Saturday, November 04, 2006

Lehigh 23, Colgate 15, Final

Lehigh stays in the driver's seat. We survive once again, and move on. But it's funny; I should be much more elated with this win than I am.

How could that be? We were up by three scores. Our defense smothered Colgate's offense in the first half, for the most part. Senior DT Erik Rakus seemed to be all over the field. Junior QB Sedale Threatt did a great job leading the team on first half TD drives, including 75 rushing yards and 2 TDs. As a Lehigh fan, analyzing the game, there for sure was a lot to like.

Maybe it's simply that both Lehigh and Colgate seemed so... flawed. There's no other way to describe it. Usually Lehigh and Colgate features one or more nationally-ranked teams, with dreams of I-AA playoffs and maybe even a dream run to the I-AA championship. In recent past, these games were always grudge matches between teams with great execution. But this year it was a batttle between a 4-4 team and a 3-5 team, and it showed. More bad penalties, for one. A really soft drive at the end of the first half that gave Colgate free points - fortunately the defense tightened and the Raiders settled for three, which could have been the difference in the game.

It wasn't just us. Colgate sure seemed far removed from the preseason accolades as well. A blocked extra-point - after we gave them half the distance! - followed by another hitting the upright. Both Saraceno and Relph really struggled at times, which couldn't all be attributed to Lehigh's defense. There were plenty of drops and missed chances.

Though Lehigh won, they didn't look or feel like the world-beating team that smacked Holy Cross last week. Worse, we tried our hardest to give Colgate a way back into the game in the 4th quarter. When we went up by three scores, our defense took a nap and gave up two really soft TDs to make this a game. We also got a huge assist after Colgte somehow got flagged for kick interference - a call that got made Colgate's head coach Dick Biddle apoplectic on the sideliens - that saved our bacon on an onside kick the second week in a row. How our defense and special teams can look like world-beaters in one stanza and then make Colgate look like the Chris-Brown-to-DeWayne-Long era is beyond me.

Three hair-pulling penalties in particular leap to mind as to why Lehigh's execution was off.

1. Colgate 1st-and-goal at the 3 - and we get flagged for 12 men on the field, half the distance to the goal.
2. Colgate lines up for the extra point - and we jump offsides. Half the distance.
3. Lehigh 3rd-and-1, we're trying to get a game-killing drive, we get the 1st down, and we get called for an illegal shift. 3rd-and-6.

We did rebound from all this self-made adversity, as we rebounded from senior WR Frank "Al Del Greco" Trovato's fumble on the punt return early in the first quarter. But you know and I know that even though it was enough to beat Colgate, if we hand Lafayette chances like that, they will murder us.

I don't want to sound so down after beating a historic rival pretty handily. I'm really happy we're in the driver's seat for the title and the I-AA autobid, and for every miscue we had we had that player respond with a big play, which says a lot about the mettle of this team. But I see a team that should have stomped on Colgate's throat midway through the third quarter, if not the first half, if we hadn't killed ourselves in one way or another. It was more like the Georgetown game than the Holy Cross game, and that's saying something.

Maybe that's not a bad thing that we won, but not impressively. Maybe that shows that we need to get even better for Fordham, Lafayette or maybe someone after that. Because we do.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Water Cooler: Colgate/Lehigh

It's Friday, and in about 24 hours Colgate/Lehigh will be kicking off at Murray Goodman. What do you need to know before the game starts? First, the weather report still points to a sunny, high 40s/low 50s sort of day - in other words, perfect for football. Second, you can scroll down and read "10 Reasons to Hate the 'Gate" in case you forgot why Lehigh needs a win this week. Scroll down further and you'll read my detailed breakdown of the 'Gate. With that, and this week's water cooler and press roundup, what else do you really need?

Well, yeah, it would be cool if Borat could visit this weekend's Colgate/Lehigh game. But unless I start a rumor that Pamela Anderson Lee will also be attending the game, I seriously doubt that the "glorious pride of Kazakhstan Nation" will be able to get to the game. (Perhaps the Uzbeks might be interested?)

Some Serious Stuff
Next week, ALSA will be sponsoring an ALS walk as a part of the ALS Call to C.A.R.E. initiative. ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly known as Lou Gerhig's disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. You may remember last year that I mentioned that football alumnus FB Brett Snyder ('00) was diagnosed with ALS, and Lehigh fans responded with donations to ALSA and the Snyder family. This year, Lehigh athetics and the Lehigh Alumni association have sponsored the Call to C.A.R.E. for alumni to contribute and sponsor walkers for ALS.

