Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lehigh 0, Yale 7, Final

I'm sitting here in front of my laptop, struggling to think of what to say.

All I can really say is that anyone who sat through this game, online or - Heaven forbid - in person, deserves a medal.

There is such a thing as a defensive struggle. And Lehigh's defense certainly battled bravely. But every time Lehigh's defense set the table, the offense and special teams could not score a single friggin' point.

That's something that hasn't happened against a Lehigh team since 1986. And Lehigh, before this afternoon, had only been shut out twice since moving from from Division II in 1979, both times by Navy. That means that Lehigh, for the first time ever, was shut out by an FCS team as an FCS team.

You could glorify a Lehigh defense that didn't quit - a defense that kept trying to set the table to score anything. But the offense was pure pain to watch failing again and again - and even field goal tries gave this reporter a sinking feeling that they wouldn't put points on the board.

You could try to pump up Yale as a latter-day Walter Camp-coached team, but they were nowhere near that level. Their ineptitude on offense equalled Lehigh's, as it was a fake punt that Yale senior LB Paul Rice took into the end zone in the only well-executed play for positive yardage all afternoon.

You could try to make excuses - that it was wet, or windy, or that Lehigh had a lot of injuries. But any excuses like that are pathetic. There is no justification for the hideous performance on offense this afternoon.

How hideous? Let me count the ways.

0 for 13 third down conversions.

197 yards of offense.

4 turnovers.

9 first downs.

0 for 2 in the red zone.

Special teams were hideous, too. An opening kickoff return to the 50 yard line. 11 punts, for a whopping 30.1 average net. Three times Lehigh had a chance to down the ball inside the 10, only to see the ball bounce in the end zone to bring it back to the 20. Two missed field goals - there's that 0 for 2 red zone conversion rate.

With a chance to tie the game in the last two minutes - Lehigh took a rare completion (Lehigh quarterbacks only had eight completions on the afternoon) and tried a hook-and-ladder play. It spectacularly misfired, as the ball flew in the air into the hands of Yale junior LB Sean Williams to end the game.

On a week where Lafayette had a historic 35-18 victory against Harvard, Lehigh failed to score a single point against Yale. If that doesn't sum up the state of the program right now, I don't know what does.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Game Preview: Yale at Lehigh

(Photo courtesy the New Haven Register)

Forget, for a moment, that Lehigh is 1-3 going into this game. Forget, too, that the Mountain Hawks' only win so far is against Georgetown. Also, forget that 2-2 Yale is very similar to Lehigh in a lot of ways - they've beaten a common opponent (the Hoyas) and struggled against decent Patriot League and Ivy competition.

There's a key bit of pride that Lehigh needs to play for. It's something you're probably not even aware of: a trophy.

In 2006, the Lehigh/Yale series got a trophy. Called the "Yank Townsend Trophy", named after the only Yankee (i.e., student from Connecticut) who was in the Lehigh class of 1895. After graduating, he would relocate to New Haven to be close to the rest of his family, where he would design many buildings and residences and cement his legacy for generations.

Yank's descendants sponsored the trophy to be presented to the winner of this game. It's a cool way to link these two historic schools, linked by academics and tradititon, a constant reminder to the history and football traditions of both schools - and in the first two meetings since the trophy was established, Yale won both times. Easily.

It's now 2009, and the trophy is back. It may not be the most well-known trophy - but to the Mountain Hawks, it should signify much more than Lehigh/Yale series, too.

It was started the year after Lehigh's last playoff appearance in 2005. It was the beginning of not playing in the playoffs; losing championships to "that school in Easton", and two years of games where the second weekend of November was just a tune-up to the Big Game, not key clashes en route to the Patriot League championship and a trip to Delaware in the playoffs.

Would winning the trophy usher in these days once again? Not by itself. But the trophy could be a symbol of what Lehigh needs to be in order to be Patriot League champions. The teams that won Patriot League championships and made runs in the playoffs won games like this.

