Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lehigh 50, Colgate 34, final

What a great win by Lehigh. Play of the game: Nelson's interception return for a TD. But there's a lot of heroes to go around. The "O" line impressed me a lot again this week, and I think I may be throwing them another game ball with their gutty performance.

Ultimately, the game came down to turnovers. 2 early turnovers led to 6 vital Lehigh points in the first half, and 2 TDs in the second half (if not 3 TDs) were the result of Colgate's turnovers. 20 points off of turnovers will be the difference in any game. Credit to the secondary to create huge turnovers to get us the "W".

Special teams were awesome. Forget Musiek's extra point, he was awesome going 3-for-3 on FG. I also can'f forget the booming punts by Leo, and the Raiders were not able to make any hay on special teams. An outstanding performance.

Colgate's performance was very solid, to their immense credit. I was worried immensely about this game all week. I was also worried about this game as it was going on, and I was really concerned when Colgate went up 34-30 early in the 3rd. Colgate is a great team, and they deserve a huge amount of credit for a balanced offensive attack that gave us fits.

Something to think about. Lehigh has never scored 50 points in Hamilton. Ever. Lehigh has never won by 16 points in Hamilton. Ever. No "Curse of Engine 13" this year. The ghost train is roaring back to Lehigh with the cup in hand.

What a win! Look for the cup on my website soon!

Lehigh 43, Colgate 34, mid-4th

OH BABY!!!!! INTERCEPTION FOR TD!!!! WOW!!!!!

Lehigh 27, Colgate 27, halftime

What a half! I couldn't blog fast enough to keep up with all the action.

Crucial to this game may be the Colgate turnovers that led to 6 Lehigh points - and directly caused this game to be tied at half.

Got to give credit to both offenses, who have done an incredible job moving the football against two great defenses. For my part, I'm hoping the Lehigh "D" can do a better job in the second half, especially against the run. Scott is close to 100 yards already - when was the last time anyone did that against Lehigh? Maybe JMU - and Saraceno is also doing great rushing the ball too.

Threatt again is playing like an upperclassman. His rushes are something to watch - and we have him for two more years. I'm lovin' that! He's been great triggerman so far this game. I'd be remiss in not praising the "O" line as well, who have driven Colgate back on several key offensive downs this game.

It's a barn burner. I maintain that this favors Lehigh. Let's hope this is the case. I want that "Engine 13" trophy on this blog! Go Lehigh!

Lehigh 24, Colgate 21, mid-2nd

Lehigh gets another gutty TD by Eric Rath. 2 TDs for him tody against one of the top rushing defenses in all of Division I. Awesome!

The Lehigh "D" needs to step up further.

Lehigh 17, Colgate 14 late 1st quarter

I said Lehigh would need 28 points in the game to beat Colgate. It looks quite possible that Lehigh may have that by the end of the first half.

Penalties have killed Colgate. After taking a 14-7 lead, giving us the same gift we gave them on a kickoff - catch interference on a short kick - Threatt played like a senior with huge 33 yard gain. Rath then punched it in for a 14-14 tie. Then, a big Raider turnover off of an option play became 3 points for Lehigh. Let's hope that's the difference.

What a great 1st quarter so far. Is this what's in store for Lehigh today? I think a barn-burner favors Lehigh - by a long shot.

Predictions of Other Games

Hard to believe there's any other game this week than Lehigh/Colgate, eh? I'll try to get through this quickly so we can focus on the big game of the week. I neglected to mention how you can listen to Lehigh broadcasts of the game today in the manuscript I've written earlier today. Here's the information:

TV:
Channel 69, WFMZ (Lehigh Valley)
Fox College Sports Atlantic
Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh
DirecTV 628
Lehighsports.com

Radio:
AM 1230/1320 ESPN Radio
Lehighsports.com

Predictions:

Patriot League:
Holy Cross at Fordham.
A mad Crusaders team isn't exactly a great recipie for a struggling team, even at home. HC 49, Fordham 10.

Bucknell at Lafayette.
The #1 defense in the Patriot League has another great shot at a shutout. Lafayette 20, Bucknell 0.

I-AA Top 25:
#3 New Hampshire at #4 UMass.
This could very well decide the A-10 title, and UNH looks to me to be able to punish the Minutemen. UNH 56, UMass 17.

#5 Texas St. at Nicholls St. The Colonels may be tough at home, but Texas St. to me looks to be tougher. Texas St. 28, Nicholls St. 21.

