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Lehigh/Fordham Preview

Lehigh/Fordham Preview
Against my better judgement, I decided to leave my playoff atricle for tomorrow so I could bring you the most important Mountain Hawk task at hand, which would be previewing this weekend's Lehigh/Fordham game.

Before we all get out the champagne, it is vital that Lehigh players, coaches, and fans remember that we need to win our last two games in order to win thte outright Patriot League title and I-AA playoff berth, and *maybe* a first-round game. (More on that tomorrow.) Lose either of these next two games, and Lehigh won't only possibly forfeit their chance at the title, they could easily also miss their chance at the I-AA playoffs as well.

Having said that, winning this Saturday will mean that Lehigh will clinch at least a share of the Patriot League title for 2004. This adds to the importance.

Lehigh Injury Report
TE Steve Burant (OUT)
OL John Reese (OUT)
FS Kaloma Cardwell (OUT)
OLB Jon Guynes (OUT)
DT Royce Morgan (OUT)
LB Randy Rovesti (OUT)
RB Eric Rath (Questionable)
DL Will Mitchell (Questionable)
OLB Jason Murray (Questionable)

The new names on the list are fairly significant. Although questionable, RB Rath's status may mean RB Marques Thompson gets the majority of carries, or it may mean more carries to the junior FB Greg Fay or... sophomore TE Pete Morrelli, who has been converted to backup FB. It will be interesting to see how much Rath plays.

Defensively, Mitchell's and Murray's potentially limited availability could be a concern. Senior DT Jim Norris may see a lot of snaps (this being senior day as well), and sophomore backup OLB
Travis Stinson may get more time. You also might see senior OLB Mike Horvath in there too.

Let's hope we can avoid the injury bug this weekend so we can go to Easton relatively healthy.

History
Fordham is 1-15 lifetime against Lehigh. This is a rivalry bugun in 1923, however what they don't tell you is that Lehigh and Fordham had a 56 year gap in this series! (1923 to 1989) Some rivalry! It would be more telling to say that Fordham sturggled against Lehigh after joining the Patriot League, and until two years ago was generally an afterthought in the football title race. Their lone win against Lehigh came in 1997, when they won 42-35 in overtime to beat a rebuilding Lehigh team who that year started freshman QB Phil Stambaugh en route to 3 straight Patriot League titles.

The past 2 years have been bitterly fought battles between the Engineers and the Rams. In 2002 the two teams played a classic in the Bronx, with Lehigh coming out on top 26-23 in OT after Matt Douglas went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 50 yarder if memory serves me right. Matt was PL and Sports Network's Special Teams Player of the Week that week. In 2003, RB Jermaine Pugh had a career day rushing the ball during an extremely well-fought game at Murray Goodman, with Lehigh on top 23-16.

Scouting Fordham
New coach Ed Foley, who replaced Richmond-bound coach Dave Clawson, must have known he had a challenging task at hand. Even though he had a good defensive unit that featured some all-league players, the Rams had to replace a starting QB, RB, and premier wideout. With a 5-4 record, you could consider Fordham to have at least done a decent job at rebuilding. However, when you look at those wins and losses, you see something else: Fordham has feasted on 2 mid-majors (Albany, Duquesne), a 1-7 Ivy team (Columbia), and a pair of 2-7 Patriot League teams (Georgetown and Holy Cross).

Looking further at the numbers, you see some even more troubling trends: Fordham has the 6th best offense in the Patriot League, and that includes 2 wins against Holy Cross and Georgetown. They also have the 6th best rushing defense in the Patriot as well.

(Of course, Lehigh gave up 380 yards against the 7th rated offense in the league - Georgetown - last week, so maybe this doesn't mean anything.)

Offense
The "O" is a young team with not a lot of senior leadership. They play a basic pro set. They have struggled against the better teams they have faced. Still, they have big play ability and can win a game with that singlehandedly.

Sophomore QB Derric Daniels has been a success passing the ball, with 19 TDs on the season. He is also very mobile. However, he is not a very accurate passer at this stage of his career, especially under pressure. Still, he has a flair for the big play, and given enough time he will make things happen.

The Rams largely run a "running back by committee", and have 3 to 4 different backs carrying the pigskin a game. The biggest threat is junior RB Jamaal Hunte, averaging almost 90 yards a game, with 5 TDs on the year. He also can catch the ball out of the backfield. The other RB is junior James Prydatko, and the FBs are sophomore Tristan Martin and junior Mikal Welch.

The receiving corps is led by senior WRs Steve Porco and Rashawn Haynes, who have 9 TDs on the year and must be contained in order to contain the Rams. TE James Caffarello is also a receiving threat with 200 yards on the year.

The "O" line features 2 seniors, C Jared Amatuzzo and RT Sam Weatherford. The line is a bit undersized, however, and has struggled to protect Daniels or carve out an effective running game.

Defense
The Rams play a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. They have struggled against the run, but have a solid veteran team that boasts the preseason Patriot League defensive player of the year.

The "D" Line boasts 3 seniors. The line is anchored by senior DT Aki Jones. He's the Ram sack leader with 5. This group can definitely get to the QB, so they must be respected. Lafayette and Bucknell, however, have exploited this group with a run-first mentality. It will be interesting if Lembo tries to exploit it.

The linebacking unit's monster is OLB NaQuniton Gainous, who is the team's leader in tackles. All 3 starting linebackers are seniors, and have good skill in rushing the passer. They also are solid tacklers.

In the backfield, the unquestioned leader is CB Tad Kornegay. With 7 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, he's the heart and soul of the defense and a force to be reckoned with. This preseason player of the year is the guy that Borda needs to be aware of at all times.

Special Teams
Sophomore PK Micah Culkey is a superb kicker, with 2 40+ yard field goals to his credit this year. However, the Rams in the past few games have had to fall back to their 4th string long-snapper for snapping duties, so there have been some special-teams struggles of late.

Sophomore DB Cary Williams and backup RB Jame Prydatko are the return team. Although they have no TDs among them, they are a crew capable of big things.

Keys to the Game
1.Special Teams. Before the Lafayette game, it will continue to be vital that Lehigh's special teams get thier act together. This game must be a coming-out party for special teams, with good kickoffs (none out of bounds), low return yardage, and good execution on punts and kicks.
2.Stick to your guns. Although tempting to pound the ball at the line and not pass the ball at Kornegay, the balanced offensive attack should be the rule here. Mix the run and pass to keep all units off balance.
3.Pressure on Daniels. Tom Alfsen and the rest of the "D" Line, will really do the whole team a favor if they keep constant pressure on Daniels, forcing him into mistakes rushing and passing.
4.Shut down the dynamic duo. Porco and Haynes are the stars of the offense. The DBs need to blanket these guys and not make them a factor.

Fearless Prediction
My big question is: Will the Brown & White start out flat like they did against Georgetown? I am not sure if the team is overconfident. If the Engineers play like they are capable, I think they will win this going away. However, I think the Hawks are getting a bit too cocky, and may be scared in the first half in a classic "letdown" game. However, I think Lehigh will win out in the end.

Lehigh 28, Fordham 20

Coming up: Delaware/Lehigh... at the Tub?

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