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Patriot League Picks, Week 4 (and Mash-Up)

I've got to hand it to the executive director of FCS at the Sports Network (and longtime friend from I-AA.org and College Sporting News) Dave Coulson, he really knows how to get in good with me (and a lot of other Lehigh fans). In his FCS column this week he mentions that he will be in attendance in this week's VMI/Lehigh clash at Murray Goodman stadium. That means for the 1:07PM kickoff he'll be able to see all the inflatables for the kids, since it's "Kids' Day" at the stadium with lots of activities for the young Hawks in the opening hour. Normally I'd come up for "Kid's Day" with my son, but since I have other things to attend to this weekend, I'll be watching the game over the internet and blogging about my impressions.

I sat next to Dave at Princeton last week for Lehigh's win over the Tigers, 32-21, which I wrote about extensively on College Sporting News in a FCS diary entry along with a photo album. With Dave filing a report this weekend from Murray Goodman (or at least at the spacious Sports Network offices, anyway), that means Lehigh will be getting national press for three straight weeks: the Princeton game, the VMI game, and the Harvard game next week which I will be attending live for the College Sporting News. (Not bad for a team that was 6-5 last year. Delaware, eat your heart out!)

It seems like now's a good a time as any to mention the different ways you can catch the Lehigh game this week if you're not on the road or close to a computer: AM 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley (the same stations that give you The Andy Coen Report, a live call-in radio show at 6:00PM on Mondays), and Service Electric 2. On the radio, the broadcast team is generally Matt Kerr and hall-of-fame Lehigh quarterback Glenn Kempa... oops, I meant Marty Horn ('87). (Just kidding, Marty), however this week stepping in for Marty is another former Lehigh great in Kody Fedorcha ('00) and Mark Markus. The TV crew is Mike Zambelli and former Lehigh linebacker Mike Yadush, and as this report also notes, he also is a high school defensive coordinator and wrestling coach at Whitehall. And I thought I had a busy schedule!

Patriot League Picks
As always, some of these picks are cross posted on the national column at the College Sporting News. This week, there is a nice writeup about the amount of FCS polls there are. The column is co-written by myself and Ralph Wallace, and he deserves all the credit for the great piece about all the different polls.

Princeton over No. 22 Lafayette. This pick has nothing to do with Lafayette winning a big 8-7 game last week, nor does it have anything to do with Roger Hughes steaming in the Postgame press conference after his Tigers lost a sloppy 32-21 game to Lehigh last week. It has everything to do with history and numbers. It’s just one of those things: simply, Lafayette cannot beat Princeton. They are 4-36-3 against the Tigers; and it doesn’t matter if it’s the “flying wedge” era or the modern day: they’ve only beat them three times since 1982. I simply can’t pick against history like that, no matter how Princeton quarterback Bill Foran looked last week or how good Lafayette’s defense is, led by defensive tackle Kyle Sprenkle. After the game, you’ll be saying, “How on Earth did Lafayette lose that game?”
Dick Kazmaiers 29, Rose Barclays 28

Holy Cross over Georgetown. Can the Hoyas do this? Pull off a monumental upset in this “Holy War” between Jesuit schools? Holy Cross managed an incredible come-from-behind win over Harvard last week 31-28 after quarterback Dominc Randolph’s 40 yard bomb to wideout Thomas Harrison with 19 seconds left, while Gerogetown fought bravely against Yale at home 28-14 against an offensive line that was about50 pounds heavier than their defensive line. I don’t think the Hoyas pull off the upset, but I think they give the Crusaders indigestion in a classic “trap game”.
Purple People Eaters 31, Hopeful Hoyas 21

Richmond over Bucknell. Another CAA team that folks have forgetten about, the Spiders should have no issues manhandling the overmatched Bison here, but the real question is: will runningback Tim Hightower and the rest of the Spiders be sniffing the Top 25 again with another dominating win? Stay tuned…
Spider-Men 56, Venomous Bison 10

Fordham over Dayton. Before anyone gets tempted to take 3-0 Dayton here, it's worthy of note the following: that two wins were blowouts over sub-D-I schools, and their 23-12 victory over Robert Morris was aided immesurably by three turnovers, including one that was returned for a TD. On the road against an increasingly assertive Fordham team, I think the Rams keep their roll going.
Stout Rams 42, Flexible Flyers 10

Game Writeups
Morning Call: Lehigh Hopes To Cook Up More Home Wins
Groller's Corner: Hot One At Goodman
Express-Times: Lehigh Notes
Express-Times: Defense Becomes Ball Hawks
Brown & White: Hawks Hope to Keep Momentum Going
Lehighsports.Com: Brannan Thomas: Covering All Corners
Richmond Times-Dispatch: FCS Notes (VMI)

Press Mash-Up

“Brannan provides the coaches and players with a lot of stability in the defensive backfield,” said Mountain Hawks head coach Andy Coen. “He’s probably the best cover corner in the Patriot League this season and because of that, he allows us to be more aggressive on defense.”

“The coaches told me during my freshman year that I’d have more of a chance to get on the field playing defensive back than wide receiver, and so I chose corner,” senior CB Brannan Thomas said. “I love to play, and if this was the way I was going to get out there, I was going to do it. Nobody wants to sit on the bench and watch, especially me.”

Coen believes that Thomas can make a big impact in the return game again this season. “We’re going to put him back there because we know we can count on him,” Coen said. “He’s fearless, and he’s able to catch the ball in traffic after playing corner for so long. Those are two things that you need to have in a punt returner, trust and fearlessness.”

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“It was very important to get a win last week against Princeton so we can start to get some of our confidence back,” junior defensive back Quadir Carter said.

