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Sunday's Word: Emotion

Yeah, it would have been very, very easy to take one of a buffet of different words that describe what should be called from here on out as the "Mountain Meltdown". Take your pick, "Bad?" "Ugly?" "Stink?" "Disarray?" "Humiliate?" Taking one of those words and running with it would be way too easy, and talking through a nightmarish list of everything that happened on Saturday afternoon. But I'm not going to do that.

Instead, it's "emotion."

I keep going back to the words in the press conference after the Fordham loss from coach Coen, something I've mentioned over and over here. "The next two weeks will define who we are as a football team," he said. This week, with awful clarity, we see what football team this is. A team with no "emotion".

Coach Gilmore came out and said in the press conference, "I thought Lehigh was going to be a really emotional team with a league loss already. I stressed that point all week with our players that we would have to win that emotional [part of the] game."

What he didn't say is that Holy Cross seemed to win that part of the game before the opening snap. He could have, but he stopped himself short. He saw no need to pile on. The emotional state in this team is simply not right.

It's those type of emotional things, that maybe only are noticed by someone who is nuts enough to blog about Lehigh football may notice, come into greater clarity after this loss.

Like 2006 when the Lehigh team jumped on the Yale logo at halftime when they were getting their butts handed to them on the offensive and defensive lines. They did it again right before the Lafayette game as well in 2006, which handed coach Tavani a golden opportunity to become the master motivator he is. Tavani knows better than even coach Gilmore how to handle "emotion".

Both the Yale games and Lafayette games were losses. Both emotional outbursts of stomping on the logos were attempts by the team to show a bravado that "hey, we're Lehigh. We're faster than you, we're better than you, and you may as well not show up." It almost looks now, in retrospect, like a way to deny the reality - that we're no longer the best team out there. Yale's offensive line, they're good. Lafayette's offensive line, they're good.

Yale and Lafayette in 2006 were no longer buying into the "Lehigh mystique". The intimidation didn't work at all. Certainly not Lafayette, who thrashed us 49-27. I can't help thinking of the similarities between that game and the game this Saturday in the sense that going into both games, Lehigh had shown signs of playing good defense and playing good enough offense going into the game. But the defense was dissected, bit by painful bit. An exceptional quarterback found the open men, wide open, with nobody around them for big first downs.

For those that have been following Lehigh football as long as I have, they see the irony: the great teams in the late 1990s that went undefeated in the regular season didn't need to jump on logos to prove they were better. They would just get on the field and put the ball in the end zone. Their "emotion" was focused: Get on the field, shut up about it, and get it done.

And here, the season now resting in tatters, I see with clarity that the team felt the same way they did in 2006. And when I say team, I don't just mean the players, I also mean the coaching staff. They felt Lehigh was the most talented team out there. "We're Lehigh. We're going to get it all together, somehow, since we've got the faster players and the better players." It's as if Holy Cross was simply going to run away because we showed up.

We didn't need to work hard. We didn't need to go with any different gameplans that play better to our personnel strengths. We have great athletes. The other team is simply going to run away since we're always better than they are. "We're Lehigh."

Somewhere along the line, actually having dominating teams gave way to teams that simply fed off the legacy.

At no time did this 2007 team, even during the win against VMI, really earn that right to be called a dominating team in any phase of the game against anybody. This doesn't seem to be a team that has learned much of anything from the defeats in 2006 to the latest slide of three straight games.

Coach Gilmore, Holy Cross' head coach, must see the irony with clarity as well. He was on the coaching staff, next to coach Coen, coach Lembo, and head coach Kevin Higgins on those dominant Lehigh teams. Those teams did have "emotion", but it wasn't the "logo-jumping" kind of swagger. The emotion was focused into execution on the field of play. Coach Gilmore's current Crusader team shares that with the teams he was on at Lehigh.

It is that emotion which separates Holy Cross, who is in the hunt for their first-ever shot at the FCS playoffs (whether they win the Patriot League or not) and Lehigh, who is out of the hunt.

Coach Gilmore mentioned one other interesting thing from the press conference: that he "fully expects Lehigh to rebound and learn something from this, just like we would. It's a tough pill for them to swallow, but I know what the people here at Lehigh are all about, and I know they are going to respond in a positive way."

It is exactly how this coaching staff, and these players, respond to this beating that is the big question at this point. Coach Gilmore thinks that this staff will respond in a positive way. What I think is that this coaching staff needs to spend great, agonizing detail in getting in touch with "emotion". And it won't be easy.


