Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lehigh 31, Lafayette 15, final

You know, I've never blogged about a game where Lehigh actually beat Lafayette.

I've blogged on the last regular season game of the year after blowout losses, heartbreaking losses, losses that kept Lehigh from championships.

But never have I blogged about a win.

While the MVP of "The Rivalry" officially went to sophomore QB J.B. Clark - and he did have a great game (12/22 passing, 201 yards, 2 TDs) - to me there really wasn't any one MVP. This was a complete team effort, with a lot of those long-suffering seniors having one play here, one play there to bring victory to the Mountain Hawks.

Plays like:
  • Senior P/K Jason Leo nailing a 40 yard FG in the 1st quarter to start the scoring. He'd be perfect on his kicks in this game, and also boot 7 punts for an average of 42.9 yards, including a 59 yarder. One would be downed at the 1 yard line.
  • Junior LB Heath Brickner, who would stop Lafayette's opening drive by reaching up and grabbing an interception. Brickner would end the day with 3 tackles, a pass break-up, and that huge interception.
  • Senior WR Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald catching a ball over the middle in the first quarter and doing what he's done all year: taking it in for a 29 yard TD. ("All he does is catch touchdowns!")
  • Junior NT B.J. Benning sacking Lafayette QB Marc Quilling on 3rd-and-14 to force a first-half punt - one of his 8 tackles on the day.
  • Senior LB Tim Diamond defending Shaun Adair on 3rd-and-9, forcing Lafayette to hold to a field goal to go up only 12-10 in the second quarter. It would be his only pass break-up, and his 11 tackles put him over 100 on the season, making him the first Mountain Hawk to do so in quite some time.
  • Senior DB Brendan VanAckeren combining on a 2nd down play to tackle RB DeAndre Morrow one yard short of the sticks. The next play, a hurried Quilling threw the ball incomplete. VanAckeren would end the day with 9 tackles.
  • An obviously not 100% senior RB Matt McGowan gutting out a first down after catching a short pass in the first half and rumbling 23 yards and getting pushed out of bounds. He wasn't all the way back, but he wouldn't miss this game for anything.
  • Senior WR Nick Johnson nabbing his only reception - a 14 yard TD pass in the second quarter over his left shoulder to give Lehigh a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
  • Senior DL Brian Jackson bursting through Lafayette's vaunted offensive line near the end of the first half - and sacking Quilling, giving the Leopards no momentum going into the locker room. Jackson would finish the game with 8 tackles - and a season-high 3 1/2 sacks in a single game.
  • Junior LB Al Pierce, who sacked Quilling's replacement, Rob Curley, on 1st-and-goal after he would lead the Leopards on a long, time-consuming third quarter drive. Pierce would end with 9 tackles, and 2 tackles for loss.
  • Junior LB Matt Cohen, who would team up at the 5 yard line to keep WR Mark Layton out of the end zone on the long 3rd-and-goal started by the Pierce sack. That tackle would hold the Leopards to a field goal. Cohen would end the day with 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
  • Senior WR Sekou "Stunt Man" Yansane, whose acrobatic catch of a Clark pass on 3rd-and-7 may have changed the course of the game. His 36 yard grab set up shop for Lehigh on Lafayette's doorstep, and the catch made it on SportsCenter as the No. 7 play of the day.
  • Senior RB/FB Adam Watson, who had only one carry, but squirted through a hole made by senior OL Chris Tiefenthal, senior OL Kevin Bayani, senior OL Alex Kuziel, sophomore C Keith Schauder, and sophomore OL William Rackley for the touchdown to make it a 9 point lead early in the fourth quarter. It was precisely the type of physical type of scoring that coach Coen was brought in here to be able to make happen - and this "O" line and this fullback made it happen.
  • Sophomore DB John "Fear Itself" Kennedy. Watching Curley's eyes, and stepping in front of FB Joe Russo and making a spectacular grab. 94 yards of Leopard-free space in front of him. Touchdown. Game Over. Losing streak to Lafayette over. Sideline explodes with years of frustration, finally consummated with a win over the Leopards. (Watch it again in the official release about the game from Lehigh Athletics.)
No, really, how many MVP trophies are there? Again, nothing against Clark, whose leadership under center was instrumental in the success today. He delivered some great balls - the TD pass to Johnson was particularly perfect - the big one to Yansane - the perfect pass over the middle to Fitzgerald for the first TD. But it's worth pointing out how every single one of these individual plays being made added up to the victory. (The players in the post-game press conference knew it, too. The defensive players went out of their way to heap praise on the offense and special teams - and sophomore QB J.B. Clark did the same for the defense.)

Personally, I was struck by how well both lines played: the "O" and "D" lines. Two years ago in Easton, our lines were out-muscled and out-physicaled by Lafayette. Going into the game, I thought for the first time the matchup looked more even - but Lehigh won that battle this Saturday. Coach Coen's focus on more physical lines - finally- seems to have paid off.

And I couldn't be happier for the entire team today - of current players of course, but the army of former players that watched the game from the sidelines, too. While folks like Sedale Threatt told me that they'd "give anything to be back on that field right now", they were undoubtedly a part of this - part of the emotion that carried into the team and the crowd.

I asked the Lehigh players in the post-game press conference how they feed off the emotion of the crowd in a big game like this. "Lehigh/Lafayette has a great environment, the crowd on both sides are pumped up. It's a great feeling knowing that that many people are supporting you - luckily we were able to get that win for them," senior LB Tim Diamond said.

"I think it's kind of a rollercoaster," senior DL Brian Jackson said. "Every time you make a play, the crowd screams. When your fans are going to be screaming during every little movement, there are a lot of highs and lows; you kind of have to keep yourself in check, and wait for the next play."

In the emotionally-charged environment of "The Rivalry", Lehigh re-learned how to win today just in time to beat "that school from Easton".

Celebration time - and it's the tastiest Yuengling I've had in about, oh, five years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Preview of the 144th: Lehigh at Lafayette, "The Rivalry"

(Photo Credit: Lafayette Athletics)

"The Rivalry" makes you do strange things.

Today, I was looking in my closet for what to wear. I found a very, very old Lehigh University sweatshirt in its blocky "LU" glory. I'm not sure I ever wore it before.

Normally I'd wear a thin long-sleeved Lehigh shirt I got for Christmas last year. But when you've lost four games to "that school in Easton" in a row, you need to bring out the big guns.

So today, on this twenty-first day on November 2008, I'm here at my day job wearing a bulky, blocky LU sweatshirt from (generously) the early 1990s. And the only reason is that I'm trying in a weird, delusional way to turn this Lehigh luck around.

