Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lehigh 35, Bucknell 16, Final

Boy, does this one feel good.

Lehigh put up 35 points for the first time this year as the Mountain Hawks overcame some early mistakes to coast to a 35-16 victory over the Bison, continuing their twelve year winning streak over Bucknell and keeping their title hopes alive for another week.

After the offense was shut out last weekend, seeing the offense put up five honest touchdowns - and junior QB J.B. Clark going the distance and putting up numbers like 24 for 37, 327 yards, 1 passing TD, 1 rushing TD, and only one INT - gives this Lehigh fan some hope that maybe, just maybe, little ol' Lehigh may still have a chance in this Patriot League race thing.

Other highlights include freshman QB/RB Michael Colvin getting his first career TD, and freshman RB Zach Barket getting his first TD as well to go with his career-best 77 yard effort. And add freshman WR James Flynn getting three big catches - including one to convert an early fourth down conversion - three greenhorns were asked to step up like upperclassmen, and delivered. And sophomore WR Jake Drwal had a career day as well with 9 receptions for 124 yards.

The gang-tackling defense did let up their first points since the Harvard game, but they certainly did the job against Bucknell by only allowing one early TD and one late TD. Senior LB Troy Taylor led the charge with 7 tackles, and senior DL Stephen Brown also forced a fumble. Keeping the Bison to 74 yards rushing had to be a good achievement against this triple-option team.

And on the subject of youth, on special teams another freshman, freshman TE Jamel Haggins, took Lehigh's extra-point troubles and made a negative into a positive. After a missed extra point in on the first TD, the second was blocked - but Haggins on a heads-up play grabbed the ball and ran it in for the two point conversion. It was a play that gave Lehigh more confidence, and was called by coach Coen a "momentum shift."

There will be lots of time for "Sunday Words", hating the 'Gate this week, and analyzing some of the mistakes that Lehigh hasn't totally cleaned up yet (the kicking game and penalties leap to mind) . But now, it's time to enjoy this win to its fullest. Today, Lehigh's offense has shown a key sign of being more on track. So while there's also plenty of things to clean up for Gate week, right now it's time to revel in this a little bit. I think everyone needs it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Water Cooler: Computers

So there I was, minding my own business yesterday, when I started up our relatively-new quad-core computer. And that's when the agony began.

The computer would not come up - it would not recognize the drive. I pretty much tried everything to make it come up - including, tonight, the dreaded last-ditch "put it in the freezer for twenty minutes" trick - and it didn't work.

I have some other tricks up my sleeve to try to get at the data - but now I have to face the probability that a year's worth of photos - irreplaceable - are gone forever. Four Lehigh games, gone. My son's first day of school, gone. God knows what important documents on the computer - gone. Gone!

I could have taken backups, or performed some sort of RAID backup for my hard drive. I even could have kept all me media on a networked drive. But, of course, I knew soooo much more than everybody else. I was too good for backups. It was always something that I was going to do after the season. When I was less busy. When I didn't have more important things to do.

Whether I get the priceless data off of there or not, I learned my lesson.

*****

This week's game will not be televised by Channel 69 or Yahoo! Sports Online, but will be carried by Yahoo! Sports with live audio, taking from the radio feed starring Matt Kerr and Kody Fedorcha on AM 1230 and 1320 of the Lehigh Valley.

If you are subscribed to CBS College Sports XXL, you can get a webcam feed of the game through Bucknell. I've seen these before: they are surprisingly good. You won't get replays, but it works well enough. (Hint: mute the audio of the Bucknell announcers, and play the Lehigh audio instead!) If you're not subscribed to CBS College Sports XXL, you can try to use Channel Surfing.Net to see if they have picked it up, which is free. (No guarantees, though.)

*****

Finally, here are my picks of other Patriot League games from my CSN Way column this week.

Fordham at Lafayette. While Colgate and Holy Cross have gotten the Top 25 love this year from the Patriot League, quietly 5-1 Lafayette has been making an impression. After linebacker Michael Schmidlein helped demolish Harvard 31-18 this weekend at Harvard - making them “Ivy League Champions” after sweeping the Ivy league for the first time in recent memory - they welcome Fordham and the high-octane offense led by quarterback John Skelton to Easton. The hungry Leopards will feast on the Rams, and maybe re-enter the Top 25 as a result.

