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Sweeping Up Before 2008 Comes to a Close

This blog posting is basically a hodge-podge of different things I wanted to mention before 2008 comes to a close.

My YouTube highlight film of Lehigh/Lafayette is still in the process of getting done (I forgot how much of a pain in the you-know-what it is to go through game film to make a ten-minute highlight reel), as is my announcement about the LFN "Hawks of the Year" (which, if I ever can get the hang of it, will have YouTube support as well). But those, alas, will have to wait until 2009 to be complete.

I've archived pretty much all of the Lehigh game wrap-ups for 2008 from the mainstream media on the CSN Log, before it's gone to the dusty archives of the Easton Express-Times and Allentown Morning Call. I've also been archiving much of the press clippings from the rest of the Patriot League, Richmond, and other schools. It's a big job - and I'm working to make it less so.

I also recently helped pick the College Sporting News Fab 50, as well as doing…

Snow Can't Stop Lehigh Basketball (And Wresting)

When I heard that the temperate Pacific Northwest was getting hit by snow from my grandmother, I knew that the Lehigh men's basketball game versus Washington may have been in trouble. And while this picture of a snowman next to Seattle's space needle isn't necessarily a sign of the Apocalypse (though I'm still debating if the course of events that put the Eagles are in the NFL playoffs - a historic blowout of the Cowboys, alongside wins by the Texans and Raiders - the Raiders, fer Crissakes! - may very well be), it was enough to show that the Washington game would be postponed officially - and most likely cancelled.

It's worth mentioning, from the official release, what the men's basketball team went through:

8:00 AM – Team departs Taylor Gym for New Jersey to play Monmouth
3:03 PM – Lehigh defeats Monmouth, 80-71
4:00 PM – Team departs Boylan Gymnasium for Newark/Liberty Int’l Airport
5:00 PM – Team arrives at EWR
6:40 PM – Finish checking in for flight
7:15 PM – Sc…

Richmond Goes From A Near-Patriot "Downgrade" to National Championship

(Photo Credit: Alexa Welch Edlund, The Richmond Times-Dispatch)

This weekend, the Richmond Spiders came away with the 2008 Division I Football Championship. The Spiders, of the powerful Colonial Athletic Association used their powerful defense to stonewall four division champions. The first came against Eastern Kentucky of the OVC (38-10, at home), against Appalachian State of the SoCon (yes, that Appalachian State, on the road at Kidd Brewer Stadium) 33-13, and against Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (21-20, on the road).

The Spiders then proceeded to beat the Big Sky conference champions into submission at the site of the Division I National Championship game in Chattanooga, Tennessee 24-7 in front of a near-sold-out Finley Stadium and in front of a national ESPN2 audience.

The broadcast was an effective three-hour commercial about the University of Richmond and their academics. First year head coach and Richmond football alumnus Mike London (who took over f…

The End of High School Championships Mean Recuiting Season Is Here

It seems like the Lehigh Valley isn't even done celebrating Liberty's first-ever state high school football PIAA 4A title (with a parade and everything), in this football-crazy part of Pennsylvania. But as the bands put away their instruments and the crepe paper is put away, folks in the Valley are already looking over the high school seniors to see which athletes might be able to play Division I football in the Patriot League.

Liberty has an assistant coach with a Lehigh connection - Jim Tkatch, whose son Bo played for Lehigh before tragically taking his own life only a year ago. Firmly ensconced in the Liberty program physically and emotionally, you have to hope that Mr. Tkatch might be pointing some high-academic seniors to South Mountain to play football. Liberty has recently put players like FB Andres Morales (Rutgers) and the son of former NFLer Bo Orlando, WR Joey Orlando (New Hampshire) in Division I programs.

Liberty isn't the only place that the rumor mill is st…

I Love Being Called "Blissfully Pretentious"

As the Lehigh football offseason gets in full swing, it's time to get some dibs and dabs from "The Rivalry" that somehow got missed in the flood of football from "The Rivalry" to the FCS National Championship game.

But nothing is better than having your school called "Blissfully Pretentious" by a columnist for the Virginian-Pilot. Bob Molinaro is lamenting the fact that the Virginia/Virginia Tech game doesn't have a snappy nickname, and talks about - you guessed it - "The Rivalry":
This time of year, we're reminded of the catchy nicknames attached to college football rivalries.Then there's Saturday's game between Virginia and Virginia Tech.What it lacks, besides a decent rivalry, is a nifty nickname....

Football in the state wasn't much to shout about for many years, going back to the days when people didn't have anything better to do but hang silly colloquial names on games. By the time somebody tried to come up with a…

Exams... And A Week Without Blogging?

Yep, a week without blogging about Lehigh. I guess I just experienced my end-of-the-football-year crash, officially. I didn't even sum up last week's games - even the thriller against Albany this Monday, a very, very big December win for these Mountain Hawks. (You have to watch the final seconds on the post-game show. Trust me, it's worth it.)

Fortunately for me, it's exam time - and there's nothing big on the Lehigh schedule this weekend.

