Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lehigh 7, Princeton 10, Final

It doesn't get much more frustrating than this.

When a game is tied 7-7 going into the final three minutes of the game and you have a 2nd and 4 on the opposition's 36 yard line, you've got to feel like you have a good chance to win the game. Never mind that senior RB Matt McGowan has struggled to get the running game going. Never mind that sophomore QB J.B. Clark hadn't found consistency yet on the evening. Never mind that we had a grand total of 234 total yards of offense up until that point in the game.

You throw all that out. You find a way to make a play, to get that first down, to give your kicker a chance to make that field goal and win the game. Never mind what folks will say about you or write about you on Sunday. Make plays, win the game.

On three plays on offense, Lehigh simply didn't make the plays they needed to make. Three rushes; one by McGowan through the line for two yards, another by McGowan for a yard and a half, and one by senior FB Adam Watson that looked - from the press box - to be enough for the first down.

The chains came out... and it was half a football short.

Four plays later -only two and a half hours after kickoff, one of the shortest games I've ever witnessed - Princeton kicker Connor Louden was booting the game-winning field goal for the Tigers. The Lehigh defense, who had made a heroic effort all night yet still gave up big chunks of yardage to the Tigers in too many spots this evening, gave up a 46 yard reception to Princeton WR Wil Thanheiser to put them easily into Louden's range - where he is almost always automatic.

Last year against Princeton, the Tigers gift-wrapped five turnovers which the Mountain Hawks gladly turned into points. This year, the Tiger offense was brutally efficient between the twenties and gave Lehigh only one gift - a missed block on a field-goal try. Junior LB Heath Brickner blocked the field-goal attempt and junior LB Al Pierce picked it up and rumbled all the way to the Princeton 8 yard before Brian Anderson, Princeton's QB, caught him from behind.

Princeton looked like an excellent team today that could definitely challenge for the Ivy League title. They looked a lot like the 2006 team with their precision - especially on offense, at times - and their sound play overall in doing the little things, like receivers blocking downfield, hitting gaps, that sort of thing. They're still a work in progress on offense, no question, but they showed signs that they could reach the level of execution of the great Jeff Terrell-led team that beat Lehigh 14-10 a few years ago.

Their front seven, far from being a weakness to be exploited, were a potent disruptive force. Lehigh has now faced two defensive lines that could be among the best in the FCS, and they clearly won that battle in the trenches, something that coach Coen wasn't too pleased with. "We struggled against their 'D' line, and their line did a good job,"Coen said. "[But] they didn't do anything we weren't prepared for."

But as well as they played, all of that didn't matter with three minutes to play. Lehigh had a golden opportunity to make some plays and win the game. They didn't. And the frustration and disappointment continues.

Coach Coen was upset about the game - and he used stronger words than 'upset' after the game.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Water Cooler: Princeton's Culture War?

It's time to gather once again around the water cooler and talk Patriot League picks for the week and the upcoming game of course... but what's been dominating my mind these days is the bizarre altercation between the Citadel cadets and Princeton's band last weekend in Charlotte, SC.

Princeton's scramble marching band, or the Princeton University Band (or PUB for short) marched through the middle of the Citadel campus in an effort to "get people hyped for the game", which was kind of like the English marching through Scotland about how they shouldn't be alarmed how their armies are going to kill, pillage and (let's just say) dishonor your women.

The Princeton University student paper called it a "culture war", and they're right in a way. What's interesting and unsaid, however, is what it shows about each student body's attitude towards football.

Football, for those in the Ivy League, is a fun day out. It's a tailgate on a pretty campus, with eating clubs close by and a chance to catch up with old (powerful) friends. Many times, the tailgate is the only purpose of going; some never even bother to show up and watch the actual game. In that context, the band's purpose indeed is to go through and remind them that "yes, there's a game and there's fun in there too, why don't you come and see? We might just win, too."

In the SoCon and the Citadel in particular, however, games are defining moments in their lives that give them meaning. To Citadel fans, you go support your team because it's your moral duty; and the opposition are always feminized Communist scum, whether you're from Princeton or Georgia Southern. News flash: Unlike in the bubble of the Ivy-land of the Northeast, football is taken seriously.

