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Sunday's Word: Mystique

This week's word is "mystique". Why? It's something that Lehigh used to have, but with this weeks' performance, the last vestiges of the Lehigh "mystique" are finally gone.

We had "mystique". It was built during coach Kevin Higgins' tenure as head coach, and continued during coach Pete Lembo's tenure as well. When coach Lembo himself chose to leave Lehigh for a new opportunity at Elon, the Mountain Hawks still had it. (Note: If any fans out there are foolish enough to think I helped drive Lembo out of town, I invite you to read my many posts of 2005. I think anyone who has read my blog since at least last year could tell you that I was hardly a harsh critic to say the least.)

In order to have "mystique", you have to have success. You have to have streaks. You can't have opponents completely dominate you like Lehigh was dominated last week. A back getting more than 250 all-purpose yads against us, and 200 rushing yards? A team that got nearly 500 yards of total offense against us? Our offense going 5-for-12 on 3rd down conversions? 3.2 yards per rush? 13-for-25 passing?

"Mystique" sure as hell doesn't block.

To be sure, the "mystique" was already being whittled away week by week with each new loss - even in the win against Georgetown. But after this week, it's gone. Flat-out gone.

I have to admit, though, it was still there on Saturday. Even though Yale dominated the game, we had a shot. Every single person who loved or hated coach Lembo; everyone who said anything good or ill about Lehigh yesterday and today; even all the Yale fans in the Yale Bowl - they beleived in the "mystique". Somehow, Lehigh would manage to pull through, get some big character-building win which serves as the springboard for the rest of the season. It seems to happen every October. Even the Yale players seemed daunted - all their talk this week was about "finishing", as if they weren't themselves able to face Lehigh's mystique and talent.

When the Yale kicker missed the FG, the game was sent to OT, and "mystique" was still there. We would pull it together. Just like Sedale did last year against Yale.

Then, the mystique came apart. We couldn't score in OT, and Yale picked us apart and got the game-winning TD.

"Mystique" won't put the ball in the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the 7.

It's all gone now. What everyone sees - Lehigh fans, Patriot League fans, I-AA fans, everybody - is a 2-4 team that cannot find ways to win football games. Talented? Sure. Dominating? At times. But not when it counts. And until this team starts getting it done when it counts, there is no "mystique". There's no road winning streak to lean against. No safe, comfortable Murray Goodman to rely upon for wins. No NEC or Ivy opponents that are easy marks.

Yet, we are fortunate. Our Patriot League brethren are also facing some real crises in confidence themselves. Lafayette and Colgate never really were in the games they played this past weekend. After Lafayette went down 17-7 in the 3rd quarter against the Crimson, they weren't seriously heard from again in a docile 24-7 defeat. And Colgate got one of their biggest beatings in recent memory from a team other than Lehigh in a 38-14 drubbing.

Holy Cross, the "class" of our league at this point, barely escaped against 0-5 Dartmouth in OT. Bucknell is showing improvement week to week, but their team right now is a M*A*S*H unit. Fordham just squeaked by non-scholarship Marist 13-9. And Georgetown is mathematically eliminated from the Patriot League title chase.

There is still a chance at five wins in five weeks, which is what it will take to win our league and get to the I-AA playoffs.

But it sure as hell won't be because of "mystique". And if the Mountain Hawks come out and expect to win just by showing up and having the opposing team quaking in their boots - there isn't a snowball's chance in hell we will go the distance. Opposing teams don't quake anymore when Lehigh comes to town.

The earlier our own team sees this, the better.

Coach Coen has taken some heat elsewhere for his handling of the OT. Convention tells you that if you win the coin toss, you automatically go on defense, so that you know what you need to do after the opposing team gets the ball. But coach Coen chose "offense" because his defense was dead tired, having been on the field for 10 minutes in the 4th quarter. If you ask me, coach Coen made the right call there.

Say what you want about coach Coen, but he has stood up and taken responsibility for this 2-4 start. I respect that about him. It's not the officials' fault, or the QBs fault, or the "O" line's fault. If he feels like his playcalling didn't let QB Sedale Threatt do his thing, he'll say so. If he feels like his team is making too many mistakes, he'll say so. If he feels like his team didn't put the hammer down, he'll say so.

Having said that, I'm not happy about a 2-4 start, just like every other Lehigh fan. I'm unhappy that not a single receiver has been able to emerge as a consistent threat on the other side of senior WR Frank Trovato. I'm unhappy that we are unable to get any sort of consistent pass rush that seems to allow every opposing QB to pick our defense apart. I'm unhappy that a punt gets blocked from an unmarked defender.

The question in everyone's mind is: Will this team will improve enough in these last five games to win the Patriot League title? In seasons past I could look at the streaks, the solid play and the "mystique" and say that there was a good chance they would.

Now? I have no idea.


Anonymous said…
Will this team will improve enough in these last five games to win the Patriot League title? \


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