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

Pumped for Lehigh/Villanova yet? Excited about Volunteer day at the stadium? Happy about a projected sunny, 85 degree day that is perfect for tailgating? Looking forward to seeing a local rivalry with a team from the mighty Colonial Athletic Association? Tomorrow, at 1:07PM, it all begins (with, hopefully, 12,000 of your closest friends). It looks like it's going to be an absolutely perfect day of football, and I wish I could be there to experience it in person - but with my anniversary on the day of September 8th, I have to settle for watching the game on the Lehigh Broadcast.

On the bright side, with my new schedule at the College Sporting News, I'll be attending more Lehigh games this year than I have in recent memory. The first game I'm very likely to show for is the 6PM game at Princeton next week, and I have other dates circled on the calendar as well. I'm looking forward to the chance of seeing four Lehigh games this year (including three home games, if everything works out)!

If there was a phrase that seems to sum up how Lehigh fans feel right now, it's show me. This is different than most years when Lehigh fans seem to expect 10-1 and 11-0 seasons and 103-0 shellackings of that school in Easton. And I think it's not because we lost to that school in Easton last year, either: I think fans of the entire league were rattled at the ease which the best of the Ivy League dismantled Lehigh and Lafayette last year. No more do we take out of conference games for granted as guaranteed wins, never mind CAA teams with the full allotment of scholarships.

Lehigh fans, and most Patriot League fans across the league, are looking for all our schools to show us, the fans, that they indeed are as good as we've come to expect in early 2000 - that they can beat the best the Ivy League has to offer, that they can beat teams from the CAA a fair amount of the time, and they can win games in the FCS playoffs. It's no longer taken for granted. Show me.

Fans are cautiously optimistic, but we the fans need to be shown that we can win these games. If Lehigh "shows us" a win this week, it could be a very fun year. And I believe that they can show us a win. The question is, will they?

Here's my picks for the games this week (some of which were taken from my College Sporting News picks, released every Wednesday), followed by the press links for the game and the press mash-up. (Note to the Brown & White, Lehigh's student newspaper: The Mountain Hawks are playing this wonderful new sport called "football". Ever heard of it? If you look at your website, you'd never guess that it even exists at our school.) (Another note: The Philadelphia papers also were no-shows with any sort of Villanova/Lehigh pregame. Shame, shame.)

Patriot League Picks
#3 Massachusetts over Colgate.
I followed last week’s Colgate game and I watched that UMass game with interest last week. I also took a look at the offensive statistics of both games. This has the makings of an ugly mismatch.
Mince-Men 49, “Jordan Scott and a Cloud Of Dust” 3

Lafayette over Georgetown. Some folks are eying this game as a possible Hoya upset after they played Stony Brook tough last week in a 35-28 defeat. Think again – Lafayette is still a stacked team and they will prove it in spades this year up in Easton, starting this week.
“The Biggest Field House in Pennsy” 47, Humbled Hoyas 10

Stony Brook over Bucknell. The problem with this game is that Tim Landis' team isn't going to surprise the Seawolves, who basically faced the same offense last week versus Georgetown. I think they score fewer points than last week against Bucknell's tough "D", but their defense pulls a great improvement from Week One and gets a solid victory.
Fictional Sea Creatures 30, Bison Burgers 21

Fordham over Albany. Although the Danes are gunning for revenge after last year's rain-soaked 9-6 loss up at Albany, I think Fordham's win over Rhode Island has given the Rams a desperately-needed new boost of confidence offensively. Playing a hunch, I think the Rams ride the Texas Terror, super sophomore QB Josh Skelton, to another big out-of-conference win for the Patriot League - and make everybody rethink their Patriot League preseason picks (including me, who picked them sixth).
Resurgent Rams 27, Dunked Danes 13

Game writeups
Morning Call: Coen: Be True To Your Program
Morning Call: Groller: A Good One At Goodman?
Express-Times: Donchez, WRs Finally Ready For Action

Press Mash-up
Groller: "One thing I've learned over the years is that you'll find out more truth with a beer in your hand than a tape recorder and so I asked [former Lehigh NT] Eric [Rakus '05] what he thought about this year's Lehigh team. He could have said anything because, remember, he's not a member of the team anymore.

"But when given the chance Rakus talked very positively about the coming season. He talked about how much better the defense will be with a year of the 3-4 scheme under its belt. He said it was hard last year, harder than anyone knew. Again, that never came out when I had a tape recorder in my hand. But in talking to his buddies, Rakus said everything was going much better.

"So, that, more than anything that was said earlier Wednesday afternoon at the Lehigh's weekly media luncheon at the other Starters on Route 378, has me feeling good about Lehigh's chances for a good season -- a season better than last year's 6-5 which began and ended so poorly."

[Coach Andy] Coen said the 49-27 loss at Lafayette drove the entire program through the winter.

"There was a realization that day that our program needed to get better," he said. "I left that game feeling ticked off. Hopefully, we've fixed a lot of things. We had a much better offseason program. It took a while for some people to buy into everything, but we're on the same page now."

"I read a book over the summer called: 'Why Good Coaches Quit: How To Deal With The Other Stuff,' by a baseball coach at the University of Minnesota. And it made a lot of sense.

