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"Rocky" at South Mountain; Lehigh/Albany Preview

Rocky appears at South Mountain
All it takes is one written piece on LehighSports.Com, and you have a nickname for life. This week's Lehigh profile is on Jason "Rocky" Morrell:

Reading between the "O" Lines

"The world’s biggest self proclaimed “Rocky” fan, Morrell fell in love with the Philadelphian as a freshman in high school, and has used it for motivation ever since. “I was drawn to the movie because it took place right near my house in south Jersey, and I just loved the way he kept pushing through everything. He never stopped, never let anyone or anything get the best of him. I would predicate all of my workouts on that movie and I’m always using it for inspiration.”

"Looks like the real-life Rocky has re-located folks. Instead of residing in South Philly, he now reads English books and lays down pancake blocks for Lehigh University on South Mountain."

Although not the way I would have written it (and this is coming from another huge Rocky fan in his own right - as long as you ignore that there were any Rocky movies after Rocky II), happily I bestow Jason "Rocky" Morrell's nickname to cyberspace.

Lehigh/Albany Preview
Lehigh hosts first-time opponent SUNY-Albany this Saturday at Murray Goodman stadium on "Fleet Kids" day. Let's get this injury report out of the way and get right into the preview, shall we?

Injury report for the game
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OLB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
TE Pete Morelli (Doubtful)
WR Greg Petrosky (Doubtful)
OL Shaun Strickland (Doubtful)
WR Lee Thomas (Doubtful)
WR Gerran Walker (Questionable)
DB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
DL/LS Paul Fabre (Questionable)
DB Andrew Nelson (Questionable)

Ouch! At wideout and defensive back the Engineers will have to do some shuffling. Rovesti's injury hurts depth at linebacker, but LB Micah Greene will stand up and take his place backing up ILB Owen Breninger.

At wideout, if Thomas, Petrosky and Walker all are out, look for junior WR Kevin Zebluim to be the main target, with junior Aaron Argenta and senior Adam Kovacs to pick up the slack. Backing them up should be sophomores Frank Trovato and Bilal Morris. And maybe touted freshman WR Pete Donchez might get some time?

Another interesting question is: will Neal "NBG" Boozer-Gallman, winner of a game ball every week from Lehigh Football Nation, start or play? In any case, it looks like sophomore DB Brannan Thomas will get a lot of playing time like he did against Liberty.

About SUNY-Albany
It's hard to think of a bigger contrast to dress-coded, straight-laced Liberty (our opponent two weeks ago) than SUNY-Albany. It's ranked #1 in the nation of "party schools" by the Princeton Review. As the SacBee article also helpfully points out, "[the] report ranked Albany seventh in the use of hard liquor and marijuana, ninth in beer drinking and first in "students (almost) never study." As if to underscore that point, one of the high points of campus life includes "Fountain Day", where students celebrate the turning on of the large on-campus fountain -- by streaking across campus.

Whereas Liberty might be more reminiscient of the Lawrence Welk show, think of Albany and think of the collegiate version of the now-defunct disco Studio 54 (circa 1978, before Steve Rubell's many drug arrests).

Although Lehigh students and alumni might be able to understand a little something about that - er - beer drinking and hard liquor thing, I think where SUNY-Albany differs from Lehigh is that "students almost never study" part of the survey. Lehigh students definitely like to cut loose and have a good time, but only after a week of demanding schoolwork (and that brutal Mechanical Engineering, Physics, or Social Psychology test).

Football at SUNY-Albany
Aside from certainly being outfitted by Nike (CEO Tom Clarke is an Albany graduate), the Great Danes have done well for a non-scholarship 1-AA school. Since joining Division 1-AA in 1999, Albany has been champion or co-champion of the Northeast Conference for the past 2 years (including shutting out Duquesne in the ECAC bowl in 2002).

Coach Lembo was a former assistant at Albany in 1992-1993, where he worked under current head coach Bob Ford.

The last big non-mid-major win that the Great Danes were able to pull off was a 2001 upset of Towson 14-10 at home (a year when Towson went 3-7 in the Patriot). So there should be an evident "talent gap" currently between Albany and Lehigh.

