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A really quick Lehigh/Yale preview; Other Games

Back on the Blog
We are back and ready to blog once again! I finally have a moment to breathe after our vacation and before our busy weekend to whip up a dish of previews and predictions for this week in Lehigh sports.

No live commentary this week
Due to all the busy-ness in my life this week, you won't get live in-game commentary by me again for the Lehigh/Yale game. (In the Lehigh Valley and beyond, the game will be broadcast live on Channel 69 WFMZ, so you intrepid fans will be able to follow the game that way. As a matter of fact I'm going to be taping the game and watching it later in the day.)

However, I will come on to give my thoughts on the game after I finish watching the game in full. So please by all means watch this space tomorrow for in-depth analysis!

But really quick reactions about the week in Lehigh football
How did we lose a point in the national rankings after demolishing Holy Cross? BLEAH! We get no respect. If we are worse than 5 A-10 teams, I'll eat a shoe.

Congratulations for Mark Borda getting Patriot League Player of the Week honors! To go along with his virtual Lehigh Football Nation game ball, of course.

Glad that's out of my system.. now on to the preview.

Lehigh/Yale: Injury Report:
OL Tom Toth (OUT)
K Matt McNeils (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
OLB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
TE Steve Burant (Questionable)
OL John Reese (Questionable)
WR Gerran Walker (Questionable)
CB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
LB Claude Kershner (Questionable)

McNeils' illness may mean Kyle Keating may be backing up QB and kicking duties, should anything happen to starting kicker Justin Musilek. Other than that, an encouraging injury report, as long as CB Neal "NBG" Boozer-Gallman and WR Gerran Walker are ready to go. If they're out, we lose an awful lot of speed on both sides of the ball. CB Brannan Thomas and WR Winfred Porter would start in their place.

Before Lehigh/Yale: My yearly rant about the Ivy League
Every year, teams in the non-scholarship Patriot League schedule to play teams in the non-scholarship Ivy League. Every year, members of some schools (which shall remain nameless) in the A-10 whine about how poor the competition is in the Ivy League, and how instead the Patriot League should schedule more difficult opponents (like, for example, West Chester (D-II), Lock Haven (D-II), or Central Connecticut State (1-AA mid-major), to take some examples of "tough" A-10 opponents).

Why do people bash the Ivies? Largely because people feel that since the Ivies don't offer athletic scholarships, they must implicitly be inferior to those that do offer athletic scholarships (like, for example Mississippi Valley St. or Coastal Carolina). To these detractors, I say yet again: The Ivies are like a box of chocolates - you don't know what you're gonna get. Some years the Ivies have teams stacked with future NFL players and solid teams that could give any ranked 1-AA team a run for their money. Other years, they field teams that would have a hard time beating 1-AA mid-majors. The trouble is, aside from Penn which always seems to have great teams, you never know which Ivy team is going to be good or bad.

Ivy league teams start after everyone else. The Patriot League usually are the Ivy League's opening game for the season. So Ivy teams usually have two or three game films to look at when evaluating a Patriot League school (not to mention nine months of rest), while the PL school has to look at some scrimmage of questionable utility after having designed killer gameplans for two or three straight weeks, never mind the list of inevitable injuries. This has got to be a challenge for a PL coach.

There is the impression out there that Ivy league football is a bunch of glasses-toting nerds in football uniforms -- nothing could be further from the truth. Ivies frequently get great students who also are great football players -- just look at starting Dolphin QB Jay Fiedler (Dartmouth) or starting Viking center Matt Birk (Harvard). Just because some schools offer athletic scholarships doesn't mean they are automatically great; so why do people automatically assume that schools that don't offer athletic scholarships are automatically terrible?

The Ivy League does not, however, have the opportunity to play in the 1-AA playoffs. It seems like every few years the Ivy League presidents have to get on their high horses and single out football for exclusion for postseason play. Every year they trot out the usual reasons for not participating -- football playoffs would interrupt with finals, we want our players to be scholar/athletes, not athlete/scholars, the fact that 1-AA is a subclassification rather than a full classification of Division I. And to be perfectly honest, all these reasons are pure bullcrap. If you cut out all the rhetoric, here's what the Ivy presidents are saying: We really hate football and everything it stands for, so we're going to prevent them from playing a tournament which would really show the true competitive level of the program.

