Saturday, October 14, 2006

Yale 26, Lehigh 20, OT final

Yale is a good team. They did things against this Lehigh defense that nobody has been able to do for a long time. But horrible execution in the overtime period by the offense doomed our chances before Yale's offense even took the field.

What sticks in my mind is: We had 1st-and-goal at the 7. And came away with nothing. And it's not like Yale did a fantastic job on defense. We gave all three downs away on preventable mistakes. This failure on offense was not the product of one player. It was a team failure on three straight plays, starting with the "O" line. Making these types of mistakes in early part the game would have been bad enough. Making them in the ultimate crunch time is completely inexcusable.

Lehigh is not a good team right now. Period. We are sitting at 2-4 and unable to make the big plays to win football games. I'm tired of getting close yet again to beating somebody, but falling short. This team has to find a way to win these games. The old saw is "good teams find ways to win these games", and sadly, it's true. I am not used to opposing offensive players dominate out defensive line of scrimmage like this. I am not used to our "O" line making big mistakes in big spots. We are not finding ways to win football games. Five times we've had chances to find ways to win football games. Four times we have not. Until we figure out how to win, we're not a good football team. We've had chances. We're simply not very good.

Bucknell, and Holy Cross, our next two opponents, are coming off of wins this week. That's one more win than we have right now. These guys "get it". They know how to win. I'm not sure this Lehigh team does.

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, OT

1st and goal from the 6. Run left to McGowan, missed assignment, loss of 2.

2nd down - one-hopped to Thompson.

3rd down - Threatt runs into his own man, while two WRs are wide open in the end zone.

4th down - missed FG from the right hash.

Yale, of course, is now 2nd-and-goal from the 5.

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, OT

Lehigh wins the toss, and elects to go on offense. Interesting call.

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, end 4th

NO GOOD! SHANKED LEFT!

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, 0:04 to play

Yale lining up for a 37 yard FG.....

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, 1:05 to play

2-and-9 Yale at the Lehigh 45. Yale has 1 TO left.

Lehgh 20, Yale 20, 4:14 to go

Yale 4th-and-2, and they... Punt?

They do pin us deep.

Let's go Lehigh! We can do this!

Lehigh 20, Yale 20, 8ish minutes to play

YEAH!!!! TD and 2-pt conversion good to Landon Maggs!

Coen just seemed to go to Threatt and say, "Just think back to the schoolyard." Then Threatt again made it look easy on a great drive!

Lehigh has momentum. Now, a big stop here....

Yale 20, Lehigh 12, end 3rd

When was the last time Lehigh had a back gain 100 yards against them? Well McLeod has over 150 yards, and a big 30 (or so) yard reception against us. That tells you that our "D" simply hasn't been effective enough stopping the run.

Yet, the "D" has to be given credit. They have toughed up enough at the goalline. A huge fumble by Fay at Yale's 40, however, could be the difference in this game so far.

It's our ball at the opening of the 4th quarter. It's time for the playmakers to step forward again.

Yale 17, Lehigh 12, mid-3rd

Yale drives downfield quickly on the first play of the second half, and Lehigh takes all of 3 plays to respond with a TD. McGowan forges over tackle to get the points.

On the 2-point conversion, Threatt gets sacked and didn't convert, but coach Coen ripped the officials for not calling a defensive holding call in the end zone by Yale. I 100% agree with the 2-point conversion call there.

Shaping up to be interesting.

Yale 10, Lehigh 6, halftime

Not the most inspiring half of football, unless you're a defensive guy.

Defense has singlehandedly kept us in this game. Yale has kept Sedale's chances to a minimum and have been effective in the red zone against us. But if we win this game, the team will be pointing to that fumble recovery at the Lehigh 2 yard line as a huge play.

Red zone chances have been the story of this game so far. Yale is 2-for-3, while Lehigh is 2-for-2, but Yale has the only TD so far. McLeod has been killing us, though, and on the "D" line we have not been winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Some individuals are making plays, but also quite often missed tackles and not enough LB speed has allowed McLeod to get nearly 100 yards so far, even before halftime.

If we win, it will be because we firm up that battle in the trench against the Yale "O" line and get some consistent play on offense. It seems to be shaping up for an exciting second half.

GO LEHIGH!!!!!

Yale 10, Lehigh 6, 2:00 to play 1st half

HUGE fumble recovery at the Lehigh 2, peventing a near-certain score.

Lehigh back on offense. Even if we don't convert, that was a huge stop.

Yale 10, Lehigh 3, mid-1st

The rollercoaster ride continues.

