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Lehigh 19, Lafayette 23, final

Game of tears.

It really hasn't totally sunk in yet, but I can't think of a Lehigh loss that has devastated me more. Seriously. I don't think we were outplayed or outcoached. I think we lost because our team gave away 7 points on a messed-up punt attempt, and because senior QB Pat Davis on Lafayette managed to barely get the ball away and junior RB Jonathan Hurt somehow got open on a completely busted play. Contrary to what the legions of nay-sayers will be spouting in the off-season, no amount of coaching would have changed anything on those plays. There is no gameplan that could have fixed them.

Before that play, I thought the story of the game was how Lehigh's defense did such a great job shutting Lafayette down, especially in the passing game. Senior CB Drew Nelson and junior CB Brannan Thomas were batting away ball after ball, forcing tons of third and fourth downs.

It is with great pain that I say that I feel like Lehigh's season was lost on two broken plays, which I witnessed firsthand at Goodman. Holy Cross' senior WR Sean Gruber making what an Any Given Saturday poster called "the immaculate reception" - senior CB Drew Nelson slipping while Gruber somehow held onto the ball. And now, the 4th-and-10 reception by Hurt on an eerily similar broken play. It makes me want to curse. It makes me want to take the plays back. The plays hurt. BAD. And it's nobody's damn fault! No amount of coaching would have made it better! If the Philadelphia Eagles were out there, the same thing would have happened!

It almost seems like it's my fault. What if I had stood in a different place on the field? What if I had sat in the bleachers? On the grass? What if I didn't pick up that penny that was tails-up in the parking lot on Friday? What if I didn't even show up to the game, and flown to Montana to see the Montana/Montana St. game instead? Would Davis had been sacked instead on that same play, and I'd instead be blogging about the fact we should be hosting a playoff game? Would being in a different state have helped?

I know it sounds crazy, and despite the last pragraph I just wrote, I am a rational college-educated guy. But it was one damn play. Couldn't luck have had something to do with it?

Last years' 24-10 loss to Lafayette was also devasating, but some comfort was to be had by the fact that there was a co-Patriot League championship and a chance at a I-AA playoff bid. We got the bid, we played valiantly against the eventual I-AA champions, and it was easier to call the season a great success.

But this year is different. This year's loss cost us a co-Patriot League title. It cost us the automatic I-AA playoff berth, which now goes to Colgate. And it's likely to have cost us an at-large I-AA playoff berth as well. Definitely? No. Probably? Yes.

Both Lehigh and Lafayette will now be in the at-large playoff discussion, along with Georgia Southern, Furman, Cal Poly, Southern Illinois, Montana, Youngstown St., Richmond, Texas St. South Carolina St., and Coastal Carolina. Here's what my at-large board looks like:

Montana
Georgia Southern
Furman
Texas St.
Southern Illinois
Youngstown St.
Richmond
Cal Poly

If Cal Poly doesn't make it because they played too many provisional teams (which I think would be totally wrong - I think Cal Poly deserves to make the playoff field), then the next teams in my mind would be Lehigh and Lafayette. Lehigh's GPI going into the Lafayette game would be higher, and they're nationally-ranked, but Lafayette beat Lehigh head-to-head and has a win against playoff-cound Richmond. Lehigh beat Colgate at home, and Lafayette lost to Colgate on the road. I could see the I-AA playoff committee making a choice of either team.

Another possibility is Youngstown State not making the field with a D-II win and some wins over lowly Northeastern, Liberty, and Indiana St. Again, I think they make the field over both Lehigh and Lafayette, mostly because they are one of the top teams in terms of attendance.

Another possibility is Richmond, but again, I think they're in over Lehigh or Lafayette since they're 8-3 and have won their last 6 or 7 in a row. Lafayette beat them early in the year, though.

The selection will be tomorrow, but I think the I-AA playoff committee will take Cal Poly, Youngstown St., and Richmond.

Tune in tomorrow. I'll say something.

Comments

Andy said…
Chuck, a couple questions, please:

Did Lafayette do anything to earn the win, did they make plays? Should they be given any credit? I don't see that in your article?

