Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lehigh 28, Holy Cross 14, final

You can't put into words what this win should mean to this team.

After all the uncertainty early in the year; after losing two straight bad-weather games; after all those bad snaps and fumbles in those two games; this game proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a different team.

Turnovers: 0.

Interceptions against Holy Cross: 2.

Penalties: 0. (OK, well I don't know that, but it seems like we didn't have many penalties at all.)

The fact that this Lehigh team has finally got some redemption for those two bad-weather losses has to be the story of this game. No more critical miscues. No more bad snaps. Lehigh did exactly what they needed to do to exorcise those bad-weather ghosts: they played nearly mistake-free ball and blew the other team away at the line of scrimmage. That spells win.

The defense may have given up some yardage, especially at the end, but they came up with two huge stops at the goal line which left the Crusaders with 0 points. Every man on the defense played a big role, but big #77, NT Eric Rakus, was clearly "the man" for much of the game, getting in QB Dominc Randolph's face, deflecting passes, and also doing great in pass coverage too.

On offense, the "O" line did a fantastic job dominating the Crusaders up front in a way I don't think I've ever seen a Lehigh line do. In the "Air Lehigh" days, we used to spread the offense and do some little blocking underneath. Now, we're getting big push to get big yards. If we can continue to get better as the weeks go on... we may just have a shot at this thing.

The win wasn't perfect. We got very very lucky that an onside kick, with 5:00 to play in the game had an "offside" call that judging by the replay sure didn't look offsides to me. There were still those few periods of mental lapse that still need to be looked at.

But overall, this was a great, inspiring game for Lehigh fans. We survive. Next up: Colgate, who will be coming into Goodman next week desperate not to get that second league loss. It won't be easy. But this team feels like it's hitting its stride at the exact right time, with the ghosts of uncertainty diminishing into the mist at Fitton.

Lehigh 28, Holy Cross 7, end 3rd

Lehigh looks like a team possessed with another fantastic quarter of play. Unless the team majorly breaks down, it is looking like Lehigh will be leaving Fitton field with a "W"... and... (brace yourselves)... sole possession of first place in the Patriot League title race after Lafayette beat Colgate for the first time in 10 years, 27-10.

Holy Cross' clock-eating drive was stopped by an absolutely fantastic interception by DB Quadir Carter. He made the perfect play to get it, and now Lehigh is driving in Holy Cross territory to start the 4th.

Smiling. Big.

Lehigh 28, Holy Cross 7, start 3rd

Wanted to mention: coach Gilmore looks like he's coaching in the Mississippi river!

Lehigh 28, Holy Cross 7, halftime

A great defensive stop at the end of the half! Great pressure by NT Eric Rakus, great tackling by DB Daynin Blake to prevent a TD! Just a great sequence for our defense.

A quick 3:00 halftime (due to the lightning delay).. and off we go! I've got a great feeling about this game. One more defensive stop...

Lightning Delay Continues...

Did you see this? Lafayette 24, Colgate 7? Early 4th? If Lafayette and Lehigh both win, Lehigh would hve sole possession of first place in the Patriot. Conversely, if the Crusaders rally to win, it looks awful unlikely anyone can stop them.

I CANNOT believe Maine was shut out by Rhode Island. So much for my great picks for this week.

Could they resume this game already? I have stuff to do... hehe.

Lehigh 28, Holy Cross 7, :38 to play 2nd quarter, lightning delay

As Lehigh coverage goes to "paid programming", an interesting turn of events. Holy Cross is driving at the Lehigh 30, and after the delay (presumably) they will play the last 30 seconds, after which it will be... halftime. Two halftimes for the price of one, while the field continues to get worse and worse.

As for the game? What a great one for Lehigh so far. McGowan is unstoppable in the red zone. Great job converting 3rd downs. Brannan Thomas did get beat for Holy Cross' TD, but Lehigh is truly coming together out there, getting TDs set up by great special teams plays, big conversions, and (most importantly) no turnovers.

