Saturday, December 10, 2011
In front of more than 18,000 loud North Dakota State fans, and a fearsome Bison defense, the Mountain Hawks couldn't overcome the injuries, the noise, and their own miscues in the 24-0 defeat in the FCS Quarterfinals.
It would be the furthest Lehigh had made it in the FCS playoffs since 2001, when they travelled to Furman and were defeated 34-17 by the Paladins.
Head coach Andy Coen made no bones about it to Keith Groller of the Morning Call yesterday.
He said the team is "really close, and is still hurting" from the first-ever-of-its-kind suspension of junior WR Ryan Spadola for an offensive tweet.
Spadola, who didn't even get on the plane to Fargo yesterday, is missed by all.
"I think it can be a galvanizing event for our team," Coen said, however, "I haven't really talked a lot about it with them. I may before kickoff. I just told them we are a family and sometimes issues pop up within a family and you learn from them and grow from them and you get stronger."
Friday, December 09, 2011
The gap in between last weekend's 40-38 win against Towson and this weekend's FCS quarterfinal game against North Dakota State was shorter in terms of time - but, for obvious reasons, has seemed even longer than the two-week layover from the last game.
Almost forgot in this extraordinary week is the fact that there's an actual football game to be played in Fargo - a game against the most complete football team that Lehigh will have faced up until this point.
Below the flip, see my breakdown of the Bison, keys to the game, and Fearless Prediction.
Let's say you're a Lehigh player right now.
Today, you learned that your star receiver, junior WR Ryan Spadola, was suspended by the NCAA by making an offensive tweet.
To call it a distraction would be the understatement of the year.
No Lehigh team has ever gone through this. Heck, no team has ever gone through this. No player has been suspended by the NCAA for tweeting something.
So the question is to you: how do you respond?
Thursday, December 08, 2011
The consensus from the folks I talked to coming out of the room was: why would you lead the press conference with that question? It seemed like much ado over nothing - though none of us, it must be said, read the tweet in question, either.
Five days later, it broke that the NCAA would be suspending junior WR Ryan Spadola, and he would not play in Lehigh's FCS quarterfinal game against North Dakota State.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
In 2010, Lehigh did something out of the ordinary on their regular season schedule, playing their opener at Drake University in Iowa.
And when the Mountain Hawks had a road playoff game after qualifying for their first FCS Playoff game since 2004, they were sent out to Iowa again to take on the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
In 2011, it wasn't Lehigh that played out at the FargoDome in North Dakota - that would have been Lafayette, who played their season opener further west then the Leopards had ever played.
It means that Lehigh's trip this week out to the FargoDome won't be something completely unfamiliar to them. They've all played in a dome before. They know something about travelling to a Missouri Valley football team. And - if they've checked with Lafayette - they'll know a little about what to expect in their trip to the Roughrider state as well.
Monday, December 05, 2011
As Towson entered the field before their playoff game versus Lehigh, and unidentified player came through the large, inflatable tiger head holding a championship belt, not unlike one a prizefighter might wear.
As someone who writes about Lehigh football, it provided an irresistible storyline for the playoff game, with echoes of Ali vs. Frazier. The Thrila in Manila. A prizefight.
It makes naming this game the "Towson Thrilla" from here on forward just that much easier.
What did the the Lehigh players think about the move after the game?
"We had no knowledge of it until we saw them run out with it," junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola said to me later. "It was bad on their part because it just got us more fired up."
As we go over the mountain of great press about this phenomenal game, I'd like to round up the highlights of those articles, as well as empty out my own notebook, before devoting all of my energy to North Dakota State.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
So-called "big-time" collegiate athletics has had an awfully rough year.
When the entire QB Cam Netwon affair - you remember, the father of Auburn's star quarterback getting caught offering his son's services for a six-figure sum of money - feels like it happens a decade ago, you know the overall feeling of college football in those Bowl Subdivision ranks has to be one of nausea rather than school pride. Between the horrors at Penn State, which are unfolding in slow motion in front of the entire world, and the latest conference realignment madness, where money has made a Boise State to the Big East scenario plausible, "big-time" college football, and perhaps even all of "big-time" college athletics, seems severely broken.
And then, suddenly, amidst all the lunacy, something comes along that makes you remember why you started following college football in the first place.
Many, many people do not consider Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS football, "big-time", if they're even aware of it at all. But if any person calling themselves a college football fan wants to see what it's really all about, they ought to watch the entire ESPN3 broadcast of what I saw live in person in Towson, Maryland.
You couldn't have been there, listed to the game on the radio, or watched the game on ESPN3, and not felt like this was "big time".