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Lehigh's Poll Numbers; Lehigh/Villanova Preview

If it's Wednesday...
that means it's time for Lehigh Football Nation's fearless preview of the Villanova game.

Up a spot in the national polls
In the only 2 national polls that were updated this week, Lehigh gained slightly. It seems like voters did not penalize the Mountain Hawks too badly for not blowing out Stony Brook as many fans had predicted. Whew!

Any Given Saturday: #19
The Sports Network: #22

Game notes available
The game notes are available for this Saturday's titanic clash at Murray Goodman.

Lehigh's Notes
Villanova's Notes

Lehigh Injury Report
Note: It is Lehigh Football Nation's policy to report injuries that are "questionable" and above.
TE Pete Morelli (questionable)
OT Tom Toth (questionable)
WR Greg Petrosky (questionable)
DB Brannan Thomas (doubtful)

Of the injuries, OT Tom Toth's could potentially be the most damaging. Behind him on the depth chart is freshman OT Jimmy Kehs, or possibly OT Rob Sandie could fill in.

Preview of Lehigh/Villanova
First, The Sports Netowrk's take on the game:
Week 2 in 1-AA

No. 8 Villanova (1-0) at No. 22 Lehigh (1-0), 1:00

The Wildcats and the Mountain Hawks each have plenty of questions after the first game. Villanova appeared to be on its way to an easy win over Bucknell until the offense gave the ball away on three second half possessions. The Bison came back from a 20-0 deficit to cut Villanova’s lead to 20-14, and literally came within inches of taking a lead on the Wildcats. Lehigh had to overcome offensive struggles of its own in a 25-2 win against Mid-Major Stony Brook. Lehigh moved the ball on the ground in the second half and pulled away, but the offensive effort left plenty to be desired. Both Villanova’s Marvin Burroughs and Lehigh’s Mark Borda are under pressure to perform, especially early in the season. Both quarterbacks unseated last year’s incumbent in fall practice, and now have to prove themselves on the field. Burroughs had a better first outing than Borda, but both had a mixed bag of good plays and ineffectiveness. I saw Villanova’s defense firsthand, and came away extremely impressed. Something tells me that, by the end of the year, the offense will catch up a bit and the Wildcats will be a team to avoid come playoff time. Villanova has more speed and talent on both sides of the ball, and would probably win a series between the two pretty easily. But the Brown and White know how perfect they must be out-of-conference if they need an at-large playoff berth, and will play with motivation to prove themselves in this game. Lehigh finds a way to score just enough points, and pulls off the upset in a close contest. Final Score: Lehigh 14, Villanova 13

So the Football Network has us winning this game, eh? Well, let's do the analysis and find out, shall we?

Villanova (or "Vanilla-ova" as I like to call them) is primarily a basketball school which plays in the Big East (like our Patriot League's own Georgetown). They play in the Atlantic 10 football scholarship football conference, and was conference quad-co-champion in 2001 (where, oddly enough, they didn't qualify for the 1-AA playoffs). In 2002 they made a deep run in the 1-AA playoffs as an at-large team, only falling to McNeese St. in the semifinals. Their performance that year earned them the Lambert Cup (given to the best-performing Eastern 1-AA football team). And did I mention that they upset 1-A Rutgers that year in September, 37-19, in a game that wasn't even that close?

In 2003, they finished a disappointing 7-4 after starting the year with six straight wins (including an upset of 1-A Temple in September, 23-21). This illustrates precisely how dangerous the Wildcats are in the month of September.

In 2004, they are ranked #8 in the country after beating Bucknell at home 20-14 to start the year. The Wildcats found themselves up comfortably 20-0 in the third quarter, when three straight turnovers caused Villanova to nearly completely unravel. The Bison rang up two quick touchdowns, and got all the way to the 1 yard line of the Wildcats before Villanova made a goal-line stand that ended up preserving the win.

Andy Talley, Villanova's coach, is entering his 20th year at the helm of the Wildcats. He built the modern-day Villanova football program from scratch in 1985, picking up the pieces of a program that disbanded in 1980. Starting in Division III in 1985, in 1987 he led Villanova in their first Atlantic 10 conference year. Two years later, Villanova was A-10 co-champion. Think this guy knows how to coach, or what?