A win here would help put the tough start to the season even further in the past. Next week's game against Bucknell - technically - is vital to the Mountain Hawks' chances to win the Patriot League, and this game, against Yale for the Yank Townsend trophy, is not. But having the trophy here after this weekend could mean a lot, lot more for this Lehigh squad than outsiders might think - something that can be seen, a tangible token that Lehigh is winning and getting better.

Game Notes
The game notes show some interesting reshuffles on defense. Senior DT B.J. Benning is now listed as the starter at nose guard, while sophomore DE Cody Connare and sophomore DE Andrew Knapp are listed as starters on the "D" line. Sophomore LB Colin Newton has been moved from the nickel-back role to outside linebacker, opposite senior LB Matt Cohen. Clearly Newton has impressed in the first half of the season, and to me it seems like a good move. Sliding into Newton's nickel role is freshman DB Bryan Andrews, who has impressed coach Coen since the beginning (and, for good measure, blocked a punt last weekend.)

Junior RB Jaren Walker has displaced sophomore RB Matt Fitz as the backup to junior RB Jay Campbell. Walker is rumored to not be 100%, so again it would not be a surprise to see Fitz or freshman RB Zach Barket to get some touches as well.

Yale's game notes can be found here.

Weather Report
A chance of snow? Believe it: though the forecast calls for rain on Saturday, it's not difficult to picture snow happening on a day that will probably feel a lot more like the third weekend in November rather than homecoming. The only thing for sure is that there will be rain - a lot of it - with accumulations near 1/2 an inch and 10 to 20 mph wins. Bring your umbrellas.

This could be Lehigh's first bad weather game of the year, and it's worth pondering what that might mean.

A Word on Yale
Yale has a pretty high bar for first-time coaches - try Walter Camp, grandfather of college football, owner of a 13-0 record and a paper national championship in 1888. While first-time head coach Tom Williams already fell short of that (admittedly ridiculous) bar - at 2-2, Williams isn't exactly satisfied yet, wither with his team. Coming as an assistant for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, Williams got the nod after Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore and (then) UMass head coach Don Brown turned it down.

Last Time Out
“It feels good to win, but it really feels good when the guys earn it," Williams told the media after their 38-7 shellacking of winless Dartmouth. "The last couple weeks we haven’t earned victories because we’ve done things that have caused us to not win. To go out and play a fairly complete game was something I think our team needed for our confidence, but also to show what we’re capable of doing when we play the way we’re capable of playing.”

LFN's Drink of the Week
It's cold, it's wet, and it's Yale. Only one drink can keep you warm and get your ready for the game: that's peppermint Schnapps and hot chocolate, one thing that my friends Greg and Ginny make that has kept me alive through many a "Rivalry". Seeing as this weekend is promising to be Rivalry-like weather, it's worth pulling out the Schnapps a month early in this special case.

As always, "Drinks of the week" have a place in responsible tailgates. Please drink responsibly. Don't make me come out there and beat you up myself.

Breaking Down Yale
Offense
This team couldn't be more different than the run-happy, senior-"O" Lined team that beat Lehigh in 2006 and 2007. That team had a dominating RB, Mike McLeod, and a team geared towards giving him as many yards as possible. This year's top running back has as fewer yards in four games that McLeod had in some games, meaning that the Eli have become much more of a passing team.

Coach Williams started the year trying to find a way to play both his quarterbacks, Nebraska transfer sophomore QB Patrick Witt and junior QB Brook Hart, but it was Hart that played the entire way against the Big Green and appears to have locked up the starting position right now. Both are not going to set the world on fire with their mobility, but Hart's numbers against Dartmouth - 28 of 40, with 3 touchdowns - are enough to deserve Lehigh's respect. Of particular note is the deep passing game, which is what killed Dartmouth - 14 pass plays of 10 yards or more, including a 73 yard strike.

