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Patriot League Picks, Week 8 (and Mash-up)

(Photo credit Demetra Stamus, Morning Call)

In a week when Lehigh's main focus is a huge Holy Cross/Lehigh game this weekend, certain off-the-field Patriot League developments stole some headlines.

First was the confirmation of the long-awaited Patriot League presidential meeting to discuss "the future of the league." Before you cry in horror, thinking that the Patriot League is going to disband, don't worry: by future, they mean they meant to discuss a "vision and strategic plan for the league," according to Dr. Brian C. Mitchell, who is the chair of the Presidential council and the president of Bucknell.

The press release, and even the few press reports on the matter (like this Morning Call report), don't say a heck of a lot. Not even coach Coen has heard much on them. All we really have to go on is the following part of the statement: "The five core program components that were the focus of the retreat discussions were admissions policies and review of the Academic Index, competitiveness of League sports, market enhancement and League visibility, membership and League expansion and partnerships and collaborations beyond athletics."

What I can say about the Academic Index part of the discussions (or AI for short), is that the Patriot League had hired an outside entity to study the viability of the AI going forward for the league. This was one of the issues that the presidents were scheduled to study at this meeting. I also know that folks inside the league had seen my own independent analysis of the matter at the College Sporting News, though I don't know if that was considered or not.

The executive director of the Patriot League, Carolyn Schlie Femovich, also mentioned to me at Patriot League Media Day that "I think the Academic Index in and of itself seems to be serving the league well, but I think there are some issues that need to be addressed with respect to some of the metrics and how we manage the variables. I don't think the index itself will be going away, but I think we will make some adjustments.

"
There's more and more pressure to play Bowl Subdivision schools. And issues like this raise the question on whether the Patriot League should offer scholarships. It is being talked about. What we have to evaluate is philosophically if it's the right thing to do in football and whether or not it's something financially we can afford to do. Additionally, on some of our campuses there's a strong feeling that we started out as a need-based conference in football to play against the Ivies. It's part of our heritage. The question is: is it time to change that?

"It will be in discussion throughout the fall, and it will be a part of the discussions in the retreat and in the president's council meeting in December."


As you can see, scholarships and the AI were definitely on the schedule for the talks. Getting rid of the AI didn't seem like an option, but possibly tweaking it and possibly allowing some form of athletic scholarships did seem to be at least on the table.

I've read and reread the press release, and it seems to me (without any confirmations from the league office, of course) that something looks positive in regards to tweaking the AI and/or scholarships. I keep looking at Ms. Femovich's comments in the press release about adopting a "pro-active approach for future growth." To me, that doesn't mean sitting back and not making any changes.

However, coach Coen didn't seem too optimistic. "Every coach in the league would love to see scholarships and the admission requirements lowered a little bit. But I've been around long enough to know that's not going to happen."

Which leads to the other big news this week - and may hopefully will be a bit of an incentive for the president to be more pro-active in these affairs. Bryant College, a name that had been bandied about as a potential target for expansion, decided to accept an invite to the NEC instead. Like any possible expansion candidate in all sports, Bryant was hardly a perfect candidate, but its location (Rhode Island), historic ties (they have been intertwined with Brown University) and status (a private school with an up-and-coming business school) seemed like a pretty good fit with the Patriot League.

Perhaps Bryant, who in the Northeast-10 conference in Division II has C.W. Post as a leaguemate, wasn't the perfect candidate for the Patriot League, but I'd be awfully curious to find out how hard the folks in the league tried to woo them. Importantly, conferences like the NEC and Big South are aggressively trying to expand their conferences, and will not hesitate to take a school to expand.

Getting the right school to join the conference is important. But waiting around for the perfect school may mean that you'll never find a school.

Patriot Predictions
As always, some of these are cross posted in "The CSN Way" on the College Sporting News. There you can find not only a good rundown of the playoff situation, but also see that the Patriot League title is still wide open with Lehigh, Lafayette, Fordham, Colgate, Holy Cross and even Bucknell still with a realistic shot at the league title going into this weekend.

Lafayette over Fordham
This is another game which will be vital in the Patriot League title race. The questions that need to be answered are: Can Lafayette’s offense get back on track after Leopard quarterback Mike DiPaola melted down with three interceptions in a 27-17 defeat to Harvard? Can Fordham’s offense get things going against one of the most fearsome defenses in all of Division I, led by defensive tackle Kyle Sprenkle? Can Fordham’s offense score enough points with quarterback John Skelton to actually go 4-0 in the Patriot League and put them on the verge of the autobid? I think Lafayette’s defense finds a way to shut things down as the Leopards make yet another October and November run at the Patriot League title. It starts this weekend.
Lunchpail Leopards 21, Hard-Luck Rams 13

Georgetown over Bucknell
You read this right. I'm getting the feeling that the Hoyas are going to win their first game of the year after achieving a sort-of "moral victory" last week in a 35-28 loss to Fordham. Why? Maybe it's the combination of senior QB Matt Bassuener's leadership last week, or that Bucknell is simply loaded with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Something just feels right for the Hoyas this weekend. I think their hard work pays off.
Happy Hoyas 35, Bummed Bison 27

Towson over Colgate
This just seems like a bad matchup for Colgate, even with Towson's decimated offensive line and off-the-field issues this week. If there's one thing Towson can do, it's stop the run. If they do indeed ground RB Jordan Scott, this game will be over early. I think they do.
"Don't Call Us Tony The Tiger" 28, "Don't Call Us Toothpaste" 21

Press Links
Morning Call: Lehigh In Rush To Get Offense Going
Express-Times: Hawks In Must-Win Situation
Brown & White: Hawks Hungry For Win After 2 Losses
Brown & White: Diamond Tackles Competiton For Hawks
Worcester Telegram-Gazette: Back To Patriot Action
Boston Herald: Road Test Drives HC Hopes

Press Mash-Up
"We have to run the football better," Coen said Wednesday at the team's weekly media luncheon at Starters Pub. "Go back and look at the games we won last year and look at how we won them. We ran the football."

