Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lehigh 27, Georgetown 0, Final

It wasn't the prettiest of wins. But after a dominating defensive performance - and just enough offense in a 27-0 victory for Lehigh, their first win of the year - I will certainly take it, and I'm positive Lehigh head coach Andy Coen will take it, too.

After the Lehigh defense opened the game by sticking the Hoyas to a three-and-out, it became very evident that the offensive gameplan would involve a whole lot of junior RB Jay Campbell, who bulled through for 12 yards in his first three carries of the game. But sophomore QB Chris Lum tossed an interception - sort-of an ill-advised pass into tight coverage, but the interception came from a tipped ball - which gave Georgetown plenty of hope that they could hang with the winless Mountain Hawks.

But the defense would again stymie freshman QB Isaiah Kempf and the rest of the Hoya offense on their next drive. Junior CB Jarard Cribbs would then kick-started things with a 34 yard punt return that pumped life into the Mountain Hawks. And Lum, Campbell and the rest of the offense delivered - Lum's tight spiral to junior WR Craig Zurn in the end zone for a 17 yard touchdown gave Lehigh the only points they would ultimately need.

It was good to see some success for the Mountain Hawks this week - a win that will definitely put some wind in the sails. One touchdown, helped by a big play in special teams (freshman DB Bryan Andrews' blocked punt, which led to Lum's 7 yard touchdown pass to sophomore WR Jake Drwal. A grinding touchdown basically done almost entirely on the ground, ending with junior RB Jaren Walker's 7 yard touchdown run. And a fourth-quarter drive - also mostly on the ground, with freshman QB Michael Colvin getting 20 big yards on 3 carries - ending with Lum's 3 yard touchdown pass to sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon.

The defense, who had allowed so many rushing yards prior to today, brought it in a big way, holding Georgetown to -24 rushing yards and racking up an amazing eight sacks. Three were tallied by senior LB Matt Cohen, and two were notched by sophomore DB/LB Colin Newton. Holding the Hoyas to 125 total offensive yards certainly was satisfying.

Junior RB Jay Campbell ran 20 times for 111 yards to lead the Mountain Hawks - the only regret being that he didn't get a chance to put it in for a touchdown.

Yet watching this game, it's clear that there's still a ton of work to do if Lehigh hopes to have more success this season.

The missed extra point. Only 81 yards passing. Only two offensive plays the entire game went more than 15 yards: the TD pass to Zurn and a 39 yard scamper by Campbell. 7 for 16 on third-down conversions. A big play to get the ball moving forward - followed by a big penalty to go backward. And add to that the fact that this is a 0-6 Georgetown team that we beat in a much less-than-impressive fashion than we have in recent years. With a bit better execution on offense, this could have been the type of forty point blowout we've seen in the past.

Lehigh will gladly take this win, and will try to build off of it as they take on Yale next weekend for homecoming. And I'll certainly take the win, too.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think that cracker was a Ritz.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Game Preview: Georgetown at Lehigh

(Photo courtesy Georgetown Athletics)

''If you look at the big picture, all of our goals are still intact. We haven't even started league play yet. If you look at the league, there hasn't really been a standout team so far. We've just got to take it a week at a time. Hopefully, we'll win the Patriot League and contend for a national championship in the playoffs.''

Who said this after a loss to Harvard as a lead-in to a game versus Georgetown - perhaps senior LB Matt Cohen, or senior LB Al Pierce? Nope: it was WR Frankie "Playmaker" Trovato after an excruciating 35-33 loss to Harvard in 2006. In that game, a missed 2-point conversion would end up being the difference.

That year - like this year - Lehigh started out in rough shape at 1-3. While the win was against Villanova (note: a Wildcat team that was nowhere near the quality of this year's Villanova squad), losses to Albany, Princeton and Harvard had Lehigh fans singing some serious blues going into league play.

Looking over some my Georgetown previews from the last three years, it's striking how similar they sound. First of all, every time Lehigh has played Georgetown in the past three years it has come after a loss - twice to Holy Cross, once to Harvard. And this year, after last week's loss to Harvard, the pattern still holds.

Some of my comments can easily be recycled, too. 2006: "There is no more margin for error if we want to win the Patriot League title, and all league games count more than usual. But even so, a complete win here is really needed." 2007: "Getting off this losing streak would be huge for the psyche of everybody in the Lehigh family - players, coaches, and fans. Winning resoundingly, with the offense finally getting off a four-week schneid, would be even better." 2008: "For Lehigh, even with a sub-.500 record, it's a win they expect, and need, to have. It's one game at a time. Win each week, see what happens."

Every time, Georgetown came at a great time for Lehigh: the Mountain Hawks were desperate for a win in every instance, and each time Lehigh delivered.

