Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lehigh 28, G'Town 3, final

Lehigh won this game on defense, as our "D" has made big strides from last week and playmakers are starting to emerge. Unfortunately, on offense and special teams the same mistakes continue to plague our squad, making this a game into the 4th quarter when it shouldn't have been.

21 of these 28 points were a result of turnovers by the Hoyas, who really have to start worrying about their turnover-itis in a big way. On the plus side, Lehigh made these turnovers pay off for us.

I'm continuing to be frustrated by this offense. I really am perplexed by the inability to get sustained drives going and a short passing game. There were many 3rd downs that resulted in Threatt getting flushed out of the pocket and frequently getting sacked. The big difference with this team and the great Higgins and Lembo teams were the ability to pick up that big 3rd-and-8 reception to keep a drive alive. So far this year, we haven't been doing this with any sort of consistency.

Not only that, if I'm Marques Thompson, I've just come off a 2 TD, 130+ yard effort, but at least 20 extra yards were reversed by bad holding penalties on the line. Thompson is a lock for a game ball, but seeing 1st downs negating by bad holding calls are something that maybe won't kill us against Georgetown, but absolutely will against Holy Cross, Colgate, or that school in Easton.

But this game belongs to the defense. There were some sustained drives, but they got crucial turnovers and got big hits on defense, and the development of that unit is really great to see after the Harvard game.

No more griping. I've been starving for a win, and I'm going to enjoy this. Remember that old ad -- I think it was a Nike commercial -- that always ended... "and, Al Del Greco?" I think for my wrapups I'm going to end them, "... and, Frank Trovato". It seems like every week he makes big momentum-changing returns, and this was no exception. (Of course, two were reversed by asinine clipping penalties.. but I said I was going to enjoy this...) Trovato is coming to play every week, and I'm liking it.

There's lots to work on. But, I'm celebrating this win.

Finally, a win. I'm going to celebrate a great defensive effort, Yuengling beer-can chicken, anyone? And.... Frank Trovato.

Lehigh 28, G'Town 3, mid-4th

FS Ernie Moore gets the big interception and return and Marques Thompson gets it in. Now, G'Town's big chance for the upset is now soundly put away.

Moore and (I think) Austin) are the playmakers that got the big turnovers to make this happen.

It's nice to feel comfortable again in the 4th quarter for a change.

Lehigh 21, G'Town 3, early 4th

Big fumble, and Thompson squeezes past tackle and gets a big, big TD.

Big play from the defense - I think the fumble was forced by Austin? - and the offense finally got the job done.

Looking good now, after I went through my moment of abject panic.

Lehigh 14, G'Town 3, end 3rd

More of same. Sloppy play on offense and special teams in a game where the Hoyas are ripe... RIPE... for the upset. Making matters worse, the Hoyas re driving here.

It's yet another game where we're taking too many chances on offense, make too mny mistakes on special teams, and we don't put the hammer down. Now, it's a game into the 4th quarter.

At this point I'm hoping we get out of here with a win.

Lehigh 14, G'Town 3, halftime

Keep in mind I'm listening to this game, not watching it. Threatt-to-Trovato, for the Lehigh TD at the end of the half, salvaged another sloppy half offensively, plagued by penalties and a big turnover in the red zone. But I'll take the 11 point lead.

Threat and the offense have been their maddening selves. Going for the home run ball when a pass underneath would do. Big Marques Thompson runs reversed through penalties. Holding the ball too long and taking a sack. It's another day where we're showing flashes of great play, followed be mental lapses that have you reaching for the Alka-Seltzer.

The "D" has done its job, forcing (at least) one turnover and holding the Hoyas to a FG after an 8-minute drive. I'll have to look at the stats, but they sound like they've getting the job done so far.

Second half coming up. Most importantly, we need to PUT THE HAMMER DOWN. I don't like that the Hoyas are "hanging around" mostly because we're letting them hang around.

