Saturday, October 04, 2008

Lehigh 24, Cornell 25, Final

"Oh, no!"

If you heard the radio call by Matt Kerr, the voice of Lehigh on the radio (and you can still hear in on lehighsports.com), his call summed it up best.

Up 24-19 with under 10 seconds to play, at the Lehigh 20 yards line, all Lehigh needed to do is stop the Big Red for one play.

One play.

Never mind the play of sophomore QB J.B. Clark, who acquitted himself well in his third game as a starter. Never mind the play of the defense, which bended but didn't really break for thirty-three minutes and about thirty seconds of the thirty-three minutes and thirty-seven seconds that the Cornell offense had the ball. Never mind the punt returned for a touchdown by sophomore DB Jarard Cribbs at the end of the first half.

Never mind any calls from the referee. Never mind the disorganization on special teams at the end of the first half that led to the missed extra point. Never mind the fumble.

Never mind the good, or the bad. It comes down to one play.

One play to learn how to win. One play to give Lehigh a much-needed victory. One play for a player to step up and make a play. One play for the coaching staff to put the defense in the position to make a play, to maximize the chances to win.

But just like last week, this Lehigh team did not learn how to win today. Cornell QB Nathan Ford put a ball up for grabs in the corner of the right end zone - and WR Jesse Baker, both feet well in bounds, reached up over his right shoulder and made the catch.

For the second straight week, Lehigh lost the game on the very last play.

On paper, this game wasn't a must-win. While it's fun for Lehigh fans and trustees to celebrate the wins over the Ivy League, Lehigh can certainly survive the loss of this game, no matter how sick it makes me feel.

But Lehigh is going to have to learn how to win next weekend. Defending league champion Fordham is coming to town, and a loss in that game will probably be the death knell to any sort of playoff hopes or hopes for a ticket to the FCS playoffs.

And it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Fordham is going to be coming into Murray Goodman fresh off a bye week and their backs firmly against the wall in the league, having lost last weekend to Colgate in the closing seconds of the game.

This team is clearly getting better. There is genuine reason for optimism. Clark played very well and very nearly won the game. He's getting some chemistry with his senior receivers, senior WR Mike Fitzgerald and senior WR Sekou Yansane. Senior LB Tim Diamond had his typical great game, with 11 tackles, several near-interceptions, and a real questionable pass interference call that kept the game-winning drive alive. Sophomore WR Craig Zurn made an incredible pancake block on the punt return for a touchdown - had he not made it, Cribbs would almost certainly have not made it to the end zone.

But it's Diamond's helmet chucked about 30 yards, into the far right part of the end zone, that summed up this game. It's the Lehigh defensemen, their helmets off, obviously devastated, kneeling at midfield after the game.

That and: "Oh, no!"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Water Cooler: Debates

Before I get into my Patriot League picks, admit it: this is a great weekend for the water cooler.

There's simply so much to talk about. Want to talk playoff baseball? (Well, maybe not if you're from New York.) Want to talk about Patriot League football weekend matchups? (Well, maybe not if you're from New York.) Want to talk NFL? (Okay, you got me there.)

In addition to the always-full buffet of weekend sports in the fall, there was something equally as fascinating last night: the vice-presidential debates.

Admit it; you watched them. There were 70 million viewers of the vice-presidential debate yesterday. Don't cha know. You betcha. I talked about them with my family at the kitchen table, wondering how we're going to pay the heating bills this winter. But we'll be OK. We're mavericks; and we'll get extra credit for watching them. too.

If the rest of America is like me, I didn't watch the debates out of any civic duty. The issues? Don't be ridiculous; I've made up my mind about the candidates just about last February. I'm hardly an undecided voter, and I seriously doubt much of America is undecided at this point.

No, I decided my wife and I had to watch the debates because of the entertainment value.

To me, it was reality TV at its finest. "In this corner, the gray haired veteran of the senate with diarrhea of the mouth! He extends sentences four minutes beyond their shelf life! He exaggerates! He flubs! Will he make a gaffe of Qualyean proportions tonight?