Because Heaven Knows this Lehigh team needs a little luck this year.

Four games lost by a grand total of 8 points. Games lost on the last play of the game - twice. And any one of those going the other way would have been the difference between an under-.500 season and an over-.500 season.

Just before the stretch run of the schedule, we lose the big engine to our offense, senior RB Matt McGowan, to injury against Georgetown. (Georgetown!) In the biggest game of the year against Colgate, we fight but fall short. What if McGowan was healthy in that game?

Add to that: Four straight Lafayette games lost. Two lost late in the fourth quarter - one on a miracle heave.

This team doesn't need extra motivation. They've played hard, and there's no reason to believe that they won't this weekend. More than me, they want to end their careers with a win over Lafayette for the first time.

What they need, simply, is a little luck.

And if that means that wearing my old Lehigh sweatshirt provides that luck, well, I'm doing everything I can.

Game Notes
The interesting part of the game notes is the presence of the word "or". At tailback, the starter will be either senior RB Matt McGowan or senior FB/RB Adam Watson. If McGowan is unable to go, Watson will be the starting tailback it seems and junior FB Anthony Fossati will get the nod at fullback. (And don't be surprised to see sophomore RB Jay Campbell, who scored his first-ever touchdown as a Mountain Hawk, last weekend.)

Other than that, the game notes only have one other interesting item: the backup quarterback is listed as the much-touted freshman QB Chris Lum instead of sophomore QB Trace Cisneros. I don't anticipate this making much difference in this game - but it sure could stoke speculation of a QB controversy with sophomore QB J.B. Clark going into the offseason.

Weather Report
Bundle up. The weather report gives us a high - a high, temperature, now - of 34, and Heaven knows what the wind chills will be with high winds of 15 to 25 mph. While it is supposed to be clear, don't be surprised to see a flurry or two, either.

Rivalry Specials
I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight some of the great pieces released by Lehigh Sports (and also from that school in Easton) regarding memories of "The Rivalry" and some features that appeared about some of the current players.

The Greatest Game they Never Played - Lafayette's 1948 Team Fights To Play Sun Bowl with Black Athlete

The year was 1948. Gas cost 16 cents per gallon, "Hamlet" won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Lafayette was invited to play in the 14th annual Sun Bowl against Texas College of Mines in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 1, 1949, after compiling a 7-2 record - the program's best record in eight years. It was the college's first bowl invite in 25 years.

Lafayette President Ralph Cooper Hutchinson contacted the president of TCM, informed him that one of Lafayette's players was black and asked if the Leopards could still play.

The reply was no.

Lafayette's athletic council, the faculty and the football team each had a decision to make. Lafayette would not play in the bowl unless all three entities agreed to go to Texas without Showell.


For the Love of the Game: Lehigh senior RB Matt McGowan

It was the toughest time of Matt McGowan’s football career. Sure, the 5-foot-11, 210-lbs. running back had been challenged before, using his bruising style up against linebackers that had serious height and weight advantages over him. That part of the game never bothered McGowan, but having to sit on the sideline with an injury for much of the 2007 season crushed him.

“It would feel fine one day, and then the next day I would wake up and be set back right to the point where it was at the beginning,” McGowan said. “It was extremely frustrating, and one of the harder things I’ve ever had to endure.”

Former Lehigh Players Remember the Rivalry

Kody Fedorcha ’00
Current occupation: As sales manager for Pacific Ozone, a manufacturer of water treatment equipment, Fedorcha is responsible for sales in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. The former wide receiver also remains active within Lehigh football by providing color commentary on the radio and over the web.

Fondest Lehigh-Lafayette memory: “My fondest memory is easily from the 1998 game in Easton. In the third quarter of our 31-0 win, I caught a 41-yard touchdown from Phil Stambaugh and it was really one of those plays where it was my job just to get out of the way. Once the coverage broke down, I found myself standing alone in the end zone. All I can say is that was the easiest and most difficult catch I ever had to make, mainly because it seemed like forever until the ball got to me. The silence throughout Fisher Field (after the catch) remains a memory I will always cherish.”

One Final Chance for senior WRs Sekou "Stunt Man" Yansane and Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald

Ever since freshman year, Lehigh wide receivers Mike Fitzgerald and Sekou Yansane have been determined to show the Patriot League that it was their time to shine. Each season, they’ve battled for a top position as they fight through practices and injuries. This season, the pair of seniors has made their mark on the field even through some disappointing losses. They have kept their heads held high and look to close their Lehigh career with a victory against Lafayette this weekend in the 144th edition of college football’s most played rivalry.
Don't forget the quotes and video from this week's media luncheon, or broadcast information for this weekend either (including sattelite information).

Black-Out At Fisher
Lafayette is looking to have a black-out this weekend in "The Rivalry", extending the (in)famous black jerseys to a line of clothing for Lafayette fans to wear. For the uninitiated, that means if you're Lafayette, you're encouraged to wear black. (This confirms what I've suspected for a long time: Leopard fans are indeed part of the Dark Side of the Force.)

Another interesting tidbit comes from the official release this week from Lafayette:

THE MATCH-UP: Lafayette (7-3, 3-2) looks to be an ungracious host to Lehigh (4-6, 3-2) on Saturday in the 144th meeting of College Football's Most Played Rivalry. Lafayette has won four straight over the Mountain Hawks, and the 2008 Lafayette installment looks to be the first to make it five in a row since winning nine straight from 1943-49 (the teams played twice in 1943 and 1944). More recently, Lehigh won seven straight from 1995-2001, prompting some in the Brown and White to assert that teams such as Delaware and Colgate had surpassed Lafayette in terms of the biggest game of the year. No player on either team has suggested that recently.

I'll take credit for this one. It's nice, by the way, to finally have arrived.

LFN's Drink of the Week
As voted on by you, the fans, the Drink for today is a "Birkie Bloody". I have absolutely no idea what it is. (Does it have to do with Norway? Those folks are crazy.) I know that I'm going to be personally looking for the Rumplemintz and Hot Chocolate as I make my way towards the stadium.

Breaking Down Lafayette
Offense
Lafayette isn't fancy: they want to win the ball game with a big, physical presence, running the ball, and pinpoint passing to keep the defense off balance. They've been able to do so fairly effectively this year despite having something resembling a M*A*S*H unit in their backfield this year.