Lehigh 7, G'Town 3, end 1st

The Hoyas went on an impressive 8 minute drive against our defense, but only could get a FG out of it. Lehigh's offense was effecient, with Threatt hitting sophomore TE Troy Healion for the TD. Penalties, unfortunately, are killing us - a personal foul negating 1st-and-goal, and starting the second quarter a holding call negated a big RB Marques Thompson run.

It's been OK, but not encouraging. We needmore discipline here. Hopefully next quarter we'll see improvement.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Water Cooler: Lehigh/G'Town

It's that time again - you can tell from the cheesy graphic to your left that it's Friday Water Cooler time. It's time for game predictions, what I did last weekend, last minute Lehigh/G'Town notes, press mashups, and (of course) some general misbehavin'.

Of course, despite the presence of North Korea and Iran pursuing nukes, the shocking "Foley and Hastert Congressional Page Scandal", and (of course) dogs in cute costumes, the really big news in the world OUGHT to be: Lehigh Football Nation has now eclipsed the 100,000 hit plateau! Maybe I ought to commemorate this somehow, like printing up some T-shirts?

ESPN/Sports Radio Are Becoming A Bunch Of Teenage Girls
No, really. Have you been following the T.O./McNabb stuff on ESPN, or the "New York Fans Now Hate A-Rod" stuff? I'm all for personal angle stories, but this teenage business has got to be some of the dopiest stuff I've heard in the history of sports reporting. "Coming up next: T.O. seen out in public with Bledsoe, while McNabb stews!" "T.O. was wearing a dapper Louis Vuitton suit, complete with lapels, and... do I see a new diamond earring?"

It's hard to beleive we've gone from "I ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong" in Muhammed Ali's boxing career to "I didn't get Donovan's text message, tee hee!". If anything shows how detached from reality we and the members of the professional sports world have become, it's this drivel. Personally, I could give a rat's ass how T.O., McNabb and Yankee fans feel. What I care about is what athletes do on the field of play. Leave the other stuff to Joan Rivers and her daughter.

What Chuck Did Last Week
Speaking of Yankee fans and the "Heart of Darkness", it's true, I went down to Delaware to watch one of the best games I've ever seen with New Hampshire hanging on to beat the Hens 52-49. You can read my I-AA Diary of the game here on I-AA.org. In all seriousness, I had a great time, mostly because Delaware wasn't playing Lehigh, they were playing New Hampshire. It was an incredible game and an incredible atmosphere.

This week, I'm not going to any games as I'm instead going to celebrate my son's birthday at home. You can bet that Lehigh/Georgetown will be involved, though, in some way with my day, and I will also be blogging about it.

Lehigh/Georgetown
Remember when I said that I was hoping that Lehigh will play another "monsoon game"? Well, I'm getting my wish. Forecast for the D.C. area calls for an inch of rain tonight, followed by a half inch of rain tomorrow. So along with your cans of Yuengling, bring your ponchos.

This could be a good thing for our beloved Mountain Hawks, playing in this "weather game". If any team needed a "weather win", it's Lehigh after heartbreakingly losing their last two. I think if we pull out a win here in bad conditions, this could be a great building point for the rest of the year. Really.

For those not making the trip, the Lehigh/Georgetown game is the only game that will not be broadcast on video through LehighSports.com. From the link, however, you can get the audio call on AM 1230 and AM 1320 from the fine team of Matt Kerr and Marty Horn. For those of you who have CSTV XXL, there may be video of this game available through the Hoya website as well, but this is unconfirmed. (Of course, if you're a Lehigh fan, why would you have CSTV XXL?)

Finally, Georgetown finally released their game notes today and announced that Bassuener will be the starter, but don't be surprised to see Hostetler also come in at QB for the Hoyas. In addition, junior LB Stephen Smith is starting at LB over junior Darren Craft. Smith is a bit bigger than Craft, and we'll see if that has any impact.