Schmiddle of the Defense 30, Skeltons In the Closet 16

No. 17 Colgate at No. 22 Holy Cross.
It’s not the Patriot League championship game - Lafayette has plenty to say about that - but this is the game that will separate the men from the boys, and both Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore and Colgate head coach Dick Biddle know it. Undefeated Colgate boasts the No. 1-rated rushing offense in the nation, with a stable of running backs like Nate Eachus and Jordan McCord, while the Crusaders’ Dominic Randolph boasts the No. 2-rated passing offense in all of FCS. Two powerful offenses, and two very different styles: and once again, playoff hopes on the line -last year, Colgate’s 29-28 win over Holy Cross gave them the Patriot League title. Coach Gilmore has been using this loss to motivate his troops this here - in fact, it may be a large reason why Randolph chose to return for his fifth year - and I think the emotion, and the home crowd, gives this one to the running back Matt Bellomo and the Cross as they take another step towards that elusive title.

Cross Crosses Colgate 30, Biddle Bit By Matt Bellomo 24

Go Lehigh!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Game Preview: Lehigh at Bucknell

(Photo Credit: Bucknell Athletics)

It's been hashed and rehashed.

At the midpoint of the season, Lehigh has played like champs on offense but like chumps on offense. The defense shut out two straight opponents, but the team went 1-1. First it was junior QB J.B. Clark, then sophomore QB Chris Lum, and then Clark again starting on offense, and the running back trio of junior RB Jay Campbell, junior RB Jaren Walker and freshman RB Zach Barket haven't been healthy all at the same time since the first game of the year. The record is ugly: 1-5. And the entire Patriot League schedule looms in front of them.

With a home backdrop like that, the squad had to be loving the fact that they're heading out of the frosty Lehigh Valley to play a game on the road.

If you're a Lehigh fan, you have to hope that the Hawks find some permanent answers on offense this weekend at Bucknell, while cleaning up some of the mental lapses that have doomed the Mountain Hawks in the first half of the season. That might be easier in Lewisburg, away from the pressure cooker in the Lehigh Valley.

You have to hope that away from the pressure, this team can come together a little bit on offense to regain the lost momentum from the Yale loss. At the same time, you hope the defense continues play at their amazing level to win the ball game.

Yet this game may not be a cakewalk. The Bison haven't beaten Lehigh since 1996, and they saw that "0" on the scoreboard last weekend, too. They have to believe that they can take us, and reverse twelve years of frustration in one afternoon. They'll be up to play Lehigh. Opposing teams always are.

It's one-game-at-a-time mode for the Mountain Hawks. A 1-0 Mountain Hawk team travels to Bucknell to play a 1-0 Bison.

One game at a time. Here goes.

Game Notes
Clark's back. With coach Coen "playing a hunch", junior QB J.B. Clark will be leading the offense as the starting quarterback after sophomore QB Chris Lum couldn't score in the first half against Yale. The game notes don't offer much else in the way of changes, but the Express-Times mentions some troubling news in that junior RB Jay Campbell and freshman QB Michael Colvin might still be nursing some injuries and may not be available on Saturday. If true, that would put Lehigh's No. 1 and No. 2 rushers out for the game, meaning junior RB Jaren Walker and freshman RB Zach Barket would almost certainly share the load. Sophomore RB Matt Fitz appears to be injured and is not listed on the depth chart.

On defense, sophomore LB Devin Greene is back to backing up senior LB Al Pierce, who was declared healthy for this Saturday. Look for Greene to get some time in the middle in any case.

Bucknell's game notes can be found here.

Weather Report
It's warmer, but it's looking like another bad weather game for Lehigh as the forecast calls for 60% chance of rain with a high of 66. Since Christy Matthewson stadium is artificial turf, that could make for a slippery game - but one that might give the defense a chance to keep their shutout streak alive, too.

