Saturday, November 05, 2016

QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Are Patriot League Champs, Claw Back And Earn Title 20-13

Bucknell hardly made it easy.

The Bison jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and made the lead 13-7 on the backs of touchdowns by RB Joey DeFloria and RB Chad Freshnock.

With a chance to build on their lead, though, Lehigh's defense stopped Bucknell again, and again, and again.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawk defense, led by heroic performances by senior LB Colton Caslow (11 tackles) and senior LB Pierce Ripanti (10 tackles), forced two turnovers that became a field goal by sophomore PK Ed Mish and a critical stop on Lehigh's doorstep that preserved Lehigh's Patriot League Championship.

It was a fitting place, in a fitting game, for Lehigh to take this elusive Patriot League championship and to allow Lehigh to finally crash an FCS Playoff party they had been denied five years ago.  They overturned their loss to Lafayette here in 2013.  They overturned their 4th-and-5 at Colgate last year by a sophomore CB Donavon Harris interception that preserved the slender 7 point lead.

It was tough as hell, but Lehigh got their, um, stuff together, and won the damn championship.

How Will I Watch Bucknell At Lehigh This Afternoon?


How will you watch Bucknell at Lehigh this afternoon?  What a ridiculous question.  Like me, you're headed to the stadium for a 12:37 kickoff.

Wait - really?  You're not going to Murray Goodman today?  Why not?  Unscheduled dental emergency?  Flying in from Buenos Aires?  Need to find out how to catch the game online, by a video stream or online radio?

Never fear.  LFN's here.

Bucknell At Lehigh Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction: One Win Makes Lehigh The First Guaranteed Postseason Contender

We break down the Bucknell game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

In case you have been living under a rock - or maybe just new at this - there's a game going on this Saturday that's, um, pretty important to Lehigh's Patriot League title hopes.

To just go over the scenarios one more time, just so we're all on the same page, Lehigh is in the driver's seat this weekend.

If they beat Bucknell tomorrow, they are Patriot League champions - no worst than co-champions - and they will clinch the FCS autobid, being the first Division I football program in the nation to clinch a postseason berth.

If Bucknell wins, it opens the door for other possible not-so-good Mountain Hawk outcomes where Lehigh are co-champions without playoffs, or (if they lose to Bucknell and then to Lafayette), neither champions or playoff contenders.

Certainly a Lehigh win would allow all Mountain Hawk fans to know that, even after the 152nd meeting of The Rivalry, even after a sold-out crowd at Fisher Field in Easton, the Mountain Hawks football season would not end there.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Bucknell At Lehigh Narrative Street: All Is Quiet On The Bucknellian Front

Anyone at all worried that it's just a wee bit too quiet from Lewisburg?  I am.

The narratives coming out of Bethlehem this week - emphatically, me included - are ones of possible Patriot League championships and how the offense is "clicking" and has been very, very good.

That's not usually a very good recipe for a big game for the home side, especially since word out of the Bucknell camp is very, very quiet, even though the Bison still are very much alive in the conversation of winning the Patriot League title and making Lehigh sit at home Thanksgiving weekend.

Last week, Bucknell traveled to the No. 9 team in the country, Charleston Southern, and proceeded to put up a very good fight in a game that didn't affect Bucknell's title chances one way or another.   Though the final tally was 49-28, Bucs, the Bison didn't go away quietly against Charleston Southern's triple-option attack, staying within a touchdown most of the way until the home team pulled away late.

“Our guys played their tails off today and I am proud of them,” Bucknell head coach Joe Susan said afterwards.   “We were able to take advantage of turnovers, but it was frustrating as the score got away from us. Charleston Southern is a very good football team.”

Want to get more worried?  Look at the comments from acting Charleston Southern head coach Chad Staggs, who was in that position after head coach Jamey Chadwell served a one-game suspension.

“I don’t know that we played our best today but you have to give some credit to (Bucknell),” Staggs said. “They came out in the first drive and sort of punched us in the mouth a little. We certainly have to play better, but we won the game.  I thought we matched them physically overall. We will look at the film and see how we played. We have to be more disciplined than we were today. We had way too many penalties today and that’s something we have to correct.”