Yale's QB Polhemus fools the defense and gets in on the first drive of the second quarter on a nice bootleg play. Then a Lehigh drive stalls at midfield - and a Yale blocker, uncovered, blocks the kick and Yale recovers at the Lehigh 10. Then, the Lehigh defense did a good job stopping the Elis. Good pressure on Polhemus on all three downs by Mohler and Fabre, though Yale's WR Hendley came awful close on 3rd down to getting a TD.

Way too early to condemn or praise. Still waiting-and-seeing.

Lehigh 3, Yale 0, end 1st

Yale has been driving against our "bend but don't break" defense, but a 30ish yard FG was blocked by senior LB Matt Mohler in a huge play. From there, Threatt and the offense had a nice sustained drive that ended in a 19 yard FG (off the right hash) that is all the scoring so far on the day.

Yale is threatening at the end of the 1st, at around the Lehigh 20.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lehigh/Lafayette on ESPN2

Just saw the show. As predicted, Lehigh/Lafayette was #9. Aside from the fact that Lehigh/Lafayette is obviously #1, it was a fine job by ESPN with lots of great shots of Murray Goodman and even a shot of old Taylor Field. (For you youngsters, Taylor Field was where the new business building is now.)

Great shots of the "Klingerman catch" to be seen, and other great moments in the rivalry! It's all too brief, but it does a good job of showing both schools and even has coach Coen on there talking about the '95 game (he was offensive coordinator at the time).

Overall, ESPN did good. They're "off notice" now.

Now, on to Yale!

Friday Water Cooler: Lehigh/Yale

I think you all knew that I was getting sick of that water cooler graphic that looked like it came from a diversity training film, so instead I got a guy who looks like Richard Nixon. I don't think this is that much better, but hey, any ad that looks like it has Joan Crawford and Richard Nixon in it has to have some sort of camp value, don't you think?

Important Announcement
If you get nothing else out of this "Water Cooler", please get this TiVo Alert: know that tonight at 7:30 EDT on ESPN2 there will be a special show on "ESPNU Honor Roll: College Football's Top 10 Rivalries", and Lehigh/Lafayette is featured. I'll probably add my 2c on this special tonight as well after it airs - whether I love it or hate it.

Where Have You Gone, Barry Switzer?
You all know the Ivies have been flattening the Patriot League this year - collectively, Ivy teams have so far gone 11-3 against us. You also know that Harvard, the best team in the Ivy, has gone through a slew of different off-the-field problems involving their star LB getting kicked off the team, the starting QB getting suspended for half the season, and several other players getting booted from the team as well. Now Yale's football team has also been in the news for an off-the-field fracas involving their starting QB and starting RB. (Strangely, RB Mike McLeod and starting QB Matt Polhemus have not had any disciplinary action for their antics.)

Am I the only one wondering if this isn't merely coincidence? One problem I could shrug off; but four seperate incidents are starting to make me wonder. The Ivy League has been getting better players than ever - more than a dozen players from all eight Ivy schools were on NFL rosters this summer - and the best teams aren't one-trick ponies anymore, they are deep teams. (Harvard, for example, has a stable of 5 QBs that could take the helm at any given time.)

What's happening up there? Can Barry Switzer, new Yale head coach, be far behind?

Your Last Minute Lehigh/Yale Update
Weather seems to be set for a beautiful 60 degree day at kickoff, with chilly November temperatures before and after that time in the 30s. No mud bowls here, which hopefully will allow Lehigh to showcase some of their team speed at the Yale Bowl.

The game will be viewable on Channel 69 WMFZ in the Lehigh area and down close to Philadelphia, which is how I'll be enjoying this week's game. In the car, it's AM 1230 and 1320 ESPN Radio, and if you're still unable to follow the game there's always Lehighsports.Com and their broadcast feeds of the audio and video broadcasts.

Where's Chuck?
After covering 5 games in 4 football weekends, I'm going to be spending this weekend watching Lehigh/Yale and probably working a little on my "Chuck Fan Index" piece for I-AA.org. Incidentally, I did write a quick midseason review for I-AA.org this week that you can find here.

Water Cooler Patriot League Picks: Week 7
#15 Harvard over Lafayette.
This may sound strange, but I keep going back and forth about this game. Harvard has done nothing to dispel the notion that they are the team to beat in the Ivy, but a very talented Leopard team has to almost be ready to sell their grandmother to avoid a 2-4 start. The matchup says Harvard wins, but I know the Leopards will make this extremely close - if they don't win it outright. Harvard 35, Lafayette 32.

