Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lehigh 46, G'Town 14, final

Just finished watching the replay on lehighsports.com. First of all, what a crowd! 13,000+ fans at the game is going to make a lot of people in the Lehigh athletic office extremely happy! It looked like a great gameday atmosphere - let me tell you, after spending the day at Hofstra, I can tell you I missed Goodman! A big hearty congratulations has to go out to all the fans that came to the game - if Lehigh is lucky enough to make the playoffs and get a home playoff game this year, every one of you can feel responsible.

Second of all, don't let the 46 points fool you, this win was a direct result to the Lehigh "D" standing up really tall when the game was still on the line. They gave up only 2 first downs when the starters were still in the game, and if you subtract the Lehigh fumble giving the Hoyas a 9-yard field to work with, they basically pitched a shutout. I'm very pleased with the defensive effort.

The "O" did come off to a slow start, but ultimately did get things done on the ground to the tune of 332 rushing yards (when was the last time that happened?) . Sophomore QB Sedale Threatt had an off-day throwing the ball, but did connect on a beautiful 43 yard pass to senior WR Kevin Zebluim that was real beauty to watch. Senior RB Eric Rath had another big day with over 100 all-purpose yards and yet another TD, and junior RB Marques Thompson also gained 126 all-purpose yards as well. Still, I definitely saw areas that needed improvement in the first half. Sedale looked like a sophomore with a lot of potential, but today he looked like a sophomore. Hopefully this game under his belt will help him over the last two weeks of the season.

Special teams came through. Coverage units looked outstanding, and how about that 44 yard FG by freshman P/K Jason Leo?

We're closer to getting to where we need to be. We're clearly not there yet, but we're closer.

Predictions of Other Games

No live blog of Georgetown/Lehigh today, since I'm off to Hofstra to cover the New Hampshire/Hofstra game for I-AA.org. I'd strongly suggest logging onto lehighsports.com to get the audio and video of the game if you can't make it - but with 70 degree weather, it should be a great day for football!

Here's my predictions of other games this week:

Patriot League:
Bucknell at Fordham. The Rams beating a Steve Silva-less Holy Cross squad, is one thing. Stopping the triple-option with Dante Ross as the triggerman is quite another. Bucknell 27, Fordham 18.

Colgate at Lafayette. A game which has Patriot League title implications, and which features two teams which need to answer questions. On paper, with two solid teams it should be a close game, and the winner of the turnover battle should win the game. History, though, points to Colgate having the Leopards' number in a big way, winning the last 9 games. It just seems difficult to see Colgate get up emotionally for the game this week after last week's loss, and to see them correct the turnover-itis that plagued them versus Lehigh. Lafayette wins, just. Lafayette 24, Colgate 22.

I-AA Top 25:
#1 Furman at #14 Georgia Southern. Marquee matchup, and in effect a playoff game for Georgia Southern. In a huge rivalry game like this, both squads will give it 100%, which means that the more talented team should win out. That team, clearly, is Furman. Furman 31, GSU 21.

#2 New Hampshire at Hofstra. This is the game I'm going to this week, and it's pitting the A-10 frontrunner versus a team which needs a win to stay alive for a playoff shot. The two best passing QBs in the A-10 (Clarkson and Santos), the best receiving tandem (Colston and Ellis), and the best WR (David Ball). How can there be anything but fireworks? One thing's for sure - one team will be exposed this weekend, and if that team is New Hampshire, the A-10 won't be the same. As for me, I'm rooting for anarchy in the A-10. Hofstra 63, UNH 49.

#3 Montana at Northern Arizona. If Montana struggles here... Montana 38, NAU 3.

#4 Appalachian St. at LSU (I-A). I think the Mountaineers play better than most people think here. If I were a betting man, I'd take App St. and the 70 (or however many) points. LSU 49, App St. 17.

#5 Hampton at Bethune-Cookman. It just... feels like the right time for Hampton to lose. Florida, against a good B-CC team with plenty to play for. It's Hampton's turn to be shocked, and to have their hopes at a seed be dashed. B-CC 30, Hampton 14.

#13 Youngstown St. at #6 Southern Illinois and #18 Northern Iowa at #7 Western Kentucky. It's elimination day in the Gateway with a double feature to die for. Anarchy in the A-10? How about anarchy in the gateway? Here's your anarchy. SIU 41, YSU 20 and UNI 33, WKU 10, making it anyone's race.