Start with a good old-fashioned QB controversy. Junior QB Rob Curley was knocked out of the Colgate game with a concussion, and sophomore QB Marc Quilling stepped into the breach -even last week when he was supposedly healthy enough to start. Quilling lost to Colgate and Holy Cross in consecutive weeks, and coach Tavani has been playing cat-and-mouse as to who will be starting this Saturday. Quilling is more of a drop-back passer, while Curley is mobile and (when healthy) is very hard to bring down.

Next up in the doctor's office is the Leopard backfield, who has seen no fewer than seven backs (and two quarterbacks) who have more than 10 rushes on the year. They really, really missed senior RB Maurice White, whose early-season injury has kept him out basically this entire year. The silver lining for the Leopards is that they have a stable of backs that are capable of getting yardage, like junior RB Tyrell Coon (96 rushes for 445 yards), junior RB DeAndre Morrow (43 rushes for 261 yards), and senior FB Joe Russo (40 rushes, 183 yards). Coon and Morrow are speedy backs, but don't be surprised to see a lot of Russo on Saturday in his final game as a Leopard. In short, they have a stable of backs with a bunch of different running styles.

When Curley or Quilling does pass, they have one of the best receivers in the Patriot League to toss the rock to: senior WR Shaun Adair (721 yards, 5 TDs). The speediest guy in this offense, you need to respect him always, even on reverses. Senior WR Tim Watson is the No. 2 receiver (249 yards, 1 TD) - and the tight end, senior TE Michael Conte, is also a serious receiving threat (221 yards, 3 TDs) - especially around the goal line.

The Leopards always seem to get some huge hogs on their line, which is the engine that makes this offense go (as well as the great blocking ability of Conte and Russo, too). 6'6 330 lb senior OL Leo Plenski is the huge right tackle where the running game will be headed quite often. That matchup could determine the game for Lehigh.

Defense
Like last year, this base 4-3 is one fearsome unit. Most of the year they had been listed in the Top 20 defenses in the country in terms of scoring. They are a team that mixes up their blitzes well and always brings the heat.

The front four are very tough, starting with senior DE Jason Mills (35 tackles, 11 tackles for loss including 5 sacks). Junior DT Andrew Paulson doesn't get the same gaudy stats, but he's also effective in the middle at stuffing interior runs. I don't know if Harvard's "D" line was the best we faced all year, but this "D" line could be better than that unit.

Senior LB Andy Romans (87 tackles) and junior LB Mark Leggerio (85 tackles, 12 tackles for loss) lead up a fearsome linebacking corps as well. This front seven anchors the best defense statistically in the Patriot League, and they're only allowing just over 100 yards a game rushing. They will be daunting to face.

The secondary doesn't get as much attention as the front, but their No. 1 rated pass defense in the Patriot League makes one stnd up and take notice. Senior DB Marvin Clecidor (36 tackles, 10 pass breakups, 11 passes defended) is a lockdown corner, and junior CB Carlos Lowe (2 interceptions) is no slouch either. Both over 6 feet, they could be the tallest secondary we've faced this year.

Special Teams
Senior WR Shaun Adair is the speediest guy on the team, yet hasn't returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown yet this year. You can bet he will be focused on that to change on Saturday; it will have to be priority No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 for the Lehigh special-teams units to face.

Sophomore PK Davis Rodriguez could be the best kicker in the Patriot League, going 11/13 on FGs and only missing one PAT all year (he's booted a 46 and 47 yarder already this year). Sophomore P Tom Kondash is about in the middle of the Patriot League pack in punting, with a 37.5 average. Junior K Chris Cosgrove is the kickoff specialist; he has 4 touchbacks on the year.

Keys to the Game
1. Spy Adair All the Time. Whether on offense or on special teams, Lehigh needs to make sure that the speedy receiver from Ohio doesn't beat them. If the special teams units can keep him under wraps for the entire game, and our defensive backs can lock him down, we have an excellent chance of winning.
2. Outside running and passing. With an aggressive front seven, the key to winning might lie in screen passes and off-tackle runs that stretch the field. Test the middle occasionally (preferably with McGowan), but the outside will be the key to victory.
3. The Physical Battle. Both the "O" and "D" lines need more than ever to win the physical battle in the trenches this weekend. There's no tomorrow; if they can win - or even tie - the bruising physical battle underneath on both lines, Lehigh will have a chance to win.

Fearless Prediction
I can't remember a "Rivalry" so affected on both sides by injuries. Could this come down to the health of McGowan, senior OL Chris Tiefenthal, and others? Will Curley come out and start the game - or come in after the first snap? Is DeAndre Morrow 100%? There's so many questions.

Lehigh can win this game. They have the talent. They now have the team that can withstand the physical pounding - they didn't have that in 2006. Lafayette's injuries on offense might give Lehigh an opening to break the streak - but don't discount the old cat Tavani, who seems to have been born for the purpose of getting Lafayette to play big against Lehigh. Lafayette will be ready. Bank on it.

It's largely due to Tavani's ability to motivate that I'm taking Lafayette to win his fifth straight over Lehigh. If Lehigh battles and discovers how to win the big football games in their careers, it could be a watershed moment and would be a huge boost for everyone surronding the program. An optimism not felt in five years could finally be here. It's a game as important as everyone says it is.

But I've watched this team all year. I'll beleive this team knows how to win when I see it for myself.

Lafayette 31, Lehigh 14

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Hate"

(Photo Credit: Brown & White)

The picture to the left certainly isn't politically correct. It's raw. It's irreverent. And it sums up the feelings between these two schools perfectly. Oddly enough, this tails into a tradition at Lehigh and Lafayette where fraternities and houses hang banners celebrating the game to come.

Why is it that we hate what we most resemble? It's not unique to Lehigh and "that school from Easton": Harvard and Yale are both schools with global academic brands that are more similar than different. Army and Navy detest each other, but both share in that armed forces life and face the same challenges as institutions.

Demographically, Lehigh and "that school from Easton" are very similar: most of their students come from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They are schools that are known for their hard-studying, hard-partying attitudes - and have had rocky relationships with the towns that host them in Bethlehem and Easton.

Yet there are differences. Lafayette is a college, focusing on a liberal arts education. Lehigh is a university, with a top Engineering department and business school. Lehigh has traditionally been male-dominated; Lafayette's ratio of men to women is close to 1:1. Lehigh's enrollment is almost 5,000: Lafayette's is just over 2,400.

It's the similarity - but also the different -that characterizes the craziness that centers around "The Rivalry".

History of "The Hate"
There are lots of great sources for all the crazy traditions of "The Rivalry". PBS 39 produced an excellent documentary called "The Lehigh/'Lafayette Legacy produced in 2003 (recently put, in its entirety, on YouTube), and the book "Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette", written by Todd Davidson and Bob Donchez in 1995. Both talk a little bit about the "tradition of excess", to put it mildly, around "The Rivalry".

