Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lehigh 45, Fordham 24, Final

I don't think Yuenglings in the Lehigh Valley have tasted this good for Mountain Hawks fans in quite a while.

I mean, are you kidding me? 45 points? Sophomore J.B. Clark? Five touchdowns? Four through the air, and a fifth on the ground? And the 45 points came against last year's Patriot League champions - and the clear preseason favorite to repeat as champions.

Coach Coen's teams have scored 45 points before against opponents in the past two years - once against Georgetown in 2007 (45-0) and another against Fordham in 2006 (45-14). But those were against a 1-10 Hoya team and a 3-8 Ram team respectively. This one was much, much different.

Simply put, it was the offensive explosion that Lehigh fans have been waiting for - against a big-time team.

It didn't seem, at first, that a victory would come easy for Lehigh in this game. After Fordham's opening drive ended with an interception by senior CB Steve Santora, Lehigh's initial offensive drive stalled at the 18 yard line - helped by a false start penalty - meaning that Lehigh had to settle for a 38 yard field goal by senior K Jason Leo. A short field after a shanked Fordham punt led to Clark's first touchdown strike - a 24 yard straight line to senior WR Mike Fitzgerald through the middle - gave Lehigh fans a reason to breathe easier. But when Leo would pull the extra-point right, the scoreboard would read 9-0 - and uncomfortable memories of the Cornell game must have been felt throughout Murray Goodman stadium.

Early in the second quarter, Fordham started a drive on Lehigh's 20 yard line, ending in RB Xavier Martin's run off right tackle into the end zone to cut the deficit to 9-7. On the ensuing drive, after a 43 yard kickoff return by sophomore CB John "Fear Itself" Kennedy, it looked like Lehigh's offense would stall on 4th-and-1 - but on a great trick play, senior RB Matt McGowan looked like on a power sweep off tackle - and then suprised everyone by hucking a ball to senior TE Troy Healion for a huge 34 yard completion - setting up first and goal. The very next play, Clark would find senior WR Nick Johnson for a score, making it 16-7.

I had picked that the final score would be 24-17 - and here it was 23-17 at halftime after a whirlwind second quarter with 31 points between both teams. It felt more like 1998, not 2008.

When Fordham held Lehigh to 3-and-out at the start of the second half, and Fordham converted on a big 66 yard deep out to WR Jason Caldwell, a 7 yard TD pass to WR Asa Lucas put Fordham ahead 24-23.

It would the last points the Rams would score all afternoon. Lehigh would put everything together from that point forward and play their best football of the year so far.

The offense would score the next 22 points on a 7 yard QB run by Clark, a 5 yard TD pass to sophomore WR Craig Zurn, and finishing the scoring with a 3 yard run by McGowan. Coming up big in that drive were three huge third and fourth down conversions - where McGowan's hard running and great push by the 'O' line made key gains. On a 3rd-and-1, it looked like McGowan was short - until the line surged ahead to make it a 3 yard gain.

Defensively, senior DL Brian Jackson would stuff a quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-1 and force a punt attempt. On 3rd-and-3, junior LB Matt Cohen came up with a huge sack to force another punt. on 4th down sophomore CB Jarard Cribbs would nab an interception to effectively seal the game.

On special teams, Fordham tried a fake punt to grab some momentum - which was effectively snuffed out by (who else?) Cohen, for a 5 yard loss. For good measure, Clark completed a two-point conversion to Healion to regain the lost extra point, too.

"It was a great win," an obviously elated and relieved coach Coen told me after the game. "Kids did a great job coming off the last two weeks, they came out and played right from the get-go. Matt [McGowan] ran so hard today. I'm happy for them. We've just got to keep getting better. We're not quite where we want to be, but we're getting better."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Water Cooler: Patriot League Expansion

It's another Freaky Friday around the Office (if not an actual office, just imagine Steve Carrell and the gang instead) - filled with baseball intrigue (the Phillies actually won last night?), financial intrigue (do I have any 401k left?), and, of course, an inconclusive second round of the presidential debate - this time, a town hall style that pretty much everyone thought, well, sucked.

