I cannot recall a Lehigh game, ever, where special teams gave away the game the way this Lehigh team did today.
Two long snaps sailed over P Jason Leo's head today. One resulted in a safety, the other landed on the Lehigh 1 where the Albany offense gladly punched the ball in for the TD. 8 points off special teams, and you can add the 9 points on FGs to make up the Danes 17 points.
We managed one FG, but blew two others. In addition, a blown extra-point ultimately was the difference in the game. So you can almost add a 9th point to Albany's total, gift-wrapped to them by Lehigh.
Blame the weather all you want, but I didn't see Albany's snappers and kickers have that happen to them.
What's especially sad is that without senior LB Micah Greene's fumble return for a TD on the defense's first play from scrimmage, this game could have been worse. The offense managed one TD on the day, in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. After that, the offense could simply not get it done in the second. They played better, but have an awful lot to work on. For all of coach Coen's work on getting the job done in bad weather and in the end of close games, this script today was sadly familiar. Let a team with less talent hang around, give them a couple breaks, and then try to get it all back with a desperation drive. Again, it wasn't to be.
I was worried about playing Albany. I knew we needed to establish ourselves and we needed to work out lots of kinks. But I didn't predict that Lehigh's special teams would break down. I didn't think our offense could only manage 9 lousy points, even in bad weather. What's especially frustrating is that the two-minute drill at the end of the first half showed a tantalizing look at what the Lehigh offense could be, where Threatt and Thomas made mincemeat of the Albany secondary to get a big TD. After that, we saw glimpses of that drive, but unfortunately only glimpses. In key situations, it was Lehigh/Holy Cross all over again. Fumbles, dropped passes, bad snaps, followed by the opposing team celebrating in the mud - our mud.
Generally I like to credit the opposing team for a job well done. I do give them credit that they were our equals offensively and defensively, though. The offense controlled the ball and the clock, and the Albany defense forced the mistakes. They then played better than us on special teams -- just like Holy Cross last year -- and that was the difference in the game. A NEC team, starting three freshmen returning kicks, was better than Lehigh's special teams.
It doesn't get any easier from here. Villanova of the A-10 looms next week, who is a better team than Albany in just about every way. Although not expected to win the A-10 this year, every A-10 team is pretty tough, and this week Lehigh didn't look like they could beat anybody.
The season is not over. Colgate proved that last year, after surviving an embarassing loss to Central Connecticut State in the first game of the year, they still went on to win the Patriot League and play in the I-AA playoffs. That team, though, went to UMass the following week and made a statement with a 17-14 win. If Lehigh ends up with their first 0-2 start since 1982, though, we won't be thinking titles. We'll be thinking survival.
Tomorrow I'll tell you what I REALLY think.