"And in the other corner, the exotic vice presidential candidate that no one has ever heard of! Will she avoid drooling on herself? Will she be able to put a nouns, verbs, and adjectives together in coherent sentences? Will she avoid leaving pregnant, er, pauses in the conversation?"

(I'm expecting the PC police to descend on me at any moment.)

Of course, as most TV shows are, this was a letdown. The closest thing to a gaffe that Mr. Biden made was being just a wee bit too enthusiastic about same-sex benefits; Ms. Palin broke the (as the PBS commentator put it) the "Gidget barrier" for vice president. Not by much, but she did break it.

My crazy brain, though, ends up with some weird thoughts. I keep wondering: what if Palin and Biden, instead of debating, well, the fate of the free world and stuff, what if they simply were talking sports?

Biden: John McCain calls himself a Mountaineer. He says he's a Mountaineer, but he voted against helmets for the football team. He says he's a Mountaineer, but he voted to stop funding for hiking shoes. You can call him a Mountaineer, but he's no Mountaineer. Wait, I tried to play football for Delaware... our Blue Hens would kick the Mountaineers' ass!

Palin: Thank you... Thank you to give me this opportunity to take off the FILter, to speak directly to the American People. Those Panthers, they just want to wave the white flag of surrender, don't cha know. Go Blue, we're mavericks, cut taxes, and of course those nuclear weapons are nasty. We don't want them in the hands of anyone from Pittsburgh. Especially the Penguins; I'm a hawkey mawm.

The saddest thing is how much sense this all makes.

Patriot League Picks; Week Six
Speaking of not making sense, two items: last week, I was 2-2 on my picks, putting me at 8-8 on the year. Some Patriot League expert! I can pick the rest of the games of FCS, but I've been simply pathetic this year. Hopefully this week will be better.

The other item: a key game cancellation in the Patriot League tomorrow. It turns out that the game between Georgetown at Colgate was cancelled due to an outbreak of norovirus on Georgetown's campus. The cancellation was the right thing to do; but it causes a major headache for Patriot League officials. Colgate does not have any bye weeks, and their only remaining out-of-conference game is against the Ivy League vs. Princeton - who doesn't have bye weeks in their 10 game season by design.

I think if Colgate is in the hunt for a playoff bid, the conference autobid will probably come down to a dreaded "vote with the ADs" of all the non-playoff schools. If Colgate goes 5-0 and Georgetown goes 1-4 or 0-5, Colgate probably would (and should) be voted the autobid anyway. If Georgetown goes 3-2 (remember they're already 0-2) there could be an issue, but (no disrespect to Georgetown intended here) that's an unlikely scenario.

Undoubtedly the league office is hoping that either Colgate goes undefeated or gets three losses. Any other scenario could potentially be a looming problem.

Here are my picks this week, partially reprinted from my CSN Way column from the College Sporting News.

Harvard at Lafayette. Has quarterback Rob Curley and the Lafayette offense gotten over the Ivy League ‘curse’; meaning, they consistently lose to Ivy League teams, no matter who they are? Crimson quarterback Chris Pizzotti is hoping the answer is ‘no’; but unfortunately for them, the real answer is ‘yes’.
Leopards Might As Well Be Walkin’ On The Sun 27, Black and Blue and Crimson 20

Holy Cross at Yale. Who would heve ever thought in a million years that Yale would miss… quarterback Matt Polhemus? They do, though; and the team with the all-American at quarterback (Holy Cross’ Dominic Randolph) wins this one with surprising ease.
Men In Purple 38, Polhemus-Less Eli 20

Bucknell at Marist. Quietly, head coach Tim Landis has been building the Bison's confidence, cumulating in what should be a dominant performance against Marist this weekend. Quarterback Marcelo Trigg should be out of this game by halftime.. and folks will start to think ahead and say... can they beat Hofstra?
Free Range Bison 44, Red Roadkill 3

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Preview of Cornell vs. Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Cornell Athletics)

This weekend, Lehigh is celebrating Young Alumni Reunion weekend. Starting at the Bethlehem Brew Works at Friday at 9 p.m., it continues on Saturday with a pre-game tailgate starting at 11 a.m and going until kickoff (and probably beyond) at 12:30 p.m, followed by dinner in the Gander room at the Goosey Gander and the Brown & White bash on campus at 9:30 p.m.