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Bucknell at Lehigh Game Preview: Reversing A Mountain Hawks Curse

Perhaps you've heard that the Cubs, managed by a Lafayette grad called Joe Maddon, broke their more than century old championship drought vs. the Cleveland Indians last night.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks' championship drought isn't quite as long as that.

But if the Brown and White hope to raise the trophy at Murray Goodman Stadium this weekend, they'll need to break a mini-curse of their own.

It refers to the Mountain Hawks' inability over the last four years to win both Game 10 and Game 11 on the schedule, specifically during the last four years.

There have been years that Lehigh has needed Game 10 to have a chance to win the Patriot League, but haven't been able to get it done.  There have been other years where they've needed Game 11 to do so, and missed.

When Games 10 and 11 have title implications, and when Lehigh wins those games, they tend to be Patriot League champs.  When they lose one or the other, there tends to be the type of hurt that the Indians got to experience firsthand last night.

The Lehigh seniors almost certainly remember how that feels, on the potential last day of their playing careers at Murray Goodman Stadium.


Wednesday, November 02, 2016

My Vote for the FCS Top 25, 11/1/2016

You didn't ask for them, but here's my pick for this week's FCS Top 25.

I'm pretty proud of myself for not falling into the trap of South Dakota State.

Many people, after the Jackrabbits' huge win over North Dakota State, vaulted them to the Top 5 of their polls, but I know better.  The craziness of the Missouri Valley I thought would eventually catch up with them, so I had only reluctantly put them at No. 10.

Their loss to 3-5 Illinois State, taken in isolation, was a shocker - but perhaps not completely shocking, though, considering the Missouri Valley has not one but two teams that have beaten Power Five Teams and also have five losses.

In fact, there are three Missouri Valley teams - Illinois State, South Dakota and Northern Iowa - that can plausibly say, if they get to 6-5, they have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs as an at-large team, thanks to perceived quality wins.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Lehigh 58 Fordham 37 Postgame Commentary: Coming Out Next Week "On Fire"

(Photo Credit: Keith Groller/The Morning Call)

Lehigh football post-game press conferences don't get much more relaxed than the one that happened last weekend.

You can hardly blame head coach Andy Coen, senior QB Nick Shafnisky, junior DE Tyler Cavenas and sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone for feeling that way, after jumping to a 13-0 lead right out of the gates and piling up an incredible 57-9 lead against their opponents last weekend before calling off the dogs.

It led to a familiar feeling in the post-game: talk of how the offense is clicking so well, how the defense keeps coming up big.  There were plenty of accolades to go around.

But when one media member tried to lightly broach the subject to Lafayette, the always-loquacious Shafnisky quickly steered the conversation back to next week's game.

That's because Shafnisky, perhaps more than anybody, feels the importance of next week's game vs. Bucknell.

"For us to be in this position, it's all a credit to us and our coaches. We put ourselves in this position, we earned it. But we didn't earn anything yet. Next week, when you ask that question again, hopefully I'll be the happiest man."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chase Who? Shafnisky, Bragalone Combine for 6 Rushing TDs, Beat Fordham, 58-37

(Photo Credit: Amy Herzog/The Morning Call)

When people think Lehigh football, they rightfully think of a powerful air attack.

After all, the Mountain Hawks boast the top two receivers in all of FCS in regards to receiving yards, junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey.

What they don't necessarily think of is a grinding rushing attack, something more out of a triple-option team or perhaps a run-heavy Wing-T team.

Yet in Lehigh's 58-37 statement win over Fordham, the same Ram team with potential future NFL player RB Chase Edmonds, the main headline wasn't the aerial show, though there were a few highlight-reel plays there, too.

Instead, the headline became Lehigh's six rushing touchdowns, three from senior QB Nick Shafnisky and three more from sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone, and 349 yards on the ground.

I looked through the record books last night, and combed through recaps of a lot of football games, and the last time I found that Lehigh scored six rushing touchdowns in a game was in 1971, when FB John "Jack" Rizzo and RB Don Diorio combined for six rushing TDs in a 48-19 win over Lafayette.

That's some pretty good company.
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