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FCS East Wrapup: Villanova Escapes Franklin Field with Win

(Photo Credit: Mustafa al-Ammar, The Daily Pennsylvanian)

I'm trying something new in an effort to make my weekly wrapups better: I'm going to attempt to sum up all the scores of the Patriot League for the week and also add to it other scores of interest from the Ivy League, CAA, NEC and others as I see fit. The focus will still be from a Lehigh perspective (meaning: the focus will be on Lehigh's past and upcoming opponents), but I think it's worth taking a peek at football elsewhere in the East as well.

  • At Franklin Field Saturday afternoon, a former Lehigh foe (Villanova) faced off against Penn (Lafayette's foe next week) in a "Big 5" rivalry game. Despite junior QB Antwon Young's four interceptions, Villanova escaped with a 20-14 overtime victory after senior DE Dave Dellasandro forced a fumble in the overtime that was recovered by Villanova - and after the Wildcats had their extra-point blocked, meaning a touchdown and an extra point would have given the Quakers the game. Wildcat head coach Andy Talley reportedly gave his Wildcats a "tongue lashing" in halftime, and his defense delivered, shutting out the Quakers the rest of the way. Young, who had a decent day versus Lehigh, was benched in favor of senior QB Chris Whitney, whose 7 yard touchdown run in overtime ended up being the difference in the game. "When you go to overtime, it's all about luck," Talley said in the post-game press conference. "Don't even think it's about who the better team is. Flip a coin - it's luck."
  • Penn, denied their first win over Villanova since 1911, showed some promise in the Ivy League title race as senior CB Chris Wynn picked off two lofted passes from Young in the end zone. "I think we saw that - God forbid that something should happen - but if some people do go down, we have other players to step in and do great jobs," Wynn said in the post-game press conference. Anyone else get the feeling that this weekend's clash versus Lafayette (who, along with Lehigh, had a bye week last week) could be a baseball score - 4 to 2?
  • No game was bigger last week than the game between the last two teams to win Football Championship Subdivision championships: James Madison and Appalachian State, which was bar none the most exciting Division I college game in the nation (and I mean that) last weekend. Appalachian State surged to a 21-0 lead by controlling the pace of the game and taking advantage of an early turnover by senior QB Rodney Landers and converting it into a touchdown. But the Dukes defense and special teams would give Landers and the offense a second chance, first with junior CB Scotty McGee's 99 yard return of the second half kickoff for a touchdown, then with the Dukes defense shutting down the rushing lanes for Appalachian State junior QB Armanti Edwards. The Dukes finally outlasted the Mountaineers in an exhilirating 35-32 thriller. "Good teams become great teams doing what they did tonight," said App State coach Jerry Moore after the game. "They're sitting on top of the mountain right now. They got the momentum going early in the third quarter and played off it the rest of the game."
  • At first glance, Delaware's loss to Furman 23-21 in South Carolina might seem like a reality check that the Blue Hens aren't as good as advertised. Look closer, though, and you'll see a Furman team that promises to be challenging for the SoCon title. Despite tape of a blown call involving punt interference, bad calls weren't the whole story for the Blue Hens: junior QB Rob Schoenhoft lofted four interceptions, and giving the Paladins that many freebies is no way to win a football game. "The bottom line is, we had a game that we could have won and should have won and we didn't win," Keeler said. "And what we did was, we allowed the officials to get into the ballgame." At 1-2, the Blue Hens face a must win over Albany of the NEC - who also need to realisitically win on the road at Tubby Raymond stadium to get into the playoffs for the first time in their history. It should be a dandy, and coach K.C. Keeler wshould have no problem motivating them: last time they played Albany in 2005, the Danes escaped with a program-defining moment and a 17-10 victory.
  • Colgate knew they would need to ride senior RB Jordan Scott in order to win games this year, and this week he rode them over the top in record-breaking fashion. In a 34-20 victory over scrappy Dartmouth, Scott became the all-time Patriot League rusher with 5,015 rushing yards for his career. In his 29 carry, 239 yard performance, he would score the game-tying touchdown and grind out key yards in the Raiders' come-from-behind victory. (He'd also secure College Sporting News Player of the Week honors.)