If you check out the website, though, nowhere does it say some key elements for Saturday. Namely: who we're playing.

Maybe that's a function of our record, 1-2. Maybe that's the function of our offense, who haven't scored more than three touchdowns in a game since Bucknell last year. Maybe it's because Cornell is looking a lot stronger at 2-0 this year.

On paper, this game isn't a must-win. Although wins against the Ivy League are good for the league and good for Lehigh, the game the following week vs. Fordham is much more significant in terms of our chances for the Patriot League title - and, importantly, revenge for last year.

But this Lehigh team desperately needs to generate excitement this weekend on the gridiron.

It may be unfair to expect a flurry of offense like in the heyday of "Air Lehigh". And excitement doesn't always have to come from putting up 42 points. But Lehigh fans, after seeing victory slip away on 4th down versus Princeton last week, are starving for a victory.

This is one that Lehigh needs to have. Make no bones about it.

Game Notes
This week's game notes show a new face on the "O" line: senior OL Alex Kuziel, playing for (presumably injured) sophomore OL Ricky Clerge. Sophomore RB Jaren Walker is not on the two-deep either - senior RB Matt McGowan and sophomore RB Jay Campbell are - but he did show up for a play at Princeton, so he may see some time.

Other than that, there are no other changes on the two deep. Thankfully, Lehigh seems realtively healthy - something they were not at this point last year.

Cornell's game notes are available here.

Weather Report
For the first time all year, Lehigh will get a break with the weather. After one tropical storm and two games with sticky humidity, the Young Alumni Reunion should have a picture-perfect day on 12:30 pm at Murray Goodman with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s.

A Word On Cornell
Cornell historically has been a hard-luck unit in the Ivy League. Their last Ivy League championship came in 1990, and while they've come awfully close under head coaches Jim Hofner, Pete Mangurian, Tim Pendergast and now Jim Knowles, they've come up short a handful of times. More often than not, though, they're usually hovering around .500.

The Big Red under Knowles have a reputation of being world-beaters at home, but duds on the road. Knowles has a 22-20 career record as Cornell's head coach: an incredible 16 of those have been at home.

But there is reason to beleive that this squad, with two key players returning for injury redshirt years, is different than those teams. Maybe it was the 21-20 victory over Bucknell at Mathewson Stadium, with the margin of victory being sealed by a blocked extra point. Maybe it was the great win last week. This team, with a big veteran presence, doesn't feel like those other teams. After beating Bucknell, one player said that they "responded to adversity this time instead of folding under it.” That's the quote of a team with a lot of confidence.

Last Time Out
Cornell hadn't beaten Yale since 2004, and only won twice against the Bulldogs in the ten prior years - and that was before Yale was in the Ivy League penthouse. But the Big Red's 17-10 victory over the Bulldogs could be for this team a watershed moment. Sure, it was a big win over a team that was basically co-picked to win the Ivy League this year. But also, the win put Cornell at 2-0 to open the season for the first time since 1999. The prospect of a winning season - and maybe a shot at the Ivy League title - looms for this team that hasn't tasted one in a very long time.

LFN's Drink Of The Week
In order to beat it, you have to to drink it. No, no, not Red Death - we don't want to lose! - I mean Big Red, the soft drink formerly known as "Sun Tang Red Cream Soda". Sweet and delicious - rumored to be John Cougar Mellencamp's favorite drink - and if you, say, want to slip a little but of vodka or Vermouth in there for some zing, go right ahead. (Just stay away from the Grenadine.)

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

Breaking Down Cornell
Offense
In the game notes, Cornell is shown as being a "multiple offense" - meaning, occasionally they do some things to spread the field, but the engine that makes their offense go is the running game. It's not quite as conservative as Colgate's recent complete and utter embrace of the running game, but it's not incredibly far off.