#15 Portland St. at #6 Montana. An intriguing matchup that has Big Sky championship implications. It's hard to win in Missoula - and even though this type of game has burnt me all year - I'm still making the trendy pick of the Vikings. PSU 35, Montana 31.

UT-Chattanooga at #7 Appalachian St. Coming into Boone with a controversy is not the right way to snag the upset. App St. 33, UT-C 7.

#8 William & Mary at Villanova
. 'Nova is struggling mightily this year, and it's hard to picture the Wildcats helping the rest of the at-large hopefuls around I-AA. W&M 44, 'Nova 14.

#10 Cal Poly at #22 UC-Davis. With key injuries for the Mustangs, this "Battle for the 'Shoe" rivalry game could be a major help for the rest of I-AA at-large hopefuls. I'm giving it to the Aggies. UC-D 31, Cal Poly 21.

#11 Youngstown St. at #21 Northern Iowa. The Panthers are reeling, and the Penguins are on the rise. This may bite me again, but I'm taking the visiting Penguins. YSU 31, NIU 17.

#13 Eastern Washington at Sacramento St. The Hornets are getting the Eagles angry and determined - a bad combination. EWU 49, Sac St. 17.

Northern Arizona at #14 Montana St. No letdown here. MSU 37, NAU 10.

Western Illinois at #17 Illinois St. The hottest team in I-AA will continue their roll into the playoffs. ISU 41, WIU 10.

Richmond at #18 James Madison. Richmond, incredibly, is the second-hottest team in I-AA right now, and the Dukes look to be eliminated, in effect, from the post-season today. Richmond 27, JMU 24.

VMI at #19 Coastal Carolina. The Keydets will be the toughest divisional foe Coastal will play this year. I've got to beleive that VMI will get the "double" - make Lehigh's out-of-conference schedule look good and give Coastal a "bad' loss for the I-AA at-large bid. VMI 28, CCU 26.

#20 Georgia Southern at South Dakota St. The Jackrabbits have overcome a slow start and are huge danger team for Georgia Southern. We'll learn a lot about them with this game - I'm betting that we're going to learn that they're not that good. SDSU 20, GSU 10.

#23 North Dakota St. at Southern Utah. The Bison, even after a long conference road trip, should have enough to win. NDSU 20, SUU 7.

#24 Penn at Brown. A great conference matchup that may determine the Ivy winner. Penn looked so strong last week, it's awfully hrd for me to pick against them. Penn 31, Brown 20.

Delaware St. at #25 South Carolina St. It's a must-win for the Bulldogs, but this won't be an easy matchup. I think they hang on to win. SCSU 23, Delaware St. 10.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Predictions; What You Didn't Read; Press Mashup

Don't miss the exclusive recently unearthed documents concerning the Lehigh/Colgate rivalry (right under this post) concerning the "Legend of Engine #13" - right below today's Press Roundup and predictions page.

First and foremost, let's look at some predictions around the internet about this week's game. Not really a lot of bulletin-board material here ,but the most prominent prediction comes from Matt Dougherty, picking Colgate:

Lafayette and Holy Cross are going to make the race interesting, but there isn’t a bigger game for conference title implications on a yearly basis in the Patriot League than Lehigh-Colgate... Without starting quarterback Mark Borda, that task will be difficult for the Brown and White. Sophomore Sedale Threatt did lead the Mountain Hawks to a comeback win against Yale and a pasting of awful Buck
nell, but he hasn’t seen a defense like Colgate’s in his very brief career... Colgate’s defense will prove too tough for Threatt and the Mountain Hawks to handle... This time, Colgate ends Lehigh’s playoff hopes and moves to 3-0 in the Patriot League with a home win. Prediction: Colgate 20, Lehigh 17
As you might expect, colgate13 picks his favorite team as well on his blog. Here's the mash-up from this week's postings:

Boy, am I excited about this one! Whether you're a Lehigh fan or a Colgate fan, these games are always exciting and always have some great football to be seen. I don't think this year is any different. So strap on your seatbelts fans, it should be a hell of a ride...

The Colgate defense will need to continue its dominance in order for a win. [and the] Colgate offense will need to play its type of game: ball control, few penalties, Jordan Scott for a lot of yards and big time plays from receivers. We will also need to come away with more than field goals when we get down in the red zone. I think we need to score 24 to win this one in regulation.

Ultimately, of course, I think the home field, the Parent's Weekend crowd, the momentum we've built and the gravity of this game will all prove to produce the best performance we've seen all year from our Raiders... I expect this game to be very close, very exciting and somewhat unpredictable. I also expect Colgate to continue to roll after being counted out early in the season. Biddle leads his troops to victory in this one behind solid defense and timely offensive play.

