Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lehigh 10, Holy Cross 59, final

Two weeks ago, coach Coen said that the next two weeks will define who we are as a football team.

We have been defined all right.

"We embarassed the Brown & White today," coach Coen said in the postgame press conference today.

And I'm not all that sure much more needs to be said. Coach Coen said "we're not a good football team right now" as well, and he's right.

Want reasons? Why list them? Let's just say that Lehigh was outplayed in every phase of the game on offense, defense and special teams. We couldn't stop them, and we couldn't do anything consistently on offense on them either. We didn't hit, we didn't tackle, we weren't tough, and we didn't battle. We didn't hustle off the field. The coaching staff and the players appeared to learn absolutely nothing from the Fordham loss two weeks ago. It was the biggest game of the year - and the team came out flat. How is this possible?

You know what else was really troubling about this game? There was no fight in this team. Sometimes, even when a team loses, they will still continue to battle and battle even in defeat. With the game out of reach, the replacements on defense didn't battle. There are a lot of athletes on offense, defense, and special teams that packed it in. That's inexcusable at any level of play.

Where is the pride? How was the team not prepared to play?

As a result of this humiliating loss - the worst in Goodman Stadium history - we won't be playing for Patriot League championships this year. We'll be playing for a winning season, maybe. Pride.

What is wrong with the program?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Patriot League Picks, Week 8 (and Mash-up)

(Photo credit Demetra Stamus, Morning Call)

In a week when Lehigh's main focus is a huge Holy Cross/Lehigh game this weekend, certain off-the-field Patriot League developments stole some headlines.

First was the confirmation of the long-awaited Patriot League presidential meeting to discuss "the future of the league." Before you cry in horror, thinking that the Patriot League is going to disband, don't worry: by future, they mean they meant to discuss a "vision and strategic plan for the league," according to Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, who is the chair of the Presidential council and the president of Bucknell.

The press release, and even the few press reports on the matter (like this Morning Call report), don't say a heck of a lot. Not even coach Coen has heard much on them. All we really have to go on is the following part of the statement: "The five core program components that were the focus of the retreat discussions were admissions policies and review of the Academic Index, competitiveness of League sports, market enhancement and League visibility, membership and League expansion and partnerships and collaborations beyond athletics."

What I can say about the Academic Index part of the discussions (or AI for short), is that the Patriot League had hired an outside entity to study the viability of the AI going forward for the league. This was one of the issues that the presidents were scheduled to study at this meeting. I also know that folks inside the league had seen my own independent analysis of the matter at the College Sporting News, though I don't know if that was considered or not.

The executive director of the Patriot League, Carolyn Schlie Femovich, also mentioned to me at Patriot League Media Day that "I think the Academic Index in and of itself seems to be serving the league well, but I think there are some issues that need to be addressed with respect to some of the metrics and how we manage the variables. I don't think the index itself will be going away, but I think we will make some adjustments.

"
There's more and more pressure to play Bowl Subdivision schools. And issues like this raise the question on whether the Patriot League should offer scholarships. It is being talked about. What we have to evaluate is philosophically if it's the right thing to do in football and whether or not it's something financially we can afford to do. Additionally, on some of our campuses there's a strong feeling that we started out as a need-based conference in football to play against the Ivies. It's part of our heritage. The question is: is it time to change that?

"It will be in discussion throughout the fall, and it will be a part of the discussions in the retreat and in the president's council meeting in December."


As you can see, scholarships and the AI were definitely on the schedule for the talks. Getting rid of the AI didn't seem like an option, but possibly tweaking it and possibly allowing some form of athletic scholarships did seem to be at least on the table.

I've read and reread the press release, and it seems to me (without any confirmations from the league office, of course) that something looks positive in regards to tweaking the AI and/or scholarships. I keep looking at Ms. Femovich's comments in the press release about adopting a "pro-active approach for future growth." To me, that doesn't mean sitting back and not making any changes.

However, coach Coen didn't seem too optimistic. "Every coach in the league would love to see scholarships and the admission requirements lowered a little bit. But I've been around long enough to know that's not going to happen."

Which leads to the other big news this week - and may hopefully will be a bit of an incentive for the president to be more pro-active in these affairs. Bryant College, a name that had been bandied about as a potential target for expansion, decided to accept an invite to the NEC instead. Like any possible expansion candidate in all sports, Bryant was hardly a perfect candidate, but its location (Rhode Island), historic ties (they have been intertwined with Brown University) and status (a private school with an up-and-coming business school) seemed like a pretty good fit with the Patriot League.