Holy Cross over Dartmouth. The class of the Patriot League so far, the Crusaders should win this game handily unless they are looking past them to the big game at Lafayette next week. HC 23, Dartmouth 17.

Fordham over Marist. A game that's impossible to handicap. Marist has a very good QB-to-WR combo that could solve Fordham if they can't score. But the offense is showing some signs of life after freshman QB John Skelton has taken the controls. This spells a closer-than-expected game. Still, the Rams should get the job done, making the Red Foxes 0-3 against the Patriot League. (Think of our out-of-conference record if our league HADN'T played Marist.) Fordham 24, Marist 16.

Colgate over Cornell. One of these years I will go to this game, but this upstate NY rivalry I like to call the "white-out" will have a quite familiar ending. Colgate, like Lehigh and Lafayette, desperately need to establish themselves before Patriot League play starts in earnest, and coach Biddle never loses to Cornell. Cornell is still getting better, but Colgate comes out victorious. Colgate 30, Cornell 22.

Bucknell over Georgetown. It's striking to think how good Bucknell could be if they could keep their QBs and RBs healthy for more than three games at a time. Still, they should have enough to beat a feisty Goergetown team who is still trying to make the "Navy Way" work there. Bucknell 30, G'Town 17.

Water Cooler Top 25 Picks: Week 7
#1 New Hampshire over James Madison. If a team is to beat New Hampshire this year, it's going to have to involve passing to set up the run. As good as the Dukes are, I just don't think they will be able to exploit that enough to their advantage to win. UNH 35, JMU 21.

#2 Appalachian State over Wofford. I know one of these days the Mountaineers are going to be in a dogfight, but I just don't see this year's Terriers being that team. It will be a good SoCon battle, but one that the Mountaineers take in the end. Yosefs 35, Schnauzers 24.

#3 Montana over Northern Arizona. This could be Northern Arizona's opportunity to prove themselves in the Big Sky race, or it could merely be a bump on Montana's way to the Big Sky title. Experience tells me that the Griz should take this one, but it won't be without a big fight from QB Jason Murietta and the Lumberjacks. Griz 41, Paul Bunyans 37.

#9 Southern Illinois over #4 Illinois State. The battle of the year in the Gateway, I think the Salukis have actually not gotten the respect they've deserved so far this year, going 5-0 with a win over I-A Indiana and a big win versus Western Illinois. The Redbirds are no slouches, but QB Luke Drone and Illinois State were one shanked FG away from being upset candidates last week against Western Kentucky. If WKU's LeRon Moore could get 148 yards against the Redbirds, think of what SIU's Arkee Whitlock could do. I think the Salukis take this one. Doggies 37, Birdies 33.

Western Illinois over #6 Youngstown State. Yup, I'm smelling an upset here in Macomb as the Leathernecks make their case in what may prove to be another crazy year in the Gateway. It may be playing a hunch; it may be because the Penguins are on the road; it may be because the Penguins are finally meeting an offense that can match them TD for TD. If WIU's defense can slow down the Penguins - and I think they can - they will take this. Leatherbriefs 38, Iceboxers 30.

#7 North Dakota State over Mississippi Valley State. Jerry Rice's alma mater doesn't stand a chance against one of the most fearsome teams in I-AA. The Delta Devils, expected to compete for the SWAC championship, have been humbled by a 3-3 start and promise to be humbled again by a daunting Bison squad. Bison Burgers 44, Rice-A-Ronis 13.

#8 UMass over Towson. It's like watching a Three's Company episode. You know reality is going to come crashing down at any moment, and it's painful to watch. That's what's going to happen to Towson this week when they play an incredibly complete Minuteman team. ZooMass 49, Kitties 12.

#10 Richmond over Rhode Island. Useless Statistics department: Whenever I've picked the Rams to get blown out, they always manage to keep the game close and beat the spread. I'm finally getting wise to this trend - I hope. Richmond 24, Rhody 20.

#11 Furman over The Citadel. Think Furman will be a bit mad after losing to Coastal Carolina last week? Think they will be exacting some punishment this week at home against a hard-working, but undertalented, Citadel squad? Paladins 49, Higgins-es 7.

#13 Hampton over Norfolk State. The Spartans will probably keep this close for a while since it is a big rivalry game down there in Hampton roads. But it will probably rapidly become clear shortly after the opening kickoff that Hampton is still Norfolk State's daddy. Future MEAC Champs 52, Spartans 20.