#8 UMass at Delaware. Delaware could put a huge dent in UMass' title plans with a win. Continuing the anarchy theme, I'll go with it here as well. Delaware 19, UMass 18.

#9 Eastern Washington at #17 Cal Poly. In effect this is a playoff elimination game for both sides. The difference is the Eagles have already righted the ship, while the 'Stangs are headed in the wrong direction. EWU 41, Cal Poly 22.

McNeese St. at #10 Texas St. Tempting to root for more anarchy, but Texas St. just looks like the best team here, especially at home. Texas St. 38, McNeese 9.

Sacramento St. at #11 Montana St. If Montana St. loses this game... MSU 45, Sac St. 19.

#15 Coastal Carolina at Savannah St.
Who'd be crazy to call an upset here? CCU 73, SSU 6.

James Madison at #16 William & Mary.
In May, this looked like an A-10 title game. Now, it's looking like the death blow to the Tribe's playoff hopes. JMU 38, W&M 17.

#19 UC-Davis at Stephen F. Austin. The Aggies are too good for an overwhelmed Lumberjack suqad. UCD 37, SFA 21.

VMI at #20 Richmond. Get used to this: "nationally-ranked" Richmond. You're going to be hearing it a lot in the coming weeks. Richmond 40, VMI 17.

Northern Colorado at #21 North Dakota St. NoCo should be renamed No-Can-Beat-NDSU. NDSU 28, NoCo 14.

#22 Brown at Yale. I don't know why I like Yale here, but I do. I don't think Yale goes 0-for-2 in Ivy title elimination games. Yale 31, Brown 30.

#23 South Carolina St. at Howard. The Bison shouldn't pose too much of a problem for the Bulldogs. SCSU 39, Howard 7.

#24 Eastern Illinois at Tennessee St. I think the Panthers are going to prove everyone wrong and be the OVC champs. But this game is just a tune-up. EIU 41, TSU 12.

#25 Grambling at Alabama St. This could be a preview of the SWAC title game. However, I think Alabama St. rides their huge win over Alabama A&M over the Tigers as well. ASU 44, GSU 40.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Press Mash-Up; What You Didn't Read

This will be a really quick one, since I'm extra-cranky from broken computers and general computer malaise. Georgetown is coming tomorrow to Murray Goodman in a game which every year means a lot to coach Lembo. Georgetown is coach Lembo's alma mater, and each year there's an extra bit of emotion and passion in the air for him. There should be a huge crowd on-hand tomorrow to cheer on the Mountain Hawks in our last home game of the year (before Lehigh/Lafayette, that is). I'm going to be interested in what Lehigh team shows up tomorrow.

What you didn't read this week is from Hoya head coach Bob Benson: "We're real good up front. [Seinor DE Michael Ononibaku] and [junior DE Alex Buzbee] are tremendous players... and there aren't many better than junior DT Julius Griauzde. The guys on the edge have to keep us in these games.. we've got to have more success early in games. We have to start early and finish completely.. it's the only way [to bea ta team like Lehigh]."

Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh Back In Command
Allentown Morning Call:
A Long Journey, But Close To Home
Brown & White:
Hawks Host Must-Win Against Hoyas
The Hoya:
G'Town Hopes Homecoming Spirit Lasts Against Lehigh

The mash-up:
Every year, Pete Lembo bridles his emotion during Georgetown week.

Then, just before game time, Lehigh University's highly successful football coach lets loose with a passion and fire that has allowed him to maintain complete dominance over the team he once played for.

"This is obviously a big game for him," said [senior WR] Adam Kovacs. "A lot of people he knows from college are watching this game. Generally, you can't really tell a change in him. But in his pregame speech, you could sense it means a lot to him. You could see it in his eyes."

"It's special to me," said Lembo, an offensive lineman when the Hoyas played in the NCAA Division III field, "because I'm very pleased that my alma mater is playing a brand of football that I think is appropriate for an institution of that nature."

"I've worked very hard this week to keep [the team] entirely focused on the task at hand -- beating Georgetown. It’s simple... if we ease up at all, we will lose the championship. If we want a championship badly, then we don’t know what a ‘letdown’ is.”