A Word on Bucknell
The Bison have not beaten Lehigh since 1997. In fact, Lehigh has played Bucknell every year since 1950, and the Mountain Hawks enjoy a 40-29-3 series lead on the Bison.

The Bison featured in a special year for Lehigh: 1950. Under head football coach "Bill" Leckonby and runningback Dick Doyne, Lehigh was undefeated and "Middle Three" Conference champions, and that year they beat Bucknell 27-6 en route to the Engineer's first-ever perfect season at 9-0. The following year, though, Bucknell unleashed their savage attack on Lehigh with runningback Burt Talmadge, and beat Lehigh 47-7 en route to their first-ever perfect season. A rivalry was born.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, these games had Patriot League championship connotations seemingly every year. Although difficult to fathom now, the games against Bucknell were more highly regarded that the games against "weak sister" Colgate. Nowadays, Colgate and Holy Cross games generate a lot more buzz than the ones against the Bison.

Lehigh has won eleven straight against the Bison, and Bucknell head coach Tim Landis has never beaten the Mountain Hawks. To beat Lehigh would be a great accomplishment for Landis and his seniors, and he'll be emptying out the playbook to do so tomorrow.

Bucknell fans ought to be happy about one, thing, though: that the basketball team's first practice is on Friday night, not Saturday afternoon. No word if the first practice will outdraw the Bison football game this weekend, though.

Last Time Out
Bucknell is coming off their bye week - perhaps not good news for the Mountain Hawks, but two weeks ago the Bison offense struggled against one of the best defenses in FCS as they lost to Penn 21-3. Starting their fourth-string QB due to injuries, Penn scored their touchdowns on a HB toss-and-pass, a direct snap to the RB for the other, and added a run sweep for the third score. The Quakers held the Bison to under 200 yards on the afternoon, and only allowed the Bison in the red zone once all game.

LFN's Drink of the Week
This week's drink, aside from the fact that it will probably be enjoyed in a rainstorm, simply needs to be something that gives Lehigh some luck. That leaves only one drink in by bag o' drinks that I can offer; the Lucky Lady. Consisting of vodka, orange juice, grenadine and Kool-Aid, I'd add a squirt of lemon juice to cut down on the sweetness a little and to make it five ingredients - five ingredients, five wins. (I'm hoping.)

As always, "Drinks of the week" have a place in responsible tailgates. Please drink responsibly. Otherwise, you might not be so lucky as I'll kick your ass myself.

Breaking down Bucknell
Offense
Landis runs a spread triple-option offense, which is similar to the type of offense run by Wofford and the classic Georgia Southern teams in their championship years. It is very difficult to prepare for in one week's time, but since we have Bucknell as a league opponent every year, Lehigh's staff is very familiar with their offense. The spread option is a predominantly a running set using two wideouts, one fullback, two "slotbacks" that play RB or TE, and the QB as a rushing threat. A lot of different athletes touch the ball in this system, and it requires the running game to be working to function effectively.

From Lehigh's perspective, this is an offense that has a tendency to beat up the skill players since they take so much hard contact. That means when we play Bucknell late in the year, we tend to get a team that has been smacked a little with injuries. This year is no exception.

Start at quarterback, where Landis has listed sophomore QB C.J. Hopson OR senior QB Marcelo Trigg as the starter. No word who will really be starting, but Trigg, who we missed last year as the starter as well, didn't play against Penn and seems to be struggling through injury this season, opening the door for Hopson. Both are probably better runners than passers, though Hopson put up the ball 34 times against the Quakers (but only connecting 13 times). Hopson is the Bison's leading rusher with 292 yards and 2 TDs. Since game Three, Bucknell doesn't have a single touchdown pass after Trigg seems to have gotten hurt.

The slotbacks feature Bucknell's best player. Speedy senior RB A.J. Kizekai has 5,000 all-purpose yards in his career and is the the team's second-leading rusher behind Hopson. The other slotbacks are senior RB Justin Pulgrano (who did complete a pass versus Georgetown) and junior FB Ryan Smith - who despite an injury, is Bucknell's third-leading rusher with 105 yards. Kizekai and Pulgrano can also catch the ball out of the backfield (combining for 173 yards and 3 TDs). Everyone in this backfield is under 5'11 - including the fullback, who weighs in at 205 lbs.