On the other end of these passes are senior TE John Sheffield (248 yards, 1 TD) and junior WR Jordan Forney (173, 3 TD). Add to this speedy freshman WR Chris Smith (168 yards, 1 TD) and you have a dangerous trio of receivers that Hart can target. Covering Sheffield underneath, who is more of an H-back than a tight end, would seem to be a priority to disrupt Hart. Senior TE A.J. Haase has also been a target in goalline situations, too.

When they do run the ball, Williams has split the carries between senior RB Jordan Farrell (219 yards, 3 touchdowns) and freshman RB Mordecai Cargill (120 yards). Freshman FB Jordan Capellino has thus far only been a blocking fullback.

Yale's "O" line may not be the same unit as 2008, but they are still an awfully tough bunch. Senior OL Cory Palmer is 6'6, 305 lbs and most certainly will get NFL looks, and sophomore C Gabriel Fernandez hails from Hawai'i and transferred from UCLA to play for Willaims. Like in 2007, this "O" line will be a big physical test for our front seven.

Defense
Like Lehigh, Williams plays a 3-4 defense that is aggressive. They scrapped the 4-2-5 that the Bulldogs used to play under Jack Sidlecki, so they are still adjusting to the new realities. They have responded extremely well, however, holding teams to 261 yards per game.

6'6 senior DT Tom McCarthy headlines a very large Yale "D" line. Interior rushing won't be easy: this line only is allowing 70 rushing yards per game, and with the huge line it's no surprise.

Three seniors headline the linebacking unit: senior LB Paul Rice (24 tackles, 3 tackles for loss), senior LB Tim Handlon (22 tackles, 2 interceptions) and senior LB Travis Henry, who has been injured in the early going. This is a deep, senior laden unit that will keep the Bulldogs in games.

Senior FS Larry Abare fills out the defense (29 tackles), the twin brother of LB Bobby Abare who graduated last year. In the first four games of the year, Yale has had five interceptions, two from junior CB Adam Money, one against Lafayette and another versus Georgetown. Overall this is a solid defense that isn't easy to score against.

Special Teams
Senior P/K Tom Mante was first-team all-Ivy last year, and he's shown flashes of that this year too: hitting 11/11 extra points, with 4-6 on FGs and two 50 yarders to his credit already, there's no doubt that he will get in a NFL free agent camp next year. He's not a bad punter either, with a 39.5 average in four games this year.

Freshman WR Chris Smith is a fixture on both the punt and kickoff return units, where he has a 3.4 and 23.1 yard average, respectively. Unproven senior RB Ricky Galvez will join him on the other side returning kickoffs this week.

Keys to the Game
1.Ground Lehigh. In bad weather, the key will be running the ball. Junior RB Jay Campbell will need the "O" line to win the battle in the trench and spring him free for some big gains. If Campbell has another 100 yard day, and junior RB Jaren Walker, freshman QB Michael Colvin and freshman RB Zach Barket combine for a nice 200 yards rushing, we're going to win this game.
2.Getting rid of the safety valve. Senior LB Al Pierce and senior LB Troy Taylor will have to be on the lookout for Sheffield in the middle. Get rid of Hart's safety valve when he does pass, and we should be well on our way to disrupting the flow of Yale's offense.
3.Momentum. So far, Lehigh has had a bad habit of going one step bacckwards after one step forward on offense: a big penalty after a big 20 yard gain, or an interception right after a big play to get into the red zone. Starting now, it has to be all forward. Mistakes will happen, but the momentum needs to be forward. Always.

Fearless Prediction
What an enigma. You could make a case that Lehigh could have a 2-2 record (at least) if they had Yale's schedule, while Yale would be no better than 2-2 with Lehigh's schedule as well. How much has Lehigh improved? How far along is Yale in Year One of the Williams era? So many questions...

On a perfect day, it would be tempting to take Yale, but Lehigh's ability to establish the ground game may be what pays dividends this weekend. In rain and wind, Lehigh's backs are in a better position to make hay than Yale's at this point - provided, of course, that Lehigh can keep the mistakes down and play with emotion and unity of purpose? Will they?