The walk is next Saturday, November 11th, at Valley Forge Military Academy. Registration starts at 10:00AM and the walk begins at 11:00AM. Even if you can't attend the walk (you can arrange to do so through the Lehigh Alumni club of Philadelphia), you can sponsor walkers through the Walk to D'Feet ALS website. You can even walk virtually (which is great for those of you that want to tailgate at Fordham as well as "walk"!) I'd like to encourage folks to visit the sites listed here and consider donating your money or your feet for this worthy cause.

What's Chuck Been Doing?
I've been busy insulting Lafayette, Colgate, Holy Cross and Fordham in my latest installment of the Chuck Fan Index on I-AA.org. (And you thought I just insulted these schools on this blog!) What's really great is that I got a lengthy email from a passionate alumnus of one of the schools I wrote about giving me a complicated mathematical formula as to why his school should be ranked higher! Those CFI pieces are not easy, but it's really gratifying when I get emails like that who "get it".

What's Chuck Going To Be Doing?
I'll be at the Colgate/Lehigh game this weekend, making a I-AA Diary for I-AA.org. As of this writing, my wife and son will also be going to take pictures and cover the "complete game experience" with me. There's nothing I'd rather be doing than seeing this game this weekend. If you can't make it out to the game the broadcast will be on Sevice Electric 2, FCS-Atlantic, and FSN-Pittsburgh live. If you're not lucky enough to get those stations (I'm not), you can follow along on lehighsports.com. Of course, for the fan on the go there is also AM ESPN 1230/1320 for all the action as well.

Friday Water Cooler Picks: Patriot League, Week 10
Holy Cross over Bucknell. I think Bucknell will have surprising effectiveness against Holy Cross' run defense, but to win the Bison would have to stop them on defense, which I don't think they will be able to do enough. Purple People Eaters 35, Bison Burgers 17.

Lafayette over Fordham. Fordham's starting a freshman QB and simply hasn't been able to generate much offense all year. A Leopard squad just starting to hit its stride should dispatch Fordham easily. Leopards 37, Also-Rams 6.

Georgetown over Marist. Borat is from Kazakhstan, nowhere near Wasington, DC, US of A. His hometown name Kuzcek. It near Almaty - please you visit!!! Kazakhs score plenty! You watch filthy Uzbek Red Foxes with bones in their brain defeat! Kazakh Hoyas 27, Uzbek Red Foxes 7.

Friday Water Cooler Picks: I-AA Top 25, Week 10
#1 Appalachian State over The Citadel. In the tour of ex-Lehigh coaches facing the Boone juggernaut, it's time for coach Higgins to go down fighting this week. Jerry Moore-s 37, Kevin Higgins' 14.

#7 Cal Poly over #2 Montana. Somtimes it boils down to something simple: the more desperate team wins. Montana can really afford to lose, and haven't been tested much in the past few week. Cal Poly takes this round again. Mustangs 24, Grizaholics 17.

#9 New Hampshire over #3 UMass. This is another game where the more desperate team takes the cake. Though the Wildcats have been struggling of late, I think they will respond here with a win that reminds us how good they actually are. New Hampshire wins and makes this A-10 title chase very interesting. Caged Wildcats 35, ZooMass 17.

Delaware over #4 James Madison. Playing another hunch, the Blue Hens respond after their heartbreaking defeat to Towson last week by upsetting the Dukes in a situation where they have nothing to lose. Very Blue Hens 32, Dukes 24.

#5 North Dakota State over UC-Davis. These Bison are damned good, and UC-Davis has been overrated all year. Give me the Bison. Best Bison 42, Aggravated Aggies 17.

#6 Youngstown State over #13 Southern Illinois. It just seems like the Penguins are peaking, while a strong Southern Illinois squad is going in the other direction. The surging Penguins get a win they need to stay in the lead of the Gateway, while the Salukis start wondering if they'll even make the field. Icebirds 41, Hotdogs 24.

#8 Illinois State over Missouri State. It couldn't come at a better time with the Redbirds needing a feel-good win after last week's loss to Y-Town. They'll get it. Redbirds 49, Cubbies 12.

#10 Tennessee-Martin over Southeast Missouri State. Let me get this straight - the Skyhawks could be undefeated in the OVC, yet lose the I-AA playoff autobid to a coin-flip with unranked Tennessee State? I'd be outraged, and SEMO will be the unhappy victims to a motivated Tennessee-Martin team. Carrier Pigeons 41, Fictional Birds 10.

#11 Furman over Elon. As much as I'd love to take Lembo and the Phoenix here, Furman should be dangerous since every game from here on out is a playoff game for them. Furman will struggle, but should get the better of the day here. Purple Punching Bags 31, Lembo's Spoilers 24.