Senior WR Shaun Pasternak, a preseason all-American, was out the first five games of the year but came back versus Penn, catching 1 ball for 12 yards. In his absence, senior WR Cale Cadman has been the go-to receiver for the Bison, leading the team with 20 receptions for 213 yards. Both receivers are tall and are more possession guys than burners.

Senior C James Phelan is the "old man" on the line and team captain on this smallish "O" line. In a Patriot League where almost everyone has a 300 lb lineman, the biggest body on the "O" line - sophomore OL Ian Dal Bello - weighs in at 280.

Defense
Three years ago, Landis abandoned his base 4-3 defense to install a 3-4 to take advantage of his talent and depth at linebacker. His multiple 3-4 defense is very similar to Lehigh's, with linebackers and defensive linemen changing in and out giving multiple looks. Like the offense, injuries have wrecked some havoc on this unit, too.

The Bison have a very good "D" line. Senior DE Will Braaf and sophomore DT Robert De La Rosa (26 tackles) lead an aggressive front three that have gotten push on the "D" line this year. Unlike the rest of the defense, which is smallish by Patriot League standards, the Bison's "D" line are all above 265 lbs.

At linebacker, the Bison are missing oft-injured senior LB Sam Nana-Sinkam, who has seen his Patriot League career deciamted by injury, and senior LB Brigham Farrand, who is also out with injury. In the middle, the Bison boast senior LB Greg Jones (54 tackles) and, coming back from injury, senior LB Casey Williams (16 tackles in 2 games). For all their aggressiveness, though, they've only forced 1 fumble all year.

Junior FS Rob Gerlach and junior SS Akhiel White have five interceptions amongst them, meaning that this secondary does a good job playing center field. (The corners, sophomore DB Bryan Robertson and senior CB Jason Davis, are 5'9 and 5'8 respectively - which means a tall receiver could potentially make hay against them.

Special Teams
Sophomore PK Drew Orth
hasdone well for the Bison this year, converting 23/25 extra points and converting 4 of 5 FGs. Sophomore P Andrew Bell has averaged a solid 37.6 yards per punt. Coverage units have been decent, as nobody has scored a touchdown on their punt or kick return units.

The always-dangerous senior RB A.J. Kizekai returns kickoffs, and sometimes punts as well - he needs to be watched. Speedy senior RB Josh Lee stars opposite him, so it doesn't make much sense to kick away from Kizekai - teams have elected to kick it to A.J. and contain him. Senior CB Jason Davis returns punts.

Keys to the Game
1. Do what works. When you're struggling on offense, it's more important to build confidence than to make ideological points. If running the ball with freshman RB Zach Barket is working, go with it. If play-action passing pitch-and-catch fromjunior QB J.B. Clark to freshman WR James Flynn is working, go with it. Find a winning formula, and stick to it.
2. Trenches. If Lehigh dominates the trenches, they will win the game. That means the "O" line - who hasn't carried a game yet this year - will need to do so this week to give the offense something to build upon.
3. Tackling. If it's a close, bad-weather game, solid tackling will be crucial. That means hitting gaps and wrapping up ballcarriers on defense, and limiting the yards after carry to a minimum. Good tackling will give Lehigh their best chance to win.
4. Momentum. I said it last week, and I'll say it again. Lehigh has had a bad habit of going one step backwards 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
Like Georgetown, Bucknell comes at a good time for Lehigh. They need to go back to the drawing board again on offense and come up with a gameplan on offense that will at least give them a shot to win the Patriot League. At the same time, the defense needs to keep that intensity without getting down. Being away from the pressure of playing at home - and the sometimes brutal fans - will help.

It looks to be a bad-weather game, one where the defenses rule the afternoon and the team that makes fewer mistakes will win. Last week, Lehigh's defense ruled but still lost the game on special teams and anemic offense. Will the offense pull it together enough to get the win?

I think they will. It won't be a pretty game. But Lehigh should have enough in the tank to win this game and give the fans some hope going into Halloween weekend.