Lehigh 12, Yale 9

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Players of the Week, Georgetown vs. Lehigh

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

Offensive Hawk (tie): Junior RB Jay Campbell (another career high this week with 20 carries and 111 yards rushing vs. Georgetown) and freshman QB Michael Colvin (Patriot League Freshman of the Week with 45 yards rushing, averaging 7.5 yards per carry)

Defensive Hawk: Senior LB Matt Cohen (Patriot League Player of the week on defense, 6 tackles, 4 tackles for loss including 3 sacks)

Special Teams Hawk: Junior DB/RS Jarard "Fearless" Cribbs (71 yards in punt returns including a 34 yard return)

You undoubtedly noticed the new nickname above for Jarard. May I propose that the Lehigh special teams unit get a new nickname: the "Fear Factor". With junior DB/RS John "Fear Itself" Kennedy, junior WR Craig "Braveheart" Zurn, there's a lot to fear in Lehigh's special teams units - so why not?

Finally, the ECAC Lambert Poll, ranking the top teams in the East for the Lambert Trophy, was released this week. They list as the top 10 schools:

1. Richmond
2. New Hampshire
3. Villanova
4. William & Mary
5. Colgate
6. Delaware
7. Holy Cross
8. Massachusetts
9. James Madison
T10. Lafayette
T10. Harvard

Every year I go through my own calculations and compute my own Lambert Power Rankings, or LPR, based on a simple formula. (I actually simplified it from last year, where I weighted games in region and overtime games differently - I found out that it wasn't worth dividing in that way.) Unsurprisingly, my LPR also has many CAA teams in it - but has a different breakdown:

1. Richmond (69 points)
2. Villanova (56.5 points)
3. New Hampshire (55.5 points)
4. William & Mary (52 points)
5. Colgate (51 points)
6. Hofstra (43 points)
7. Albany (42 points)
8. UMass (37.5 points)
T9. Delaware (36.5 points)
T9. Holy Cross (36.5 points)

Now this, admittedly, is just a formula (which is the only reason my New Hampshire would be below Villanova, who they beat, and Delaware would be below UMass, whom they beat). But interestingly, Albany, ranked at No. 7 by my system, is nowhere on the official ECAC poll, and neither is Hofstra at No. 6.

The official poll takes out Albany and Hofstra and replaces them with James Madison (9), Lafayette (T10) and Harvard (T10). In my ECAC Ballot, I had all three of these teams in there: but it's interesting to ponder why Albany isn't in there after beating Maine earlier in the year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FCS East Recap: Wildcats (UNH) Turn Around Wildcats (Nova)

(Photo courtesy the Laconia Citizen/AP)

For the second week in a row, the No. 2 team faced the No. 5 team in the in the Sports Network Top 25. Last week, it was Villanova who jumped out in front of William & Mary to coast to the victory, but this weekend would end quite differently for the Wildcats.

In Durham, New Hampshire, two top defensive teams slugged it out and it would be No. 5, New Hampshire, that would emerge on top 28-24. After UNH jumped out to a 22-7 lead midway through the second quarter, Villanova junior WR Matt Szczur showed he is the heart and soul of their offense, scoring two big play touchdowns (one 26 yard reception, and a 58 yard touchdown run) in the next two quarters to give Villanova the 24-22 lead. He would have an eye-popping 283 yards of total offense on the afternoon - more than half of the Wildcats' yards from scrimmage.

But it was UNH's defense, led by senior LB Sean Ware (10 tackles) and sophomore S Ryan McGuinness (10 tackles) that held Villanova when it counted. While UNH's "no-name" defense doesn't have one standout star, their bruisers wore down Villanova and didn't break when it counted, when senior LB Terence Klein grabbed a key interception late and batted down Villanova's final pass.