Three Villanova NFL Alumni you might know? NFL Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long; Falcons WR Brian Finneran; and Eagles RB Bryant Westbrook, all coached by Talley. Oh yeah, he knows his stuff all right.

Offense
Sophomore QB Marvin Burroughs is the leader of the Vilanova offensive unit. Last week, he had a great statistical day, 17 for 24, for 142 yards, 1 rushing and 1 passing TD - if you conveniently forget his fumble and interception in Villanova territory that directly led to 2 Bucknell TDs and made Wildcat fans squirm in their seats last week. But don't let that fool you one iota. Burroughs is a talented kid that can beat you in the short passing game and the running game as well.

Burroughs appears to be primarily a mobile quarterback with a good understanding of the short passing game. Therefore, pursuit is key.

Senior RB Terry Butler will anchor the running attack. Last week he rushed for 124 yards and one TD (and one fumble). Though he didn't show it last week, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and is an extremely good running back. RB Martin "Moe" Gibson is also not to be taken lightly - he's not only a rushing option, he also catches many passes out of the backfield. FB Phil DiGiacomo is primarily a blocker out of the backfield for Butler.

The OL is a solid, yet inexperienced, line. Last week against Bucknell they had a great first half, and didn't have many penalties against them.

Leading the receiving corps is senior wideout J.J. Outlaw. He will be Burroughs' prime target and will have to be public enemy #1 of the Lehigh defensive backs. Last week he hauled in 9 passes for 62 yards. TE Anthony Wright is also a prime target, having hauled in 3 passes last week as well.

Defense
As competent as the offense is, the real strength of Villanova lies in its defense. With four preseason all-A-10 selections in defense, it will be a real test of the Lehigh offense to produce against a unit that only let up 178 yards of *total* offense against Bucknell.

Anchoring the big, talented defensive line are senior ends Terence Taylor and all-A10 Jamil Butler. Sandwiched in between the ends are 2 juniors, Darrell Adams and Matt Costantino.

Butler is one of those all-around defensive ends like DE Bruce Smith in the NFL. He's the type of end that does so much more than most ends -- making tackles, recovering fumbles, and being an all-around force -- not to mention rushing the QB and recording sacks. The short story is he's one of those players that you need to be aware of at all times.

Linebacker features rising sophomore Bryan Adams (1 sack last week) and junior Brian Hulea (team-leading 11 tackles), along with "rover" sophomore Terrance Reaves, who scored a key interception last week. (A rover is a player which shifts between DB and LB.)

The short story: This front seven is tough, no doubt about it, with few weak points.

In the defensive backfield, there are a lot of DBs in Talley's "big nickel" type of defense. Seniors Kinsley Echemandu, Jeremy Morgan, and Raymond Vatrone will feature prominently. Last week, they held QB Darius Wilson to 99 yards in the air. Granted, Bucknell is a triple-option team, but that's a great job by the secondary in any league.

Keys to the game
1.Getting the job done in the trench. The way that the Lehigh offense will get on track is if the offensive line gets the job done by giving Borda time to throw and opening holes for RB Eric Rath. They will have to do a better job than we have seen so far.
2.Pursuit against Burroughs. The "D" line has a real opportunity to make Burroughs run for his life against an inexperienced offensive line. The key to winning this game involves rushing Burroughs into making bad decisions, and capitalizing.
3.Field position, and converting in the red zone. All signs point to a defensive battle, and this is where P Kyle Keating can make a huge difference, pinning the Wildcats deep in their zone whenever possible. And once in the red zone, Lehigh needs to come away with points whenever possible.
4.Turnovers. Turnovers could be the key in this game. In a defensive battle, one extra field goal can make the difference, and it very will might here.

Fearless prediction
Hearing what I heard last weekend about the Lehigh offense, I don't believe that Lehigh's "O" as a team has what it takes at this point in the season to advance the ball against one of the Atlantic 10's best defenses. I beleive that Lehigh's defense will again make a vailant effort to keep the game close, but ultimately Villanova will come out on top.

If the Lehigh offense can score three touchdowns against this Villanova defense, I think Lehigh will win the game. Unfortunately I don't think we will be able to do that.

Villanova 17, Lehigh 7

Comments

Anonymous said…
Rumor has it that Lembo "dummied down" the offense this week.

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