With Lafayette 7, Colgate 7 just kicking off the 3rd quarter, this Patriot League title chase is bound to get damned interesting if Lehigh manages to hold on and win this game. With the delay of this game, I've been watching that game and it looks like a messy game with not-go-great execution.

Can't say enough about Lehigh's first half. An outstanding half of football. Now the trick will be maintining this for the second half... oh yeah, and 30 seconds.

Lehigh 14, Holy Cross 0, end 1st

Not only has this been a great first quarter for the Mountain Hawks, Lehigh's actually having fun out there.

Hard to draw it up any better. A 6 minute drive, capped by RB Matt McGowan barrelling over left guard for the TD, including big plays running and passing. The defense has looked awesome, too. Brannan Thomas seems to really want a game ball - perfect coverage on WR Ryan Maher to force a punt, and then gets a hand on RB Mike Kielt that SS Julian Austin scooped and scored. A 2 TD lead, in this weather? I've got an awfully big smile on my face.

The broadcast team is cautioning against overconfidence, saying that the Crusaders, after going down 14-0, came back to win 38-28 against Lafayette last week, but if Holy Cross scores 38 points in this muck... well, I just don't see it.

Things looking good. On to the second quarter.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Water Cooler: Lehigh/Holy Cross

The buzz around the Lehigh/Holy Cross game is damn interesting. Although most of the Holy Cross faithful are confident in their Crusaders taking this game from the Mountain Hawks, most Lehigh fans are more unsure than ever. Which Lehigh team will show up? And how good is Holy Cross, really?

Normally I don't talk about the message-board chatter, but with the biggest game in this Patriot League season so far coming up this weekend, I thought it worthwhile to pass on. Lehigh fans are more "show-me", while Holy Cross fans are extremely confident. We'll see how this all shakes out.

Did you buy your LFN T-Shirts for Lehigh/Colgate yet? I believe that there's a $5 flat shipping fee deal going on, as well as a Halloween promotion. You'll be sure to need to buy, oh I don't know, dozens of shirts just in time for the biggest games of the year. Remember, huge portions of the proceeds will benefit Lehigh Athletics!

Last-Minute Lehigh/Holy Cross Information
Columnist Keith Groller has something interesting in his column today - not big enough for the "Press Roundup", but he goes over his fall "Tricks and Treats", and he mentions Lehigh football:
"Trick — Inheriting a very strong Lehigh University football program with high expectations, but starting your first season at 2-4 with a series of gut-wrenching losses.
Treat — Watching Andy Coen gracefully dodge the detractors, calmly install his system and keep the faith in his players as they play their biggest game of the season Saturday at Holy Cross."

The weather forecast for Worcester, MA is holding: periods of rain and gusty winds, with 1 to 2 inches of rainfall expected - heavier rains are also possible. If you're making the trek up to Holy Cross, bring your tarp. If you can't make it, there are lots of broadcast options on lehighsports.com, on TV on Channel 69 WFMZ, or if you're on the road, ESPN Radio AM 1230/1320.

What Chuck's Been Doing
I've been busy writing my piece on the Harvard/Princeton game on I-AA.org, which I hope folks will enjoy. When I'm not writing pieces, blogging, or actually doing work at my day job, my interests include: having a life and spending some time with my wife and son.

What Chuck Will Be Doing
For I-AA.org, I'll be probably finishing Part II of my CFI (Chuck Fan Index) series, as folks have been bugging me about rating the fans of I-AA, and insulting every school in the process. (As Lehigh fans, you'll want to see this since Holy Cross, Lafayette and Colgate, I think, will be in it.)

I'll also be blogging about the Holy Cross game live. Wild horses couldn't drag me away from the TV tomorrow to watch this game.

Friday Water Cooler Picks: Patriot League, Week 9
Colgate over Lafayette.
This is Lafayette's last-gasp chance to stay relevant in the Patriot League race after a five-game losing streak, where they will face a Colgate team who hasn't lost to Lafayette in the Dick Biddle era. Oh by the way, the Raiders got seriously on track, too, with a 46-3 drubbing of Fordham. It's really hard to picture the Leopards reversing this many trends - on the road, to boot. Redrum's 35, Slo-Pards 21.