In Lafayette's eleven play touchdown drive to win the game there were four other pass completions. Were they all "busted plays" too, or just the last one?

When Walker scored on the 70 yard catch and run, was that a "busted play" by Lafayette?

Coming into the game Lehigh was averaging 38 points a game and Lafayette 23. Today, Lehigh scored 19 and Lafayette 23. Which defense did you say was the "story of the game?" Which defense "shut down" whom?

Was Colgate's game winning TD pass vs Lafayette in the final minute against the fourth string CB a "busted play" or a smart call well executed? If it's the former, thanks, I need another excuse.

Has Lehigh ever lost to a better team?

Thanks, have a nice day.
Anonymous said…
SPECIAL I-AA WAVES ON SELECTION SUNDAY

SELECTION SUNDAY is IN OUR FACE! I-AA.org honoring it with a special online streaming audio I-AA WAVES show on Sunday beginning 30 minutes before the 12:00 p.m. CST ESPNNEWS announcement of the bracket. Our show begins at 11:30 a.m. CST and will cover the picks and pans featuring I-AA.org senior columnist David Coulson, Sports Network columnist Matt Dougherty, NCAA I-AA Selection Committee Chairman Roachel Laney and a slew of other guests including fan call-ins. This is a must-listen for all I-AA fans at http://i-aa.org/article.asp?articleid=72957

Also be on the lookout for our I-AA.org Magazine 2005 Playoff Preview due out Monday along with the regular season finale of the GPI!
Anonymous said…
I can not imagine worse luck than losing your starting qb on the first series. Despite that, Lafayette found a way to win, as they have three of the last four years.

You need to take a look at the last four years versus the four before that and evaluate the performance of the coaching staff. The numbers are grim -- 3 regular seasons per year versus 1 in four years, 0.5 PL title versus 3.5, 1 playoff appearance versus 4, 1 win against Lafayette versus 4.

Perhaps the 1998-2001 was an aberration and we should accept the performance of the last four years. This seems to me a serious issue to examine, not speculating on bad luck. The best coaches always seem to be the lucky ones and they do not blow two score leads in the fourth quarter of a key game three times in one season.
Anonymous said…
I can not imagine worse luck than losing your starting qb on the first series. Despite that, Lafayette found a way to win, as they have three of the last four years.

You need to take a look at the last four years versus the four before that and evaluate the performance of the coaching staff. The numbers are grim -- 3 regular seasons per year versus 1 in four years, 0.5 PL title versus 3.5, 1 playoff appearance versus 4, 1 win against Lafayette versus 4.

Perhaps the 1998-2001 was an aberration and we should accept the performance of the last four years. This seems to me a serious issue to examine, not speculating on bad luck. The best coaches always seem to be the lucky ones and they do not blow two score leads in the fourth quarter of a key game three times in one season.
Anonymous said…
"Contrary to what the legions of nay-sayers will be spouting in the off-season, no amount of coaching would have changed anything on those plays. There is no gameplan that could have fixed them."
That is plain stupid! I guess when LU went 42-1 from '98-'00, they were just plain lucky. For some strange reason, there were not any bad bounces/broken plays during those 4 years. Poor Pete just needs to find his rabbit's foot and everything will be fine.

One question Chuck, "Is the LU football program on the right track or wrong track?" I challenge you to convince us nay-sayers in your blog why Lembo should remain rather than be replaced. You have a nice long offseason to come up with an answer. As a "reputable" 1-AA pundent, this should not be too difficult.

"If the Philadelphia Eagles were out there, the same thing would have happened!" With a brilliant grasp of football like this, I just can't wait for your well thought out response.
Anonymous said…
Chuck - Love your blog and opions. I'm not going to be a rude insulting ass like the previous posters (go to the Luckyette blog), but I disagree on one point. Pete must go. He's a good, not great, coach. I hate to say it, but Tavani is a great coach.
Anonymous said…
"I'm not going to be a rude insulting ass like the previous posters"
Gee, I think that you just became a rude insulting ass.