But in the world of the Patriot League, the discussion has turned to expansion of the league in all sports, including football.

This started a worthwhile thread over on the Any Given Saturday message board. On it, carney2 (my favorite Lafayette poster, and my dear online friend for, well, 363 1/2 days out of the year) quotes Keith Groller's print edition of the Morning Call, where Keith details his conversation with Carolyn Schlie Femovich, the Patriot League executive director:

"...expansion for the league 'is not urgent, but is something we're pursuing.'"

"The defining factors [for new members] will be academic quality of the institution and having a competitive Division I athletic program across the board. The key is finding the right match with an institution that values our model. Our goal is to continue the scholar-athlete model as a national brand."

"If we don't find the right marriage, then fine, we've still got solid numbers and we'll continue to go forward as we are."

Femovich said the league's preference is to expand with one or two more football-playing members.

"It's a process that takes place at the presidential level." "Over the past six months we've had numerous discussions..." "By June we should know if we're going to expand or not." "...I'd say it's at least 50-50 that we'll expand, if not better."

That inspired me to dig up my original conversation with Ms. Femovich at Patriot League media day - and reminded me of one of her answers. This was in regards to the "pace" of the reforms that have been done to the league structures, such as the Academic Index reform (which has been officially implemented - watch for details on this, probably next week) and other potential changes - notably the introduction of scholarships in football. Here's what she had to say.

"The AI is now done; [and] we are [now] engaged in some very confidential, presidential discussions about membership. People will come to us from time to time and say, 'Gee, we'd like to join you,' and there's other [schools] out there where we'd say, 'Gee, maybe they'd make a good member.' I think that's moving forward.

"Scholarships in football are something we've taken a hard look at, but I would say if there would be any movement to go to football scholarships, it would be tied to expansion with other football-playing institutions.

"Let's say we found an institution that said, 'We love your values, your ideals, we think we would be a good fit, but we can't come without football scholarships.' We recognize that that might be one of the factors on the table that we will need to agree to in order to expand with an attractive one or two additional members."

Taken with the commissioner's more recent comments with Keith, it puts the issues of expansion in a very interesting light: the possibility that the Patriot League may very well move to football scholarships to get the right school.

To Patriot League watchers, such talk is very fascinating, yet still maddeningly incomplete. Ms. Femovich called the discussions (which appear to have been ongoing from before August and continuing through this week) as needing to be "confidential", and I can certainly understand that. But which schools could possibly be on the table? All we have are tantalizing hints, parsed words, and educated speculation - without an ear on the discussions, it's awful hard to speculate.

That never stopped me before, though, and it's not going to stop me now. I know I've heard Marist bandied about an awful lot, and more and more I've been hearing Davidson's name, too. But I don't think it's either of them - I think the candidates have to be all-sports schools which currently have FCS football at the scholarship level. It also eliminates a lot of other thoughts: start-ups for football (like Loyola) or sub-D-I upgrades for football (like RPI).

Could it be a member of the NEC (perhaps Bryant, a school that is transitioning to Division I)? Could it be a member of the Big South (perhaps VMI, who would love to get into the Patriot League in all sports to hobnob with Army and Navy)? Could it be The Citadel (who also would find it a coup to be in the same league in other sports as Army and Navy)?

Or could it be one of the many members of the CAA (Northeastern, the perfect travel partner for Holy Cross; William & Mary, the perfect travel partner for Georgetown/Navy; or Hofstra, who might give the Patriot League basketball again in New York City)?

If I'm handicapping who's in the running, these are the schools I'd look at first and foremost.

Patriot League Picks: Week Seven
A pathetic 1-3 last week put me at under .500 for the year at 9-10. I must get better! I must! To read the rest of my picks for FCS, click on the College Sporting News to see my CSN Way this week - along with the midseason awards for FCS.