Western Kentucky over #12 Northern Iowa. Basically a playoff game, here's another battle of teams going in opposite directions. I love the UNI Panthers, but I think Western Kentucky, who will be transitioning to I-A after this season is over, will be playing motivated the rest of the way. "New Orleans Bowl in 2015" 38, Schitzo Panthers 35.

#14 Hampton over Bethune-Cookman. This game was played yesterday, but through the benefit of hindsight I will predict a Hampton victory. Hampton 30, B-CC 29.

#15 Harvard over Columbia. Columbia hasn't been able to score on many Ivy opponents this year, and a motivated Crimson squad will not be where they start. Crimson Tide 31, Baby Blue Lions 0.

#16 Richmond over Villanova. Richmond's in "every game is a playoff" mode, and shouldn't disappoint against Talley's squad. Villanova has already forgotten about football season at this point anyway. Spiders 31, "It's Basketball Season" 17.

#17 Princeton over Penn. Unless my eyes deceived me the first six weeks of the season, the Tigers at home should have no problem dispatching a rapidly fading Penn team. Did my eyes deceive me? Tigers 31, Quackers 21.

#18 Montana State over Northern Colorado. Welcome to the Big Sky, NoCo. Bobcats 44, Googly Bears 7.

#19 San Diego over Jacksonville. If there were ever a game that was Borat's dream, it would clearly be this one. "Coach Harbaugh, nice man as friend - no sexytime. Take me to Jacksonville beach, yes?" Beach Toreros 78, Beached Fish 0.

#20 Coastal Carolina over Savannah State. Or would this be Borat's game? "Back home, we dress goats in teal for "Teal-Out" in Almaty. Like home! Can buy Teal G-String, yes? Can get Beach Chicken to bring home to Kuzcek?" Beach Chickens 55, "We Lost to Johnson C. Smith" 0.

#21 Eastern Illinois over Tennessee State. I think the Panthers sharpen their long-shot at a playoff bid and make the OVC administrators heave a huge sigh of relief by dispatching the Tigers here. Desperate Panthers 35, Surprising Tigers 28.

#22 South Dakota State over D-II William Penn. This will NOT be the latest D-II over D-I-AA upset. No way. Jackrabbits 49, Statesmen 0.

Northern Arizona over #23 Portland State. Playing another hunch, I think the Lumberjacks at home cling to their desperate bid for the Big Sky title and hand the Vikings their elimination from the playoff race. Lumberjacks 38, Vendi Vidi Vikings 21.

Northeastern over #24 Maine. Maine is desperate, but I feel like scoring 0 points against hapless Rhode Island last week has to be an indicator of worse problems on this team. A surprisingly decent Northeastern team pulls off another upset. Surging Huskies 27, Falling Bears 14.

#25 Towson over William & Mary. Surging Towson has to believe that they have a great shot at the playoffs, and the struggling Tribe shouldn't stand in their way. Tigers 35, Tribe 17.

Press Roundup
Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Hitting Stride At Right Time
Upshot: Coach Coen: "They have played the last few weeks with a sense of urgency. They knew what was at stake at Holy Cross. And when that game was over, they congratulated each other and immediately went into the mind-set of knowing what was coming up this week. So far, they have prepared well for Colgate because they know the challenge they face." About Colgate: "They may not be as big and physical as they have been in the past, and they're playing a lot of young kids up front. But it's still a good football team, and it's still a Lehigh-Colgate game and they'll come in here crazy to beat us."

Easton Express-Times:
Thompson Legs Carrying Lehigh To Top
Upshot: "Yeah, I'm a mudder, they call me," said Thompson, who was covered with the gunk after gashing Holy Cross. "I like any weather. I'm very quick, and I try to use that to my advantage." "We'll do what we need to do," Coen said. "There wasn't a happier guy on the field than Sedale, and we only let him throw the ball 14 times. That's what makes Sedale neat." [Yep, Marques "Mud" Thompson."]

Launching Point
Upshot: "We're 3-5 and still control our own destiny, to a point," said [Colgate OL Jake] Sulovski, who was named a third-team preseason All-American by Football Gazette magazine. "If we win these next three games, we've still got a chance at the Patriot League title. Everything we want is right in front of us. I don't think any part of this team has given up. Everyone's looking forward to going down and playing Lehigh."

Brown & White:
Perfection At Stake Versus The Raiders
Upshot: Some players are viewing this game as one of the most important games of the season, including junior offensive lineman Brendan Caffrey. “We have been playing great football these past few weeks and we are working harder and harder every day to get better and to make sure we are the only team left standing come Thanksgiving,” Caffrey said. The Hawks’ defense knows what needs to be done to stop the Raider’s running game. “Consistency,” senior linebacker Micah Greene said. “It’s very simple. The more consistency we have in our game, the better. The games are always a battle, but this one will mean a lot more.”