Perhaps Bryant, who in the Northeast-10 conference in Division II has C.W. Post as a leaguemate, wasn't the perfect candidate for the Patriot League, but I'd be awfully curious to find out how hard the folks in the league tried to woo them. Importantly, conferences like the NEC and Big South are aggressively trying to expand their conferences, and will not hesitate to take a school to expand.

Getting the right school to join the conference is important. But waiting around for the perfect school may mean that you'll never find a school.

Patriot Predictions
As always, some of these are cross posted in "The CSN Way" on the College Sporting News. There you can find not only a good rundown of the playoff situation, but also see that the Patriot League title is still wide open with Lehigh, Lafayette, Fordham, Colgate, Holy Cross and even Bucknell still with a realistic shot at the league title going into this weekend.

Lafayette over Fordham
This is another game which will be vital in the Patriot League title race. The questions that need to be answered are: Can Lafayette’s offense get back on track after Leopard quarterback Mike DiPaola melted down with three interceptions in a 27-17 defeat to Harvard? Can Fordham’s offense get things going against one of the most fearsome defenses in all of Division I, led by defensive tackle Kyle Sprenkle? Can Fordham’s offense score enough points with quarterback John Skelton to actually go 4-0 in the Patriot League and put them on the verge of the autobid? I think Lafayette’s defense finds a way to shut things down as the Leopards make yet another October and November run at the Patriot League title. It starts this weekend.
Lunchpail Leopards 21, Hard-Luck Rams 13

Georgetown over Bucknell
You read this right. I'm getting the feeling that the Hoyas are going to win their first game of the year after achieving a sort-of "moral victory" last week in a 35-28 loss to Fordham. Why? Maybe it's the combination of senior QB Matt Bassuener's leadership last week, or that Bucknell is simply loaded with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Something just feels right for the Hoyas this weekend. I think their hard work pays off.
Happy Hoyas 35, Bummed Bison 27

Towson over Colgate
This just seems like a bad matchup for Colgate, even with Towson's decimated offensive line and off-the-field issues this week. If there's one thing Towson can do, it's stop the run. If they do indeed ground RB Jordan Scott, this game will be over early. I think they do.
"Don't Call Us Tony The Tiger" 28, "Don't Call Us Toothpaste" 21

Press Links
Morning Call: Lehigh In Rush To Get Offense Going
Express-Times: Hawks In Must-Win Situation
Brown & White: Hawks Hungry For Win After 2 Losses
Brown & White: Diamond Tackles Competiton For Hawks
Worcester Telegram-Gazette: Back To Patriot Action
Boston Herald: Road Test Drives HC Hopes

Press Mash-Up
"We have to run the football better," Coen said Wednesday at the team's weekly media luncheon at Starters Pub. "Go back and look at the games we won last year and look at how we won them. We ran the football."

"[Kankam and Walker] are freshmen and they're going to make some mistakes," Coen said. "Having Josh and Matt back could give us all a shot in the arm. The bottom line is we have to run it better, have more balance in our offense and keep the defense off the field for longer stretches. We have to play the game well. We've done that in spurts, but not consistently."

"Offensively we need to control the ball. Defensively we need to find ways to pressure the quarterback," Coen said.

"I was talking with our trainers the other day and we said we've played six games, but the defense has played more like nine," Coen said. "The number of plays they've been out there for has been amazing. The defense has to do a better job of making stops on third down [where foes have a 44 percent conversion rate] and we have to do a better job of controlling the ball."

"There's more pressure on us to put more points on the board this week," Coen said. "We need to average more than four yards per carry, in my opinion. And, most importantly, we need to avoid the losses. We run an outside play at Yale and lose eight yards. We can't have that because those plays often lead to third-and-long."

"It's been tough," said Mountain Hawks standout wide receiver Sekou Yansane. "You never want to have a two-game losing streak. We know we have to bring our "A" game. This is the stretch. We control our destiny. We have to take care of business.

"It's definitely consistency and execution. The plays are there, the passes are there, the catches are there, the runs and holes are there. The backs and receivers have to make more plays, the line has to block better. We know, as a whole, we just have to execute and score more in the red zone."