What happens on the Bethlehem and Easton campuses the week before the game? In 2004, the Brown & White's Nora Mattern in this article described it as "the energy across campus has intensified." That's the best way to describe a lot of this excess around the rivalry: a buildup of energy.

For players, especially the seniors, it's a cumulation of their football playing careers and will almost certainly be the top of their competitive lives in football. For passionate alumni, it's the last throes of the year and the one chance a year many alumni get to see many of their own outside their busy lives.

And for students, this could mean the nearing of the end of a semester of tough classes, which all comes together with an outpouring of directed energy that leads to things like the banner above. It is a way to deal with the stresses of being away from home, being away from the nest, and to be individuals. It's the one thing that unites everyone who is or has been Brown or Maroon. It's unadulterated school spirit, frequently tinged with alcohol, inundated with emotion and coming of age all at once in a common direction. It's Hunter Thompson meets The Beach Boys meets "Animal House".

Traditions
Some of the original traditions involved pep rallies called "smokers". For two all-male schools, you couldn't get much more macho: smokers involved wrestling matches, boxing matches, coaches' and players' speeches, and lots and lots of tobacco products being consumed (hence the name "smoker"). They were present on both campuses: in the New York Times in 1913, a smoker was described at Lafayette: "All week long there have been daily demonstrations. To-night there was a smoker, at which the building literally rocked with the vehemence of the cheers."

Another common aspect of "The Rivalry" which continued well into the 1960's was the idea of raiding the other campus, frequently starting riots. Over the years, these campus raids were a right of passage at the all-male schools, complete with the occasional fistfight. On the Lehigh side, those demonstrations involved storming the Easton campus to vandalize statues, notably Lafayette's Leopard or the statue of the Marquis De Lafayette near the opening of Fisher Field. The New York Times reported that "since 1933, the statue of the general has been minus a sword when a student riot on campus preceded the game". One year, recounted Al Pedrick '43, the statue was painted purple. “Anyone who was caught got dismissed from school for three days,” Pedrick said. “I know that for a fact because my brother got caught.”

Bonfires
For Lehigh, the bonfire is linked to Lehigh's first-ever win in "The Rivalry", a 16-0 win in 1887. To quote Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette, to celebrate the victory freshmen set fire to the grandstand that were seen as “an eyesore and a disgrace to the athletic grounds.”

Soon after that, the bonfire became a Thursday or Friday tradition before the big game. And Lehigh and Lafayette students would frequently try to sneak to the other campus to "light the fire before its time". Freshmen were assigned to guard the fire to keep opposing students out. A typical early-year bonfire from 1919 was retold in this photo album.

The tradition was banned in 1968, a year with lots of campus unrest across the nation, but was resurrected in 1998 - only to be put back to sleep this year. No official explanation has been offered for the lack of a bonfire.

Parades
Linked to the Bonfire was the also Lehigh's "Marching 97". All throughout "The Rivalry" the Brown & White marching band has been involved with parades on campus and in Bethlehem for over 100 years.

Traditionally, the band would make their first appearance in a "pajama parade" after the bonfire was lit. Band members, dressed in pajamas, marched over the Lehigh river using the "Penny Bridge" to serenade the ladies of Moravian College (then an all-female school). The "Penny Bridge" was now in the site where the Fahy bridge is today, and cost a penny to cross; the band would play the song "We Pay No Tolls Tonight" as they crossed.

Nowadays, the "Marching '97" still parades around campus the Friday before "The Rivalry", famously stopping first at the legendary 8:00AM "Eco 1" class that nearly every Lehigh student attends. As a result, it's unofficially called the "Eco 1 Flame".

Bed Races
Last year the class of 2010 revived an old Lehigh tradition from Greek Week: the bed race. Traditionally down "fraternity row", it was cancelled years ago due to safety concerns, but returned for the second-straight year. It doesn't go around the deathly curves around fraternity row anymore, however: it starts on the lower part of the Mountain.

Another new tradition on campus involves the "brown-out", meaning on Friday students, faculty and alumni are supposed to wear their Brown with pride, as I will definitely be here at my place of employment.

Turkey Trot
Another rite of passage on the Lehigh side is the "Turkey Trot", an intramural run which involves a run up and down South Mountain. It's been around at least since the 1960's, and is a great way to stay in shape. Hard to believe the winner two years ago ran the course in 14:46! That's about the time it would take me to get halfway up South Mountain. If I could do it in an hour and a half I'd be pushing it.

Before the drinking age laws were strictly enforced, fraternities used to hand out beers to contestants going up and down the mountain.

Drinking
No article on the history of "The Rivalry" would be complete without the mention of drinking. Whether we adults like to think about it or not, somewhere along the line drinking to excess became one of the rites of passage of the week. "The Lehigh/Lafayette tradition has extended way beyond football over the years," said the Brown & White's Alexis Novick ('00) in 1999. "I’m not saying it’s right, but this weekend has become a tradition to most students to get wasted beyond belief."

Stories abound of sunrise cocktails, shots, and other dangerous drinking activities that could take them near death take place on this weekend, more so than other weekends. Even students who have no intention of going to "The Rivalry" use it as an excuse to get plastered and become "rebels without a cause" for one week.

Beirut, the unofficial drinking game of Lehigh, is common during this week - even among alumni of both schools. Seeing a Beirut table during a tailgate isn't an uncommon sight, as is plastic cups, cans of National Bohemian and other cheap beers. For the more well-off young alumni, Yuengling. For the well-heeled, imported Kronenbourg.

Not everyone likes it, but it happens. I don't have any personal stories of wasted mayhem - and the stories I do have involving other people, well, let's just say that I know where they live. There's no need to display them to the world... yet. But I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention my trip to Lafayette in an old VW Bus with a bunch of buddies and about six cases of beer. That's the game I remember the least.

NOTE: I am a great proponent of "drinking responsibly" and do not condone people drinking to the point of self-poisoning and generally making an ass of themselves. (And yes, we had a designated driver of the VW bus.)

Goalposts & Postgame Riots
In the past, a postgame tradition was to tear down the goalposts after the game - the caveat being "after the game" was generally optional. Some years, they came down at halftime.

Since at least 1943 the postgame riot and tearing down of the goalposts was a violent rite of passage. Lehigh and Lafayette students (and others) stormed the field to secure parts of the goalposts, specially constructed of easily-torn down wood. Fistfights were commonplace in the anarchy that ensued. Some years, the riot was the big story of the day, the competition on the gridiron coming a distant second place to the action on the sidelines.