#14 Northern Iowa over Indiana State. It's going to be a rough, rough week for Indiana I-AA football, as Butler/Drake, Valpo/San Diego, and this game could all be competing for "biggest blowout of the week". My vote goes for this game. UNI 55, Trees 0.

#16 Eastern Illinois over Eastern Kentucky. As banged-up as the Panthers have been, it's simply hard to see the Colonels turn around their disappointing season right here against a nationally-ranked Eastern Illinois team. EIU 34, EKU 22.

#18 Princeton over Brown. Everything - EVERYTHING - points to a letdown week for the Tigers. Although they're playing Friday night at home on ESPNU with a 4-0 record on the line, the Tigers are actually facing the best offense they've faced all year. Brown is 1-3, but have lost to three good teams in Holy Cross, Rhode Island and Harvard - and not by all that much. Will Princeton be looking ahead to Harvard next week? If they are, they are ripe for the picking. Can Brown hold down this Princeton offense? Maybe. But this Tiger team - I've sensed it all year - is a pretty special team. I think they win a closer-than-expected game, setting up a battle of unbeatens next week. Princeton 24, Brown 21.

#19 UC-Davis over Central Arkansas. I think the Aggies win their home opener. Yes, you heard right - after a 5-game road trip to start the year, UC-Davis plays their home opener this week. (Incidentally, how on Earth is a 2-3 team, no matter how good, in the Top 25?) UC-D 28, UCA 21.

#20 San Diego over Valparaiso. If Valpo holds them to within 50, I'll be impressed. Beach Bums 55, Valpo 6.

Idaho State over #22 Portland State. A must-win for both teams, I think the Bengals take this one against a willing, but totally beaten-up, Viking team. The forgotten Bengals take another step towards Big Sky relevance this week. ISU 27, PSU 20.

Villanova over #23 Maine. Wasn't it Yoda who said: "One win over Towson should not a national ranking make." Maybe not - maybe I just made that up. But it's still true. Villanova 27, Maine 17.

#24 Central Connecticut State over Robert Morris. I don't think the Blue Demons will be scoring their average over the last two games - a devilish 66 points per game. However, it won't be *that* far off. Perriwinkle Demons 49, Joe Waltons 18.

#25 Alabama A&M over D-II Stillman. The votes are in, and it's unanimous - this matchup is the least cared-about Top 25 game in the country. (Unless you're a fan of A Different World, or hardcore gambler, though - in that case, take the points.) AAMU 34, Hillman... er.. Stillman, 7.

Press Roundup
Required reading is the Hartford Courant article below. It's not so much that Yale has bulletin-board material for us, but it shows how serious the Elis are in taking this game. If we win, it won't be because Yale won't be prepared.

Allentown Morning Call:
Leo Would Get Kick Out Of Hitting Game-Winner
Upshot: "This game will be real big as far as sustaining the momentum we built at Georgetown last week,'' he said. ''It was huge to win that first Patriot League game, but we want to keep it going. We don't want to come back home [Oct. 21] for the rest of the Patriot League schedule off a loss."

Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh Building for Strong Finish
Upshot: "When we've done things right, we've been a pretty good football team," Coen said. "Our goal is to win up there so that we can be on a roll going into the bulk of our Patriot League schedule."

Hartford Courant:
Yale Has Learned How To Respond
Upshot: Yale's disappointment in a 28-21 loss at Lehigh gives the Bulldogs something to prove Saturday when the Mountain Hawks come to the Yale Bowl. "When things started going badly, when they started catching up, we just let it happen," [senior OL Ed] McCarthy said. "We didn't answer... I've played them twice and both times, we had a very good shot at winning. I know we can play with them, but we definitely have something to prove. We have to prove we can finish."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Preview of Lehigh/Yale

Last year, I wrote that the Yale game took on new importance. Since we had lost to Holy Cross the week before, a bounceback game was necessary to get any momentum going into league play.

This year, although we're entering the Yale game off a 28-3 win over Georgetown, it's equally as important to keep the winning ways going another week for the same reason. I think for this team specifically, getting on a roll and maybe, hopefully, getting another solid win under our belts, would be a great confidence and psychological boost going into the games that will determine the league champion.

We have been bloodied by the Ivy League this year, going 0-2 versus undefeated Harvard and Princeton. The rest of the Patriot League has done no better against them either, going an insane 3-11 against them overall. Winning against one of the real contenders in the Ivy League title chase would not only reassert our league a little bit against the Ivies - it would put ourselves just one little tiny psychological bit ahead of that college over in Easton, who lost 37-34 to Yale two weeks ago.