As an LU fan, I would prefer to post on LU boards and blogs and let the LC fans stay on their board.

"go to the Luckyette blog". I just don't see where Lafayette was lucky yesterday. If I were an LC fan, that would be insulting.

I am not ready to concede that Tavani is a great coach. I think that his coaching staff is better than Lehigh's staff. As a head coach, this makes him a very good head coach. He also deserves alot of credit for resurrecting a dead program in 6 years. The programs were light years apart when Tavani took over and when Lembo took over. They are now at roughly the same place in 2005.

The best way for this program to move forward with a very good head coach who can surround himself with very good assistants. I really think Lembo's fatal flaw has been his selection of assistants from mid to lower Ivy programs and DIII programs. I think Sterrett should make Lembo's future employment conditional on revamping the staff.
Anonymous said…
Oh my god...I have been reading your blog for almost three years..and I can't believe that you could start out by saying that Lehigh lost the game on a messed up punt attempt..and not continue on and mention the fumble by the qb that led to a LC touchdown..the bad clock management in the fourth quarter by the coaches...the missed coverage on the hail mary....and LC's obvious desire to win this game. Of course the blotched punt figured in the final score..but Lehigh had the lead 19-10 in the fourth quarter and that is where this game was one and lost.
Anonymous said…
.....oops....won or lost
Andy said…
Anonymous--Chuck probably didn't mention the "fumble by the QB that led to an LC TD" because it didn't lead to an LC TD. They went 4 and out after the fumble recovery with LU taking over at their own 36. LC next got the ball at the LC 12 and then drove for the winning score.

Do you recall that LU twice intercepted Davis at the LU 46 and came away with a total of 3 points?

If a blogger is going to post insulting things about an opponent, expect the other side of the story to be posted in return.

By the way, IMO, if LC hadn't made that go ahead play and LU won and went on to a respectable playoff showing, you guys wouldn't be complaining about Lembo and I and others would be bitching about Tavani's lack of aggressiveness after the fumble recovery. We fans are a fickle bunch.
Anonymous said…
I could not agree with you more that we did not lose this game because of coaching.

However, the "Lembo ERA" is begining to feel like the "Fassel ERA" with the NY Football Giants. Both were/are good football coaches, and on balance do more good than bad. However, they also seem to have an affinity for finding new, interesting, and heart-breaking ways to snatch defeat out of the hands of victory.

Therefore, just to change the bad karma we need to alter our direction.

Love the BLOG. Keep up the great work.
Anonymous said…
"I'm not going to be a rude insulting ass like the previous posters"
Gee, I think that you just became a rude insulting ass.

You come on here and insult my man Chuck so you are quite rude and quite an insulting ass.

And quite honestly, do you realllllly believe that 4th and ten miracle play wasn't "lucky"? Get real. Whoever won that game was gonna be considered lucky because neither team dominated.
Ngineer said…
Lafayette deserved to win because they made less mistakes. Both teams did not play their 'A' game. I don't agree that Lembo should go. I do think a change in the OC is called for. There doesn't seem to be any plan or rhythm. We started rolling in the third quarter and then went to another set of plays that stalled. IMO we have too many plays and then some need to 'use them all'. If you're good enough you should be able to run 15 plays with precision. If the opponent's defense isn't stopping something, why go away from it? I see us out-thinking ourselves and getting too cute rather than just having a solid package that is run with idea of kicking the other guys' ears in. Losing all three games this year while leading in the fourth quarter must raise some questions either about conditioning or 'playing not to lose'. There is a mentality there that needs to be changed. Last year we got beat, and as p.o'd we were, at least we saw we were not the better team. This year, the players played their hearts out but their execution failed them.
Anonymous said…
I'm not a very knowledgeable football fan; I come to LU games because I have a brother on the team. But one thing I noticed yesterday was the high level of positive support on the Lafayette side (although I acknowledge that it can also be negative-one LC fan actually shoved me in the parking lot). When it came down to the 4th quarter, it seemed like a lot of LU fans were spent. Should our own team really have to exhort us to cheer for them?!