In the late 1980s, I caught the tail end of this tradition. In a 52-45 marathon won by Lafayette, I nabbed one of the end-zone markers which I proudly brought back to my freshman dorm.. and had it sweet-talked away from me by some girl. In 1991, in which would turn out to be the last year for the postgame riots and goalpost grab, I ended up with a sliver which couldn't have been more than four inches long. Proudly, I put my piece of goalpost in my pocket and got my ride home - amidst other fraternities fighting each other for pieces of the post that just a bit longer.

In the 1991 game, Lehigh erected metal goalposts, and got the local authorities involved in keeping order. Even though students and fans were repeatedly warned not to storm the field (in a game which Lehigh dominated, 36-18), many fans still did storm the field (me and my friends not being among them). The fans on the field, frustrated at not being able to rip down the goalposts, picked up hunks of turf and started to throw them at the cops trying to restore order on the field. Not surprisingly, the cops went out, pepper sprayed and beat up a lot of the "fans" on the field that day, in front of many horrified students and alumni. Not a banner day for "the Rivalry" when the president of Lehigh at that time, Peter Likins, got a whiff of pepper spray.

Energy. It spreads out in all directions from "The Rivalry": some of it good, some of it bad. All of it unforgettable.

BREAKING: Coach Coen Will Return in 2009

As reported from the blog of Keith Groller of the Morning Call:

I talked to a bunch of people at today's Lehigh football luncheon and learned a lot of things.

But the most important thing to be learned was when I headed for the door at the Cooperhead Grille and Mike Stagnitta, Lehigh's football contact for the school's sports media relations office, stopped me on the side and assured me that Andy Coen would be back as head coach in 2009.

Mike was speaking on behalf of the athletic department, I am sure. Mike doesn't make those decisions, nor does he speak out of turn. He was told what to say after I speculated about Andy's future in a story earlier this week.

As I mentioned elsewhere, one huge subplot from Saturday's game has been taken away. Coach Coen, according to the highest levels of the Lehigh athletic department, assured Keith that Coen will be back in 2009.

My take? I'm happy that coach Coen - barring a complete disaster this weekend - will be around next year to reap the fruits of a team that completely has his stamp on it.

But that should not diminish from the importance of this game this weekend.

Beating Lafayette would not only be the perfect sendoff for this senior class. It would give Lehigh a two-game winning streak into the long offseason. It would definitely give Lehigh some votes in the season-ending Sports Network Top 25 poll. And while it's an old chestnut, Lehigh would have serious positive momentum going into next year's spring practice and beyond.

Coach Coen for sure won't want to go into the Spring wondering how to beat Lafayette for the first time.

Schools like Lafayette, Lehigh should offer football scholarships

Now here's the surprise I was talking about!

Click here to read the following op-ed piece from today's Morning Call.

It would be nice to know where the president of Lafayette, Mr. Weiss, and the president of Lehigh, Dr. Gast, stands on this issue. Ultimately, it's not one of competitiveness - it's really one of fairness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"The Rivalry"

(Photo Credit: Jane Therese, 2004, New York Times)

"The Rivalry" is more than just a Lehigh Valley game that is sold out.

For those of you that are going to be attending one of the telecast parties from all around the country, those of you who are going to be catching "The Rivalry" on Channel 69 or on LehighSports.Com, those of you who will be seeing it for the first time in person, or those of you who are grizzled veterans approaching the coveted "50 Game Club", before trying to tackle the emotional side of things it's (still) helpful to get your mind around the numbers of times Lehigh and "that school from Easton" have played each other over the years.

The raw numbers about "The Rivalry" are only a Wikipedia click away, but even those written words and article don't totally capture the history that entwines these two schools.

No two football teams have faced each other as often as Lehigh and Lafayette have. They've met each other 143 times, with the 144th meeting occurring in a sold-out Fisher Stadium this Saturday. It's been sold out for weeks - just like it is every year. There have been grumblings about the number of tickets available - just like every year.

Other rivalries pale in comparison this one, THE Rivalry to which all others pale in comparison: Harvard/Yale (a mere 124 meetings), Army/Navy (a paltry 108 meetings), Montana State/Montana (merely 107 "Brawls"), Richmond/William & Mary (only 117 scuffles), or even Ohio State/Michigan (the baby of the bunch with 104 tussles).

Lehigh and Lafayette started their rivalry in 1884. To give that year in history some perspective, the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty was laid down in the summer of 1884 on Beldoe's Island. Mark Twain, in a house just outside Hartford, Connecticut, penned Huckleberry Finn in that year. The president at that time was an ailing Chester Arthur, who was ending his term as the 21st president of the United States as he was suffering from Bright's Disease, a kidney ailment. A couple of weeks before the first-ever meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette, Grover Cleveland defeated James Blaine in a presidential campaign that was filled with mud-slinging.

The first game occurred only one year after football rules were standardized, and was won 50 to 0 by Lafayette over a team that had been playing for three years. Lehigh, on the other hand, had formed their first football team that year for the expressed reason of playing Lafayette. (Their fledgling team would go 0-4, losing twice to Lafayette.)

The New York Times described the game in that year: "The first inning was very interesting, as Lehigh frequently got the ball dangerously near Lafayette's goal line, but each time was beaten back, the point being made by the home team." A hundred games later, as quoted in the New York Times a Lehigh fan recounted that "We did not win... but we did give Lafayette the worst lickin' she ever had and many, many a sore head went back to Easton that night."

Football in this era was very different than the game is today, though it was extremely popular. With no passing game, players would fly down the field behind a big "V" of linemen, trying to physically overwhelm the competition. Predating the NCAA's, college teams would spring up even at tiny (comparitively speaking) colleges and universities like Lehigh and Lafayette.

These teams would play any comers, including semi-professional "athletic clubs". In addition, with few standardized rules on the game or limitations, gambling on the games was rife. In 1892, the New York Times would report on a 15-6 win by Lehigh over Lafayette: "Lehigh showed her superiority from start to finish, and the college men won much money on the result."

The only year since 1884 that Lehigh did not face off against Lafayette was 1896. That year, Lehigh refused to play Lafayette over a dispute about the eligibility of their best player, Charles "Babe" Rinehart. Rinehart was a hall-of-fame lineman on Lafayette's national-champion 1896 team, while the team also featured halfback George "Rose" Barclay, who is widely credited for inventing the football helmet so teams like Lehigh wouldn't make his ears look like cauliflowers. Rinehart was named one of the finest players of the first half-century by Walter Camp.