"It's sort of a reality check," freshman TE Alex Wojdowski said of the team's recent losses. "Everyone realized we need to put in a lot more work and put more plays together if we want to win."

"We have the players," Lehigh's senior safety and captain Ernest Moore said. "We have the coaches. We just need to execute. That will solve our problems."

********************************************

“[LB] Tim [Diamond] seems to be in on every play, whether it is in a game or practice, he’s got a great nose for the ball,” LB Matt Cohen said.

“The combination of winning and playing with your teammates keeps football fun for me,” Diamond said. “I just try to listen to the advice of the coaches during practice and apply what I learned to the games.”

“His discipline and ability to be coached allow him to be versatile when the coaches need him most,” Cohen said.

“My real goal is to win every game I play, hopefully that leads our team to a championship,” Diamond said.

Diamond’s team-first attitude has molded him into a premier defensive player for Head Coach Andy Coen.

“He’s a smart player who always knows his role on defense and is well prepared for every game,” Coen said.


**********************

Gilmore was really pleased with last week’s victory over Dartmouth, and through six games likes what he sees in this year’s Holy Cross team. “There’s a lot of resiliency,” he said. “The work ethic is outstanding, and the team concept is outstanding. There’s no player looking for individual accolades. There’s humbleness and confidence. There’s a positive feeling in the program.

“[Dartmouth] was a vital win for us,” junior defensive end Bryan Walwyn said. “We need to head into our Patriot League schedule with the confidence we can get our assignment done. After (the win over Dartmouth), we feel we can get it done and execute properly. Going into the league, we have the confidence we need to hopefully make a strong run.”

“That’s kind of a rough spell we have with three away games.,” said Crusaders coach Tom Gilmore, the architect of the Mount St. James revival. “We obviously need to take them one game at a time. Lehigh (3-3, 0-1) is an outstanding team and has won more Patriot League titles than anybody in recent years. Obviously, it’s a big game for us. We have to go down to their place.

"Our players are very excited about this game because of its impact. This is for the championship; this is for the playoffs."

“We’ve been performing very well and, obviously, Dom is a big part of it. He really has had only one off game (against Yale) and even then a couple of his passes were tips. We haven’t been turning it over and Dominic Randolph has been making great decisions.”

"He's very good," Head Coach Andy Coen said. "Yale is really the only team that was able to contain him. Last year we got in on him four times, we are watching all the tapes."

***********

"We've been down this road before," Coen added. "Our situation is what it is. You can't worry about it or be frightened by it. You have to be mentally and physically ready to play and just go out there and compete."

"I think we have a good mindset right now," Coen said. "We have to control the ball, we have to score points, we have to run the football."

"This is what playmakers are all about," Yansane said. "As a wideout, you want the ball in your hands. You want to be in the limelight. We have to come out and make plays."

“Except for UMass, they’re probably the most athletic team we face,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said of the defending PL champions. “When you watch them on film, you say, ‘Wow!’ because they have legitimate talent in all three phases. We have a big test.”

"We have to play them at some point. Let's play them now!" Lehigh coach Andy Coen said.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Preview of Holy Cross/Lehigh

(Photo courtesy of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

It's a big game this weekend at Murray Goodman stadium.

A defining game for a 2007 squad that after last week's 23-7 loss to Yale is still trying to find its legs on offense. It's a game that Lehigh has to win in order to have any realistic hope in winning a Patriot League championship this year. It's a conference game; a must-win game; a playoff game, if you will. It's all of those things.

We will find out what this team is. We will find out if this is a team that can compete for Patriot League titles this year. We will find out how hard this team will work, and we will find out how many players step up and make plays. On offense, we are really going to need them since we're going against the #1 offense in the Patriot League. If nothing else, the Crusaders can score points.

Lehigh has been here before in must-win situations. All you need to look at is my blog posting last year concerning the Lehigh/Holy Cross game. This could have been written today, or last year:

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.

On October 28th, 2006, this Mountain Hawk team travelled to Worcester to find out if they had what it took to compete for the league championship, and found out that yes, they did. In a rainstorm, Lehigh's running game gutted out a physical 28-14 victory where Lehigh's "O" line seemed to break the backs of the Crusader offense in the 4th quarter.

