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Preview of Lehigh/Yale

With last week's loss to Holy Cross, this week's game versus Yale has taken on a new importance for the 2005 Mountain Hawks. Certainly my eyes and ears will be focused on seeing how the team comes out and plays against a quality Yale team that is looking seriously at an Ivy League championship this year. I'd imagine that the rest of the I-AA world will be interested as well in Lehigh's reaction to last week's loss. Will the Mountain Hawks fold up the tent, or will Lehigh be a team that nobody in I-AA wants to face the rest of the year?

Yale is a bit of an enigma this year. At 2-2 with convincing wins against Dartmouth and Cornell, they have lost to Holy Cross and mid-major San Diego. They seem like a team that could be extremely dangerous should they put everything all together, but as of this point have not completely. Having said that, they are 2-0 in Ivy play and would like nothing better to return home with a win over Lehigh to make a statement that they're the top dog in the Ivy race.

The TV feed for this game will only be available on Service Electric 2 TV in the Lehigh Valley, or on the radio on ESPN 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley. My plan is to follow the audio or video feeds on Yahoo! Sports.

Lehigh Injury Report
Senior FB Greg Fay (Back, Questionable)
Junior FS Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Freshman DB Jarvis Lewis (Groin, Questionable)

In my opinion, Fay's absence was deeply felt last week, but it looks like senior RB Eric Rath will continue to play in the FB position should Fay not be able to go, with sophomore FB John Piascik spelling him. Sophomore DB Ernie Moore takes Elder's backup position again, while taking Lewis' place on special teams may be freshman WR Sekou Yansane.

A Little About Yale
Yale holds a 12-4 lead in this rivalry; however, starting in 1994, Lehigh has taken the last 4 games. Lehigh has never beaten Yale by more than 11 points, so even the four victories were never dominating affairs. Last year, Borda had a breakout game against Yale, but the biggest impact was not on the stat sheet. It was the game where he unquestionably became the leader of the Lehigh offense, by not committing a single turnover, and running the ball in for a couple of key TDs.

A lot of the key players on that Yale team were lost to graduation, most notably QB Alvin Cowan and RB/KR David Carr. However, the defense returns quite a few starters from last year who played against Lehigh last year, and are the top-rated defense in the Ivy at the moment.

Offensive Breakdown
QB Jeff Mroz takes over where Cowan left off. He's not incredibly elusive, but so far he has done a good job passing the ball with 10 TD passes and just about 1,000 yards passing. However, he does have 7 INTs, so he has been known to make mistakes. Last week against Dartmouth he threw 2 picks, and he has at least one INT in every game this year.

On the ground, it's junior RB Jordan Spence or freshman RB Mike McLeod sharing the rushing duties. McLeod is the one to watch out for especially, averaging 4.0 yards per rush with 361 yards rushing and 2 TDs. Last week in the slop, McLeod 83 yards to Spence's 41. Junior FB Taylor Craig up to this point hasn't been a huge offensive threat.

In the first three games, Mroz' biggest targets have been junior WR Ashley Wright and senior WR Todd Feiereisen, with a combined 600+ yards and 6 TDs. They both have good speed and good hands. Last week against Dartmouth, however, saw the return of 5th year senior TE Alex Faherty, which gives the Bulldogs another dangerous passing option. Last week he caught 4 balls in the rain, for 72 yards and a TD. It's Faherty which worries me the most here.

The "O" line is young, huge and talented. They boast 2 300 lb bookend tackles, one of whom is junior LT Ed McCarthy. Averaging only 1 sack a game allowed, these guys are doing a great job protecting Mroz.

Defensive Breakdown
Not only is the defense coming off their first shutout since 2000, they held Dartmouth to 110 net yards last week. I don't care if your'e playing in slop or in Southern California - that's outstanding. These guys are going to be a challenge to contain. Playing a base 5-2-4, they should be difficult to get up-the-middle yards against. They haven't forced a lot of turnovers this year, however.

Senior DE Brandon Dyches is the shining star on the line. With 5 sacks on the year, he also got his first blocked punt of the year last week. The rest of the line is a mix of experience and youth, with 2 sophomores, a junior and another senior in DT Andrew Ralph.

Two juniors hold the two linebacking positions. LB Lee Driftmeier has an INT and is probably the standout at that position.

The secondary is loaded with experience with 3 seniors, and a standout junior in FS Nick Solakian. He has 2 INTs on the year already. The safeties are fairly tall, while the speedsters on the corners are fairly short at 5'10 and 5'11 respectively.

Special Teams Breakdown
Yale's special teams have had their share of problems this year. The Bulldogs gave up an important kickoff return for a TD against Holy Cross that cost them the game. When their starting punter went down to injury, junior WR Ashley Wright had to take over punting duties to mixed results. Finally, sophomore PK Alan Kimball hasn't made a FG attempt over 30 yards this year.

On the brighter side, freshman RB Mike McLeod does have a 43 yard return to his credit. He's the biggest returning threat.

Keys to the Game
1.Special Teams Goal. If there was ever a team where Lehigh could take advantage of special teams depth, it's against Yale. Let's get that punt of kickoff return this week for a score!
2.Stretch the field. Whenever I see a 2 linebacker set, I think immediately to work them with outside runs and effective short passing. Making it a long game outside the hashes could make it a long day for the Bulldogs.
3.Don't lose Faherty! You have to respect TE Faherty underneath. Even though it's hard to ignore Wright and Feiereisen, Faherty offers that extra dimension that could be difficult to stop. It's tempting to have a LB spy him.
4.The "O" trench battle. Lehigh has seen some huge "O" lines the past few weeks, and Yale's line is yet another great one. Another week like last week, where the front seven dominated Holy Cross' "O" line most of the game, would really help make a statement to the rest of the league that we mean business.

Fearless Prediction
Saturday is supposed to be mostly sunny, with highs in the 70s, breaking up a week of rain. And that should suit us Engineers just fine. Yale will play a spirited game, but I see a focused Lehigh team sending a message to the world that we're not just going to go away quietly in the I-AA playoff race.

Lehigh 37, Yale 16


Anonymous said…
Are you aware of any special work being done on Goodman's field after the debacle last week? With all the rain the area continued to receive this week, I wouldn't think the sod had much of a chance to dry or recover.

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