"The point of the book was that there are so many things you can control as a head coach and so many things that are out of your control. You can't go nuts with those other things. You have to emphasize what's important to you, what's important to the program, and, ultimately, what's most important to the kids. You have to stay the course."

Coen admitted he was down when the team was 1-3 at the end of last September.

"I was rethinking everything and asking everybody for their opinion," Coen said. "The message I got back was you have to stay the course and do the things you believe in doing as a coach and program. And even though the last game didn't end up the way we wanted it to, things did improve and we did well."

***

Groller: "As for what was said at the luncheon, the thing that came through most of all is how much more relaxed and confident coach Andy Coen is than he was at this time last year.

"The one concern that seems to keep coming up is injuries. RB Matt McGowan and LB Rusty Campion are out and could be out awhile. McGowan, the Hazleton kid, is such a key to the offense. Without him, a heavy burden falls on Josh Pastore and a pair of freshman tailbacks -- Las Vegas' Jaren Walker and Kwesi Kankam from Ohio."

Projected starting running back Matt McGowan won't play in the opener as he recovers from a hamstring tear. That leaves backup, good friend and roommate Josh Pastore as the starter.

On the other side of the ball, injured starting linebacker Rusty Campion will miss the first few weeks of the season and limping strong safety Quadir Carter of Freedom won't start but will see action.

Just imagine if Lehigh didn't have a bye to open the season last weekend.

"I'm actually very happy it worked out this way," Coen said. "At one time, I counted 31 guys on the sideline for practice. Hopefully, we can build enough continuity."

Over the past few weeks, Pete Donchez has spent his practice time working an arm bike, doing agility drills and mentally running through repetitions. There's been no running, cutting or blocking for Lehigh University's senior wide receiver. So [senior WR Pete] Donchez is anxious to find out how his pulled hamstring responds when the Mountain Hawks open their 2007 football season Saturday afternoon with Villanova at Goodman Stadium.

"I'm excited to have these guys back," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. "My concern, though, is we went all those weeks without those guys playing. It seems Sedale's been throwing to a different group of wideouts every day."

"But I think we'll be all right," Donchez said. "I feel I'm in good shape. But Saturday will be the test."

***

"A lot of other guys are nicked and dinged and that's not the way you want to enter a season, especially one that begins with three tough games within the first four weeks -- Villanova, Princeton and Harvard. Even VMI could be dangerous. Villanova is very good despite their loss at Maryland where they only scored one offensive touchdown and had virtually no running game."

"It was probably as good of a I-A team as we've ever played," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "They were big, fast and physical. ... We were lucky to be in the game, down 10-7 at halftime."

"They have a great tight end [Matt Sherry] and some really big and physical receivers," cornerback and captain Brannan Thomas said. "We feel so much more comfortable in the 3-4 defense. We're flying around and getting after people. We're clicking. But this will be a great test to see where we really are."


***

Villanova is still stinging from last year's 31-28 loss to Lehigh. McGowan ran 15 yards for the winning score late in the fourth quarter to give Coen his first head coaching victory. It also was Donchez's first collegiate start.

"Last year, they just knocked us off the field and won the game," Talley said. "They have my attention, I'll tell you that."

"They'll come ready to play," said Lehigh fifth-year cornerback Brannan Thomas, one of two defensive captains. "We were at their place and were able to escape with a win. But I'm very excited. It's my last chance. Better make the most of it."

"We will show up," Coen said. "I expect my team to come out, play hard, play physical and compete in all three phases of the game. I want to make sure Lehigh doesn't beat Lehigh."

"We're going to play hard and fight," Donchez promised. "Villanova's a very good team. Playing in your own stadium, you want to start off the season right."

Groller: "This is a huge opener. This is my seventh consecutive year of covering Lehigh football and I can't think of a bigger one because I can't remember the M-Hawks entering a season with such uncertainty.

"Win on Saturday and the Mountain Hawks can start to immediately erase some of the doubts that cropped up at times last year about Sedale Threatt, about the team's overall physical strength, size and toughness, about the coaching staff, schemes and so on.

"Lose it, especially decisively, and the doubts, questions and concerns come back in bunches. It wasn't until late October last year that the team hit its stride and the fans finally got on board. Then the bandwagon emptied in a hurry along with the Lehigh stands in the second half of the debacle at Lafayette.

"Comfort has been the key word throughout the offseason and preseason camp. But lose this one and things will get uncomfortable in a big hurry.

"They may have to win games in the low 20s. And considering Saturday's game is to be played in temps in the high 80s (that's uncomfortable but better than rain) this one could come down to depth and conditioning.

"I like Lehigh in a close, tough game that won't be pretty to watch."

Comments

Anonymous said…
The earlier start of the 2007 season, playing Maryland closely for half the game, the revenge factor and too many injuries on the Lehigh side mean a 31-17 'Nova win. Just the start of another down year for Lehigh football; and Lehigh sports in general.
Anonymous said…
Damn. I was close!!! Time for the smug elitists at Lehi to realize their stuff stinks just like everybody else's. They'll be lucky to go .500 this year.

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