Yet the rain left some doubt in many fans minds. On a clear day, could Lehigh have beaten them? Was it simply a matter of the rain grounding Hoy Cross' potent passing attack? Was it not really Lehigh at all, but Mother Nature?

I'm heading up to Murray Goodman this weekend to find out what this team is made of. I want to know. I have to know. One way or another, Lehigh fans will find out for certain what this team is.

Game Notes & Weather Report
If you look at the game notes, you see a few changes changes from last week. First, senior WR Pete Donchez is off the depth chart and is replaced by sophomore WR Franklin Johnson, and freshman WR Travis Artim is also on the depth chart as well, On special teams, freshman QB J.B. Clark is now the holder on extra points instead of junior WR Ben Ivester.

But the biggest change is undoubtedly in the backfield: it could very will be that junior RB Matt McGowan is finally 100% healthy and will be ready to play, and junior RB Josh Pastore will be as well, giving us both players together for the first time this season. That would be a huge boost to this team in many ways if both are indeed ready to go.

Other than that, anyone looking for wholesale changes will be disappointed.

The weather report has shifted from earlier in the week: Friday evening showers are now scheduled to clear out by gametime to become a nice 70 degree day with gusty winds. Things could change, but it's looking like the streak of great games at Goodman will be intact.

Drink Of The Week
It's time to pull out all the stops to get Lehigh the win this week. I don't ordinarily call for the unofficial brew of Lehigh fans, but with such an important game, Yuengling (classic or Black & Tan) is definitely the drink this week. (And if we win, I might just make it the "Drink of the Week" every week!)

A Word On Holy Cross
The Crusaders enjoy a program with a very successful history. In the 1920s and 1930s, Holy Cross was a consistent national powerhouse and, along with schools like Fordham, NYU and Manhattan, came to symbolize "Eastern Football". Much later, when Holy Cross joined the Patriot League in 1988, the Crusaders chose primarily to focus on men's basketball, and seemed to let the football program wither (who had good local rivalries with UMass, Boston University, and Boston College). But 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-Lehigh 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. This caused some bad blood between the Lehigh and Holy Cross coaching staffs. Further adding to the emotion is that Dick Kotulski, Gilmore's defensive coordinator in 2005, was hired by coach Coen as his defensive coordinator last year.

Tom Gilmore deserves all the credit in the world in rebuilding a Holy Cross program that had been in serious disarray before he arrived. Four years ago, he inherited a 1-11 team that had enjoyed only one winning season since 1993. Since Gilmore has arrived, he's guided his "Purple Army" to two straight winning seasons and is poised to secure a third this year. All that's missing for him is a Patriot League championship.

Offense
Holy Cross runs a spread-passing offense that spreads the receiving yards around a lot of different receivers. You could almost call it a run-n-shoot formation with four receivers, no TE, and a single setback. From the Crusaders you can look for formations that spread the field and lots of "bubble screens" to have the passing game act as a running game, getting chunks of yardage. Then, once your secondary and linebackers have been worn down, Holy Cross can also go for the deep pass to burn you. It's a variation on the "Air Lehigh" offense that many older Lehigh fans know and love (from coaches Hank Small (now athletic director at Charleston Southern), Kevin Higgins (head coach at The Citadel), and Pete Lembo (head coach at Elon).

Running an offense like this requires a great triggerman, and the Crusaders have the best triggerman in the Patriot League in junior QB Dominic Randolph. His numbers read really well: a 59% completion percentage, 158 for 265 passing, 1,869 yards, and 17 TDs as opposed to 5 interceptions. He can execute this system extremely well, and if nothing develops he also has enough mobility to take off with the ball as well. He's on pace to be the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, and appears to be the best quarterback in the league running away. Randolph can kill you in bunches, too: against Dartmouth last week, in the second quarter he led the Crusaders on three consecutive scoring drives to effectively bury the Big Green.

What's also interesting is that Randolph has done this with no real running game to speak of. This is the big difference between "Air Lehigh" and "Air Gilmore", as Lehigh always needed a great runner to take the pressure off the QB. The "tailback by committee" of junior RB Terence Gass and junior RB Mike Kielt are only totalling 527 rushing yards on the year and 4 rushing TDs - but both are also averaging around 5 yards a carry, meaning it has been effective as a secondary means of attack. Of course, Gass and Kielt are two effective pass catchers out of the backfield, and are legitimate targets: combined they have 23 receptions for 253 yards receiving and 2 TDs.