"I'm confident there won't be a letdown," Kovacs said. "It's a pretty mature team, despite having a sophomore quarterback. With what we've gone through this year, at this point we're so focused on our goal... If we trip over these next three weeks, it's done."

[G'Town TE Glenn] Castergine was willing to give the Mountain Hawks their due. “It’ll be a challenge. Lehigh has been great,” he said. “They have great players.”

According to the senior tight end, the key to victory is “coming out fast. We need to play hard and play fast. We have a few guys injured, so we need the guys that are filling in to really step into their roles and do their part.”

One of those injured players is [senior RB Marcus] Slayton. Georgetown’s chief offensive threat of late, Slayton will need to be in the lineup for the Hoyas to achieve success. According to Benson, he is questionable.

“Confidence,” Benson said when asked about the key to Slayton’s improvement. “He is playing with complete confidence. And the offensive line has done a better job.”

“It will probably be the biggest homecrowd so far this year,” senior offensive lineman Adam Selmasska said. “It’s special because a lot of the parents of students will be at the game, and we are representing them, so we need to have a good outing.”

...

Kovacs is in his fifth year at Lehigh after applying for, and receiving, a fifth year of eligibility. He suffered a season-ending stress fracture in his back in preseason camp before his sophomore season in 2002.

"From the moment it happened, I knew I wanted to stay for a fifth year," Kovacs said. "[Pen Argyl grad Anthony Graziani] was the same way. We're good friends. We knew we wanted to be a part of this as long as we could. It's great to play football here and be part of a program that is successful year in, year out.

"You get to compete at the highest level. It's the time of life when the real world is knocking on the door, but to play football for one more year and hang around with the guys, hey, why not?

"I feel like we have six or seven guys who could be a No. 1 or No. 2 threat on another team in our league, even a guy like [Bethelem Catholic grad] Frank Trovato, who hardly gets any time," Kovacs said. "It's tough at times because everybody wants the ball and the opportunity to make plays.

"What helps is that we're all pretty close. We hang out together all the time and we take pride in things as a unit as opposed to individual accolades. We joke around about who's getting the ball more. It's not like we're competing for a spot in the NFL draft. We just want to help our team win. I couldn't imagine being on a defense worrying about trying to stop us."

"It feels great for us to know we control our own destiny again," Kovacs said. "It was scary for a couple of weeks."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Preview of Georgetown/Lehigh

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's schools which don't release their game notes in a timely fashion. Normally my game previews come out on Wednesday, but foolishly I tried to wait for Georgetown to post their game notes on their website.

These game notes are not only the lifeblood of something like this blog (where I'm able to write all sorts of free publicity about, say, Georgetown's football program), but it's also important to members of the mainstream media covering the game. The best way to have media members spell and pronounce the name "Ononibaku" correctly is to have game notes out by the middle of the week. Releasing them on a Friday doesn't help anybody - it's old news by then.

Having got out all my excuses for my preview being late, I was able to scrounge up enough information to come up with a credible preview blog post of the Georgetown/Lehigh clash this weekend. Over at hoyasaxa.com there is a "behind enemy lines" preview of the game which is a very worthwhile read. It's apparent that Hoya Nation feels a little stifled by Lehigh, but that shouldn't mean that Lehigh take the Hoyas lightly. A look at this years' Holy Cross and VMI games should be reminder enough that anything can happen on any given Saturday, and Lehigh needs to be getting better en route to Lehigh/Lafayette, not worse.

This weekend, it's going to be Family Weekend at Murray Goodman, and it's supposed to be a wonderful 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday. This time of year there the foliage should be incredible as well, so if you want to see South Mountain at its most picturesque I'd suggest heading to Lehigh for this weekend's game. Historically Family Day is a day with great turnout, and it will be the last home game before sold-out Lehigh/Lafayette. If for some reason you can't watch the game live at 12:30PM this Saturday, you can watch the game on Service Electric 2 in the Lehigh Valley, listen to the game on 1230/1320AM, or listen and watch the game on lehighsports.com.