Predicted outcome: Colgate 27 Lehigh 24

Boy, nobody gives Lehigh a chance in this game! Serious bulletin-board material for Lehigh! (Oh, yeah, oops, I'm including me in this as well.)

Here's what you didn't read in the press writeups of the game:

Coach Lembo: "Jordan Scott is an outstanding freshman tailback... Not only is he a very talented and durable player, because they're giving [the ball] to him for a lot of carries, but I think the system is such... that they are always very big and physical on their offensive and defensive lines, they always seem to have a big strong fullback, they always seem to have receivers that can block on the perimeter."

And here's the link to all the press writeups.

Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh Season On Line In Matchup At Colgate
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh's League and NCAA Aspirations On Line At Colgate
Brown & White:
Hawks Look To Sink Raiders
Utica Observer-Dispatch:
Nepa Leading Resurgent Raider Defense

Finally, the mash-up:

“Each year this is a very physical and emotional football game,” Head Coach Pete Lembo said. “However, like most games between strong rival programs, the team that makes the fewest mistakes typically wins.”

"It's a game that matters," Lembo said. "That's a real positive reflection on both programs. Late in the season, every year, when these two teams get together, there's a lot at stake. That's a real tribute to both programs and something we shouldn't take for granted."

“There is pressure on every guy who throws on that Lehigh jersey every Saturday to perform above and beyond their potential,” Threatt said. “I’m trying my best carry on the torch for Borda. Mark and the other guys in my position group, Kevin Marshall, Mike Probst and Steve Santos [graduate], all encourage me to take it a play at a time and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Senior wide receiver Gerran Walker said: “Not having Borda out there with us will be tough, but Sedale is more than capable of leading us,” Walker said.

“The key to the team’s success was preparation and execution,” Threatt said. "These two elements, I believe, are the key to all our success and downfalls. We were ready for Bucknell and we played a solid game to get the job done.”

"Colgate's very multiple, very pressure-oriented," Lembo said. "They'll give both zone and man blitzes.

"We went out and practiced in horrible conditions [Tuesday] because, hey, you know what, it could be like that on Saturday. You know all that going in and you have to play your best despite all of the uncontrollables. I'm proud of the way we've played up there the last two times."

"[Senior FB Greg Fay] really been an asset to the offense this year," Lembo said. "We're continuing to look for guys to work into the offense. It's nice to have another guy out there you can count on."

"As far as me being [an offensive] weapon," Fay said, "whatever my role is, I just do it as best I can. I just want to help this team win."

"It keeps us balanced, keeps the defense off the field," Thompson said of the ground game. "Our backs are against the wall... We prepare every game as if it's our last game."

"After one practice, he sent everyone in except the seniors and said: 'Don't mess up your senior season' — well, something like that," said Nepa, the Raiders' senior linebacker and co-captain. "We knew he was right. We don't want to be remembered as the team that lost."

"Jared's made some awful big plays for us," said Biddle, whose inside linebacker was named the Patriot League's Defensive Player of the Week after helping the Raiders hold Holy Cross to 22 yards rushing on Saturday in a 27-14 win. "And he makes a lot of good plays people don't notice."

"Defensively, I think we're playing 11 as 1 right now," Nepa said. "And offensively, our offense is keeping the ball and allowing us to focus on the other team instead of just resting on the sideline.

"Probably half to three-quarters of our games are decided in the fourth quarter, so we've got to just keep fighting and grinding."

"We're not where we can be yet, but we're getting there," Nepa said. "It's kind of reminiscent defensively of 2003, because I'm having fun on the field. You're not even playing for yourself, you're playing for all the rest of the guys.

"We're just waiting to hit on all cylinders this season, but we know it will be tough this week. We expect nothing less than a tight game."

One last note after this mash-up. Notice what Nepa said about "Half our games are decided in the 4th quarter". It could very well be the team that executes best in the 4th quarter wins the game. I sure hope it's Lehigh.

Can you tell I'm excited about tomorrow? GO LEHIGH!!!!!

The Legend of Engine #13

While digging into the legend that is rapidly becoming the Lehigh/Colgate Rivalry, I was talking with 13 (who runs The 13 Yard Line, Colgate's blog), who wanted to start "Blog Bowl I". It's a cup for the annual winner of the Lehigh/Colgate rivalry, and I agreed with him that it was a great idea! However, the only thing that was missing was the historical link; something to bond the schools on this Halloween weekend forever.

