The I-AA postseason rages on, and for Lehigh fans the 2005 season has been over for a couple weeks. Some may sit and think of what could have been (or bash Lafayette), but action around I-AA football doesn't stop after the last game of football has been played.
Around the Patriot League and Ivy League, there has been some interesting goings-on that deserve some special attention.
Ed Foley out in Fordham. Foley resigned as Fordham's head football coach shortly after Fordham lost to limited-scholarship Albany 41-0, capping off a 2-9 season with losses to 2 limited-scholarship schools. Foley managed to get some good talent to Rose Hill, but was unable to translate that talent into winning football games. Replacing him today will be coach Tom Masella from Central Connecticut State. In 2 years, "Buzz" has coached the Devils to back-to-back NEC championships, as well as coaching CCSU to a September upset of I-AA playoff team Colgate.
LFN's take: This looks like a great hire for the Rams. The former Boston University coach, with a nice talented nucleus of players, should turn around the Rams quickly and make 2005 seem like an aberration.
Shoop out in Columbia. After losing to Ivy League champion Brown on the final day of the season, head coach Bob Shoop was "relieved of his coaching duties". After beating Fordham and Duquesne in back-to-back weeks in September, Shoop's Lions proceeded to lose their last 9 games -- of which 6 games were lost by more than 27 points. Looking back, Columbia had an extremely young team and were pretty much expected to be beaten around. Names being bandied about in the Columbia head coaching "sweepstakes" are current Lehigh offensive coordinator Chris Rorke and former Lehigh player and coach Dave Cecchini ('94).
LFN's Take: I don't know if Rorke or Cecchini will go for this vacancy, but coaching the Lions has always been tough. Bringing a winning attitude to a team that hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 1996, and probably has the lowest football budget in the Ivy League, will be a definite challenge. In my opinion, this should go to a coach willing to stay a long time and nurture a winning football tradition at Wien Stadium.
DE Ononibaku playing in all-star games, looking pro? On Nov. 26th, Georgetown senior DE Michael Ononibaku played in the East Coast Bowl, an all-star game featuring Division I-AA, II and III players wishing to showcase their skills in professional football. Ononibaku is hoping to get an invitation to some other all-star games during the holiday season so he can continue to play football professionally.
LFN's take: For me, it's way too early to think of draft boards and pro football, but at our level Ononibaku is the type of player that you had to know where he was on the field at all times. I was also impressed with his professionalism, determination, and leadership. I hope he makes it.
For those of you looking for a wrap-up of the 2005 Lehigh season, I will get to it soon, hopefully before the playoffs are over. In the meantime, the I-AA semifinals are going to be played on Friday night and Saturday afternoon in Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, NC and Bobcat stadium in San Marcos, TX (both will be televised on ESPN2). Here's my quick take on both games.
Friday: Northern Iowa at Texas St. It's hard to beleive the Panthers on October 22nd were 4-3 after a humiliating 38-3 loss to Illinois St. and looking forward to next year. Instead, the Panthers are cumulating an incredible run where they've gone 6-0, knocking off 5 nationally-ranked opponents -- including #1 New Hampshire on the road. Texas St. has peaked at the right time, coming from behind to throttle Georgia Southern 50-35, while barely holding on to squeeze past Cal Poly 14-7. Something tells me the Panthers' miracle run is going to continue. It will take jumping out to a two-score lead, just like they did against the Wildcats, but I think the Panthers are up to the challenge. UNI 24, Texas St. 10.
Saturday: Furman at Appalachian St. This one should be crazy. The Mountaineers will be looking to avenge an early-season loss to the Paladins, while Furman will be attempting to win in Kidd Brewer stadium for the first time since 1996. Ingle Martin vs. Richie Williams. ESPN will definitely have the "Miracle on the Mountain" queued up in the highlight reel - that's the game where Furman was intercepted on an attempted 2-pt conversion with seconds on the clock, which was returned for 2 Mountaineer points on the way to a 16-15 App St. victory. Must-see TV, but who will win? It will be close, and I think Brewer Stadium retains its magic in another close win. App St. 27, Furman 24.