Saturday, September 16, 2006

Princeton 14, Lehigh 10, final

I didn't watch this game yet. It's likely I'll be watching it at some point tomorrow - all I have seen is the box score as of this point. I was at the 37-7 drubbing for Fordham by Columbia instead.

But that won't stop me from making a few observations.

1) Now, Bucknell (very surprisingly) is beating Cornell right now 20-3, but the Ivies spanked us this week. At best the Patriot League will be 2-5 against the Ivies.

Guess what that means? The Patriot League, as a whole, is simply not a great league this year. Look at the facts. Two wins against lower-tier Ivy teams. One A-10 victory by Lehigh against Villanova who is now sitting at 0-3. The PL will have (at best) six out of conference wins. One against 0-3 Villanova, three NEC wins, and (at best) two weak Ivy wins. We are going to be a one-bid conference come playoff time, and that team will probably be playing Thanksgiving weekend at New Hampshire.

2) I was trying to say that Princeton is a good team. Unfortunately, now we know for sure. But it looks like we thought we could run over Princeton. At the end of the first half, 21 seconds, rather than go for the FG, we try to get 4th-and-1. We didn't get it.

Then, in the beginning of the second half, Hughes did a "typical Hughes drive". He went with the passing game and got a quick TD. Then, they got a big INT after our drive, and then drove the length of the field to score. 14-10.

The 4th quarter sounded crazy with tunovers. We couldn't capitalize on turnovers, and we made penalties that killed ourselves. The trend is becoming: we continue to make killer penalties and turnovers that kill us in big spots.

3) The era of expecting 11-0 and 10-1 records every year is over. It's not coach Coen's fault, or Lehigh's fault, or grant-in-aid's fault. All up and down I-AA, the old saw "any given Saturday" holds very true. We've been spoiled as Lehigh fans in the Higgins and Lembo eras, expecting 11-0 and 10-1 every year. Simply, the world has changed. The Ivy league and NEC have gotten better. It's not a scholarship thing - do you honestly think the NEC's first scholarship class of 8 athletes made one whit of difference? - it's just the reality that the have's and have-nots have become much closer.

Albany is up 17-3 on full-scholarship Delaware at halftime. The Ivies don't have scholarships, but are attracting better and better athletes every year. Lehigh used to dominate them - those days are over.

4) Give this team some time. I don't like this loss any more than you, but the team you're seeing now will not be the team you see in Patriot League play. Coach Coen needs the time to make it happen, and we're going to have to give them time to work it out.

Tune in tomorrow. I'm pretty disappointed in the loss - believe me - but I think we need to face some facts about the Patriot League, our expectations, and our beloved Hawks. It's time to let go of the past.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Water Cooler: Princeton/Lehigh

I'm undecided as to whether to keep this "Water Cooler" graphic to your left. Maybe it's because I've worked for too many large companies in my time, but there's something about it that reminds me of "harassment training". ("Is Bill is making unwanted advances towards Candy by asking her to see his coffee cup collection in his cubicle tonight?")

Anyway, if you're seeing this graphic it must mean that it's "Friday Water Cooler" time, where we make one last go-around the picks of the week, last-minute news about Lehigh/Princeton, my plans, and maybe even a joke about Kanye West.

Kanye, Where Are Ye?
The answer to that is: Touring with the Stones. That's right, the Rolling Stones. (Brought to you by Cialis and Lipitor.) Hard to understand the motivation behind this. Trying to get break into that "white 50-and-over" market? Granted, the Stones somehow (inexplicably) still sell out concerts, so it is a moneymaker. Still, what could be next? "Coming to an Arena near you! "Rush... and Jay-Z... team up for: "Still Singin' '2112' after all dose yearz!"

Lehigh/Princeton
Your updated weather is calling for showers ending very early... and *ample sunshine* in time for kickoff. Should be a great afternoon for football in the mid-70s. It's going to be Wachovia Community Day, with an appearance by Nextel Cup/ NASCAR driver Mark Martin's No. 6 Ford Fusion car. I'm not a NASCAR fan, but I'm sure there are a lot of NASCAR dads (and NASCAR kids, for that matter) that will want to see that. Lehigh ROTC, the Bethlehem Fire Company, and the local Boy and Cub scouts will also be honored at halftime (as is the Community Day tradition).