After doing a little digging in the archives, I was able to find the following document, just recently unearthed in an old dusty attic somewhere in Hellertown, and transcribed onto the internet by a little-known website called myfootballatticlegends.com. (Don't bother looking for it - just recently it's been taken down to make way for a new website about superhighways.)

Here's an excerpt of this rare, rare document:

"On a cold November day in 1922, Engine #13 of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR arrived in Binghamton with a 2-2-1 Lehigh team ready to play a 3-2 Colgate team in the first-ever meeting with the two schools. Colgate students saw that as a sign that their Indians would be able to handle Lehigh's Engineers with no problem - 13 is Colgate's lucky number, as Colgate was founded by '13 Men with 13 dollars and 13 prayers'. Colgate did indeed demolish Lehigh in their first-ever meeting, 37-6, and there's many a Colgate fan at the time who said that it was the good fortune of Lehigh coming in on Engine #13 that gave Colgate the victory.

"Legend has it after Lehigh boarded the train to return to Bethlehem after their sound defeat, Engine #13 broke down pulling out of the station in its last-ever trip, causing the Engineers to stay in Binghamton in a fierce snowstorm an extra day before catching the next train home. Lehigh coach "Tom" Keady was rumored to have said that the experience on Engine #13 rattled the players so much that they lost to Bucknell and to hated Lafayette to close the year, not scoring a single point in both games.

As a result of this experience, Lehigh didn't play Colgate again until much later, in 1960. Coach "Bill" Leckonby is rumored to have insisted on taking a bus up to Hamilton to play Colgate, not wanting to repeat the cursed experience of riding the train up to Binghamton once again.

"Sometimes, in late October, folks living along the old DL&W line have heard strange noises along the tracks. Rumor has it that it's old "Engine #13", running up the tracks on its final journey to Colgate - or is it finally making its return from Hamilton, finally with a Lehigh win?

Thus, a rivalry, and the "Engine 13 Cup", is born. Should Lehigh win, my blog will be festooned with a new cup symbolizing this new rivalry. Let's hope "Engine 13" will be returning to Lehigh this year with a Lehigh victory.

P.S. Any resemblance of these characters to actual persons or events is purely coincidental! (Also, any resemblance of this "Engine 13 Cup" to England's "FA Cup Trophy" is purely coincidental too, by the way.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"28's"

By all means, please read my game prediction below this posting you're reading now, but I wanted to add something today to this that I think is important.

The key to this game might be the number 28. No, not sophomore RB Richard Forman (though it would be really great if his special teams tackle, or TD catch, was the difference in the game). But the number 28 appears prominently when I'm trying to break down how Lehigh can win this game.

28... minutes of possession of the ball on offense.
28... points on the board.
28... carries for Eric Rath.
28... completions for Sedale Threatt.
28... x3 total rushing yards for Colgate (84).
28... total pass attempts by Colgate.
28... yard line, keeping Colgate behind Lehigh's 28 yard line.
28... yard line, pinning Colgate's opening drives behind their own 28 yard line.

Tune in tomorrow for the press roundup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Preview of Lehigh/Colgate

Every year, the Lehigh/Colgate game is circled on any Lehigh player's and fan's calendar. Every year it seems to have Patriot League title implications, and this year is no exception. In the past I called this game the "Patriot League Championship Game", and while this year it is clearly not that, it still is a vital game for championship hopes, especially Lehigh's. It has evolved into a huge rivalry game between like-minded institutions who are very similar athletically and academically.

When Colgate faces Lehigh, I am instantly carried back to my college days in the late '80s and early '90s, when there were classic NFL matchups between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. Both teams had world-class talent, and both had great defenses, but the Giants would have a more old-school, power running team, while the 49ers had the "West Coast Offense" with their vaunted passing attack.

Lehigh's and Colgate's football philosiphies also fall within this line. Both have class recruiting, great linemen, and overall great Patriot League athletes. Colgate's specialty has been great big quick RBs that get yards through the blocking of the massive "O" lines, while Lehigh's specialty has been developing outstanding QBs and WRs to trigger their wide-open passing game.

Over the past four tries, Hamilton, NY has not been kind to Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks have lost three of their last four games at Andy Kerr stadium, including a tough-fought 25-22 Hawk win in 2001, and a tough 17-10 Engineer defeat in 2003. In fact, overall Lehigh is 6-16 at Andy Kerr, while only twice winning by more than 14 points (the last time this happened was 1974).