The band should have known better. They thought the Citadel's campus would be like theirs: a civilized cocktail party where football doesn't really matter. (You're going to be running the country someday? Should I be scared?) The cadets probably should have known better: but consumed with irrational bloodlust and emotion, they lashed out on the least responsible party to what they see as a disrespectful American electorate that doesn't appreciate their sacrifce: the band. (You're going to be defending the country someday? From who, 130 lb women in the band?)

Here's the larger takeaway from this. What would it harm the Ivy League to take football more seriously? Maybe not as psychopathically as the cadets at The Citadel, but what would be the harm just a little bit more pride in the game of football? It's not like Princeton doesn't have the money or the facilities to do it. If Princeton wanted to compete in the FCS playoffs, they certainly could.

Maybe the problem isn't a band, or cadets. It's a league which cares so little about the sport that their marching band has to march through campus to whip up support.

Press Links
As of today, my plan is to post any links concerning Lehigh on the CSN Log, which will then be neatly listed in the form of a neat-o news feed in the upper left corner of the blog. That will not only allow me to be lazier, it will also allow you to be able to read all your Lehigh information in one place.

I'll clean up the sidebar with all sorts of neat widgets. You'll see.

Patriot League Picks: Week Five
One of these: notably, the Colgate/Fordham clash - is reprinted from my regular CSN Way column at the College Sporting News. Click on the link for my lead column about the NEC and Big South... and how the "path to the autobid" may not have been what folks thought it originally was. You can see my regular Top 25 picks there too, as well as other interesting picks from FCS games around the country.

Last week, I was a pathetic 2-3, putting me at 6-6 on the year. I'll aim to do better this weekend.

Colgate at Fordham. Runningback Jordan Scott, who almost single-handedly carried the Raiders to victory over Dartmouth last week, outduelled Fordham runningback Xavier Martin for Patriot League Player of the Week honors despite Martin’s four rushing touchdowns. I think Martin carries the grudge into this week and the Rams prevail.
The X-Men 35, The J-Men 21

Penn at Lafayette. Last year, the Leopards managed to eke out an 8-7 victory against the Quakers - and that was with an unsettled quarterback situation and a real lack of offense. Penn surprised last week by playing Villanova so tough before falling 0-14 in overtime, while Lafayette has done the expected in the first few weeks. It's a wickedly hard game to pick. Give be the Leopards... and a baseball score.
IronLeopards 6, Quacking Phillies 4

Holy Cross at Georgetown. The Hoyas are still looking like they're struggling (after their 47-7 drubbing by Yale) while Holy Cross must be ready to pop after narrow losses to powerhouses UMass(45-42) and Harvard (25-24). Dominic Randolph and the Crusaders will have an extra day to prepare: and will let off some steam in DC.
Deep Purple 47, Gored Gray 13

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Preview of Lehigh vs. Princeton

(Photo Credit: Princeton Athletics)

Aaaah, Princeton. For me, this game means a lot personally. Not only because it's the game that geographically the closest to my house, but I actually met my future wife at a Lehigh game at Princeton exactly nine years ago on this very day.

I'm also used to Lehigh beating Princeton. I admit it; I've been spoiled over the years. Lehigh has an 7-1 record against the Tigers in the last 10 years, including a 32-21 victory I witnessed last year. The only time Princeton beat Lehigh during that stretch they were Ivy League co-champions, and had a bonfire in Princeton for the first time in a long time. (Every year, the school with the best record in the Harvard/Yale/Princeton football games celebrate with a huge bonfire on campus.)

In past years, Lehigh entered the Princeton game picked to win the Patriot League, or at least to contend for the title. This year, Lehigh was picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the league - an indicator of a Mountain Hawk team with questions that need answering.

This year so far, Lehigh has beaten Drake out of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League 19-0, and has lost to nationally-ranked Villanova 33-17. Let's face facts: Drake was a team we were pretty much expected to beat, and Villanova was a challenge that we weren't expected to be ready for at this point. Coming out of that stretch 1-1 really was to be expected.