As for me...
I'm going to be going to the Fordham/Columbia game in upper Manhattan, making my overdue pilgrimage to this NYC rivalry and maybe even getting somewhat serious in my I-AA.org column regarding 9/11. Since I'll be there, I won't be blogging live about the game. However, I'll be catching the replay on lehighsports.com later in the day as to not miss any action.

This, of course, segways nicely into the...

Water Cooler Picks: Patriot League, Week 3
Fordham over Columbia. I'll be watching this battle for New York City superiority. This game is always close - give me Fordham by a Micah Culkey FG. Fordham 15, Columbia 14.

Harvard over Holy Cross. Another big rivalry game that should get a lot of local interest in the Boston area. If Harvard runs RB Clifton Dawson down the throats of the Crusaders, though, they should pull it out just like Northeastern did. Harvard 21, HC 17.

#21 Lafayette over Penn. It will be close, but it's hard to imagine the Leopards sleepwalking through this, their big "show me" game of their early schedule. Lafayette 24, Penn 21.

Brown over Georgetown. Georgetown is vastly improved, but Brown just seems like a bad matchup for this young team. Brown 27, G'Town 0.

Colgate over Dartmouth. Mix "loss to UMass", "bye week", and "revenge for last year" all together, and you have a major blowout. Colgate 46, Dartmouth 3.

Cornell over Bucknell. Hopefully the Bison will be able to rebound from last week's shutout, but Cornell should prove to be too tough, even on the road. Cornell 35, Bucknell 17.

Water Cooler Picks: Top 25, Week 3
#1 New Hampshire over Stony Brook. This will probably be a letdown game, but it's still pretty lopsided. UNH 31, SB 0.

#2 Appalachian State over Mars Hill (D-II). Another major D-II upset? Nah. ASU 30, Mars Hill 14.

#3 Cal Poly over Sacramento State.
For some games, the less said, the better. Cal Poly 27, Sac State 0.

#5 Furman over I-A North Carolina.
This Tar Heel team is really struggling in the reaches of I-A and will be starting a new QB. I've got to believe the Paladins, hungry for their first I-A win and one of the best teams in I-AA, can dispatch this struggling team handily. Furman 21, NC 10.

I-A Penn State over #6 Youngstown State.
Penn State ain't going to be happy losing to the Irish last week, and Joe Pa will not be afraid to put the hammer down. Should be a long day for Y-Town. PSU 56, YSU 3.

#17 Eastern Illinois over #7 Illinois State.
I like what I'm seeing from these Panthers, and in a hard-fighting game, I think they narrowly squeak this one out. EIU 24, ISU 21.

#8 Richmond over VMI.
Yes, Dick and Jane, I CAN say, "letdown". That means the Spiders "only" win by 27. Richmond 37, VMI 10.

#9 UMass over Villanova.
I don't like what Talley's doing to motivate his troops - basically, calling them unmotivated. Nonetheless, they should come out hard against the Minutemen, but it's hard to see them giving them much of a battle. UMass 37, Nova 20.

#10 North Dakota State over Northeastern.
An intruguing matchup that will probably be closer than most think. When the game is on the line, though, look for the Bison to pull this out. NDSU 24, N'Eastern 18.

#11 Delaware over Albany.
Albany's big crash towards reality continues. Delaware 35, Albany 3.

#12 Northern Iowa over South Dakota State.
Think coach Farley will be motivated to win this one resoundingly after last week's loss to D-II North Dakota? UNI 47, SDSU 3.

I-A California over #14 Portland State.
Portland State already has a I-A scalp (New Mexico) and a conference win (Northern Colorado), but California... I mean, UC-Berkeley... is a different matter altogether. Since they won't be overlooked, look for the Bears to cruise. UC-Berkeley 31, PSU 10.

#15 Hampton over North Carolina A & T.
Take the points in a "letdown" game, but this is looking like a part of the "Hampton MEAC Coronation Tour" more than anything else. Hampton 41, NC A&T 7.

I-A Indiana over #17 Southern Illinois.
Take the points, but I think Indiana takes this game. Coach Kill will undoubtedly make this one interesting, though. Indiana 28, SIU 20.

