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2004 1-AA Preview; Press Reports, Lehigh vs. Stony Brook

Press reports from Lehigh/Stony Brook
Before I get into the good stuff... my Top 25... and my Patriot League Preview, let me do my press roundup for this weekend's game. Not surprisingly, most of the coverage involves the introduction of the starting QB for the Stony Brook game tomorrow.

Express-Times:
Borda named #1 QB for season opener
New-look Lehigh will seek some old success

Morning Call:
Borda wins QB competition - at least for opener

Choice quotes:
"At Wednesday's media luncheon, Borda was introduced as the starting quarterback, ending speculation that began about the same time Lehigh's uniforms were packed away last November...The competition for the position drew attention throughout the spring, summer and preseason camp."

[Addendum - you heard the speculation here first!]

"Former Bethlehem Catholic star Mark Borda won a training camp quarterback battle with incumbent Kyle Keating, and will make his first college start under center today.

"My personal goals are team goals," Borda said. "We want to win every game and win the Patriot League championship. I feel very, very confident when I'm playing."


''I'm excited about being given this opportunity,'' Borda said. ''But I understand that it's just for this week. It's not permanent. I have to go out and perform and earn this job every week.''

"It feels good to be entrusted with the responsibility of getting the team down the field and executing."

"My only plan is to win the game... No matter how I play, I have to perform. I feel pressure because of the tradition of the football team. I welcome the pressure.

"Coach Pete Lembo said it was Borda's strong arm and ability to stretch the field with Lehigh's corps of fleet receivers that gave him a slight edge over Keating, who has a 7-1 record as the team's starter over the past two seasons, and Connor, a highly-touted transfer from the University of Delaware."

"Lembo said that the news about who would start at quarterback was not a ''big deal within the team'' and didn't require a special meeting. He also emphasized that the competition continues at QB as well as virtually every other position....''We believe in healthy competition at all positions and quarterback is no different than any other position,'' he said. ''Even guys like Adam Bergen and Justin Terry know they can't just show up and expect to play. At many of the positions, there's a very subtle difference between the No. 1s and No. 2s and the twos and threes. So you have to continue to perform.''

Lembo said Borda has made ''great improvement'' since spring drills began and has worked well with offensive coordinator, Chris Rorke, who is beginning his second season in that role.

Still, the decision wasn't made until last weekend when it became essential for someone to take most of the reps with the first unit on offense.''Hours and hours of evaluation went into this decision and all others,'' Lembo said. ''As a staff, we don't spend all of those hours in the office watching ESPN. We have to look at the big picture and what's best for our football team and who gives us the best chance to win.''

[Note to Coach: Isn't that my job, watching ESPN?]

The view from the Nest
Lembo made the choice to go with Mark Borda as the starting QB tomorrow. It isn't the choice I would have made but I respect Lembo's decision. In my admittedly uninformed view, I would have a really hard time taking the reins away from the guy who led us to a 30-10 victory over Lafayette to end the year last year. But overall, Lehigh Nation seems divided on the issue.

Having said that, I am excited to see what Borda has to offer tomorrow, as well as the other new starters for tomorrow's game (such as DT Josh Cooney). Seeing in a few games last year has shown the potential the young man brings to the table in terms of arm strength and mobility. We'll see tomorrow how he does.

In 2001, Lehigh had 2 senior QBs in Brant Hall and Luke Cianello. Hall was a gifted, big-armed passer with lots of mobility; Cianello was a pocket passer but extremely accurate. Hall was the starter all year that year, with Luke backing him up whenever Hall got hurt or struggled. That team went 11-0 and earned the Mountain Hawks' first home game.

Could it be that Lembo is planning something similar this year, with a different big-armed QB with a talented, accurate backup?

PATRIOT LEAGUE PREVIEW
OK, here it is. My Patriot League predictions!

Contending for the title:

Colgate
Key pieces to offense: Senior QB Chris Brown; senior RB Jamaal Branch; senior WR Luke Graham

Key pieces to defense: Senior DT Adam Leeman; senior LB Antrell Tyson; senior CB Chris Williams

Biggest strength: Chris Brown doesn't have a fancy website like teammate Jamaal Branch, but he to me is the real hidden strength of the team, with mobility and accuracy passing.

Biggest weakness: If there is one, it's that the Raiders have lost some major defensive cogs to graduation.

One sentence: A lot of teams will be looking to knock off Colgate, but on first glance they look like they have the guns for another title and Patriot League run.

Lehigh
Key pieces to offense: Junior QB Mark Borda; sophomore RB Eric Rath; senior TE Adam Bergen

Key pieces to defense: Junior DT Royce Morgan; senior ILB Owen Breninger; senior FS Kaloma Cardwell

Biggest strength: Trench warfare. Both lines are big, skilled, and talented, and may be the best in the Patriot League. TE Adam Bergen is a TE that can do it all, and he gives defenses fits.

Biggest weakness: Borda, Rath and all the Lehigh wideouts need to show that they can get it done, given they don't have a lot of experience.