It's worth noting that if you're not going to Fordham at Lehigh, many games this week are being streamed through CSTV XXL.

Lafayette at Columbia. Leopard head coach Frank Tavani was one mad coach last week: of all the team goals he had set for Lafayette against Harvard, none of them were acheived in a resounding 27-13 defeat. Cowed, quarterback Rob Curley and Lafayette will respond this week against winless Columbia.
Lunchpail Leopards 19, Lunchless Lions 3

Hofstra at Bucknell. I think there is some serious trouble brewing in Long Island with the Pride, who didn't exactly play with a lot of it in a 56-0 defeat to #1 James Madison last week. But this Bucknell team, with quarterback Marcelo Trigg, seems to be different. I'm not saying Bucknell will win, but I do think this will be a much closer score than some folks might think.
White 'H's 24, Blue Bison 21

Brown at Holy Cross. Brown's deflating loss to pass-happy Rhode Island can't bode well for the Bears in this game. I've got to believe quarterback Dominic Randolph will pass happy over Brown and give the Crusaders a desperately-needed win. On a less serious note, I can't think of another week where I picked against so many Bears this week.
Deep Purple 37, Deeper Shade of... Brown 18

Princeton at Colgate. It will be fascinating to see how Princeton's rushing defense - by far the best part of that team - does against Jordan Scott after a week of forced rest. I think Scott will get his customary 100 yards - but the Raiders will lose a heartbreaker.
O.W.H. (Original Winged Helmets) 24, Original Maroons 21

Penn at Georgetown. I'd love to say Georgetown has a chance to take this game, but I just don't see it.
Quality Quakers 42, Humbled Hoyas 0

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Preview of Fordham at Lehigh

A year ago, I wrote of Fordham, "Fordham is good, they're dangerous, and they're playing at home." I was nervous about the young Rams, who had already beaten Colgate at that point 31-24, and rightfully so.

The only people with expectations for the Rams, picked to finish sixth of seven Patriot League teams in the preseason media poll, were themselves. But even at this time last year there were signs that this wasn't the same as the 3-8 team that struggled though 2005. At 3-2, they had already turned some heads despite their losses to Dayton and Albany. Their wins over Rhode Island of the CAA and a resounding win over Columbia in the Liberty Cup made some take notice.

If folks still weren't paying attention, their shock win over many people's dark-horse pick for the Patriot League title, Colgate, demanded it. Their new offense and defense were starting to click. Coach Tom Massella, the former firefighter, put out the fires at Fordham. Take them lightly at your peril.

In that key game in the Bronx, Fordham beat Lehigh 28-18, and although at 0-1 in Patriot League play the Mountain Hawks' season wasn't technically over, the trajectories of both teams were set. Fordham would point upwards, finishing 8-3 and would win the Patriot League title outright and earn a trip to UMass in the first round of the playoffs. Lehigh, conversely, would point downwards and struggle to 5-6, limping to 2-4 in Patriot League play.

Since that game, Lehigh has been 3-6.

This weekend, this Lehigh team has a golden opportunity to finally change the trajectory of this football team. A win here isn't just crucial for any Patriot League title dreams for Lehigh: it's a way to bury not only the results of last year's game, but the struggles in the nine that preceded it as well. It's a way to reverse almost a full year of results.

The trouble is, Fordham, at 0-1 in Patriot League play, is right now in the exact same boat as Lehigh. If they fall to 0-2 in the Patriot League their title hopes would probably be dealt a critical blow - and would be pointing downward, after a season of pointing straight upward last year. If they don't beat Lehigh at Murray Goodman - and they never have - they won't be practicing on Thanksgiving this year. They have to bring it right here, right now.

Fasten your seatbelt. It's going to be a hell of a ride on Saturday.

Game Notes
Looking at the game notes, for the second straight week senior OL Alex Kuziel starts at right guard in place of sophomore OL Ricky Clerge, who seems to have settled in as the backup on the right side behind senior OL Chris Tiefenthal. It looks like Kuziel is going to be the starter as long as he can go. Backing up senior OL Kevin Bayani used to be Kuziel, now his backup is a new face, sophomore OL R.J. McNamara.