#20 Montana State over #19 UC-Davis.
The most intriguing matchup of the young season. Will the real Slim Shady.. I mean Bobcat team.. please stand up? You hate to call it a must-win game, but the Bobcats really have more to prove here than the Aggies - which would seem to spell a close quality win for them. MSU 31, UC-D 28.

Western Carolina over #22 Eastern Kentucky.
Even though the Catamounts are notoriously slow starters, I give the ever-so-slight edge of this battle of playoff contenders to the home side. The Catamount "D" should save the day. WCU 28, EKU 27.

I-A Louisiana Tech over #23 Nicholls State.
Although I'm not a La Blech fan, I can't see a I-AA triple-option team (with single-digit passing attempts combined in two games) take it to them. La Blech 28, Nicholls State 14.

#24 Idaho State over I-A Idaho.
The Vandals had better watch out - I think the Bengals will be highly motivated to stick it to them. They will, emphatically. ISU 34, Idaho 13.

Coastal Carolina over #25 Georgia Southern
. The Chantiecleers righted the ship with a big win last week over South Carolina State, and the Eagles could not have more questions after a loss 17-13 to Central Connecticut State of the NEC and a distracting drug arrest involving two of their players this week. I think Coastal continues to make this a season of questions for Georgia Southern. CCU 38, GSU 20.

Press Roundup and Mash-up

Finally, here's the pregame press for the game. Enjoy the game! It should be a great mid-September tailgate (and hopefully a Lehigh win)!

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Facing Unfamiliar Skid, Unfamiliar Foe

Easton Express-Times:
Mountain Hawks Struggle At Home

Brown & White:
Hawks Look to Quiet Tigers' Roar

Trenton Times:
Tigers Have Pride

Mash-up:

They've won on the road, beat a highly-respected full-scholarship team and rallied back from three deficits to find victory -- all in one marvelous night at Villanova.

“The fact that we could come back three times against a good opponent shows trust,” junior offensive lineman Jimmy Kehs said.

Now the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks want to experience a similar feeling of success at home. "Coach Coen made it known," said wide receiver Frank Trovato, a former athlete at Bethlehem Catholic. "He allowed us to celebrate it for one more night. Now we have the Princeton Tigers on our mind.

"He wants us to have fun and wants it to be a great memory but that's what it is, a memory," he said.

"Coach told us that he's been having people come up to him and say, 'Great game. Now you just have to win at home,' " Trovato said. "Down at Villanova, we had just as many fans as they did. We have great fans, great alumni. What better way to reward them than with a win at home."

"I know how upset the kids were the way last season ended," Coen said, "and with us not playing well enough to win the first week (this season). We need to win a home game."

"It's important for us to establish ourselves at home," Fabre said. "We enjoy being at home, but there's always more pressure being at home. Quite honestly, you're on a bigger stage at home. You know there's going to be a lot more of your fans there, you know it's being televised locally. You know there's more media there, so yes, there's more pressure."

“It was my fault that we lost [against Albany],” senior defensive lineman Eric Rakus said. “You have to do your job, and I didn’t. I did better against Villanova and hope to continue my progress against Princeton.”

(Dude, Eric, last I checked there you had 21 other teammates that started that day. It's past. Keep getting better.)

“Our attitude has to remain the same,” Head Coach Andy Coen said. “We have seen already this season that the underdog can come out on top.”

...
Fifteen senior starters have departed from last year's 7-3 breakout season for head coach Roger Hughes, but the Tigers believe they can reload, not rebuild, with a number of players anxious to take leading roles.

On ivyleaguesports.com, Princeton’s Head Coach Roger Hughes said his team lacked experience at offensive line and linebacker.

"From what I heard, it's a fairly young team," Fabre said. "They don't have a lot of returning starters and they are starting one true freshman on the offensive line. Their quarterback is a senior [Jeff Terrell] who has played for a while and they have a really good receiving corps.

“Their center is a converted defensive lineman, which makes him smaller than your average offensive lineman,” Rakus said. “Hopefully I will have a better chance of pushing the packet.”