Lehigh 24, Bucknell 9

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Players of the Week, Yale vs. Lehigh

I thought long and hard about not giving any awards this week, but after further review I thought it wasn't fair to the defense if I stiffed them out of their shutout performance. So I'm giving out three awards this week. The go to:

Defensive Hawk of the Week: Sophomore LB Devin Greene (13 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss, 1 interception in relief of injured senior LB Al Pierce)

Special Teams Hawks: Junior DB John "Pres" Kennedy (2 kickoff returns, 32 yards, 3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 pass break up, 1 blocked FG attempt, and 1 forced fumble on the last play of the game) and junior DB/RS Jarard "Fearless" Cribbs (2 punt returns, 28 yards, 3 tackles, 1 INT, 71 yards in punt returns including a 34 yard return)

There was som shifting in the ECAC Lambert Poll, which ranking the top teams in the East for the Lambert Trophy. Richmond still remains at No. 1

1. (1) Richmond
2. (3) Villanova
3. (4) William & Mary
4. (2) New Hampshire
5. (5) Colgate
6. (8) Massachusetts
7. (6) Delaware
8. (7) Holy Cross
9. (T10) Lafayette
10. (-) Penn

Dropping Out: James Madison, Harvard

My own Lambert Power Rankings, or LPR looks a little bit different:

1. (1) Richmond (83.5 points)
2. (2) Villanova (66.5 points)
T3. (3) New Hampshire (56.5 points)
T3. (5) Colgate (56.5 points)
T5. (4) William & Mary (52 points)
T5. (8) UMass (52 points)
T5. (7) Albany (52 points)
8. (6) Hofstra (48.5 points)
9. (T9) Delaware (46.5 points)
T10 (T9) Holy Cross (42 points)
T10 (-) Lafayette (42 points)

Pretty close to the real Lambert Trophy poll, though Albany is still absent from the poll. Oddly enough, if Albany runs the table like they usually do in NEC play they may continue to climb in the rankings, though their wins against weaker NEC teams won't help them as much as, say a UMass win over Richmond.

Also worthy of mention: the inclusion of Penn. The only Patriot League team with a win over a Top 10 Lambert Trophy team? Lafayette, who beat Penn 20-17 in overtime.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FCS East Wrapup: UMass Needs A Big Win, And Gets It

(Photo Credit: The UMass Daily Collegian)

Elsewhere in the world of FCS, the big thriller of the weekend came at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst, MA where the Minutemen - fresh off a 43-27 loss on the road at Delaware - desperately needed a win to stay relevant in the FCS playoff hunt.



A win over undefeated New Hampshire wasn't only needed. It was crucial, with the defending national champions Richmond on the horizon. And in thrilling fashion, UMass freshman DB Kumar Davis' end-zone interception of UNH senior QB R.J. Toman with seconds left formalized the Minuteman 23-17 victory.



It didn't come easy, either. Both senior RB Tony Nelson and senior FS Jeromy Miles went down with injuries in the first half, sophomore RB Jonathan Hernandez picked up his game to the tune of 166 yards and a TD, and senior LB Eric Dickson also stepping in with 18 tackles as well. Hernandez' TD came after the Wildcats had shut down the Minuteman running game in the first half, but his 42 yard run down the left side gave UMass the lead they would never relinquish.



“It was a very exciting game, maybe a little too exciting with three seconds left,” UMass head football coach Kevin Morris said in the post-game press conference. “When push came to shove, though, we did more of the shoving. That was our focus all week, to bring up our level of play after the Delaware game.” The Minuteman M.O. is to play physical and wear down opponents in the 4th quarter: they've only given up 13 points in the final stanza all year.



The Minutemen won't have much time to celebrate, though: they head to the defending national champion Richmond Spiders, who overcame a 21-10 deficit to beat Maine in Orono 38-21. Meanwhile, New Hampshire will try to avoid James Madison's fate by traveling to Hempstead, NY and doing what the Dukes were unable to do: beat the Pride.