Water Cooler Picks: Patriot League, Week 6
Duquesne over Fordham. Although Duquesne has a "turnover problem", the Dukes' passing game poses a matchup problem for the Rams, and Fordham's whole offense is still in disarray. Dukes win. Dukes 31, Fordham 24.

#21 Princeton over Colgate. An intriguing matchup, this game pits one of the most fearsome defenses in I-AA against one of the Patriot League's best backs in RB Jordan Scott. But what frightens me more is that Princeton's running game is really starting to get on track. If Colgate breaks the 28 point barrier, I think they win, but I think the Tigers win a, well, typical low-scoring Princeton game. Princeton 19, Colgate 17.

Penn over Bucknell. This is a more intriguing game than meets the eye, and if Bucknell makes a game of it I wouldn't be surprised. After struggling against Dartmouth last week, this is a real test for the Quakers to see if they can establish the run after failing to do so last week. My bet is 'yes'. AFLACers 35, Bison Burgers 21.

Holy Cross over Brown. Brown seems to be a major Ivy disappointment this year, but Holy Cross overcame a plethora of mistakes to beat Fordham last week. More worryingly for the Bears is their inability to stop anybody. This seems like a good spot for the Crusaders to continue their winning streak. HC 28, Brown 21.

Water Cooler Picks: Top 25, Week 6
#1 New Hampshire over #8 Richmond. I should probably know better, since everything about this game points to a "letdown" for the Wildcats and a fired-up Spider squad. But I'm not picking against Santos and Ball. No way. UNH 31, Richmond 10.

#2 Appalachian State over Chattanooga. Just a horrible matchup for the Mocs, who have a weak passing game, facing a fearsome Mountaineer rush defense. App St. 38, Chatty 9.

#3 Montana over Eastern Washington. The Grizzlies' stomp over the rest of the Big Sky continues. Griz 30, EWU 7.

#4 Furman over Coastal Carolina. Felton's rushing means the Paladins should crush the Beach Chickens, as they are unable to contain the run vey well against SoCon foes. Furman 35, Chickens 21.

Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois State. I'm sticking with a team which did me right last week in Western Kentucky. At home, they squeaked a tough 38-35 win over Western Illinois, while the Redbirds are on their second straight road trip off a lackluster performance by QB Luke Drone. It should be another dandy, with the Hilltoppers on top - late. WKU 41, ISU 34.

#16 UC-Davis over #6 Cal Poly. It doesn't matter what the records are; it doesn't matter what the rankings are; it doesn't matter who's in uniform. Davis ALWAYS beats Poly. Bank on it. UC-Davis 23, Cal Poly 21.

#7 Youngstown State over Indiana State. After seeing that the Sycamores got drubbed 55-3 by Southern Illinois, it's hard to see anything but smooth sailing for the Penguins. Y-Town 47, Trees 0.

#24 Georgia Southern over #9 North Dakota State. A tough game to call. The Bison have one of the best, balanced offenses in the nation, while the Eagles are starting to get things together offensively. If the Bison can hang up the Eagle running game, they will win, but I have a hunch that the Eagles, playing at home, get that huge win they need to stay in the playoff chase. The Bison, playing their third straight road game, fall just short. GSU 31, NDSU 29.

#10 UMass over William & Mary. A-10 League games are always dangerous, and the Tribe's defense are surprisingly solid despite their 1-3 record. Still, I think Coen, Baylark and company fins a way to crack this nut. It will be surprisingly close, but the Minutemen pull it out in the end. ZooMass 28, Bill & Mary 27.

#11 Southern Illinois over Western Illinois. I don't care how much the Leathernecks have improved - the Salukis, bar none, are the best 4-0 team you've never heard of. How they're not ranked in the Top 5 I'll never know. SIU 44, WIU 13.

#12 Hampton over D-II Central State. Should be a walkover, but please do me a favor and take the points. Future MEAC Champs 40, Central State 21.