New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell thought his team made a statement. "I told the kids it's your stage, your opportunity to go do something. There's a lot of doubters still, I believe, how good we can be. I was very proud of the way they stood up in this game and bounced back and won one in our house."

"New Hampshire played the exact kind of game I thought they would play," Villanova head football coach Andy Talley said afterwards. "We had our chances to win the game and we didn't."

It doesn't get any easier in the CAA, that's for sure: Villanova gets to head out to a James Madison team that is fighting for it's postseason life after the Dukes fell just short at home against Richmond 24-17, while UNH heads to another team stung by defeat: UMass, who was drilled 43-27 by a resurgent Delaware.

Here's a roundup of some of the other action in the East:

  • Call it "The Drive": down the entire game to Columbia, senior QB Rob Curley overcame his own mistakes in a night filled with Lion blitzes to engineer the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left as the Leopards snatched victory from Columbia from the jaws of defeat, 24-21. Head coach Frank Tavani was livid at halftime, his Leopards down 21-10: ''I don't know who that was, but that wasn't Lafayette football,'' he told his team. ''That wasn't playing with pride, purpose, passion.'' Yet Curley came out and found sophomore WR Mitchell Bennett in the end zone for the first TD, and senior RB Maurice White bulled in from the 3 yard line for the decider. The 4-1 Leopards showed that they are a team that will always fight to the finish, and they will be a very, very tough out in the Patriot League race.
  • The Leopards' next opponent, meanwhile, is 3-1 Harvard, who ran roughshod over Cornell 28-10 in what was ostensibly a battle of undefeated Ivy League teams. But junior RB Gino Gordon and freshman RB Treavor Scales dominated the Big Red defense, combining for 251 yards rushing and 4 TDs. You wonder if Cornell head coach Jim Knowles gave the Leopards the key to success next Saturday, if they can achieve it: “If you can’t stop the run, and you can’t run the ball effectively, it makes for a tough game. It makes for a very tough game.”
  • On paper, the Thursday night clash between Colgate and Princeton was a mismatch of gigantic proportions: Princeton junior RB Jordan Culbreath, their leading rusher last year is gone due to injury, and the Tigers' run defense has struggled all year. Faced with going against the Raiders' No. 1-ranked rushing offense - and dangerous running junior QB Greg Sullivan - one could only imagine the carnage. But it wasn't the case: Princeton battled bravely in a sloppy game that the Raiders barely pulled out, 21-14, in double overtime. Senior LB Greg Hadley was the defensive star for the Raiders, whose unit held Princeton scoreless for 3 quarters. Hadley had 11 tackles and a big stop on 4th and 1 to stop a Tiger drive. Colgate plays Georgetown this weekend, while Princeton heads to Brown.
  • Speaking of Brown, they did something last weekend nobody else could do: out-duel Holy Cross in a 34-31 upset of the nationally-ranked Crusaders. Just to give you an idea of how this game played out featuring Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph and Brown junior QB Kyle Newhall: out of 51 first downs in the game, 40 were passing. There were 98 yards rushing - combined - and 53 of those yards came from the quarterbacks. It would actually be a Randolph interception - Bear senior LB Brendan Gallagher's 28 yard interception return for a TD gave Brown a 20-17 lead midway through the 3rd quarter and gave notice that they weren't going away - until junior PK Patrick Rooney booted the FG as time expired to get the win. Holy Cross will lick their wounds with Dartmouth this weekend, while Brown host Princeton in a class broadcast nationally on Versus Network.
  • "We finally played a complete game," said Fordham head coach Tom Masella after Fordham finally put things together in 35-7 win over Bryant, a team in transition to Division I. "I thought we played well on offense, defense and special teams. The kids played hard and it was nice to see that hard work pay off. Hopefully this is something we can build on for next week." The key stat for Masella may not have been yards (427) but instead +1 (turnover ratio) and 100% (3 for 3 in the red zone). Junior RB Xavier Martin had a good game against the Bulldogs with 122 yards rushing and a TD, and junior LB Jamal Haruna led all Fordham tacklers with 11. The Rams close out their out-of-conference schedule this weekend at Cornell.
  • Starting their fourth-string QB, you'd think Penn might be even with Bucknell. But it turned out that Penn head coach Al Bagnoli had some tricks up his sleeve - like scoring on a direct snap to the RB, and a RB toss-and-pass - as the Quakers beat the Bison 21-3. It was an ugly game, featuring seven turnovers, twelve punts and lots of defense - but the yeoman effort of senior LB Greg Jones would be in vain in the end. Penn's defense held Bucknell to under 200 total yards on the game.
  • Finally, Yale's early season struggles seem to be behind them after they manhandled Dartmouth 38-7 after a fiery pregame speech by senior LB Paul Rice and senior WR John Sheffield. A glass-half-empty person might have said that Dartmouth, currently mired in a huge multi-season losing streak and saw their starting QB, senior QB Alex Jenny, have to leave the game, the optimist would say that Yale, who had been platooning two quarterbacks, found their starter: junior QB Brook Hart, who tossed for 390 yards and 3 TDs. Like Lehigh, Yale may have to answer the a question this week: are their troubles behind them, or did they just feast on a lesser opponent last week?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Press Roundup: Lehigh 27, Georgetown 0

