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Sunday's Word: Delusional

It was a huge sports weekend for the Philadelphia (and, by extension, Lehigh Valley) area. Of course, last year if someone said that this sort of Philadelphia area sports weekend were possible, they'd have said that you were "delusional".

With two World Series wins at home, the improbable Phillies are on the brink of their first world title sine 1980, and all of a sudden you can see more Phillies shirts and hats (seemingly, with the tags still on them) on people in this area than ever before.

That's not all. Penn State further extended their stranglehold on the Big 10 title with a hard-fought 13-6 win over one of their big-time stumbling blocks, Ohio State. The Flyers are winning. Even the Eagles - who have given their fans more frustration than smiles this year - took advantage of a horrible call by the officials (the ball bounced straight up, zebras!) and put away the "Dirty Birds" of Atlanta 27-14.

In Lehigh's neck of college football, the Football Championship Subdivision, No. 9 Villanova seemed to be on the brink of putting away No. 1 James Madison - until a miracle last-second hail mary pass bounced off the helmet of a Wildcat defensive back and into the hands of wideout Bosco Williams for a miracle 23-19 victory. Despite the setback, Villanova (who beat Lehigh earlier in the year 33-14) sits at 5-2 in the powerful CAA and has every right to expect a playoff bid should they sweep through the rest of their schedule.

At Yale, Penn went to 3-0 in the Ivy League with a ridiculously defensive 9-7 victory over Yale, who fell to 1-2 and most likely fell out of the Ivy League title race.

And of course "that school in Easton" built off their dismantling of No. 14 Liberty last week and throttled Fordham 48-13 in the Bronx.

Everything seemed to come up smiles in this area this weekend - except up in Worcester, Mass, where a team picked to finish in fifth place in the Patriot League lost - pretty much as expected, except in the minds for a few "delusional" Lehigh fans (like myself, I hasten to add) - 35-21 to Holy Cross, who join "that school in Easton" and Colgate (52-28 winners at Bucknell) at 2-0 in the Patriot League.

The Crusaders, at 4-3, proved that they belong in the discussion for the Patriot League title, decimating Lehigh with an offense that looked at times uncomfortably like the one that Lehigh employed in 1998 that decimated everyone else in the league that year.

All is not lost for Lehigh with the defeat. At 1-1, technically the Mountain Hawks can still win the Patriot League title or a share of the title. In order to do so they'd have to win the rest of their games and have Holy Cross lose twice. It's certainly possible - the Crusaders did just that last year, losing to Fordham and Lafayette in consecutive weeks near the end of the season. And Lafayette suffered their first league loss to Holy Cross in 2006 before firing off four straight wins to close out the year and win the Patriot League and the autobid. It can, and has, happened.

But let's stop being "delusional" for a second. This Lehigh team that played this weekend is not a Patriot League champion team.

Why? That's easy.

Champions don't dig themselves in early holes every week and then force themselves to battle hard to come back.

Champions don't allow 100 yard rushers - or allow Crusader running backs to average 4.5 yards per carry.

Champions don't have a 0 sacks for 0 yards against the Patriot League preseason player of the year, senior QB Dominic Randolph.

Champions convert on the opportunities given to them on offense. At the end of the first half, you've got to find a way to make that second interception into points - somehow. Down 28-21, you've got to convert that 3rd-and-4 - you've got to put people in a position to make that play.

And for Heaven's sakes champions don't come out of the gates as completely flat as Lehigh did on that opening drive. I know Randolph is a great QB, but you can't make him look like Tom Brady on the very first series, giving up five completions on six straight passing plays (with a pass interference call for good measure, the only way we seemed to be able to slow him down).

I don't think it's because this team lacks heart, or work ethic. This team has battled back and played well for a good portion of this game, and others.

But I'm not "delusional". Work and heart aside, what we have before us a 2-5 team. A team that's worked hard and played tough - but lost. A team that is one loss away from being under .500 for the second straight year. A team that may very well go 4-7. Or maybe even 3-8.

Maybe it's unfair. Lehigh, after all, came into the year with uncertainty at QB and was predicted to be fifth out of seven teams in the Patriot League this year. Maybe it's unfair to expect titles and playoff berths. Maybe a winning record - maybe a solid third-place finish, with a win over Lafayette - should be accepted as enough progress this year.

But I, as well as all the other Lehigh fans I know, expect more. It doesn't matter is we're "delusional", whether it's realistic, or what - that simply is the expectation. If you come to Lehigh, you expect winning records and you expect to be a part of a championship team. You don't expect a solid third-place finish and maybe beating "that school in Easton".

Lehigh fans are not used to losing - nor should they be. I'm getting used to Lehigh losing now. When we didn't convert that 3rd-and-4, at no time did I say that Lehigh was going to come back and win this game. Against Harvard, I was utterly convinced we would win. But yesterday, I just knew that was it.

Does this team has talent? Yes. Senior RB Matt McGowan had a monster game. Senior DB Quadir Carter has rapidly become one of the best players on the defense with his second consecutive double-digit tackle game - and also came down with two huge interceptions.

But this team, for whatever reason, is not consistent enough - unable to put everything together in one game - to be Patriot League champions this year.

While still mathematically alive, I honestly don't believe that this team will suddenly pull it all together and avoid a losing record, beat the best rushing team in FCS, avoid a five-game losing streak to "that school in Easton" -- and also have Holy Cross lose twice.

I look at this team, and I don't see "Champions".

Is it due to the fact that Holy Cross looked more poised, more emotionally ready to start the game, more like a Championship team yesterday? Is it just the cumulative effect of so many losses this year, and last? Is it so many losses to "that school in Easton" that are clouding my optimism - my hopes - for another championship?

Or is is simply that I'm not "delusional" anymore?


Anonymous said…
Sad, but true.

Even Lehigh's non-conference win was against Drake, who is a distant also-ran in the Pioneer League.
Doug H said…
It was that kind of weekend for me.... Both of my football teams lost the same way... Come out flat... Climb back to tie only to lose it in the end... At least the Jags had a shot at the end but fell short... I'm glad I got to what so far is the highlight of their season.. Fordham.... I'll be watching the rest from Florida ( thanks Fox College Sports and Yahoo!!) It doesn't look good right now for the game in Easton but you never know... When was the last time that Lehigh upset Lafayette in that game???? All the surprises in my memory have been the other way...
Anonymous said…
I don't see why Lehigh can't go 3-0 before the Lafayette game. However bad Lehigh is, they will beat Gtown, just look at last year after Lehigh got killed by HC. Lehigh will then host Colgate, who Lehigh holds a 2-1 record against with Jordan Scott there. If the O and D Lines can step up and have big teams, I can see Lehigh winning. Bucknell is a dangerous team this year but if Lehigh has confidence, they will be able to take care of business. As we all know, throw the stats by the waste side for the Lehigh/Laf game. This team just needs to focus and put a full game together and they can be a threat down the stretch.
Anonymous said…
Yikes, even Polyanna Chuck has lost the faith.

This team will not win any League Title this year. Hopefully, we can start building for a better future.

I would happily settle for just one more win this year. BEAT LAFAYETTE!
Anonymous said…
If we're lucky maybe we beat a matter of fact most PA high school teams can beat them..sorry folks 3 - 8 is real possibility..what a shame...
Anonymous said…
Wow. Worry about Bucknell? Perhaps it is justified.
bertha said…
Sorry I did not mean to be anonmyous on the Bucknell comment. Just incognito.
Anonymous said…
One game at a time. Beat the Hoya's and drive onward. Go Lehigh.

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