Since 1902, Lehigh and Lafayette started the tradition of playing only one game per year, only a year before the Wright Brothers took their historic flight at Kitty Hawk and six years before the first Model "T" would come off the assembly lines in Detroit, Michigan. The teams and fans used to travel by train from Bethlehem to Easton to play and watch the games, making their proximity a big bonus.

1905 saw president Theodore Roosevelt get involved in the increasing number of injuries - and deaths - resulting from football games. The meetings with the highest officials from the top football schools of the time were the precursor to the modern NCAA. (Lafayette and Lehigh were two of the twenty schools that regularly attended these meetings, alongside schools such as Army, Haverford, RPI, Michgan, NYU, and other giants of the time.)

The forward pass, which was formally banned at this time, was legalized as well as making other key changes (such as making plays like the "Flying Wedge" illegal, the source of many of these injuries). Lafayette, using a devastating wedge attack, had some of their more lopsided victories in "The Rivalry" at this time: beating Lehigh 40-6 in 1904 and 55-0 in 1905.

In 1915, Lehigh/Lafayette games moved from "Lehigh stadium" (which, I believe, is now the vacant field next to Brodhead Avenue, though I haven't confirmed this) to a proper stadium: Taylor Stadium, which used to sit where the Rauch Business Center now stands. Lafayette ruined the home opener for Lehigh in a dominating 35-6 victory. The Maroons used a new "spread" formation to beat the Brown & White - spreading the field with receivers and a long passing game.

The Easton Express-Times named Lafayette the "Leopards" in the 1920s, and in 1926 old March field was replaced by a state-of-the-art facility (at that time) by the name of Fisher Field at Fisher Stadium. Lehigh was unable to repay Lafayette the favor from 1915: they walloped Lehigh 35-0. This era was dominated by Lafayette, with the Leopards getting two paper "national championships" as a result.

Through World War II and beyond, "The Rivalry" has thrilled Lehigh and Lafayette fans alike with great individual performances, classic games, and strange stories.

In 1950, Lehigh won the "Middle Three" championship from Rutgers and Lafayette with an easy 38-0 win over the Leopards. It was the Engineers' first-ever undefeated season in 67 years, and was played in front of a crowd of over 20,000 people at Taylor Stadium. Backs Dick Gabriel and Dick Doyne combined to bowl over opponents - Doyne in 1949 held the record for rushing yards in a season with 1,023 yards, with Gabriel in 1950 finishing just 30 yards short of Doyne's record. After their season, Lehigh vetoed a chance to play in the Sun Bowl in Texas - while no official reason was given, a common reason why northern teams refused to play in Bowl games in the South was that it was still segregated at the time.

The 1961 game featured a Lambert Cup-winning Lehigh team who had a game-winning field goal in the final minute booted by Andy Larko's first successful FG attempt (that hit the crossbar AND the post) in a thrilling 17-14 victory.

In 1977, "Rieker-to-Kreider" led the way to a 35-17 victory over Lafayette on the way to Lehigh's Division II championship.

In 1987, the last-ever game was played at Taylor Stadium. Lehigh would win, 17-10, in one of the coldest days in Bethlehem history as the fans started tearing up old Taylor Stadium early in the 4th quarter.

In 1988, Lafayette beat Lehigh 52-45 in a shootout featuring Lafayette QB Frank Baur (who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's national college preview the following year).

1994 was Lafayette RB Erik Marsh's swan song as he rewrote the Leopard record books as they crushed Lehigh 54-20. In 1995, Lehigh fans at Goodman saw a thrilling 37-30 OT victory with WR Brian Klingerman catching the game-winning pass with one hand in the corner of the end zone.

1997 saw RB Rabih Abdullah's 4 touchdowns, 2 rushing and 2 receiving, for a 43-31 come-from-behind victory over the Leopards that set the tone for the big undefeated regular season in 1998. (Lehigh would crush Lafayette that year 31-7.)

2003 saw Lehigh RB Jermaine Pugh had 265 all-purpose yards, including a big punt return for a TD, in a 30-10 victory. It's the last time Lehigh has ended the regular season with a victory, and the last win by Lehigh in "The Rivalry".

2004 saw Lafayette earn their first co-championship in football with their 24-10 victory over the Mountain Hawks, giving Lafayette their first-ever trip to the FCS playoffs (they were rewarded with a trip to Delaware, where they game a major scare to the Blue Hens in a 28-14 defeat). Lehigh, who shared the Patriot League title with the Leopards, also got an at-large bid to the playoffs, hosting eventual champion James Madison in the last playoff game at Murray Goodman (losing a thrilling 14-13 struggle).

In 2005, Lafayette snatched the Patriot League title from Lehigh. Under a minute to play, backup quarterback Pat Davis heaved up a prayer on fourth-and-ten heave. Drilled as he released the ball, the 37 yard air ball floated into the hands of Lafayette tailback Jonathan Hurt, where he twisted into the end zone for the game-winning score in a 23-19 victory. Not only did Lafayette deny Lehigh the Patriot League autobid (which went to Colgate instead), the playoff committee rewarded the Leopards with a playoff game of their own, sending them to eventual national champion Appalachian State. (They would give the eventual national champions their biggest scare of the playoffs, leading after three quarters before finally falling 34-23.)

2006 also saw Lehigh and Lafayette battle for a co-championship, with the winner taking the Patriot League autobid at a newly-renovated Fisher Stadium. After falling down early, coach Coen in his first "Rivalry" as head coach battled back to 28-27 - but after missing the extra point, the Mountain Hawks would give up three straight touchdowns as Lafayette would not look bask in a 49-27 victory. Lafayette was rewarded with a trip to UMass, where they would fall 35-14.

While the 2007 game - for a change - didn't have any championship implications, Lehigh's 21-17 loss last year meant the class of '08 was first time since 1950 that a graduating class hasn't enjoyed a win over Lafayette. True to form, it was a fourth-quarter drive and TD pass by Rob Curley to Kyle Roeder that was the difference in this close game.

Overall, Lafayette leads Lehigh 76-62-5. It goes without saying that a win by Lehigh this weekend might set off some legendary parties on South Mountain.

For more information on "The Rivalry", the good folks at PBS 39 have made the entire content of the documentary "The Lehigh/Lafayette Legacy" is available on YouTube. (It was instrumental in the preparation for this blog posting).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Find a Lehigh Telecast Near You


Looking for a Lehigh/Lafayette telecast party? Click here and get the information from the Lehigh Alumni website. Plus, you get to see a cool picture of last year's Rivalry that I took.