Bucknell over Fordham. Fearless Prediction: This game will be done in just a little over two hours. Oh yeah, Bucknell wins. Bison Burgers 17, Also-Rams 7.

#25 Charleston Southern over Georgetown. As long as Chuck South can manage, oh I don't know, two scores against the Hoyas, I don't think the undefeated Buccaneers shoudl have any problems. Chuck-A-Bucs 31, Hoyanthropists 7.

Friday Water Cooler Picks: I-AA Top 25, Week 9
#1 Appalachian State over #8 Furman.
Usually this is a crazy game. They always seem to be, where the two SoCon contenders will be fighting yet again for the SoCon title. Most years, these games a punctuated by missed 2-point conversions and slips on the turf. But Furman has come dastardly close to being exposed completely, and they'll be naked in Boone this week. Yosefs 38, Punt-A-Dins 7.

#2 Illinois State over #9 Youngstown State. Another huge game for the Gateway title, the Penguins pretty much have to win here to have a shot at a playoff berth or the Gateway autobid. But I like Illinois State's chances of stopping Y-Town's RB Marcus Mason than Illinois State's QB Luke Drone getting slowed down by the Penguin "D". Firebirds 38, Icebirds 17.

#3 Montana over Idaho State. The Bengals can't win on the road, and this doesn't look like a likely place for Idaho State to start, at Washington-Grizzly. Griz 41, Colder-Outside-The-Domers 30.

Northeastern over #4 UMass. I can't think of a more classic Atlantic 10 trap game than the one right here. Next week, UMass plays New Hampshire in their biggest game of the year. Northeastern is on a major roll, surprisingly beating both Delaware and New Hampshire at home. Add to this Northeastern HATES UMass for poaching their head coach a couple years ago. This adds up to an emotional A-10 upset. Up-Startskies 30, ZooMass 27.

#13 Richmond over #5 James Madison. Just playing a funny hunch here with the Spiders at home in an absolute must-win situation for the playoffs. Both the Spiders and Dukes are banged up, but I think the Spiders find a way to win this in a defensive struggle. Spiders 20, Duke Dogs 17.

#6 North Dakota State over Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds are the second best 3-5 team in the country. After this week, they will be the second best 3-6 team in the country. Bison Express 38, Chunderbirds 7.

#7 Northern Iowa over Western Illinois. The Leathernecks ARE the best 3-5 team in the country, which only means, take the points and watch them go to 3-6 as well. UNIty 35, Lather-Necks 28.

San Diego State (I-A) over #10 Cal Poly. The dominating Mustang defense has lost its luster, and unfortunately are facing an Aztec team that finally hit its stride last week and won't be taking any wins for granted. In September, Cal Poly might have rolled. Here, the 'Stangs will lose. Aztlatinos 24, Stung Stangs 14.

#11 New Hampshire over Hofstra. A must-win for New Hampshire at home. I've got to beleive they right the ship here, emphatically. (Didn't I say this for the past two weeks?) Wildebeasts 40, Wounded Pride 0.

#12 Princeton over Cornell. I think the Tigers are too tough to lose, but I think the Big Red will make it Big Scary for Princeton. Tigers 21, Big Scaries 20.

#15 Eastern Illinois over #14 Tennessee-Martin. I've got to root for the Skyhawks here (mostly because I like the nickname I've given them), but my head says Eastern Illinois takes firm control of the OVC race here. Panthers 32, Carrier Pigeons 18.

#16 Maine over Rhode Island. Yes, I'm keenly aware I'm predicting Maine to have sole possession of first-place in the A-10 after this week's games. Man-Eating Killing Machines 30, Rhody 0.

South Dakota State over #17 UC-Davis. Exactly how has UC-Davis, who finally have a winning record after beating Southern Utah last week, been ranked in the Top 25 all year? Watch South Dakota State rightfully put their place in the Top 25 after winning here. Jackaggies 29, Aggiejacks 17.