#13 James Madison over Rhode Island. Somehow I think the Dukes' balanced attack will make short work of the Rams, just like they did to the Northeastern Huskies. Dukes roll. JMU 49, Rhody 19.

#14 Northern Iowa over Missouri State. Two teams that are going in opposite directions: the Panthers are getting better and better, and the Bears are getting worse and worse. I figure that trend to continue. UNI 38, Mizzou St. 13.

Montana State over #15 Portland State. A more intriguing matchup than you might think. In a way, this is a must-win for both teams, with the Vikings' tough defense starting to show cracks versus a Bobcat team who seems to have rediscovered their offense. I'm going to go Bobcats here. The Vikings have lost their past two trips to Bozeman, and I think Montana State's resurgence is for real. Kittens 27, Vikings 17.

#17 Towson over Maine. Though Maine isn't a bad team, it's just hard to picture them coming back from their 22-0 whitewash against I-A Boston College and then handling Towson after a bye week. The fresher team - the Tigers - take it. Towson 34, Maine 21.

#18 Harvard over Cornell. The Crimson will take this game, but please, take the points with an improving Cornell squad. Harvard 38, Cornell 22.

#19 Eastern Illinois over Southeast Missouri State. I admit it; I did no research for this OVC game, but watch me predict the right outcome. EIU 43, SEMO 13.

#20 Delaware over Northeastern. An awfully tough game to pick. Are the Hens emotionally up after their loss at home to New Hampshire in a must-win game? Can the Hens stop the Husky running attack? Can the Huskies make fewer mistakes? I think the Hens find a way to pull this out, just like they did against Rhody, and stay "playoff-viable". Hens 24, Puppies 20.
#22 San Diego over Butler. History is being made here; I beleive I'm picking my first-ever Pioneer Football League game. Of course, you'd have to be a fool to pick Butler here. Take the Toreros. San Diego 45, Butler 5.

Tennessee Tech over #23 Tennessee-Martin. It's not like the Golden Eagles have played great all year. And it's not like the TN-Martin Skyhawks are bad. But after seeing how the Eagles won their first two league games by lots of good luck and perserverance, I think they keep this thing going in similar fashion with a decent defense and a lot of good luck. TT 24, TN-Martin 22.

South Dakota State over #25 Central Arkansas. The Jackrabbits are happy to be home, finally, after a 4-game road trip. Watch as they feast on an overrated Bear squad. The Jacks may have started slow, but they've proven they can beat the best of the Southland, and this will continue. Jacks 23, UCA 17.

Press Mash-up
Allentown Morning Call:
Hawks Need To Avoid Swoon
Upshot: ''At times, we've put it all together and have played well, then other times we seem to struggle,'' Rakus said. ''We think we can fix that. We have to fix it and we have to fix it now because the league starts Saturday.' But I can tell you what it's not. It's not that we're getting too comfortable with a lead. How could you get comfortable when you're a 1-3 team? We've just got to finish better. We can't let teams back in the game.''

Easton Express-Times:
Struggling Lehigh Eager to Hit the Road
Upshot: "Every night I go to bed," Coen said, "I'm a little sick that we're 1-3. I'd like to think of it as Georgetown is a championship game," Coen said. "Then the next week is our championship game. Our season starts anew in the Patriot League this week."

Brown & White:
First League Win On the Line
Upshot: “We have a team motto that we always play for sixty minutes,” senior FS Erine Moore said. “Except for the Villanova game, we haven’t been doing that.”

The Hoya:
GU Must Decrease Turnovers to have Success
Upshot: “They’re 1-3, but they’re an excellent 1-3,” Hoya head coach Kevin Kelly said of the Mountain Hawks. “They were up on Harvard 24-7, they let the lead slip away, and you can see on film that they are an excellent football team — they might be the best football team we have played thus far.”