"It's a team we have to respect. Whether they've played no games or 10 games, we have to expect that they're going to come out and play their best football. They're probably like we were two weeks ago and are just anxious to hit somebody in a different colored jersey."

"Some people might look at us and say we're a no-name team, but for us we're going to make a name for ourselves," [sophomore DL Tom] Methvin said at Princeton's football media day. "We're young and we're happy and we're proud. What some may see as a weakness, we see it as a strength. We have a lot of great guys that people don't even know about and we're looking to really see those guys shine this year."

"[Tom is] a big, lovable-type guy," Princeton defensive coordinator Steve Verbit said, "who flips a switch when he's on the football field and basically destroys people. But when he's off the field, he's deeply religious and he cares a lot about people."

"We have to make sure," Hughes said, "that they have the mindset that, 'Hey, it's on me now and I have to make the play. I can't stand around and wait for someone else to do it.'"

Of course, head coach Andy Coen has a better handle on Princeton than his players since he saw them every year while he was the offensive coordinator at Penn. "Their defensive scheme will likely be similar to what it has been, because they've got the same coaches," Coen said. "[Hughes] always does a great job with the offense. They have a new offensive line coach who had been with Tubby Raymond at Delaware and it'll be interesting to see if he brings some new ideas. They do a good job with the play-action pass, they run some option and always have a few tricks up their sleeve.

"It's a hard team to prepare for. It may be a game where at halftime we go in the locker room and say we have to fix some things."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Princeton/Lehigh Preview

Has it really been two weeks since the season has started? In ways, it feels like two whole seasons have past us. With the rollercoaster ride of emotions the past two weeks, we now see our beloved Hawks return home to enter into the part of their schedule where we challenge the best teams the Ivy League has to offer. This week, it's the Princeton Tigers playing in their opener.

I won't be at this game or blogging about it since I'm going to be covering the Fordham/Columbia game for I-AA.org that day. I thought it appropriate with the 5th anniversary of 9/11 that I finally go see what the "Liberty Cup" is all about. (On a related note, my piece on 9/11 and I-AA was just published on I-AA.org, that goes into the history of the Liberty Cup and how 9/11 affected some of the schools in the area.)

Rest assured, though, I'm going to watch the replay of the game online and weigh in Saturday night with my thoughts. (Ah, the magic of the internet.)

Lehigh brings a ton of momentum into this game after upsetting Villanova 31-28 last week, their first win over Villanova since 1924. As great as last week's win was, the pressure will be on to keep the ball rolling this week and to get into the I-AA Top 25 conversation. This week, the swagger should be back - but it will take a lot more than swagger to win this game.

Injury & Weather Report
OUT:
OL Ben Harden
OL Brendan Caffrey
DB Courtney Elder

Questionable:
DL Paul Bode
OL Pete Morelli

Senior OL Pete Morelli, and opening-day "O" line starter, was injured last week and will be questionable to play. Stepping into his spot is sophomore OL Kevin Bayani, and the 300-lb behemoth that sould be able to fit in quite nicely. DL Paul Bode may also get his first game action of the year as he's upgraded to "questionable". The depth on the "D" line is much needed, so that's a very encouraging sign.

The "D" Line should enjoy some new faces, with senior DT Royce Morgan listed as the starter, and senior DT Kyle Adams backing him up. It's not clear if Morgan is 100% up to game shape, so look for Adams and Morgan to possibly split time. Sophomore DL Keith Johnson, the starter in Morgan's absence, could also get some time on the line as well. It's great to see all these guys getting healthy and getting playing time.

Right now, the forecast (mercifully) calls for a cloudy and cool day, highs in the mid-70s. With a 1:07PM kickoff, that means that this week's tailgate drinks of choice have to be your Yuengling beer of choice: Yuengling light, Yuengling Premium, or (for the adventurous) Yuengling Black & Tan. (Contrary to popular belief, Yuengling brewing company does NOT underwrite this blog.)

A Few Words on Princeton
I've said before that "playing the Ivies are like a box of chocolates; you don't know what you're going to get," and this is still somewhat true today. Most Ivy teams cannot just reload every year with pro-caliber players since Ivies cannot offer traditional scholarships (though the aid they give students is not "blind" to football ability). But the upper-echelon Ivy teams seem to have at least one or two NFL-caliber athletes on their rosters. Princeton is one of these teams. From last year's team, four Tigers ended up on NFL rosters this summer.