Lehigh Injury Report
Senior QB Mark Borda (Ankle, Out)
Sophomore OL Jimmy Kehs (Ankle, Questionable)
Junior TE Pete Morelli (Hand, Questionable)
Junior FS Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Senior DE Owen Breininger (Hip, Questionable)
Senior LB Anthony "Graz" Graziani (Shoulder, Questionable)
Junior DB Calvin LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Junior LB Chris LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Junior LB Travis Stinson (Shoulder, Questionable)

The story that nobody has talked about so far is the fact that Lehigh is majorly banged up after last week's big Colgate victory, most notably at linebacker. It remains to be seen who will get a lot of playing time against Georgetown, but it's very likely we'll see a lot more of sophomore LB Rashaun Gasaway. We even may see some of sophomore LB Beau Goodhart or a freshman or two if things get really bad back there. Hopefully this group (and DE Breininger) can get healed up in the next few weeks for the Lafayette game.

The two offensive injuries are also worrisome, especially to Kehs. The "O" line has been blessed by having no injuries this year, but have Kehs sit out would sideline one of our best linemen. Junior Jason Russell would get the call instead there. Morelli's injury may mean we will get to see more of junior TE Landon Maggs, who is a pretty good TE in his own right.

A Little About Georgetown
Georgetown has played at Murray Goodman once in the history of their illustrious program. That game was in 2002, and was embarassing 69-0 whitewash. Coach Bob Benson didn't even bother to check the tape of Lehigh's last game in preparation for that game, and it's unlikely that the Hoya coaching staff dug up those lowlights on their bye week last week either.

However, those days are light years behind us. Georgetown has made some major strides in their Patriot League football program in recent years, and it shows. Not only was this year the Hoya's first in their brand-new football stadium (though they need to work on a snappier name than just "Multi-Sport Facility"), this year has been their most successful Patriot League season ever, with 2 league wins for the first time. The next goal for these Hoyas has got to be a winning season and maybe even, if Jupiter aligns with Mars and Neptune enters the seventh house, a Patriot League title. Nothing would make this team happier than coming home with a shock win over Lehigh, and it would make their season.

Offensive Breakdown
Having said all that, Georgetown has struggled this season offensively. They are last in all of Division I in scoring offense (yes, even behind I-A Temple), and last in passing offense in the Patriot League, averaging less than 100 yards through the air. This team normally grinds it out through the running game in a basic 3 WR set, but I'd bet to see a fair amount of tricks in head coach Bob Benson's arsenal to try to get some offense going, especially with the strength of Lehigh's rushing defense. They've had a problem honding onto the ball, even in their wins, so making turnovers hurt the Hoyas will be important.

Junior QB Nick Cangelosi is the triggerman for the offense. With a completion percentage of less than 50% and only 5 TDs on the year, he has struggled passing the ball. However, he takes off with the ball about 10-15 times a game, averaging 75 yards per game on the ground, so you can't ignore the thrat of him taking off at any time. Behind him is freshman QB Ben Hostetler, the son of the Super Bowl-winning QB of the New York Giants in 1990, should he falter.

The centerpiece of the offense is senior RB Marcus Slayton, who is averaging 74 yards per game rushing to go with his 3 TDs. He's 5-10 and 214 lbs with decent speed and good ability to run straight ahead and break the occasional big gainer. Sophomore RB Emir Davis backs him up and gets about 30 yards per game as well. Neither have been prolific options catching the ball out of the backfield, though Slayton has been getting more looks in the last 3 games. With Slayton's size and Davis' speed, it would not surpise me in the slightest to see them in the backfield together in the "I" formation.

The receiving corps is currently undergoing a "baptism by fire" with two true freshmen and a sophomore leading the receiving corps. Freshman WR Sydney Baker has emerged as the go-to option, with 12 receptions on the year for 157 yards, with sophomore WR Kyle Van Fleet not too far behind with 155 yards and a TD. It's worth noting that sophomore TE Harrison Beacher and senior TE Glenn Castergine are legitimate receiving options, with Castergine nabbing the game-winning TD against Georgetown two weeks ago.

The "O" line has given up 12 sacks on the year, a pretty big number for a team that doesn't pass the ball much, but they were brutally effective against Fordham as they bulldozed Fordham for 287 rushing yards. Junior G Robert Browning is the biggest athlete on the "O" line at 300 lbs, even though their line is smaller in comparison to Lehigh's.

Defensive Breakdown
It's no secret that the Hoya's 4-3 defense has won them games this year by shutting down opposing defenses. Their two Patriot League wins, 19-16 against Bucknell and 24-21 against Fordham were set up by smothering defensive efforts, notably giving up only 200 yards of total offense to the Rams. The foundation of their success is a monstrous pass rush, forcing sacks and fumbles, so Lehigh's "O" line will need to bring their "A" game on Saturday - not to mention protecting the ball.

