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Around The Horn, 11/5/2007

I was in the Bronx this weekend to watch the Holy Cross/Fordham game, and the pictures of that should be up soon at the College Sporting News for your viewing pleasure. One of my shots is to your left - is this the prettiest spot in the Bronx, or what?

Before we sum up the goings-on around the horn, I wanted to ask Lehigh alumni (and alums from "that school in Easton") for some personal stories of the most-played football rivalry. It doesn't matter if you're a fan, a player, or just an observer, I'm looking for a list of different stories to list on a special blog posting during "Rivalry Week". "The Rivalry" will be a week of celebration of the Lehigh/Lafayette game, and I very much would like to have a posting detailing what has made it great for you over the years. You can email me at charles.burton@collegesportingnews.com to share your story!

I also wanted to point out that Any Given Saturday, the premier FCS message board in the country, is being sponsored this week by fans of Lehigh and Lafayette. This means that every day a new fact is posted about "The Rivalry" on a special thread on the board. Just in case you weren't pumped up enough already about November 17th.

Let's go around the horn.

  • Georgetown was the last chance for the Patriot League to have a winning out-of-conference record on the season, but the hapless Hoyas ended up instead falling to non-scholarship Marist 37-34 in triple overtime. Both teams had their chances, and sophomore RB Charlie Houghton did everything he could to get the win with 163 yards rushing, 76 yards receiving, and 4 rushing touchdowns of 7, 10, 26, and 2 yards. But a key fumble by Houghton, a key interception by senior QB Matt Bassuener, and two missed FG by senior K Eric Bjonerud in the red zone could have been the difference for the Hoyas in winning or losing. As a result, Georgetown could very well be poised to be the first Hoya team in 110 years to lose 10 games in a season when Colgate comes to Washington, DC this weekend.
  • In a cruel postscript to this Hoya loss, after reading HoyaSaxa it becomes clear that the athletic department needs to have more respect for its football program. On "Senior Day" this weekend for the Hoyas, Georgetown decided instead to schedule their basketball opener on the exact same day at the exact same time, guaranteeing the seniors who gave their ACL and knee catrilage and suffered so much to continue football at Georgetown will have a small student section, no cheerleaders, and no band. It's an absolute disgrace - and people wonder why Georgetown football continues to struggle. This is an indicator of where football rates in that athletic department, and I feel sorry for suffering Hoyas fans on this one.
  • If you're to believe his interview on "CSN Waves" this week, sophomore LB James Crockett thought the Holy Cross/Fordham game was just another game: "every game is a big game". Hey James, the Brooklyn bridge isn't for sale, and I refuse to believe that you didn't prepare just a little harder in your 24-21 win over Holy Cross that gave Fordham their first Patriot League title and postseason appearance since 2002. Senior RB Jonte Coven had a career day running the ball in front of a sellout crowd of 8,300, grinding out 168 yards while scoring on an elusive 61 yard TD run in the first quarter. Crockett, who swept Defensive Player of the Week honors nationally, recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to put the Rams up 21-7, and got a game-clinching interception with 20 seconds left to give Fordham the win. "The entire week we focused on 'reroutes', because we felt their receivers didn't really get a lot of hands on them in previous games. I just tried to get a good reroute on the guy, and when I turned around to see where the ball was, I was able to make a play on it, step in front of it, and squeeze it out." He meant that, too: he had to fight for that ball, and he had the stronger hands. Congratulations to the Rams, who have gone from a 3-8 season last year to a playoff bid, making their story the best turnaround in FCS this year.
  • The other locker room in the Bronx, predictably, was not nearly as cheery. “The turnover battle was huge,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said. “We didn’t win that and that is a huge part of the game. Our mistakes were our own doing.” Certainly the two turnovers by Crockett were game-changers, but a fumble by senior WR Ryan Maher as the first half was closing also robbed the Crusaders of desperately-needed momentum. The Crusaders in general seemed tight to this reporter in the first half, as the wind and cold wreaked a little havoc on the timing game of their passes, but eventually junior QB Dominic Randolph did settle down and have another pretty good day (if you take away that interception): 32-53, 309 yards, 3 TDS. Coach Gilmore was surprised that the Rams ran as much as they did with the success that they did, even after they made some adjustments. Despite the setback, coach Gilmore continued to set the bar high for his troops the rest of the way: “If we win the next two games, we deserve a shot at the playoffs. And right now, I would expect to win a first-round game.”
  • 8-0 Yale is in position right now to win their first outright league title since 1980 after they beat Brown in the rain and wind, 17-7. Junior RB Mike McLeod, playing with a broken toe, ran for 185 yards and 1 TD and in the process increased his stranglehold on Yale's record books - and he's only a junior. The win means that Harvard/Yale (or "That OTHER game", as Lehigh and Lafayette fans like to call it) will have title implications. First, though, for the Eli is a revenge match against the team that prevented Yale last year from winning an outright Ivy title: Princeton. "Last year is what has been driving us," said senior FB Joe Fuccillo. And McLeod will be playing: according to head football coach Jack Sidlecki, it's just a "pain tolerance" thing.
  • Switching to the 3-4 was the way Lafayette won last weekend against Bucknell in a 34-7 rout where the defense shut out the Bison offense. You can either choose to believe that (where sophomore LB Samuel Leland got his first start, with 8 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss including 1 sack, and a fumble recovery) or you can believe junior WR Shaun Adair's reasoning: the fact that they pulled out their black jerseys. "We always win in them. It's a motivational thing. You see these jerseys and you want to play really well. Plus, it looks cool; so if you look good, you play good." Lehigh fans might disagree with that sentiment, but the stats don't lie: 4 catches, 77 yards, and one 49 yard TD strike. One wonders if the uni's will make the trip to Worcester, MA this week to see if they can help ruin Holy Cross' push at an at-large playoff bid.
  • We will see a motivated Bucknell team this weekend eager to erase the humiliating defeat last weekend against Lafayette where they only had 156 yards of offense and five turnovers. Like Lehigh last week, they kept things close in the first half after sophomore RB Josh Lee returned a blocked punt for a TD, but soon afterwards the defense gave up a 49 yard TD strike to Adair and a late field goal to go down 17-7 at the break. With five first downs on the game, the Bison are struggling on offense as well. "In order for us to do what we need to do, we have to be able to run the ball," Bison coach Tim Landis said. "When you can't run it, (opponents) know you're going to throw it." Despite the setback, Landis did see some things defensively. I saw progress defensively. "I know you're looking at the scoreboard and thinking, 'What's he on?' But I saw some good things that were encouraging." That may not be good news for Lehigh. That, and the fact that Bucknell will probably be pulling out all the stops to get the seniors the win: and might that include opening up the passing game?

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