In the next couple of weeks, I hope to have some special football goodies available here, including a season recap, "Hawks of the Year", and other good stuff.

Don't forget too that it's the "Final Four" in the FCS playoffs, featuring James Madison, Northern Iowa, Montana... and Richmond, the team that at one time was thinking about going to the Patriot League. I mentioned in my weekly preview of the FCS games this weekend to be afraid of the Spiders.

Lehigh Sports Weekend: A Very Busy Friday

Since it's still college football season for me (as evidenced by my new poll asking readers for their vote for LFN Player of the Year, my open letter to NCAA President Myles Brand, and my preview of FCS games this weekend, including the playoff quarterfinal games), I haven't had much of a chance to do much hyping of the Lehigh winter sports that I enjoy so much.

But while I was busy, Lehigh's wrestling team was - shall we say - busy.

Busy resurrecting themselves as a national program. As EIWA title contenders. Maybe even rising from the ashes to make some serious noise this March in the NCAA Championships, too.

Lehigh has gone from being unranked starting the year from going an amazing 8-0 in the early going all the way to a No. 10 Intermat ranking. That included an utter 41-3 domination of Princeton. A win over No. 9 Michigan. And last weekend, it meant an upset win over No. 7 Oklahoma State in the Northeast Duals to give the Lehigh wrestlers a perfect 8-0 mark.

That'…

Brian Jackson Is MVP of The 144th (According to Readers)

While Lehigh's men's basketball's 77-64 loss to St. Joe's yesterday was no moral victory, it does bring back into focus the big victory from before Thanksgiving: Lehigh's win in the 144th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette. And you, the readers of the blog, have spoken.

According to you, the MVP of the 144th is none other than senior DL Brian Jackson. In the biggest game of the year, he came up with his best day as a Mountain Hawk: 8 tackles with 3 1/2 sacks for 19 yards lost. His pass rush - against, mind you, a powerful Leopard "O" line - was a key reason that Lafayette's offense never got on track against us. His final game as a Mountain Hawk is one that definitely deserves the honors bestowed upon him by you, the readers.

Game balls for the 144th:

Reader's Choice: Senior DL Brian Jackson

Offense: (tie) Sophomore QB J.B. Clark (12/22 passing, 201 yards, 2 TDs), senior WR Sekou Yansane (3 catches, 56 yards, including one ESPN SportsCenter hig…

St. Joe's Hawks Swoop Into Bethlehem

(Photo Credit: The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Mercifully, our Mountain Hawk doesn't attempt to flap his wings during every minute of every half during men's basketball games.

Though hopefully our Mountain Hawk will be, let's just say, around the "other" flapping Hawk for some serious mocking action at 7:00 p.m. tonight at Stabler Arena as St. Joe's swoop in for the biggest men's basketball game in Stabler in years.

Normally, I wouldn't be advocating that our Lehigh men's basketball team mock anybody, never mind in December. But after a torrid 5-1 start - including a win over Rutgers of the Big East, capping off the most successful November Run in Lehigh men's basketball history - you can say quite resoundingly that the Mountain Hawks have earned the right to trash talk.

(Although this game could be hazardous to my health. I've already talked too much trash to my wife, a Rutgers alumna, about the Hawks' win over the Scarlet Knights. What if Le…

Wildcats Whomp Patriot League Champion

(Photo Credit: Laurence Kesterson/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Officially, the Patriot League football season doesn't end the week before Thanksgiving. That's because the Patriot League champion participates in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs every year.

This weekend, however, it sure felt like it ended seven days earlier.

Patriot League champs Colgate got throttled 55-28 in a game that wasn't even as competitive as this final score indicated.

The FCS playoffs for the Patriot League have traditionally resulted in some thrilling games in the past. Think of Lehigh's 2004 heartbreaker to eventual national champion James Madison in a 14-13 dogfight. Or Fordham matching UMass shot for shot last year in a 49-35 shootout. Or "that school in Easton" giving Delaware all they could handle in 2004 before falling 28-14 - or scaring the pants off of Appalachian State the following year after falling 34-23.

This year? Not so much. Villanova junior WR Matt …

Beating Rutgers Makes This the Greatest Week Ever?

No, Virginia, Rutgers forward Corey Chandler's blank stare right here isn't from Lehigh's huge upset win today.

But after Lehigh's 76-71 victory the day before Turkey Day, I sure can picture Chandler's face looking like this after this game.

You thought this was a typo? Lehigh men's basketball team beating Rutgers? Big East Rutgers? The Scarlet "We Last Lost to the Engineers.. In 1967" Knights?

It's not a typo. Lehigh did indeed beat a Big East team for the first time since joining the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks won at Rutgers for the first time since 1962.

John Feinstein, is Lehigh a wrestling school?

