some significant damage as a kickoff and punt returner... He's the key. You can see this guy is getting better and better every week, and they are doing more and more with him. The slot option is already a challenge, and when you've got a guy with 4.4 speed [running it], it poses a bigger challenge."
Allentown Morning Call:
Threatt Era About To Commence
Threatt Cramming For First Start at QB
Brown & White:
Hawks Bring New Threatt to Bucknell
Bucknell's Lachman Still Looking For Answers
"In terms of Sedale, he's a real fiery player," said Borda, who underwent successful surgery Monday and expects to be out of action for eight weeks. "He can motivate people. He's more than capable. He has been a great personality on our football team, [and] his enthusiasm is contagious."
"In that overtime period, he rallied the team," said [Mark] Borda, whose precision and poise made Lehigh the nation's 24th-rated passing offense and No. 30 in passing efficiency. "He gained a lot of players' confidence in doing that."
"I had to step up," Threatt said. "They needed me. We got the job done."
Threatt will look to Borda for guidance as he tries to guide the Hawks into the playoffs. “Mark and I are good friends,” Threatt said. “He’s always helped me with my game. I will definitely need him even more now that I’m in the position I’m in.”
"We've dealt with our share [of injuries] over the last five years," Lembo said. "The 2004 season was the first time in my head coaching career that we made it through the whole season without a quarterback injury. So, while I hate to see it happen, it's something I'm very used to and we don't approach any day any differently. If we lost a starting linebacker, a corner or a guard, we'd keep moving forward the next day and we'll do the same thing with a new quarterback."
"We won't expect him to run the offense the way Mark did," Lembo said. "We'll try to put a game plan together that we feel he can manage. His knowledge right now is not where it will be down the road because he's a very bright kid, but he certainly put in a lot of time during the summer. He really made an exponential jump from the end of spring ball to the end of the preseason camp. Although he obviously lacks game experience, he has confidence, a strong arm and excellent athleticism.
"All three of our backups were quality, committed guys with ability, but we felt like Sedale had made significant progress on his own and during preseason camp. I'd like to think the vast majority of our team would agree with that."
“There is no added pressure because of who my father is,” Threatt said. “I’m walking my own path. I want to succeed for myself and the people that have supported me throughout my life.”
“The key to winning this weekend is staying focused,” Threatt said. “We just need to play a one-week season every weekend.”
"I'm going to take it a snap at a time, a game at a time," Threatt said. "There's going to be more time in the film room, more studying. We're going to do what we have to do to be where we want to be in the future."
Lembo said to win this weekend the team will need to play “sound defense, protect the football on offense and have strong special teams play.” Lembo also praised the play of sophomore DB Julian Ahye: “Despite his modest size, Julian is a good cover corner due to his speed, athleticism and instincts.”
Senior LB Jim Lachman missed a tackle during Bucknell’s 53-7 debacle at Penn two weeks ago at Franklin Field. The result of that play was a touchdown run by Quakers backup tailback Kyle Ambrogi. But he doesn’t plan on losing any sleep over it.
That’s because the 21-year-old will be too busy trying to figure out how he could have prevented Ambrogi, his close friend since junior high school, from committing suicide less than two days later. Almost two weeks later, there still are more questions than answers.
"I came back (to Bucknell) hesitantly that Monday," Lachman recalled. "I had to get some work done. I got back at 9 a.m. By 11 o’clock, my phone started ringing. I thought it was a joke."
Lachman and his childhood friends haven’t laughed much the last two weeks. They continue to search for answers as they find solace in sharing many of the stories that made Ambrogi a good friend. ... and the last guy to be fighting a losing battle with depression.
"He always was the most positive guy," Lachman said. "He’s one of the most unique people I’ve ever met. He never seemed to get down. He had everything going for him."
Lachman debated about playing the following week in Bucknell’s 38-10 loss to Villanova, but followed Ambrogi’s Penn teammates, including Kyle’s younger brother, Greg, in honoring their late friend by playing the one game Kyle loved more than any other.
Lachman didn’t play the best game of his career. He made four tackles. But he’d trade all of his 33 tackles this season and those from every season he’s put on the helmet and shoulder pads to make the one that mattered most. He wishes he could have been there to stop Ambrogi from taking his life and leaving those around him with just memories of a great friend.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Bucknell's season has been one of deep disappointment. Even with sophomore QB Terance Wilson projected to start, the Bison were expected to be a Patriot League title contender this year. However, Wilson and former all-league FB Blamah Sarnor got hurt in the first game of the year as Bucknell lost to Georgetown 19-16, and a litany of other injuries have seen the Bison limp to a 1-5 start to the year. The injuries have indeed been staggering - QB, P, WR, offensive line - Bucknell head coach Tim Landis has had to be a magician to take care of them all.