Two of the games were blowouts, but last year the Hoyas jumped out to their first lead during this time: 13-7 at the end of the first quarter before the Mountain Hawks settled down and scored the next 26 points in a 33-13 victory.

In 2006, 1-3 Lehigh not only beat Georgetown (in less-than-impressive fashion, too, with a 28-3 win), they would win the rest of their league games that year going into the final weekend. While Lehigh would officially win a Patriot League co-championship that year, it didn't feel like one with a loss to Lafayette and the Leopards heading to a first-round playoff game at UMass instead of the Mountain Hawks. Mr. Trovato was not too far off: had Lehigh beaten "that school in Easton", they would have had their chance to compete for a national championship.

It's some variation on this 2006 theme that must motivate the Lehigh players - and their fans - the rest of the way. In 2006, Lafayette started at 2-2, ultimately falling to 2-5 before winning their last four games to win the Patriot League title. Lehigh started at 1-3 before winning the rest of their league games heading into the "Rivalry" game that ended up being a playoff game.

If the dream of a Patriot League championship run for Lehigh is to come true this year, it starts this Saturday.

Game Notes
The game notes show zero change from last week to this week - technically. While senior LB Heath Brickner and senior DT Phil Winett were finally determined this week to be out for the year, senior LB Troy Taylor is also listed as "questionable" for this week's game - if he's out, look for sophomore LB Mike Groome to get a lot of playing time in his place.

Not that there was any doubt, but sophomore QB Chris Lum gets the start again this weekend over junior QB J.B. Clark. Sophomore RB Matt Fitz is still listed on the depth chart behind junior RB Jay Campbell at running back, but he was rung up in the Harvard game last weekend so you wonder if freshman RB Zach Barket will see his carries increase this weekend. Zach has already appeared in two games this year, but hasn't seen significant action.

Georgetown didn't release game notes for last week's game versus Bucknell, but DFW Hoya in the past has always offered a great game preview on his website.

Weather Report
It's starting to really feel like fall. While tomorrow calls for "considerable cloudiness and rain showers, they are supposed to clear out by Saturday morning and make way for a mostly sunny day with a high in the low 60s. Stay tuned. Oddly enough, all of Lehigh's games have been played in near-perfect weather this year - highly unusual.

A Word on Georgetown
Georgetown actually has a great history of football tradition, including being one of the early powers of "Eastern Football" in the first half of the 20th century. They also were a major school in the very early days of football, too. The Hoyas had a huge rivalry with the "Columbia Athletic Club" which was a semi-pro team based in the District. Every year until 1894 Columbia A.C. and Gerogetown would play for the "district championship", until it was stopped in 1894 after the death of a Hoya player. Shortly thereafter, college clubs would be banned from playing semi-professional clubs.

The pinnacle for Hoya football came in 1949 with a 5-4 record and an appearance in the Sun Bowl (which they lost, 33-20, to UTEP). But the escalating costs of college football were taking their toll on many colleges after that year, and at the conclusion of the 1950 season the Hoyas would fold their football program - along with twenty-two other programs, including Duquesne, CCNY, Catholic, and others. It would take thirteen years for Georgetown to dip their toes in the water with club football, Division III football in 1973, and non-scholarship I-AA football in 1993.

Since joining the Patriot League in 2001, Georgetown has struggled to say the least. It never promised to be easy to transition from full need-based scholarships to the Patriot League flavor of scholarships, but nobody would have predicted that the Hoyas would not have a winning record in their eight year in the league either, let alone be uncompetitive for a Patriot League championship. Coach Kevin Kelly, who replaced Bob Benson four years ago, has exactly five wins during his time at the helm - with two wins coming against non-scholarship Marist, one coming against MEAC bottom-dweller Howard, and the another coming against Bucknell.

File this under the category of, "So you think YOU have problems..."

Last Time Out
Georgetown had to see their game at Lewisburg as a winnable game - but after jumping out to a 6-0 lead, Bucknell would ride two second-half touchdowns to beat the Hoyas 14-6. Up 3-0, the Hoyas would be handed a gift in the first quarter on the Bucknell 10 yard line to start a drive - but instead had to settle for a field goal instead of going up early by two scores. In the second half, the Georgetown offense would cross midfield only once.

LFN's Drink of the Week
Lehigh fans don't need anything fancy - we need a win. As a result, Lehigh fans also don't wish for their "Drink of the Week" to be anything fancy either - they want some nice Yuengling Black & Tans in a nice pared-down tailgate. If the football team is going back to basics to win football games, perhaps it's time for us as well, as fans, to do the same.