Utica Times-Dispatch:
Saraceno, Raiders Looking For Answers
Upshot: Mike Saraceno sat quietly in the postgame interview room Saturday, beaten and angry. "This is how we're all going to be remembered as seniors, what we do here and for the rest of the season," said Saraceno following Colgate's 27-10 loss to Lafayette. "It's now or never." "Mike Saraceno is the toughest player I've ever been around," said coach Dick Biddle. "We just haven't done the things we need to do to win, and our margin of error is down from past seasons because of lack of depth. I just want to see us go out and have some fun in the last three games. We haven't done that this year, just have fun and let loose."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Special: 10 Reasons to "Hate the 'Gate"

I couldn't really leave well enough alone. I'm so enthused by "Hate the 'gate" week at Lehigh that I was inspired to come up with ten (very good, in my humble opinion) reasons why you shouldn't merely root for a Lehigh victory this weekend against the Raiders of Colgate, but you should truly, honestly, "hate the 'Gate" this weekend.

10. First of all, Colgate leads the all-time series in football 24-18-2, and in almost every game in the past nine years the winner has gone on to win or share the Patriot League title. Too often that team has come from Hamilton, NY.

9. Before 1960, Lehigh played Colgate only once, in Binghamton, NY in 1922, getting embarassed 35-6. We need to avenge this embarassing stain on Lehigh's record.

8. According to local legend, this 1922 game featured the breakdown of Engine 13, stranding our beloved Engineers an extra day in Binghamton, NY and indirectly contributing to another loss to hated national-powerhouse Lafayette, 3-0.

7. In this article, Colgate's campus is said to look like Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame. The article fails to mention where the similarities begin and end. I don't know about you, but I have no desire to lose to a magical middle-school, do you?

6. Lehigh fans ask only one thing of Colgate every single year: to embarass Lafayette. So what do they do? They go out and lose to them for the first time in 10 years, getting dominated 27-10. For this indiscretion, they must pay.

5. Colgate's mascot, introduced this year as the "Raider", is beyond a shadow of a doubt the worst mascot in the Patriot League. (Holy Cross' Crusader comes a distant second.) I'm not sure if it's the pale skin from living through too many snowstorms in Hamilton, or the humiliation of not only looking like a Minuteman, but wearing a REDCOAT, putting him on the wrong side in the Revolutionary War. (May as well call him Benedict Arnold.)

4. Our Mountain Hawk could beat the living daylights out of the Raider. Heck, I'd give even odds to our cheerleading team against him.

3. Next to football, Lehigh sports fans are generally big into wrestling, a manly sport which is popular around the world and has its roots in ancient Greek and Roman times. Next to football, Colgate sports fans are generally big into hockey, some sport they play up in Canada.

2. Next to Lehigh, you have the fraternities on the Hill, bars and brewhouses in Bethlehem, and not too far away you also have Philadelphia nightlife as well. Next to Colgate, you have fraternities, snow-covered fields, and more snow-covered fields. Cow tipping has to be popular in that part of the state.

1. Deep down inside, despite our few differences I think we all know that Colgate fans and Lehigh fans are more similar than we all care to admit to ourselves. We're smart people who passionately love our football team with loads of class. Honestly. I've found myself rooting for Colgate in their miracle run through the I-AA playoffs in 2003, and I love to see them beat UMass. They are a level of class that is much higher than (say) Lafayette fans.

Which is why we need to "hate the 'Gate". They remind us too much of ourselves. We need to kick their butts this Saturday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Preview of Colgate/Lehigh

It's hard to believe how the Lehigh/Colgate rivalry has affected my life. For sure, for the past nine years this game has Patriot League title implications, and yet again this game in 2006 will either put Lehigh clearly in the driver's seat for the title - or make the title race a mess. But for me it's hard not to look at the personal side to this once-secret rivalry and my elevation of this to the national stage.

In 2003, my first year of the blog, Colgate/Lehigh was a treat not well known outside fervent Patriot League watchers. We had just bought a house and my wife just gave birth to our son, and I remember working on my basement listening to a grainy radio trying desperately to figure out the score. It was probably just as well as our Mountain Hawks got drilled 17-10 in a smashmouth game that would ultimately doom our postseason hopes, while Colgate would go 11-0 and start their incredible march to the I-AA championship game.

In 2004, Lehigh would host Colgate, and I approached a website called I-AA.org with an idea (cribbed from a columnist at the time, Scott Garner, who still has a great blog), about doing a "diary" of a I-AA game from the fan's point of view. I-AA.org guru Ralph Wallace gave it a thumbs-up, and next thing I knew I was covering the Lehigh/Colgate game for that website in my first-ever column. Lehigh would win that game 21-14, capped off by a timely interception in the end zone from (I beleive it was senior DB Courtney Elder).