Yale is 3-1, with their only loss coming to a nationally-ranked San Diego team in a 43-17 thrashing. However, they've taken care of business against two of the lower-echelon teams in the Ivy in Dartmouth and Cornell, putting them at 2-0 in their league. Like the win against that Easton college showed, these kids can play, and if we have mental errors and take naps in the middle of the game, we may find ourselves losing and facing the prospect of being 2-4 going into the Patriot League title chase.

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

Once again, we mercifully have a reasonably empty injury list, though there is another new face on the injury list in freshman LB Al Pierce, another special teams hawk. Just a hunch, but we might see more of freshman LB Tobi Showunmi on the travel team this week replacing him.

It's another boring week up and down the depth chart, but there's another small change to report as senior G Pete Morelli will be replacing sophomore G Kevin Bayani on the "O" line this week. Not sure if this is a result of some of those holding calls that negated some big runs against Georgetown, but it wouldn't surprise me. This would put four seniors on the "O" line, and the best of the bunch, junior T Jimmy Kehs, in the starting lineup as well. This seems like a good move as we strive to win the league and get that Patriot League championship.

The weather report for New Haven, CT calls for a "mainly sunny" day with highs in the high 50s and low 60s. If you've never been to the Yale Bowl - one of the greatest historic venues for I-AA football - it's worth the trip, with acres of fields for tailgating and footballs before heading into the cavernous Bowl. Definitely a trip to bring a case of good white (or red - your preference) wine to go with your tailgating fare. I always liked meatball sandwiches on days like that.

A Word On Yale
Yale head coach Jack Sidlecki is in his tenth year of coaching the Elis, but for those who don't know he has a deep connection to Lafayette as well, serving as an assistant coach to the Leopards' head skipper Bill Russo from 1981 to 1987. There at the same time was current Harvard head coach Tim Murphy as well, so the Harvard, Yale, Lafayette and Lehigh connections all run very deep. They all know each other well, and coach Sidlecki also knows coach Coen well too, having faced him as offensive coordinator at Lehigh and Penn.

You might not think of this mini "rivalry" as a trophy game (Yale holds a 12-5 edge), but this year the winner of the game will be presented the "Yank Townsend 1895" trophy to commemorate Townsend, an 1895 graduate of Lehigh and a renowned New Haven area architect. I looked up ol "Yank" on the internet, but was unable to fill in the blanks on his engineering or collegiate career, though while Yank went to Lehigh we lost to Yale twice, 38-0 and 34-0.

Yale knows what Sedale can do. One of Sedale's big moments last year came when Borda had his season-ending injury against the Elis, down 21-13. Sedale then rallied the offense for a TD, 2-point conversion, and also led the game-winning drive in OT. Yale will be looking for revenge from that game as well - this time, with a full week to prepare for Sedale.

Offense
Yale beat that college in Easton by running the ball. A lot. Although they have a receiver that is a true burner, this is a team that will try to smash you in the mouth and run at you to beat you with both their QB and RB. They will come after you with 2, sometimes 3, receiver sets, but offensively they are, on balance, conservative.

Junior QB Matt Polhemus has been quite a pedestrian QB, though in the last two games he has improved. In four games he has only averaged about 20 attempts a game, with 10 completions and 3 TD passes. Where he really shines, though, is running the ball by designed runs or broken plays, averaging a big 43 yards a game. Against that college in Easton he played like a champ with a big 63 yard pass connection and a huge 28 yard TD scamper, so he has been shown to be quite capable when the chips are down.

Sophomore RB Mike McLeod has more than picked up where he left off as a freshman, emerging into a 30 carry-a-game back with 537 yards already and 5 TDs. Averaging 5.0 yards a carry, he's quite versatile with speed to the outside but with ability to also run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield. After McLeod, the running game is extremely thin. Senior FB Taylor Craig is primarily a blocking back, and backup RB Matt Murray hasn't had many touches. The entire game goes through McLeod.

Senior WRs Ashley Wright and Chandler Hendley are the go-to guys at receiver averaging about 50 yards a game. Wright in particular has great speed, as shown in the Lafayette game, but both are also good hands guys as well. Aside from the two wideouts and McLeod catching the ball out of the backfield, nobody has really stood out at all for the Elis receiving corps. The TE position, a strength last year for Yale, hasn't been very effective with junior TE Langston Johnson having only one reception so far this year.

There is no doubt that this Eli "O" line has a boatload of talent. They boast 2 300 lb bookend tackles, one of whom is senior LT Ed McCarthy. So far this year, they have not lost many trench battles. Remember that great defensive front we heard about from that college in Easton this year? Well, this "O" line managed to carve 218 yards rushing against them. Clearly, here is where the battle will be won or lost.

