Saturday, November 10, 2012
After the weatherman promised a mostly sunny day on November 10th, the day of the Patriot League championship game at Murray Goodman stadium, there was instead a gray haze that persisted throughout the football game.
Like the weather, the game was also a story of the unexpected.
Few thought the Colgate offense would be held to just 35 points, after creaming Lafayette for 65 points the previous week. Many also were surprised that Lehigh could only manage 90 rushing yards against the No. 7-ranked rushing defense in the Patriot League.
The grey weather didn't affect the outcome. It didn't affect the passing game, the running game, or the kicking game.
But on a damp, strange, overcast day in November, the magic ran out for Lehigh. The undefeated Mountain Hawks fell in a war on Saturday, 35-23, busting up a season that almost seemed predestined to be Lehigh's from the outset.
Lehigh, playing for a thin chance at a Patriot League championship, hosted nationally-ranked Colgate in their chance for glory that season.
They had them on the ropes - but could not finish them off.
But it took an epic drive, and a great pass from QB Greg Sullivan to WR Pat Simonds, to get the job done.
"It just came down to that we made too many mistakes," coach Coen said after the game. "Obviously extra points, you've got to start right there. That obviously hurts; that changes the flow of the football game. Penalties in the first half, turnovers in the first half, giving them the ball on a short field. You can't make mistakes like that, and we've been making too many of them during the course of the season. You add them up in one point games, and it's tough."
Read my original recap of this game
Friday, November 09, 2012
Not much more needs to be said about the importance of this game. Essentially, it's for all the marbles. It's why both teams practiced in March and April, why they sacrificed their time and energy all fall, why they, essentially, do this.
It's worth, though, looking at some detail as to how Colgate won these games.
In all four games, Colgate scored a touchdown on their first possession. No punts, no turnovers, no field goals. Touchdowns.
In three of the four games, Colgate scored a touchdown on their second possession. Bucknell forced a punt in their game against the Raiders, but Colgate has mostly scored touchdowns there, too.
My point is that a big part of Colgate's success has been early success. If football is a game of momentum, the Raiders have been successful in large part by getting out of the gate early, and then just continuing to roll forward. In fact, last week against Lafayette, the Raiders scored eight times in their first eight possessions - seven TDs, and one FG, and that only happened because it was at the end of the half.
Let's look a little closer at this offense, too.
Below the flip, behold my first "I-AA Diary" of the game, in its entirety, pulled from the top-secret LFN archives as the No. 2 "Hate the 'Gate" classic.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Lehigh head football coach John Whitehead knew Colgate head football coach Fred Dunlap well.
Very well, in fact.
Whitehead, the offensive coordinator for the 1973 Lambert Cup-winning Lehigh squad, was the architect of Lehigh's "Wing-T" offense, under Dunlap, that had driven the Engineers to new heights.
Under both Dunlap and Whitehead, Lehigh struggled mightily in the late 1960s. But the Engineers had a major resurgence in the 1970s when Lehhigh went from doormat to Lambert Cup champions. By the end of Dunlap's time at Lehigh, he guided the Engineers to their final "Middle Three" championships and for good measure put Lehigh in the Division II playoffs, their first postseason berth of any kind.
In September of 1979, Whitehead would, for the first time, coach against the same man who taught him how to be a head coach. For Dunlap had taken the opportunity to coach at Colgate, his alma mater, where he'd go to become head football coach and athletic director for twelve seasons after his time at Lehigh.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Picking them to finish fifth, as others had, seemed a no-brainer. Even though QB Gavin McCarney returned for his junior season, his continued growth, and the development of the offensive system around some new, young guys, couldn't result in a title run for a "rebuilding" squad, especially with a defense that needed to find an identity, could it? Especially without Eachus, who made the Kansas City Chiefs' roster?
With the Patriot League championship and FCS playoff autobid on the line this Saturday, the answer couldn't be clearer. Yes. They can.
The Raiders' "O" has morphed into one of the most scary offensive units in all of FCS this year, making this by far the biggest challenge the undefeated Mountain Hawks have faced all season. And the stakes couldn't be higher, with the Patriot League title, a potential FCS playoff bid, and a litany of records and winning streaks, on the line for Lehigh.
The first-ever meeting of the Red Raiders and Engineers at Taylor Stadium (or Packers, as the Brown & White had then started calling them) was expected to be a loss for a Lehigh squad that wasn't expected to do much after a 4-5 season under hall of fame head coach Bill Leckonby.
"An underdog for last Saturday's game, as it has been for most of the season," the B&W said, "the squad displayed a powerful ground attack in the first half, accounting for two TDs, and an alert, spirited defense in the last two periods."
It would only be the second home game of the year for Lehigh at Taylor stadium - five of their first six games, save a 20-6 win versus the Merchant Marines, were on the road - but it would prove to be a critical one for the Engineers in Leckonby's final season as Lehigh's head coach.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
"Hate the Gate" was a term first accredited to LB Tom McGeoy the week before the Colgate game back in 2006, and while the rivalry aspect of this game is a more recent phenomenon, driven largely by Patriot League championships and FCS playoff berths, the first-ever meeting of these two squads came on a cold, November afternoon in Binghamton, New York.
It would be the only meeting of the pride of the Lehigh Valley and the pride of the Chenango Valley before the modern era, back in a day when a barnstorming college football team was a critical tool to recruit general students, not just athletes. The trip to Binghamton was a recruiting trip for both schools, but the Maroons, as they were then known, were aiming quite a bit higher than the Brown & White when it came to football at that time, and it showed.
Monday, November 05, 2012
Did I forget to vote? Of course not. In a week where everyone should remember to do their civic duty and vote, here's my ballot... for this week's FCS Top 25.
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Aside from being one of the few football movies my wife will willingly sit down and watch with me, the "based on real events" story somehow, almost twenty years later, hits just the right notes and proceeds at just the right pace as Rudy Ruettiger goes from junior college to South Bend to dressing for a game.
Not coincidentally, Rudy was broadcast this past Saturday night on NBC, and the airing no doubt was spurred by the surprising real-life Notre Dame football team, who sits undefeated at 9-0 and also sits at No. 4 in the BCS.
This season, the parallels between the team with golden helmets in South Bend and the team with the golden helmets in Bethlehem come into focus.