Matt Bassuener: Power of Ten
Upshot: "[Hoya QB] Bassuener, who was recruited by former Head Coach Bob Benson [and played U-21 American football in Finland and Mexico], transferred to the School of Foreign Service and redshirted the 2004 season, in accordance with NCAA rules. He played the 2005 season primarily as a defensive back, appearing in every game on special teams. It wasn’t until the spring of 2006, when a new coaching staff came in, that Bassuener got a chance to see some playing time at quarterback."

HoyaSaxa:
Lehigh/Georgetown Preview
Upshot: "The Hoyas' defense hasn't matched up to recent standards, particularly on pass defense. The front line must pressure Threatt and force him out of sync; otherwise, he stands to pound the smaller Hoya secondary. Two players to watch will be LB's Mike Greene and Stephen Smith, both of which can help provide a mix of defensive sets to keep the Engineers off stride. If Georgetown gets its game together and plays to its potential, this is no walkover game. After three long weeks on the road, however, they need to prove it first to themselves, and then to the fans on both sides of the unfinished field."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Preview of Lehigh/Georgetown

You could say Georgetown comes at the best, or worst, possible time for the Mountain Hawks.

I don't think anyone pointed to the game this week in the preseason as a "must-win" game for Lehigh. But there it is. Lehigh needs to win the game this week at Georgetown, and win it with some gusto. If we can dominate this team, it could show a Lehigh team that is coming together just in time for league play. If we lose this game, our championship hopes will be over. Not COULD be over - WILL be over.

At 1-3, there is no more margin for error if we want to win the Patriot League title, and all league games count more than usual. But even so, a complete win here is really needed.

Why? With no wins over the last three weeks, it's imperative that Lehigh fans (and Mountain Hawk opponents) see a team this week that they could visualize winning the Patriot League championship. Lehigh's 1-3 start should mean that there is no more swagger, no more expectation that Lehigh just shows up and wins games. If we're to win the Patriot League this year and get into the I-AA playoffs, it starts with a quality win here at Georgetown.

The Hoyas have struggled offensively and were handled last week pretty easily by Colgate. Based on that result, that seems like a match made in heaven for a team that needs to show some killer instinct and not let a team get back in the game. Getting a solid defensive effort against a struggling team offensively, while getting our offensive execution on track against a good Hoya defense seems welcome.

But right now, we're a team that has been plagued by (at times) sloppy play and "letting up". If we let up here, our title hopes are finished in 2006. This team, to me, needs to show themselves and the rest of the league that they are a team to be feared. Right now, at 1-3, they are not. If we are to compete for this year's title, this needs to be changed this weekend.

Injury & Weather Report
OUT:
OL Ben Harden
DB Jarvis Lewis
DB Courtney Elder

We see a new face on the injury list in sophomore DB Jarvis Lewis, who will be missed mostly on special teams. But the good news is that senior DL Paul Bode, senior OL Pete Morelli and junior OL Brendan Caffery are now officially off the injury report and ostensibly ready for duty in two areas where it is very important that we have more depth.

Unlike coach Lembo who frequently tweaked his starting lineups week to week, it's almost boring how coach Coen keeps the same starters week to week. However, there was one extremely subtle change worth noting. Senior Josh Pastore was bumped up the depth chart on kick return duties, implying that he will get more time there over sophomore DB Aaron Gilliard. My take on this is so Gilliard can be fresher for pass coverage; I think this is a very good thing. Pastore will be able to showcase his talents running the ball on kickoffs as well, something he hasn't been able to do too often in our crowded backfield of late.

If you're heading down to Washington, DC for this encounter, the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50's with a chance of showers. My advice to you is to get there early, and get there by public transportation if you can to avoid Georgetown's legendary issues with parking. This means the tailgate beverage of choice will have to be very portable. Solution? Cans of Yuengling. Throw a couple six-packs in the old knapsack, along with the hoagies you get from Goosey Gander's, and you will be good to go. (Note to food and beverage distributors: Lehigh Football Nation Sponsorship opportunites available upon request.)