How on this Good Green Earth did Lehigh do it? Normally, a "smaller" team wins a game over a power conference team by shooting lights-out - but Lehigh only shot just around 40% from the field. Instead, Lehigh won it by matching the bigger Scarlet Knight team rebound for rebound - with junior G Marquis Hall nabbing 15 of Lehig…

Patriot League All-League Teams Include Nine Mountain Hawks

The good news keeps pouring in for Lehigh, as the Patriot League announced their all-League team for 2008, and the list included seven first-team players and two second-team players.  
Both the offensive player of the year and defensive player of the year were - for the first time ever -  repeat selections.   Both Holy Cross senior QB Dominic Randolph  and "That school in Easton"'s senior LB Andy Romans (who cheap-shotted sophomore QB J.B. Clark on the final play of the game last Saturday) were player of the year selections in 2007.
In addition, Colgate freshman RB Nate Eachus showed up on the Patriot League first-team and also won freshman of the year honors - the last time that was done was, well, when Colgate senior RB Jordan Scott did the honors in 2004.  
Both of these Raiders, of course, haven't finished their season: they're playing at Villanova in the first round of the FCS playoffs, thanks to their 28-27 victory over Holy Cross this weekend.  As for the Cru…

Monday's Word: Thesaurus

It's two days later and the words are flowing easily. I don't need to check a "thesaurus", but I will anyway. It's blissful. Cheerful. Chipper. Delighted. Ecstatic. Gleeful. Joyous. Merry. Overjoyed.

And if I feel this way, imagine how ecstatic the players are. I think the face of senior WR Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald just says in all in this photo from Lehigh Athletics.

But what really struck me in the emotion around the Lehigh sideline and with the fans rushing the field was how important this game really felt to those fans.

I got razzed by a lot of Lafayette fans when I said to them that "The Rivalry" meant everything to them, and when Lehigh was beating Lehigh on a regular basis in the late '90s that the game largely seemed like an afterthought. But it was undeniably true. Lafayette was talking about demoting the team to D-III and had an aging stadium with wooden bleachers that dated from the Eisenhour administration. Lehi…

Pictures from The 144th "Rivalry"

They're up in my Webshots gallery now here, but I'd like to share my favorite as well. Check out the TD catch by senior WR Nick Johnson.

Oh yeah. I'm baskin'.

[UPDATE: There are tons more photos online, too. Check out the gallery from the Easton Express-Times, the gallery from the Allentown Morning Call, and a great selection of shots from the postgame celebration from the official Lehigh Athletics site.]

Lehigh 31, Lafayette 15, final

You know, I've never blogged about a game where Lehigh actually beat Lafayette.

I've blogged on the last regular season game of the year after blowout losses, heartbreaking losses, losses that kept Lehigh from championships.

But never have I blogged about a win.

While the MVP of "The Rivalry" officially went to sophomore QB J.B. Clark - and he did have a great game (12/22 passing, 201 yards, 2 TDs) - to me there really wasn't any one MVP. This was a complete team effort, with a lot of those long-suffering seniors having one play here, one play there to bring victory to the Mountain Hawks.

Plays like:
Senior P/K Jason Leo nailing a 40 yard FG in the 1st quarter to start the scoring. He'd be perfect on his kicks in this game, and also boot 7 punts for an average of 42.9 yards, including a 59 yarder. One would be downed at the 1 yard line.Junior LB Heath Brickner, who would stop Lafayette's opening drive by reaching up and grabbing an interception. Brickner w…

Preview of the 144th: Lehigh at Lafayette, "The Rivalry"

(Photo Credit: Lafayette Athletics)

"The Rivalry" makes you do strange things.

Today, I was looking in my closet for what to wear. I found a very, very old Lehigh University sweatshirt in its blocky "LU" glory. I'm not sure I ever wore it before.

Normally I'd wear a thin long-sleeved Lehigh shirt I got for Christmas last year. But when you've lost four games to "that school in Easton" in a row, you need to bring out the big guns.

So today, on this twenty-first day on November 2008, I'm here at my day job wearing a bulky, blocky LU sweatshirt from (generously) the early 1990s. And the only reason is that I'm trying in a weird, delusional way to turn this Lehigh luck around.

Because Heaven Knows this Lehigh team needs a little luck this year.

Four games lost by a grand total of 8 points. Games lost on the last play of the game - twice. And any one of those going the other way would have been the difference between an under-.500 season a…

"The Hate"

(Photo Credit: Brown & White)

The picture to the left certainly isn't politically correct. It's raw. It's irreverent. And it sums up the feelings between these two schools perfectly. Oddly enough, this tails into a tradition at Lehigh and Lafayette where fraternities and houses hang banners celebrating the game to come.

Why is it that we hate what we most resemble? It's not unique to Lehigh and "that school from Easton": Harvard and Yale are both schools with global academic brands that are more similar than different. Army and Navy detest each other, but both share in that armed forces life and face the same challenges as institutions.

Demographically, Lehigh and "that school from Easton" are very similar: most of their students come from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They are schools that are known for their hard-studying, hard-partying attitudes - and have had rocky relationships with the towns that host them in Bethlehem and Easton.

Yet th…