I-A Oregon over #18 Portland State. Let's see, Oregon is coming off an embarassing loss to Washington Sate and have to justify their #25 ranking in the I-A poll. Gee, *there's* a recipie for an upset.... Yeah right. Wounded Ducks 56, Vendi Vidi Vikings 3.

#19 Southern Illinois over Missouri State. Speaking of needing to justify their ranking... Salukis 40, Cuddly Bears 0.

#20 Hampton over Winston-Salem State. Can't imagine them stumbling the rest of the way, though if RB Alonzo Coleman is hurt... Nah. They roll. Pirates 24, Cigarette Girls 0.

#21 San Diego over Morehead State. The Toreros will prove nothing by blowing out this overmatched opponent. I think their only mistake will be missing the 2-point conversion in the closing seconds. Toreros 89, Feathers 0.

#22 Harvard over Dartmouth. This will be Dartmouth's Super Bowl, probably played in a rainstorm. That means: Harvard wins, but take the points. Red 24, Green 21.

#23 Coastal Carolina over Liberty. Note to Jerry Fallwell: It's a long, hard, painful road to I-A, and losing to Coastal won't make it any easier. Beach Chickens 38, Hellfire 14.

#24 Montana State over Weber State. Every Bobcat game seems to be an adventure, and this game will be no exception. The Bobcats should keep winning, though. Bobkitties 35, Wildkitties 31.

Press Roundup
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Hopes To Wash Away Memories Of Holy Cross
Upshot: "We're used to playing a little soggy," Coen said. "When you play in adverse weather conditions, the team that is a little more efficient running the football usually has the advantage. This is probably one of the few times in a long time that a Lehigh coach can sit here and say that [the running game] favors us. You have to go out and play even if the weather is foul. You can't control it. I feel good knowing I have a team with a balanced offense rather than one that plans on throwing it 50 or 60 times... Maybe our kids are a little hungrier this time. We're certainly going up there in an attacking mode. Maybe last year Holy Cross snuck up on us because our kids just thought they were going to win the game. Now that they've tasted defeat, our kids know they can't take anything for granted."

Easton Express-Times:
Playing For Payback
Upshot: "I think our kids understand the magnitude of the game," Coen said. "This is the game we have to play well in -- have to win -- to control our destiny."

Brown & White:
Lehigh On Crusade To Beat Holy Cross
Upshot: “The team is approaching this game with a lot of emphasis and importance,” junior tailback Richard Forman said. “Holy Cross is a good football team and for us to win we have to go up there and play mistake free football.” “If we win each week and each game, we have something to keep looking forward to at the end in Easton,” Fabre said. “If we don’t, we have to sit at home at Thanksgiving wishing and hoping we were at school preparing for the playoffs.”

Lehighsports.com:
Making The Change (Matt Mohler)
Upshot: “It is a difficult transition to make, going from defensive end to linebacker,” said assistant coach Kenny Lockard, who is Mohler’s position coach. “In the spring, he did a great job learning the system and how to play standing up. Matt had a lot of new techniques he had to learn. He put in a lot of non-practice time into his work.”

Worcester Telegram:
Toland: HC's Soph QB Off To Great Start
Upshot: “Our team is very positive, very confident, but we haven’t proven all we can,” Randolph said. “This will be a big challenge. Lehigh is a very respectable team. We know what we can do, we just have to do it and play consistently.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preview of Lehigh/Holy Cross

Holy Cross should not be sneaking up on anyone, but they have the potential to sneak up on everybody in the Patriot League this year despite their impressive 6-2 record. Few in the preseason (myself included) thought that the Crusaders would be finishing anywhere higher than fourth in the Patriot League this year, but head coach Tom Gilmore and the "Purple Army" had other ideas.

Lehigh took care of business last week against Bucknell (38-7), meaning that we survived Week 1 of "Patriot Survivor". This week's test has to also be considered a "Survivor" game for Lehigh as well. Although conceivable that Lehigh could make the playoffs with one loss, Holy Cross' win over Lafayette last week means that if they beat us here, we'd be relying on Bucknell (fat chance) or Colgate (more likely) to upend the Crusaders the rest of the way and hope for a 3-way tie for the Patriot title. I don't like those odds at all. As far as I'm concerned, this is a playoff game.