If Lehigh pulls off the win in Hamilton, that would be a major feat in the face of history. If they win in Andy Kerr by more than 2 TDs, that would be a special feat unequalled in 30 years of Lehigh football. The questions on every Lehigh fan's mind should be - is this a team of history? Or will this be a team with yet another "AKO" on the record?

Lehigh Injury Report
Senior QB Mark Borda (Ankle, Out)
Junior DB Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Senior LB Anthony Graziani (Shoulder, Questionable)
Junior LB Chris LaMont (Illness, Questionable)
Junior DB Calvin LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Freshman DB Jarvis Lewis (Groin, Questionable)

As everyone should know, Borda will be in Hamilton as sophomore QB Sedale Threatt's QB coach. Elder's and Lewis' injuries we have known about. More worrisome is LB "Graz"'s and Chris LaMont's injuries. I have a really hard time picturing "Graz" not suiting up for a huge game like Colgate, but I don't know the full extent of his shoulder injury. And Chris LaMont, should he be unable to go, could pose a depth problem which would probably be filled by sophomore LB Rashaun Gasaway and maybe even freshman LB Tim Diamond. Hopefully "Graz" will be good enough to go on Saturday.

A Little About Colgate
If you look at Colgate's box scores this year, you'll notice something. In every game this year they have not only won the time-of-possession battle, they're routinely holding onto the football for a full 10 minutes longer then their opposition. Even in their losses this year they have done an outstanding job of holding onto the football and preventing the opposing offenses to take the field. They play a time-of-possession game; they play a game with few penalties; and they play a game with fewer turnovers than you. And they win.

Colgate had some surprising losses to Central Connecticut St. and Dartmouth early this year, but I'd get them out of your mind right now. Colgate lost those games themselves with 11 turnovers, including 2 that were returned for TDs. When Colgate has been allowed to play their game and they hold onto the football, they have dominated some teams that have played great football this year: 5-3 Holy Cross; 4-2 Princeton; and they handed #6 UMass in their only loss of the year.

Offensive Breakdown
Colgate has sturggled early in the season with an offense consisting of a lot of youth at the offensive skill positions, but has pulled it together extremely well of late. Just look at their 78% red zone conversion rate for proof. With the exception of 6th-year senior WR DeWayne Long, almost everyone in the skill positions didn't play much last year, if at all. This will be the most important game they've ever played as Raiders.

The triggerman who will be doing his best Phill Simms impersonation on Saturday is junior QB Mike Saraceno. If you throw out his unfortunate game against Central Connecticut, you would see that he has 5 TDs and only 2 INTs over the last 6 games to go with 142 yards rushing, so he's mobile and does a good job hanging onto the football. His pass accuracy level is at 52%, which is a little bit low, but he seems to be getting the job done.

The main rushing load is shouldered by freshman phenom Jordan Scott, who does his best job running in-between the tackles. He's been a revalation to Raider fans and has been a key ingredient to their success. Against Holy Cross last week he amassed an amazing 222 yards on the ground, so he's been incredibly effective so far this year. In many ways, he's the engine that makes the Raider offense work.

As coach Dick Biddle said in today's press conference, "Jordan was a consistent option because he wanted to both run and block," which is a not-so-obvious dig at his backup, sophomore RB J. J. Bennett, a I-A transfer from U. of Kentucky. Bennett is the change-of-pace back to complement Scott, and he has 100 yards on the year so far, but unquestionably he's a talented back that also can't be ignored. Senior FB Ben Evans is also used in the rushing game, where he has 136 yards and a TD on the year.

So who plays the part of Mark Ingram in the Colgate offense? That would definitely be WR DeWayne Long, who is an outstanding athlete and also a I-A transfer from Nebraska. Last year, Long had a career day against the Mountain Hawks with 12 catches for 126 yards and a TD, so his ability to perform against us is not in question. He's a "G" Walker-type burner, tall and with good hands, so our corners will have to play extremely well to shut him down. He's a player I worry about a lot - if he's 100%. With two receptions last week against Holy Cross (granted one was a big 66 yard gain), there is a question about his health, but if I know Long, he will be suited up and ready to rumble on Saturday.

It's not like the other Raider wideouts are slouches, either. A guy to keep an eye on is sophomore WR Eric Burke, who stepped up in a big way last week against Holy Cross with six receptions for 75 yards and a TD. On the other side is a capable possession WR in junior Kenny Parker, with 269 yards and 3 TDs on the year. Parker gets lost sometimes with all the other weapons, but he cannot be ignored, or he can kill you. Junior TE Jeff Brown is primarily a blocker but can catch the ball occasionally as well.