Despite their struggles, beating Lehigh would make the Bison's season. They have a lot of talented players, especially on defense. They still have pre-season defensive player of the year Sean Conover on their talented defensive line. Our sophomore QB Sedale Threatt will be starting for the first time in his college career against this tough line, and it will be interesting to see how he responds. How Threatt plays in this game will determine what sort of expectations we should have for the rest of the year.
There will be no TV feed for this game, but you will be able to follow on the radio on ESPN 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley. As always, you can follow the audio feed on Yahoo! Sports (reg'n and $$ required). I am covering the Yale/Penn game at 3:30 on Saturday, so I will probably listen to the first half and only do limited blogging. After my day, I'll probably listen to the highlights online.
When in doubt, you can always go to lehighsports.com to get the latest broadcast information; plus, there are links to broadcasts of Lehigh Sports magazine, the Wednesday press conferences, and the audio (and, when applicable, video) feeds of the games! Obviously I am a subscriber and I love it!
Lehigh Injury Report
Senior QB Mark Borda (Ankle, Out)
Senior WR Adam Kovacs (Hip, Questionable)
Junior DB Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Senior LB Anthony Graziani (Shoulder, Questionable)
Junior DB Calvin LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Freshman DB Jarvis Lewis (Groin, Questionable)
We all know that Borda will not be playing any more Patriot League games this year, and sophomore QB Sedale Threatt will be the starter going into this week's game. Elder is still out, and junior SS Julian Austin will continue to start. Some of those 'questionable' injuries are also a cause for concern. Kovacs' position should be filled by senior WR Aaron Argenta if he's unable to go. Junior LB Micah Greene would fill in for "Graz", and one of last week's stars in sophomore DB Julian Ahye would continue to be the backup corner. Something to keep an eye on this week is Greene's play in the middle should "Graz" be unavailable.
A Little About Bucknell
If you look on Yahoo!'s stats page for Bucknell, you will see something I guarantee you will not see for any other school in Division I. That is: you'll see senior QB/DB Dante Ross in every statistical category. He has: completed passes, rushed, been a receiver, returned kicks, punted, and scored an interception. (If I'm Tim Landis, I'd consider trotting him out for an extra-point and FG attempt, and go for some sort of record!)
The Bison have not beaten Lehigh since 1997, which, not coincidentally, was the last time Lehigh had a losing record in football. Lehigh has played Bucknell every year since 1950, and the Moutain Hawks enjoy a 36-29-3 series lead on the Bison. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, these games had Patriot League championship connotations seemingly every year. Although difficult to fathom now, with Lehigh being so dominant in the league over the last ten years, the games against Bucknell were more highly regarded that the games against "weak sister" Colgate.
Bucknell coach Tim Landis runs the triple-option offense, which coach Lembo has said is very difficult to prepare for in one week's time. In a nutshell, it is a predominantly a running set using 2 wideouts, 1 fullback, 2 "slotbacks" that play RB or TE, and the QB as a rushing threat. So, get ready to hear "Dante Ross, 2 yard gain" on Saturday.
Superman senior QB/DB Dante Ross became the QB when injuries forced him in the starting QB role against Marist three weeks ago, and Landis chose to put his most athletic player in the QB position. He responded with the Bison's only win of the year.
Ross' biggest asset is his speed to the outside. At 5'8 and 164 lbs, he should be the quickest player on the field, which could make him difficult to tackle if he gets free of the front seven. On the minus side, he is extremely short for a QB and will be giving up a full 6 inches to his linemen, which should mean not many passing opportunities for Bucknell in the middle of the field. He has not been an extremely accurate passer up to this point either, going 9-for-21 on the year. 6 of his 9 completions did come against Villanova, however, so we can expect more designed passing for Ross.
The other backs in the triple-option offense have been somewhat of a disappointment with senior FB Blamah Sarnor's injury. Last week the primary non-Dante ballcarriers were sophomore FB Josh DiStefano and junior RB Kenny Davis, but both combined are averaging less than 50 yards rushing a game, with no TDs. They are little better receiving the ball, with only 100 total yards combined receiving. The third slotback is junior Peter Kaufman, who appears to primarily be a blocker.
The receiving corps are hard to judge with so few pass attempts, but the Bison's prime receiving threat is junior WR Richard Simpson, with 100 yards receiving this year with a TD. A freshman starts on the other side in WR Zach Allen, who caught his first two career passes last week.
To add to Bucknell's injury worries is the fact that their "O" line, in my opinion, is extremely undersized. Sophomore LT Chad Glasser is the largest lineman at 6'2 and 268 lbs, and with such a short QB in Ross, they hae extra challenges to open passing lanes for him as well.
Bucknell plays a 4-4-3 defense that is designed to stop the run. With the strength of Bucknell being their talented defensive line, this makes it a challenge to offensive coordinators to establish the run against them, and their strange formation makes it difficult to prepare for them. On the other hand, it requires fast and speedy defenders to cover the pass, with only one safety deep and underneath.