All year we've been looking at Lehigh and saying, Are they good enough? Are they really getting things together and making a run at this thing? The signs are better after last week's win over Bucknell that we have. But it's this game, versus the Patriot League frontrunner at this point, which will really prove whether we have the stuff to win the title, survive, and move on.

Are we good enough? The question that the whole season is riding upon. That's what we'll learn on Saturday.

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

It wouldn't be another week in Lehigh football with another boring week of the same injury report and same starters as last week. Really not much to report here - there has been eerie consistency week to week in the starting lineups.

What may be an interesting story at Holy Cross' Fitton Field is the weather report, calling for wind and rain and highs in the upper 50s. Fitton Field can be a muck-pit with the rains coming down. We all know Lehigh's record in rain-soaked games the past two years: 0-2, including a home loss to Holy Cross last year. If Lehigh can pull this one out, there is a very good chance that the ghosts of the last two "weather losses" could be exorcised. If I were them, I'd actually look forward to the weather in order to show what they can really do.

As for tailgating at Fitton in the rain, there really is only one drink to have: Purple Rain Champagne Cocktails. The perfect drink to have as we see Holy Cross go down just like Prince's singing career. (Or is that "symbol man" now?)

A Word On Holy Cross
The Crusaders enjoy a program with a very successful history. In the war years, Holy Cross was a consistent national powerhouse, while the good not-so-old days featured players like Gordie Lockbaum and Gil Fennerty wearing the purple-and-white. Once Holy Cross joined the Patriot League, however, the Crusaders chose primarily to focus on maintaning a world-beating quality basketball team. In those early years of the league Holy Cross (with a host of grandfathered scholarship players) wreaked havoc on their Patriot opponents.

Lehigh and Holy Cross have played some dandy games through the years, none more important than the meeting in 1991. A battle for the Patriot League championship that year, the Engineers and Crusaders were both 6-0 going into that game. Lehigh and Holy Cross played one of the classic games at Murray Goodman, a 43-42 squeaker featuring six lead changes and not one but two "fumblerooski" plays by then-coach Hank Small to try to get the win. Ultimately, Holy Cross won the Patriot championship in a game that did wonders for establishing the Patriot League as "big-time". (The Crusaders also finished 11-0, but were not invited to the I-AA playoffs that year, despite wins over Harvard, BU, and UMass.)

Since that season, Holy Cross really struggled at times. But as of 2004, those fortunes have been changing significantly. That year, then-Lehigh defensive coordinator Tom Gilmore quickly suddenly left the Lehigh coaching staff and took on the job of rebuilding the Crusader football program essentially from scratch. Adding insult to the injury of Gilmore hightailing to Holy Cross in the middle of recruiting season, Gilmore also convinced defensive backs coach Issac Collins to follow him in his rebuilding effort - after Collins had already been promoted to defensive coordinator. (Collins is no longer with the Crusaders.) Gilmore burned his bridges at Lehigh to some degree.

Last year's 2005 game was a 13-10 win by Holy Cross, only the second Crusader victory over the Mountain Hawks in the past ten years. In a driving rainstorm, Lehigh outgained Holy Cross by 100 yards and basically lost the game due Lehigh's strengths (a veteran receiving corps and great team speed) negated by the weather, while the Crusaders made just enough big plays to win. I remember hearing the Crusader assistant coaches almost shrieking in the press box they were so excited to beat Lehigh. I remember coach Gilmore in the press conference, giddy with the victory, saying how Holy Cross "wanted it more".

The fact that Gilmore has rebuilt the Crusaders so well so quickly has not been lost on Mountain Hawk fans. Adding insult to injury this year is the fact that Gilmore has unveiled an offense that looks, at first glance, quite similar to the "Air Lehigh" offense of the 1990s that was extremely difficult to stop. I think a lot of Lehigh fans look at Holy Cross this year and say, somewhere in their brains, "This team should be us."