What Cornell does have, however, is a veteran presence under center. Senior QB Nathan Ford isn't only a star baseball player for the Big Red, he's also the star quarterback. He's a tough kid who isn't afraid to run with the ball (10 career rushing touchdowns) but with 25 interceptions in his career he also hasn't been the most accurate passer in the world either. This year so far, even at 2-0, he has as many touchdowns (3) as he does interceptions (3).

At runningback is an interesting two-headed backfield: usually, it's the fifth-year senior getting the bulk of the carries, but that's not the case here. Junior RB Randy Barbour is the slashing, speedy back that gets the bulk of the carries these days (46 attempts, 181 yards) that can also catch the ball out of the backfield (3 catches, 37 yards). And senior RB Luke Siwula is the power rusher that is the change-of-pace guy (28 rushes, 95 yards).

At receiver, with senior WR Jesse Baker not on the two-deep, Lehigh may have gotten a break - he's caught both of Ford's two touchdowns on the year. Cornell does, however, boast an experienced receiving corps. Senior WR Zac Canty (5 catches, 35 yards) is the speedster and senior WR Horation Blackmon (1 catch, 12 yards) and junior WR Bryan Walters (8 catches, 85 yards). Cornell spreads the field occasionally with these guys, and like (it seems) all the teams of the Ivy Legaue, these guys also do a good job blocking downfield.

Cornell's "O" line is built for running. They boast two 300 lb hogs, senior C Barek Motamedi (6'4, 331 lbs) and senior OL Steve Valenta (6'6, 309). One or both might find themselves on NFL rosters this summer. Senior TE Alex Spooner adds 251 lbs to the line and has been known to get loose and catch a pass or two, so he has to be respected.

Defense
The game notes say the Big Red play a "multiple" defense, but it's really a base 3-3-5 defense with the 5th defensive back as a "rover" that can switch between the linebacking unit and secondary. Like Princeton, they are aggressive blitzers, ballhawks and last week held one of last year's best rushers, Yale RB Mike McLeod, to zero yards rushing. They don't give up much, especially running the ball.

Crucial to making a 3-3-5 work is a great nose guard, and senior NG Frank Kunis (5 tackles, 1 sack) is a good one. He's small, but he makes the defense work. Senior DE Jonathan Ruch is getting his first career start, who was a star at Allentown Central Catholic, assistant head coach Donnie Roberts' former school.

Senior LB Graham Rihn is the captain of the linebacking unit (4 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss), but it's junior LB Chris Costello (14 tackles, 2 forced fumbles) who has emerged early as one of the stars of the defense. This linebacking unit is aggressive and, as noted before, will blitz every way on Saturday.

Ironman senior SS Tim Bax has started in 32 straight games for the Big Red, and leads the team in tackles. Senior FS Anthony Sabo is another standout on this defensive eleven, with 11 tackles (including 9 against Yale last week).

Special Teams
Senior P Nick Maxwell is a decent punter, averaging 38.4 yards per punt in his career, while sophomore K Brad Greenway is largely unproven but perfect on extra points (5-for-5). He's 1-3 on field goals, however, with 21 as his career long.

Senior WR Bryan Walter returns kickoffs and and punts yards, while junior RB Randy Barbour is also on the kickoff return unit as well. They are an OK unit, averaging 18.1 yards per kickoff return and a paltry 3.6 per punt return.

Worthy of mention here is also the emphasis that Cornell places on blocked kicks. Senior LB Graham Rihn has already blocked two of them - one of which was the blocked extra point that gave them the win over Bucknell.