(Photo Courtesy Kevin Mingora, the Morning Call)

There you have it: pictorial evidence that sophomore DB/LB Colin Newton was indeed "throwing his body around" in the win against Georgetown. I really enjoy those home picture galleries by the Morning Call from home games - here's a link to those photographs.

Here's the press roundup, too. I looked around for a local writeup of the game from the Georgetown side, but I didn't find one from the print media, so I'm linking the one from Hoya Saxa instead.

Lehigh Atlhetics: Defense Dominates as Lehigh Blanks Hoyas

"Certainly very happy to get this first one under our belt," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "I thought we had a great plan going in and we executed that plan well today. There were a few offensive lapses in the third quarter but it was nice to see them re-group and punch that last touchdown in down there." He continued, "Overall I thought our defense did a great job, guys were flying to the ball and we made life tough for Georgetown today."

"It feels good to get the monkey off our back," junior RB Jay Campbell explained in the post game press conference. "We talked about coming out today and establishing momentom not just for today's game but for the rest of the season. We still have a lot of season ahead of us and we're excited about our potential."

Allentown Morning Call: Lehigh Shuts Out Georgetown

''I'm very happy for the kids that we won a game,'' coach Andy Coen said. ''I didn't think it would take this long for me to say that.''

The Mountain Hawks sacked Hoya freshman QB Isaiah Kempf eight times, which translated into a minus-26 total in rushing yards. The Hoyas had just 125 yards in total offense.

''Our outside linebackers coach [Matt Sanders] said it best -- he said that if we out-intensify the offense, they're going to be intimidated,'' said junior CB/RS Jarard Cribbs. ''At practice we started going to the guy who made the tackle and let him know that we had his back. We swarmed to the ball. If you're going to congratulate the guy who made the tackle, you're going to be running over there to do it.''
Express-Times: Lehigh Gets First Win of Season

"It's kind of easy to return kicks when you have the (opposing) offense pinned down to their own 15 or 20," said Cribbs, who had 71 yards on six punt returns with a long of 34. "All the credit goes to guys up front. Without that, I don't get anywhere.

"Dominant 'D' all day," Cribbs said. "The goose egg is what we want every time we play. It's a nice feeling. We're trying to build on this."

Groller's Corner: Relief is the Word of the Day

The offense is going to have to get better if Lehigh is going to get what it needs and that's two more wins over Yale and Bucknell in the next two weeks to build momentum entering a key game at Colgate on Halloween and a a rugged stretch run that also includes Holy Cross and Lafayette in the final four games.

The good news is that the coaching staff and the players weren't fooled by this win. They were happy about it, sure. But they know they benefitted from an overmatched opponent and know plenty more work needs to be done before this becomes a good team.