Further adding to the emotion is that Dick Kotulski, Gilmore's defensive coordinator in 2005, was hired by coach Coen as his defensive coordinator this year. You have to wonder if Kotulski would deeply enjoy a win here over his former team as well.

Offense
Holy Cross' offense involves a short, controlled passing game similar to "Air Lehigh" - totally unlike last year's Crusader squad that was centered around FB Gideon Akande and HB Steve Silva. Coach Gilmore has a base single-back, tight end, and three wideout set that is geared towards short passing. This extremely young squad has shown surprising poise and ability in their development as a passing offense. Add to that the fact that this young offense hasn't turned over the ball once in the last three games, and now you've got a really frightening combination.

Sophomore QB Dominc Randolph was hurt early in the year when Holy Cross went 1-2. The fact that the Crusaders are now 5-0 with him as a starter is no accident. He's got some mobility and is completing 70% - 70%! Not a typo! - of his passes to the tune of 13 TDs and only 2 interceptions. His QB rating is 161.4 - 8th in the nation! Teams have tried to rattle him, saying "he's only a sophomore", only to see them ultimately lose. Randolph could be player of the year this year. Somehow, he must be slowed down.

The single back for the Crusaders most of the time is 5'8 (charitably) sophomore RB Terence Gass, who is an effective counter so far to the passing game and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. The question with Gass is if he can get those big grind-it-out yards at the end of a game to seal a victory. Sophomore RB Mike Kielt spells him as well, who is beefier but less of a threat catching the ball.

Randolph has lots of targets and spreads the ball to a lot of different receivers. The three starting receivers are junior WR Ryan Maher, sophomore WR Brent McDermott and junior WR Thomas Harrison. Together they account for 1,415 receiving yards and 11 TDs. The top five targets are all wideouts; senior TE Frank Herlihy, surprisingly, isn't featured much in the passing game. All have great hands, but none have really tested the depth of a lot of secondaries this year (nor have they had to).

The "O" line boasts experience and good size. Senior OL Andrew Schoepfer is the "old man" of the line, and there is big bulk, especially at the guards. They have protected the QB extremely well to give him time to pick apart defenses, though their offense frequently is of the "one step drop, WR screen" variety.

Defense
Regarded as Holy Cross' strength going into the season, the Crusader defense has given up points and yards in bunches, giving up 400 yards passing to Brown and 454 yards of total offense to Harvard. Although they have forced some turnovers, they haven't really dominated any team they have faced (save for Marist of the MAAC). Throw out the Marist game, and they've given up 24 points per game, allowing big games both rushing and passing.

In their base 3-4, senior DE John Marcus Pinard is their best player with 3 sacks on the year and 26 tackles. He's the biggest person on a smallish "D" line. That could explain the big rushing yards against them.

The strength of this defense is clearly the linebacking unit, with senior LBs Dan Adams and Chris Nielsen both having monster years. Nielsen's forte is sacks off the blitz, with 6 on the year, while 5'10 (generously) Dan Adams is a one-man tackling machine with 71 on the year already! On the outside, they are big and athletic, so you have to fear the outside blitz.

The defensive secondary is led by the reliable 6'0 senior CB Casey Gough, with 3 interceptions already on the year. The rest of the secondary is speedy but short, with senior FS Matt Crosby listed at 5'9. Finding a second receiver to exploit this height difference could be vital to our chances Saturday.

Special Teams
Senior P Ryan McManaway hasn't had a terrific year with a 36 yard net, while senior K Mike DeSantis uncharacteristically has also struggled a bit with two missed extra-points and only one FG of more than 39 yards - and that was week 1 versus Georgetown. The kicking game has been less than stellar - another possible place to make some hay. We may be looking at some 4th-down conversion tries at the 20 on Saturday.

The return game is quite another story, with Gough, Maher, and 5'8 senior WR Matt Fanning all doing a great job returning kicks (but with no TDs). Of note, Holy Cross special teams forced the fumble that ended up resulting in the game-winning TD drive against Lafayette last week. All are dangerous and will require good heads-up special teams play to contain.