The best "D" lineman is preseason defensive Player of the Year, senior DE Sean Conover. At 6'5 and 270 lbs, at the beginning of the year he was a legitimate pro prospect. It's a bit misleading to look at his stats - 27 tackles, and 2 1/2 sacks - to judge him as a player. He's good enough to require near-constant double-teaming.
The linebacking corps has two defensive standouts in sophomore LB Ryan Slater and junior LB Dorian Petersen. Slater, with 52 tackles and a forced fumble, and Peterson, with 51 tackles and 2 interceptions, feature a solid tackling unit and anchor a very solid front eight.
Ross was considered one of Bucknell's best defensive players when he switched to offense, leaving a large void in the defensive backfield. That forced several freshmen and sophomores to start, showing some inexperience in that position. The "old man" in the backfield is now junior CB David Frisbey, with one interception and 34 tackles on the year.
Special Teams Breakdown
It's no secret that KR Dante Ross - where have I heard that name before? - is a huge threat on special teams, with 451 punt and kick return yards on the year. But with freshman P Phil Azarik out with mono, junior Matt DeMartino and Ross have also filled in as punter as well. Starting at K this year has been freshman K Will Carney, who already has a 42 yard FG to his credit, so he has a good leg. (Don't be surprised to see Ross kicking by the end of the year - it's probably the only position he hasn't played for the Bison in his career.)
Keys to the Game
1.Spreading the "D". With our large front four linemen, and the underneath passing game less of an option, I'm thinking that man-to-man on the receivers with linebackers covering the outside runs could force the Bison to run in-between the tackles. That could mean a big day for Lehigh's defense.
2.Deep passing. In my mind, the way to beat an eight-man front is to burn people deep. With youth and inexperience in their secondary, I'd like to see "G" Walker burn them for some long gains. It will be interesting to see Threatt's arm, and how he connects to the senior receivers.
3.Punt and kickoff containment. Lehigh's containment units have been one of the Mountain Hawks' biggest problem spots this year, with many penalties and one killer return for a TD. You cannot let Ross break one for a TD this week.
4.Statement. Every game from this point forward is a statement to the rest of the league. Can you beat us? A VMI-like effort gives the signal to Colgate and Lafayette that "we're beatable". We need another effort that says, "We're still the top dog in this conference, and we're going to prove it today."
We've been waiting to see the dominating Lehigh team come out for weeks now. Even this year's best win against Harvard has seen mental errors and mistakes. When will we see the real potential this Lehigh squad possesses? Hopefully this week, even with the inexperienced greenhorn Threatt at QB. I don't expect too much from Threatt in his first collegiate game, but I do expect a "W".
Lehigh 27, Bucknell 10
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
New poll on your right, there. And Lehigh still is hanging around at #21 across the board in The Sports Network poll (umm, how did we lose a spot to McNeese St. and South Carolina St.?) and in the Any Given Saturday poll. Although we're currently hanging outside the Top 20, I am confident that Lehigh will be in that sweet spot of #10 to #16 if Lehigh wins all of their games.
Finally, let's take a look at that digest of press clippings from the Yale game.
After starting quarterback Mark Borda went out with a fractured fibula that is likely to end his season and career with 7:54 left in the fourth quarter and Lehigh trailing Yale 21-13, Threatt rescued the Mountain Hawks.
He threw a touchdown pass to fullback Greg Fay and tossed to tight end Pete Morelli for a two-point conversion to tie the game with 4:42 to go in regulation.
"We made all the plays in the first half and the first drive of the third quarter, and then we didn’t make another one the rest of the game," Yale coach Jack Siedlecki said. "We didn’t run the ball at all, which eventually allowed them to really come after us, and we had to pass it virtually every play. We weren’t able to do what we did the first 40 minutes of the game."
"We didn’t execute," [Yale QB Jeff] Mroz said. "This is a game we definitely should have won. That’s a very good football team, but that means we’re a very good football team, too. We played our tails off. We did everything we needed to do to win, except for the last 20 minutes. We had them on the ropes and we didn’t finish it ... We didn’t put them away."
"Games like this make you proud of the effort, but age you exponentially. This was a character win," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "It's days like this that you really appreciate the kind of people you've got around you."
"When you talk about Mark and how much adversity he's overcome," Lembo said, "it's only appropriate with him in mind that we found a way to win this game. He really led the comeback. Sedale finished it, which was neat."
Concerning Borda's injury, "It's the same injury I had that ended my senior year in college," Lembo said via phone late Saturday night after spending more than an hour at Borda's home after leaving Goodman Stadium. "He will likely have surgery on Monday. Mark's still in a bit of shock, but told me he was listening to the game and was excited that we won.
