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Patriot League Picks, Week 7 (and Mash-Up)

I'm trying to get into the other games this week, get into the picks of the other games, but it's not easy. To me, undoubtedly the biggest game this week is Lehigh/Yale. Lafayette/Harvard is not incredibly far off, but Lehigh/Yale seems like a very, very big game not only for the Mountain Hawks, but the Patriot League.

And I think part of this is from Yale's actions leading up to the game. I just don't recall ever seeing such a confident opponent before. I mean, the New Haven Register is running probably the most syrupy homer story about junior RB Mike McLeod, calling him "The Complete Package" (ironically stealing the nickname I gave senior QB Sedale Threatt after he led the offense to a 31-28 win over Villanova). At the end of last week's 50-10 drubbing of Dartmouth, McLeod gave a touchdown to a teammate in a move which just appears to illustrate the confidence of this offense.

Now is the confidence actually hubris? We'll see tomorrow.

Patriot Predictions
As always, some of these picks were originally posted at the College Sporting News. It's the final weekend of Ivy/Patriot games for the year, and as of now the score is Patriot League 8, Ivy League 6. With 4 Ivy/Patriot games on the slate, all we need to win is two games to prove "which league reigns supreme", and it's looking like there is a very good chance for the League to regain the upper hand that we lost last year. Of course, a Lehigh win over Yale would really put the exclamation point on it.

Lafayette over Harvard
The Leopard trenches, the best in the Patriot League, will be up against the hard-headed Crimson offense which is still trying to get its running game going on all cylinders, though runningback Cheng Ho did have a decent day last week with 67 yards rushing and 1 TD. But the Lafayette defense, led by defensive tackle Kyle Sprenkle, shut out Columbia last week 29-0 and is looking for more in Cambridge. Lafayette, eager to avenge last year’s lackluster 24-7 loss last year to Harvard, does so emphatically.
Lunchpail Leopards 24, Crimson Crimson 10

Holy Cross over Dartmouth
It’s not exactly a bold pick to take the 3-2 Crusaders over the 1-3 Big Green, but it will be worth seeing how Crusader quarterback Dominic Randolph looks in this game before getting into their league schedule. Randolph already has 1,571 yards passing and 15 touchdowns, and he could easily get into the range of 20 in coach Tim Gilmore’s pass-happy offensive system. Holy Cross rolls before playing Lehigh next week.
“Drink The Grape Kool-Aid” 49, “Avoid Big Green Kool-Aid” 13

Colgate over Cornell

Colgate coach Dick Biddle has to be mad. Last year, he lost to upstate New York rival Cornell for the first time in his 10-year Raider coaching career, 38-14. This year, although he’d never say so, he wants revenge – and with Raider runningback Jordan Scott, he’s got the back to punish the Big Red’s main weakness. With 938 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns, Scott should carry the Raiders on his back to another win in this rivalry game I like to call the “White-Out”.
“Scott and a Cloud of Dust” 28, “Juicy Fruit… I Mean, Big Red” 20

Fordham over Georgetown
Some of the Fordham fans I've encountered on Any Given Saturday are actually afraid of this game Saturday. Excuse me? They haven't scored more than 14 points a game in the last five games. Believe me, there's nothing I'd like better than to see the Hoyas help out Lehigh and pull off the upset. And I think every Lehigh fan is rooting for them in the league in a big way (except against us, of course). But the team I saw last week will not lose this game. Guaranteed.
Rambunctious Rams 44, Humbled Hoyas 3

Press Links
Morning Call: Pressure's Off As Lehigh Heads To Yale
Express-Times: Offensive Woes Make Coach See Red

Press Mash-Up
The quest for consistency and improvement starts with quarterback Sedale Threatt, who has thrown five interceptions in five games -- the same total of picks he had all of last season.

"Sedale knows he has to play better," Coen said. "He practiced well [Tuesday]. On Saturday, he was as close to 100 percent physically as he has been all season. Whether he'll be close to 100 percent the rest of the season remains to be seen. It's the ribs, it a bruise here or there. He gets hit a lot. He still hasn't learned to go down. He'd rather lower his shoulder and take on a 230-pound guy.

"But he's very focused, very quiet right now. He's focused on what he has to do to get better. On that last interception on Saturday, it was a pass protection breakdown. He was about ready to get sacked and threw the ball too quick. We need to do more in pass protections and get more of our fullbacks involved in blocking rather than our young tailbacks [freshman Kwesi Kankam and Jaren Walker]."

"Of course it's frustrating to us," Watson said. "It's not that the defense is doing anything different. We need to make plays. They're there."

"The biggest thing," Coen said, "without a doubt has been our lack of consistency, ability, commitment, whatever you want to call it, to running the football down there. Not having Josh and Matt, it's a big issue.

"I love the young kids," Coen continued, "they are going to be very good players. It's one thing when you're up on Princeton by 25 points to keep giving them the ball. It's another thing when you're in that type of (tight) game to hang your hat on them."