Defense
Yale plays an interesting base 5-2-4 defense, which normally does an excellent job stuffing the run. The flip side of such a configuration is that the two linebackers have a monstrous job to do in run support and pass coverage - which means there could be hay to be made in short zone passes. What has really made this defense excel this year, however, is forcing turnovers.

Senior DE Brendan Sponheimer is the "old man" on the "D" line featuring one sophomore and three juniors as well. Yale rotates in a bunch of "D" linemen so it's hard to know what you'll get at any given time, but nobody is particularly huge - Sponheiler is only 235 lbs. They deserve credit since they've stripped a lot of balls and forced a lot of turnovers, including 3 versus that college in Easton.

The loss of LB Lee Driftmeier for the year has hit the Elis hard in the toughest position to play on Yale's defense. Senior LB Chris Barry is still a solid tackler and also has an interception on the year. Sophomore LB Bobby Abare is a bit green, but had a good day versus Lafayette.

Senior CB Kevin Littleton is the lone player with experience in a young, sophomore-laden secondary. Sophomore FS Stephen Santoro does have 2 interceptions on the year, however. Still, you have to take a look at what nationally-ranked San Diego did against this secondary with 345 yards passing and 4 TDs.

Special Teams
Like last year, Yale's kicking teams have struggled. Junior PK Adam Kimball has a good leg (with a 46 yard FG to his credit) but has struggled with accuracy, going only 4 for 6. Freshman P Tom Mante has a low average per punt - 34.5 yards - as well.

On return teams, however, Stephen Santoro has already returned a kickoff for a TD, while senior RB Jordan Spence also has emerged as a kickoff return threat as well, averaging 18.2 yards per return. With guys like that, you have to at least think about squibbing it every so often. WR Chandler Hendley has not had great success with punts just yet, averaging only 7 yards per punt.

Keys to the Game
1. Make Polhemus Throw. If we can stuff McLeod and force Polhemus to throw the ball early and often, we could be poised for a good day. Last year, we did a great job with this.
2. Short Passing Game. I think some guys might be able to get open against this Yale defense, particularly underneath on rollouts. Don't go for home run balls when an easy 3rd down conversion is there for you at the first-down marker.
3. Field Position. With our punting and return game getting going, we may be able to win some of these field position battles if we keep our wits about us.
4. Trenches, Trenches, Trenches. If we win these battles in the trenches - limiting McLeod's yards between the tackles, and doing a better job on our offensive line of scrimmage, we will win this game. I will be looking very closely at this.
5. Stupid Mental Errors. These have to stop. The same errors that happened versus the Hoyas could be fatal against Yale.

Fearless Prediction
On paper, this matchup yet again would seem to favor the Mountain Hawks. Last year's Yale game was close mostly because their QB Dave Mroz kept things close with a surprisingly effective passing game against our defense, while this year it's unclear if Polhemus can pull out the same sort of magic with his arm. Offensively, it's extremely hard to tell which Lehigh team will show up - the unstoppable team at Villanova? Or the team that scored 14 points in 3 quarters versus Georgetown, marred with holding penalties and an inability to convert on 3rd down?

The trenches will determine the winner in another close, thrilling Lehigh/Yale encounter. No matter what the statistics say, no matter what the odds, this always seems to be a good game. I think Lehigh barely pulls this one out. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it's simply listening to my heart, which tells me that this Lehigh team is better than they have played up until this point. or maybe it's that Lehigh has won the last five versus Yale. I've got to beleive that Lehigh will continue to pull things together and not play so sloppily. The matchups look good for Lehigh here. With a clean game, we should be able to pull this one out.

Hopefully I won't be proven wrong.

Lehigh 20, Yale 17

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lehigh/G'Town Press Roundup and More

It took me a while to hunt down this photo of this past weekend's Lehigh/Georgetown game, but I think we can all agree this is a beauty. This was the catch by senior WR/PR Frank Trovato that put us ahead 14-3 at halftime. There will be more to come, inlcuding my game balls and the press roundup for the Lehigh/Georgetown game, but first, it's a TiVo alert for this Friday, October 13th.