The line is smallish, but have a pair of fast defensive ends that cause teams fits. Last year, the duo of senior DE Michael Ononibaku and junior DE Alex Buzbee had 21 sacks between them. This year, Buzbee is among the Patriot League leaders in forced fumbles, and Ononibaku is among the league leaders in recovered fumbles and tackles for loss. Obviously, any offensive Lehigh gameplan needs to deal with how to minimize these two great athletes.

The linebacking corps also has a couple of very good athletes in senior LBs Mehdi Hassan and Jason Carter. Both are good tacklers and also get good pressure on the QB when necessary. Overall, the front seven does give up some yardage on the ground (157 yards per game).

With the fearsome pass rush, it may be forgotten that the Hoyas has the best-rated pass defense in the Patriot League. Having said that, Georgetown hasn't faced an effective passing team like Lehigh all year. Still, senior safeties Sheldon Epps and and Maurice Banks have played well this year.

Special Teams Breakdown
Senior P/K Brad Scoffern and sophomore P/K Eric Bjornerud have split the kicking duties this year. Scoffern's 39 yard FG was the difference last week, so you know he has a decent leg. On kickoffs, the Hoyas are leading all of Division I on kickoff yardage allowed, so they have seen improvement in special teams. Freshman WR Ken Mitchell, sophomore RB John Lancaster and sophomore LB Michael Shotwell give Georgetown a decent trio of kick returners. On punts, junior DB Brian Tandy has been the main return man.

Keys To The Game
1.Another great "O" line performance. Keeping the Hoya's killer "B"'s off of Sedale Threatt, while forging yards for Rath and Thompson, will be the big challenge on offense. If our line can bring it the same way they brought it against Colgate, we should have another big day.
2.Prove your defensive worth. Lehigh's "D" is not considered one of the best in the Patriot League. That's a fact, especially against the pass. If I'm on the defense, I'm looking to make a statement going into the final month of the season that our defense is Patriot League championship-worthy, and that means shutting down Georgetown's rushing offense especially.
3.Take care of the ball. We can lose this game if we turn over the ball. Especially with the Hoya ball-hawks, protecting the ball will be especially important. I'd like to see another win in the turnover battle this week.
4.Guard against trick plays. With a lot to play for, look for the Hoyas to empty out their magic hat against Lehigh with reverses, trick plays, fake punts, fumblerooskies - basically, everything but the kitchen sink. Mentally, the troops will have to be sharp.

Fearless Prediction
The weather prediction for Saturday is 70 degrees and sunny. We're coming off a big win against Colgate. This 2005 Mountain Hawk squad has followed their best efforts of the year (Delaware, Harvard) with their worst (VMI, Holy Cross). Will this happen again against Georgetown? I-AA Nation will be watching closely as well to see if Lehigh is a national championship contender (yes, you read right, championship contender) instead of another "one-and-done" Patriot League school.

I'm thinking Lehigh will play better than the VMI and Holy Cross games this year. I think everyone is starting to bring their game up another notch - a notch that will be needed the rest of the way. There ain't no more off days. If I see an off day this Saturday, I'm concerned. If I see the crisp, focused Lehigh team that I know can deliver the goods, I think the sky may be the limit.

Lehigh 56, G'Town 14

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Polls and Polls; Press Mashup; I-AA Waves

Let's get to the good stuff first. Tonight at 9PM EST I will be on I-AA Waves, the only internet radio show devoted solely to I-AA football! Courtesy of the fine folks at I-AA.org, I'll be talking about this blog, my I-AA diaries, and the Patriot League tonight! It's not to be missed!

In the media polls, Lehigh rose to #13, (just as I not-so-humbly predicted), and in the Any Given Saturday poll we're at #12. Voters obviously were impressed with our performance against Colgate. The key to our Patriot League title hopes (and I-AA playoff aspirations) will be to bring the "A" game the rest of the way. The first must-win game will be against a Georgetown team that would love nothing better than to secure their first three-win Patriot League season, as well as to possibly finish with a winning record for the first time since 1999 (when they were in the MAAC).

I haven't decided on a new website poll just yet, but bear with me, I'll come up with something tonight. But first, here's your (long) press mash-up:

A sore throat prevented Pete Lembo from shouting during the postgame huddle at Andy Kerr Stadium late Saturday afternoon.