In the past, Princeton may have been viewed as a tune-up game - an expected win, while fans study Lehigh's style points to see if the Mountain Hawks have what it takes to dominate the Patriot League in the games ahead.

Now? This weekend, we have a game which can't be seen in any other way than a litmus test to see if Lehigh fans deserve to be excited about this football team.

Game Notes
I almost fell out of my chair when I saw in the game notes that sophomore QB Trace Cisneros was the backup QB for the game this week and that junior QB Chris Bokosky not only wasn't on the two-deep, he's no longer on the team roster either.

It's not a condemnation of Trace's ability - not at all. It's just that Bokosky's departure from the team was so sudden and came on the heels on what was portrayed as a QB battle against two competitors that "brought out the best in each other." If Bokosky has left the team due to playing time, now all of a sudden that doesn't seem like that was true.

Furthermore, with Bokosky behind Clark had Clark been injured fans would have been comforted in the fact that Chris had some reps under his belt and experience in the offense. Trace is more of an unknown quantity. They say that anybody is one ding away from the starting job - let's hope Trace is ready should that occur.

In addition, sophomore RB Jaren Walker is still recovering from his ankle injury suffered at the end of the Drake game, meaning sophomore RB Jay Campbell will be the change-of-pace runningback when senior RB Matt McGowan is taking a breather. It also means that the depth at arguably the two most important offensive positions is thinner than any Lehigh fan might like.

On defense, some happy news: senior DL Paul Bode seems recovered from his injuries and has cemented the starting "D" line spot, which is the only change on the defensive side of the ball.

Princeton's game notes - IMO, some of the best in the business - are here.

Weather Report
A 6:00 PM game time may mean that folks making the trip from Bethlehem to Princeton, NJ may miss out on the bulk of the showers on Saturday, but with a 90% chance of precipitation, I doubt it. Let's hope that it's only a drizzle by then. Of course, Lehigh will be playing on artificial turf for the second straight week, so if it is a drizzle with a high of 72 and a mild 8 mph wind as the Weather Channel is currently predicting, it shouldn't be too great a factor on gameplay. Just bring a jacket!

A Word On Princeton
The Tigers looked poised to become a permanent member of the football elite of the Ivy League going into 2007. Even though Princeton lost two great players in QB Jeff Terrell and CB J.J. Artis (both now playing professionally), they looked to be able to reload at those positions and coalesce behind the linemen and linebackers that would keep them successful and give Yale a run for its money for the title.

But it didn't quite work out that way. The team Lehigh beat in 2007 was night-and-day from the Princeton team they saw (and lost to) in 2006. In that year, the Tigers were ridiculously good at holding onto the football and doing the "little things" like hitting gaps and blocking downfield. That team did play 60 minutes every week in tune to an 9-1 record, their only blemish being a tough loss at Cornell that year.

In 2007, this Tiger team missed the left-handed Jeff Terrell badly, as Artis' leadership in what was one of the best secondaries in FCS. Princeton did jump out to a 2-1 start (their only loss being a 32-21 loss to Lehigh, where the Tigers committed five turnovers in the first half). But after a fall-from-ahead loss to Hampton in Week Four, Princeton never really recovered, ending the season 4-6. The Hampton loss became the defining point of their season: a team that starts strong, but doesn't have the gusto to last 60 minutes.

Yet still, much of that 2006 championship team remains. As Lehigh has questions to answer, so does Princeton. Will this team approach the level of play-to-play execution excellence that they enjoyed in 2006? And can they rally behind another left-handed quarterback to beat their traditional rivals and enjoy another bonfire?

Last Time Out
The Tigers had to be feeling good about themselves going into halftime against a former Lehigh head coach. Up 17-7 against The Citadel, Princeton once again lost the momentum after a blocked punt was returned 35 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs would ride the momentum of that play to a 37-26 victory over the Tigers and gave coach Hughes a rallying cry for the rest of the year: "play full out the entire time".