Lehigh Nation's position on this issue is the following -- Why don't the Ivy presidents stop making decisions on what's best for Ancient Eight football teams, and ask the players and coaches what they think should happen? I think that if they want to play in the 1-AA playoffs, they should be allowed to play. And in addition, I think they would do very well. Last year Penn finished the season undefeated, and I think they would have given Colgate a run for their money, if not Delaware, the eventual 1-AA playoff champs.

Personally speaking, I can't believe that Ivy teams would want to not compete at the highest level of their craft. It's like setting up a chess tournament and playing some of the best players in Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and then turning around and calling yourself "world champ" without playing some very good chess players who happen to be in New York. I don't think it's right to actively deny these young men the chance to know for sure how they stack up with other 1-AA schools, no more than I believe it's right to actively deny a biology major to compete with the best students for the best grade.

Scouting Yale
Aside from being the place where George Bush, his son, and John Kerry all went to school, Yale has one of the oldest and most storied programs in all of football. Before 1994, they also had a history of spanking Lehigh. In 12 all-time meetings between the two schools in 100 years, Lehigh was outscored 475-39!

Since those dark times, Lehigh has now won the last 3 games in the series, the latest one being in 2002 where a then-unknown 4th string QB named Kyle Keating led Lehigh to a 14-7 victory in a driving rainstorm at the Yale Bowl (seating 68,000).

Yale boasts an experienced team that is 3-1 this year, and has already claimed the scalp of Colgate at home a couple of weeks ago. In that game they won on a last-second 39 yard field goal. Last week they beat Dartmouth in Hanover, NH 24-14, benefitting greatly from 5 Big Green miscues. They are on a roll and could be a very dangerous team.

This game could show us what Lehigh is made of. In between 2 important league contests, this is a classic "tweener" game that could be hard to get up for. If Lehigh gets up for this game and dominates, it could mean really good things the rest of the year.

Offense
Senior QB Alvin Cowan is on the "Payton Award" watch list, and could be the best QB that Lehigh faces all year. Mobile and accurate, he is averaging 180 yards passing a game. But not far behind talent-wise is senior RB Robert Carr, who has has 3 100-yard rushing days this year. Carr also last week has shown to catch passes out of the backfield as well.

These two are team leaders who are extremely talented and pose a formidable 1-2 punch. It will be a challenge to bottle them both up.

Cowan's two favorite targets are Chandler Hendley and Ralph Plumb who both average more than 75 yards a game and have 7 TDs among them. They are fast and dangerous.

The offensive line may be a potential weak spot. Though sizeable and talented, they have given up several sacks a game.

Defense
Like Lehigh, Yale plays a "bend but don't break" type of defense that goes for the big turnover. Yale and Lehigh are both ranked in the top 10 nationally in takeaways.

(Due to either lack of funding, or excessive interest in the presidential elections, Yale's game notes don't offer a great insight in their defense but I will do my best.)

The tale of the Yale tape is an undersized line that doesn't get a lot of sacks. The strength of the defense is a great secondary which has done it all, from forcing fumbles to grabbing interceptions.

Special teams
Their speediest players on offense, Carr, Hendley, and Plumb, double up as return men and are very effective. K Andrew Sullivan has had decent range in getting a 37 yard field goal 2 weeks ago to upset Colgate.

Keys to the game
1.Trenches. This game will be won by the better OL and DL. The OL must carve out huge chunks of yardage for the RBs. The DL must get good pressure on QB Cowan.

2.Rath and Thompson. Hammering the front seven with the running game early and often will be important to wear them down.

3.Don't force the ball. Borda needs to build on his great game last week and not force the ball against a great secondary. Test, but don't force.

4.Contain Carr to contain Cowan. It's easy to key on Payton-watched QB Cowan. But the key to containing him will be to spy Carr and shut him down if at all possible.

Fearless Prediction
Everything in my gut points to a close game. But I think the Engineers are up to the challenge this week. Lehigh wins a very close, hard-fought 60 minutes. Lehigh 24, Yale 21.

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