A Word on Georgetown
Your great-grandfather may remember the early days of this "rivalry", when the Hoyas won 5 of 6 against the Engineers, from 1901 to 1925. After Georgetown's football program upgraded fifteen years ago from Division III to Division I-AA, they joined the mid-major MAAC football conference in 1993. Georgetown as a mid-major did fairly well, winning the conference title three years in a row and appearing in the ECAC bowl in 1997.

Yet their life in the Patriot League has been less than accomodating. Since joining the Patriot League as a football-only member in 2001, the Hoyas have not enjoyed a winning record, and last year the Hoyas had two league wins for the first time. After head coach Bob Benson stepped down, Goergetown hired former Navy assistant Kevin Kelly to take his place. He brought with him an attitude of "fanatical effort" in everything the team does. (Undoubtedly that's also a key part of Academy traing too.)

Like Lehigh, the Hoyas are adjusting to life with a new head coach, a new offensive system and a brand-new attitude. The Hoyas are entering this week's game 1-4, 0-2 versus the Patriot League with losses against title contenders Holy Cross and Colgate. Both teams need this win not only for a crucial league win, but for pride as well. Lehigh needs a good win after losing two straight to Ivy League contenders Harvard and Princeton, while the Hoyas are trying to avoid going 1-5 in order to at least have chance at a winning record this season.

Offense
Although coach Kevin Kelly has brought the spread option to Georgetown from Navy, the Hoyas statistically have mixed both the pass and the run in 2006, so it's not as simple as putting "eight in the box" all the time against an option team. Still, it has to be noted that Georgetown has struggled yet again for any offensive consistency.

One of my pet peeves about Georgetown is the fact that their game notes never seem to be timely, coming out on Friday before game time. As a result, I can't tell you if junior QB Matt Bassuener or sophomore QB Ben Hostetler will be the starter. Coach Kelly has played the "hot hand" in practice generally, and tomorrow we'll find out who gets the nod, but if I were a betting man Bassuener would get the nod. Both are mobile running and passing QBs in Kelly's option attack, but Bassuener has made fewer turnovers and also leads the team in rushing. Both are constant threats to run, and both are fairly accurate as well when they do pass.

The Hoya backfield has really struggled to make a name for itself - a major problem considering the Hoya option should offer more opportunites for backs to get yards. Junior RB Emir Davis is a "speed" back that actually has proven himself to be more of a threat catching the ball out of the backfield rather than rushing the ball, and he's their most fearful RB. Junior slotback Brent Craft is another "speed" option that catches the ball a lot out of the backfield rather than running straight ahead. Junior RB Erik Carter is probably their best rushing back, but only sports a 3.6 rushing average per carry. Freshman RB Charlie Houghton is another good rushing option, but he was hurt last week and his status this week is uncertain.

The receiving corps is essentially the same crew as last year, so this is an experienced unit. Junior WR Kyle Van Fleet is the go-to-guy with junior WR Jasper Ihezie and sophomore WR Sydney Baker not far behind. Although Ihezie and Baker have some speed, most of the Hoya passing game has been underneath in long, grinding drives, so in a way they're all "hands" receivers.

The "O" line is definitely on the smaller side, with the center weighing in at 240 lbs, but the right side of the line, led by senior T Liam Grubb, is a fine blocker at 6'7 290 lbs. Surprisingly Georgetown has only let up 5 sacks in 5 games, so their pass protection hasn't been bad.

Defense
Boy, do the Hoyas miss Michael Ononibaku on this 4-3 defense. The "D" has still been the strength of this team, but they miss Ononibaku's big-play ability and pass rush. Their three takeaways have also been a huge bug-a-boo for a solid defense that is not as spectacular as last year's team.

Like last year, Georgetown's line is smallish, but without Ononibaku, the main source of pass rush and defensive leadership falls on senior DE Alex Buzbee. By far he's the most dominating player on the line with 4 tackles for loss, while the rest of the unit (one DE weighs in at 235 lbs) struggles to find a complement on the other side.