Breaking Down Georgetown
Offense
For yet another year, Georgetown's mantra on offense is "we're rebuilding". What many may not have bargained for is the fact that a true freshman quarterback who started out fourth on the depth chart would be the starter for the last two games. With a supposed triple-option-style attack with slot backs and the like, the Hoyas are featuring more of a pocket passer at the moment.

Calling freshman QB Isaiah Kempf's three starts a 'baptism of fire' would be fairly accurate. In an incredibly tough situation for Isaiah, he's shown some promise in the passing game, with 781 yards passing in 3 starts - but only has one touchdown, and seven interceptions, to show for it. More of a pocket passer first, Kempf does have some mobility but has had a tough time from the lack of pass protection - Georgetown has given up, on average, nearly three sacks a game.

The running game has struggled, too. Senior RB Charlie Houghton leads the Hoyas in rushing - but only has 123 yards in five games. Backing him up is junior RB Phillip Oladeji with 88 yards. At the slot, senior RB Robert Lane and and junior RB Keerome Lawrence have struggled as well, combining for 67 yards rushing on the year. The engine that is supposed to make the triple-option go has been stuck on the blocks so far this year.

The passing game, however, is where Lawrence (140 yards, 1 TD) and Lane (296 yards) have made their mark so far this year. That and the emergence of sophomore WR Dishon Hughes (219 yards, 1 TD) and freshman WR Brandon Floyd (104 yards) have been where the life of the Hoya offense has been this year. Locking up the short passing game will be critical.

The line - small by Patriot League standards - is led be senior OL Dan Metheny. At 285 lbs, he's the biggest Hoya on the line. Senior TE George Mosle hasn't caught a pass yet this year and at 272 lbs he's also a fixture on this line as well (when healthy).

Defense
As much as the Hoyas have struggled on offense, year in and year out Georgetown's defense has been something to really hang their hat on. On defense, they have had some players make it to NFL training camps. The Hoyas always bring a fierce pass rush and have some heavy hitters on their 4-2-5 defense.

This year, once again, the "D" line looks like the strength of the team with sophomore DE Andrew Schaetzke (34 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks) and senior DE Chudi Obianwu (16 tackles, 2 sacks) leading the way. Schaetzke has benefitted from the fact that Obianwu is frequently double-teamed, and he has taken advantage. They're not easy to run against, either: they've only allowed 143 yards per game on the ground.

At linebacker, senior LB Nick Parrish (53 tackles, 1 sack) is the unquestioned leader on the defense, and is on track to have a monster season. You have to be very careful with him in pass protection, too: against Holy Cross last year, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

At safety, senior SS Travis Mack is a punishing safety (29 tackles, 1 forced fumble), though the Georgetown defense sorely misses the services of another big hitter, senior FS Chris Rau, in the secondary. Senior CB Dennis Jackson is another athlete in this secondary - folks rarely pass at him.

Special Teams
The Hoyas reportedly are down to their fourth-string punter and kicker - reserve sophomore QB Tucker Stafford - since their first and second string punters quit the team in preseason, and thrid-string kicker senior TE Brian Josephs - who had been kicking so far this year - got hurt. Tough news for the Hoyas.

Senior RB Charlie Houghton has returned kickoffs this year, and he's done a pretty good job of it - to the tune of 194 yards on 8 returns to go with senior RB Keerome Lawrence on the other side. Senior RB Robert Lane returns punts and also has done a good job with 9 returns for 47 yards.

Keys To The Game
1.Cleanup time. If the Mountain Hawks hope to do anything this year, they really need to clean up their game - which means clean up penalties and clean up turnovers. Keeping the penalties to, say a maximum of three - and coming up positive in the turnover battle - will do wonders not only against Georgetown, but in the games to come.
2.Big plays. Lehigh needs to get off some big offensive plays against this aggressive defense. If Lehigh gets a couple touchdowns of over 35 yards, I'll know that Lehigh is getting into an offensive rhythm and making some of the big plays that have eluded them in the first four games.
3.Pressure. Kempf has some ability to pass the ball - if he's given time. I'd hope senior LB Al Pierce and senior LB Matt Cohen will be in Kempf's face all day - and make the freshman miserable.

Fearless Prediction
In the past three years, Georgetown has come at a great time for the Mountain Hawks to get into a rhythm and get some positive momentum. This year is no exception; Lehigh has a golden opportunity to build the foundation of a successful season this weekend.

As Lehigh fans, we tend to forget that we played some pretty good football teams in the first few weeks. Central Connecticut State is 3-1; Villanova might win a national championship; and Harvard looks to be a contender yet again for the Ivy League championship. Even Princeton, who looked like the weakest of the four, always plays a clean game and never seems to be an easy out.

Can Lehigh's offense get back on track this weekend? I think they will.