If you're not already scared, you will be when I talk to you about the one part of Colgate's offense that is loaded with good players and senior leadership - the "O" line. Senior OL Jeremy Wurst leads a big, talented line with 3 seniors. They have given up 7 sacks on the year and do not lose many trench battles. It could very well be that how our "D" line holds up against the Raiders will be the difference in the game.

Defensive Breakdown
You thought I was gushing about the Raider offense? Let me gush even more about the Raider defense, who is 1st in the league in rushing defense, 13th in the nation in overall defense, and haven't given up more than 21 points a game all year. This defense will be the toughest nut Lehigh will have to crack all year - tougher than Delaware, Harvard, or Yale.

An all-senior front four leads the "D" line, and all are great athletes. Josh Wurst, Tom Cassano, Chris Petrone, and Jeff Gallety all are strong and it seems like every week it's a new lineman stepping up to the plate. Even the backups are experienced with two seniors among them, so a hurry-up offense may be very important to prevent rotating in fresh linemen.

Colgate's LBs may be a bit undersized, but don't let that fool you for one second - the trio of junior David Wesley, senior Jared Nepa and senior Zach Dollar are fast, excellent tacklers, and also have an excellent nose for the ball - just last week Nepa had an interception return for a TD. They also bring a fearsome pass rush as well, so it is vital that Lehigh's "O" line offer Sedale enough time to execute the gameplan.

There's not even a dropoff in Colgate's secondary. Sophomore Chris Williams, I hate to say, is excellent on the year with 3 interceptions (including one returned for a TD), and the Raiders only get better from there with preseason defensive player of the year FS Geoff Bean (a junior)and senior CB Chris Williams, with 5 interceptions among them. They are aggressive and should be difficult to score against.

Special Teams Breakdown
Junior P Jason Sutton has struggled at times this year with a 32.3 yard average, one of the few visible weak spots in Colgate's formidable team. Geoff Bean is an excellent return man, with 60 and 50 yard kickoff and punt returns to his credit, while Colgate's front four has been terrorizing opposing special-teams units on extra points and FGs. An injury to K Mike Rava has pushed freshman K Jacob Stein into the starting role. He has been accurate, but has not been tested for distance - or been tested in a big pressure situation.

Keys to the Game
1.Turnovers and penalties. This has to be on the absolute top of the priority list. Colgate beats teams by turning over the ball less and committing fewer penalties. We have a chance to win if we do a better job taking care of the football and not killing ourselves. If we lose the turnover battle, we will lose the game.
2.Time of Possession. We may not win the time of possession battle with our type of offense, but if we can get 27 to 28 minutes of possession time, we should be in a good position to win at the end.
3.Trenches. Trench battles are always the key to any Lehigh/Colgate game, and if you've seen them the past few years it's obvious how important it is. Great blocking, especially on the "O" line, will be crucial to get "TNT" Rath and Threatt some yards on the ground, not to mention good chunks of passing yardage.
4.Red Zone Conversion. With the time of possession game being so important, conversion inside the 20 is vital for success, whether it be FGs or TDs. We may not get as many opportunites inside the 20, so conversion is absolutely vital to have a chance to win.
5.Make this a field position game. Don't shy away from the possession game - welcome it. Exchanging punts may work to our advantage with our return game and good punting game. Those exchanged punt could set up short fields for our offense.

Fearless Prediction
It should be obvious that I'm worried about this game. Andy Kerr is never an easy place to play. I do not have any doubt about the heart and desire of this Lehigh team to win and succeed, and with their proverbial backs against the wall Lehigh will play to the hilt. Every Mountain Hawk will have to step up, and I think everyone will. But Kerr is a strange place, and Colgate is the best team we have faced all year. I don't know how Threatt will react to such a strong defense. Establishing the run will be a challenge. Stopping teams on 3rd down has not been Lehigh's forte this year.

If we score more than 26 points, get 27 minutes of possession time, and win the turnover battle, I think we will win the game. But unfortunately I don't have a good feeling that we're going to do that. I sure hope we do; but that isn't my prediction.

Colgate 28, Lehigh 25, OT

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Polls and Polls; Press Digest

Tuesday is the "Polls and Polls" segment, and you know what that means - a new poll to your right, and there's good news that Lehigh is now back to #16 in the major polls. If Lehigh keeps winning, they would most likely be in the top 16 teams, which would bode well for an at-large bid for the I-AA playoffs even if they don't win the Patriot.