Keys to the Game
1. Precision passing. Cornell runs and stops the run very well, so in order to get the rushing game going you need to use the passing game to soften up the defense for the run. That means some home run balls, but it will mean more often using dinks and dunks. If sophomore QB J.B. Clark can establish this, it will go a long way towards getting our offense on track.
2. Perfect containment on kicks. With Cornell's emphasis on the kicking game, it will be important not to give the Big Red and freebies with blocked punts, field goals or extra points. More than against other opponents, a sheet full of zeroes in the "blocked" column will help Lehigh immensely.
3. Double-team Walters. Clamping down on Ford's favorite target can make Cornell into a one-dimensional team - and into a team where eight or nine in the box can grind the Big Red offense to a halt. If Walters doesn't get a reception, we'll have had a great day.

Fearless Prediction
There is one more week before the Patriot League season really starts in earnest. And Lehigh needs to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. No matter how they do it, a win here is what is needed, and I think Lehigh can deliver.

I think J.B. Clark is a better quarterback than he's shown. I think this offense is better than it's shown. I think this team hasn't had a chance to see what it really can do. And in the freindly confines of Murray Goodman stadium - and their last real chance to do so before league play starts - they do. Lehigh does better than score 21 points, and they win the game.

Lehigh 24, Cornell 14

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Cohen Is Player of the Week

In the closest voting in Player of the week history, junior LB Matt Cohen barely won LFN Readers' "Player of the Week". The quiet local defender from Allentown Central Catholic doesn't always get the press and attention he deserves, but with 7 tackles last week, including 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks he was a monster out there. All three tackles for loss were in key spots: one on a fourth down gave possession to Lehigh; another knocked Princeton out of field goal range; and the third pushed the Tigers back from a 1st and goal on the 2 yard line, and set up the blocked field goal attempt that set up our only score.

This week, game balls go to:

Readers' Choice: Junior LB Matt Cohen

Offense: Senior WR Mike Fitzgerald (5 receptions, 70 yards, 1 TD)

Defense: Senior DB Brendan VanAckeren (10 tackles, 4 solo tackles)

Special Teams: Junior LB Heath Brickner and Junior LB Al Pierce for the blocked field goal attempt (Brickner) and runback (Pierce).

Congratulations to all the winners!

News & Notes
Speaking of VanAckeren, the senior has been nominated as a semifinalist for the prestigious Draddy Trophy. The award is highest academic honor that can be achieved by a football player, "which recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership," according to the press release.

Also very interesting is an interview of assistant head football coach and Lehigh defensive line coach Donnie Roberts, which appeared in today's Morning Call. The former Central Catholic High School coach shared an insight on coach Coen:

Can you tell us something about head coach Andy Coen that we don't know? What you see is real, a great competitor and a fiery temperament. He can also be very funny. He used to get mad and throw his hat. Sometimes he could make it skip like stones skipping on water.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FCS East Wrapup: #1 Spiders Squashed On the Main Line

Somewhere along the way to the CAA title and the FCS national championship game, Richmond was going to have to take a trip to the Main Line. And apparently somewhere crossing the busy intersection to Villanova stadium, the Spiders were squashed 26-20 by a Villanova team that, according to head coach Andy Talley, has found it's "focus".

"I just felt like we were a team with issues," he said. "We weren't focused. From what I saw at Thursday's practice, we weren't ready to play. Now I don't think we're a team with issues. This team stepped up and played the way we've been expecting this team to play."
The Wildcats got the job done by stuffing Richmond's running game, holding Richmond to 82 yards - and Villanova may have also benefitted by the absence of the Spiders' most exciting offensive player, sophomore WR Kevin Grayson, early in the second half with a shoulder injury. And they kept the Spider defense unbalanced with direct snaps to runningback Aaron Ball and rushing plays to sophomore QB Chris Whitney - now the starter.

Also vital to Villanova's win? Senior PK Joe Marcoux, who notched 4 field goals - including two in the second half the the difference for the Wildcats. His performance gave Marcoux College Sporting News National All-Star honors.

Villanova will be heading out on the road for a two-game road trip in the always-brutal CAA schedule. But should they get by William & Mary and Rhode Island in consecutive weeks, another home matchup with the new #1 team this week in the Sports Network poll - 4-1 James Madison, who were 24-10 winners over Maine this week - looms. They might be in a position to do the unthinkable - knock off two teams ranked #1 in the same year.