For those who don't know, the Ivy League operates over different rules (by their own choice) than the rest of I-AA. Their seasons open this weekend (later than the rest of I-AA), and Ivy teams play a ten-week season with no playoff opportunity. This is by decree from the Ivy presidents, against the wishes of many alumni, Ivy fans, and (especially) the players.

Of course, all of this doesn't stop me (or anyone else, for that matter) from speculating about Princeton's football ability this year. At Ivy League media day, the members present voted Princeton to finish sixth this year. I happen to think they're nuts. In the I-AA Preview magazine, I picked Princeton to finish much higher, and I stand by my prediction. Last year, Princeton was picked to finish sixth and ended up a solid third - and I think they could do it again. Although they lost some great impact players, a good core remains from a team which went 7-3 last year and also beat Lafayette.

Lehigh and Princeton will be meeting for the 50th time on Saturday. Princeton holds a 36-11-2 edge in the series, but Lehigh has won the last seven contests. In the modern era, the Hawks have been an impressive 9-3, with only one of those losses coming at Murray Goodman in 1992.

Finally, coach Coen will have faced head coach Roger Hughes quite a bit as Penn's offensive coordinator. Hughes has been the Tiger head skipper since 2000, so we may have a leg up in that department.

Offense
The Tigers in 2005 boasted a three-headed rushing attack behind an offensive line loaded with veterans. It seems likely that they will do so again in 2006. Trouble is, you don't know which guy Hughes will feature from week to week.

Senior QB Jeff Terrell is the team captain and will be a threat to run every time he touches the ball. In 2005 he was a so-so passer with 9 TD strikes and around a 50% completion percentage, but I beleive in 2006 we'll see Terrell as more of an all-around QB. When healthy, he was a good offensive leader, and it will be interesting to see how he does here.

He'll be throwing to a veteran receiving corps, with senior WRs Brian Brigham, Brendan Circle, and Brian Shields. Brigham and Shields are burners; Circle is the "hands" guy underneath. If coach Hughes finds what works, he'll tend to keep going with it until you stop it, so any one of these targets could be a favorite against Lehigh. Sophomore TE Billy Mitchell is an unknown quantity, but Hughes used TE (and current Steeler) Jon Dekker a lot last year on offense, so you have to guard the TE as well most likely.

Joining him in the backfield is the leading rusher from last year, junior FB Rob Teresco. Like DeQueese May last week, he's a multi-faceted threat rushing or catching the ball out of the backfield, and would seem to be poised for an increased role in 2006. At running back we could also see one of two sophomores in RB Pete Ploszek or R.C. Lagomarsino, or the returning senior, RB Cleo Kirkland. Again, Hughes seems to "go with the hot hand" so it's difficult to key on any one guy.

The "O" line is completely rebuilt from last year. There is some beef on the line (senior G Kyle Vellutato is 300 lbs) but this will by far be the smallest "O" line we've faced this year. With a true freshman starting at RT, and two tackles averaging 247 lbs, senior OLB Matt Mohler might be poised for a good day.

Defense
Hughes' base 3-4 features some solid veterans - some with great experience and talent - but also features some gigantic question marks in the front seven.

The three "D" linemen are all sophomores, the best being DE Pete Buchignani, the Tigers' top defensive freshman in 2005. They are all decent-sized linemen and hard to judge as a unit, though two played last year as freshmen.

The linebacking corps, led by senior LB Luke Steckel, is also loaded with first-time starters, but don't be fooled here. With two seniors and two juniors, this is not a bad unit. Compared to Villanova last week, though, this is a smaller unit, averaging 215 lbs across. These guys will be undersized, but good tacklers and good athletes.

The strength of this "D" will probably, again, be the defensive backfield. Senior CB J.J. Artis, a four-year defensive starter, is very talented and will be difficult to fool. The starting safeties, seniors Rob Anderson and Tim Strickland, are good in run support and in pass defense as well. This will not be an easy secondary to crack.