Other big games in the East this past weekend:




  • The other big winner was Villanova, who virtually knocked James Madison out of the playoff race with a shutout 27-0 win over the Dukes. "They took a ring from us last year, a CAA championship ring. So that was big motivation for us coming in here," said senior QB Chris Whitney. "We wanted our revenge from losing in the last four seconds [in the regular season] and coming down here and losing in the playoffs." And enact revenge they did, coasting to a 20-0 halftime lead and never breaking a sweat in the second half. Junior DB John Dempsey forced two fumbles in a defensive effort which saw the Wildcats only allowing the Dukes to cross mifdfield twice the entire game. Villanova welcomes Rhode Island to Villanova stadium this weekend, before their bye week - and a huge game at Richmond on November 9th.

  • Lafayette hadn't beaten Harvard since 1996, and hadn't ever beaten four Ivy League teams in one season. But head coach Frank Tavani and the Leopards didn't let history stand in their way as they made mincemeat of the Crimson 35-18. (For good measure, Lafayette's recap of the game called Lafayette "Ivy League Champions" with their wins over Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Penn.) Junior LB Michael Schmidlein got 10 tackles and one interception - one of three Harvard turnovers that resulted in Leopard touchdowns. At 5-1, and their only loss coming to nationally ranked Liberty (who throttled their Big South rival Coastal Carolina this weekend 58-13), Lafyette is brimming with confidence as they await Fordham this weekend at Fisher Field.
  • The Rams, after some bad early-season struggles, have actually turned things around, especially on offense. Playing at Cornell's Schoellkopf Field - historically a tough place to win football games - Fordham won a track meet in Ithaca 39-27. Senior QB John Skelton, by any measure, was Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week this week with a 20-for-27 passing, 420 yard, 5 touchdown, record-breaking performance. Four of Skelton's TD tosses went to senior WR Jason Caldwell, who is emerging as Skelton's go-to wideout, and for good measure his 98 yard strike to senior WR Asa Lucas was Fordham's logest touchdown play in their history. Having said that, it wasn't a complete effort: the Ram defense gave up 552 yards of total offense to the Big Red, which has to be a concern as the face a do-or-die game in Easton this weekend.
  • “We were really fired up and excited to play football and forget about that [34-31] loss [to Brown],” Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph said after their 34-14 victory over Dartmouth. “We responded the way we needed to and it was a good win.” As expected, the Crusaders cruised over the hapless (and winless) Big Green, coasting to a 27-0 lead and only giving up a couple of late, meaningless TDs. Randolph "only" had a 26-for-36 day with 3 TDs and one interception - something that seems to almost be expected every week from the Crusader senior. If he can do it next weekend - that's the big question.
  • That's because Holy Cross will face off next weekend against 7-0 Colgate, who survived an early scare at Georgetown to beat the Hoyas 31-14. After struggling against the winless Hoyas, senior WR Pat Simonds hauled in a 6 yard TD pass to give the Raiders their first lead against Georgetown with just under 5 minutes to play in the third quarter, and Colgate never looked back. Simonds, who (like Randolph and Skelton) is starting to get looks from NFL scouts, talked in the post-game press conference. "The last couple of games we haven't played too hot," he said. "We need to kind of pick it up, prepare better during the week and it's a big week for us. I don't think anybody's going to be stagnant at practice. I think everybody's going to be ready to go." They'd better be, in a game that by any measure will loom huge in the Patriot League title race.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Press Roundup: Lehigh 0, Yale 7

(Photo courtesy Denise Sanchez, The Morning Call)

Looking around the press writeups (and the Morning Call's photo gallery of the game,) we see the press praise Lehigh's heroic defense who has now gone nine straight shutout quarters.

One interesting thing that I didn't realize watching the coverage of the game was that junior DB John Kennedy actually caused a fumble on the last play of the game when Yale was trying to run out the clock. It didn't win the game - but it did show exactly what type of player the "Prez" is.

Morning Call: Hawks Fall to Yale 7-0

''I can't say enough about the defense and how they came up with stops time and time again,'' Coen said. ''Right to the end when they caused a fumble on a kneel-down, our defense played their hearts out.''

''We need to be excited about every game from here on out because they're all championship games,'' said junior CB Jarard Cribbs. ''We need to come back fired up and playing with enthusiasm.''