Lehigh 31, Georgetown 9

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Players of the Week, Harvard vs. Lehigh

Some quick notes before we enter the preview of the Georgetown game. First of all, here are this week's LFN "Players of the Week":

Offensive Hawk: Freshman QB Michael Colvin (career-high 74 yards rushing vs. Harvard, including a 55 yard scamper that set up Lehigh's first TD)

Defensive Hawk (tie): Senior LB Al Pierce (10 tackles, 1 sacks, 2 QB hurries) and sophomore DB/LB Colin Newton (10 tackles, 1/2 sack, 2 pass break-ups)

Special Teams Hawk: Sophomore P Alex Smith (6 punts, 39.8 yard average)

This week, some more bad news came down the pike in a season filled with it: news from the Express-Times that senior DT Phil Winett and senior LB Heath Brickner are officially done for the year with their injuries, and senior LB Troy Taylor is questionable as well. It seems like eons ago that we were worrying whether Lehigh could play all their senior talent at linebacker; now we're wondering which underclassmen will be suiting up on Saturday. With the notable exception of senior LB Matt Cohen, the other three preseason starting linebackers have sat out entire games due to injury.

Lehigh Athletics released two senior profiles that I haven't posted here yet, one for senior SS Jesse Sanchez and another for senior WR Jimmy Potocnie. And also announced this week was that senior OL Frank Giacalone is a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell trophy (formerly known as the Draddy trophy).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FCS East Wrapup: Nova Soars and James Madison Crashes

(Photo courtesy Hofstra Athletics)

Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. If you had one FCS game to go to this past weekend, you most certainly wouldn't have picked James Madison visiting Hofstra: you'd have gone to Villanova to see the No. 2-ranked Wildcats take on the No. 5-ranked William & Mary Tribe.

Trouble is, had you chosen the better game on paper to watch, you would have seen a yawner - the excitement, incredibly, was in Hempstead, Long Island. (No really, was that the first time those words have ever appeared anywhere?)