Of course, that is, if we can keep winning.. if we can beat Colgate, who has beaten us three out of the last four in Hamilton... Colgate, who has beaten A-10 leading UMass, and who has also been riding a four game winning streak, including quality wins against Princeton, Cornell, and of course Holy Cross. As always, they will be physical and will try to beat you up in the trenches. It should be a great game in any event. I can't wait for Saturday to arrive.

Here's the press digest for this week. You need to tune in tomorrow to get your Lehigh/Colgate fix. You know it.

Lehigh scored on its opening three possessions and never looked back as it cruised past the Bucknell University Bison 42-10 during a rain-soaked game.

Bucknell coach Tim Landis was frustrated with a lack of an all-out effort by his team. "We have got to put forth our best effort every week," the third-year head coach said. "It’s been the same story the last few weeks. It’s frustrating."

"We just can’t get on the same page," Landis said. "Coach (Tim) Camp has put together a real good offensive game plan the last two weeks, and we’ve moved the ball, but not been able to finish it off. And, when one part of our team is doing well, the other is struggling.

"We’re playing a lot of young guys, so that’s a by-product of that, but we have to start seeing some improvement."

"I think we just didn’t do a good job tackling," junior linebacker Steve Matzura said. "We made them look better than they are."

It was an outstanding offensive performance all the way around, but it still may have to be better next week when Lehigh takes its league-title and postseason hopes with it to upstate New York where it faces a surging Colgate team.

"I'm encouraged we only gave up 10 points, but we have to play better and more consistently on defense," Lembo said Saturday. "We have to tackle better and we're still giving up too many big plays through the air. With a very physical Colgate team on the horizon, there's a sense of urgency to get things done."

"Last night I was in my room with Mark Borda and he was quizzing me on my checks and my calls," Threatt said. "I got most of them right. Mark kept asking 'You got this?' I felt good, but I just had to go out and do it. I didn't feel pressure. I knew my teammates were around me and stood by me."

"The guys kept saying 'Good job,' but I still thought I could have done better,'' Threatt said. ''I still have a lot of things to work on."

Lehigh was playing without its defensive leader, senior linebacker and captain Anthony Graziani, who was resting a bruised shoulder. "It was a gamble holding him out," Lembo said. "But it was good to get a win without him and, hopefully, he'll be ready to go next week."

"Sedale has an amazing arm and an amazing personality to go with it," Rath said. "At our team meeting [Friday night], he was talking to us a little bit and, from that point on, all of the question marks in my head were gone. I knew he was going to get it done.

"We have the same confidence in him that we had in Mark [Borda]. We knew he'd make the big plays on third down for us. Now, everybody wants to make the big play.

"The whole team knew that we needed to raise our level a little," Rath said. "We had all the confidence in the world in Sedale. But it was his first start. We needed to help him out. And he helped us out."

"The first drive really put some confidence in (everyone), I guess," said Threatt, who stepped in when senior captain and quarterback Mark Borda of Bethlehem Catholic suffered a season-ending fractured fibula last week. "I came in the huddle, everyone was looking at me. I saw a play, called it, execution."

Freshman Brad Thomas made his first career interception in the fourth quarter. ''I was pleased to get some [new] guys in the game late,'' Lembo said. ''Inevitably, we'll be getting more injuries in the coming weeks and we'll be calling on some of those guys in critical situations.''

Monday, October 24, 2005

Game Balls; Press Roundup

No, it's not time to analyze the huge game up in Hamilton against Colgate just yet (though it may be worthwhile to think of ways to stop this guy, senior LB Jared Nepa, from being a big factor in this week's game.) First, it's time to give out some game balls for last Sunday's win against Bucknell.

There are so many heroes on offense, it's impossible to give game balls to everybody. Some would be just way too easy, like to sophomore QB Sedale "No Nickname Yet" Threatt, or senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath. But I'm going to give them instead to the guys that may not be so obvious.

There's not that much on the stat sheet for offensive linemen to gloat over in most games. But in this game, there are many things to cheer. "0", as in sacks that Bucknell's vaunted "D" line got against us - in a base 4-4 no less. "510" as in total offensive yards. I could live without 3 offensive penalties, but I still think the "O" line deserves their first game balls of the year. The line is: sophomore T Jimmy Kehs, senior T Tom Toth, junior G Jim Petrucelli, junior G Adam Selmasska, and junior C John Reese.

With "TNT" Rath's 100-yard game, you may have missed senior FB Greg Fay's 2 TDs and 40 all-purpose yards. But he's getting another game ball this week for another great week of doing all the things needed to win games - blocking, rushing, catching the ball out of the backfield. He's a big, integral, often invisible part of the offense, and yesterday he got the job done. Congratulations Greg!

