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Patriot League Picks, Week 3 (and Mash-up)

As of this point, I believe that I will be going to the Lehigh/Princeton game this weekend at 6PM, where I will be joining Dave Coulson of The Sports Network in the press box. I say "I believe I will" because as of this late date and time, I haven't head back from Princeton as to whether I have a press credential or not. For those of you that don't know, it's highly unusual to have heard nothing about this at this late time about press credentials one way or another.

So if you see a shivering guy (it is supposed to be a low of 46 Saturday night) with a Lehigh Football Nation hat wandering aimlessly through Princeton's campus looking frantically for tickets, do him a favor -offer him a Black & Tan and help him out. (Otherwise I could very well be staying at home and watching Iron Chef reruns.)

This, of course, brings back memories of the day I met my future wife: on September 25, 1999, when Lehigh played at Princeton in the first-ever night game at Princeton stadium. That day, I didn't have tickets either, and I literally bumped into Kim while looking for the stadium - and she and her friend (who got free tickets from the Red Cross, where she was volunteering in Hurricane Floyd cleanup efforts) gave my buddy and I free tickets.

I'm assuming Dave Coulson has had no such problems. Speaking of Coulson, after my dismal prediction of this weekend's game, I thought I'd offer a more upbeat prediction from Dave Coulson this week with his pick of the game:

There are some big questions for both teams heading into this contest.

Can coach Roger Hughes and the Tigers recreate the magic of last year's 9-1 team? And can Hughes find a quarterback to replace the leadership ability of Jeff Terrell?

Lehigh had high hopes heading into 2007, with senior quarterback Sedale Threatt leading what was expected to be a high-powered offense. But the Mountain Hawks struggled to finish off drives last Saturday in a season- opening 30-20 loss to Villanova.

Villanova built a 20-3 lead before Threatt and the Mountain Hawks got going. Threatt finished with 302 yards passing and 360 yards of total offense.

It is a huge game for Lehigh, which needs to build confidence for Patriot League play and also for Princeton, which could use a quick start to 2007.

With Lehigh having a game under its belt and with Threatt's athleticism, the Mountain Hawks should be able to put up enough points to win this one.

Lehigh 31, Princeton 17

As always, I will be hoping for a great game, a very strong Lehigh contingent, and of course for my prediction to be 100% wrong. And look for some quick postgame observations here on the blog right after the game!

Patriot League Picks
Last week, I was 3-2 in Patriot League games, picking Lafayette's win over Georgetown and successfully guessing 2 of the 4 Patriot League out-of-conference losses last week. (Ugh.) This week I pair my picks of the Patriot League games (some of which are also included in my "FCS Way" column this week) with some fresh ingredients, erhm, I mean picks to determine: "Which Conference Reigns Supreme?"

Lafayette over Penn. Yes, that sound you heard was Lafayette fans’ collective jaws dropping at once. Lafayette beating Penn, a team against which they have an 18-61-4 lifetime record? Lafayette beating an Ivy League school, something they haven’t done since they squeaked by Columbia 14-7 in 2005 (and their only Ivy victory in two years)? Against a team they haven’t beaten since 1991? Believe it, Leopard fans. Your time has come: your defense, led by defensive tackle Kyle Sprenkle, will shut down Penn in their season opener and you will rejoice. Believe it.
Lucky Leopards 28, Quiet Quackers 26

Fordham over Columbia. I have a soft spot in my heart for the “Liberty Cup” and this underrepresented FCS Rivalry game, having attended it last year and seeing Norries Wilson’s Columbia team dismantle coach Tom Masella’s Fordham Rams 37-7. Oddly enough, Fordham enters the game almost exactly the same way they entered last year: 1-1 with a surprising victory (this year, over Rhode Island). What I do know is that offensively the Rams will be a much different team offensively than that team last year, and it will prove to be a very tight affair in all likelihood against Columbia’s tough 3-3-5 defense. The question is, can Columbia get the same sort of running game that carried Albany to beat the Rams last week 23-20? I don’t think so: I think Fordham’s strong secondary is the difference in this game, and the fact that Fordham has played two nailbiters already. In Fordham’s third-straight gnasher, at home give me the Rams in a classic.
Revitalized Rams 40, Almost Lions 37, OT

Colgate over Dartmouth. Everything about this game screams "trap game". After a "moral victory" over a tough UMass team, this trip to Hanover, NH screams danger. But this is a very different Colgate team than last year, I can sense it already. QB Alex Relph had a much better day last weekend than during their ugly 13-11 win against Albany, and I think he continues to develop and wins this week - but not after he gets a serious test under fire.
Rough Raiders 18, Gang Green 16

#23 Yale over Georgetown. Poor Georgetown. You can’t help rooting for them, their head coach Kevin Kelly from Navy, and their never-say-die attitude against a slew of better-funded FCS teams. But they won’t beat Yale – a team loaded with superstars like junior runningback Mike McLeod and junior linebacker Bobby Abare. William Jefferson Clinton’s wife may win the presidency next year, but take George W. Bush’s alma mater in this one.
Burning Bushies 45, Galloping Clintons 10

Holy Cross over Harvard. Any chance that Holy Cross' victory will quiet any of the naysayers about the Crusaders? Fat chance, but junior QB Dominic Randolph will have plenty of targets to keep Harvard's all-American CB Drew Berry occupied - and should roll surprisingly easily over a Harvard offense that will struggle to jell without RB Clifton Dawson for the first time.
Cruisin' Crusaders 41, "The Purple Tide Rolleth Over The Crimson" 28

Cornell over Bucknell. This pick depends completely on how you view the Big Red. Do you see them as dark-horse title contenders, rolling behind RB Luke Siwula? Or do you see them as a team that has struggled offensively? I do know that they were unbeatable at home last year, though, and that's enough for me.
Big Red Machine 34, Bruised Bison 13

Overall, I'm predicting the Patriot League representing with a 4-3 record over the Ivies. Add this bonus pick: Brown 24, Duquesne 14, and I'm predicting a 4-4 weekend for the Ivies, with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton going 2-1 against the Patriot League.