Sophmore RB Jaren Walker has finally made it as the official backup to senior RB Matt McGowan after seeing very limited action in the last two games. And aside from those changes, the two-deep on defense and special teams remains the same from last week. Again I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much of a relief it is to not have a lot of injuries, especially in the defense. It seems like the offseason conditioning has really paid off.

Fordham has put their game notes up here.

Weather Report
Like last week, it looks like Lehigh will be lucking out again in the weather department. The early forecast is for a sunny day with a high of 70 - the perfect day to see an important football game.

A Word on Fordham
You would think that playing in the unofficial Media Capital of the World would mean that the Rams would have tons of media coverage. You might think there would be dozens of reporters at their practices, and (like in Philadelphia) there would be a weekly press conference covering all the Division I football teams in the area, perhaps occurring at Dominc's down the street.

If you thought that, though, you'd be wrong. In a media market dominated by two pro baseball teams, two pro football teams, two pro hockey teams and one pro basketball team, Fordham struggles for any sort of coverage even from their own school newspaper. The NYC media didn;t send a single body down to Patriot League media day. When I talked to the Fordham players about having the targets on their backs, they looked at me quizzically - and the reason for that is that they're used to not having the spotlight on them.

This puts coach Tom Masella in a good situation: even though his Rams were the preseason pick to win the Patriot League, it oddly didn't translate into heightened expectations in the Bronx. Aside from the annual Liberty Cup game versus Columbia three weeks ago (which, admittedly, was covered by the New York Times and is covered generally by at least one of the bigger daily newspapers in New York), Fordham games generally escape strong media scrutiny.

This may work to Fordham's disadvantage at times. The Rams have struggled to be consistent, and this year at 2-2 is no exception - perhaps the lack of media attention can lead to a lack of focus. They've beaten Rhode Island of the CAA but lost to Dayton of the Pioneer Football League (the same league that Drake plays in). They've beaten Columbia, but lost to Colgate.

But unlike Lehigh, whose games are noted and scrutinized by two newspapers (and one blogger), coach Masella, despite being the league champs, can actually still sneak up on the rest of the Patriot League again. And if I know coach Masella, that's fine with him.

Last Time Out
Against Colgate, the gameplan is simple: you contain Jordan Scott or you lose. And Scott had his best-day ever rushing the football two weeks ago in a 31-24 victory over the Rams. Fordham's rushing defense gave up 272 yards to Scott - the biggest rushing total given up by an FCS school to one runningback this year - and most importantly, gave up the 4th touchdown to Scott with nine seconds left.

Offensively the Rams kept themselves in it with a balanced attack: 146 yards on the ground and 156 yards through the air. However, key in this game was the time-of-possession battle: Colgate held a 36 to 23 minute advantage in that department. Yet despite this disparity in yardage and time of possession, Fordham was in the game to the very end.

LFN's Drink of the Week
Lehigh needs a win over Fordham this week, so it's up to you, the tailgating professional, to do your part. It's going to be a sunny day by all weather reports this weekend. That means it's time to bring out the biggest guns that you, the tailgaters, have. And you know what that means? That's right: skip over the Yuengling Premium and go right for the Lord Chesterfield Ale. It's an ale with slight bitter aftertones: think of it as your way to get rid of the bitterness before the game, in order to taste the sweetness of victory afterwards.

As always, Drinks of the week have a place in responsible tailgates: that means being over 21 and drinking responsibly. Please do that.

Breaking Down Fordham
Offense
Fordham's offense has described as a "run-and-shoot" sort of offense, but I'd call it more of a multiple/spread offense. Strictly speaking, there is no tight end (instead there are "W", "X", "Y" and "Z" receivers), but each have different, multiple functions. The "Y" functions mainly as a tight end, but also doubles up as a running fullback in certain situations. The "W", "X", and "Z" slots can be considered recievers, and ones that spread the field - but, again, they can also be brought back on reverses as well. Generally speaking, this offense won't be afraid to go right at your weakness - and it has the flexibility to attack it either way.