(To think - Lehigh lost to this team when they were "unfocused".)

In other big action around FCS this past weekend:
  • Albany nearly finished their "Theater of Pain" tour around the CAA with what was probably the end to their postseason chances: a 38-7 defeat at the hands of Delaware. The Great Danes played their first four games of the year on the road against Massachusetts, Hofstra, New Hampshire and Delaware of the CAA. Three of those teams were ranked, and Albany beat the fourth (Hofstra). It was more of a dogfight than the final score might suggest: the halftime score was 14-7, including a blocked Albany field goal and a 60 yard interception return by sophmore CB Tyrone Grant. But Albany senior RB David McCarty (22 carries, 47 yards) struggled to get anything going on offense for the Danes, and Delaware's ferocious defense only gave up 150 total yards on the evening. The Hens will have another tough test as they go on the road to face nationally-ranked UMass (who are fresh off a bye week), while Albany goes on their FIFTH straight road game: this time, against their new league-mate in the NEC, Duquesne.
  • Brown did what they hadn't been able to do since 1999: beat Harvard. It took a rain soaked game, a 13-0 deficit, a huge missed extra point by the Crimson and two interceptions in the red zone, but the Bears showed that they're for real in a 24-22 victory. What gave the Bears the victory? According to senior QB Michael Dougherty, it may have been preparation. "There were a few periods where the rain was coming down pretty hard, and that was tough," Dougherty said. "But the past two or three days, we had buckets of water, because we knew it was going to be rainy, so we dumped the balls into the buckets of water before throwing, so that was pretty helpful, and we just went out there and executed." All of a sudden, 2-0 Brown is looking like a real contender in the Ivy League race.
  • 1-1 Harvard, who won a thriller against Holy Cross and now lost a close one to Brown, now travel to undefeated 3-0 Lafayette next week. Last week, the Leopards cruised to a 24 point lead and then held on for a 24-17 victory. But Lafayette is a banged-up team going into this game against the team that was picked in the preseason to by the Ivy Champs: junior C Michael Wojcik, and senior DE Andrew Poulson were just two of the starters who got some injuries making them day-to-day. Head coach Frank Tavani: ''We knew it was going to be a physical game [in the 24-17 win over Penn]. After any of those games, you need a bye week. It's a real black-and-blue deal.'' They'll need all the help they can get going up against the Crimson defense, headed by senior LB Eric Shultz.
  • Ever heard of this guy senior RB Jordan Scott? All he did last week was, oh, restablish Colgate as one of the teams that will be a focal point in the Patriot League title chase. In the Raiders' 31-24 victory over last year's Patriot League champs Forhdam, Scott racked up some amazing numbers: 272 yards on 41 carries, and 4 touchdowns: including the game-winner with 9 seconds left. Having already rewritten the Raider record books, next week Scott is looking to Georgetown not only to get Colgate to 2-0 in Patriot League play, but also might be saying: Has anyone ever won back-to-back-to-back College Sporting News National All-Star honors? (The answer: no, but Scott will have that chance.)
  • Speaking of Georgetown, they couldn't find the end zone offensively in a 38-14 drubbing by Holy Cross; sophomore LB Nick Parrish returned not one, but two, interceptions for touchdowns in the defeat. As for Holy Cross, senior QB Dominc Randolph had a good day at the races with 280 yards passing and 3 touchdowns - however, the Crusaders will need to clean things up when they travel next week to go up against what will probably be a very angry 1-1 Yale team next week.
  • Here's Lehigh's luck: Seeing up close and personal the wrecking crew that senior RB Mike McLeod can be, they replace Yale on the schedule with a team that hasn't been as good: Cornell. All of a sudden, senior RB Luke Siwula decides to return for a 5th year for the Big Red, and after two weeks Cornell is 2-0. It was the first time since 2006 that Harvard and Yale lost on the same day after the Big Red secured a 17-10 victory over the Eli. The big hero was senior SS Anthony Sabo, whose nine tackles and two sacks helped limit McLeod to only 57 yards on 20 carries through constant blitzing. "If you get your name called for a blitz, that's like recess out there," he said. "We're just out there having fun executing. It was a fun win."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Official Release: Lehigh 7, Princeton 10