Let's hope I'm very, very wrong about Lehigh tomorrow.

Game Writeups
Morning Call: Kehs An Anchor On Lehigh's Line
Express-Times: Hawks Hoping History Repeats
Brown & White: Hawks Look To Tame Tiger's Roar at Princeton
Newark Star-Ledger: Princeton's Goal: An Ivy Title Repeat

Press Mash-Up
"It was just good to get the first game out of the way," the 6-5, 300-pound Kehs said. "We feel we improved and moved the ball better in the second half and we're confident we're going to play better on Saturday night at Princeton."

“We will stay a confident team after last week’s loss,” [senior DB Ernest] Moore said. “We have went over our mistakes from last week and fixed them.”

"You can see some specs of good defense," said Jackson, who registered a team-high 10 tackles, two sacks and combined on another tackle for loss. "You could tell we're going to be real good. We're not complete yet."

"(Defensive line) coach (Donnie) Roberts told me I was just too hesitant, to pin my ears back and play my game," Jackson said. "It felt good. I saw myself (initially) as a run-stopper, I don't get moved off the line that much. Through the years, I found I could do a couple things. (Now) I'm known for my pass rush, my speed off the line.

"First two sacks of my college career. Hopefully, there's more to come."

“The new game plan is installed,” Moore said. “We just have to be focused on that to get everything down to a science.”

*****************

The offensive line is considered a linchpin to Lehigh hopes [on Saturday]. The Mountain Hawks had to replace three starters up front and Kehs, an all-league choice last season, is expected to be an anchor along with All-American candidate John Reese at center.

"We're starting to jell pretty well," Kehs said. "Kevin Bayani switched from guard to tackle. Everyone's where they should be right now. We didn't run the ball that well last week, but that was because we got so far down and had to pass so much more. We need to be more balanced."

Freshman running back Kwesi Kankam was awarded Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors for his play. Kankam rushed for 34 yards and one touchdown, and tallied two receptions for 16 yards. He's the starting RB on Saturday.

“We have all the confidence in Kwesi that he will get the job done,” [senior DB Ernest] Moore said. “He is very quick and has good vision. He should give teams problems trying to tackle him.”

"Kwesi has picked up our offense very well," Coen said. "He just needs to get better with some of the nuances. Hopefully, this week we can get him a crease and get him out in space because he can really run."

*************
Coach Hughes on starting QB Bill Foran: In our offense, he has to make great decisions, whether that's with the run or with the passing game, where he's throwing it. He's got to make sure that he manages the game. One of the things that Jeff did very well is, he didn't get us into bad situations, and many times he turned bad situations into good ones.

"I think it's pretty unfair to compare him to Jeff because Jeff was pretty special. Clearly, he'll have to do it a little different way than Jeff with his talents, but if he can do those things he'll be fine."

Coach Hughes on his revamped secondary: "I think the secondary is going to be a work in progress. I think similar adjustments will be made both during and after the game, as we see how we respond to good talent. It's going to be how they react to everything. Right now, we're not sensing any different change in our schemes or our strategies, but we clearly will do some changes as far as matchups and how we match up with people. Finding those matchups will be key to the first game."

************

Coach Hughes on beating Lehigh on Saturday: "First of all, we've been lucky enough for the last three years that it doesn't appear like it's our first game. We try to practice so that they've had game-like pressure and game-like situations. We can't turn it over. We can't have the stupid penalties that stop drives and we can't have breakdowns in our defensive coverage so that we give up big plays."

“We can’t allow Princeton to jump ahead of us early or come back once we have the lead, like they did last year,” [senior DB Ernest] Moore said.

*************

One year ago, a feisty Lehigh University football team shrugged off a difficult season-opening loss at home, took to the road the following week and pulled out an inspiring victory that set the tone for a Patriot League co-championship season.

"I hope history repeats itself," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said. "That might have been the most complete game we played all year."

"We should have an advantage because it's not easy to jump right into a game situation," Kehs said. "We've watched a ton of film on them from last year and they're a good team that will give you a lot of different looks on defense. We just have to adjust."

Since this is Princeton's opener, Coen, who has a lot of experience coaching against the Tigers, hopes they haven't changed things up too much.

"Last year, they did some things that were a little different from the past," Coen said. "Last year, they were so productive on offense because of their quarterback [Jeff Terrell] and they have a new quarterback this year. We'll have to adjust to some newness."

"Hopefully in this one, the outcome's a little different," Lehigh defensive tackle Brian Jackson said. "We definitely want a win. That's our No. 1 goal for every game."

"It's so important to get that first win," Jimmy Kehs said. "We really want to turn it around. The guys aren't down. Morale is still pretty high. We know we just have clean up some things and we'll be fine."

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