Included in this year's telecast parties? The first one taking place overseas... in London, England.

I have several more Webshots albums of Lehigh/Lafayette games past. Interested in what the mayhem was like? Click here for pictures of the 1997 clash at Murray Goodman or here for pictures of the 1996 game at Fisher Field. (In the 1996 album, look for secret parking places! Finding a parking space around Easton on Rivalry gameday isn't exactly easy.)

I promise, my yearly trip through the history of the Rivalry, a preview of the game, and -who knows, maybe some other surprises - are coming up in the next few days!

UPDATE: Essential reading for anyone within sniffing distance of the Lehigh Campus is this article from the Brown & White which talks about the school-sponsored events (called "Spirit Week") surrounding this year's "Rivalry". Here's the official release from the University, as well as a list here of events for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday up until gametime:

At Lamberton hall, there are banners on display showing Lehigh pride.

Wednesday Night, 8 p.m. - Lehigh-Laf-A-Palooza, taking place in the Rauch courtyard, which includes live music from bands, The Marching 97, Lehigh Step Team and the Lehigh Spirit Corps. The winner of the Greek House Decoration contest will also be announced.

“Palooza, as it has come to be called, is a novel concept for Lehigh. This year, we've (Lehigh’s class officers and the ASAs) partnered with University Productions to offer an all-out combination pep rally/outdoor concert,” says Scott Wojciechowski ’09, the high-energy president of the Class of 2009.


In addition, the Mountain Hawk will be "named" at tonight's Rally. From 1,000 submissions the Hawks' name has been narrowed down to: Mo, Louie, Southclaw, Clutch and Steel. (Those are the best folks can come up with? Of those, um, choices, give me "Southclaw".)

Thursday afternoon, 4:20 p.m. - The annual Turkey Trot run, starting at Packer Church. A freezing "Rivalry" tradition!

Thursday afternoon, 5:00 p.m. - The annual Bed Races, on Library Drive. A great tradition that has was revived as of last year!

Thursday night, 7:00 p.m. - Lehigh men's basketball team takes on Rider, and tries to give the Mountain Hawks a 3-0 start for the first tiem in recent memory.

Friday is "Brown Out" Day - everyone around the campus is encouraged to wear Brown to support the Mountain Hawks. In addition, the "Marching '97" will be playing in spots all over campus - starting at the "Eco 1" lecture at 8 A.M. Disrupting that class is a time-honored tradition!

Friday Night, 7:00 p.m.: Before the pre-game mayhem, stop by Stabler Arena and watch Lehigh wrestling pull an "Appalachian State" and beat Michigan.

Lambert Power Rankings, 11/18/2008

One more bit of housekeeping before it's "all Rivalry, all the time".

I crunched the numbers for my Lambert Power rankings this weekend and it spit out the following numbers:

1. (1) James Madison (CAA, 9-1, 113 points)
2. (2) Richmond (CAA, 8-3, 102 points)
3. (3) New Hampshire (CAA, 8-2, 98 points)
4. (4) Villanova (CAA, 8-2, 90.5 points)
5. (5T) Maine (CAA, 8-3, 87.5 points)
6T. (5T) William & Mary (CAA, 7-3, 78.5 points)
6T. (8) Albany (NEC, 8-3, 78.5 points)
8. (7) Colgate (Patriot, 7-2, 74.5 points)
9. (NR) Holy Cross (Patriot, 7-3, 72.5 points)
10. (9) Lafayette (Patriot, 7-3, 72 points)

Before you get upset about Albany being rated above all the teams of the Patriot League, let me just say that the winner of the Holy Cross/Colgate game (the de facto Patriot League Championship game) will definitely jump ahead of Albany next week.

Let me also say that the LPR has been pretty accurate, I think, overall in weighing the teams - with the possible exception of Villanova. According to the LPR, Richmond and UNH have a slight edge over Villanova. We shall see this weekend - and in the playoffs, no matter how they shake out.

The official ECAC Lambert Poll this week shows:

1. (1) James Madison
2. (2) Villanova
3. (3) Richmond
4. (5) New Hampshire
5. (4) William & Mary
6. (6) Maine
7. (7) Harvard
8. (8) Colgate
9. (NR) Holy Cross
10. (9) Massachusetts

Holy Cross replaces UMass in the LPR, while Holy Cross replaces Lafayette in the official poll. And in the LPR, Albany is rated higher than Harvard.

The Sports Network Top 25 this week shows Colgate jumping from No. 23 to the No. 21 position during a bye week, while Holy Cross is just outside the Top 25 with 196 points. It's also worth mentioning that Lehigh and Lafayette could very well be playing for a spot in the Top 25 to end the year - and the potential implications that might have going into next year. It would be a great honor for the seniors of either Lehigh or "that school in Easton".

Monday, November 17, 2008

Official Release: Lehigh 31, Bucknell 15

The official release for Lehigh's victory over Bucknell was released yesterday.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks have had their fair share of narrow losses in 2008, losing four games by three points or less this season. So the Brown and White decided not to leave Saturday’s game against Bucknell to chance, jumping out to an early lead and pulling away for a 31-15 victory in the home finale at Goodman Stadium.

With the win, the Mountain Hawks improve to 4-6 on the season, with a 3-2 mark in Patriot League play. The Bison, meanwhile, drop to 4-6 with a 1-4 record in league contests.

"I'm especially happy for our seniors for all of the hard work they've put in this season," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said during the post game press conference. "That group (of seniors) has been put through a very emotional season, so to see them walk off this field for the last time as winners makes me happy and I know they're a happy bunch."

Coen continued, "It wasn't our best game, particularly on offense, but our defense played great again and we made enough plays on offense to get the win. Now we move into the most exciting week of the season. It will be a challenge to keep our guys focused and it will be a challenge because Lafayette has a great football team, but we're certainly very excited for the opportunity."

As might be expected, the reactions from the Morning Call and the Express-Times were somewhat muted given the shadow of "The Rivalry", but there were still some good insights on the game this week in both recaps:

''We started off slow because they did a good job with coverage and the field was slick and it kept the routes more dull,'' said senior WR Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald, who caught five passes for 29 yards and snared his 10th TD reception of the season.

''It was one of those games when it just wasn't going to happen. We did make a couple of big plays in the second half, but we struggled with consistency. It still turned out pretty good and we're happy with where we're at.''

...

The defense was led by junior LB Matt Cohen who had a 38-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception.

"I was (covering) the quarterback on the option and saw the reverse," the Central Catholic High School graduate said. "Just being opportunistic, I picked up the ball and ran with it. I looked back a couple times to make sure I wasn't going to get caught."