But the Lehigh coach got an assist from a few dozen nearby fans who made the trip into the cold, but picturesque Chenango Valley in upstate New York.

"It's a very significant win over a very good opponent in a very difficult place to play," Lembo said in a raspy voice. "I'm very proud of the players and coaches and we'll enjoy this for 24 hours."

“We played hard for 60 minutes,” Head Coach Pete Lembo said. “We did not play a perfect game, but we made big plays.”

"We had a great week of practice and we just had to play Lehigh football," Threatt said. "It didn't matter if they were ranked No. 1 in the country in defense, it came down to execution. We were prepared for seven inches of rain or grass that was seven-foot tall. We had fun out there."

"The coaches always say, 'put up 50,'" Rath said. "That's what got it done today."

"It's embarrassing to give up 50 points," said [Colgate coach Dick] Biddle... "We had a turnover for a touchdown, and that obviously hurt. But you have to give them credit: we didn't stop them all day long. And we can't win shootouts."

"It wasn't the no-huddle at all," said senior [Colgate] linebacker Jared Nepa, who finished with six tackles and a forced fumble. "We played a little too tight, had a lot of missed opportunities and we took it upon ourselves to freelance. You can't do that in big games.

"This loss is on the defense, and I thought I'd never say that this season."

"I know they're one of the best rush defenses," said Threatt, who passed for 187 yards and amassed 287 all-purpose yards while putting up a seldom-seen 100-yard rushing day against Colgate. "I just felt our line could make holes."

"I felt so comfortable, because the guys around me stepped up their game," said Threatt... "But it's never easy. You can tell that by the blood on the field."

"Our line can make holes and will fight for us,'' Threatt said. ''They make holes for Eric, Marques [Thompson], Greg [Fay], for me. I feel like I'm around the best bunch of guys and I'm on the best team I could possibly be on.''

[O]n the first play of the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-goal from the Colgate 1, Rath used a Herschel Walker-like leap to hurdle over a pile and into the end zone to put the Mountain Hawks ahead to stay at 36-34.

"I'm sure he got a little higher than I did," said Rath, laughing about the Walker comparison. "I don't think the coaches thought twice about going for it on fourth down. (Right guard) Jimmy Petruccelli wraps around and (fullback Greg) Fay kicks out. I looked at (No.) 31 (linebacker Jared Nepa) and he was the only kid who could jump higher than me."

"When Eric made that decision (to leap)," Lembo said, "he knew he better get in. Otherwise, he was going to have to deal with me on the sideline."

Rath: "It may not have been obvious to the naked eye, but there were some tough moments out there today and we fought through them," he said. "That's a big part of being a Lehigh player. When something [bad] happens, you look to the guy next to you and you know he has your back."

The defense made adjustments to slow down Saraceno and the Raiders offense in the second half.

“We brought pressure and spied him more,” senior captain and linebacker Anthony Graziani said. “And the defensive backs made big plays.”

"I was happy with the offense up until 10-or-11 minutes to go," said Biddle. "We were two scores down, but we didn't believe we could win at the end.

“It’s nice to be on the plus side [on turnovers] to that degree,” Lembo said. “Turnovers have played a big part in the winner of this game over the last eight years.”

"Credit to our defensive staff," said Lehigh cornerback Andrew Nelson, whose acrobatic interception and 31-yard touchdown return off a blitz pretty much finished off Colgate's comeback hopes early in the fourth quarter.

"They called my number on a blitz and I was waiting for my opportunity to make a play," Nelson said. "I saw [Colgate quarterback Mike Saraceno] was throwing a screen. He kind of telegraphed it a little too much. I jumped for it, and, luckily, the ball ended up in my hands. God is good, that's all I can say about it."

"It's a credit to our defensive staff to start bringing a lot more pressure in the second half," Nelson said. "We saw that they didn't like pressure, so we started bringing it after being very disappointed with our play in the first half. It was up to us to stop them and win the game for us."

"I know if we lost (the league title), I was going to put it on myself for that play," said Nelson, who ensured Lehigh can claim the Patriot League title by winning its remaining three league games after Fordham defeated Holy Cross on Saturday. "I've never had anything like that happen to me in my career. It was a lot of responsibility I put on myself.