"[Kankam and Walker] are freshmen and they're going to make some mistakes," Coen said. "Having Josh and Matt back could give us all a shot in the arm. The bottom line is we have to run it better, have more balance in our offense and keep the defense off the field for longer stretches. We have to play the game well. We've done that in spurts, but not consistently."

"Offensively we need to control the ball. Defensively we need to find ways to pressure the quarterback," Coen said.

"I was talking with our trainers the other day and we said we've played six games, but the defense has played more like nine," Coen said. "The number of plays they've been out there for has been amazing. The defense has to do a better job of making stops on third down [where foes have a 44 percent conversion rate] and we have to do a better job of controlling the ball."

"There's more pressure on us to put more points on the board this week," Coen said. "We need to average more than four yards per carry, in my opinion. And, most importantly, we need to avoid the losses. We run an outside play at Yale and lose eight yards. We can't have that because those plays often lead to third-and-long."

"It's been tough," said Mountain Hawks standout wide receiver Sekou Yansane. "You never want to have a two-game losing streak. We know we have to bring our "A" game. This is the stretch. We control our destiny. We have to take care of business.

"It's definitely consistency and execution. The plays are there, the passes are there, the catches are there, the runs and holes are there. The backs and receivers have to make more plays, the line has to block better. We know, as a whole, we just have to execute and score more in the red zone."

"It's sort of a reality check," freshman TE Alex Wojdowski said of the team's recent losses. "Everyone realized we need to put in a lot more work and put more plays together if we want to win."

"We have the players," Lehigh's senior safety and captain Ernest Moore said. "We have the coaches. We just need to execute. That will solve our problems."

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

“[LB] Tim [Diamond] seems to be in on every play, whether it is in a game or practice, he’s got a great nose for the ball,” LB Matt Cohen said.

“The combination of winning and playing with your teammates keeps football fun for me,” Diamond said. “I just try to listen to the advice of the coaches during practice and apply what I learned to the games.”

“His discipline and ability to be coached allow him to be versatile when the coaches need him most,” Cohen said.

“My real goal is to win every game I play, hopefully that leads our team to a championship,” Diamond said.

Diamond’s team-first attitude has molded him into a premier defensive player for Head Coach Andy Coen.

“He’s a smart player who always knows his role on defense and is well prepared for every game,” Coen said.


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

Gilmore was really pleased with last week’s victory over Dartmouth, and through six games likes what he sees in this year’s Holy Cross team. “There’s a lot of resiliency,” he said. “The work ethic is outstanding, and the team concept is outstanding. There’s no player looking for individual accolades. There’s humbleness and confidence. There’s a positive feeling in the program.

“[Dartmouth] was a vital win for us,” junior defensive end Bryan Walwyn said. “We need to head into our Patriot League schedule with the confidence we can get our assignment done. After (the win over Dartmouth), we feel we can get it done and execute properly. Going into the league, we have the confidence we need to hopefully make a strong run.”

“That’s kind of a rough spell we have with three away games.,” said Crusaders coach Tom Gilmore, the architect of the Mount St. James revival. “We obviously need to take them one game at a time. Lehigh (3-3, 0-1) is an outstanding team and has won more Patriot League titles than anybody in recent years. Obviously, it’s a big game for us. We have to go down to their place.

"Our players are very excited about this game because of its impact. This is for the championship; this is for the playoffs."

“We’ve been performing very well and, obviously, Dom is a big part of it. He really has had only one off game (against Yale) and even then a couple of his passes were tips. We haven’t been turning it over and Dominic Randolph has been making great decisions.”

"He's very good," Head Coach Andy Coen said. "Yale is really the only team that was able to contain him. Last year we got in on him four times, we are watching all the tapes."

***********

"We've been down this road before," Coen added. "Our situation is what it is. You can't worry about it or be frightened by it. You have to be mentally and physically ready to play and just go out there and compete."

"I think we have a good mindset right now," Coen said. "We have to control the ball, we have to score points, we have to run the football."

"This is what playmakers are all about," Yansane said. "As a wideout, you want the ball in your hands. You want to be in the limelight. We have to come out and make plays."

“Except for UMass, they’re probably the most athletic team we face,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said of the defending PL champions. “When you watch them on film, you say, ‘Wow!’ because they have legitimate talent in all three phases. We have a big test.”

"We have to play them at some point. Let's play them now!" Lehigh coach Andy Coen said.

Comments

Anonymous said…
just got back from the Holy Cow! game. What a disaster. Total breakdowns on defense, no offense, multiple turnovers etc. I hope Lehigh this week goes back to basics and has super intense practices.
Anonymous said…
Hard to believe that this once proud and successful football program has fallen so far in such a short period of time. There seems to be a complete lack of focus, limited talent and poor coaching. Where do we go from here?

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