To add injury to insult, the football team weren't the only unit that was banged up: Princeton's scramble band (PUB) was reportedly harassed by members of The Citadel as they were marching onto the Charleston campus. There was a "brief but heated altercation" between the cadets and band members, while some locals complained that the band was "disrupting military exercises... and mocking the military school with swearing and disgusting gestures and salutes."

(There is a lot of fertile ground for jokes here, most involving the year 1968. But what really leaps out is: Hey cadets, you're going to bravely defend your country but you get your feelings hurt by Princeton's Band? Hey Princetonians, marching through a military college to pump the opposing fans up for the game - when did that ever sound like a good idea?)

LFN's Drink Of The Week
Last year, I mentioned that I thought it was best to try to differentiate yourself from the quiche-eating jet set across the Delaware, and I suggested Yuengling Black and Tan's. I don't know if it's because it's supposed to be colder, or wetter, or both - but this week it's clearly an evening for Yuengling Traditional and - if you go to their website - is popular due to its "thirst-quenching taste". To the local fans, let them drink Chardonnay; give me "thirst-quenching taste" anytime.

As always, Drinks of the Week have a place in tailgates, but please drink responsibly and please be of legal drinking age.

Breaking Down Princeton
Head coach Roger Hughes, now in his 8th year, has an offense that doesn't have any one dominating star but doesn't have any one glaring weakness either. From week to week, it's wickedly hard to look at the Tigers and see exactly what their gameplan will be against you because they will look at your team and go to your weakness. One week they will pass their first seven plays, the other they'll run it, and they don't depend on a marquee player.

The style should look familiar, though : it's extremely similar to the formation and style that Fordham has on offense, with X and Z receivers and speed all over the field.

At the end of last year, Princeton benched former quarterback Bill Foran and instead started senior QB Brian Anderson for their rivalry game against Dartmouth, the "Battle for the 1865 Sawhorse Dollar". The lefty QB then proceeded to complete his first 11 passes for Princeton, proceeded to break his thumb - yet still managed to lead the troops to a 17-14 victory.

Anderson has the tools to be Hughes' favorite type of quarterback: one that doesn't make many mistakes, one that can tuck the ball and run, and one that is elusively quick - basically, another Jeff Terrell. Against the Bulldogs Anderson was 20-for-41 with 2 touchdown passes and 1 interception, but equally as important was Anderson's ability to take off - 16 rushes for 56 yards may not sound like much, but when you factor in 25 yards in losses due to sacks, that's almost 80 yards of rushing.

At runningback we're missing a familiar name in senior RB R.C. Lagomarsino: not listed on the two-deep this week, presumably with an injury. Instead, Lehigh will face junior RB Jordan Culbreath (pictured), who rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown last week and added 3 catches for 16 yards as well. He's a versatile back that isn't the biggest speedster in the world but can get tough interior yards and also catches the ball out of the backfield. Replacing all-Ivy fullback Rob Teresco is sophomore FB Matt Zimmerman, who once again is the type of pass-catching threat that gives secondary coaches fits. Last week he had 4 receptions and a touchdown.

The receivers in Princeton's offense also get their fair share of rushes, so they're called the "X" and "Z" positions rather than wide receiver. And Princeton has two really good ones in senior WR Wil Thanheiser (27 receptions in 2007) and senior WR Adam Berry (caught two touchdown passes against Lehigh last year). Not only are they tall (both are over 6 feet), they have to be respected on reverses too. Senior TE Joe Magro didn't get any receptions last year - but don't be surprised if Hughes goes to him in the precision, short passing game the Tigers like to execute.

On first glance, Princeton's line is extremely small and would seem to be a liability, but don't be fooled one second. This unit, led by junior OL Andrew Hauser, is athletic and have good footwork when everything's clicking. Having said that, they did let up 3 sacks to a nationally-ranked team last week.

The entire front three of the 3-4 Tiger defense from last year returns, led by senior DE Pete Buchignani with 91 tackles in his 3+ year career so far. The Tigers do a lot of rotation on the line to keep everyone fresh for four quarters, and they average 260 lbs across.