The Lehigh/Lafayette Rivalry will be featured on ESPNU's Honor Roll, a show where the Top 10 college football rivalries of all-time will be counted down from #10 to #1. Since I was not consulted nor did I contribute material for this show, I have to assume that Lehigh/Lafayette will be featured at #10 or #9 rather than at #1, #1a, and #1b. (Note to self: must increase ESPN lobbying efforts - perhaps going to the ESPN SportsZone bar & grill might count?) As of right now, as far as I'm concerned ESPN is still "on notice" for last year featuring an online poll ranking college football rivalries, showing Lehigh/Lafayette but with a picture of the red-and-white Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns next to it.

For me the jury on ESPN will be out until I watch the show, but I'm likely to take them off notice as long as they get the teams and uniforms right. Still, with Lehigh's mention on a national college football show, it's an absolute must-see. Circle your calendar: October 13th, 7:30PM on ESPN2 (available basically everywhere), and replayed on October 15th, 8:30PM on ESPNU (available on some TV outlets). ESPNU can also be found on DirecTV channel 609 and Dish Network channel 148.

Game Balls
My game balls may be somewhat suprising this week. But on offense, I'm sure the recepient will be no surprise: senior RB Marques Thompson. 23 carries for 122 yards and two TDs that iced the victory is part of the reason why - but another is that he is really starting to emerge as a feature back and a guy that needs to be contained in order to stop Lehigh. Averaging over 5 yards a carry against Georgetown was a welcome source of consistency, even if he should have had over 150 yards without some inexcusable holding penalties.

On defense, I'm going to give to to two seniors: DL Paul Fabre and SS Julian Austin. Fabre's forced fumble last Saturday was the sort of big play that I've been looking for on this defense, along with Austin's recovery - both deserve credit. In addition, their combined nine tackles and a batted ball at the line of scrimmage were key plays that stuffed the Hoyas short of the first down marker or were big 3rd down stops. They were the big playmakers on the defense this day in a very solid defensive effort.

I know sophomore PK Jason Leo got Patriot League Special Teams Player of the week honors, but I'm scratching my head how he can get the honors when Georgetown's punter actually outperformed him (a 40.2 average to a 39.5 average) and got a 64 yard punt! Instead, I'm going to give it to - who else - senior PR/WR Frank "Al Del Greco" Trovato. Looking down the box score, his stats may not scream out "player of week" - 4 catches for 27 yards and 1 TD, 4 punt returns for 33 yards - but again, he is proving to be the go-to guy when it comes to Lehigh needing a big play on special teams or a big TD reception. Fearless in traffic, his return total would have been higher without two clipping penalites on punt returns, while his punt return near the end of the second quarter set up the all-important TD at the end of the half to go up 14-3.

Congratulations to all! I don't think it's any secret that "Del Greco" is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Mountain Hawks. Hopefully against Yale next week he'll keep this win party going.

Press Roundup
The press on the game follows, but I'd be remiss if I didn't repost my eerily prescient pick of the Princeton/Colgate game this past week which the Tigers won 28-27 on a missed 2-point conversion by the Raiders in OT: "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." To think, at the end of regulation it was a 20-20 tie.

(Of course, in the subject of fairness, I also picked Georgia Southern to beat North Dakota State, UMass to squeak past William & Mary, and Coastal Carolina to get thumped by Furman, so please take my picks with some grain of salt.)

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Finally Gets Away with Easy Win over Hoyas
Upshot: Lehigh, at last, opened Patriot League play with a 28-3 win over the Hoyas that — while being far from perfect — was much closer to the type of physically dominant performance first-year coach Andy Coen has been seeking. "This is the way I want to do business postgame and that's with a smile on my face,"' Coen said. "It was great that we didn't have to give it up at the end and have to punt it away. We could really enjoy this one without having to worry about another nailbiter."

Thompson and Trovato Playing Bigger Roles
Upshot: One player stands at 5-9. The other is merely 5-7. But make no mistake, Bethlehem Catholic grad Frank Trovato (the 5-9 guy) and the even more diminutive Marques Thompson played giant roles in Lehigh's 28-3 win at Georgetown on Saturday afternoon. Lehigh's "TNT" attack was enough to allow the Mountain Hawks to pull away for a win in the team's Patriot League opener and snap a two-game losing streak.

"We're still too sloppy," said Coen. "We made it a lot harder on ourselves than it needed to be with block-in-the-back penalties and other miscues on offense and poor tackling on defense in the first half. We did a much job of tackling in the second half. And we didn't block [Georgetown defensive end] Alex Buzbee all day. He got a couple of sacks and forced [Threatt] out of the pocket. So, we have some things to work on. I pride myself on having a disciplined football team and we're not there yet."