Last year Lehigh made the trip up to Colgate, and I celebrated by helping expose the legend of Engine 13 and showing the "origins" of the Lehigh/Colgate rivalry. In a spirited week before the game, some of Colgate's superfans (notably Colgate13, author of "The 13 yard Line" blog) challenged me to a "Blog Bowl" where the winner of the Colgate/Lehigh game could display the trophy on their website for a full year. As sophomore QB Sedale Threatt had a banner day up in Hamilton, "dropping fifty" in a 50-34 shootout, and I was the inaugural winner of "Blog Bowl I".

This year, although both Colgate and Lehigh are having disappointing seasons so far, this game still means everything to the Patriot League title race. If Lehigh wins, our record goes to 5-4 (4-0 in conference) and would put Lehigh squarely in the driver's seat for the title. If Colgate wins, they would go to 4-5 (3-1 in conference) and the Raiders would cling to a shot for at least a partial Patriot League title, leaving four teams with one loss in the conference. I'll be there covering the game for I-AA.org, watching this key Patriot League game. It's "Hate the Gate" week. It's a big week for Lehigh football.

Colgate should be playing with a firey sense of purpose this Saturday - to keep their slim chances at a title alive; to keep the promise of a winning season alive; to avenge last year's 50-34 loss; to beat a huge conference rival. Lehigh currently is standing on the throats of the rest of the Patriot League and is in firm control of their destiny. Lehigh can afford no slip-ups against a team that will be itching to prove that their 27-10 loss to Lafayette last week was simply a fluke.

Injury & Weather Report
OUT:
OL Ben Harden
DB Jarvis Lewis
DB Courtney Elder
LB Al Pierce
It wouldn't be another Lehigh Football Nation injury report without the same injuries and the same starters week-to-week. For preview writers, it's, well, boring. For lack of other subjects to talk about, the Lehigh players and trainers have to be given some props for making this the least injury-riddled season in recent memory. This could be a huge reason why we are "hitting our stride" at the right time and playing meaningful games in November once again.

The weather report for Bethlehem is for a sunny but cool afternoon with highs in the high 40s or low 50s - it should be a great day for football and promises to be another day with fantastic turnout. As for tailgating fare, it has to be a day for rare, red meat (Colgate red, one might say), so this week's tailgate drinks have to be able to go with that. A Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Pinot Noir (1997 is preferred) would be simply perfect for feasting on fresh Raider meat and watching a Lehigh victory.

A Word about Colgate
I don't think going into the year that Patriot League fans and Colgate watchers had any hard-and-fast rules about Raider teams coached by Dick Biddle. They just always seemed to be there, under the surface, facts that were assumed every year. In Biddle's eleven years of coaching the Raiders, there were inalienable facts that you had about him and the program. But this year, all these "facts" are now coming apart in an uncharacteristic way.

Fact #1: they always beat rival Cornell and fellow league-mate Lafayette. In ten years Biddle-coached Colgate teams were a perfect 20-0 against them: an incredible feat no matter how you look at it. But this year, both streaks came to a screeching halt with a 38-14 loss to Cornell and a 27-10 drubbing to Lafayette.

Fact #2: they always have a winning record going into the Lehigh game. Granted, their five losses have come to tough teams: #3 UMass (7-1), #21 Princeton (6-1), Monmouth (8-1) as well as Cornell and Lafayette. But the fact is that Colgate is 3-5 at this stage of the season for the first time ever since Dick Biddle has been head coach, with their only wins coming over Georgetown (1-7), Fordham (2-6) and Dartmouth (1-6).

Fact #3: they are always in the driver's seat for the Patriot League title before the Lehigh game. With the loss to Lafayette, they are hardly in the driver's seat. They would need to win the rest of their games and need Lehigh to lose again to Lafayette to have a chance. Could it happen? Sure: but this is unfamiliar territory for the Raiders, who are used to controlling their own destiny in winning this game.

I don't think anyone could have anticipated the Raiders struggling this much before the season started. The preseason showed Colgate favored to win the Patriot League title and senior SS Geoff Bean as the preseason MVP. Senior QB Mike Saraceno was anticipated to continue his development, while freshman rushing sensation RB Jordan Scott was supposed to be the next coming of Jamaal Branch. I think folks were thinking that they could have been 6-2 or 7-1 going into the Lehigh game this year, to be frank.

Still, after losing three of their last four games, I picture Colgate to be like a starving cat stuck in a corner. They still have all-league talent and have a chance to poach at least a co-championship this year, if not sneak the Patriot League autobid. Lehigh will need another all-around effort like they have had the past two weeks.