Finally, to the obvious guys: sophomore QB Sedale Threatt and senior RB Eric "TNT" Rath. 286 all-purpouse yards and 3 TDs is one heck of a debut. But the block he threw to spring senior WR Gerran "G" Walker, well, how can I not reward that with a game ball? As for "TNT", well, 100 yards rushing and 1 TD speaks for itself. Congratulations to all!

On defense, I'm going to give it to senior DE Owen Breineger, for his 6 tackles, his sack, and his fumble recovery. The defense may needs some improvement before the Colgate game, but it's not due to lack of effort on Owen's part. Congratulations to Owen!

One more. For special teams, sophomore DB Laquan Gasaway gets the nod for one special teams tackle and one key fumble recovery of a Dante Ross fumble to set up the TD which completely deflated Bucknell's hopes for an upset. Congratulations Laquan!

The digest will come tomorrow, but the links to all the press writeups are below. Before I go, though, I will throw out the fact that Lehigh has lost 3 of their last 4 games in Hamilton, so anyone who thinks this game will be a walkover obviously hasn't been paying attention. Tune in for more tomorrow!

Allentown Morning Call:
Threatt Leads Lehigh to Win in his First Start
Colgate Presents More And Different Problems

Easton Express Times:
Threatt Makes Sparkling Debut to Lead Lehigh

Brown & White:
Rain Can't Stop Lehigh This Time

Daily Item:
Turnovers Costly As Bucknell Falls to Lehigh in the Rain

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Slackin'?

A very busy weekend has come to a close for me. With my new I-AA piece on the Penn/Yale game in the books, and a full day of family time, I can finally sit down and take an objective look at the Bucknell game and fill in the gaps from the weekend. So, no, I'm not slackin'. (Eric Rath, to my right, certainly isn't slackin' in this picture courtesy of Patrick Thornton of the Brown & White.)

First and foremost, Colgate gave every Lehigh fan an early Christmas present by knocking off the tough Crusaders this weekend. In a way, it gives Lehigh control of their own destiny when it comes to at least a share of the Patriot League title. Win their last four games and they will tie for the Patriot League title, and have a shot at the I-AA playoff autobid.

If there's a 3 or 4 way tie for the title, there is an unusual Patriot League rule which states that the Sports Information Directors of all the schools vote as to who the I-AA playoff representative would be. Let's hope that it doesn't come to this, and Lehigh wins the autobid, but what is clear is that Lehigh's in a much better position for the title and the autobid than they were on Friday.

Back to Bucknell. The first few offensive drives of the Lehigh game, and, well, what wasn't to like in the first week of Threatt mania? Sedale's "Nickname" will have to wait for another week, since he didn't achieve the (admittedly very high) bar I set for him -- but he came awfully close.

I was surprised with crisp the play of the offense overall, especially on their first three drives. Bucknell has had their share of problems, but play along their defensive line was not one of them, and the entire offense exploited them perfectly. One thing that impressed me about Sedale's play was that Bucknell was running an odd defense, yet Sedale adjusted like a senior and didn't miss a beat from the opening drive. Hopefully the whole offense will keep on the same sort of roll next week, as the biggest test of the season looms. I think multiple game balls will need to be given out.

Defensively, there are some areas that need cleaning up in time for the Colgate game. Giving up 324 total yards to a team that has struggled offensively is worrisome, especially since a good portion of those yards were given up in the first half. Granted, senior LB Anthony "Graz" Graziani was held out from the game with a sore shoulder - an unusual move by coach Lembo - but everyone in the Mountain Hawk "D" needs to bring up the level of play next week against what is, in effect, a playoff game for Lehigh next week at Colgate. If you don't bring your "A" game against Colgate, you will lose the game, and despite the Bucknell score the "D" didn't bring it. Another effort like this, Lehigh loses the game.

Special teams are looking better, though penalties need to be cut down - every time I read about a "block in the back" killing a return, I get a little twitch like Herbert Lom in any of his Pink Panther movies. However, sophomore DB Laquan Gasaway nabbing a big muffed punt by senior QB Dante Ross was a nice play, and freshman P Jason Leo is continuing to show great value to the Mountain Hawks. It's better, but in next week's playoff game for the Engineers, it needs to get even better.

I'm encouraged, especially on offense, on Lehigh's progression. But everything is going to have to come together against Colgate in a must-win game. Let the hype begin...... now.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...