Easton Express-Times:
Thompson is Lehigh's Go-To Guy
Upshot: "I feel good," said Thompson, who averaged 5.3 yards on 23 carries and scored on a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs -- his first rushing touchdowns since 2004 -- to salt away the game in the fourth quarter. "I play with a lot of confidence now. That's reflected in my yardage."

"We wanted to keep them from getting any momentum," [SS Julian] Austin said after striking the decisive blow for the defense. "Any time we get a lead, we feel the game is on us."

"I really like the way we stepped up in the fourth quarter and finished the game," Trovato said. "Which is very important. Coach tells us, 'September's done.' We've got to look forward to October. This is football season, it's getting a little colder and we're into league play. That's all that matters."

"You've got to win all of your league games," Thompson said. "Without those, you can't get into the playoffs. We have to focus on those."

Hoyasaxa:
Lehigh/Georgetown Recap
Upshot: Three turnovers exposed the Georgetown Hoyas once again, spoiling what was a fine defensive effort and opening up the floodgates in a 28-3 Lehigh win Saturday. The game turned late in the third quarter when a strong Georgetown drive advanced to the Lehigh 11, with hopes that a touchdown could bring the G-men within four. Instead, RB Erik Carter fumbled at the eight. The Engineers turned up the offense with a nine play drive, aided by passes of 36 yards [to WR Lee Thomas] and 27 yards [to WR Mike Fitzgerald] to get the score, 21-3.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday's Word: Aristotle

So here I am, trying to come up with a word on this week in Lehigh football, and I stumble upon David Brooks' NY Times editorial about the Mets. It was pretty serendipitous, as I could care less about the Mets and the World Series in general (well, now that my beloved Red Sox stunk up the joint in August and September, and the Yankees were happily humiliated against the Tigers). But Mr. Brooks did have a quote from Arisotle that I thought was worth repeating.

"As Aristotle says, the more one is possessed of excellence, the more one will be pained at the thought of elimination."

After reading this, I realized that I had found the sentence that perfectly describes the angst of the Lehigh fan not just this year, but for all time. We, as Lehigh fans, know we have good, talented teams. But the pain of losses, the potential of losing the Patriot League title again this year, despite our obvious talent, is real. Aristotle, man. He put all of our angst into one easy-to-remember sentence.

We look at the Georgetown game and, rightly or wrongly, see our Mountain Hawks as a team that is "possessed with excellence" and should have been destroying them. We've got Sedale. Good running backs. Solid receivers. A good "O" line. A defense that has been getting turnovers and getting better each week. All this, and we were facing a team that has struggled to score points and get any offense going this year. Yet this game, going into the 4th quarter, we were in real danger of giving Georgetown a way back into it.

Ultimately, we did put the hammer down. Paul Fabre forced the fumble, and Julian Austin grabbed it. Sedale led the change for the TD drive, and Marques Thompson iced it with 2 TDs. But we're not focusing on being "possessed with excellence" in a 28-3 win. We're focusing on the "potential pains of elimination" at the end of that 3rd quarter, trying very hard to give Georgetown a chance.

It wasn't what I wanted to see. As a long-time Lehigh fan, I wanted to see fewer mistakes, less hubris, less "we're going to show up and win without even playing, and we're going to jaw at the Hoyas even though we're 1-3 just like they are". 10 penalties for 81 yards were inexusable, especially since the miscues negated countless good returns and runs. 5-of-12 on 3rd down conversions? Unacceptable. Does that sound like a team that has the right to jaw at anyone?

I would hope that the Yale game next week - a team that beat Lafayette and is 3-1 on the year with their only loss to a nationally-ranked opponent - wouldn't see a repeat of the jawing and sloppy play of last week. Normally I'd say about the Yale game that it would be nice to keep up the winning ways, or to see a good game without a slipup. Now, it becomes crucial to win this game against yet another quality opponent and keep the winning ways coming. I think the psychic factor of beating Yale, who is 3-1 and also beat that college in Easton, could be huge.

I think what we all wanted Lehigh to do this week was learn how to win. After this week, despite the fact that we came away with the victory, it's clear this Mountain Hawk team hasn't learned that yet. Hopefully they will very soon. Hopefuly they'll learn to put teams away early and not kill themselves with penalties and mistakes. But Yale won't be an easy time or place to learn. If we go into the Yale game with the attitude that this game doesn't matter, or that we're not going to play 60 minutes of football, we'll be 2-4 with more questions than ever about the mettle of this team.

Hopefully this Lehigh team will understand that.

In the meantime, like Aristotle says, we Lehigh fans will have to remain "pained with the thought of elimination" -- for at least one more week.
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