Express-Times: Hawks Fall to Yale Thanks to Fake Punt

"Defense had another great effort," Coen said. "I don't think we've given up a touchdown in nine quarters now. We found a way to shut somebody out and lose the football game -- it's embarrassing to me.

"Not for the kids, for me. I don't think it can get any worse than that."

Sports Network: Yale Hands Lehigh Monumental Shutout

"If you don't put both sides of the ball together, you won't win games," said cornerback Jarard Cribbs, who tallied three pass breakups and an interception against the Bulldogs. "We need to play with enthusiasm and our emotions on our sleeves."

"It's difficult as a unit for us to not close out games.," said Cribbs. "I'm frustrated because we didn't win the game."

Coen knows his players are warriors and knows his enthusiastic defense can motivate the rest of his squad.

"I always feel the defense sets the tone for a football team. I credit our kids. They work hard every day and they compete."


Brown & White: Football Shut Out in Loss

"Next week's game is league play and it's basically do or die, because everyone knows how important these games are," junior OL Ricky Clerge said, "You have to have a short memory in football and try not to let any bad play affect the next play, and not to let one game, whether it be a win or loss, affect how you play in the next game."

Yale Daily News: A Win is a Win

“It’s hard to win, period, but to be able to keep someone from scoring, that even adds more to winning,” Williams said. “Shutouts are precious.”

“We’re just excited about the win,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily the way you draw ’em up, but that’s the way of football is.”

“We knew when they were in shotgun that they were going to be throwing downfield, and I think our D-line was licking their chops because they wanted to get sacks,” senior LB Paul Rice said. “They came up big in a few crucial points.”

"After having noticed a weakness in the Lehigh special teams while studying the Mountain Hawks on tape during the week, Williams called for a fake punt.

The play worked flawlessly, as senior P Tom Mante pretended to catch the snap, which had actually gone to Rice, running behind two blockers, emerged from the scuffle and was able to run along the right sideline, untouched for the final 30 yards of his 40-yard touchdown run.

“I let [my teammates’] blocks develop and then at some point — I think I cut back a little bit — I saw a bunch of daylight on the sideline,” Rice said. “I was a running back in high school, so I knew to run to daylight.”

Williams believed that the earlier false start penalty had caused the Lehigh defense to let its guard down, but Mountain Hawk head coach Andy Coen said that the team was expecting the fake punt.

“We know going in that it was going to be a fake but [Rice] made a great individual effort,” Coen said.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday's Word: Zero

I got up in the middle of the night last night. I couldn't sleep, and it was all due to a game I didn't even see in person this weekend. It was a game that - in every way - was a "zero".

****

My wife, son and I had a party to go to that started at 3pm on Saturday. I watched the Lehigh game online with the commentary of Mike Zambelli and Mike Yadush - long enough to see the quarrterback change at halftime, the "zero" to "zero" halftime score, and eventually I'd also see only score of the game.

At about 2:45 pm, I had to leave with my family. Even at that point it was a long, torturous game with punt after turnover after punt, and yet it was only the end of the third quarter.

I didn't feel great about leaving at that time, even though I felt pretty sick watching the game, too. I listened to Matt Kerr and Kody Fedorcha, the radio voices of Lehigh football, in the car until I got to the party. Unsurprisingly, I heard more about punts and turnovers.

Then it was six hours of further agony.

To me, the game was in a state of suspended animation. The margin of victory was only a touchdown. I heard that a ball was intercepted on the radio - hope, however faint, that Lehigh could turn our way. Not that I thought that Lehigh would - they had frankly been horrible all game - but there was that agonizing chance that they could.

Lehigh *could* have driven down the field and tied the game - at least avoided an historic "zero" on the scoreboard with a field goal or something. Lehigh *could* have rattled off a touchdown - hell, maybe even three field goals - in the eternity that was left. And some level of hope was warranted. Lehigh had never been shut out by an FCS team, and certainly never at Murray Goodman stadium. Right?