More recently, in 2004 Fordham played Albany and only won the game 14-0 -- they can't be taken too lightly.

It's so nice when the Albany game notes give me everything I need to know about their offense. "Head Coach Bob Ford runs a multiple, option scheme that features an inside and outside run attack and spreads the passing game." This means - run-first, pass later.

Senior Nicholas Bazan will be the starting signal-caller for the Great Danes. In 3 games where the Albany defense was nearly shutout (Hofstra 41-0, Fordham 14-0, Brown 35-7) , Bazan averaged under *50* yards passing (and in Albany's lone win he averaged 77 yards). So although through the air Bazan doesn't seem like much of a threat, he does average 50 yards per game on the ground.

Redshirt freshman wideout Mike Wall is Bazan's "favorite" target -- when he can find the target. He's their leading receiver averaging a little over 30 yards a game. The other wideout, senior Jason Miller, has only 1 reception over 11 yards this year.

With this little production from the QB and wideouts, you'd be right to assume that the bulk of the Danes' attack is on the ground. Sophomore RB David Fantell and senior RB Dustin Wilson share the duties (along with Bazan) to average over 150 rushing yards per game between them. Redshirt freshman Dan Biegel (no dog jokes here, please) also contributes in their rushing attack, and also can catch passes out of the backfield.

The "O" line has some impressive players. All-mid-major senior LT Geir Gudmunsen and junior LG Aaron Kimball will probably do most of the pounding for rushing yards - the right side of the line doesn't appear to be as big, or as impressive, as the left side. Furthermore, Fordham held the Danes to 85 yards rushing earlier this year. Hopefully the Lehigh "D" will be able to shut down their offense as effectively as Fordham - it will be a good test to see how the Mountain Hawk defense stacks up versus Fordham's, one of the best in the Patriot League.

Again, the game notes are oh-so-helpful. "Defensive coordinator Mike Simpson employs a 3-5-3 stack defense that emphasizes the linebacker positions." Now, I hear you, loyal reader, pulling out your copy of NCAA Football 2004, and saying, "What the heck is the 3-5-3?" It means that the linebackers will be asked to do a lot of double-duty lining up as down linemen, or going in the backfield to cover the pass. Before we lick our chops too much, let us remember that this lineup caused Fordham fits in the passing game. This "D" will be a good test for how far along Borda has come in 4 games.

The defensive line, anchored by senior DT Matt Kryzak, is actually quite big if lacking a little in experience. However, the 5 linebackers are the heart of the front - er - eight. Juniors Brian Becker and Will Boone highlight this unit. Becker in particular has a real nose for stripping the ball with one interception and forced fumble last week - so he's the man that Borda and the offense should be keying on. Fordham was able to run the ball effectively against the front eight (is it because there are only 3 down linemen?) for over 200 yards, and Hofstra was able to get over 100 yards against them.

The defensive backfield is led by senior Kamarr Elliott - this unit, remember, held Fordham to 30 yards passing. They did, however, get torched by Hofstra for 424 yards.

Keys to the game
1. Balanced attack. I'd mix up the run and pass to keep the Danes' 5 linebackers running around all afternoon, and then try to break the big plays later in the game running or passing. I think balance on offense is the key.

2. Borda's reaction. The 3-5-3 will be different than any defense Borda will see this year. Mark needs to relax and stick to the offensive gameplan - and not force the ball. How he reacts to this new scheme will be important in his development as a signal-caller.

3. Shut down the perimiter run. I would try to stop the outside run by forcing the game between the tackles. This means the "outside guys" - DE's Tom Alfsen and Tristan Lawrence, and OLB's Jason Murray and Jon Guynes - need to put big stops on the outside option runs.

4. Work out the kinks. Every week this year, it's been and interception here, a missed FG there, a holding penalty here, a missed coverage there. It's time that the team concentrate on not making more mistakes. Against Liberty Lehigh got better in this area. I'll be looking for more development and improvement.

Fearless prediction
I think Lembo beats his alma mater - and the defense pitches a nice shutout.

Lehigh 33, Albany 0

Coming soon: Weekend predictions; My Favorite 1-AA Columnist; The eastern conference landscape


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