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Around The Horn, 9/18/2007

Here's this week's version of "Around The Horn" after a happy week for the Patriot League after they went an impressive 5-2 against the Ivy League in what could be called the "Ivy/Patriot Challenge". Start out by saying that the five wins eclipsed the grand total of *four* from all of last year, which has seemed to be a huge gust of wind in the sails of the entire League.

Even more gratifying was the fact that three of those wins came against three of the teams picked in the preseason to be competing for the Ivy League title: Penn, Harvard, and Princeton - whom the League didn't beat at all last year. Two of these games, however, didn't get decided until the final minute of play - which shows more that the Ivies and Patriot League are more even rather than one league being miles better than the other.

The only thing I really didn't understand is how Brannan Thomas didn't win Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week. Maybe being at the game made the difference for me: I saw how Thomas' two turnovers that were punched in for points was such a backbreaker for Princeton, and a day where a player is lead tackler AND creates three turnovers I thought was a lock. But instead Mike Gallihugh won the award.

  • Why, oh why, did Penn coach Al Bagnoli of Penn choose to take an intentional safety punting from his own 1 yard line with 5:39 left in the game ahead 7-3? It's days later and I still don't understand it. You never give a team free points, the ball and a chance to win - and to protect what? The chance the punt is blocked? Even if it was, he would have an opportunity to tie or win the game.... In any case, his gamble that his defense would be able to contain Lafayette one more time blew up in his face after senior QB Mike DiPaola engineered a drive to put the Leopards into field goal range for freshman K Davis Rodriguez to boot a 27 yard FG to escape Franklin field with an improbable 8-7 win. In this not-so-humble reporters' opinion, coach Bagnoli couldn't have scripted it better for coach Tavani. Right before the game-winning kick, coach Tavani used the safety as a motivational tool for Rodriguez, saying to him "that decision was made for one reason: they don't think you can make the field goal,' and I said 'we're going to change that' and he did." You simply don't give Lafayette something like that.
  • Speaking of Ivy League teams blowing chances to put away Patriot League teams, dangerous Dartmouth missed four different opportunities to do so in a 31-28 win for Colgate. The Raiders rallied from a 28-0 deficit to improbably tie the game late in the 4th quarter, behind junior RB Jordan Scott's 211 rushing yards and three second-half TDs. Up 28-6, the Big Green turn over the ball on downs on Colgate's 39. TD Colgate. Up 28-13, they drive to the Colgate 22... and missed a 39 yard FG. TD Colgate. Some fumbles, and Scott gets his third rushing TD and ties the game at 28. Then Darmouth drives to Colgate's 5 yard line with a minute left, and Dartmouth's runningback fumbles the ball. Can you say, "escapes Hanover with a win"? By any measure, though, a huge, emotional win as well for the Raiders - never mind that Dartmouth was picked to finish last in the Ivy League. What notable quotables might head coach Dick Biddle have to offer after such a game? Maybe heaping praise on senior LB Mike Gallihugh, with 17 tackles, or Scott? "I don't want to give anybody any bulletin board material. Let's just say [Scott's] a pretty good back." Um, no worries, coach.
  • Another Patriot League game, another nailbiter: this one is Holy Cross' near-miraculous 31-28 victory with the go-ahead TD scored with 19 seconds left. In a seesaw game, Harvard went up 28-24 on sophomore RB Cheng Ho's 47 yard scamper early in the 4th quarter. Harvard's "D" then did a pretty good job in shutting down the Crusader offense, with the Crimson's junior LB Glenn Dorris intercepting Holy Cross on one drive, forcing a punt the next, and causing the Holy Cross offense to turn over the ball on downs with 1:49 left after a big 10 yard sack by Dorris. Coach Tom Gilmore had no choice but to burn his timeouts, and Harvard on 4th-and-inches with 1:28.... decides to punt instead of going for the jugular. After a 19 yard punt, junior QB Dominic Randolph went to work, and completed four straight passes for the win, including the 40 yard home-run ball to senior WR Thomas Harrison for the clincher. Harrison called it the biggest reception of his college football career; perhaps he could send Harvard head coach Tim Murphy a Christmas card for not going for it on 4th-and-1.
  • Fordham rode freshman RB Xavier Martin in his first-ever game to three TDs and 157 yards rushing as the Rams coasted over Columbia in the "Liberty Cup", 27-10. Due to "paperwork issues with the NCAA clearinghouse" (what it could have been I have no idea), the "X" man wasn't allowed to suit up and play in the Rams' first two games, but with a performance like this against a Columbia team with a halfway-decent defense deserves special attention - and fills an interesting gap in this team that was lacking in the first two weeks. In their win against Rhode Island and their loss against Albany, they got manhandled in the time-of-possession department. In this game versus Columbia, they held onto the ball 38 minutes, thanks to rushers like the "X" man and senior RB Jonte Coven. This Fordham team looks like one to really, really watch out for.
  • One game where the Patriot League didn't win out was Bucknell's obliteration in a 38-14 manhandling by Cornell. The Bison scored on a 3 yard TD run from senior RB Corin Erby to cut the lead to 14-7 and then saw the Big Red score 17 unanswered points to put the game out of reach. More worryingly for Bucknell, they were stuffed for only 152 net rushing yards in their triple-option attack and sophomore RB A.J. Kizekai, their leading rusher, was only held to 50 yards on the day. It's looking like a long season already for the Bison, whose fans may not be aware there are sporting events anyway until "midnight madness".
  • In front on a (yes) sellout crowd in Multi-Sport Field, Georgetown, heavy underdogs as ever, played Yale tough in a very close 28-14 defeat to Yale. The Elis, picked by many (including yours truly) to repeat as Ivy League champions this year, were facing the end of the first half clinging to a 14-7 lead and the Hoyas driving for the tying score, but an incompletion with time left on the clock (0.3 seconds) in the end zone was called the "end of the half" by the officials instead of giving the Hoyas one more shot at a FG or TD. The Hoyas may not consider this a detested "moral victory", but I sure do. Yale should go on and prove to everyone they are the real deal - behind senior RB Mike McLeod's running, who scored all four TDs for the Hoyas on the day to go with 159 rushing yards - while these Hoyas look to have some real fight in them. Could they be finally pointed in the right direction? Senior QB Matt Bassuener had a pretty good day for the Hoyas, going 27-for-37 passing with 181 yards passing, 2 TDs, and adding 35 rushing yards.
  • VMI head coach Jim Reid said he was "out-athleted at almost every position" in a 45-17 drubbing by #7 rated James Madison. After starting 1-2, with a win against D-II Lock Haven 20-0 and a 63-16 smashing at the hands of WIlliam & Mary, coach Reid looked at his positives as good special teams play (they returned a kickoff for a TD) and a good offense led by sophomore QB/RB Joey Robinson. But coach Reid has no illusions about his team: "We need to finish our drives offensively, because that’s the strength of our ballclub right now. We need to tighten up defensively. It’s sad out there to watch us getting pushed back, which we knew might happen and we just have to keep working at it.”
  • I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that VMI's arch-rival, The Citadel, played a whale of a game against #7 rated Wisconsin but ended up falling bravely 45-31. Former Lehigh head coach Kevin Higgins had the Badgers right where he wanted them at halftime tied at 21, and having everyone in Madison white with fear that they were facing "another Appalachian State". Senior QB Duran Lawson had a great day for the Bulldogs, going 23 for 35 with 254 yards passing and 4 TDs.


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