It's a complicated offense, but junior QB Josh Skelton (pictured) has a year and a half under his belt running it. The Texan is mobile in the pocket - making him an effective weapon running out of the spread, with 67 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. He's also been an accurate passer out of this offense, too, throwing at a 62.5% completion rate - many of which are of the short "bubble screen" variety to good old W, X, and Z.

With RB Jonte Coven being lost to graduation, sophomore RB Xavier Martin has been the #1 rushing threat out of the backfield (471 yards rushing, 4 TDs). At 5'9 175 he's built for speed, and if he gets past the front seven he can be a threat to break one. Sophomore RB Quasand Lewis is the change-of-pace physical back that comes in to spell Martin (36 yards, 1 TD). Surprisingly, neither have extensively caught the ball out of the backfield much - Martin has 3 receptions on the year for 30 yards, and Lewis has none.

The go-to guy in this receiving corps is Mr. W, junior WR Asa Lucas (25 catches, 353 yards, 2 TDs), followed very closely by senior WR Richard Rayborn (11 catches, 169 yards) and sophomore WR Jason Caldwell (11 catches, 160 yards). The "Y/Tight End" is played by the quarterback's brother, sophomore WR Stephen Skelton (7 catches, 66 yards). Skelton at 6'5 causes particular nightmares underneath for defensive coordinators, and any one of the "W", "X", and "Z" slots can be the focus of the offense - making it hard to focus on any one of them.

The "O" line is a little bit smaller than last year, but but they're still large all the way across averaging more than 280 lbs. Senior OL Mike Nardone has been fighting off injuries so far this year, but coming off a bye week I've got to believe everyone starting will be healthier than usual.

Defense
Fordham plays a base 3-4 defense like Lehigh's, but their fronts do a lot more blitzing than our units have done traditionally. This is reflected in their sack totals (10 sacks in 4 games), and their tackles for loss totals (34 for 154 yards lost). They come after you.

In some defensive lines the nose tackle is unsung, but not so Fordham's. Junior NG Darzell Wright is a 310 lb behemoth that is a good run stuffer - think William "The Refrigerator" Perry, a player that plugs one and a half gaps. He has 8 tackles on the year - but 3 1/2 of them are tackles for loss.

LB Earl Hudnell - the player whose interception return for a touchdown doomed Lehigh last year- is lost to graduation, but the linebacking unit remains formidable. Junior LB James Crockett (25 tackles), sophomore LB Nick Magiera (21 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and sophomore LB Andre Delaire (27 tackles, 20 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss) are all quality backers whose combination of speed and blitzing make them a very good, disruptive unit.

The secondary also has some real great athletes. Senior FS Matt Loucks is the leading tackler on the team with 31 (with 21 unassisted), but - in a possible break for Lehigh - he was ot listed on the two-deep. This doesn't mean Lehigh has a free ride in this secondary, with a slew of speedy underclassmen: sophomore CB Jamal Haruna, junior FS Isiejah Allen (5 pass breakups), and sophomore Isa Abdul El-Quddus. But if their enforcer isn't lining up in the secondary, that could mean more of an opportunity for running. Furthermore, it's worthy of note that these defensive backs, with the exception of El-Quddus, are under 6 feet tall, and they have no interceptions on the year just yet.

Special Teams
You might think that Fordham misses their all-League punter from last year Benjamin Dato, but freshman P Cameron Dean has done a fine job so far, averaging 39.5 yards per punt last week versus Colgate and getting Patriot League honors for his work. He may not be Dato, but he's emerging as weapon for the Rams in the battle of field position.

In contrast, senior K Adam Danko has only one touchback on kickoffs this year, and has only made 2/3 field goals so far (the longest being 33 yards). He's also 9 for 11 on extra points.