In a related story, junior LB Matt Cohen also got Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for his two-turnover effort this Saturday.

The start of some of the special senior features were released on Lehighsports.com on senior LB Tim Diamond and senior WR Nick Johnson:

Tim Diamond was always heavily involved in sports while growing up. He began playing hockey when he was just six, and soon after took up soccer, basketball and baseball. Diamond loved being outdoors and enjoyed playing countless sports. However, the closest he could get to a football field was his own backyard. “My mom would not let me play organized football when I was young for fear of me getting hurt,” Diamond says. “But I would play in my backyard with my brothers and cousins. They’d make me the running back and really enjoyed chasing me down and piling on top of me. I think that’s where I got my toughness from.”

...

Whenever classmates inquire about the size of his high school graduating class at Shiloh Christian (Md.) Academy, Lehigh senior wide receiver Nick Johnson holds up three fingers.

“The person then usually looks at me and asks, ‘So, there were 300 kids in your graduating class?” says Johnson. “And then I’ll say, ‘Nope, just three kids.’ One, two, three.

“There were twice as many kids each night at our dinner table (Johnson is one of seven boys in his family), but coming from such a small school has its plusses. The graduation ceremony was nice and short. And you are guaranteed to finish in the top-three of your class.”


In Keith Groller's blog, he talks to Bucknell head football coach Tim Landis about who has the edge in "The Rivalry" this weekend:

"I've been impressed with our league as a whole; there's no easy games," he said. "To compare Lehigh and Lafayette, Lafayette is an excellent defensive football team. I look at Lehigh and statistically what they've done defensively, they've gotten better. It's going to lead up to an excellent football game,

"Against Lafayette, we were in it through the first half and the beginning of the third quarter and then made a couple of turnovers and a couple of mistakes and it got away from us. Lehigh needs to control their running game and their big offensive line.

"Now we didn't see Matt McGowan today and I don't want to take anything away from the kids who took his place, but him being back would help Lehigh next week. I think it's going to be a typical Lehigh-Lafayette game, a great game that either team could win."

Finally, while nobody would think about classifying Lehigh as a basketball school (at least this week), Lehigh's men's basketball team rolled over Delaware State 76-58 - and in the process made the Roundball Hawks 2-0 for the first time since 1997. (In their opener, the Mountain Hawks beat St. Peter's on the road, 79-62).

With Rider coming on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m., the men's team has a real shot at going 3-0, too.

It Has Begun...

It looks like the shenanigans between "that school in Easton" and Lehigh has already started.

Just click on this link to the Wikipedia page about Lafayette's president for details.

And yes, I saved it off before the Wikipedia editors got a hold of it.

Daniel Weiss is the sixteenth president of Lafayette College, taking office in October 2005. He was formerly Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University. It is rumored that he once lifted a city bus and occasionally snacks on glass to prove his awesomeness, although there has yet to be a single person who has challenged his claims of awesomeness.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday's Word: 4,659

Usually, the week leading into "The Rivalry" would be spent with a passionate "Sunday's Word" talking about my hatred for all things Maroon, my desire to eat Bornean Clouded Leopard jerky, and making childish (yet anatomically correct) descriptions of the Lafayette fan base.

But something happened this weekend at Murray Goodman stadium this weekend, and it needs to be said. And it's today's "Sunday Word", and needs to be said before witnessing a game that has been sold out for months in Easton.

It's "4,659", Sunday's word.

"4,659" was the announced attendance at Murray Goodman this weekend. "4,659" was the number of fans that came out to honor the seniors in their final game in a Mountain Hawk uniform.

I did some research, and "4,659" is the second-smallest attendance that I could find for a Lehigh football game over the past five years, and very likely the second-smallest attendance in the last ten years.

This year's rain-soaked season opener against a team outside the Northeast, Drake, had an announced attendance of 4,706. Two years ago, the rain-soaked opener against Albany was announced at 4,376 - the smallest attendance number I could find.

But those games were not league games. They were season-openers against out-of-conference opponents. In both cases, there were plenty of games - bigger games - ahead to enjoy on the season.

For league games, this appears to be the smallest home attendance in over a decade. Two years ago, the Bucknell game drew 10,673 - although that was on "Alumni Day" in perfect weather. Last year's Georgetown game was also played in some threatening weather - but that announced attendance was 9,084.

Perhaps a more fair comparison was the 13-10 loss to Holy Cross in 2005 - played in a driving rainstorm. That one, however, had an announced attendance of 5,713.

Maybe the game before "The Rivalry" is always one that suffers attendance-wise. That would make sense: after all, many Lehigh fans, we know, have plans the following week. Yet against Fordham in 2004, Lehigh managed 6,218 fans on a cool, sunny November day. In 2006, Lehigh had 8,692 fans that made the trip to see the Mountain Hawks face off against Fordham. Last weekend, "that school in Easton" had an announced attendance of 7,439 against Holy Cross.

With a stadium capacity of 16,000 fans, "4,659" fannies in the seats meant that the stadium was just a little bit more than 25% full - if that. In contrast, last week's game in Easton's 7,439 fans made Fisher Field, with a capacity of 13,750 fans, more than 50% packed.

The game in Easton had playoff and title implications, and the game in Bethlehem did not, which naturally would spike attendance in Easton. But their attendance was nearly double ours - in the same weather, the same challenges before "The Rivalry", also playing a faraway league opponent.

In fact, there are plenty of ready-made excuses for such a poor attendance. There was a high probability of rain and thundershowers on the afternoon - better off just sitting at home and watching the game on TV if you live in the Lehigh Valley. Besides, Lehigh has their second-straight losing record - why show up for the game? Don't I have something better to do?

I can't say I totally blame fans for not showing up. I was not one of those "4,659", either. I had national stuff to cover and follow, things to do, blah blah blah.

But I look at the attendance, and I'm sad. I'm sad that more people didn't show up and cheer on - and give an ovation to - the Lehigh seniors, who donated four years of their lives to play Division I football. They've suffered a lot. They signed up for a team that gets Patriot League championships and playoff invites, not .500 team. They signed up for a team that beats "that school in Easton" every once in a while.

They didn't get that. They did, happily, get a win, and were able to close out their Murray Goodman careers on a positive note.

Maybe it will be all forgotten with a win this weeknd, and a standing ovation for the Lehigh seniors, win or lose, by the many Lehigh fans at Fisher field this weekend.

But it's not fair that the see off their football careers off at home in front of a cozy audience of "4,659".
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