At linebacker, senior LB Tom Methvin is the leader of a young, inexperienced (and smallish) unit. Sophomore LB Stephen Cody led the team last week with 11 tackles.

It always seems like Princeton has a great secondary year in and year out. They lose safety Kevin Kelleher from last year, but return two starters in senior CB Dan Koplovich (second in the Ivy League in passes defensed last year) and junior CB Cart Kelly (seven pass breakups last year after starting all 11 games). Junior SS Wilson Cates also has interceptions in back-to-back games dating from last year: this is an exceptional unit.

Special Teams
Senior P Ryan Coyle is a really solid punter, averaging 43.1 yards per punt last year, while senior K Connor Louden is "Mr. Automatic" in extra points, having made 52 straight. Louden is great close in, but his range outside of 40 yards is shaky: as a matter of fact, junior K Ben Bologna handles kickoffs and probably would take the longer field goals, too.

Senior WR Pete Ploszek returns kickoffs and had a productive day last week with 4 for 60 yards, while sophomore WR Matt Ransom had a good day as well with punt returns last week, running back 3 for 32 yards.

Keys to the Game
1. "O" Trenches. Controlling the line of scrimmage in a football game is what the "O" line normally tries to do against every team, but in this game it will be essential. Not only to give McGowan lanes to run through, but to give Clark time to make stuff happen.
2. Containment. You can't contain every threat this offense can throw at you - but you can contain the quarterback's running lanes and reduce his options. Cohen should close the outside - and also hit Anderson's blind side, too. The key to winning this gmae is keeping Anderson out of his comfort zone.
3. Special teams. Last year, Lehigh got fantastic momentum on special teams in the form of a blocked punt. Reversing a special teams performance from two weeks ago - where nobody really stood out in terms of game balls - will also play a huge role.

Fearless Prediction
You want to win every game, but this one really feels like one that is extremely important for Lehigh to win simply because they still have a lot to prove. It's the most level playing field that the Mountain Hawks have played on this year, and they need to start proving things right now.

And I think they do just that. Clark is a better quarterback than the game against Villanova; we'll should see that Saturday. Lehigh's defense is very good, and they'll show it against this quarterback and this offensive line. It won't be easy by any stretch, but I think I'll be spoiled one more time in Princeton this week.

Lehigh 31, Princeton 24

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FCS East Wrapup: Villanova Escapes Franklin Field with Win

(Photo Credit: Mustafa al-Ammar, The Daily Pennsylvanian)

I'm trying something new in an effort to make my weekly wrapups better: I'm going to attempt to sum up all the scores of the Patriot League for the week and also add to it other scores of interest from the Ivy League, CAA, NEC and others as I see fit. The focus will still be from a Lehigh perspective (meaning: the focus will be on Lehigh's past and upcoming opponents), but I think it's worth taking a peek at football elsewhere in the East as well.