The linebacking corps are a solid bunch of tacklers and have also been decent in pass coverage, but have not been opportunistic in forcing turnovers. Senior LB Chris Paulus and junior LB Derek Franks are the standouts here, with Paulus leading the team in tackles.

Senior FS Darren Franks is another leading tackler and the leader of the secondary that has been overmatched at times this year. Incredibly the Hoyas only have 1 interception on the year so far, so some hay may be able to be made there.

Special Teams
Junior P/K Eric Bjornerud, surprisingly, has had few opportunities for FGs this year, so even at this late stage of the year he is still largely unproven. He splits punting duties with junior P/K Chric MacGriff, who has shown great punting ability with a 40 yard average. Sophomore WR Kenny Mitchell is the main man returning kicks, and he is a good threat with a 60 yard return already this year. On punts, senior DB Brian Tandy has been the main return man with limited success.

Keys To The Game
1. Killer Instinct.
Against Princeton and Havard, we had big leads, went on cruise control and let them get right back in the game. I'd like to see us "step on the Hoya throats" early and often if we get out to a big lead. If we do, this could pay benefits down the road.
2. Patience. I'd like to see our offense dissect and pick apart this defense more on long, sustained drives. There's no need to air it out all the time. Balance the run and pass, and make good short passes to wear out this defense.
3. Linebackers In Pass Coverage. Georgetown's passing game will involve a lot of passing to the backs out of the backfield and passes underneath. I want to see more variety from our linebacking unit to disrupt the passing game in the soft part of the zone.
4. Fewer mistakes. I'd really like to see Lehigh cut down on the mental mistakes and big turnovers from September. This sends out notice to the rest of the league that we're going to be a better, more focused, team the rest of the way.

Fearless Prediction
I think Lehigh will get the job done this week and smooth over some of the problems we had in September as we approach a crucial league game. This game will have to be a showcase of Lehigh football in 2006, and I think that it will be. A heartwarming win for Lehigh fans, as some of our swagger, perhaps, returns.

Lehigh 45, Georgetown 13

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Press Roundup: Harvard/Lehigh

I am very busy with my latest I-AA.org diary - not to mention my Lehigh/G-Town preview - so this will be shorter than most. But here is the press roundup from last week's game.

Also, I wanted to announce my "Players of the Week" this week.

On offense, it's going to go to senior RB Marques Thompson. Although he didn't score a TD, his 114 total yards showed a gutty performance in his first real game as Lehigh's feature back. He was clearly ready to play, and was a difference-maker out there.

On defense, I'm going to give it to junior DB Daynin Blake who was the best multi-dimensional player out there on defense. He managed to rush the passer extremely well (with two sacks) and defended the pass well (with a pass break-up and 4 tackles).

Special teams, it's no contest: it's going to senior PR/WR Frank "Playmaker" Trovato. I think it's as much for his 49 yard punt return that was a big play that probably should have put the hammer down for Lehigh as his attitude on making plays and winning football games.

Congratulations to all.

Allentown Morning Call:
Collapse Leaves Lehigh Crimson-Faced
Hawks Confident They Can Reverse Course
Groller: Hawks Glad To Say 'See Ya, September'

Upshot: "Trovato reminded the media: ''If you look at the big picture, all of our goals are still intact. We haven't even started league play yet. If you look at the league, there hasn't really been a standout team so far. We've just got to take it a week at a time. Hopefully, we'll win the Patriot League and contend for a national championship in the playoffs.''That's not a misprint. Trovato said ''national championship'' with a straight face."

Easton Express-Times:
Goodman Is House Of Horrors

Upshot: "You can never feel good," said Marques Thompson, whose 114 all-purpose yards helped the Mountain Hawks build a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter. "You've got to keep trucking, got to keep it going. I think a lot of guys relaxed. (Against) a team like that, you can't get relaxed. They can come back very quick."