One sentence: When you win the battle of the trenches, you generally win the game - but is it enough to dethrone Colgate?

In the running:

Fordham

Key pieces to offense: Sophomore QB Derric Daniels; sophomore RB Jamaal Hunte; senior WR Steve Porco

Key pieces to defense: Senior DT Ed Gordon; senior OLB NaQuinton Gainous; senior CB Tad Kornegay

Biggest Strength: A great defense anchored by the tough LB Gainous and Buchanan candidate Kornegay.

Biggest Weakness: Serious lack of experience in the QB and RB positions; remains to be seen if a deep threat can emerge for Daniels.

One sentence: A championship-caliber defense, with an inexperienced offense, could still win a title with a little luck and rapid development of the offense.

Bucknell

Key pieces to offense: Senior QB Darius Wilson; junior RB Blamah Sarnor; senior RB Frank Lazio

Key pieces to defense: Senior DT Corey Mayo; sophomore ILB Dorian Petersen; senior FS Virgil Rush

Biggest Strength: A triple-option attack that drives defensive coordinators nuts. Wilson and Sarnor are top-flight offensive players.

Biggest Weakness: A defense that gave up points in bunches at times last year. Despite few losses to graduation this time around, you have to question if they can vastly improve this year in order to be a title contender.

One sentence: The surprise team of 2003, they have the talent to make another run, if their defense doesn't fold down the stretch.

Not quite there yet:

Lafayette

Key pieces to offense: Sophomore QB Brad Maurer; senior RB Joe McCourt; junior WR Archie Fisher

Key pieces to defense: Junior DT Chris Brungo; senior LB Wes Erbe; junior CB Tye Murphy

Biggest Strength: Joe McCourt. This tailback is a tough kid that keeps getting hit and keeps getting back up every play.

Biggest Weakness: Youth and inexperience in QB, WR, defensive line, and defensive backfield. Not to mention question marks in special teams.

One sentence: So many very good puzzle pieces, but it just doesn't look like they fit together for a title run.

Georgetown

Key pieces to offense: Senior QB Andrew Crawford; junior RB Marcus Slayton; senior WR Janiero Wooten

Key pieces to defense: Junior DL Michael Ononibaku; junior LB Mehdi Hassan; senior DB Jason Carter

Biggest Strength: RB Marcus Slayton is a solid ground-gainer, and he anchors a competent offense.

Biggest Weakness: Depth at all positions still needs to be addressed in order to get up to the next "weight class" of the Patriot.

One sentence: A scrappy, tough team that consistently punches above their weight, but probably don't have the horses to make a run for the title.

Rebuilding:

Holy Cross

Key pieces to offense: Junior QB John O'Neill; senior RB Steve Silva; senior WR Sean Gruber

Key pieces to defense: Senior DE David Mitchell; senior LB David Fitzpatrick; senior SS Nick Kenekedes.

Biggest Strength: Experience at the key skill positions, and a QB which already has been battle-tested.

Biggest Weakness: Overcoming the legacy of losing records over the past 5 years, and the sad legacy of the health of their head coaches.

One sentence: They won't contend for a title, since Rome can't be built in a day, but they have enough skill to give some of the top teams a scare if they're taken lightly.

LFN's (almost) PRESEASON TOP 25

1 - Colgate. Yes, you heard right. The national runners-up, with all the same offensive pieces - they're the team to beat.

2 - Wofford. Yes, you heard right. Last year's SoCon champs have most of the same pieces as well still there, and they will also make a statement to those who are counting them in third place before a SoCon pass has been thrown.

3 - Villanova. The A-10 team that seems to have the best balance on both sides of the ball, they are looking like the big dogs now, especially since the Hens lost to UNH.

4 - Southern Illinois. "Thunder and Lightning" are gone, but the Salukis seem to be on the stage for real this time.

5 - Northern Arizona. Inconsistent last year, QB Jason Murietta is out to prove he's the best 1-AA QB this year, and I think he'll be proven right.

6 - McNeese St. Always with a stingy defense, last year's embarassing 1st round playoff exit should show a focused Cowboy team vying for the championship.

7 - Montana. Tough at home, they're going to have to prove that they can win consistently outside of Grizzly Stadium. Are the cracks showing?

8 - Delaware. OK, these rankings were made after this Thursday's loss. But still, replacing all those skill players, and then just "reloading" with transfers? It don't work that way, folks. They will have their work cut out.

9 - Georgia Southern. RB Jermaine Austin will be looking to restore Eagle glory, and he may just do that.

10 - Northern Iowa. Right on the Saluki's heels, their tough defense should keep them in the playoff hunt all year.

11 - Lehigh
12 - Maine
13 - Penn
14 - Furman
15 - Western Kentucky
16 - Northwestern St.
17 - North Dakota St.
18 - Montana St.
19 - UMass
20 - Appalachian St.
21 - Northern Colorado
22 - Eastern Kentucky
23 - NC A&T
24 - Weber St.
25 - Stephen F. Austin

See you tomorrow
Tune in here for live game commentary of Lehigh/Stony Brook, exclusively on this blog! The season is now upon us!

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