Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FCS East Wrapup: Revenge Wears (Crusader) Purple

(Photo courtesy Holy Cross Athletics)

Jenifer Toland of The Worcester Telegram-Gazette helpfully reminded her readership last Friday that it had been 343 days since Colgate knocked off Holy Cross in Hamilton 28-27. Not only did that game mean that the Crusaders would come up just short for the Patriot League title for the third straight year (and a shot at a national championship in the FCS playoffs, too), it would be a driving factor for senior QB Dominic Randolph's return to Worcester for his final year of eligibility.

“Every game’s a big game, but now that we’re back in the Patriot League, this is the biggest game of our season,” Randolph told her, “and it’s the biggest game we’ve had in a while because we came up short against them last year for the championship. I still have a sour taste in my mouth from that loss. We’ve been looking forward to this game for a while.”

“That was probably the worst feeling I ever had in my life,” senior WR Bill Edger (pictured) said. “We couldn’t let it happen again.”

Three hundred and forty-three days later, Randolph and the Crusaders would get their sweet revenge with a Dom-inating 42-28 victory over Colgate, putting them in the drivers' seat in the Patriot League title race - again.

It was easy to picture a "here we go again" moment happening for the Crusaders in this game, not least when Colgate junior CB Coree Moses returned an early Randolph intercetpion to the house to tie the game at seven. But after that mistake, for every offensive move that the Raiders had, Dom and the Crusaders had an offensive counterpunch to keep a two-touchdown lead. Colgate junior QB Greg Sullivan connects with senior WR Pat Simonds, to cut the deficit to 21-14? One 61 yard kickoff return by junior DB Alex Johnson, and two plays later, Holy Cross makes it 28-14. Sullivan finds a way to make it 28-21 after a TD pass? Dom and the offense then goes on a seven play drive that ends in a 1 yard TD sneak by Randolph to make it 35-21.

“We can control our own destiny now,” coach Tom Gilmore said. “We still have four more championships to go, but had we not gotten the job done against Colgate, even if we won the rest, we’d still have to be hoping. We don’t have to hope, we can take care of business.

“That’s not going to be easy, but by winning this, it puts us in a position where every win will get us that much closer to a Patriot League championship.”

Colgate did their level best to take Dom out of his "pick apart the defense" game - so instead, Randolph took off with the ball to the tune of 116 yards and 2 rushing TDs. Dom's day was hardly perfect - with 3 INTs - but the offense was still clicking with 440 yards of offense (and only one punt), and it was plenty to get him another Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honor.

Holy Cross will be traveling to Fordham to try to avenge their disappointment from two years ago, the place where a last-second interception by Randolph cost them a shot at the Patriot League championship that year. Colgate, still very much alive for the title or a postseason berth, will undoubtedly be a pissed-off bunch when they host Lehigh this weekend in Hamilton.

Other games this week in the East:

  • The NCAA releases a release for the toughest schedules every week, and it so happens that Lehigh is ranked No. 2 in that department in all of FCS. It's no wonder, when you keep seeing teams on Lehigh's schedule that keep winning: for example, 7-1 Villanova throttling Rhode Island 26-7 and 4-2 Harvard dominating Princeton on Homecoming 37-3. The combined won-loss record of Lehigh's opposition the rest of the way is 22-7, including games against 7-1 Colgate, 6-1 Holy Cross and 6-1 Lafayette.
  • For the first time since 2007, Dartmouth fans went home happy after the Big Green broke their 17 game losing streak at the expense of Columbia, 28-6. They did it by scoring a touchdown quickly on the Lions, blocking a punt and turning that into a 14-0 lead, and then having sophomore RB Nick Schweiger rushing for 242 yards to give Dartmouth the sweet victory. “I’m happy for [the team] because they didn’t get panicked and they didn’t get nervous,” head coach Buddy Teevens said after the game. “They were laughing on the sidelines, not as a distraction but because they loved what they were doing. It’s what college football should be like.”
  • Remember when Richmond and William & Mary were floated as real possibilities to become members of the Patriot League? Well, Richmond has almost been the No. 1 team from start to finish as they went to 7-0 by crushing UMass 34-12 in the FCS game of the week. The Spiders got six INTs to fuel the win - including an unlikely candidate, senior DT Parker Miles, who got a pick six for his trouble. "I know I got a lot of grief from all my friends and coaches making fun of me for not being able to get in the end zone," he said in the post-game press conference. "So I promised all of them I'd get in this time. I even told coach London on Wednesday, joking around, that I'd take it in today."
  • And the 6-1 Tribe were equally as impressive as they dominated reeling James Madison 24-3 at home, rising to No. 5 in the Sports Network Top 25. Barring a complete meltdown, either one of these two teams will be practicing on Thanksgiving. “This is, by far, the best team he’s ever had since I’ve been in the league,” James Madison head coach Mickey Matthews said. “This is the best quarterback he’s had. He’s the best quarterback we’ve played this year.”
  • Yale's offensive woes continued last weekend - and turnabout was fair play for as the Bulldogs were victimized by a pick six and a FG as they lost to Penn 9-0 in another defensive struggle. Harvard, Penn - and Brown, who handily beat Cornell 34-14 last weekend - seem to be the teams that will be in the Ivy League race until the end. A huge game between Brown and Penn looms this weekend - Penn's 1300th football game in their long history.
  • Finally, for the second time this year Fordham had a chance to make a stop and a final drive against a member of the Patriot League elite - but came up short in a 26-21 defeat to Lafayette. After the game, a frustrated coach Masella was reported to have lost his cool a little bit to blast the referees. "I take nothing away from Lafayette. I just wish officials wouldn't decide games, and they decided this one." He appeared to be particularly annoyed at a 15 yard "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty after senior LB James Crockett pushed a lineman after the play when there had been a lot of emotion and pushing and shoving all game with few flags. The loss of yardage - and time - gave the Rams only 30 seconds left to try to score.
  • As for "that school in Easton", they are 6-1, riding high and are a real threat to win the Patriot League this year. Notably, head coach Frank Tavani isn't relying on gimmicks like he's been accused of using in the past. ''I think we're starting to show that we can be a team that might have some destiny attached to it, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have no slogans this year. 'Lafayette football' is our slogan, and we see that every day when we go out to practice. There are no uniform changes this year, and that's by design, too.'' Maybe having senior QB Rob Curley on your side - who had another beautiful, efficient day against Fordham, 23-for-31 with 2 TDs and only one INT - and an always punishing defense, led by junior LB Michael Schmidlein (11 tackles vs. Fordham) - you don't need slogans.

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