  • Every year there seems to be that senseless CAA upset - Rhode Island putting everything together to upset UMass, say, or Towson winning against Villanova. This year's first CAA upset came at Hofstra - the yes, the same Hofstra that struggled against Stony Brook and scored a grand total of 10 points against Richmond and FBS Western Michigan - where the Pride didn't fall against James Madison in a shock 24-17 upset. While in retrospect it looked like a chance for the Dukes to let down after a tough 24-13 win at Liberty, the Pride put it all together by jumping out to a 21-10 lead by the end of the first half for starters, happily grinding out the end of the first half with a time-consuming drive ending with a 4 yard TD pass from Pride senior QB Cory Christopher to freshman TE Dave Wilson. After that, Hofstra's "D" took over: after the Dukes would take the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown, junior DE Deron Mayo and company would hold James Madison to two 3-and-outs and force an interception by freshman DB Jordan "Don't Call Me Rodney" Dangerfield which led to the final FG. Hofstra seeks to build off the momentum of this huge win at home versus Maine this weekend - and have to be thinking they have a real chance to build some steam towards a playoff shot. Meanwhile James Madison gets to "cool off" with a tough matchup at home with the No. 1 team in the country, Richmond - which feels like it could be a must-win. (Such is life in the CAA.)
  • Meanwhile, the "clash of the titans" at Villanova stadium started with junior QB Chris Whitney hooking up with senior WR Brandyn Harvey for a 57 yard TD strike - on a flea-flicker - and the Wildcats never looked back in a 28-17 laugher. (Just think - the Versus Network and the CAA could have had a thriller in Hempstead instead of a game that was a dominating Villanova performance.) The Wildcats' defensive performance featured four sacks and two turnovers, and sophomore DB James Pitts featured in both: one tipped ball that led to an interception, and a fumble recovery. (Not to mention 15 tackles.) Not to be forgotten either was a monster performance by junior LB Terence Thomes with 14 tackles in a defensive effort that yielded 472 yards of Tribe offense - most of it coming through the air - but only yielded 17 points, including only one touchdown and three FGs by Tribe senior PK Brian Pate. No rest for 'Nova as they travel to New Hampshire for another Sports Network Top Ten battle - while William & Mary travel to Northeastern to take on the winless Huskies. (Of course, can you count any CAA conference game as a gimme after seeing what Hofstra did?)
  • Two weeks ago, St. Francis (PA) and Wagner battled to the highest-scoring game in NEC history, a 56-48 triple-overtime win by the Seahawks. What do both teams do for an encore? Not score an offensive touchdown, of course: Wagner must have given up a late grand slam in their wet 6-2 defeat to Bryant, while the Red Flash would go down 27-6 to last year's NEC Champions Albany. Week four, 104 combined points; week five, 8 combined points. I mean, what are the odds?
  • I love rivalry games, and one I want to see someday is the Rhode Island "Governor's Cup" pitting Brown and Rhode Island. This year's game wasn't a joy for the spectators - playing in rain and mud - but at least Brown came away happy with the trophy in a 28-20 victory over the Rams. It was not, by any account, a pretty game to watch: URI junior QB Chris Paul-Etienne went out with an injury on the first play, and the Rams never seemed to get in scoring synch with a whopping 17 penalites and a failure to convert on third down until late in the 3rd quarter. In a sloppy game, it was Brown's two offensive stars - senior WR Buddy Farnham and senior WR Bobby Sewall - that shined. Farnham's eye-popping 274 all-purpose yards - of which 97 were a punt return for a touchdown - and Sewall's 50 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns and 2-point conversion - made the difference for the Bears. Rhode Island faces off against Towson this weekend, while Brown will play Holy Cross this weekend in the biggest Ivy/Patriot matchup of the week.
  • It won't go down in the annals of history as a program-defining win, but Holy Cross will gladly paint their 42-21 win over Northeastern as a win over a "big, bad, scholarship CAA" school - even if the Huskies are 0-4 and haven't eclipsed 21 points in four tries. Senior QB Dominic Randolph tossed 5 touchdown passes in limited action as the Crusaders coasted to a 42-7 lead before head coach Tom Gilmore lifted him in the fourth quarter. Twelve different Holy Cross receivers caught passes: junior DL Mude Ohimor notched four tackles and two sacks: and Holy Cross got a nice tune-up before facing off against Brown this coming weekend.
  • I had a feeling when Cornell entered Colgate this weekend - with the Big Red coaching staff playing down this rivalry game as "just another game" - that this one might be a blowout. The 94th meeting between Cornell and Colgate in the "white-out" involved the Raiders "plowing" through Cornell, 45-23. If you're a Patriot League opponent on Colgate's schedule, you have to fear a comment like this from Cornell head coach Jim Knowles: “You’re looking for answers and when they take what you’ve practiced and ram it right back down your throat and score, that’s a little unnerving. We did everything we could to regroup but they’re a great team. We could not match up today, that’s for sure.” Yikes. And that's before he said “[Colgate’s] line is the best line that I’ve gone against at this level. Junior QB Greg Sullivan does an outstanding job of reading things and managing the offense (298 all-purpose offense, 3 TDs) and they’ve got great running backs (like sophomore RB Nate Eachus) that break tackles and get extra yards. When you can’t stop the run or slow them down, you’ve got very little chance to win.” Cornell tries to regroup against Harvard this weekend in a big Ivy League showdown, while the Raiders will bask in a rare nationally-televised appearance this Thursday at Princeton, to be broadcast on ESPNU.
  • In Lafayette's long history, they had never beaten Yale. Head coach Frank Tavani challenged his team to be "legends" and make "history" to be that first team to beat the Eli, and they did to the tune of a 31-10 domination. While Lafayette's defense was predictably stunning - senior DL Andrew Poulson had two sacks, and senior LB Mark Leggerio had 12 tackles and was Patriot League Defensive player of the week, more worryingly for all Lehigh fans was the way Lafayette's offense came together: senior RB Maurice White has 21 carries for 121 yards, and senior QB Rob Curley went 20 for 28 passing with 241 yards and 1 touchdown. The Leopards will look to continue their winning streak at home against Columbia next weekend, while Yale will host Dartmouth and attempt to break their two-game skid. (Against 0-3 Dartmouth, they'll have an excellent chance to do just that.)
  • While this blog has chronicled the frustrations of Lehigh's season so far, less has been said about Fordham's excruciating 0-3 start with a loss to URI, an loss to their crosstown rival, and a brutal loss to Colgate. But Fordham managed to pull one out against FCS newbie Old Dominion rallying for a 35-29 victory. The key for the Rams was to get some running game going: junior RB Xavier Martin and sophomore RB David Whiting both ran for over 100 yards, and the offense led by Patriot League player of the week senior QB John Skelton broke a school record by gaining 687 yards of total offense. Still worrying for the Rams, however, was how two of their three fumbles directly led to Monarch touchdowns - not to mention two missed extra-points and 11 penalties for 105 yards. Still, Fordham has something Lehigh does not have yet - a win - as they host Bryant this weekend.
  • Finally, the Georgetown defense would play extremely strong for a half - only allowing 90 first-half yards and allowing the Hoyas to hold onto a 6-0 halftime lead. But backup sophomore QB C.J. Hopson's entrance into the game in the second half would allow the 3-2 Bison's triple-option offense to get moving - and score just enough in a 14-6 victory. The Hoya defense would only allow 262 yards of offense on the afternoon - and be led by junior QB Travis Mack's 11 tackles - but ultimately they'd be let down by an offense that ended up getting 3's instead of 6's. "In my mind we should have had 21 points (at halftime)," Georgetown head coach Kevin Kelly said. "In my mind we need to score touchdowns in the red zone and we didn't get any." The Hoya offense - with only 219 total yards on Saturday, and one offensive touchdown in four games - is still struggling mightily.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Press Roundup: Harvard 28, Lehigh 14

