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Preview of Monmouth/Lehigh

3 days until opening day. All the waiting is just about over. And as promised, here is your Lehigh/Monmouth preview.

It's the only home game Lehigh will be playing in September, where the weather should be sunny and nice. It's also going to be Kid's Day... and as of right now, I am tentatively planning to be there with my wife & child. I am greatly looking forward to it! I really enjoy going to games in September in warm weather, while sitting on Goodman's grassy bowl area.

The plan is to be podcasting at the end of each quarter with updates, in case you can't make it!

Injury Report

To those fans who have just discovered this blog, it's my policy to only report the Lehigh injuries that are "questionable" and above. "Questionable" means there's a 50/50 chance they play.

DT Josh Cooney (back, questionable)
CB Calvin LaMont (groin, questionable)
CB Brannan Thomas (quad, questionable)

It's always great to see relatively few injuries to start the year, but there are some concerns here. Cooney is a key member of the defensive line rotation, though we could see Chris Zambrano or Eric Rakus take his place in the rotation. At CB, Thomas and LaMont will probably be spelled by sophomore Julian Ahye. Hopefully all three will spend time in this weekend.

10 things you didn't know about Monmouth University
1. They are a member of a limited-scholarship conference, the Northeast conference. The Hawks have won back-to-back NEC titles.
2. Last year, Monmouth took home the "Sports Network Cup" as the best I-A mid-major team in the nation (mid-major meaning non or limited scholarship level).
3. WR Will Holder was the first Monmouth football alumnus to appear on an NFL roster. (Unfortunately, he didn't survive the final round of roster cuts.)
4. Two Monmouth Alumni - Katie Gallagher and Stephenie LaGrossa - were on Survivor: Palau, proving beyond a doubt that if you want to go to college to be a reality TV star, Monmouth's your place.
5. West Long Branch, where Monmouth is located, could be the perfect spot to spend the summer, as it's minutes from scores of beaches on the Jersey Shore, and also a half hour from New York City.
6. Jon Bon Jovi has an honorary degree in humanities from Monmouth. No word on the possibility of Bret Michaels of Poison joining him with a "Alchohol & Drug science" honorary doctorate.
7. Monmouth boasts 3 players on the Sports Network preseason all-mid-major team: QB Brian Boland, C John Castoro, and DB Nick Castellano.
8. Completing the idea of Monmouth as a "school of Rock", next week Monmouth is hosting a symposium on work and musical influence of Bruce Springsteen, where experts on the "ethnographic examination of New Jersey Culture" will debate the Boss' musical legacy.
9. Monmouth indirectly played a part in the Boss' rise to superstardom, as he played in venues in and around Monmouth in the '70s.
10. Monmouth beat Georgetown pretty resoundingly last year, 27-10 at West Long Branch. So they are not a slouchy program by any means.

Overall
Most fans of ranked I-AA teams look at any NEC school and think "patsy". Monmouth is not a patsy. They have shown they have talent with a win over Georgetown and back-to-back mid-major championships. They have an "O" line that is bigger than Bucknell's. Their leading rusher last year was lost to graduation, but there is talent on this roster. The Hawks absolutely should not be overlooked.

Offensive Breakdown
Last year junior QB Brian Boland was the best QB in the entire Northeast Conference by a longshot. He's accurate, completing more than 56% of his passes last year with 12 TDs. A former Rutgers transfer, he shouldn't be allowed to pick apart the defense - he's proven that he has talent. Against Georgetown last year, he showed some mobility on a 40 yard TD pass. Against Robert Morris, he completed 3 passes for 63 yards in a last-second win.

The "O" line is anchored by senior C John Castoro, a Maine transfer. There is size in this line. Hard to know how good they are with no games to look at, but if they give Boland time he can definitely kill you.

It looks like senior RB Bobby Smith will take the reins as Monmouth's versatile starting RB. He's a threat on the ground (4.6 yards per carry) and through the air (173 yards receiving). Junior RB Rob Lutz is also no slouch with a 4.4 yard per carry average.

Senior WR Miles Austin is another fine athlete - last year, he averaged 20 yards per reception with 9 TDs. I was unable to confirm whether he will start this week. Junior Adam San Miguel is their second sppedy wideout, and senior Michael McClelland is also a decent receiver. Overall, Monmouth boasts talent and experience in all wideout positions.

Defensive Breakdown
The Hawks "D" line features 3 seniors in a somewhat undersized line. Senior Brian Sweeney is the all-around wrecking crew, with 3.5 sacks last year. Still, with all that experience, to go with Monmouth's average of 16.5 points given up per game, you have to give their line props.

Junior LB Mike Castellano, a Villanova trasfer, was the linchpin of the Monmouth defense last year, with 71 tackles and 13 1/2 tackles for loss, not to mention 1 INT and 2 fumble recoveries. You figure he will only be better this year. The other linebackers are not as experienced as Castellano, however.

Senior DB Nick Castellano (no direct relation to Mike) is another fine player, with 81 tackles last year, 2 sacks and one INT. Are you getting the picture yet that Monmouth has some pretty gosh-darned good players?

Special Teams
Junior P Sean Dennis averages 40.1 yards per punt, which would make most Patriot League head coaches elated. Monmouth's PK will either be sophomores Mike Pizzuli or Fred Weingart, neither of whom has kicked in a game for Monmouth.

Miles Austin generally returns kicks for the Hawks - if he indeed is injured, that would be a huge blow.

Keys to the Game
1. No hubris allowed.
Monmouth has good players pretty much in all the key positions. They may not have the depth or the condition that Lehigh has, but a sloppy game could mean a long afternoon. This is not a game off.
2. Pressure Boland. Containing RB Bobby Smith will definitely be a concern, but more important to me is to not allow Boland to pick apart the secondary, and given enough time, he will. Senior DT Royce Morgan and junior DE Matt Mohler will need to get in his face all afternoon.
3. Rath running roughshod.
Senior RB Eric Rath running between the tackles should be the key to getting Lehigh's 2005 season going, matching up against a reltively smallish front seven. How Lehigh's "O" line does against Monmouth could be a great indicator of how 2005 might shape up for the Mountain Hawks.

Fearless Prediction
The backups will come in, but not until the second half. Monmouth has enough skill to keep things interesting in the first half, but Lehigh pulls away in the second as Lehigh gets the job done.

Lehigh 45, Monmouth 10

Comments

Anonymous said…
Predicted score way too lopsided....plan on sloppy 1st game play....24-14

S Martin '78
Anonymous said…
Agreed. I suspect we'll do some damage on offense, but expect some scoring by Monmouth, especially against the 2/3 deep people. 34-14

-Nginner

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