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Preview of "The Rivalry"

It's JUST about beating Lafayette.

Kinda like saying, it's JUST about breathing.

Sure, you can say that the 143rd meeting isn't about a Patriot League championship. You could also say it's about a winning season or positive momentum going into next year, and it is those things as well.

But when you cut out the history, "the Hate", and everything else. you're left with the simple truth: it's JUST about beating Lafayette.

It's about giving the seniors their first-ever taste of a win over the Leopards.

It's about finally not having to hear it from that friend or co-worker that Lafayette is better.

2005.

The feeling of a win over the Leopards that will mean 364 days of thinking that we are better.

Let's get it on.

Game Notes & Weather Report
The first order of business is the depth chart at runningback, our M*A*S*H unit. The starters listed are freshman RB Jaren Walker and freshman RB Kwesi Kankam, although junior RB Josh Pastore is rumored to be able to play. What about junior RB Matt McGowan, the perennial enigma? No word as of yet...

Other than that, the same situation seems to be in play as last week versus Bucknell. Senior "slash" Sedale Threatt and sophomore QB Chris Bokosky will split time under center, and there don't appear to be any other changes. Sophomore LB Heath Brickner will be back at outside linebacker for the second straight week.

Will it rain? That's the million-dollar question tomorrow. An ever-changing forecast seems to put the rain coming through at night after the game is through - nice for all you that plan to tailgate after the game. Other than that, it's planned to be just about as good as one could expect for a November in the Lehigh Valley - although a bit cold, high of 47 and partly sunny.

Offense
Lafayette isn't fancy: they want to win the ball game with a big, physical presence, running the ball, and pinpoint passing to keep the defense off balance. Last year in the 49-27 game, tehy did so nearly flawlessly. This year, the personnel is different but they will aim to do the same thing.

Since the departure of Brad Maurer last year, the Leopards have struggled to find consistency at quarterback. The starter they have found is sophomore QB Robert Curley, who is a mobile quarterback in the Maurer mold who is accurate (62% completion percentage) and can take off with the ball (119 yards, 1 TD). Still, he is pretty green and obviously hasn't played in a game of this magnitude, and the Leopard offense has struggled to adjust all year to life without Maurer, and we could expect to see the team continue to adjust tomorrow.

Like Lehigh, Lafayette's backfield has been a M*A*S*H unit as well. No fewer than eight tailbacks have carried the rock for the Leopards this year, as injuries have caused Lafayette to reach deep down the depth chart. This week, the starting FB/RB tandem is sophomore RB Tyrell Coon and sophomore FB Joe Russo. Russo, a good straight-ahead runner and excellent pass-catcher, has been more involved with the running game due to injury, while Coon is more of a speed guy who erupted for a rushing touchdown (and picked up a blocked punt and brought it in for a TD) last week. Don't be at all surprised if sophomore RB Matt Ferber, a converted fullback himself, gets a lot of carries either in their tailback-by-committee approach, especially if they're up late in the game.

When Curley does pass, he'll be lofting the ball to one of the best combinations of hands and speed in the Patriot League in junior WR Shaun Adair. He needs to be accounted for at all times, while senior WR Duaeno Dorsey (when healthy) has also been a good possession receiver. After those two, however, there hasn't been a lot of consistency of a passing threats in sophomore TE Adam Gill or senior WR Kyle Roeder. The opportunity exists to shut down this passing attack.

Big 310 lb senior OL Jesse Padilla anchors a big, physical line that nevertheless hasn't been as dominating as the "O" lines of years past. Having given up 16 sacks, one would hope blitzes to put lots of pressure on young Curley is a key part of the gameplan.

Defense
This base 4-3 is one fearsome unit. Most of the year they had been listed in the Top 20 defenses in the country in terms of scoring. They are a team that mixes up their blitzes well and always brings the heat. With a Lehigh team that has struggled on offense all year, we could be in for a long day if we can't figure out how to attack this unit.

Anchoring the "D" line is the guy that's been haunting my nightmares for a year now, senior DT Kyle Sprenkle. At 6'3 270 lbs, he's a behemoth to block with 38 tackles and 5 1/2 tackles for loss. Senior DE Keith Bloom is another guy that brings heat with 36 tackles and 6 tackles for loss. Simply, this is the best front four we've faced all year.

The linebackers don't provide much relief, with junior LB Andy Romans also proving to be a terror tackler underneath. The numbers are staggering: 103 tackles. 11 tackles for loss. 3 forced fumbles. Picking him up in blitz situations is going to be crucial. Sophomore LB Mark Leggiero is also a pretty good tackler, with 73 including 5 1/2 tackles for loss.

Senior FS Marcel Quarterman leads a defensive backfield which has 11 interceptions on the year, paced by two from Quarterman and three from senior CB Adrian Lawson's three. Overall, there's not many places to hide when facing this "D".

Special Teams
Freshman K Davis Rodriguez has proven to be a clutch kicker this year, getting key kicks versus Holy Cross and in the infamous 8-7 game at Penn. On the year, he's 8-for-13 with an excellent leg, with 28 for 30 on extra points. On kickoffs, sophomore K Chris Cosgrove does those duties.

Senior P David Yankovich is another great punter in the Patriot League, with a 41.7 yard average with 14 landing inside the 20. Junior WR Shaun Adair is a very dangerous return man, with 556 yard returning punts and kicks with 1 touchdown.

Keys To The Game
1.Turnovers. The Mountain Hawks cannot afford to turn over the ball often. Handing the lead to the Leopards and having to come from behind on that defense is something I would rather not have to consider.
2.Smashing.Lafayette's offense is young and can be dominated by a hard-hitting defense that smashes them early and often. Having the bodies fly around early in this game would go a long way towards a victory.
3.Trickery.If there was ever time for trickery, it would be right here, right now against this defense. One play to get am esay six points could be the difference.
4.Take and make your points. If you can only get 3's, take 3's and make them. With two defensive teams, points are at a premium and those 3's could be the difference between winning and losing Saturday.

Fearless Prediction
If you're going into this game expecting a lot of scoring, chances are you'll be disappointed. All signs is that this game will be a defensive struggle, with every point a battle. Both teams are more alike than anyone would care to admit: both Lafayette and Lehigh were picked to finish 1 and 2 in the league respectively, both are sitting just above Bucknell in the league standings, and both are defensive teams that seemed to find all the answers on offense the week before "The Rivalry".

Here is a prediction that is made in the most fearless of ways. Lehigh will win this game; and that the player that was much-maligned by the "fans" this year in Sedale Threatt will figure somehow, some way, in the play to make them winners. All of Frank Tavani's motivational speeches won't help reverse the fact that they are the hunted; Lehigh is the team that will show that outpouring of emotion; and they have the best offensive athlete on the day in Sedale.

Lehigh 20, Lafayette 17

Comments

Anonymous said…
ohhh Lafayette won...of course we were going to win. Go Lafayette!!!

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