Junior FS Isiejah Allen is a very dangerous punt returner, averaging an amazing 14.5 yards per return, and sophomore WR Jason Caldwell has also done very well returning kickoffs, averaging 24 yards per return. They don't make it any easier with sophomore RB Xavier Martin on the other side, either - it's obvious that Masella believes in putting all his best athletes on the field in special teams, not specializing them on just offense or defense.

Keys to the Game
1.Give Clark time. This Ram defense defines itself by being a disruptive force, so the ability of our "O" line to give Clark the time he needs to make things happen will be crucial. That extra second, I think, will really do wonders.
2.Don't give Skelton time. You can't cover all the offensive receivers every down - but you can pressure Skelton to make tougher throws. If Skelton has time to pick apart the linebackers and secondary in pass coverage, that won't be a good sign.
3.No Mental Lapses on Special Teams. Let's just say that we can't be so busy celebrating that we make mental errors like missing kicks on extra points. I'll leave it at that.
4.The Big Eraser. A win here for Lehigh does a lot of erasing - erasing of a tough two losses, and a tough stretch of losses dating to last year. Lehigh fans don't care if it's 6-3 or 36-33 - as long as Lehigh puts it in the win column. Style points don't count. Just Win, Baby.

Fearless Prediction
As Keith Groller said, at heart I'm an optimist. I want to see Lehigh acheive the four "Keys to the Game" that I lay out for them, I want to see improvement from week to week. I want to see successful coaches that are around for a long, long time. I want to see players succeed, win, and have fun at Lehigh. And more than anything I want to see wins over "that school in Easton".

With my innate optimism - and the importance of the game to both schools - I find this incredibly hard to predict. There is one aspect, however, that's worth mentioning.

I think Lehigh has learned through these two heartbreak losses on back-to-back weeks. If this is a close game - and I think it will be - I think it's the experience from those two losses that will allow Lehigh to turn the page from the beginning of this season. Maybe it's the optimism talking - maybe I simply have to beleive it - but I think that the team that closes the deal wins this game. And I think it's going to be Lehigh.

Lehigh 24, Fordham 17

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Zurn Is Player of the Week... And Clark

OK, I hear you say, how come there are co-Reader's Choice Players of the week this week? Sophomore WR Craig Zurn, who had 55 all-purpose yards and - most importantly - gave Lehigh six points at the end of the first half with his amazing downfield block of a Cornell special-teams player to seal the touchdown. His great play on offense and special teams might ordinarily be enough to give him those honors...

...had I not been tracking the poll from the get-go. Until about, oh, say one hour before the polls were closing, an amazing number of votes came in for the local kid from Jim Thorpe, PA. Before that time, sophomore QB J.B. Clark had a comfortable lead in votes (and he also had his best day as Lehigh's quarterback, going 24-35 passing with 264 yards passing, 1 passing touchdown, and 1 rushing touchdown that gave Lehigh the lead.)

This one time, I'm going to be offering Player of the Week honors to both.

Game balls will be going to:

Readers' Choice: Sophomore WR Craig Zurn and sophomore QB J.B. Clark

Offense: Senior WR Sekou Yansane (6 receptions, 63 yards)

Defense: Senior FS Brendan VanAckeren (8 tackles, 5 solo, 1 interception)

Special Teams: Sophomore CB Jarard Cribbs (3 punt returns for 84 yards, including one at the end of the first half for a touchdown)

Congratulations to all the winners!

News & Notes
In addition to the prestigious honor of getting a Lehigh Football Nation Game Ball, Cribbs got something else: recognition as Patriot League's Special Teams Player of the Week.

