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Preview of Lehigh/Liberty

Preview of Lehigh/Liberty
It's come time for Lehigh Football Nation to do their weekly preview of the upcoming game. This week the Brown & White travel all the way down to Lynchburg, VA (possibly into the heart of the remains of "crazy" hurricane Ivan) to face the Liberty Flames under the lights on the turf of Williams stadium.

Injury report for the game:

WR Gerran Walker (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OL Tom Toth (Doubtful)
DL Paul Fabre (Questionable)

Morgan's and Walker's unavailability this week, though not surprising, still hurts. Lehigh will have to make do with the same WR set they had last week, juniors Kevin Zebluim and Winfred Porter, and senior Adam Kovacs. Junior Josh Cooney will fill in for Morgan at DT as he did last week.

Toth's unavailability may have led to the "O"-line shakeup this week, moving C Justin Terry to LT, LT Jason Russell moving to RT, and sophomore John Reese gets a chance at C. I'll be looking closely at this lineup to see how they perform, and if they continue to show improvement. The new setup will take adjustment, and it will be interesting to see Reese in his first start.

10 things you didn't know about Liberty University
1. Liberty University was founded in 1971 by the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell, and is based in Lynchburg, VA.
2. Unsurprisingly for a school named for something as American as "liberty", their school colors are red, white, and blue.
3. Surprisingly for a school founded by Dr. Falwell, their team name is the "Flames", which to me is more evocative of "That Other Place", or "Not Heaven".
4. They don't have a mascot, but continuing the all-American theme, their logo is a flame-like bird which suspiciously resembles a bald Eagle.
5. Denver Broncos TE Duane Carswell is a Liberty Alumnus.
6. Liberty only played 1 Patriot League school before this weekend, that being Towson St. They played 9 times, going 6-3 in that span, from 1983-1992.
7. The Lynchburg Ledger, has more articles on the Virginia racing coalition, barbershop quartets, folk trios, and bowling than they do on any Liberty University sports. (How much more Lawrence Welk can you get?)
8. There is no evidence that the students of Liberty indulge in Lynchburg Lemonade, which consists of triple sec, Jack Daniels, sweet & sour mix, and Sprite.
9. The dress code for students is: business casual (no jeans), but ties are not required. Except for "spirit days" where jeans are OK to wear -- as long as you wear a red shirt. (Business casual where I work consists of optionally wearing a washed shirt, jeans, shorts, or jean shorts, so I think any Liberty graduates would be in for a rude awakening working there.)
10. Liberty was 6-6 last year under head coach Ken Karcher. 3 of their wins were against fellow Big South schools, 1 MEAC win, 1 Division II win.. and one was against A-10 foe Hofstra.

Overall
Liberty is an experienced team that isn't to be taken lightly. They return 35 juniors and seniors and have proven that they have talent to challenge for the Big South title. After a tough couple of years, last year they won their last 4 games, their last over Hofstra. They have senior leadership in most of the skill positions and won't lay down for the Mountain Hawks.

Last Week
Last week Liberty lost to 1-A Kent St. 38-10, a game where Kent went up 28-0 in the first half and never really looked back. Kent St. dominated in all phases of the game - offense (201 yards rushing, their QB 20-29 passing), defense (holding their QB to 9-26 passing with 3 INTs), and special teams (0 return yards).

The offensive breakdown
Liberty is led by redshirt senior Paul Troth. He appears to be a mobile option QB who has some success running and passing the football. So far this year he has struggled a little, however most of that can be attributable to his day at Kent going 9-for-26.

Dre Barnes, the Flames' best RB, is out for the Lehigh game. Filling in for him is senior FB Eugene Goodman - a very good back in his own right. He was the biggest bright spot against Kent with 139 yards on 30 carries - and has to be the man that Lehigh has to "spy" on most of the game. Junior Marcus Hamilton will also spend time in the backfield, but he's no slouch either. Liberty banks on their RBs and "O" line - they don't make any secret about it.

The "O" line is *very* big -- and experienced. The 180 yards rushing that they ran up against Kent is a good indication on how effective they are in run blocking.

At wideout, redshirt junior Lauren Williams highlights this crew, along with redshirt junior Ryan Grigsby and redshirt freshman Wynton Jackson. Williams appears to be the main threat when they pass, but Liberty is primarily a run-first team.

The defensive breakdown
Four seniors feature on the defensive line - Seth Reichart, Andre Gould, Michael Eminger and Rayshawd Barkley. Rechart appears to be the best of the bunch. Though experienced, the line is a bit undersized.

Nick Vaughn is another senior in the front seven, and the featured ILB. Rounding out the unit is redshirt junior Kenneth Kemp and redshirt sophomore Manny Rojas. This unit did give up 200 yards rushing, 144 yards passing to Kent St., and didn't sack their QB once.

The defensive backfield is populated by all underclassmen, but all withsignificant game experience. FS C.J. Moore is the best of the bunch. Again judging by last week Kent St. picked them apart pretty well.

Keys to the game
1.Keying on the run. With Morgan out, this task will be more difficult, but the task remains the same - key on Eugene Goodman and slow down that ground game.
2.Outside pursuit. With the option, the LB's need to be up to the challenge to contain the outside rushes by Goodman and Troth. Especially later in the game, after they've rushed the ball 40+ times.
3.Rushing behind the "O" Line. It's time for our patchwork line to settle down and dominate the smaller front seven of Liberty, and open some holes for Maruqes Thompson and Eric Rath.
4.Distance. In a bad-weather situation, it will be important for the entire team to keep the focus and determination up for a whole 60 minutes.

Fearless Prediction
With DT Royce Morgan and OT Tom Toth in the game and healthy, this would be an easy call for a "W". But the OL and DL really need to show me that they will step up in their absence. I have confidence, though,that Lehigh will do just that down in Virginia in the wind and rain, and "extinguish" the Flames.

Lehigh 27, Liberty 12

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