Brown & White:
Second-Half Surge Gives Crimson Victory

Upshot: “It’s frustrating,” Coen said. “There are no words that can alleviate the frustration the guys are feeling right now, but they can’t give up on themselves, can’t give up on each other, and cant give up on what we are trying to do. We have a Patriot League game on Saturday.”

Boston Globe:
Crimson Storm Back For Win

Upshot: "[Lehigh] just did a great job," said [RB Clifton] Dawson. "For the first half and through the entire game they really played hard. They were good and fast. But our offensive line settled down, and we were able to establish a running game."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday's Word: Close

This word may come as a surprise. Originally I thought it was going to be: "Playmakers", since it didn't feel like there were enough of them, especially on defense last weekend against Harvard when the chips were down. But it's not time for backbiting as we hit the first REALLY important game of the season. It's time for a reality check.

September is done. What do we have here for Lehigh football in 2006? We have a team that is "close", but 1-3. We've had a team that's made critical mistakes (and no phase of the game has been immune). We've had "coulda, woulda, shoulda".

We are a team that has played four awfully good football teams. We've found a way to come from behind and win one football game against a tough Villanova squad, but could not find a way to come back and win against three teams that either are in the I-AA Top 25 or close to it. None of these games have been blowouts. In none of these games can you say, "Lehigh was clearly outclassed on both sides of the ball."

I hear folks saying, "Well, yeah, but we're 1-3". It's true, we are. But even though it's an old saw, we're "close" to being 4-0.

In truth, this is not unique to 2006. Does anyone remember last year? Lehigh 28, VMI 26? Lehigh 28, Yale 21? Against VMI, we needed a huge interception as VMI was closing in on FG range to seal the win. Against Yale, we had to rally to tie and then go ahead. And I don't need to mention losses to Holy Cross, Delaware, and that Easton school. Fact is, there were a lot of times last year when we didn't put the hammer down. It cost us in some key ball games, and almost cost us in a couple others.

In ways, this year is more of a continuation of 2005's trend than any new specific difference in 2006. We're still playing too many "close" games. When you do, you're going to get some character-building wins, but you're not going to win them all. Once in a while, you have to put the hammer down.

We've got a team that is pretty "close". "Close" to the coaching staff by all accounts, "close" to being 4-0, "close" to being a team nobody wants to face in the Patriot League. It's not time for a major overhaul. It's time to rally behind the team as we face the most critical games on the schedule. But looking objectively, we've got a very talented team that still seems like it's ready to break out at any moment and do well the rest of the way.

Does anyone actually beleive that we're not going to have an excellent shot at the Patriot League title? Yeah, it's been a rough September. But can we say that Lafayette, Colgate and Holy Cross have really acquitted themselves much better? Let's analyze their out-of conference wins. Marist, Dartmouth, and freakin' Sacred Heart - that's it. Lafayette is 0-3 versus Penn, Princeton, and Yale. Colgate lost to UMass and Monmouth. Holy Cross lost to Northeastern and Harvard.

The difference is that these three teams have proven themselves against Bucknell, Fordham and Georgetown in Patriot League games. And all three have, bringing the hammer down. Colgate 31, G-Town 14. Lafayette 31, Bucknell 0. Holy Cross 26, G-Town 13. Holy Cross 28, Fordham 21.

I still believe that we have an excellent chance to win the Patriot League title. But we've got to stop playing so many "close" games and put the hammer down. If we put the hammer down against Georgetown, then we'll be in the same place as Holy Cross, Lafayette and Colgate. In 2006, that's not a bad place to be.

I can't speak for everyone, but I beleive in coach Coen and I beleieve in these players. Please feel free to jump off the bandwagon if you'd like, but I think as long as they trust coach Coen's system, learn the lessons of September, work hard, and put the hammer down whenever the opportunity is given to them - this team will win games and compete for championships.

I'll be looking for a "hammer" next Saturday.
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