And just in case you missed it: there was a mention of me in my friend Keith Groller's blog in the post-game analysis of the Cornell game. Groller is the the local sports editor at the Morning Call and has been a great person to talk to about covering Lehigh, and about the entire local sports scene and how Lehigh fits into that fabric. I always look forward to talking with him: he can even make a Lehigh loss almost fun, and from me that's saying something. Here's what he says in his blog:

These Mountain Hawks just can't seem to get out of their own way. My friend Chuck Burton, Mr. Lehigh Football Nation and the No. 1 Mountain Hawks fan I know, had a running dialogue with me going during the second half. The more optimistic Burton said this team takes two steps forward and one step back. To me, it's more like one step forward and two back.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lambert Power Rankings, 10/4/2008

In the spirit of the release of the GPI and other official ranking systems this week, I'm going to once again try something new and attempt to devise a "power ranking" for all of FCS East schools from DC to Maine. Let's call them the "Lambert Power Rankings".

It's formula-based and it's not something too difficult for my tiny little head to wrap itself around. Rising up the "Lambert Power Rankings" is easy: win games on your schedule, especially conference games and games vs. Eastern teams. Oh yeah, and play good teams, too: there's a "degree of difficulty" to my power rankings: beat up on patsies and it won't count as much as an FBS win.

Here are the first power rankings:

1. James Madison (CAA, 5-1, 59.5 points)
2. Richmond (CAA, 4-2, 52 points)
3. New Hampshire (CAA, 4-0, 45 points)
4. Villanova (CAA, 4-1, 45 points)
5. Cornell (Ivy, 3-0, 34.5 points)
6T. UMass (CAA, 4-1, 33 points)
6T. Central Connecticut State (NEC, 4-1, 33 points)
8. Liberty (Big South, 5-0, 30.75 points)
9. Lafayette (Patriot, 4-1, 30.5 points)
10. Hofstra (CAA, 2-3, 30 points)

There you have it.

[UPDATE] I thought it might be interesting to compare my (admittedly informal) ranking system to the Gridiron Power Index, or GPI, that was just released today by the College Sporting News. Here's the Top 10 Eastern schools from that system:

1. James Madison (1.00)
2. New Hampshire (4.13)
3. Richmond (5.25)
4. Villanova (7.13)
5. UMass (10.50)
6. Delaware (20.50)
7. Liberty (21.63)
8. Northeastern (24.88)
9. William & Mary (28.50)
10. Cornell (29.13)

Surprising that Delaware, Northeastern, and William & Mary are in the GPI at this point, while in my more informal one Hofstra, CCSU, and Lafayette are the teams in instead.

Here's the GPI of all the Patriot League schools.

47T Holy Cross (40.25)
50 Colgate (41.75)
53 Lafayette (43.25)
64 Fordham (50.13)
73 Bucknell (56.75)
74 Lehigh (56.88)
103T Georgetown (74.38)

Of the eight playoff conferences, the Patriot League right now would be considered seventh-best autobid conference out of eight autobid conferences, ranking 9 overall (behind six of the other seven playoff conferences, the Great West Football Conference, and the Ivy League). They rank ahead of the MEAC, the eighth autobid conference, by a pretty wide margin (51.91 to 61.94).

Notably, the Patriot League as a conference is .02 percentage points above the Big South (51.91 vs. 51.93), who is getting an automatic autobid in 2010.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Official Release: Lehigh 24, Cornell 25

The official release of the gut-wrenching game on Saturday has been released on Lehighsports.com:

With Lehigh and Cornell swapping the lead back and forth throughout the final quarter at Goodman Stadium on Saturday, it was all about who had the ball last. Cornell quarterback Nathan Ford was the last player to take a snap from the Lehigh 20 yard line, and he made it count by throwing a touchdown pass to Jesse Baker for the 25-24 victory in front of 10,460 fans.
I've added my weekly poll to your left for "Player of the Game" to the left: I'm going to start to close it a day earlier so that fans can spend their Wednesdays looking ahead rather than behind. Also, in the Lehighsports.com writeup they have a Yahoo! video clip of the final play and postgame reaction as well as a free podcast on iTunes of the post-game press conference. (I also cross-post the Yahoo! video on my Facebook page as well.)