Keys To The Game
1. Physical Play & Good Tackling. Our defense will have to play extremely physical and push around those Holy Cross receivers to have a chance. If they try to beat us through the air, I think we should make every reception pay with a hard hit.
2. Turnovers. In a big game like this, we can't afford any "greased pigs". We need to protect that ball at all costs, and force a few of our own to win this game.
3. Field Position. I'd love to take advantage of longer punts and better field position to get a couple of scores, and Jason Leo, Laquan Gasaway and company can make this happen for us.
4. Time Of Possession. If we can hold onto the ball for 35 minutes, I think we have an excellent chance to win this game. That means their passing offense is on the bench, and our offense will be effective in running (and passing) the ball and controlling the clock.

Fearless Prediction
Which Lehigh team comes out? I still am not sure, but I think that there are two huge factors at play here. First, every Lehigh player circled this date on the calendar for revenge against last year's 13-10 loss. I don't think that an issue of "lack of focus" will come into play - I think coach Coen will have the kids extremely focused this week. Add to that the title implications, and you'll see a Lehigh team determined to make it happen.

Second, I also beleive this Lehigh team is dying to prove that they can win a rainy, wet, bad-weather game - and for the first time in a long time, Lehigh has the better running and a more physical team.

Turnabout is fair play, and it feels like irony is in the air. Last year, a powerful passing team was grounded in the rain by a team that hung onto the ball better and played more focused, physical football. In that sense, I think history repeats itself. The ironic part is that this time, the running team is Lehigh.

Lehigh 21, Holy Cross 14

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Press Roundup: Bucknell/Lehigh

The press was kind to the Mountain Hawks this week as we roll towards the most important Lehigh/Holy Cross game since 1991. Normally I don't have recaps from "that school from Easton" included here, but this week I did since they played this week's opponent last week and I thought it was worthwhile to look at a quote or two from that postgame press conference as well. Something for you, the Lehigh fan, to chew on as we head towards next Saturday.

This week's game balls will be going to some guys that may be surprising. On offense, rather than go with the new kid Yansane, I'm going to go with the underappreciated senior RB Marques Thompson. I think sometimes folks forget about him whem he "only" gets over 100 yards rushing, 144 all-purpose yards, and 1 TD. He also got key first downs with a lot of these yards, as well as the TD that really put the game in the "W" column for Lehigh. Marques "Barry Sanders" Thompson deserves a game ball this week.

On defense, no question it's sophomore DE Brad Thomas with eight tackles and some big stops in the first half. The defense is really playing very selflessly, with different guys making the big plays every week, but this week it's definitely Thomas. Not bad for someone in his first start on the "D" line - I think with this week's performance, he's a good chance at starting next week too.

There wasn't much to do for Lehigh in special teams this week; Bucknell frequently went for it on 4th down and wanted to kick the ball out of bounds rather than kick to WR Frank "Al Del Greco" Trovato on punts. That leaves not too many candidates, but sophomore PK Jason Leo will get his overdue props with a game ball here. 5-for-5 on extra points, one 25 yard FG, and two 42 yard punts are, happily, a regular day at the office for Leo. It's as much a pat of the back for an error-free Bucknell game as a nod to his great year so far for the Mountain Hawks. Congratulations to all!

Enjoy the press clippings today; be ready for the Holy Cross preview tomorrow.

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Feels At Home In Win Over Bison
Upshot: Now that's more like it. That's what the Lehigh faithful among the 10,673 at Goodman Stadium were thinking Saturday afternoon after watching their favorite team roll to a 38-7 Patriot League win over Bucknell. "It was, flat out, a team effort," said Threatt, who was the model of efficiency with a 14-for-19, 126-yard passing performance to go with 35 rushing yards. "The offense really jelled together today. We're on a mission. We know the task ahead of us. We all understand it's league play now. You want to win every week, but at this point, we know we have to win them all."