"It really hurt."

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo interjected sharply. "Andrew, like me, and like Eric Rath, and like Sedale (quarterback Threatt), sometimes we're too hard on ourselves. Nobody's lost confidence in him."

"Andrew would make that (interception) nine out of 10 times, even in the rain," Anthony Graziani said [after the Holy Cross game].

"It's a one-game season," Threatt said. "We want to go out every week and win a championship on Saturday... Lafayette may be at the end of the road, but Georgetown is all that matters right now."

"We're still fighting for survival and as much as people are excited about this win, if we don't get it done [against Georgetown] our world will come crashing down," Lembo said. "Georgetown is improved. They have their best record at this point of the season [4-4, 2-2 Patriot] and they have had two weeks to get ready for us."

"The good news is they believe they can do it, but they're also smart and humble enough to know that any of the three remaining teams can beat us if we're not at our best," Lembo said.

“Every game from here on out is big,” Graziani said. “We need to win out.”

"Not much has changed for us," defensive back Andrew Nelson said. "We knew we couldn't lose another game after losing to Holy Cross. Beating Colgate gives us momentum, but it doesn't change our approach."

Colgate's head coach Dick Biddle: "[W]e're still in this. There's still a lot of football left to play."

Monday, October 31, 2005

Game Balls; Press Roundup

Here's a preview of something every Lehigh fan would not want to see this coming Saturday at Goodman - a fired-up Georgetown team, looking to finish at .500 in the Patriot League, and with a winning record - celebrating on our home field after a shock victory. As great as the Colgate victory was, seeing this on Saturday would shoot out Patriot League title hopes (and I-AA playoff hopes) squarely in the foot.

Having said that, it's time to celebrate the Colgate victory, the inaugural "Engine 13" Cup win, the vital Patriot League win that puts us firmly back in control of our title destiny, by sharing Game Balls for this great game.

On offense - what can you say. It's going to look a lot like Bucknell's game balls. As a matter of fact, it's going to be identical. The whole "O" line is getting another game ball - sophomore T Jimmy Kehs, senior T Tom Toth, junior G Jim Petrucelli, junior G Adam Selmasska, and junior C John Reese. Let's look at the numbers. 385 yards and 5 TDs - including 198 rushing yards against the one of the best rushing defenses in all of Division I football. Sacks - 0. You can even add to that a key fumble recovery by T Tom Toth that preserved a drive that resulted in 7 Lehigh points. The "O" line is starting to look like one of the best in the Patriot League - and they've earned another game ball.

Yep, and the obvious guys are also going to get another game ball. Senior RB Eric Rath and senior... I mean sophomore QB Sedale Threatt get the honors again. Rath's 4 TDs and 100 big all-purpose yards give him yet another game ball - including a TD leap that cleared the pile in the 3rd quarter that surprised me immensely. As for Threatt, he's still not "The Total Package" - I'm waiting for that 300 yard passing day to bequeath that nickname - but he does get another game ball (as well as Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week) for his 187 yard passing day as well as a huge 100 yard rushing day, including 2 clutch runs that set up 10 points in the first half. Congratulations to everyone!

On defense, it's definitely going to the guy you're thinking - senior DB Drew "Porter" Nelson. Yes, that's a new nickname (a reference to this Mel Gibson movie) - and Drew, you've earned it! 5 tackles and a fumble recovery - but Drew is getting it for the play of the game, the backbreaking 31 yard screen pass that was intercepted, and rumbling into the end zone while eluding a tackle. This game ball should go well with your Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honors. Congratulations!

Special teams is going to be junior K Justin "Sweet" Musiek. (Now there's a nickname I've been waiting a long time to use.) 4 for 5 for extra points (one was blocked), but Justin converted on 3 very huge FGs, including 2 in the first half that made it a tie game at halftime. Those three big FGs kept the pressure on Colgate, and his execution deserves player of the week honors. Congratulations!

Here's the link to all the press writeups on the game. The mash-up will come tomorrow. Be sure to browse by tomorrow!

