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Lehigh/Lafayette Preview - the 140th Meeting

Lehigh/Lafayette Preview
Just in case you weren't already juiced up for this game, here's my preview of the 140th meeting for all to read and enjoy.

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 (Doubtful)
OL Rob Sandie (Questionable)
WR Gerran Walker (Questionable)
DE Tom Alfsen (Questionable)
CB Neal Boozer-Gallman (Questionable)
OLB Jason Murray (Questionable)

I seriously doubt we need to worry about any of the "Questionable" Mountain Hawks not playing in this huge game this weekend. Of note, however, is Randy Rovesti being upgraded to "Doubtful" (he had been out the past three weeks). Perhaps he will see some time - it will be interesting to see.

Scouting Lafayette
The Leopards, predicted by everybody to finish no higher than fifth in the Patriot this year, are now in the position of playing for a share of the Patriot League Championship and an I-AA playoff berth. They have truly shocked the world to get to this point - by squeaking by Bucknell, by dominating Fordham, and by shocking A-10 Richmond -- all on the road.

They have made a living of not being what they seem upon first glance. Brushed aside as a pushover by most opponents, they surprised a lot of people with these three big victories. They've done it with trick plays, clutch special teams play, and a bruising running game. But to capture their season as "lucky" or their offense as "gimmicky" doesn't come close to defining the Leopards. This team is dangerous, and more multi-faceted than they might seem.

Offense
Most rushing offenses play an option set, and run at you with that set early and often. Lafayette, on the other hand, rushes mostly between the tackles, and keeps enough other weapons in the arsenal to be multi-faceted.

Early in the year, sophomore QB Brad Maurer split time at QB with senior Pat Davis, but those game seem long ago. Maurer is now clearly a full-game guy. Last week against Holy Cross he was 14 for 19 with 163 yards passing. He is also a constant rushing threat, averaging 50 yards per game. He's extremely mobile and accurate, and can pull the trigger effectively. A very promising young QB.

Senior RB Joe McCourt is probably the best running back in the Patriot League right now (and yes, I remember that Jamaal Branch still plays for Colgate). With over 1,000 yards and 14 TDs (including 5 last week versus Holy Cross), he is a difference-maker on offense who also catches the ball out of the backfield. He is big and powerful, and he has proven difficult to stop by any of Lafayette's opponents. Spelling him is a "change of pace" runner, sophomore Jonathan Hurt who is also a bruiser.

At the fullback position is seniot Brandon Green and junior David Nelson. Although they are primarily blockers, they do get the ball as well as a third or fourth backfield option.

The Lafayette "O" Line is also probably the best in the Patriot League. Larger than their Lehigh counterparts, the line boasts 4 seniors and likely an all-team selection in RT Joe Ungrady. The fact that all FBs, RBs, and Maurer average more than 4 yards a carry (!) is a testament to their effectiveness.

The receiving corps doesn't have any one dominant receiver to key on - which makes defending them more challenging, since there's no one guy to key on. Maurer passes to junior WRs Joe Ort and Brandon Stanford, as well as McCourt. And don't forget TE Chad Walker.

I can't emphasize enough - don't be fooled about their lack of a go-to receiver. They have multiple targets that all can pass the ball effectively. Coach Frank Tavani has definitely crafted an offense which plays to his strengths.

Defense
On defense, Lafayette plays a blitzing base 4-3 that doesn't have a single starting senior. They have at times given up yardage in chunks (like giving up over 200 yards rushing and passing to Richmond), but also have impressed at times, like only giving up 70 yards rushing to Fordham.

Junior DE Andrew Brown is the cream of the defensive line, with 50 tackles 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions to go with his 2.5 sacks. Sophomore DE Marvin Snipes also leads the team in sacks with 5.

The linebacking unit features juniors Blake Costanzo and Maurice Bennett. Together they have 8.5 sacks and 156 tackles. They are good tacklers and effective blitzers.

The secondary could be considered a weak spot, where juniors Larry Johnson and Tye Murphy and the safeties have only 4 interceptions on the year.

Special Teams
Junior CB Larry Johnson is the primary return man for the Leopards. He's the speediest player on their team, and has a healthy return average, if no TDs. Senior P Mike "Downtown" Davis is probably the equal to Lehigh's Kyle Keating. Sophomore PK Rick Ziska has gone 6-11 this year in field goals, with a 48 yard boot to his credit.

Keys to the Game
1.Takeaways. Got to take care of the ball on offense, and not hand points to the Leopards. Giving the Leopards a short field with their running game could hurt Lehigh. Must protect the ball, and win the giveaway/takeaway battle.
2.Trenches. Both lines need to win those tranch battles. The "D" needs to block those run lanes between the tackles. The "O" line needs time to set up the offensive gameplan.
3.Time of Possession. If the Brown & White can win the battle of time of possession, they will go a long way to winning the game. Every play the Lafayette "O" is kept off the field will keep the Lehigh "D" that much fresher in the 4th quarter.
4.Tempo. The Mountain Hawks need to dictate the tempo of the game, especially offensively.

Fearless Prediction
In my opinion, anyone who's predicting a Lehigh blowout hasn't been paying attention to the Leopards. They are a solid team who, if allowed to lull you to sleep, will win the game. They are effective at what they do. Ultimately, though, I still think Lehigh will prevail in the 140th meeting. But it won't be settled until the 4th quarter.

Lehigh 31, Lafayette 27

Comments

Anonymous said…
A very fair and accurate analysis of the Pards. I have to admit to being a frequent visitor to the site, quite entertaining. However, I'm surprised at your post that you couldn't pull for Lafayette should they play Delaware. Shoot, I'd root for the Taliban over Delaware. Andy

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