I'm probably preaching to the choir...but I've heard this complaint out of players' mouths and I know it gets them down.
Anonymous said…
There is a ceiling as to how good a Patriot League program can be due to the obvious constraints. To believe that Lehigh somehow had another gear the program could go into is unrealistic. Lafayette has caught up, so now there is one more potential roadblock we'll face every year. We just have to deal with it. Some years will belong to us and some won't.

The positive is that maybe we can get back to hating Lafayette as much as they've come to hate and envy us.
I miss watching the drunken fist fights on the field after games. :-)
Anonymous said…
Our fans are the worst when it comes to rallying these players. It is a common complaint of the teams that have played here over the years. Lehigh is a wine and cheese crowd, with a few that qualify as super fans. I am not lumping you and you know you are with the wine and cheese group. The majority of Lehigh fans sit on their hands. Many of them only go, so they can stand around the water cooler on Monday and say that they were there. The Lafayette crowd is a lunch pail crowd, they put on their colors and their Frank's tanks shirts and go to work. As much as I can't stand them and as much as thir team came away with a victory that they in no way deserved, they are far superior fans and probably always will be. Lehigh crowds have no idea what it is like to be a twelfth man, they just don't understand the concept Lafauette fans do! I will be awaiting some response from some dope that takes issue with this, but you will be just that an ignoramus!
Number One Lehigh Fan said…
I agree. The Lehigh crowd is mostly like a "wet washrag". I was screaming my butt off most of the game to the detriment of my health (65 years old) to try to make up for the deadheads around me. They sit there like they're sitting in their living rooms waiting for a snack.
This is especially true at the Lafayette games. It's mor of an alumni gathering than anything else. They're there to brag about the damn jobs and how they did in the stock market during the past year. When you go to a football game, consentrate on rooting for your team!!! OR STAY HOME!!!
Most of the crowd are not true Lehigh football fans. For example, they probably didn't even notice that Justin Misiek was FINALLY replaced as the field goal kicker after he muffed ANOTHER relatively easy kick (sans Delaware extra point in OT - and many others over the last 2 seasons). I'm sure they had no clue, because they don't know anything about the team.
That team was a National Championship calibre team - who knows when another one will come along. That's the shame of it. They deserved much better from their fans in this game. They deserved to be in the playoffs.
THANKS A LOT, DEADHEADS! You contributed to a bizarre, heartbreaking season.
Anonymous said…
Unbelievable and disgusting. Lehigh has the best fan support in the league and some of the best in 1-AA. Did any of you complaining attend the Delaware, Colgate, Fordham or Harvard games on the road? The crowds were extremely supportive and loud. The home crowds are also normally loud - remember Yale? Lehigh outdraws all PL teams at home and on the road. Period.

"I'm probably preaching to the choir...but I've heard this complaint out of players' mouths and I know it gets them down."

One word for these players - Transfer. What a bunch of babies.
Go play for school that gets half of the support that this team does. They can bitch about lots of things, but fan support is beyond the pale. As a fan who attends at least 9-10 games a year, I have never felt more disgusted.
Anonymous said…
Facts are facts the Lehigh crowd and fan support sucks. They do not open their mouths, they should stay in their living rooms. The players know the true die hards know and the coaching staff knows. Have some more wine and cheese nonner.
Anonymous said…
What the hecks a nonner? The problem with the LC-LU game is that is a social event for alums who come back once a year and quite frankly don't really care or follow the team otherwise. What's even worse is that they take tickets from fans who follow the team the rest of the year.