"As Mark always has, he's handling himself extremely well. He's in good spirits. He's still one of our captains, and Mark will do a great job from a leadership standpoint. I know he'll continue to excel in that role."
"You love all of your kids, but this is an especially tough loss because he's such a great kid who has overcome so much in his life. Make no mistake, he will continue to be part of this football team. It's still his team."
"The play he was injured on was a typical Mark Borda play, trying to get the extra yard, trying to be a leader and a tough player," Lembo said.
"You never want to see one of your leaders go down," Threatt said. "Especially a captain and someone who has meant so much to the program over the past two years the way Mark has."
"I look up to our seniors; they're our leaders, and, to a degree, this is their team," Threatt said. "This is their last ride. When I'm a senior, I'm going to want the freshmen and sophomores to step their game up to help our last ride. [The seniors] paid the price. They sell themselves out every day. They break bones, they bleed, they sweat and encourage us to become better players."
"Our slogan is 'NOW — no opportunity wasted' and this was my opportunity, even though it was unfortunate Mark had to go down, and there was no time to waste it," said Threatt, a son of the ex-NBA basketball player by the same name.
"Of all the kids on the team, I'm probably the hardest on the backup quarterback at practice," Lembo said. "When we talk about a sense of urgency and about being one play away from getting in a game, it applies the most to the backup quarterback position. So, I've been hard on Sedale because of that. But I also know he has strong character and I know he can take it. Some other guys can't."
"Oh yeah, he's tough," Threatt said. "Me and coach talk every now and then."
But that comment made Lembo laugh at Saturday's postgame press conference. "Sedale, who are you kidding, you're [the one] talking all of the time," Lembo said. "You are a case in point for our open-door policy."
Lembo then added, "From the minute he got here, he's been a great personality for our football team. He is very outgoing and you always know what's on his mind. His enthusiasm is contagious."
"Once I saw Sedale in the game making plays, I knew I had to match him," [sophomore DB Julian] Ahye said. "No opportunities wasted. I'm trying to take that to heart. I want to make a play. I want to see the Lehigh crowd go wild, not the opposing crowd."
“The defense in the fourth was clutch,” said senior captain and defensive back Kaloma Cardwell. “We couldn't afford to give up any more points. We just did what we had to do to get the ball back to the offense and give our team a chance to win.”
"We still have a long way to go," Lembo said. "We have to get a lot better in all three phases of the game, but at least I know our guys will battle."
Monday, October 17, 2005
For sure, it's a bit of a bittersweet win. Mark Borda, with a fractured right leg, is done for the year. His best was on display in the 2-3 drives in the second half where he did a great job executing the gameplan, and I saw the replay yesterday on the play where he got injured. It looked like a freakish play, just the Yale defender almost slid into his ankle area. Without Borda's gutty drives yesterday, Lehigh would have lost - period - and for that reason, senior QB Mark Borda will be getting a well-deserved game ball.
But that's not all for game balls this Saturday. Sophomore QB Sedale Threatt was perfect in relief of the injured Borda. 5-for-5, with 11 yard rushing and 17 yards passing may not sound like much, but every yard was huge in the win on Saturday. His great finish earns him a game ball as well.
On defense, there's no question sophomore DB Julian Ahye gets a game ball, but lest an all-league player and two-time defensive captain be overlooked, senior FS Kaloma Cardwell is getting a game ball too. It was awful tempting to give them to the whole secondary - junior SS Julian Austin, junior CB Brannan Thomas, and senior DB Drew Nelson, who really came up huge down the stretch. But Ahye and Cardwell stand out, especially in the OT stop that sealed the game. Ahye had 2 huge tipped passes to go with an interception and 9 tackles, and Cardwell, along with his 11 tackles and his own interception, did the little things that go unnoticed in the box score but are keys to the victory, like cheating up and forcing Yale's QB Dave Mroz to hurry the ball, and slamming Yale's run support.
On special teams, it's no contest - freshman P Jason Leo gets the game ball. On a game where execution was lacking in special teams, Leo had a great day kicking the ball, just like he mostly did versus Holy Cross the week before. 4 punts inside the 20 helped pin Yale deep and kept Yale's offense in check for a good portion of the game.
Overall, you have to admire Lehigh's resolve yesterday in pulling out a game that they needed to have. I've been reading the comments here - fans are raving about the gutty win. It's a huge morale booster going into the Bucknell game at Lewisburg this coming Saturday.
I've got to get this blog post out, so I won't round up the digest of all the press clippings until tomorrow. But see below all the links of the the press writeups of the game. Tune in tomorrow for more!
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Wins Game, But Loses Borda
Threatt a Treat At Press Conference
Threatt to Rescue for Borda, Lehigh
Lehigh Brown & White:
Hawks Come Back in Overtime Win
New Haven Register:
Deja Vu: Yale Blows Lead, Falls To Lehigh