Offense
Colgate's offense is a base "I" and pro set that this year centers around the running game. Biddle likes to smash opponents in the mouth with his fullback and tight ends, having them act as extra linemen, but won't be afraid to pass the ball in certain situations either. I could see Biddle emptying the playbook against us, so we'll have to be on the lookout for anything and everything.

Senior QB Mike Saraceno has not been a world-beating QB this year, and hasn't done a great job rallying the team from behind with the exception of the Princeton game this year. He's only passed for 6 TDs to go with his 7 interceptions, but he does offer a problem with his feet and his mobility. At a 60% completion percentage and 1,500 yards passing, if he's on pace for a career day against us, we will be in trouble.

Hurting Colgate has been the lack of a consistent deep threat receiving the ball. The Raiders really miss the departure of WR DeWayne Long last year, as senior WR Kenny Parker hasn't filled enough of the void with only 354 yards and 1 TD. Junior WR Erik Burke and sophomore WR David Morgan fill out the receiving staff. Burke is the biggest receiver and more of a target over the middle, while Morgan has the most TDs from the wideout position with three. (I wouldn't be surprised to see highly touted 6'6 freshman WR Pat Simonds get the call in this game, so I'd be on the lookout for that.) Rounding out the offense is senior TE Anthony Pumilio, who isn't a major factor in the offense so far - he's primarily a blocker.

Sophomore sensation RB Jordan Scott has also been a bit of a disappointment. Sure, his numbers are gaudy - 101.1 yards per game and 11 TDs to go with 133 yards out of the backfield - but look closer and you'll see that he only broke the 100 yard barrier in Colgate's three wins. He's a good-looking back who reminds me of a poor man's Clifton Dawson, with good acceleration to the outside while still being able to drive between the tackles. But when teams have keyed on him and held him to under 100 yards, teams have beaten Colgate. His backup, sophomore RB Steve Hansen, is largely unproven should Scott get dinged up, while senior FB Steve Salavantis hasn't even carried the ball once this year. They are both subbing for the injured junior backs J.J. Bennett and David Wegner respectively, whose injuries are the source for some of their October slide.

The "O" line has been cited by Colgate fans as the source of their disappointment this year. Especially in the Lafayette game, where Scott was unable to convert a key early 4th down, this smallish and young unit has struggled getting holes for Scott and keeping hands out of Saraceno's face. The leader of the line is senior C Jake Suvloski, and to be fair they have only let up seven sacks on the year.

Defense
It seemed like Colgate was simply able to reload their front seven every year in their 4-3 base defense, where Jared Nepa-s or Tem Lukabu-s would seem to sprout up every year and provide a dominating front seven. Not this year, even though the Raiders have an extremely solid defense as they do every year. They are opportunistic, causing turnovers and giving some teams fits, so protecting the ball will be vital.

Senior defensive linemen Nick Sabo and Pat Nolan anchor the 4-3, but only have two sacks on the year to show for themselves. For a 4-3, they have a smallish line across and have been dominated at times. Lafayette's Jonathan Hurt torched them last week to the tune of 195 yards in a game where you had to suspect the Leopards were going to run early and often.

Colgate's strength is in the linebacking corps, where junior LB Mike Gallihugh has been one of the class of the Patriot League. With an amazing 97 tackles, he averages over 10 tackles a game. Senior LB's Nate Wesley and Nate Johnson round out this solid, experienced staff of hard hitters.

Colgate's secondary has also been stellar in 2005 with 5 interceptions on the year and countless broken-up pass plays. Senior SS Geoff Bean is having his expected, fantastic season where he sometimes sneaks up as a linebacker and gets into the QB's face as well as breaking up pass routes. He's the best "pass disruptor" in the Patriot League this year. Junior CB Cody Williams is also an excellent cover corner, with 2 interceptions on the year. Senior FS Andrew Moore and sophomore CB Chris Ekpo also are no slouches either, and if you get down and need to pass against this talented secondary, you could be in trouble.

Special Teams
In addition to playing safety, Bean also returns punts and kicks and is dangerously fast and tough. Kick away from Bean on kickoffs and you'll then kick to sophomore WR David Morgan who also is fast and talented. Return units are one area where Lehigh is going to have to be punishing and tackle extremely well.

Senior P Jason Sutton is the best punter in the Patriot League so far, with an eye-popping 41.1 average while not getting a single punt blocked this year. Kicking FGs will be sophomore PK Jacob Stein for the short ones and junior PK Mike Buck for the long ones (his longest is 33 yards). Placekicking is the single weak area in an otherwise fantastic special teams unit.

