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A Peek at Drake

We are a mere 3 days away from Lehigh's season opener versus Drake. This year, I'm planning to do the following: I'm going to break my game previews in two parts thi year: part one, on Wednesday, will involve taking out first look - our "peek" at Drake, if you will. On Fridays I'll get down to the nitty-gritty: listening to the weekly press conference (which is carried by Lehighsports.com, incidentally), looking at our opposition position-by-position - and delivering my prediction for this game and the Patriot League, too.

Oh yeah - if you're active on Facebook, you may want to enlist as a fan on Lehigh Football Nation's page on Facebook. It's neat because it has a messageboard (today's topic: the Drake game), it lets you know when the blog has been updated with new material... and it allows you to connect with other fans, too.

Let's get right to it.

(Photo Credit: Drake Athletics)

Coach Coen has has two season openers in his two seasons at Lehigh. In both years, he has lost the home opener: losing 17-16 in a rainstorm to Albany in 2006, and getting outlasted 30-20 by Villanova in 2007. In this important year for coach Coen, it feels like the Mountain Hawks - more than in other years - need to get started this year with a "W". A convincing win would be even better.

It's going to be a game of firsts for Lehigh. Our first look at the brand-new turf that was laid down at Murray Goodman stadium in the offseason. The first look at the new Rust Pavillion. The first 12:30 p.m. gametime in Spetember (before game times in September were generally at 1:00 p.m.). Our first look at sophomore QB J.B. Clark and his first game as a starter, as well as the debuts of junior FB Anthony Fossati, junior LB Al Pierce and sophomore CB John "Fear Itself" Kennedy. It's out first peek at an "Andy Coen offense", without the shadow of QB Sedale Threatt (and, by extension, former head coach Pete Lembo) hanging over it. It's also our first look at what could be a very good defense in 2008 - or at least that's what Mountain Hawk fans hope.

Last year, Lehigh suffered through more firsts they would rather forget about. Their first losing season since 1997. Their first losing record in the Patriot League since 1997. The first class to have a losing record at Murray Goodman statium since 1997. The first class to graduate from Lehigh going winless against "that school in Easton" since 1949.

With a game of "firsts", and especially with a first-time quarterback, there's bound to be first-game mistakes. But too many of them can kill you, and that's exactly what Lehigh cannot afford in their opener. Just ask Illinois State of the Missouri Valley Football Conference (nee Gateway) - who lost to (you guessed it) Drake last year 27-24.

Game Notes
Lehigh's game notes show Lehigh's two deep, and it's got a few surprises.

The first surprise: junior FB Anthony Fossati starting for senior FB Adam Watson at fullback with sophomore TE Andrew Wojdoski backling him up. Watson appears to be injured (more details as I get them). Fossati and Watson are the only two fullbacks on the roster: however, I'm not that concerned since Fossati has been a workout warrior in the offseason and is one of the strongest players on the team.

The next suprise is an "O" line full of sophomores: sophomore OL Ricky Clerge, sophomore OL William Rackley, and sophomore C Keith Schauder on the depth chart. Add to this freshman C Jim Liebler backing up at center, and that's a lot of youth to go with senior OL Kevin Bayani and senior OL Chris Tiefenthal starting on the line.

The final surprise is the presence of sophomore WR Craig Zurn on the depth chart at wideout. He impressed coach Coen in the preseason, and as promised he'll get a chance to show some stuff on opening day.

Drake had some game notes posted at this link.

Weather Report
The weather report - as it stands right now - calls for wind and rain with highs in the mid-70s. The remnants of Hurricane Hanna are the reason for the dour forecast - which gives Lehigh fans a bitter reminder of the wet 17-16 loss to Albany two years ago. However, all is not lost: the forecast is changing daily - and imporving. Let's hope Hanna waits to douse the Valley with rain until Sunday, shall we?

The Opening Peek at Drake
Drake comes from the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, or PFL for short. Some folks seem to think that "non-scholarship" means "no good". Nothing could be further from the truth.

Drake (founded in 1881: enrollment 3,164 undergraduates) is a private school based in Des Moines, Iowa. It is home to one of the top law schools in the country. They are a member of the extremely powerful Missouri Valley Conference in basketball, and won an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament last year. They also host one of the preeminent track events in the nation: the Drake Relays, which have been a part of April in Des Moines since 1910.

As you might imagine, Drake attracts speed - track stars of course. However, athletes that might get a scholarship for track are also permitted to walk-on to the non-scholarship football team - which is fully within the rules. For example, last year's hero for the Bulldogs against Illinois State, wide receiver Augustine Ageyi from Aurora, Colorado, also ran hurdles for Drake’s track team. (Ageyi is no longer with the football team, however.)

Drake is coached by first-year head coach Chris Creighton, who is the Bulldogs' third coach in three seasons. No, it's not what you think: in 2006, coach Rob Ash got hired by Montana State out of the Big Sky to clean up the mess in that program, and in 2007 Steve Loney was designated the interim coach since the Ash hiring was so late in the year. Still, that much disruption can't have been good for Drake.

Last Time Out for Drake
Drake has one game under their belt: the Bulldogs held on for a 17-13 win versus Upper Iowa (D-II). They struggled in the first 20 minutes of the game: they only had two first downs in the first 20 minutes, and only amassed 218 total offensive yards in the game. In both Drake touchdowns, turnovers were the key: an interception by junior CB Tim Harvey set up a two play scoring drive, and the the second touchdown came on a fumble return by junior DT Andrew Asbell. Senior QB Cole Ingle went 18-for-31 for 149 yards passing, 1 TD, and 1 interception.

Fan Base
Copycats? Or simply an imitator? You decide... but Drake Nation has the latest talk about their game against Upper Iowa, and color them unimpressed.

LFN's Drink of the Week
It's not exactly politically correct to have this on the blog, but what the heck: I don't care. In honor of the new Rust Pavillion, why not partake in a "Rusty Nail"? Over ice, pour 1 1/2 oz. Scotch and then pour 1/2 oz. Drambuie (a liqueur from France). Always pour the Drambuie last to allow it to mix with the lighter Scotch.

As always, Drinks of the Week have a place in tailgates, but please drink responsibly and please be of legal drinking age.

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