Special Teams
Not much to say about a new sophomore PK in Connor Lauden, but senior P Colin McDonough could be an NFL-caliber punter with a 40 yard net average in 2005. The punt and kickoff return duties will be also be some familiar faces from 2005: junior RB Bill Foran, and senior WR Brian Shields. Consider Tiger special teams to be a major strength.

Keys To The Game
1. Run Between the Tackles? I must admit, with this inexperienced front seven, it's awful tempting to grind out a lot of yards on the ground. No "three yards and a cloud of dust", but my plan would involve some inside running.

2. Attack, attack, attack. The inexperienced "O" line, combined with smallish outside linemen, could mean pressure from the outside may disrupt things effectively. I'd blitz a lot from the outside and hopefully make life miserable for Terrell.

3. Don't sleep on special teams. These teams could be the best we've faced so far. It's important to play smart and to help get better field position. We cannot afford to sleep against these units, or we will have ourselves some big-time problems.

4. Princeton 23, Lafayette 21. Last year, Lafayette sleepwalked through the first half, and couldn't rally in the second half to beat the Tigers. It could absolutely happen again if we're not careful; Princeton has the talent to make you pay. I'd watch that game film again.

Fearless Prediction
We've learned how Lehigh responds after a loss; we'll now see how we respond to a win. I don't think Coen is fooled by Princeton, but I'm still not sure how the troops will respond after hearing all the prise about last week's game. But I think we have a good shot if we stay aggressive and keep the mistakes down again. I think the troops will be ready - but it won't be as easy as some think.

Lehigh 31, Princeton 24

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lehigh/Villanova Press Roundup & Game Balls

We're going to permit ourselves one little look back on the "week that was" before devoting ourselves 100% to the upcoming game at home versus Princeton. Namely, a quick look at the press roundup, a distribution of game balls (trust me, there will be plenty), and maybe a word about Atlantic 10 TV coverage.

Reality TV
Even though I'm a Mountain Hawk fan (and unashamed to admit it), when I do my pieces here and on I-AA.org I believe I go to pains to give respect to the opposing teams in regards to their ability. If Albany makes good plays, I'll say it. If Lafayette has good players, I'll say it. I *will* call announcers out when I see that Lehigh doesn't get the respect. And I felt like CN8's TV coverage of Lehigh didn't really give it to the Hawks until about 3:00 left in the game with a 31-28 lead.

Only semi-joking yesterday I mentioned the following (paraphrased) typical exchange on CN8:

Announcer #1: Oh my GAWD, Lehigh looks like they're going into the tank. Did you see the abs on LB Bryan Adams?

Announcer #2: Yes, and look at that great blocking on the line. Oh, Villanova are simply the greatest players at the I-AA level. Whuh? Lehigh's now up 31-28? Who got that TD for them?

I understand that the guys are going to be A-10 homers, and I don't expect completely "fair and balanced" reporting. But to this reporter, it's as if the announcers clearly felt Lehigh was inferior. Too many A-10 football fans have told me that they tire of Lehigh fans painting themselves as "little Lehigh on South Mountain" when clearly they're a powerful I-AA school. Well, you can listen to last weekend's game and see who'se painting us in that way - it ain't us.

Game Balls
Historically I give game balls on offense, defense, and special teams every week. This week, I'm going to do the same, but I'm also going to throw some more out there as well for some key plays.

Offense: Junior QB Sedale "The Total Package" Threatt
The stats are impressive against anybody, but against an A-10 caliber defense they take on new meaning. 300 total yards. A first half of impressive execution, with great accuracy. Importantly, no interceptions. Down 14-0, he led the offense on an impressive drive with great composure. No doubt he gets one today.

Defense: Senior DB Ernie "Anchorman" Moore
Why "The Anchorman?" The reason is that his hard hitting and his involvement stopping the run barely kept Villanova in check, especially late in the game. 12 tackles and one tackle for loss are impressive numbers, and although Villanova rushed for 208 yards against us, "The Anchorman" made sure the backs had to earn every yard. His play stood out on defense.

Special Teams: Senior WR/PR Frank Trovato
We've had big punt returns for TDs before, but it's hard to think of one which meant more than Frank's late in the first half to tie the game at 14. Besides that, his 138 all-purpose yards meant Trovato was giving the Wildcats fits all night. If he can emerge as a consistent weapon all year on special teams, it could be a fun year.