...

Right now, it just seems to take so much effort for this team to string together a scoring drive -- there was really just one long march today against Geogetown.

So, five down, six left. It's a team at the crossroads. While the players turned up the music after the game, they must still face the music -- they're a 1-4 team with a tough schedule the rest of the way and lots of improvement yet to be made.
(Better than my word of the day? You decide - LFN)

Brown & White: Lehigh Routs Georgetown 27-0

"Defensively we were very solid and kept the energy up," Coen said. "We've had that energy all season so far, but we were especially aggressive today. Overall, I thought our defense did a great job. Guys were flying to the ball and we made life tough for Georgetown."

Freshman LB Jerard Gordon noticed the intensity from the start of the game.

"It was really uplifting seeing the excitement of the players and the crowd," Gordon said.

Gordon said the score boosted the Hawks' confidence going into the second half.

"Knowing you're up by 20 points at halftime was really exciting and definitely kept our confidence up going into the second half," Gordon said.

Campbell said the win drives the team in a positive direction.

"It definitely feels good to have that first game under our belt and bring momentum into our Patriot League games," Campbell said. "As far as yards go, it was definitely a career day for me."

Morning Call: Mountain Hawks Want to Maintain Momentum

''We won a game and we want to move forward from that with some momentum and Yale presents us the chance to play another good football team,'' Coen said. ''That's what you want.''

Despite its 0-4 start, the program's worst since 1982, Lehigh has maintained a positive attitude and there has been no signs of resignation.

Finally rewarded with a victory, the Mountain Hawks should have an extra hop in their step regardless of who's next on the schedule.

''These kids have always practiced well all year,'' Coen said. ''If you stopped by our practice at any time over the past couple of weeks, you'd have never known they lost the previous game. This past week was our best week of practice of the season. They did a great job of taking ownership. Now we want to keep it going.''

Sophomore DB/LB Colin Newton came up from his corner position to make seven stops, including two sacks.

''Colin loves to fly around and make hits,'' Coen said. ''He has made a lot of tackles the last couple of weeks. He doesn't care who he is taking on, he wants to get to the ball. He's got that kind of mentality.''
Hoya Saxa: Lehigh 27, Georgetown 0

The story of the game was Georgetown's running game, or lack of it. Rather than attack the a Lehigh run defense which was ranked sixth among the seven PL teams, Georgetown opted to go with the short passing attacks that have defined this season for the Hoyas. With Charlie Houghton not receiving a single carry in the game, Georgetown would go as far as its passing game would take them--which in this case was not very far.

The second half was a grim one for Georgetown. The Hoyas managed just one first down and 14 yards over six series, with Kempf being sacked five times. For its part, Lehigh also struggled through a windy second half, with four punts, a missed field goal, and a late touchdown following a Georgetown punt to its 43 yard line. A final Georgetown punt, its tenth of the game, pinned Lehigh back at its one with 6:21 to play, but the Engineers took it and rank out the clock with an 11 play drive that only reached midfield by the final whistle.

With eight sacks on Kempf, Georgetown didn't have a lot of time for drop-back passing, but its overall strategy received unusual criticism from the otherwise objective Lehigh broadcasts. "Georgetown's screens look awful", commented an analyst on WLVR-AM, while the television broadcasts attempted to mitigate the Hoyas' poor performance by explaining that it had joined the more competitive Patriot League straight from Division III, which was incorrect.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday's Word: Numbers

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the TV show that, well, has most of the same letters as this "Sunday's Word." But it's a weekend in the Patriot League that begs for some analysis of the "numbers" that have been generated about Patriot League teams - not to mention that it's the halfway point of the FCS college football season.