  • At Franklin Field Saturday afternoon, a former Lehigh foe (Villanova) faced off against Penn (Lafayette's foe next week) in a "Big 5" rivalry game. Despite junior QB Antwon Young's four interceptions, Villanova escaped with a 20-14 overtime victory after senior DE Dave Dellasandro forced a fumble in the overtime that was recovered by Villanova - and after the Wildcats had their extra-point blocked, meaning a touchdown and an extra point would have given the Quakers the game. Wildcat head coach Andy Talley reportedly gave his Wildcats a "tongue lashing" in halftime, and his defense delivered, shutting out the Quakers the rest of the way. Young, who had a decent day versus Lehigh, was benched in favor of senior QB Chris Whitney, whose 7 yard touchdown run in overtime ended up being the difference in the game. "When you go to overtime, it's all about luck," Talley said in the post-game press conference. "Don't even think it's about who the better team is. Flip a coin - it's luck."
  • Penn, denied their first win over Villanova since 1911, showed some promise in the Ivy League title race as senior CB Chris Wynn picked off two lofted passes from Young in the end zone. "I think we saw that - God forbid that something should happen - but if some people do go down, we have other players to step in and do great jobs," Wynn said in the post-game press conference. Anyone else get the feeling that this weekend's clash versus Lafayette (who, along with Lehigh, had a bye week last week) could be a baseball score - 4 to 2?
  • No game was bigger last week than the game between the last two teams to win Football Championship Subdivision championships: James Madison and Appalachian State, which was bar none the most exciting Division I college game in the nation (and I mean that) last weekend. Appalachian State surged to a 21-0 lead by controlling the pace of the game and taking advantage of an early turnover by senior QB Rodney Landers and converting it into a touchdown. But the Dukes defense and special teams would give Landers and the offense a second chance, first with junior CB Scotty McGee's 99 yard return of the second half kickoff for a touchdown, then with the Dukes defense shutting down the rushing lanes for Appalachian State junior QB Armanti Edwards. The Dukes finally outlasted the Mountaineers in an exhilirating 35-32 thriller. "Good teams become great teams doing what they did tonight," said App State coach Jerry Moore after the game. "They're sitting on top of the mountain right now. They got the momentum going early in the third quarter and played off it the rest of the game."
  • At first glance, Delaware's loss to Furman 23-21 in South Carolina might seem like a reality check that the Blue Hens aren't as good as advertised. Look closer, though, and you'll see a Furman team that promises to be challenging for the SoCon title. Despite tape of a blown call involving punt interference, bad calls weren't the whole story for the Blue Hens: junior QB Rob Schoenhoft lofted four interceptions, and giving the Paladins that many freebies is no way to win a football game. "The bottom line is, we had a game that we could have won and should have won and we didn't win," Keeler said. "And what we did was, we allowed the officials to get into the ballgame." At 1-2, the Blue Hens face a must win over Albany of the NEC - who also need to realisitically win on the road at Tubby Raymond stadium to get into the playoffs for the first time in their history. It should be a dandy, and coach K.C. Keeler wshould have no problem motivating them: last time they played Albany in 2005, the Danes escaped with a program-defining moment and a 17-10 victory.
  • Colgate knew they would need to ride senior RB Jordan Scott in order to win games this year, and this week he rode them over the top in record-breaking fashion. In a 34-20 victory over scrappy Dartmouth, Scott became the all-time Patriot League rusher with 5,015 rushing yards for his career. In his 29 carry, 239 yard performance, he would score the game-tying touchdown and grind out key yards in the Raiders' come-from-behind victory. (He'd also secure College Sporting News Player of the Week honors.)