Normally I'd stop here, but I need to single out the entire "O" line for praise. Junior T Jimmy Kehs, senior G Jim Petrucelli, senior C John Reese, senior G Pete Morelli, senior T Jason Russell, and junior G Kevin Bayani all get balls this week. If you look at the replay of the game-winning TD, you'll see our "O" line make some awesome blocks to seal the deal. Late in the game, against a good A-10 defense, that deserves real praise.

Finally, three guys on that game-winning drive also deserve game balls. Senior FB Greg Fay, sophomore RB Matt McGowan, and senior RB Marques Thompson. Fay's blocking, Thompson's huge 43 yard run, and McGowan's acceleration down the left side deserve game balls as well. You all earned it. Your contributions on this TD drive may have changed the course of the season.

Press Roundup
Finally, some interesting writeups from the local press. Also, let it be known that Trovato and Threatt were rightfully Patriot League Players of the Week.

Allentown Morning Call:
Hawks Roar Back to beat Villanova
Hawks Change Script

Upshot: "It looked like the Mountain Hawks would again see a valiant effort come up short as they did in a 34-33 overtime loss to the Blue Hens. But the similarities suddenly ended."

Brown & White:
Coen's Hawks Tame Wildcats For First Victory

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Burroughs, Villanova Lose a Heartbreaker to Lehigh

The mash-up:

Sophomore defensive back and special teams starter Brendan VanAckeren said after the sloppy 17-16 loss to the University at Albany last week in the Hawks’ home opener, the team practiced hard all week so they could rebound from the loss.

“We produced well on both sides of the ball tonight,” VanAckeren said. “Sedale proved he is truly the team leader and Trovato had an amazing game.”

Trovato: "Coach Coen talked about the Delaware game last year when we should have won. He also mentioned the last time we played Villanova and were up 16-0, but lost. He said 'This was the night we win' and we went out there expecting it to happen."

"Yeah, even down 14, we expected to win," chimed in quarterback Sedale Threatt.

Trovato scored on a 57-yard punt return in the second quarter and then again in the third quarter with an 18-yard pass from Threatt. “It was kind of a low kick, so I knew I’d get a good return,” Trovato said. “I ran down the sideline and saw I had a nice wall and I just out ran [the defender].”

"On that final drive, I looked at the guys in the huddle and we knew we were going to go down there and score," Threatt said. "We knew we'd do the job. The coaches knew, we knew. And, there it was, 31-28."

Threatt also had to overcome a severe case of cramps on Lehigh's final drive, which covered 80 yards in five plays after a missed 'Nova field goal attempt. "I was thinking, 'Lord, God, please let me stop cramping because it hurts'" Threatt said. "Coach Coen wrote on the board the other day 'Expect to win.' And, we expected to win. We weren't surprised they missed that field goal. We came out on that drive and knew we were going to go down and score. Marques Thompson stepped up [with a 43-yard run] and McGowan stepped up. We knew we'd get the job done."

[After the game], for a few moments, Villanova quarterback Marvin Burroughs just sat on the 25-yard line. Lehigh defensive back Daynin Blake had just wrapped his arms around Burroughs' ankles and taken down the fleet-footed quarterback with 1 minute, 37 seconds left on the clock at Villanova Stadium. That sack on fourth and 7 in the fourth quarter ruined any hope of a triumphant comeback for Burroughs to his home turf.

"It was difficult because it was a home game," Burroughs said afterward. "That was heartbreaking, the way we lost."

Villanova coach Andy Talley was not easy on his team afterward. He blamed not the eight penalties for 65 yards, but the Wildcats' attitude. "I really feel, in a nutshell, the guys did not play with any emotion whatsoever as a team," he said.

Talley said he was seriously considering putting his players in a scrimmage today.

...
If there was any question about how Lehigh players feel about new coach Andy Coen, it was answered in the first minute of the postgame press conference late Saturday night at Villanova Stadium.

Before Frank Trovato, the former Bethlehem Catholic star who scored two touchdowns in the Mountain Hawks' stirring 31-28 come-from-behind victory, would answer a question, he paused. "First of all, I want to congratulate Coach Coen on his first victory," Trovato said.