Allentown Morning Call:
Colgate Can't Handle Lehigh's Big Threatt
Redemption Comes For Lehigh DB Nelson
Colgate Win Puts Lehigh In Good Position

Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh in Championship Mode
Nelson Cherishes Patriot League Payback

Brown & White:
Strong Second Half Propels #16 Hawks

Utica Observer-Dispatch:
Threatt Real Threat as Lehigh Downs Colgate

Sunday, October 30, 2005

More on the Huge Win; The Case for I-AA Playoffs

Why does it seem like after every game, I end up posting a picture of Eric "TNT" Rath, do you ask? (This week's Rath-o-rama has been brought to you by Tim Sofranko, c/o the Morning Call.) Well, his 4 TDs on the ground certainly go a long way towards justifying that this week. But it seems like every week he seems to have some sort of photographic moment. At least in this one, you can see pictures of the guys who helped Rath's TDs happen - the "O" line.

Of course I'm really happy that Lehigh helped me take home the inaugural "Engine 13" cup this week by doing something no team has ever done before - score 50 points in Andy Kerr stadium. It's an offensive performance that leaves you running out of superlatives. Sophomore QB Sedale Threatt played like a senior, with 100 yards rushing and 187 yards passing. Rath - 4 TDs. Turnovers - zero. Importantly, we got the important yards when we needed to thanks to the inspired play of the "O" line. If there was a stat called "key yards", Lehigh would have a bunch of them.

The defense clamped down in the second half and got the turnovers that iced the game. After a disappointing first half, the defense came alive and got the job done. If there's something I'll be looking for next week, it's progress on defense. If Lehigh wants to win the Patriot League and make a run in the I-AA playoffs, they will have strive to be more consistent there.

Special teams I mentioned yesterday - the punting and kicking games were outstanding. Overall, it's been our best game of the year, but I feel we can get even better.

Threatt had the following quote on lehighsports.com's game writeup that is worth reprinting:

“We had a great week of practice, and we knew in order to be successful we had to play Lehigh football. It all comes down to our execution,” Threatt explained after the game. “This win is nice, but come Sunday, all focus is on Georgetown.”



Sedale, you're wrong about one thing. Come MONDAY, all focus is on Georgetown. Today's a day to revel in a huge win.

I-AA Playoffs
With this huge win, I'm thinking Lehigh will probably jump up 3, maybe 4, spots in the national rankings. If you've been paying attention to the national I-AA football scene, you'd know that it's been a strange year with upset after upset every week. With the exception of a couple teams, the whole I-AA bracket would appear up for grabs.

The traditional "power conferences" have been beating each other up. It's very clear that no conference should have 4 bids, and some tranditional power conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the SoCon may in fact be single-bid conferences this year (if everything falls perfectly). The at-large field looks as wide-open as ever.

Unthinkable early in the year, but might an 8-3 at-large Patriot League team make the playoffs? If the playoffs started today, the answer would clearly be "no", but if the craziness continues, it may be worth considering.

To refresh everyone's memory, there are 8 automatic bids into the I-AA playoffs from 8 conferences: the Atlantic 10, Big Sky, MEAC, SoCon, Patriot, Gateway, Southland, and OVC conference winners. There are then 8 at-large bids that comprise of the best remaining playoff-eligible teams. These are teams that have at least 7 "division I" wins - against I-A or I-AA teams.

If you want to be an at-large team like Colgate, Lafayette or Lehigh, what are you rooting for? First of all, you want to minimize the number of at-large bids. You want teams like UMass to lose twice, putting them at 7-4. You want a team like Montana St. to beat Eastern Washington (in essence eliminating them), and then turning around and losing to Montana. You want the Gateway teams to continue to bash each other, perhaps allowing a team with 2 conference losses to take the title. You want Furman to cruise to the title (eliminating Georgia Southern on the way), while rooting hard or Western Carolina to keep the "Old Mountain Jug" by beatting Appalachian St. Finally, you want at-large Cal Poly to lose as well.

Theoretically 7-4 teams would merit consideration as well as 8-3 teams. Colgate and Lafayette, however, have some impressive scalps this year - Colgate beat UMass, and Lafayette beat Richmond, two teams still in the hunt for the Atlantic 10 title. Lafayette, should they lose to Lehigh, may - just may - sneak into the the playoffs at 8-3. Their two losses to Princeton and Harvard might hurt, but they may merit consideration against 7-4 teams if everything breaks right.

Basically, the playoff field is still incredibly wide open. It's something worth discussing in the weeks ahead. Of course, Lehigh has to beat Georgetown first before we worry about the playoffs. There's still work to do, especially on defense. It's time to start now.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...