  • On any other weekend, Fordham's sophomore RB Xavier Martin would have easily got Patriot League "Player of the Week" honors in Fordham's come-from-behind 29-22 win over Columbia in the 7th annual "Liberty Cup" game. Imagine getting four touchdowns and 160 yards rushing: wouldn't you, well, assume you had the honor? Maybe it was because Fordham took advantage of a key blown subsitution when Fordham was getting ready to punt the ball, keeping a Ram drive alive and allowing Fordham to keep the momentum for the eventual win. “Columbia is a much-improved football team,” Fordham head coach Tom Masella said. “They did a tremendous job and kept us on our toes all day. Thank god our kids started to make some plays in the second half.” The Rams will play Colgate this week in what could shape up to be a very key game in the Patriot League race - and Fordham may need to rely on more than just the opposing coach missing a subsitution to help them win the game.
  • Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Times-Gazette called Holy Cross' fall-from-ahead defeat to Harvard 25-24 "Purple Pain" - which seems appropriate since the Crusaders let a 17-6 halftime lead dissolve with key turnovers. As Holy Cross was closing in on a score, Crimson senior LB Eric Shultz stripped the ball from Crusader senior QB Dominic Randolph to thwart the drive. That allowed Harvard senior QB Chris Pizzotti to make some second-half magic in front of a Friday night crowd of over 20,000 fans: a touchdown pass and two QB sneaks later, Harvard managed a 25-24 victory. “It’s a brutal way to lose a football game,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said. “We have to continue to work on our stuff and get better. I give Harvard all the credit, but we’re making too many mistakes as games wear on. I thought we had momentum for a good chunk of the second and the third quarter, but we just couldn’t close it out.” Deep Purple next heads down to Georgetown, where they will be thinking "what if?" as they've lost two games to nationally ranked football teams by a grand total of 4 points.
  • On the Harvard sideline, head coach Tim Murphy pointed at what Pizzotti did after Shultz' forced fumble as the key to victory on Friday: a quick strike 68 yard touchdown pass to sophomore WR Marco Iannuzzi. “There’s no question it changed the whole complexion of the game, gave us momentum, gave us energy, and from there on in we just played inspired football,” Murphy said. This week, they'll face an interesting league test in Brown, who defense featuring senior DE James Develin disposed of Stony Brook 17-7. (You know, the Stony Brook team that beat Colgate earlier in the year 42-21.)
  • Cornell, who faces Lehigh in a couple weeks, got by Bucknell 21-20 on - of all things - a blocked extra point. Cornell senior LB Graham Rihn exploded sround the corner and blocked what would would have been the game-tying point for the Bison. Bucknell used something new in their triple-option attack - a passing game - to keep Cornell off guard. “We added some man coverage and changed up our zones,” Cornell head coach Jim Knowles said after the game. “All of a sudden it became a passing game, so we really had to make our adjustments. … We brought in some of our base coverages that we didn’t have in the game plan, but we used them because it became a passing game.” On the Bucknell sideline, despite sophomore WR Shaun Pasternak's banner day (11 catches, 117 yards, 2 touchdowns), the mood was glum. “It’s a tough one to lose,” Landis said. “Cornell outgained us and made the plays when they needed to.” Cornell hosts Yale next week, while Bucknell enters their bye week.
  • Georgetown, on the other hand, got smacked by Yale 47-7 in somewhat surprising fashion: not so much because Yale won, but because they won with a refound passing attack with senior QB Ryan Fodor and sophomore QB Brook Hart. The duo combined for 24-33 passing and 361 passing yards - and 4 touchdowns. The Hoyas, led by sophomore QB Keerome Lawrence, didn't do much offensively with 230 total yards on the afternoon, most of which was gained when the game was no longer in doubt. With an aggravated Holy Cross team coming to the District, don't expect a letup next week either, Hoya fans.
  • Finally, Lehigh's opponent this weekend - the Princeton Tigers - travelled down to South Carolina to compete against a former Lehigh head football coach in Kevin Higgins. After surging ahead to a 17-7 halftime lead against The Citadel, sophomore LB Reggie Rice blocked a Princeton punt and returned it 35 yards to turn the tide to the boys in powder blue en route to a 37-26 victory. Senior QB Brian Anderson had an OK day passing against a tough full-scholarship secondary, with 206 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, but with just over a 50% completion percentage and 2 interceptions. Still, Tiger head coach Roger Hughes is optimistic. "I think we will bounce back emotionally from this," he said. "We are also coming out much healthier [than last year vs. Hampton]."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bye Week Report: Kevin Bayani Is Still Big

