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Lehigh/Colgate: The Patriot League Championship Game; Press; Polls

Lehigh/Colgate: The Patriot League Championship Game
Here's something to whet your appetite for what I'm calling the "Patriot League Championship Game": Lehigh versus Colgate, in South Bethlehem, this Saturday.

Lehigh coming into this game has won their last 5 contests, and is nationally ranked at #12 in The Sports Network's weekly poll. At 6-1, they are 2-0 in the Patriot League, their only loss coming to Villanova 22-16 in early September. In their last 5 games, their offense has averaged 38 points a game amd the defense has been giving up less than 17 points a game.

QB Mark Borda has won Patriot League Offensive Player of the week for 3 consecutive weeks, including last wek where Lehigh beat Bucknell 40-17 in a game where Borda passed for 5 TDs.

Coach Lembo was not happy with the execution in the game, however, with poor kicking, 4 fumbles, and too many penalties. After the game, he held a closed-door meeting with the players where he reportedly laced into the team. Not much was said to the press about the Colgate game this week by Lembo, but it was definitely the undercurrent for the tirade and the mood after the game. "I have no complaints about [Mark Borda's] attitude, his work ethic or his ability to run the offense. But he needs to play better, overall, next week than he did this week in order for us to win.''

Colgate, on the other hand, is ranked #18 in the Sports Network Poll, is 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the Patriot League. Their two losses have come on the road to UMass (30-20) early in September, and to Yale (31-28) on a last-second field goal on October 2nd.

Colgate is coming off their third straight victory, a 41-7 shellacking of Holy Cross in Hamilton, NY. Walter Payton-award candidate RB Jamaal Branch rushed for 208 yards and 4 TDs, while sophomore SS Geoff Bean racked up his second straight Patriot League Defensive player of the week award by recovering three fumbles, forcing two fumbles, and intercepting a pass -- having a hand in 6 of Holy Cross' 8 turnovers on the day. The Syracuse Post-Journal probably put it best when they said that they "had done everything to the Holy Cross Crusaders except de-pants them."

In contrast to Lembo's explosion, the Post-Journal caught Colgate's coach Dick Biddle cracking a smile on the sideline after their dominant performance. But the importance of this week's game is not lost on their coach: "It'll be the biggest game of the season so far... It seems that the team that has won that one has gone on to win the league, so you can kind of control your own destiny (in terms of qualifying for the I-AA playoffs). We'll be ready. We won't back down. We'll play, believe me.... Our work is going to be cut out for us against Lehigh... We're going to bring our 'A' game."

Since 1997, Lehigh and Colgate have either been outright Patriot League champions or co-champions. Three times during this span, including last year, the outcome of the game has been all that has separated Colgate and Lehigh for the title. That's why this Satruday's game should be, in effect, the "Patriot League Championship Game".

One last look at the press from last week's games - Lehigh and Colgate.

Morning Call:
Borda Excels Again, but Coach Not Happy

Syracuse Post-Standard:
Raiders' Day in the Sun

"Only the winning Powerball numbers might make Lehigh University football fans happier than the numbers Mountain Hawks quarterback Mark Borda is putting up... Each week, the junior from Bethlehem Catholic High is asked about his performance, and, after crediting others, he says he is getting more comfortable and his teammates are gaining more confidence in him... If Lehigh did have a quarterback controversy earlier this year, it doesn't now."

"Lembo, though, wasn't in the best mood after Lehigh's 40-17 rout of Bucknell and two Borda fumbles were among the things to sour his day... ''The fumbles are probably the thing that disappointed me the most,'' Lembo said. ''We had done such a wonderful job of that all season long. We dedicate practice time to it... So why we had problems today, I can't answer it. It certainly isn't from a lack of preventative measures. Maybe it was a wakeup call.''

If it was a matter of waking up his team, Lembo served the purpose of about 100 alarm clocks with a loud, colorful, postgame discussion that could be heard through closed doors.

"Coming into today we knew we had to play well to gear up for Lehigh and that's what we did," said [Luke] Graham, he of the long reach and sticky hands. "This is the type of game you want before a Lehigh. It gets everybody's confidence up and it's great for team morale."

"I think that was probably the first time we played well in all three phases," said the Colgate coach, whose club led 21-0 after one quarter and 34-0 at the half before easing up on the gas. "But I still don't think we've played our best football by any stretch of the imagination."

Sports Network (Lehigh #12, Colgate #18)
ESPN/USA Today (Lehigh #13, Colgate #19)
Any Given Saturday (Lehigh #11, Colgate #17)
Dopke.Com (Lehigh #17, Colgate NR)

Coming up: Don't fear the Leopards?; More Lehigh/Colgate


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