  • On any other weekend, Fordham's sophomore RB Xavier Martin would have easily got Patriot League "Player of the Week" honors in Fordham's come-from-behind 29-22 win over Columbia in the 7th annual "Liberty Cup" game. Imagine getting four touchdowns and 160 yards rushing: wouldn't you, well, assume you had the honor? Maybe it was because Fordham took advantage of a key blown subsitution when Fordham was getting ready to punt the ball, keeping a Ram drive alive and allowing Fordham to keep the momentum for the eventual win. “Columbia is a much-improved football team,” Fordham head coach Tom Masella said. “They did a tremendous job and kept us on our toes all day. Thank god our kids started to make some plays in the second half.” The Rams will play Colgate this week in what could shape up to be a very key game in the Patriot League race - and Fordham may need to rely on more than just the opposing coach missing a subsitution to help them win the game.
  • Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Times-Gazette called Holy Cross' fall-from-ahead defeat to Harvard 25-24 "Purple Pain" - which seems appropriate since the Crusaders let a 17-6 halftime lead dissolve with key turnovers. As Holy Cross was closing in on a score, Crimson senior LB Eric Shultz stripped the ball from Crusader senior QB Dominic Randolph to thwart the drive. That allowed Harvard senior QB Chris Pizzotti to make some second-half magic in front of a Friday night crowd of over 20,000 fans: a touchdown pass and two QB sneaks later, Harvard managed a 25-24 victory. “It’s a brutal way to lose a football game,” Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore said. “We have to continue to work on our stuff and get better. I give Harvard all the credit, but we’re making too many mistakes as games wear on. I thought we had momentum for a good chunk of the second and the third quarter, but we just couldn’t close it out.” Deep Purple next heads down to Georgetown, where they will be thinking "what if?" as they've lost two games to nationally ranked football teams by a grand total of 4 points.
  • On the Harvard sideline, head coach Tim Murphy pointed at what Pizzotti did after Shultz' forced fumble as the key to victory on Friday: a quick strike 68 yard touchdown pass to sophomore WR Marco Iannuzzi. “There’s no question it changed the whole complexion of the game, gave us momentum, gave us energy, and from there on in we just played inspired football,” Murphy said. This week, they'll face an interesting league test in Brown, who defense featuring senior DE James Develin disposed of Stony Brook 17-7. (You know, the Stony Brook team that beat Colgate earlier in the year 42-21.)
  • Cornell, who faces Lehigh in a couple weeks, got by Bucknell 21-20 on - of all things - a blocked extra point. Cornell senior LB Graham Rihn exploded sround the corner and blocked what would would have been the game-tying point for the Bison. Bucknell used something new in their triple-option attack - a passing game - to keep Cornell off guard. “We added some man coverage and changed up our zones,” Cornell head coach Jim Knowles said after the game. “All of a sudden it became a passing game, so we really had to make our adjustments. … We brought in some of our base coverages that we didn’t have in the game plan, but we used them because it became a passing game.” On the Bucknell sideline, despite sophomore WR Shaun Pasternak's banner day (11 catches, 117 yards, 2 touchdowns), the mood was glum. “It’s a tough one to lose,” Landis said. “Cornell outgained us and made the plays when they needed to.” Cornell hosts Yale next week, while Bucknell enters their bye week.
  • Georgetown, on the other hand, got smacked by Yale 47-7 in somewhat surprising fashion: not so much because Yale won, but because they won with a refound passing attack with senior QB Ryan Fodor and sophomore QB Brook Hart. The duo combined for 24-33 passing and 361 passing yards - and 4 touchdowns. The Hoyas, led by sophomore QB Keerome Lawrence, didn't do much offensively with 230 total yards on the afternoon, most of which was gained when the game was no longer in doubt. With an aggravated Holy Cross team coming to the District, don't expect a letup next week either, Hoya fans.
  • Finally, Lehigh's opponent this weekend - the Princeton Tigers - travelled down to South Carolina to compete against a former Lehigh head football coach in Kevin Higgins. After surging ahead to a 17-7 halftime lead against The Citadel, sophomore LB Reggie Rice blocked a Princeton punt and returned it 35 yards to turn the tide to the boys in powder blue en route to a 37-26 victory. Senior QB Brian Anderson had an OK day passing against a tough full-scholarship secondary, with 206 yards passing and 2 touchdowns, but with just over a 50% completion percentage and 2 interceptions. Still, Tiger head coach Roger Hughes is optimistic. "I think we will bounce back emotionally from this," he said. "We are also coming out much healthier [than last year vs. Hampton]."

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