The receiving corps is extremely dangerous, with two dangerous seniors in senior WR Ryan Maher and senior WR Thomas Harrison (pictured), and two dangerous juniors in junior WR Brett McDermott and junior WR Jon Brock. All have great hands, but it's Ryan Maher that scares me the most when it comes to slipping behind coverage and turning on the afterburners, as he leads the receiving corps with 6 touchdowns. All are used as possession-like receivers at some point during the game, and oddly only Harrison has any reception longer than 40 yards. But that's not to say you can ignore them deep. Keeping all of these guys covered will be extremely tough.

Running a run-n-shoot type offense means you need big linemen in pass protection, and Holy Cross has got them. Senior OL Dan Nolan is 6'4, 302, and sophomore OL Aaron Jones is 6'4 and 344. However, with the pass comes sacks, and Randolph has been sacked 10 times this year - meaning if Lehigh can put the pressure on, there is a good chance to force some mistakes.

Defense
Holy Cross' offense is the strength of the team. Their 3-4 defense, however, has struggled to prevent some teams from scoring this year. This defense has given up more than 37 points three times, and gave up 28 points to Harvard as well. If there was ever a time for Lehigh to get its offense on track, it's this week.

Part of the problem with the Crusader defense is that they have had injuries on the "D" line, with the starting nose tackle (and best run-stuffer) suffering a season-ending injury. Junior DE Bryan Walwyn has emerged as the leader on the line with 4 sacks and 19 tackles on the line which is is smallish, especially up the middle.

The linebacking unit is also smaller than other units we've faced this year. Senior LB Mark Kelliher is the class of the unit on the outside, followed closely by junior LB Ryan Stewart on the inside. They don't have overwhelming statistics, though: 32 and 36 tackles respectively, 2 combined sacks, 1 forced fumble. Dominating this unit on the line of scrimmage is an absolute must.

The strength of this defense lies in the secondary, where the intense senior CB Casey Gough prowls the corner. He frequently cheats up and is a very good tackler, notching 5 tackles for loss. Junior CB Kyle Mushaweh on the other side is also a speedy corner who has done a good job in pass coverage, with 4 pass break-ups. Interestingly, this secondary only has two interceptions on the year, however.

Special Teams
Junior P Mike Holloway is netting 35.6 yards per punt, which could mean if the Crusaders get in a battle of field position we could gain an advantage (with our FCS-leading punting unit). Freshman PR Josh Jenkins is a decent punt returner, though, averaging 9 yards per return. On kickoffs, senior CB Casey Gough runs them back and has a very respectable 26 yard average, while senior WR Brett McDermott doesn't offer much respite either with a 20 yard average. Caution is advised.

Junior K Matt Partain could very well be the class of the Patriot League. He's 8/9 on FG attempts with a 49 yarder to his credit as well. His first miss was a 33 yarder versus Dartmouth last week.

Keys To The Game
1.Line of scrimmage. We need to dominate both lines of scrimmage to win this game. Our offensive line needs to establish itself and manhandle the Holy Cross front seven if necessary. Our front seven needs to get pressure on Randolph and force him out of his comfort zone. If we can't do this here, I don't think we can win the game.
2.Establishing the Run. If McGowan and Pastore are back, it's worth trying to grind out the running, especially early. Getting a good rushing attack should open up good things in our passing game. It will also grind up time of possession and keep that offense off the field.
3.3rd down. On offense, we need to make these big 3rd downs either with power running or short passing. On defense, we need to stop the Crusaders on 3rd down with solid tackling, big hits, and big pressure on Randolph.
4.Field Position. If we can get this into a field-position game, we hold the advantage with Jason Leo's punting. Trading punts could end up in big swings in field position for us; it would be nice if we could take advantage.
5.Turnovers. I'll bring out the old saw again: no turnovers.

Fearless Prediction
My head is telling me that Holy Cross, behind their star quarterback Dominic Randolph, is too much for a flat Lehigh team that has lost its last two games against Fordham and Yale. But for some inexplicable reason, my heart is telling me otherwise.

Is it the Homer in me talking? Quite possibly. But I really can't shake the feeling that just like last year, Lehigh will be a different team in this game that the team we have seen. It doesn't mesh with the facts, which has shown not much offense production in the past three weeks. But Homer, or somebody, is telling me to ignore this.