That being said, any player who complains about fans or fan support seems to have his focus and motivation misplaced. If the players can not be motivated to play for a league championship and playoff spot even if it's in a sound proof booth, maybe the problem isn't their talent, its their character.
Anonymous said…
Wow questioning that teams character. You obviously don't know any of them. You are one of the people that they wish would stay home Im sure. What a dumb commentary. Are you sure you're not a Leopard? In any event you are a dolt!
Anonymous said…
Yeah, these players are lucky to have the support of someone who calls them babies and asks them to transfer. Excellent optimism you have there. And by the way, yeah, I did hear those cheering crowds, because I was there. Too bad they didn't show up during the last quarter of the most important game of the season.
Anonymous said…
"That team was a National Championship calibre team - who knows when another one will come along. That's the shame of it. They deserved much better from their fans in this game. They deserved to be in the playoffs.
THANKS A LOT, DEADHEADS! You contributed to a bizarre, heartbreaking season. "
Let me get this straight, this was a National Championship caliber team, but because the fans may have not been loud enough during the 4th quarter, that's why they lost a 9 point lead. If the fans were just a little louder, we could be booking our rooms in Chattanooga? Was this crowd any different than those from 1995-2001 or in 2002? Those teams somehow managed to win.

Hey number one Lehigh fan did you sit out in monsoon during the HC game or in the rain at Bucknell or lose your voice screamin at the refs and for the team at Colgate? It's good to know us DEADHEADS who did somehow contributed to a heatbreaking season.

One other question, perhaps the team did deserve a more boisterous crowd in the 4th quarter. However, did those of us who did follow this team everywhere this year deserve more from them in the 4th quarter, especially them being a National Championship caliber team and all?
Anonymous said…
How about giving it a rest. It's over. the better team lost!
Number One Lehigh Fan said…
YES I was at the Holy Cross game and had to be helped back to my car from physical and emotional exhaustion -Thank You very much.
I am a fan of all fans and I know you couldn't hold a candle to me -whoever you are.
The crowd does get into the games on rare occasions but you can't depend on it. Most of the time the "plurality" of Lehigh fans is SILENT. Maybe a few claps - That's it!
Anonymous said…
I am one of the most diehard Lehigh fans you will ever meet, and I would just like to comment on what has been said and sum up this season. For one, I've attended every home game except for 2 in the last 8 seasons (HC in 2001 and 2005 because I had other obligations). During the game Saturday, I was yelling at the fans to make some noise when Lehigh was on huge defensive stands. This wasn't like this for the other home games, just this one when the players needed it the most. The point of home field advantage is to have the crowd behind you. I will have to say that as a fan of so many sports, this one loss was the hardest one I've ever experienced as a sports fan. I went from talking to Eric Rath's mother about the possibility of a home game to sitting here with nothing to do next Saturday. This team had Championship potential, but didn't play like a championship team in the clutch. Coaching was a problem late, Sedale missed some wide open receivers in the fourth, and poor offensive execution with great field position costing us easy points were the difference. I am left thinking what might have been? I embraced this team closer to my heart than any other Lehigh team I've followed, but if they had played like champions, we'd be a Top 3 seed in the I-AA playoffs. Once again, all us saddened Lehigh fans must say, "Wait til next year."
Mike Caputo LU '74 said…
"Unbelievable and disgusting. Lehigh has the best fan support in the league and some of the best in 1-AA. Did any of you complaining attend the Delaware, Colgate, Fordham or Harvard games on the road? The crowds were extremely supportive and loud. The home crowds are also normally loud - remember Yale? Lehigh outdraws all PL teams at home and on the road. Period.

"I'm probably preaching to the choir...but I've heard this complaint out of players' mouths and I know it gets them down."

One word for these players - Transfer. What a bunch of babies.
Go play for school that gets half of the support that this team does. They can bitch about lots of things, but fan support is beyond the pale. As a fan who attends at least 9-10 games a year, I have never felt more disgusted"

I'm with you all the way on this one. Lehigh fans support their team better than any other Patriot League team. At Bucknell and Fordham there were nearly as amny Lehigh fans as the opposition. Combined with the Lehigh band they made every bit as much noise as the home side. Whenever Lehigh played at Georgetown the visitor's side was full. Have you whiners been to an "away" game? Maybe not every Lehigh fan stands up and screams on every play, but they make a hell of a lot more noise than any other stadium. Speaking from experience just seeing all those bodies on the sidelines psyches up the athletes.

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