(Photo courtesy Kevin Mingora, The Morning Call)

Unsurprisingly, the press this week was not kind to the Mountain Hawks in the write-ups of their 28-14 loss to Harvard. The Morning Call has a photo gallery up from the game, of which this picture to my left featuring freshman QB Michael Colvin is a part. (There have been others this year from the Morning Call as well, but today was the first day I felt enterprising enough to post them.)

Look soon for my photos to be posted to the Lehigh Football Nation Facebook page as well. If fans would like me to post them to Webshots as well I will do so, though I have been too bummed to post any so far this year. They're currently on my computer at home, waiting for me to get some time to upload them.

Lehigh Athletics: Mountain Hawks Drop 28-14 Decision to Harvard


"Obviously we're not happy to be 0-4," Mountain Hawks head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "I thought sophomore QB Chris Lum did some nice things out there today, but he made his fair share of mistakes, too. We'll go back and watch the tape to determine where we go from here (with the quarterback position)."

The Mountain Hawks took an early first quarter lead when Lum connected with junior TE Alex Wojdowski on a one yard touchdown pass. It was the first time this season that Lehigh was able to score a touchdown on its first possession and only the second time this season the Mountain Hawks have scored in the first quarter. Lehigh drove 83 yards on its opening drive which included a 55 yard run by backup freshman QB Michael Colvin out of the wildcat formation. "Mike's been doing a great job for us all season whenever he gets an opportunity. He's a very good athlete and showed that once again today," Coen said.
Morning Call: More Gloom at Goodman as Harvard Dumps Lehigh

''Chris competed as I knew he would and he made some mistakes like I knew he would,'' said Lehigh coach Andy Coen. ''I was disappointed in the interceptions, but I'm not going to kill the kid because he came out and competed. He's going to make mistakes and you're going to have to live with them, but some of them hurt.''

''It was not the day I envisioned,'' Lum said. ''But I gave it my best. I'm looking forward to doing better next week.''

''It gets tough when you're throwing the ball as much as we did, but that kind of took on a life of its own when you get down 21-7 in the fourth quarter,'' Coen said. ''We were winging it around as much as possible trying to get a big play.''

...

''I thought the defense played very well today,'' Coen said. ''They kept a very explosive offense on their heels and got some big stops. We left them on the field probably too long, but I was proud of how they played.''

''I thought we did a good job and played solid, but there were mistakes we need to clean up,'' senior LB Al Pierce said. ''We have to make more plays on defense and take better advantage of the opportunities when they're given to us.''

Express-Times: Andy Coen Not Fazed by Winless Start

When a member of the media asked Lehigh University football coach Andy Coen how he feels to be 0-4 after the Mountain Hawks' 28-14 loss to Harvard on Saturday, Coen was quick to point out the obvious.

"How do you think?" he asked back. "I’m very disappointed being 0-4. I told the kids at the end of the game we can act like an 0-4 team or act like a team who wants to compete for the Patriot League."

"It hurts. It hurts everybody involved with us," Coen said of the winless start. "Certainly not anything I envisioned at this point and time. I’m not the first football coach in the history of the world who’s been 0-4. I have to work hard to right this ship and that’s what im gonna do. I can’t blame these kids on their effort, at all."
Morning Call: Winless Mountain Hawks Have 'A Lot of Work to Do'

''After the game, I told the kids we can act like an 0-4 team or we can act like a team that wants to compete in the Patriot League. We've got a lot of work to do to do that. But I know these guys. They're going to hurt tonight as they have the last couple of weeks, but they'll come back and be ready to go.''

'Coaches coach, that's what we do,'' [Coen] said. ''I'm not the first football coach in the history of the world to be 0-4. I've got to work hard to right the ship and that's what I'm going to do.''

He was asked about how he'll go about changing the direction of this season.

''The way I coach is to challenge the kids to do the right thing and get better,'' he said. ''I certainly praise them when they do something right and critique them when they have done something wrong. That never changes. It's harder to accentuate positives when you're an 0-4 team. At the end of the day, the defense has gotten better and is playing well enough, even with injuries, to keep us in every game.

''Offensively, it hasn't happened. When we can get everything going, we can be pretty good. That was my expectation for this year. I've seen flashes of things, but nothing consistent.''

...