This team has the talent to get things done. The only question is whether Lehigh actually will.

I just hope – maybe a little bit desperately, I realize – I’m right.

Lehigh 30, Holy Cross 27

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Boo Birds

I've had quite enough of you "boo birds" out there.

Yeah, you know who you are - so-called Mountain Hawk fans that "helpfully" suggest benching our starting quarterback and start losing the rest of our games so we can build for next season.

Let me get this straight - you'd prefer to bench our starting quarterback and have the seniors lose on homecoming, lose to "that school in Easton" for the fourth time in a row for the sake of hitting rock bottom and building up from there?

Last I checked, Lehigh only had one league loss. A win this weekend, coupled with a Fordham loss, would all of a sudden put Lehigh back into the mix for a title and possibly an autobid into the playoffs. I'm as perplexed by anyone at the lack of offensive production the past three games, but benching our starting QB and going with an all-freshmen team for the sake of "rebuilding" is complete and utter idiocy.

It really hit home after listening to the "Andy Coen Report" last night and listening to the call-ins. I've come to expect such stuff from Yankee fans. But Lehigh fans?

I want to go on the record as saying that I don't believe in any of this sort of tripe, nor do I seek to encourage it. I want the seniors to be able to go out of Lehigh on a winning note - especially against "that school in Easton" - and nothing else really matters. If Fordham runs the table and wins the Patriot League, that's fine since there's nothing we can do about that. But I want these seniors to taste success and at least have a chance at a championship this year.

When push comes to shove, I side with the team, and the seniors who have more of a chance to affect the outcome of the game than I or anyone else out these does. I know this team has the talent to win the rest of their games. I know the seniors can win this game this weekend. I have faith that coach Coen will put Lehigh in position to make plays to win the game, and I have faith that our starting offense will make those plays and get things done. I know they can get this done. I know it!

Benching our best offensive player would be an unmitigated disaster.

Nothing would make me happier than having this team shut these "fans" up. And I really, really hope they do shut them up on Saturday. The players, the coaches, everyone involved with Lehigh. I would love for them to figuratively put a huge roll of duct tape around these "fans" mouths.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Around The Horn, 10/14/2007

  • If you had watched the first three quarters of the Lafayette/Harvard game, you would have thought that the game might go down to the wire, and that quite possibly the Leopards would take one from the Crimson. But the Leopard's senior QB Mike DiPaola threw three killer interceptions in the fourth quarter as Harvard upended Lafayette 27-17. And two of the three interceptions were directly converted into points, as Harvard's senior CB Stephen Williams returned an interception 91 yards for a TD. "You have to make good decisions," Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani said of DiPaola's performance. "You need to make good in critical situations and give yourself a chance." On the bright side for the Leopards, Lafayette's defense was highlighted by junior LB Andy Romans' 17 tackles (including 8 solo tackles) and 2 tackles for loss. And Harvard coach Tim Murphy came away impressed by Lafayette's defense. "You have to go in with only a couple of plays because they have every zone blitz known to man," Murphy said. "... Not only were they great in disguising coverages, they had great cover guys. They have a better secondary than the last couple of teams we've faced. ... We've been able to wear down other defenses. We couldn't do that against them."
  • Don Bostrom's Monday column offered a lot of insights: not least the insight that Lafayette is, um, having a lot of the same problems Lehigh sound like they are having. "We keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Tavani admitted following Saturday's numbing 27-17 loss at Harvard. "We're still not hitting on all cylinders or playing the way we are capable of and now we are heading into the league portion of the schedule." The article hits some very familiar notes: "searching for consistency"... "attack is lacking identity because it has been troubled by injuries and inexperience"... they need "better execution in the red zone"... just waaayyy too familiar.
  • Let's go from the best-covered game by the media to the absolute worst. Thank the Big Guy Above for Hoyasaxa who has the only decent writeup of the 38-31 Fordham win. Georgetown surprised pretty much everyone by attacking Fordham through the air, putting up the ball early and often with 48 passing attempts to 20 rushing attempts. Fordham surprised by going to the ground this week with senior RB Jonte Coven and freshman RB Xavier Martin, both who had over 100 yards rushing, but it was the Hoya's senior QB Matt Bassuener who to some extent stole the show with 33 for 48 passing, 386 yards and 3 TDs. Even more extraordinary is that the Hoyas did it while being outwieghed on both lines by more than 30 lbs, decimated by injuries (17 in all), and without their top two running backs. (Sound familiar?) Down 38-10 in the third, Bassuener rallied the Hoyas to three straight touchdowns - and was stopped on the fourth drive that would have tied the game. This begs the question: are the Hoyas better than people thought, or is Fordham "not all that"?
  • There also isn't much in the way of a writeup in the "White-Out", or the annual upstate New York battle between Colgate and Cornell which was taken by the Big Red in a dramatic 17-14 game. How did Cornell do it? By holding the running to 3.2 yards per carry, and although junior RB Jordan Scott did get 110 yards rushing, crucially he got zero TDs - and couldn't convert a big 4th-and-1 in the 4th quarter. Junior QB Alex Relph really struggled, going 10 for 30 with 2 TDs, but one crucial interception was returned 72 yards for a touchdown by Cornell. Colgate did have three defensive players with double-digit tackles, including senior LB Mike Gallihugh.
  • With the other Patriot League teams going a dismal 0-3 against the Ivies, it was up to the best QB in the Patriot League in junior QB Dominic Randolph to save the honor of the league with a 41-15 victory. With many of the quarterbacks around the league struggling (save Bassuener), Randolph put up another effort that would have many offensive coordinators around the Patriot League salivating: 24 of 35 passing, 298 yards, 3 total TDs. Randolph's favorite targets last week was junior WR Brett McDermott for 7 receptions and 108 yards and senior WR Ryan Maher, who had 7 catches for 71 yards and a TD. This well-oiled machine cruised to a 24-7 halftime lead and never looked back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Judgment Day This Saturday

