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Lehigh/Lafayette Wrap; Game Balls; Last week's picks; Playoff Stuff

Lehigh/Lafayette Wrap
With the I-AA playoff selection on Sunday (where Lehigh drew a home game against James Madison), and my I-AA diary on, I didn't have time to do a press roundup. For a blow-by-blow summary of the game, click the link to read my piece.

Before going to the press of Lehigh/Lafayette, doing the game ball thing, and putting this game to rest, I'd like to add my commentary on Lehigh's play last Saturday. As I implied in my piece, I felt that the game hinged on Lehigh's turnovers and miscues. Not just Eric Rath's fumbles, but muffed snaps and Borda's dropped balls as well. Simply, Lafayette is a good team who will kill you if you turn over the ball. We did, and they did.

That's not an excuse. But I feel that had Lehigh been able to execute their offensive gameplan effectively, we would have seen a different game. As it stood, the defense was on the field for effectively 4 straight drives at the beginning of the second half. I don't care if you're Lehigh, Delaware, or Southern Illinois - you do that against Lafayette, and you're going to put yourself in a position to lose.

An encouraging sign for all the Lehigh fans out there should be this piece from the Easton Express-Times:
Lehigh Set to Unleash Its Rath in Playoffs

Check out these quotes:
"Personally, it was a dagger in the heart," said Rath... "I probably played the worst game of my football career, since I was 5 years old. It's horrible to put the ball on the ground and let your teammates down. I fumbled three times in my whole life. Two of them were in that Lafayette game."

"It's my first time at the college level making the playoffs," Rath said. "That's the reason I'm here, to play in the big games. Personally, I had the worst game of my career. That's something I definitely want to make up for."

"I can't stand fumbles," Rath said. "This week in practice, I'm going to have the defense and the scout defense going after the ball and ripping it. There's going to be a lot of Eric Rath fans and a lot of Lehigh fans that I have a lot to prove to this week."

We'll be watching Saturday.

Quickie Press Roundup
Allentown Morning Call:
Lafayette Rolls Over Lehigh
Easton Express-Times:
'Black' Day For Leopards Leads to Brighter Tomorrow

No quotes. We all know what happened.

Game Balls:
Somber Game Balls go to:
Senior TE Adam Bergen (5 receptions, 65 yards)
Junior WR Keven Zebluim (3 catches, 30 yards)
Senior OLB Anthony Graziani (14 tackles)
Senior DT Tristan Lawrence (8 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks)
Sophomore DB Courtney Elder (7 tackles, INT at end of 1st half)
Special Teams
Senior P Kyle Keating (43.3 yard average punting)

Congratulations to all.

Last Week's Picks
I had a very poor week, going 9-6. I got Bucknell, Holy Cross, Harvard, Delaware, James Madison, William & Mary, South Carolina St., Montana, and Sam Houston St. right. I missed "The Game", Colgate, New Hampshire, Cal Poly, Northwestern St., and Western Kentucky.

I wasn't "really right" or "really wrong" with any of them. Guess I should just be happy with a winning record.

Playoff Stuff
I'm suspecting most of you readers scrolled right down to this area, the "Playoff Stuff", skimming over everything else.

Tomorrow I'll be breaking down the James Madison Dukes, but for today I'll be talking about the reactions around I-AA Nation to Lehigh's inclusion to the playoffs, and hosting a I-AA playoff game.

I won't quote anybody here, but most, if not all, national I-AA columnists were united in feeling that Lehigh got in for one reason only: that they were stiffed last year. (Just click on over to the unquestioned leader in I-AA news, information, and Lehigh game summaries written by yours truly, There are many, many folks around I-AA that feel like Lehigh doesn't deserve to even be here, and that Cal Poly, with a 9-2 record and a road win against Montana St., deserved to go instead.

In addition, James Madison coaches fans are upset at the fact that Lehigh got a home game. It's hard to judge if they're more upset at Lehigh hosting a game after barely making it into the field, or Delaware hosting a game when they have a worse record than Delaware (and beat them head-to-head).

Quotes from JMU coach Mickey Matthews:
"I was just surprised who we were playing and where we were playing," said JMU coach Mickey Matthews, before diplomatically adding, "We're just glad to be there..."

"How they select home teams is like the [secret] formula for Coke. We can't figure it out. If you can figure that out, you're smarter than I am," Matthews said.

To be fair, they also felt like they were squeezed out in a numbers game - they felt like the I-AA playoff committee didn't want to have 3 A-10 teams as home teams. And Delaware, who can almost guarantee a sellout, was going to be that team.

This year, JMU claims they averaged about 3,000 more fans per game than Lehigh. But, if you look at last year's numbers, Lehigh was ahead JMU in average attendance. That, and the fact that Lehigh successfully hosted a playoff game in 2001, may have given the nod to Lehigh in the end.

Now, I may be the biggest Lehigh rah-rah guy our there that everybody knows. I did not go into the 1:00PM announcement on Sunday thinking that Lehigh was a shoo-in for the playoffs. I don't think anyone in Lehigh Football Nation was. We all knew it would be really close, and we thought that Lehigh deserved to be in there over teams that had played Division II schools. We were rooting for Stephen F. Austin on Saturday just like everybody else.

I think it's fair to say that we were all surprised, however, that we got a home game - especially since the I-AA playoff committee has not been kind to us in years past. We've only had 1 home playoff game since joining I-AA, and that was against Hofstra in 2001 when Lehigh went 11-0.

Ironically, for Lehigh, losing to Lafayette was the best possible scenario for I-AA playoff seeding. Had Lehigh won, we probably would have been playing Delaware at Newark in the first round. But since we lost, through a numbers game involving the A-10, Lehigh hosts the "third-placed" Atlantic 10 team, and "second-placed" Delaware hosts Lafayette. Furthermore, when the history books are written, it will go down that Lehigh and Lafayette were co-champions of the Patriot League, and both qualified for the I-AA playoffs.

I will say, for the record, that I think it was wrong for JMU to not have a home game over Delaware. The reason for that is: JMU had a better record than Delaware; JMU beat Delaware head-to-head; and Delaware lost to 2 A-10 teams this year (though, through a scheduling quirk, only one of those losses count as a 'league loss').

To the Lehigh coaches and players, all I can really say is, it's clear that most people around I-AA nation don't think you're good enough to be in the playoffs. They think Cal Poly is better. They think James Madison is better - they think all the A-10 teams are better.

They don't think you belong here.

Tomorrow: Lehigh/JMU, Round 1 of the I-AA Playoffs - Preview


Parsnjak1 said…

"We've only had 1 home playoff game since joining I-AA, and that was against Hofstra in 2001 when Lehigh went 11-0."

They also had a home playoff game, in 1980, at Taylor--played Eastern Kentucky (a semifinal [?] game) (I believe that was nationally televised, on ABC; we did go to the game) lost 23-20. I understand Lehigh was #1 at the time, they had nine wins and two ties, to Colgate (at home), and the other was to Army, I believe

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