That prompted the two other players at the interview table — quarterback Sedale Threatt and defensive tackle Royce Morgan — to join Trovato in giving their coach an impromptu round of applause.

"This one means a lot," said Trovato. "Last week we lost and didn't really know what our identity was for 2006. The coaches worked us hard, and we had an excellent week of practice. Actions speak louder than words. [People say] we're not good enough to play at Villanova. We're not a scholarship school. Well, we came down here and showed we can play with anybody."

VanAckeren said he couldn’t be happier for Coen in achieving his first victory as the Hawks’ head coach. "Coach [Coen] deserved this win,” VanAckeren said. “We worked real hard all week in practice, and I think he is going to lead the team in the right direction.”

"I love everybody, but what our offensive line has done this year with [offensive line coach] Brett Sawyer has been wonderful to see," Coen said. "I look down at the stat sheet and see we ran the ball for 203 yards against a pretty good defense. As an old offensive line coach, I'm excited about that."

"You can't be happy with all of those penalties," Coen said. "That's not the way it's scripted. But as much as we talk about execution, we also talk about keeping our poise and overcoming adversity. We overcame a lot.

"I'm not happy with how it started, but I'm real happy with how it ended."

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Fifth-year player Royce Morgan, who dealt with what was termed 'academic and personal issues' earlier in the summer, made a grand return to solidify the defensive front. He was credited with 2.5 tackles, two for losses.

"This feels great and I just want to thank the coaches, athletic director Joe Sterrett and everyone involved who helped me through the tough times," an emotional Morgan said. "This is probably the best team I've been a part of in five years here. Nights like this are the reason I came back."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday's Word: Trust

Well, kids, this weekend we didn't only learn coach Coen's message to the team this week, we also learned about the strange world of I-AA football.

Coach Coen's pregame speech this Saturday involved trust. Trust in each other, trust in the program, trust in the coaching staff and everything will turn out alright. Awfully hard to argue against it last week. As a result, Lehigh got the sort of big-ticket win they have been looking for with a 31-28 win over Villanova, where a lot of kids did a lot of things right. It was far from perfect, but coming back from three deficits and coming on top showed a lot. A lot. The CN8 announcers were thinking Villanova would blow them out midway through the second quarter - Lehigh proved them wrong.

Elsewhere around I-AA, we also learned to trust that it's early in the year, and strange things happen in college football.

Fordham, who looked so bad against Monmouth in Week 1, turned around and beat Albany, who beat us last week. (No team needed that win more last weekend than Fordham.)

Most folks thought I-A Northwestern would pound the A-10 favorite, New Hampshire, this weekend. UNH didn't just beat the Big 10 school, they CRUSHED them, 34-17.

Montana State, who shocked I-A Colorado of the Big 12 last week, then inexplicably failed to show up against D-II Chadron State, losing 35-24. Of the (I think unprecedented) eight I-AA schools that lost against D-II competition, the other shocker was Northern Iowa getting upended by D-II North Dakota 35-31 as well.

If you add to this mix Monmouth's decisive win over full-scholarship Morgan State of the MEAC 26-9, and Central Connecticut State's shock win at Georgia Southern 17-13, and you begin to see that nobody is safe from an upset. You tend to forget about an upset to Albany when you see two Top 10 teams losing to D-II schools, and another Top 25 school beaten by a NEC team offering just about the same number of scholarships.

The story in I-AA is that scholarships don't matter. You have to come to play every week, or you'll be next. Don't look at D-II or NEC teams and say they're inferior. They're not. They can and will beat you. Trust that every week, you have to come to play.

For Lehigh, the key is to continue to improve and not let the Albany game impact anything. Next week is Princeton, and undoubtedly you will discover, like I have, that this is an excellent team that beat Lafayette last year and has the talent to not only win the Ivy but to beat Lehigh off the line physically as well. They will be a new challenge next week. The trick will be to not get such a big head after Villanova that they make Princeton next week into, if you will, Chadron State.

If we're to win championships, we've got to look even better next week against Princeton. Celebration time for the Villanova game is over. Preparation for Princeton begins now.
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