This week the outfit I write for, the College Sporting News, released the Gridiron Power Index, or GPI. The GPI is an index, comprised of three human polls (Any Given Saturday, The Sports Network, and the Coaches' Poll), and seven computer polls (including two very well known computer rankings, Massey and Sagarin, amoung others). From these ten inputs the index comes up with what could be considered the most fair rating of all FCS teams around - it's known as a tool that members of the FCS subcommittee can use in order to choose at-large teams for the FCS playoffs.

It ranks all FCS teams from 1 to 125. And the "numbers" it shows for the Patriot League are not pretty.

*****

For Lehigh specifically (ranked No. 92 in the GPI), their only win was against Georgetown (No. 119) this weekend. And in the first five weeks of the season, the Mountain Hawks lost to Central Connecticut State (No. 43), Villanova (No. 3), Princeton (No. 99) and Harvard (No. 37).

Not great, of course. But look around the Patriot League, and the numbers get a bit more grim for the league as a whole as well.

For starters, the Patriot League as a whole is weighted 10th in all of FCS, only above the MEAC, NEC, Pioneer Football League, and SWAC. Just above the Patriot League lies the Ivy League, Big South, and OVC - three conferences which just last year were behind the Patriot League overall.

Last week, Bucknell (No. 104) lost to Penn (No. 54) who was starting their fourth-string quarterback. Colgate (No. 23) was brought to the brink by Princeton (No. 99). Lafayette (No. 34) had to rely on a last-second score to beat Columbia (No. 58). And Holy Cross (No. 27) was upset by Brown (No. 54).

This weekend would be bad enough. But the GPI "numbers" over the course of the year don't look much better, either.

Out of conference, the whole league only has two wins over FCS teams listed in the GPI top 50: Colgate over Stony Brook (No. 50) and Holy Cross over Harvard (No. 37). Overall, the league is 2-5 over Top 50 GPI teams; three of those losses came from Lehigh.

One key "number" is one: as in only one Patriot League team has a win over a CAA school. Unfortunately, that win is Holy Cross' over winless Northeastern (No. 93). Aside from Lehigh's loss against Villanova, there is also Fordham's loss to Rhode Island (No. 61).

The Patriot League is also 1-1 against the Big South. Colgate beat Stony Brook, while Lafayette lost to Liberty (No. 32).

Five Patriot League teams were beaten by teams not in the GPI Top 50. Colgate's 6-0 record featured five wins over teams not in the Top 50, and their best win was against No. 50. Lafayette is 4-1, but all four wins were against teams not in the Top 50 and their best win was against No. 52 (Penn).

Georgetown, of course, is winless, with the lowlight is a loss to Howard (No. 96). Bucknell has not beaten a single team above No. 100 in the GPI, and lost to Duquesne (No. 101). Lehigh's only win was against Georgetown, and of course they lost to Princeton (No. 99). Fordham's second win of the year came against Bryant (No. 77), which was better than the come-from-behind win against Old Dominion (No. 105), an independent program loaded with freshmen in the first year of football after 50 years not fielding a team. The "bright spot" is that their worst loss was "only" to the No. 61 team in the GPI, Rhode Island.

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There is no way to massage these "numbers" to make them look good. Especially in the context that not all that long ago Patriot League teams weren't just beating up on the sisters of the poor: they were giving teams like Appalachian State, Delaware and UMass headaches, not to mention Liberty, Harvard, and Brown.

And it's very important to realize that it's not just one team or a few teams in the league. It's the entire Patriot League. Lehigh's struggles have been well documented here, but when Colgate struggles on national television versus Princeton and Holy Cross loses to a team they haven't lost to in ten years, that's definitely a sign that there's a bigger problem.

Look closer. In those two wins over Top 50 GPI teams. Holy Cross needed a late turnover to beat Harvard, and Colgate's 23-13 win over Stony Brook didn't exactly bring the house down. Go further. Lafayette beat two teams in the Top 60 GPI - Penn and Columbia - and they both were won in the last seconds or overtime.

That means that no Patriot League team has beaten a team in the top half of the GPI by more than two touchdowns.

These "numbers" unfortunately, don't lie.