We ran some errands after the party. I bored my wife and son to tears talking about how poor Lehigh's offense looked through the third quarter, and how worried I was about seeing the "zero" on the scoreboard for Lehigh - and yet, Lehigh could have still pulled it out in theory.

Finally - with me more insufferable than ever - we got home, and put our son to bed. My wife knew better - she steered clear of me while I ran to the computer, trying to catch the archived video of the football game. At least I would now know, one way or another, how the game turned out. I had to know. I had to experience the game as a viewer, without knowing the final score.

I watched every ugly minute. It, of course, ended up being "zero". Lehigh scored "zero" points.

In that fourth quarter, they got one first down. There were plenty of punts. And two huge opportunities. One involved a drive starting on the Yale 21 and came away with "zero" points. s

And the other opportunity, in a game where nothing was working, was a last-gasp drive in the final two minutes that at least offered some small level of hope that Lehigh could force overtime. A rare pass completion was actually a hook-and-ladder play - that ened up being botched and ended up in a Yale linebacker's hands.

"Zero". And then, things only got worse.

*****

I normally wait to get postgame reactions, but in this case I made an exception.

Obviously struggling to find any words to say, Keith Groller of the Morning Call filed a terse report. And the internet message boards were lit up with fans registering their disappointment, to put it mildly.

I hate seeing it. I hate reading it. And yet, it doesn't change what was on the field this Saturday. It was a debacle, plain and simple.

A Lehigh offense getting the handed ball on the Yale 21, and coming away without points? A fake punt on which a linebacker ran 50 yards? 50 yards? Nobody saw fit to tackle him?

Lehigh's defense shutting out two straight opponents - but we lost one of the games? (Think about that a second.) Losing a game where the defense kept Yale out of the red zone? Are you kidding me?

It's a mixture of sadness and anger. I'm sad for the kids, coaches, everyone. I've met some of the kids and the coaches. I want them all to succeed at what they do.

Yet I'm angry. How can this be happening? You can't put any lipstick on these "zeroes": these are pigs. "0" for third down for the entire game. "0" made FGs in 2 tries. "0" points. At home. To an FCS opponent.

A hook-and-ladder may work great in Madden 98, but in the real world it's the type of play that can only work when the offense is working with incredible brio and confidence. It's NOT a day for that when you've yanked one QB, thrown another in the mix that hasn't had full practices with the first team all week, and for Heaven's sakes not when they've had eight completions combined on the afternoon.

Lehigh, oddly enough, is 1-"0" in the Patriot League. In theory - despite everything that has transpired to this point - they could actually run the table, win the Patriot League, and be sent to Richmond in the playoffs.

About that, though, I feel like I'm in that same awful limbo I was in Saturday afternoon. Lehigh COULD win the game - hell they COULD win the Patriot League. But I have no confidence they will actually do it.

I looked at video of some teams this weekend, as I always do. Three of the games I recorded involved Liberty, South Carolina State, and Richmond, among others. Every one of these winning teams in made the games they played in entertaining - not perfectly executed, mind you, but well executed enough to put some points on the board and make the games fun to watch. And a all of these teams may even be good enough to play in the playoffs, too.

The teams I watched this weekend didn't consistently shoot themselves in the foot. Every single one of them executed better. They played physical. Played with confidence. They beat some pretty good teams, too, especially South Carolina State who beat Florida A&M.

Lehigh resembles none of these teams. They would have a hard time hanging with the teams they beat, let alone these Top 25 teams themselves.

Does it pain me to say it? Absolutely. But it's the truth. And it's not unreasonable to expect Lehigh to compete with the best.

I really thought this season would be different. I didn't think Lehigh would be undefeated, but I honestly thought they were in the upper echelon of the Patriot League and have a shot to win the title if everything came together right.

This team has proved that it is in no way deserving of being thought about in that way. While the defense has improved, the offense has not come together at all. Special teams have had some good individual performances, but have had heinous lapses that - in this case - lost us the game. Things are NOT coming together. We're back to square one, only it's week seven and Bucknell coming up, not Princeton.

The team I saw this weekend will only win a couple more games if they're lucky.

Hopefully not "zero" more games, like my nightmare from last night.
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