Other players also stressed the importance of their first victory.

“It’s always important to get the first win of the season,” junior offensive lineman Kevin Bayani said. “This win at Princeton was even more important because of the fact that they beat us last year. We expect to keep the ball rolling and pick up another win this week against VMI.”

“The defense stepped up big time in the first half, creating four turnovers which was huge,” senior offensive lineman Jimmy Kehs said. “The offense executed better in the first half than we did against Villanova, which enabled us to get out to an early lead.”

“The offense needs to finish drives,” Kehs said. “We had a lot of missed chances against Princeton in the second half. We need to capitalize on all opportunities that the defense gives us.”

“We lost focus and gave up some big plays on defense,” Coen said. “Offensively, we dropped too many passes and didn’t execute well at times. We will work on our concentration and continue to emphasize the importance of finishing things.”

+“We are focusing on minimizing our mental errors and finishing the game,” Carter said. “We need to learn how to knock teams out when they are hanging on the ropes. I think we struggled with that the last couple of games as well as last season.”

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Bad weather, bad field conditions, bad luck and good teams have had a lot to do with Lehigh's recent home struggles.

But second-year coach Andy Coen, who has gone 3-4 at home so far, thinks other factors may be at work.

"Maybe we all just put a little too much pressure on ourselves when we're at home, and we're a little too uptight," Coen said at the team's weekly luncheon on Wednesday at Starters Pub. "I talked about it all last year, I talked about it in Week 1 and I'll talk about it again this week about how important it is to win at home. You want to create an atmosphere that makes it tough for people to come in here.

"But, at the same time, kids can get a little too uptight. The message this week is that we want to play well at home, we want people to fear coming in here, but the most important thing is to play the same way whether we're at home, at Princeton or in the middle of Interstate 78 somewhere."

For whatever reason, the team doesn't play with the same focus at home as it does on the road. Maybe the players are too tight because they usually are playing in front of bigger crowds at Goodman and they're trying too hard to impress extra family and friends. Even more demanding are the long-time fans and alums who can't get to road games and expect excellence from the guys in the home brown.

And, when things don't go well early, the crowd gets testier and more vocal and that only leads to more pressure. And more mistakes.

"With Kevin [Higgins] in 1998, we started to get it going here with some really good football teams," Coen said. "Before that, maybe the talent level wasn't quite the same and we lost as many home games as we won. We created a mentality that it's tough to play here, just by winning, and we want to get the ball rolling again and make it tough for teams to come in here and beat us."

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Keith Groller: This is one game where Lehigh needs to revert to its old self, jump out with some big plays on both sides of the ball and put their collective foot down on VMI. The Mountain Hawks could have and should have done that at Princeton last week, but let up and nearly let the Tigers make a game of it.

"We just need to come out and play," Coen said. "For this program, right now, it's very big to get to 2-1. We were never 2-1 last year. We were constantly playing catch-up. This gives us a chance to get out front a little bit.

“We are preparing to play a physical team and will be concentrating on stopping their option attack. On defense they are a 4-3 team which is new for us this year. We will be concentrating on attacking that style of defense.

“This week we need to play with the same intensity we did last week. They run the option, so our defense must be very disciplined. Offensively we must continue to run the ball better and must be more efficient throwing it.”

"[VMI's] very similar to Bucknell, with the options and the Wing-T that they run," [senior DB Daynin] Blake said. "It's going to be a challenge for us to stay disciplined and not get lost. It can be difficult, trying to find the ball.

"Defense always wants to do its part, whether it's stopping them on third or fourth down or putting the ball in the end zone."

“VMI is a tough team,” [junior OL Kevin] Bayani said. “They’ve lost to two very good teams and they’re not just going to lay down for us. It’s going to be a good game but like Coach Cohen always says, it doesn’t have to be close. I’m expecting to walk out of Goodman Stadium a 2-1 football team.”

[VMI RB] Joey Robinson played some quarterback, some slotback and some tailback Saturday in VMI's 45-17 loss at James Madison. It appears that role will continue for the sophomore from Gaithersburg, Md.

Running back Nat Jackson suffered an injury that caused Robinson's varied duty, which [VMI head coach Jim] Reid said will continue. Robinson has rushed for 141 yards and passed for 116. When he isn't taking snaps, sophomore Keith Hughes is.

"Defensively, we have to slow them down, stay disciplined," Coen said. "We have to put them in long-yardage situations, so they have to play a little left-handed, so to speak.

"Plus, seeing a different scheme defensively after seeing a lot of 3-4's will also be a challenge. And it will be hot, so our level of conditioning needs to be a premium."

“We need to stay focused and get the job done,” Kehs said. “We cannot look past VMI just because it’s not a league game. They have gotten blown out the past two weeks but they played pretty good teams so it doesn’t mean anything. We need to come out ready for them to play hard against us.”

"We've got to hold on to some redshirts [not play true freshmen] to establish the program," second-year VMI coach Jim Reid said. "When we get guys bumped up, we try to spread everybody out the best that we can."

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Starting tailback Matt McGowan and his backup Josh Pastore both attempted to practice this week after missing the Princeton win, but that doesn't mean either one will be on the field Saturday. "Neither one of them's 100 percent," Coen said. "If they're not 100 percent, they're probably not going to play."

Comments

Anonymous said…
I have to hand it to you, you have been picking pretty well recently BUT, how can you pick Lafayette to beat a Penn team that they never can beat but then pick them to lose against Princeton the next week based ONLY upon the rationale that they never can beat Princeton.
I'd expect a little more analysis from a guy in your position.

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