Dropping a quick line to say that it's "Judgment Day" this Saturday for Lehigh. If Lehigh wants to have a chance at a championship and maybe even postseason play, they need to beat Holy Cross this weekend.

Judgement day.

No vote on players of the week, as there were only three players last week that really stood out that will get game balls: junior LB Tim Diamond, senior LB Rashaun Gasaway, and junior P/K Jason Leo. Diamond gets it for 11 tackles (10 solo), and 1 tackle for loss, Gasaway gets it for 9 tackles and 2 for loss, and Leo gets it for maintaining the best net punting average in the NCAA (41.2 net this Saturday, with 1 landing inside the 20).

No press mash-up. It's time to focus on "judgement day".

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday's Word: Define

This one will be short and sweet, perhaps because what I said two weeks ago as Sunday's Word ("If") and the wrap-up of what I said yesterday still very much apply this week.

"If" talked about this team no longer about being about potential, and that from here on in the word ought to be "now".

In the wrapup yesterday, I mentioned coach Coen's quote "The next two weeks will define who we are as a football team." And after that game, I did attempt to "define" what Lehigh is right now.

I could talk about how every week is a playoff game for Lehigh, which essentially is true. But I think there's something more important, incredibly, that also needs to be said about this senior class.

Namely, how do you want to be "defined"?

Win or lose this weekend, how do you want to be "defined" as a team, as a unit, or as a player?

Do you want to be "defined" as a hard-hitter who battled with everything they had? Do you want to be "defined" as a guy who left everything on the field? Do you want your unit to be "defined" as one that will relish a challenge? That will do his level best to grade out perfect? That will not let up a key rushing yard? That will execute the offensive gameplan? That will make the pass rushers pay every time out? That will smack the other guy in the mouth every play? That had "toughness"? That "never gave up"? That was a "playmaker"?

This doesn't apply only to players. The coaching staff, like it or not, is getting "defined" in newspapers, internet message boards, and water coolers wherever there are Lehigh fans. This may not make people feel very good, but it's true. It may not be fair, but it's true.

No matter what happens next weekend against Holy Cross, a Lehigh win or a Lehigh loss, everyone suiting up in the Brown and White is going to be "defined". And the questions people are asking are going to be answered whether folks are ready to answer the questions or not.

You're not necessarily "defined" only by winning. You're "defined" by how you prepare, how hard you work during the game, and how you plan to be remembered years from now. That you competed. That you were tough. That you never gave up.

Next Saturday, this team will be "defined". And I'm hoping - a little desperately, it feels - that this team is going to be "defined" in a way that can carry us to a shot at a Patriot League title this year.
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