Anonymous said…
Yes, this team could still turn it around and finish 7-4, which considering where we are at, would be a tremendous accomplishment. It would also tell us who is ready to finish, fight and work to make it happen. Coen needs to find out who has the heart to lay it all out there and who needs to get their head screwed back on. How the staff and the team responds this week will tell us what kind of character they have.
Anonymous said…
I'm 54 and have followed Lehigh since 1964. I have seen the terrible teams that Fred Dunlap inherited....leading to the winning tradition from about 1971 until now. There have only been 9 losing seasons in 36 years and the worst record I believe was in '92 (3-8). One thing I have never seen in all of those years, under six different coaches was a quitter attitude, which I seem to have noticed the past two weeks. Having said all of this, I believe that we need to give coach Coen one more year to straighten things out, but only if this year's team starts to show some guts and some spirit. All bets are off (giving this coach the benefit of the doubt) if the team continues to play as they did vs. HC. There can never be any excuse for a team to be flat, or to quit. I don't believe that we have done as good a job of recruiting the past five years as we had done from '97 - 2002. We do not have the kind of players we had in the past. I also feel that we have sort of become victims of our own success; we have lost brilliant football coaches and I cannot say that Gilmore, Chechini, Higgins,Lembo & Bottiglieri have been replaced with similar quality. We also have a bullseye on our back; everyone wants to prove themselves at our expense. Add it all up and the program is being tested.

In my opinion, we need to attract and retain quality assistant coaches. I am confident that AD Sterrett is watching closely - If he was very disappointed with 8-3 records and losses to LC, what will he say if the team is 3-8 and loses to LC?
Anonymous said…
I was a long time season ticket holder until this season. Didn't see the program improving based on last years performance. Limted talent, lack of focus and poor coaching add up to losing seasons. This was the first game I attended this year and it was painful to watch. We couldn't even field kickoffs and punts. As stated by others, how did we let so many good coaches go? Where would this program be with Tom Gilmore in charge? Unless Coach Coen has done some magical recruiting this program is a long way from getting back on track.
Lehigh 74 said…
There is an old expression, you are never as good as you look when you are winning and never as bad as you look when you are losing. Saturday's game was definitely ugly, but I don't think we are all that far away form turning the program around. Coen recruited some excellent freshman many of whom have already logged significant playing time. If Dominick Randolph played for Lehigh instead of Holy Cross this would be a very different team.
Anonymous said…
I have followed Lehigh football since 1962 and Saturday's performance was the worst I have ever seen and I saw the 1987 destruction by Holy Cross. That Lehigh team was badly outmatched. Holy Cross is certainly better than Lehigh this season, but not by seven TDs.

The players were listless and the coaches clueless. Nobody could be as bad as Lehigh looked Saturday.
Anonymous said…
The football program has been in decline for awhile now. Too much money and emphasis being placed on the "minor" sports. Take a page from Lafayette's playbook. Quit trying to field a team in every imaginable collegiate sport and concentrate on the revenue and crowd making sports - football, basketball and in Lehigh"s case, wrestling. Lafayette has poured tons of money into their fottball program and the results show. No reason to think they won't kick our asses again this year.
Lehigh 74 said…
The way we played Saturday the Lafayette JV could beat us. However, lets no forget that Lafayette has already lost to two teams that we defeated. Also some time ago, on the AGS board someone posted the amount of money I-AA schools in the Northeast spend on football. Believe it or not, Lehigh spends slightly more than Lafayette, slightly less than Colgate and Fordham and a lot more than Holy Cross.
4mrplaya said…
3-4???? Coach Coen needs to stop complaining about 4 o'clock exams, tough admissions, etc. Also am sick of hearing how "we fought back late . . .", "our guys fought hard . . .", " . . . they were a tough opponent . . ." None of those apply to the Holy Cross debacle.

Not up on LU recruiting . . . does anyone know how the last two years' recruiting ranked of the previous staff? Was the cupboard left bare ala Ty Willingham/Charlie Weiss?
Anonymous said…
4mrplaya -

This year's freshman class is entirely Andy's, and because of a late start, part of this sophomore class is his. The upper classmen were recruited by Lembo & Co., but remember, last year's team was an underachieving bunch that led the league in scoring average and only allowed 211 points (many coming vs. LC) Last year's team was loaded with players who dominated the PL all star squad so I can't buy any nonsense about Lembo leaving cupboard bare. One thing that I notice, especially when matched against the last three LC team -- Lehigh seems small especially along the lines. It looks from here as though better recruiting is needed from this point forward, since the entire PL is upgraded.
Having said all of that - there is absolutely no excuse for that debacle Saturday. How do you come out flat under the circumstances? How can players just let down so completely, as this team seemed to do Saturday? The focus needs to be on these coaches; I expect a rout of Gtown this Saturday...a game in which emotion is shown, the offense gets their head out of their Asses and the defense plays with intensity and pride. Otherwise, Andy will be the answer to a trivia question.
Anonymous said…
I don't think it is a recruiting problem, but a coaching problem. The same recruits were recruited by Holy Cross, and other good football schools. Over all of the years I have watched Lehigh football, I have never seen such an unmotivated team. The team looks broken when they come out onto the field. What are the coaches doing?

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