Keys To The Game
1. Keeping the Ball Rolling. The momentum from the Holy Cross and Bucknell games have been great for this Lehigh team. Vital to their chances will be to keep doing the things they did in those games to keep the momentum going - dominating the line of scrimmage, keeping mistakes to a minimum, and dominating time of possession.
2. The "Mud" Show. RB Marques "Mud" Thompson and Lehigh's "hogs" need to get it going against this tough Colgate defense in the running game. If Thompson can get his third 100 yard rushing game, we are going to be in excellent shape.
3. Jordan Doesn't Rule. We're going to have to spy RB Jordan Scott and make sure we do what other successful teams have done - keep him to under 100 yards rushing. If we do that, we also have an excellent chance here. If the postgame leader reads: "Jordan Scott rushed for 120 yards today", it will probably mean we lost the game.
4. Laquan-and-Done. Special teams hawks like Laquan Gasaway will increase Lehigh's chances to win by wrapping up and stopping these daunting return men on special teams. Keep these guys under wraps, and we have a chance.

Fearless Prediction
It's always tough. It's always for Patriot League title chances. And despite Colgate's weaknesses, I see a tough fingernail-pulling nailbiting sort of game as Colgate empties the playbook and tries to get back into this race (and, in the process, keep coach Biddle's streak of consecutive winning seasons intact). But I think this Lehigh team is playing with confidence and a level of execution that will enable them to win this game. Make no mistake; it will require the same level of hard hitting, mistake-free ball that Lehigh played to win their last two games. Any slip-up, and we could be in trouble. But I think the ball keeps rolling here. We survive. And move on.

Lehigh 27, Colgate 24

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Press Roundup: Lehigh/Holy Cross

What a great shot of senior RB Marques Thompson from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette! If any shot sums up the day, its this one with Marques "Mud" Thompson slipping the grasp of the Holy Cross defenders.

I do fully realize, courtesy of senior LB Matt Mohler that it's "Hate the Gate week, but permit me a moment to celebrate the week that was and the great Lehigh win over Holy Cross and give out my game balls. (The full quote from the Morning Call is as follows: ''Being in first place feels fantastic,'' Mohler said. ''It's why I came to Lehigh. I was used to it as a freshman and sophomore and it's good to be back. But now it's ''Gate Week' and you've got to hate the 'Gate. We're going to have to get ready for them.'')

On that note, offensive game balls are going to go two five hogs and one guy from Tennessee. Senior FB Greg "Grandpa" Fay, junior OL Jimmy Kehs, senior OL Pete Morelli, senior OL John Reese, senior OL Jim Petrucelli, and senior OL Jason Russell made everything happen yesterday with 300 total yards in the slop (including over 200 rushing yards) and 3 TDs. You can credit the backs for not fumbling or Sedale Threatt for not losing the ball, but the fact is it was the job these guys did that made it happen. "Grandpa" Fay may have only contributed 1 yard rushing but the lead block he was giving to McGowan and "Mud" Thompson were what really mattered. I'm not even mentioning the 37 minutes of offensive possession as well. An awesome performance, and one Lehigh fans have been waiting for this year.

With the defense coming up with so many good plays, it's difficult to narrow it down to one or two guys. That interception from sophomore DB Quadir Carter was simply breathtaking, and senior DB Brannan Thomas also made some great plays defending the pass. But I'm going to give game balls to two guys that made life miserable for Holy Cross QB Dominc Randolph: senior NT Eric Rakus and junior DB Daynin Blake. Rakus' stat sheet may not be gaudy, unless you include "pass hurries" and "balls tipped at the line". He was hurrying Randolph all day, tipped at least two balls at the line that I can remember, and you could tell Randolph was wondering "where's number 77?" Blake also led the team in tackles - several times on key plays putting Holy Cross short of the chains, and including one tackle for loss - but his blitzes also had Randolph wondering what was going to hit him next. These guys stood out, but it must be said this was a complete defensive team effort. This unit's performance really made me smile.

On special teams, I really was tempted to give it to sophomore RB Josh Pastore for his big 40 yard return, but I'm going to give it again to sophomore PK Jason Leo. Why? Perfect on extra points on a sloppy day, for one. Also, three punts inside the 20 made sure the Crusaders had awful field position in order to score. But the play where Jason bobbled a snap but still pooch-punted the ball for 32 yards was a gigantic play in terms of momentum and field position. All in all, Jason's great punting made sure Holy Cross would have a long day, and was a huge factor in our win.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Allentown Morning Call:
Lehigh Beats Holy Cross, Takes Over First
Upshot: "We didn't lose the game because of the rain, but let's be honest, it's harder on a team running a spread offense and throwing the ball as much as we did [53 times]," Crusaders coach Tom Gilmore said. "We wanted to run it more, but Lehigh shut us down. Then we got behind and had to throw it and it's just hard to complete passes in those conditions. Not only was it raining, but it got windy as well in the second half."... "In October, or November, this is the kind of game I had in mind," Coen said late Saturday. "It could be the same next week. People have to know we're going to come right at them. If we were spreading it out and throwing the ball all over the place, we'd have our work cut out for us in bad weather. This time [the weather] worked to our advantage."