Coen said Lum, who threw four interceptions and was sacked four times, went through a learning process.

But Coen didn't rule out a return to original starter junior QB J.B. Clark, saying that he would again go back and examine the film.

Coen again noted that Clark has handled his demotion with class.

''You want your children to grow up and be like that guy,'' Coen said. ''I have more respect for him now than I ever have and I've always held him in high regard. He was the first guy telling me coming off the field to keep my head up. That's the type of person he is. And there are a lot of those kids in our program who are like that.''

Groller's Corner: Struggling to Find Positives for Lehigh

At the moment, it's real hard to find positives in this 0-4 start. Based on what happened today, you can't say that Chris Lum is the answer at quarterback, although he showed some nice flashes.

Lum wouldn't use excuses, but it's not easy breaking into the starting lineup against a good team like Harvard and his four interceptions -- a combination of bad throws and bad decisions -- were not all that surprising.

...

Overall, there was not a lot to smile about, and there really hasn't been much all season. The crowds are down -- just 5,457 today -- and those who are showing up are increasingly voicing their displeasure.

Georgetown, a team that is 0-5 and averaging just 7.4 poings per game, comes to Bethlehem at just the right time. Lehigh has defeated the Hoyas eight straight times and none of those games have been competitive.

In some years, a game with Georgetown offers potential for a letdown.

That will not be the case this year. It better not be.

Lehigh has a chance to taste success and must seize it on Saturday with a blowout win and then build momentum against Yale and Bucknell before the trip to Colgate on Halloween.

As bad as it's been, it's not too late for this team to turn it around.

From all accounts, the kids haven't quit. They maintain a good attitude. They just need a reward at some point. It should come against Georgetown.

But if you've followed this team at all, you know it won't be easy.
Harvard Crimson: Defense First in Crimson Victory

“I think it really starts with our defensive staff—[it] has really done a great job of getting some young kids ready to play, that we hadn’t thought we’d be playing so soon, especially at the defensive end position,” Murphy said. “You also factor in that we have a lot of veteran linebackers but not many have been front-line players. I think they’ve done a good job.”

The defense notched four interceptions Saturday, with junior FS Collin Zych picking a pair of passes, senior SS Ryan Barnes snatching one of his own, and senior LB Jon Takamura returning an interception for 60 yards and a touchdown.

“[Defensive coordinator Scott] Larkee had us well-prepared this week,” Takamura said. “So I just saw the fullback flare out for a screen, and I just read it, got under it, got lucky. The quarterback threw the ball, and I just surrounded the ball and ended up in the endzone.”
Harvard Crimson:
Ho Takes Hold of His Opportunity

Harvard’s regular starting running back, junior RB Gino Gordon, was sidelined with an injury. Though Crimson coach Tim Murphy would not go into specifics, Gordon was dressed to play.

“He should be fine,” Murphy said of Gordon. “I mean, we could have used him today, but like I said, we’ve got the luxury of depth so we could rest him.”

Also, according to Murphy, Harvard’s second-string back, freshman RB Treavor Scales, returned home to Georgia to attend to a death in the family.

That left the Crimson’s offense with its number three, senior RB Cheng Ho. Ho, who missed most of last year due to injury, was Harvard’s starter two years ago, and on Saturday he returned to form. He rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown, and caught a 13-yard touchdown reception.

“We didn’t have our number one, we didn’t have our number two, and Cheng’s a guy we’ve always been able to count on,” Murphy said.

Coach Murphy came up to me after the Brown game [last Friday night] and said ‘Hang in there, your time will come,’ and I really listened,” Ho said. “I knew the team needed me today...And I know this: There’s one shot and this might be my only shot, and I just knew I had to take advantage of it.”

...

By the time Ho left the field with leg cramps late in the third quarter, he had led Harvard to such a commanding advantage that, while he could have returned, it was unnecessary to push him much further and his action was limited for the rest of the game. But even in an abbreviated showing, his line was impressive—132 rushing yards and a score on 21 carries along with a 13-yard touchdown reception.

“We certainly rode him today—not just his productivity but his emotion,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. “He gave us a lot of juice on offense, a lot of leadership.”

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday's Word: Faith

At some point this year - I forget exactly when - my thoughts turned to my "Sunday Word" column, and I realized that it could be misinterpreted. Initially modeled after the "Word" from The Colbert Report, it finally got through my thick skull that when you stick the word "Sunday" in front of it it becomes something different - in the right context, it can be religious in tone, as if I'm delivering a sermon.

While I never intended it to become sermon-esque, I think, re-reading my "Words" for this year, that they have oddly veered into sermon-like territory. (Heck, last week I pitched a sermon for the Wildcat offense.)