"We know we're capable of being more consistent," Watson said. "We need to make plays all the time.

"Especially in the red zone."

"It's a consistency thing," coach Andy Coen said. "We probably had more big plays in the game than Fordham, but it's a play breaking down here or breaking down there. We have to run the football better and more consistently and that takes pressure off the other aspects. We haven't been able to run it well, especially in the red zone.

"I can give answers, but I don't want anyone to think they're excuses. We've had breakdowns in part because of having to use different backs every week. We have guys missing practice [due to injuries] during the week and then they're out there playing on Saturday. All of that adds to the inconsistencies, but the bottom line remains that we need to play better."

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

Lehigh will be in the unusual role of underdog when it travels to New Haven, Conn., this weekend, for a meeting with No. 16-ranked Yale at the historic Yale Bowl.

"We know right now there's no room for error," Lehigh fullback Adam Watson said. "We know we need to play our best football for the rest of the season."

Starting this week.

The 4-0 Bulldogs have scored 50 points twice this season. They boast the nation's third-leading rusher in Mike McCleod. They own the country's seventh-best scoring defense while accumulating a plus-eight turnover ratio.

"We've gotten off to a great start," said Yale coach Jack Siedlecki, a former assistant at Lafayette.

"Any time you get to approach a game with very little pressure on you, it's great," said senior defensive tackle Kyle Adams. "I don't know if I want to use the underdog tag, but as a defense we're relishing the challenge of facing a great offense that is averaging 40 points per game.

"Anytime you can get a win, it's a great thing. When you add the fact that this is a nationally-ranked, undefeated, highly-potent offense that everybody's picking, it's one of those things you really play for. It's a 'speak softly and carry a big stick' attitude out there."

A loss at Yale wouldn't be the end of the world, but a win could be a season ignitor.

"Our morale is still pretty good," Coen said. "It's very important for us to go out and play well against Yale. We'll be a confident team going into the game and if we play well, it will be a plus going into the Holy Cross game.

"We're going to go into the game thinking we have to play well, and we have a good chance to win the football game."

It would make for one monumental upset. [LFN: I'm not sure I share Paul Solokowski's feeling that this would be a MOMUMENTAL upset if Lehigh won, but there you have it.]

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

The key to the Yale attack is junior tailback Mike McLeod, who has rushed for 719 yards and 13 touchdowns during the team's 4-0 start.

Stephen Schmalhofer just laughs when asked how he would stop teammate Mike McLeod, the record-setting running back for the undefeated Yale football team. "For three years we’ve tried," Schmalhofer said. So has everyone else. Few have succeeded.

McLeod, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior tailback from New Britain, has played 23 games for Yale. He owns Yale records for touchdowns in a game (five), consecutive games (12), season (20) and career (37). He set the single-game record for rushing yards (256) Saturday and is on pace to break both the single-season and career records for rushing this year.

"He can see the unblocked guy coming at him, he looks at him, then he looks away," said Schmalhofer, a senior defensive lineman for a Yale team allowing just more than 14 points per game. "He doesn’t have to look at that guy to make him miss. It’s unbelievable. It’s pure instinct. He’s already looking at the second tackle he’s going to break.

"To be able to see a guy, and be an arm’s length away from him, and not be able to get him down is the most frustrating thing for a defender," Schmalhofer said. "And it happens time after time again. Sometimes it’s underwhelming, because it’s 4 yards, but that’s 4 yards no other back in the league is going to be able to get. And to be able to do it 40 times a game and not be tired? It’s freaky."

"He’s a very special player, and there isn’t a guy on the team who doesn’t know that or appreciate that," said Yale head coach Jack Sidlecki. "He has so much more patience, and when you have more patience, you have better vision. He has that ability to hit every crack. He knows when he needs to take it, when to accelerate, and when to slow down. It’s pretty impressive to watch him play after play after play. He’s got that elusiveness. He’s very difficult to tackle. I think tacklers just have a hard time getting that solid hit on him."

"He seems to always make the right decision, when to bounce it, when to cut it back," Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said. "He utilizes his blockers very well. He understands the scheme. There are a lot of talented running backs out there who don’t understand the scheme well enough. It’s very apparent that he’s very well-coached, and he’s a very good player because he reads the scheme."

Coach Coen: "I think the biggest challenge will be how we can contain Mike McLeod. To average over 300 yards rushing per game and not be an option team is almost unheard of. He's not the biggest guy you'll see but he has great vision and can break tackles."

"Something's gotta give," [Lehigh DT Kyle] Adams said. "We're not giving up a lot of yards rushing and this young man is running for a lot of yards. We feel we have to contain him and make other people make plays."

Comments

Christopher S said…
That interception on the 10 yard line right before half is just unacceptable... that is why Threatt isn't a good QB.
Anonymous said…
PL ends even with Ivies in head-to-heads, 9to9. Last year, PL won only 4 of 18. Big improvement.

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