The official release of the Lehigh game on LehighSports.com:

Lehigh’s defense did all it could to give the Mountain Hawks a chance to win on Saturday evening, but a 32-yard field goal by Connor Louden as time expired lifted Princeton to a 10-7 win at Princeton Stadium in front of 8,836 in attendance.
I've added my weekly poll for the "Player of the Game" to your left, and I'll be adding the pertinent game recaps to the Lehigh football ticker to your left, too. Later tomorrow I'll be posting game pictures from the game on both my Webshots gallery and Facebook galleries, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday's Word: Soup

This weekend, I saw the Lehigh/Princeton game in a variety of areas around Princeton stadium, as I always do: in the stands, on the sidelines, and in the press box. Princeton's press box is a particularly nice one, and for the press corps this evening was something you don't see often in a press box: gourmet "soup".

It was delicious: a potato horesradish "soup" that could have come from any fine restaurant off of Princeton's main street. On a damp evening, two bowls of that "soup" were probably the only thing keeping me from catching pneumonia as I was rushing in and out of the press box.

"Soup" is what Lehigh fans need right now.

"Soup" is comfort food, a taste of something that takes you back years ago - when mother had you stay home from school and eat a hearty cup of Campbell's Chicken Noodle instead of facing the dark, cruel reality which is the world.

For Lehigh fans, "soup" means the traditions that fans have enjoyed over the years observing Lehigh football. That means winning and competing for Patriot League championships, of course, but also watching offenses that score early and often. If you browse some of the games that were being commemorated in the 20th anniversary of Murray Goodman stadium, you saw a lot of high scoring games: Lehigh 36, Harvard 35. Lehigh 41, Colgate 22. Lehigh 31, Princeton 24.

It's a Lehigh fan's version of the Campbell's commercial: win or lose, at least we'll put up a lot of points and put on a show. This is a fan base that last year voted a loss - Holy Cross 42, Lehigh 41 - as the second best game ever played at Murray Goodman stadium. That loss was ranked over a 27-24 overtime playoff win over a CAA team in Hofstra, a 14-13 loss in the playoffs to the eventual I-AA Champs in James Madison, and two different wins versus Lafayette. This is a fan base that worships offense.

To these fans, there is no "soup" in this offense. 19, 14, and 7 points in 3 games just simply leaves people with cracker crumbs when they're looking for cream of tomato.

Now, even a fan base that is expecting "soup" can get used to having something else to satisfy the appetite. While some fans would have still complained if the Mountain Hawks escaped Princeton on the winning side by a 10-7 score, the fans still would have had something to chew on: a hard-fought win, and this young offense would have more to build on for next week.

There seems to be an annoying optimist in me that tries to rationalize things. The first game of the year was played in a downpour that made the field a "soup"-y mess, so maybe a low-scoring game was to be expected in that one. The second game of the year came on the road against a nationally-ranked CAA team - one that just upset the #1 team in the country last week in the exact same venue. And yesterday's team revealed a Princeton team that looked an awful lot like the team that played with a lot of precision in 2006, not the mistake-filled team Lehigh played in 2007.

Plus, it was rainy on Saturday, the annoying optimist adds.

Are these excuses? I don't know; they probably are. Maybe I, just like the rest of Lehigh Nation, have been simply denied "soup" so long that I'm grasping for positives to take out of this game. I'm getting used to losing. I'm getting used to not having "soup". This team has only won three times in its last ten games - beating only Georgetown, Bucknell, and Drake in that stretch. In the seven losses we haven't cracked 21 points.

What I do know is that if Lehigh continues to say "No soup for you!" - especially next week against 2-0 Cornell - it's going to be pretty dark times on South Mountain.

I think I speak for the fan base when I say we're extremely hungry for anything - "soup", or wins. Ideally both.
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