It's a non-conference schedule featuring three great home games: one against a perennial FCS playoff team, another against a perennial FCS Top 25 team, and a game against an Ivy League team that consistently seems to be a challenging, thrilling game.
The 2011 football season features a schedule with a lot of close road trips as well - easily allowing fans to catch every game, home or away. (more)
“We have another outstanding schedule awaiting us in 2011,” explained Coen, the 2010 Patriot League Coach of the Year. “We will play three scholarship programs from automatic qualifying conferences that will present tremendous challenges for our team. We also play two of our traditional Ivy League rivals and will begin league play with three tough games on the road. It will be exciting to play our final three games at home culminating with the 147th Lehigh-Lafayette game.”
“It has always been my philosophy to challenge ourselves with our non-league schedule and clearly we have done that this year,” Coen said. “We will need to improve week after week and keep our focus on winning our tenth Patriot League Championship.”
The out-of-conference games are especially interesting, starting with a trip to the Jersey Shore on Labor Day weekend to face Monmouth. While Lehigh has only faced the Hawks twice in 1999 and 2005, scoring 50 points in both contests, it's safe to expect that Lehigh's first-ever trip to visit the land of The Situation and Snooki will be a much tighter affair than those games.
Oh yeah, then there's that home opener against New Hampshire, the team that beat us 31-10 last year in Durham.
“It is great to have a program of UNH’s caliber coming to Goodman Stadium for our home opener,” Coen said. “UNH currently owns the most consecutive playoff appearances in the nation. Coach McDonnell and his staff do one of the best coaching jobs in the country. I was very disappointed in our performance last year in Durham, but I am looking forward to our players stepping up to the challenge on September 10.”
If Lehigh is fortunate enough to get by Monmouth, this game could be the first matchup of Top 25 teams at Murray Goodman since Colgate traveled to Lehigh in 2004.
Making matters more challenging for Lehigh is the fact that the Wildcats will have a slew of great players returning, notably DE Brian McNally and local product WR Joey Orlando. Even though the helmets will say "UNH", there are a lot of Pennsylvania kids on the Wildcats roster as well.
After a trip to nearby Princeton for the Tigers' home opener - one that always seems to be a preparation nightmare for Lehigh's coaches - Lehigh will host Liberty out of the Big South in Murray Goodman. The Flames, a consistent resident in the FCS Top 25 under head coach Danny Rocco, should bring an extremely festive atmosphere to Murray Goodman with their rabid fans and their 100 piece band. They'll also bring QB/ATH Mike Brown as well, a player that made mincemeat of Lafayette a couple of years ago in a 19-13 victory.
Then there's Yale and head coach Tom Williams, who returns to Lehigh for the first time since they beat Lehigh 7-0 without scoring an offensive touchdown. Aside from a wish to seek revenge against the Eli for that game, the games against Yale are almost always thrilling affairs: aside from a close 23-7 game at the Yale Bowl in 2007, the last four meetings between Yale and Lehigh have been settled by a touchdown or less, including a 28-21 overtime win in 2005. Since that victory, Lehigh has lost three straight to the Bulldogs.
Then comes the Patriot League schedule - which, strangely, features three road games followed by three home games. Bucknell will kick off Lehigh's Patriot League schedule, followed by Fordham (which doesn't count in the standings) and a trip to Hamilton, New York in late October against Colgate that promises to be a big game in terms of the Patriot League title.
The schedule concludes with home games against Holy Cross, Georgetown... and, of course, the 147th meeting of "The Rivalry" against Lafayette.
“The last five years have proven that our league is extremely competitive and that you must show up and play well each week,” Coen explained. “We are the only team in the league to have won outright, or shared two titles in the last five years, but it has been a while since any team won back-to-back titles. As the defending champs I know we will have a bull’s eye on our back.”
It's a schedule that ducks nobody. It's not as difficult as last year's schedule - which featured the defending national champions Villanova, New Hampshire and Harvard, all on the road - but it's still a loaded schedule that will feature a lot of action against Top 25 teams, with not a single patsy among them.
While no starting times have been announced, below I've listed my tentative starting times based on other announcements - and the knowledge that Lehigh doesn't have lights, and has had 12:30 kickoff times the last few years. Assuming those are still the home kickoff times, here's what I (tentatively) have:
2011 schedule (times tentative):
9/3 at Monmouth, 1:00 PM
9/10 NEW HAMPSHIRE, 12:30 PM
9/17 at Princeton TBD
9/24 LIBERTY, 12:30 PM
10/1 YALE, 12:30 PM
10/8 at Bucknell, 1:00 PM
10/15 at Fordham, 1:00 PM
10/30 at Colgate, 1:00 PM
11/6 HOLY CROSS, 12:30 PM
11/13 GEORGETOWN, 12:30 PM
11/20 LAFAYETTE, 12:30 PM