Not surprisingly, this week there wasn't much to report on Lehigh football since it was the bye week. But aside from senior LB Tim Diamond's appearance on Lehigh Sports Magazine on Monday (available to anyone who gets the Lehigh Broadcast package on Yahoo! Sports), there were two other reports from Lehigh Athletics' website this week.

Bayani's one of the Big Boys Now

Bayani benches more than 400 lbs., but he is not alone on the Mountain Hawks at that mark. He and fellow offensive lineman Will Rackley compete with fullback Anthony Fossati for the bench-press crown each year.

“Whenever we max out it’s about who’s going to be on top this time,” Bayani said. “Fossati got me in the winter, but I got him in the summer, so it’s a back and forth battle.”

Tailgate Information Released For October 18th game at Harvard

On Saturday, October 18, the Lehigh Football team will take on Harvard in its final non-league game of the season, while at the very same time, the Lehigh Rowing team will take part in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta. Lehigh alumni and their families and friends are invited to take part in a tailgate, sponsored by the Lehigh Athletics Partnership and the Lehigh Alumni Association.

Aaah, memories. I remember well going up to see Harvard play Lehigh when I was an undergrad - taking a bus up to Cambridge and crashing with a friend of mine who was going to MIT. I got to the game late, and Lehigh already had 4 touchdowns on the board - in the 1st quarter!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday's Word: O.F.N.

I know what you're thinking: what on earth is ol' Chuck up to? I'll give you a hint: on a bye week where the Patriot League went 2-3, two former Lehigh head football coaches were behind at halftime and came back to win, and James Madison pulled off a legendary comeback in an incredible 35-32 victory over last years' national champions Appalachian State, I'm going to be bringing up something a lot more frivolous.

Ever notice that everything right now is a "Nation"?

While frantically checking college football scores last night, one of my web stops is frequently ESPN - after all, they are the sun around which college football rotates, and they (I thought) were likely to have up-to-date scores that sometimes The Sports Network hasn't updated quite yet.

I didn't find FCS scores: but I did end up smiling at my screen. In the right-hand corner, I saw a link to ESPN's new "blog network" and College Football Nation. It's not so much about the content, which is basically a rundown of FBS highlights from seven veteran writers (e.g., "What Irby's Injury Means to Texas", or "Watch out for the Gators!"). It's the "Nation" that made me smile.

Calling fan bases a "Nation" was not my invention. It was an invention of Boston Globe writer Nathan Cobb in 1986 describing Connecticut's split allegiances between Red Sox fans and Met fans in the World Series that year. Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessey further popularized the phrase in 1996 with a book called At Fenway: Dispatches From Red Sox Nation which went further than Cobb's tribalization of Connecticut: it served to describe the body of all of the fans of the Red Sox from Connecticut to Maine.

Since I was born into the "Original" Red Sox "Nation" (with a father who saw games from the bleachers in Fenway for a dollar), the word "Nation" seemed like a snappy way to describe the blog I started in 2003. It fit in another way, too: the Mountain Hawks during the late 1990s had really blossomed from a regional university that largely attracted high school graduates (and football players) from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to a university that not only recruited nationwide, but internationally as well. Lehigh did have a "Nation" hiding in plain view - and with my passion being the Engineer/Brown & White/Mountain Hawk football team, calling it "Lehigh Football Nation" seemed to roll off the tongue pretty well.

The "Nation" was introduced to the wider world in 2004 after the Red Sox finally delivered a World Series title to the town that had craved one since 1918. (No more chants of "Nineteen-eighteen!" from obnoxious Yankee fans.) It's as if folks looked around after observing Red Sox fans and realizing that "Nation" seemed very appropriate to describe any sort of crazed fans, since by its nature it separates folks by tribes.

College football seems now like the most appropriate place for the "Nation" moniker to end up. After all, no people are more crazed than college football fans, and college football - with quirky rivalries and each game being so meaningful - invokes a tribal passion much more viscerally than a pro baseball team. The Red Sox and Yankee fans hate each other, but it's still mostly a rivalry based on regional marketing and fans can (and do) change loyalties over the course of their lives. Most folks feel an allegiance to the Yankees or Red Sox since they grew up in or around New York or Boston, or (in my case) my father grew up a fan of that team.

In contrast, once you're a Lehigh fan, you never go for Lafayette over Lehigh. It's a Law of the Universe. It's not a manufactured tribe, it's a real tribe. Think any Sioux went over to the Lakota because their horses were better-looking? (Must be the steroids.)

Over and over, I see the "Nation's" popping up all over the country. Any crazy fan base is now it's own "Nation", and I feel like I had some part in that spread since to my knowledge I was the very first. Even the corporate applications that really don't make any logical sense ("CSTV Football Nation", ESPN's "College Football Nation", "Bacardi Nation") I feel are something I - in albeit a very weird sort of way - had a part in their creation. (Note to Baracrdi, CSTV and ESPN: I'll be expecting those royalty checks very, very soon.)

But with all the other "Nation's" out there, I'm wondering if I should label this blog in some way "O.F.N." After all, this was and still is the "Original Football Nation".
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