It doesn't help that my "Words" tend to be more on the serious side when Lehigh is losing, and at 0-4 the Mountain Hawks are inviting me deeper into the sermonizing aspect of my "Words" and less into whimsical wordplay on, say, weather or weird Swedish words nobody has ever heard of.

Normally, I think it's ridiculous to bring the world of "faith" into my "Words". First of all, it tends to not be very amusing. Second, it's highly personal. And third, it has an uncanny and senseless ability to piss people off.

But I think in this case I'm going to make an exception.

*****

This morning, I was tired, achy, with a massive headache. Still grouchy from the loss yesterday, I didn't want to go to church. Somewhere, though, I found it in myself to grab a cup of coffee and head over to church in time. (The lady I live with also had a large part to play in my getting up to get over there, too.)

Today, the lesson was the book of Luke (verses 17:5-6, in case you were wondering). Without going into a lot of detail, the day's lesson was on "faith".

That's when I figured out that this should be this weekend's word. Because "faith" in the Mountain Hawks is hard to find right now.

In fact, if you looked around Murray Goodman this weekend, what you saw was an awful lot of pain, not "faith".

There are a lot of slouched shoulders. A lot of silence in the stands. They want to believe that Lehigh can turn things around. But after four losses, they've lost their "faith".

A lot has been made about the fact that this is the first time since 1982 that Lehigh hasn't won any of their first four games, and it's clear that not tasting victory since last year is having a stomach-twisting effect on everyone, from the top to the bottom. High hopes have turned into low expectations from some - and expectations that bad things will happen on the field.

(To go with the pain there's a touch of anger as well, with coach Coen in the post-game press conference coming close to barking at a member of the media - sitting inches from him - who asked a question that probably shouldn't have been asked ("How does it feel to be 0-4?").

Some fans genuinely seem baffled as to how this can happen - how a talented group of kids, a good group of kids, could be 0-4? They're, quite frankly, like me - they think that they have the silver bullet to fix the mental lapses or offensive or defensive schemes that can turn losses into wins. They want to fix the problems - start winning. They want to help.

With 1982 passed, some folks are openly worried if the spectre of another year- 1966 - might be invoked soon. Not only did Lehigh lose their first five games of that year, they went 0-9. All of a sudden losing to Georgetown at home next weekend - unthinkable when the season began - now doesn't seem so outlandish.

Nobody who is around this program wants to see that happen. There are a staggering number of people that do care very, very deeply about this program that want to see Lehigh win football games. (Numbers of people that, say, Villanova would drool over.)

But "faith" right now is at an all-time low.

*****

I went back to the last game Lehigh won - the "Rivalry" win to finally take one away from "that school in Easton" - to just remind myself how they won that game. Maybe there is a lesson - a Sunday school lesson, if you will - in how Lehigh can get back on the winning track.

For starters, what is striking was how few mistakes there were in this game: only 3 penalties. No turnovers. Another striking thing was that Lehigh won with only 13 net yards rushing. 13!

When I blogged about that wonderful win, junior QB J.B. Clark was the MVP, of course. But the win wasn't all on Clark's back: I singled out individual plays from nineteen other players who won the game for Lehigh. WR Nick Johnson's over-the-shoulder catch. RB Matt McGowan's tough efforts during the game, even though he was battling injury. FB Adam Watson's bulldoze in the end zone for a touchdown.

Clark didn't win that game with an amazing, "Phil Simms in 1986" sort of pass efficiency rating. But he did have his players believing, and every time Lehigh needed a big play one was there. The huge reception to WR Sekou Yansane. Big sacks by senior LB Matt Cohen and senior LB Al Pierce. It was all about big plays, and Lehigh had almost all of them.

I was struck by the number of seniors on that team - which seem like they are sorely missed on this 2009 version of the Mountain Hawks - but I was also struck by the fact that it wasn't just one player who brought the victory. It was the whole team.

*****

Ultimately, I came to only one conclusion today. The only way that this ship can be righted is for the kids playing out there to have "faith".

"Faith" in each other, "faith" that they will fix their won individual problems and the coaching staff will make adjustments to theirs, "faith" that there will be fans out there to cheer them on. "Faith" that the win last November was not an illusion, and that the tools to bring back the wins are somewhere there on that game tape.

They have to believe that though mistakes were made in the beginning part of the season, lessons can be learned from them in order to get better - that mistakes only lose you games if you keep making the same ones over and over.

They have to look at that 2006 Lafayette team that lost five games in the middle of the year - but marched up to Hamilton, NY and upset the Raiders and ended up as Patriot League champions. It still can happen - and the players have to have the "faith" that they can do just that.

They have to come out one more week and work hard - and win the game in front of them, and then go on to the next week.

They have to have "faith" that they will make some folks regret giving up on them in early October.
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