There's also a nice feature on our star quarterback from 1986, Marty Horn, on the Lehigh Sports website as well. A really great piece on Marty, who didn't only play in the NFL during the strike, but it also talks about the restaurant he and his family run (Pal's Cabin). For those that also don't know, Marty also does work as a television commentator at times for Lehigh football broadcasts.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday's Word: Lagom

I know, you're all wondering: what in h-e-double hockey sticks is the word this time? Let me explain, and I hope everyone thinks it's worth it.

"Lagom" is actually a Swedish word with no direct translation into English. In a nutshell, though, it describes the Swedish worldview. According to Wikipedia, it means the following: "enough, sufficient, adequate, just the right amount." Swedes take great national pride at being well-balanced: not too hot, not too cold. Just right. "Lagom".

I found myself on the way home from the game, genuinely depressed after the loss but needing to stop at a store to run an errand. I passed by a happy anonymous local couple, walking their young daughter around Main Street.

They seemed perfectly "Lagom": blissfully in a wonderful disposition. Not too hot, not too cold.

Evidently, they were unaware of the cruel fate the Gods (or perhaps just Cornell QB Nathan Ford and WR Jesse Baker) had bestowed upon the Lehigh players and the Lehigh fans this Saturday. If they were, they wouldn't have been walking down main street merrily walking to their destination.

They seemed well-adjusted; normal. They didn't seem like they had been dissecting a game in their head for the last hour and a half, calling friends and family on the cell phone, emotional and shell-shocked. As a matter of fact - incredibly - they looked happy. Relaxed. As if their entire Saturday afternoon was spent just enjoying the company of one another.

It sure felt tempting to be them yesterday. Why should I follow Lehigh so closely, anyway, I ask myself? Wouldn't it just be easier to just walk away from covering Lehigh football, and avoid the pain of losses like this? Wouldn't it simply be better to be "Lagom?"

A person who is "Lagom" would probably look at the game yesterday and say, "Eh, well, Lehigh fought fiercely against an undefeated Ivy League team and fought well, but ultimately only fell by a point, which isn't too bad. They did score 24 points, when you said you'd be satisfied with more than 21 points, no?"

But simply I can't do that.

Try as I may, I can't help but get wrapped up in the games. I'm a Lehigh alum, and a Lehigh fan at heart. I get caught up in the emotion. I always want to write about character-building Lehigh wins and interview happy Lehigh players after the game. It's no fun writing about tough losses week after week.

Although the losses suck, the wins are what make it worthwhile. I look at the happy couple and convince myself that they'll never experience the sweet taste of victory over "that school in Easton", or wins against Western Illinois, Hofstra, Richmond or Delaware.

Let them walk blissfully unaware through life. At least I saw Luke Ciannello lead our team to overtime, and when we won I rang the bell at midfield at Murray Goodman. Such moments they will never treasure. They will never eat from the full buffet of life.

The players are not "Lagom", and it's a great thing that they're not. Losing hurts them more than it hurts me. Although maybe senior LB Tim Diamond perhaps shouldn't have hurled his helmet across the field after Cornell's offense made a great play to win the game, we understand, Tim - we the fans understand part of your pain.

Yet maybe it's good - perhaps for just this weekend - to take ourselves out of the realm of emotion and into the world of "Lagom". Maybe, just maybe, there is a lesson here going into a crucial week for Lehigh - as they ready themselves to dust themselves off and start to prepare for a home game against the defending league champions, Fordham.

In Lehigh's case, it means putting this last weekend's game in perspective: that it was only a non-conference game. A learning experience; a tough one, but a learning experience nonetheless. The long-term goals of the season are all still there, completely achievable. Good plays were made in last week's game, and mistakes were made. Don't get too excited about the good stuff, since you'll need to do better for next week; but don't get too down on the mistakes, since they can be corrected to help make a better team for a crucial game next weekend.

Put the weekend's loss completely in the past. Not too hot, not too cold. "Lagom."
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