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"Patriot League Championship Game" Preview

The Red Sox
I called my Dad after the Red Sox' win tonight in the World Series. I told him, "Did you ever think in a million years you would ever see this day?"

But there we were. We did. We never trailed in a World Series completely devoid of drama. In Game 3 during the pregame warmups, I told my wife, "They're scared. I don't think they're going to win today."

Finally, everything went right, after 86 years.

Thank you, Red Sox!!!!!! Our suffering is over!

(Now, where are those ALCS and World Series shirts we ordered?)

Lehigh/Colgate Preview
If it's Wednesday, then that means it's time for my preview of this week's game - Lehigh/Colgate, this Saturday at Murray Goodman stadium in South Bethlehem.

Lehigh Injury Report
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
TE Steve Burant (OUT)
FS Kaloma Cardwell (OUT)
OLB Jon Guynes (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
ILB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
WR Adam Kovacs (Questionble)
OLB Jason Murray (Qestionable)
DL Jim Norris (Questionable)

Cardwell's absence leaves a big void in the secondary - a defensive co-captain and excellent player. Sophomore DB Courtney Elder will have to show if he is made of the same stuff, but the Nation is officially nervous. Can he do it? At linebacker, Breninger and Graziani move up to the role of sole starters this week with the injuries to Rovesti and Murray. They will be asked to shoulder a big load this Saturday. TE Burant is out, but sophomore TE Landon Maggs should ably step up in the 2 TE set.

History of this rivarly
Lehigh and Colgate have played regularly nearly every year since 1960, playing each other a grand total of 42 times. Lehigh is behind in the all-time series, 16-24-2.

The winner of the Lehigh-Colgate game has gone on to at least a co-championship of the Patriot League title in each of the last seven years. Lehigh has won 5 outright Patriot League titles (with one co-title shared with Colgate), and Colgate has won 2 outright titles (with two co-titles - the second shared with Fordham in 2002).

Furthermore, three times the Lehigh/Colgate game alone has determined the winner of the Patriot League title - in 1998, 2001, and 2003. The three games could not have been more different. In 1998, Lehigh would win 41-22 in a game which featured a burst of second-half offense that finished the (then) Red Raiders. Lehigh that year won the title and beat Richmond for their first 1-AA playoff win before giving eventual champion UMass all they could handle.

In 2001, they played a back-and-forth game in Hamilton, NY. Lehigh held on for a 25-22 win, won the title, and beat Hofstra in Lehigh's first hosted 1-AA playoff game.

Last year, Colgate won 17-10 in a defensive battle, with 6 turnovers (including 4 by starting QB Chris Brown), and 300 yards offense... both teams combined. Kyle Keating punted into his own man in the end zone, and QB Mark Borda saw time as an ineffective Keating was pulled in a game where Lehigh struggled offensively. Colgate of course won the title, and went all the way to the 1-AA Championship game against Delaware. Along the way, RB Jamaal Branch won the Walter Payton award.

Scouting Colgate
Colgate is a dangerous team that last year was the class of the Patriot League. This year, they are still the class of the Patriot League until somebody knocks them off their perch. Is Lehigh going to be that team?

Offense
Colgate runs a dangerous offense. Although not that different from last year, it is subletly different in some ways. What hasn't changes is that it still is a multifaceted dangerous attack involving a brusing all-1-AA runner, an underrated mobile QB, and a dangerous deep receiving threat.

In 2002 a then-inexperienced QB Chris Brown made his fist collegite start gainst Lehigh and ate up our defense, rushing for 4 TDs and putting our Patriot League title hopes up in smoke. Now a senior, it seems like teams have started to finally solve him. With 10 TDs and 8 interceptions, combined with a 53% completion percentage, his statistics seem downright ordinary this year. Having said that, he is a dangerous runner and is deadly if he gets the passing game going.

Payton-winner RB Jamaal Branch could be the most talented player in the Patriot League. All you need to do is see his 208 yards and 4 TDs last week for proof. He can run inside, outside, and is a bruising back. Someone you need to be aware of at all times.

This year's "O" Line features 2 senior bookends at both tackles, and is a solid sizeable line. They miss TE Josh Frieser from last year, and instead have sophomore Jeff Brown in at TE. He doesn't catch as well as Frieser, and seems to have had trouble filling his shoes. A solid line, if not as great as last year.

Senior WRs Luke Graham and DeWayne Long are Brown's primary targets. They are tall, talented receivers who have all of Colgate's passing TDs this year. There doesn't appear to be a solid #3 receiver after these two.

Defense
Colgate plays the same defense as Lehigh, an aggressive 4-3 that is opportunistic and plays to get turnovers. In Colgate's game notes, they cavalierly say: "In the last 26 games, only 4 runners have managed to gain over 100 yards rushing against the Raider defense." Two of those games were their only losses this year - Steve Baylark of UMass, and Rob Carr of Yale. This might indicate a vulnerability versus the run.

Their two defensive ends - seniors Matt Spack and John Latek - are bona-fide pass rushers. They are tough players that need to be contained at the line of scrimmage. Unlike last year, they are a bit smaller up the middle with juniors Josh Wurst at Chris Petrone.

Junior Jared Nepa is the cream of the linebacking crop. He has a real nose for the ball, having had his hand in 5 different turnovers. Juniro Zach Dollar and senior Antrell Tyson don't have as much game experience as Nepa, but don't let that fool you - these guys have plenty of talent.

In the secondary, sophomore SS Geoff Bean anchors an opportunistic secondary that seems to get the ball an awful lot. He is the feature guy in this defense, and seems to be a budding star. Overall the secondary has 7 interceptions, so Borda will have to protect the ball and not force it too much. These guys along with Mr. Bean - senior Andew Bogle, junior Chris Williams, and sophomore Andrew Moore - form a secondary to be reckoned with.

Special Teams
For such a tough team, Colgate's special teams have been average this year. Although talented, their return team hasn't returned any kicks for TDs this year. Their kicker, senior Lance Schwrtzberg, is 30 for 47 lifetime in field-goal tries.

Keys to the game
1.Win the turnover battle. Colgate is too good a team to be handed points. Borda, Rath, and Thompson must hang onto the ball in order for the Brown & White to have their best chance to win.
2.Wrath of Rath. Rath couldn't pick a better time to have a breakout game. If he gets a 100 yard game, that could go a long way in bringing Lehigh this victory. It might be able to be done between the tackles.
3.Score early. An early score putting Colgate behind the 8-ball could make Brown have to win the game in the 4th quarter using his arm instead of having Branch running at us protecting a lead. Anything we can do to make Branch run the ball less, the beter.
4.Trench game. This type of game is frequently won in the trenches. The "O" Line who dominates the line of scrimmage and the "D" Line that gets the most penetration usually wins. The Mountain Hawks have to make sure that on this day they are that team.
5.Kicking. For Pete's sake, no missed extra points or field goals. That could be the margin of victory for Colgate.

Fearless Prediction
This game will be tough; this game will be close; and a raucous Goodman crowd will somehow put that last field goal through for Lehigh and put the Engineers in the driver's seat.

Lehigh 27, Colgate 24

Coming of Friday: A November 1st Surprise?; Fear the Leopards?

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