Hawks Share the Load
Upshot: "Lee [Thomas] and Frankie [Trovato] were down all week [with injuries], so Mike Fitzgerald and I had to step up and take advantage of the opportunity to make some plays," said [sophomore WR Sekou] Yansane. "It felt great to score a touchdown. That was my first one. Hopefully, there are more to come." QB Sedale Threatt agreed. "All of these guys were here all summer working out. Sekou was one of them. These guys are hungry. [Assistant] coach [Donnie] Roberts always says 'When an opportunity knocks on the door, you better open it up,' and that's what Sekou did today."

Easton Express-Times:
Holy Cross Crossing Up Contenders
Upshot: [QB Dominic] Randolph [against Lafayette] had ample time to throw, often checking down to his second and third options. His line doused Lafayette's blitzes and he picked apart the zone coverages. "I'd say about 75 percent of the time I was looking for my second and third receivers," Randolph said. "That (first) series was my fault, but we knew what we could do and treated it like it was a 0-0 game. My line gave me great protection."

Brown & White:
Hawks destroy Bison, are 2-0 in League Play
Upshot: “It felt good to go out and finally put it together offensively and defensively for a full game, but we all know there still is a lot of work to be done,” [junior WR Pete] Donchez said. “We have all Patriot League games left — four games to work and keep trying to get better. We all know what happened last year [against Holy Cross] and we have a lot of motivation for the game. We just need to prepare and have a good week of practice.”

Daily Item:
Lehigh Beats Bucknell
Upshot: "Lehigh won the battle up front from the first snap. The Mountain Hawks racked up 368 yards total offense, including a career-high 126 yards rushing from Marques Thompson. Quarterback Sedale Threatt added two rushing touchdowns and two passing scores as Lehigh never officially punted when the game's outcome was in doubt."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday's Word: Ego

It's the word I can't get out of my head after seeing the Yale game last week and the Bucknell game this week. "Ego". Maybe it's because I was at the Harvard/Princeton this weekend, where I saw a Tiger team win a tough, gritty 31-28 win in what seemed to be ego-less fashion, but it seems like this Lehigh team is also showing signs that they are getting the same lesson as well.

The Yale game, we had maybe a little too much "ego" since we were whooping it up, jumping on Yale's "Y" after halftime - even though we were down. That moment really stuck in my craw. What the hell were we thinking? Were getting our butts kicked on the stat sheet - and we're dancing on the "Y"? It made me think that we thought we were better than we were. Enter "Ego".

This week, there was a lot to like statistically. More discipline; better line play; +3 on turnovers; better rate on 3rd-down conversions and red zone conversion. Also heartening was the play of some of the new sophomores on both offense and defense. But what makes me really smile is the lack of "ego" on the field and playing with a great team effort on offense and defense. There are real signs that this team and its untapped potential could maybe be tapped by the end of the season.

But things must be kept in perspective. This was Bucknell, who was a young, spread-option team that was missing key offensive cogs. You pretty much knew what they could throw at you, and after Lehigh went up by three scores you had a feeling that it wasn't going to be their day, even though they took back a TD before halftime.

Basically, Bucknell's no Holy Cross.

Holy Cross, a team who has passed a lot in their first eight games, couldn't be more different than the Bison. They will be tough to stop, and their sophomore QB Dominic Randolph has the sort of numbers that many people thought junior QB Sedale Threatt might have this year - 70% completion percentage, 13 TDs, and only 2 interceptions. He's taken only 9 sacks this year, and he's been Patriot League Player of the Week two times already (he will probably win his third straight this week too). They use short controlled passing to move the chains and score points. A more different opponent than Bucknell you couldn't imagine.

How can we beat the most formidable Holy Cross team since 1991? I think we may already know after this week's Bucknell game. Check the "ego" in at the door and attack together, offensively and defensively, as a team. Clearly after watching the game this week, Lehigh did just that - play together, make plays, make better decisions, and make fewer mistakes. If anything should stay in the gameplan from the Bucknell game, it should be that.

Only then will we have a shot at this thing.
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