Lehigh Continues to Weather Storm
Upshot: "We came out and proved something to everybody that we can be a physical team," said sophomore tailback Matt McGowan, the Hazleton High grad who came off the bench to deliver three short touchdown runs. "We ran it hard. That was our game plan with the weather and we executed." "All of the credit goes to the line and fullback Greg Fay for the blocking," said starting tailback Marques Thompson, who rushed for a career high 141 yards on 30 carries. "The footing was terrible. It was a mess. You could only make one cut, so the holes had to be there."

Brown & White:
Team Slashes Crusaders' Five Game Winning Streak
Upshot: Sophomore defensive end Brian Jackson said although the Crusaders played well and passed well, the Hawks were able to keep up. “It was hard for the D-linemen to keep their footing,” Jackson said. “They passed a lot and for us to succeed as a defense our secondary had to step it up and they did.”

Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
Lehigh's Hawks Down 'Saders
Upshot: Lehigh has won seven straight games at Fitton Field. HC snapped a three-game losing streak at Lehigh with last year’s 13-10 win. Gilmore said yesterday’s conditions were very similar to last year’s. “But we knew the weather was coming,” he said, “and I’m not blaming the weather, that’s for sure.” “A couple of times I felt like I just had mud all over the ball,” [sophomore QB Dominic] Randolph said. “Our receivers did a heck of a job once again, [and] I had time as well. We just couldn’t punch it in when we had to. It was difficult [playing in the rain], but they had to play in it, too.”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday's Word: Mud

Come on, you knew some variation on wind, rain, and slop was going to end up being today's word, didn't you?

It really has to be said again: In the past, this was the type of game that Lehigh would lose. The finesse passing game would get grounded, our team speed would be nullified, and we'd make too many mistakes and too few plays to win. Bad snaps; turnovers; lapses on special teams. "Mud" was not kind to Lehigh in recent memory. I think the book was out on Lehigh - play tougher than them, get a little lucky with the weather, and you can out-hit them to victory.

Not anymore.

The 2006 version of Lehigh has been able to run the ball effectively the past few games. They've been able to smash people in the mouth and roll around in the "mud" and have some fun. Oh yeah, and win too. There's lots of "mud" in those offensive and defensive trenches, and our linemen really made it happen on Saturday. The genesis of the win started right there.

The tough start in September seemed far away when Leo bobbled a snap yet still got off a fine 34 yard punt. When we got great push on 4th down conversions and huge holes for TDs. When Lehigh got good pressure on Randolph, getting in his face, batting down balls, hitting receivers after the catch. Holding onto the rock for 37 minutes. When sophomore DB Quadir Carter made an absolutely perfect move on the ball to get an interception - one which still seemed impossible from the replay.

What's really surprising is that once we went up 14-0, I had a great confidence that Lehigh was going to win the game. In the first half. That's the first time I've felt that way the entire season. At no time did I really think that Holy Cross was really going to come back. What I billed as the most important Lehigh/Holy Cross game since 1991 had none of the drama of that game. When senior SS Julian Austin returned that fumble for a TD, I felt like it was really going to be an uphill battle for them. And they never got back in it.

In the final minutes, Holy Cross seemed demoralized. They didn't even call timeouts to try to get the ball back. That was because we smacked them in the mouth one too many times. I've never seen that from a Lehigh opponent before.

In the "mud", these hogs are coming together at the right time. Execution is much much better. Confidence is higher. The team is better. There's no doubt, we have a shot at this thing.

I haven't crowned this team Patriot League champion just yet, but if we can manhandle our opponents in the trenches like we did on Saturday, we will have an opportunity to win the Patriot League and get a shot at the I-AA playoffs. Yet it's awful tempting to get overconfident, especially with Colgate losing to Lafayette last week 27-10, leaving Lehigh as the only team without a league loss.

Colgate will come to play on Saturday. Their whole season will be on the line, and if they lose, they're finished in the Patriot League title race. Coach Dick Biddle will have his team ready to play Lehigh - he ALWAYS does. Colgate/Lehigh. It always seems to have title implications every year.

It's going to require the same execution as last week. The same confidence and same toughness. Hopefully it won't require "mud". But if it's what's necessary to get this team executing on the same page like the did last week in dominating Holy Cross, I'll gladly take it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...