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Preview of Colgate at Lehigh: "Hate the 'Gate"

Call it "Family Weekend", "Hate the 'Gate" weekend (a term coined by former Lehigh LB Matt Mohler), or what you will: meaningful November football is back in Bethlehem this weekend. And not even a trip to Disney could keep me away from Murray Goodman stadium at 12:30PM this Saturday.

Last year, Lehigh had already amassed two league losses and was out of the title race when they travelled up to Hamilton. Lehigh's side didn't appear to have a lot of juice as they lost 21-7. This year, however, there's a tantalizing glimpse of a game that could be in the mold of the exciting Lehigh/Colgate games that used to determine the Patriot League champion on a regular basis.

Start with the fact that Colgate, who knocked out the Leopards' starting QB last weekend before scoring three second-half touchdowns in a 21-13 victory, found the 24th position in the Sports Network Top 25 last week.

Add to that the fact that Lehigh, with one league loss, has to beat the 7-2 Raiders in order to stay alive in the race for the Patriot League title.

In this mix comes something extremely intriguing as well: a potential matchup between two local hero RBs from the Hazelton area. You can bet the Hazelton area football followers will be out in force to watch this one.

That is, if senior RB Matt McGowan even plays.

Last week versus Georgetown, what every Lehigh fan this year had dreaded finally happened - McGowan came out in the second quarter with a badly sprained ankle, and his backup sophomore RB Jay Campbell and senior FB Adam Watson had to finish out the game.

Whether McGowan comes back at all - never mind at 100% - his sprained ankle might loom large in Lehigh's chances of staying alive for a Patriot League title.

Mickey can wait.

Game Notes
If you believe the official releases, there is not a single change from last week's two deep to this week's - never mind that senior WR Sekou Yansane and senior OL Kevin Bayani, among others, didn't make the trip to Georgetown due to injuries.

While their backups, junior OL Frank Giacalone by all accounts filled in admirably, as did junior WR Brien Ruyak - you have to wonder if Yansane, Bayani and McGowan are all truly at 100% going into this game. As a Lehigh fan, this makes me nervous to the Nth degree.

It's looking like senior DL Paul Bode is still out of the lineup after his season (and possibly career-ending) injury at Harvard, and senior DL Jon Warren remains as the starter. Warren has done a great job, and I've been pretty impressed with him all year.

Weather Report
Simply put, it's typical November football weather out there. Well, OK, with a high of about 60 it will be warmer than usual. (Granted, I am coming from 81 degree weather in Orlando.) Just ignore the cloudy weather with 40% chance of rain and go to the game.

A Word on Colgate
The rivalry between Lehigh and Colgate has come a long way from the first game in 1922, which was played in Johnson City near Binghamton, NY. It was set up by William Fisher, the athletics director of the Endicott-Johnson corporation, and Lehigh's athletics director at the time, H.R. Reiter. The New York Times reported that the game "will be of great interest to all Central New York and Pennsylvania, and will probably result in an annual contest in Johnson City."

Although the yearly meeting in Johnson City wasn't meant to be, both national powers at that time battled fiercely, by account of the New York Times. Lehigh center "Wild Bill" Springsteen recovered a fumble for a touchdown to go up 6-0, but the Maroons (as they were then called) piled up 35 unanswered points to win that inaugural game 35-6.

In the modern era, former Lehigh head football coach Fred Dunlap, who was a star football player at Colgate, helped get the Raiders and Mountain Hawks together in the Patriot League. He saw how similar Colgate and Lehigh were in terms of academics and athletics. And when the Patriot League formed in 1987, it was natural that Lehigh's northern rival be included along with Holy Cross, Lafayette, Bucknell, Lehigh and Davidson.

More recently, this game has generally featured prominently in the battle for the Patriot League title, which has brought this historic rivalry into sharper focus. Since 1997, Lehigh or Colgate have been either outright or co-champions in every Patriot League title. One of those games featured another sophomore quarterback: QB Sedale Threatt, in his second start in relief of injured starter Mark Borda, who helped drop 50 on the Raiders in a wild 50-34 victory in 2005.

LFN's Drink of the Week
What is Lehigh going to need to win this game this week? Endurance. Toughness. Power. Strength. What drink typefies that? Red Bull, of course (and apropos for a game versus the former Red Raiders of Colgate). And what sort of drinks go with tailgating? Well, what about Jager Bombs? Also apropos - if sophomore QB J.B. Clark can "bomb away" against the Raider secondary. Enjoy!

As always, Drinks of the week have a place in responsible tailgates: that means being over 21 and drinking responsibly. Please do that.

Breaking Down Colgate
Offense
Subtlety is not head coach Dick Biddle's calling card on offense. Biddle, now in his 13th year at Colgate, likes to line up a huge offensive line and pound you until you can't get up again, lulling the pass defense to sleep and then striking right at it for huge gains. They don't always jump on you early, but few teams are as devastaing as Colgate can be in the 4th quarter.

Colgate has one back - senior RB Jordan Scott - that might be playing on Sundays when all is said and done. With 5,445 career rushing yards, he's simply the all-time Patriot League rushing leader and the all-time FCS carries leader with 1,191 (not to mention having 972 rushing yards and 11 TDs this year). When he's not ready - and with him sitting out the last three games with an ankle injury - it's the true freshman from McGowan's high school Hazleton Area who has been a dominating presence: freshman RB/LB Nate Eachus (pictured) with 651 yards and 8 TDs in his own right.

Eachus and McGowan are very similar backs - not shying away from contact at all, more than willing to run people over. When healthy, Scott isn't exactly elusive but he's even better at reading defenses and finding the daylight. Both are extremely tough to bring down in the open field by the secondary. The scary thought - as coach Biddle raised this week - is having both Scott and Eachus in the backfield at the same time.

It will take everything our defense has to stop these two offensive weapons - whose great running starts from the awesome "O" line play. Pro scouts have been taking a lot of looks at the Raider's two 300 lb bookend tackles: senior OL Steve Jonas and 6'6 senior OL Nick Hennessey. Add to this senior C Justin Snyder, senior OL Rich Rosabella and junior OL Zach Posey, you have what has to be considered one of the finest "O" lines in all of FCS, who have only given up 11 sacks all year to go with the great rushing yardage. (Don't forget to include senior FB Eric Tupta and junior TE Adrien Scriefer to the list of "linemen", too, players who don't usually touch the ball but are devastating in the blocking department.)

The quarterback situation, unsettled at the beginning of the year, has been settled by the steady hand of sophomore QB Greg Sullivan. In a way, he's kind of like a "Jordan Scott who oh-by-the-way can throw": he's actually the second-leading rusher on the team with 708 yards and 6 rushing TDs to go with his 1,180 yards passing and 6 passing TDs. Also like Scott and Eachus, he has the ability to hit open rushing lanes and is not easy to bring down in the open field.

When Sullivan does pass, more often than not the target is to 6'6 junior WR Pat Simonds, who has 812 yards receiving and 3 TDs to lead the Raiders. While generally used as a counterpoint to defenses overemphasizing the run, he has also been a go-to guy in key late-game situations as well. He certainly has the tools to break your heart in a close game, especially deceptive speed; he must be watched, too. Behind him is sophomore WR Doug Rosnick and senior WR Sam Breslin.

Defense
Colgate basically plays a straight-up 4-3 defense. This year it's been a solid unit, but not the same dominating unit it was in, say, 2003 when they went to the championship game. Colgate fans may say, "Tem Lukabu, where are you?". but truth be known this is a defense that has started to jell.

The beefy "D" line is anchored by 287 lb junior NT Paul Mancuso, while statistically junior DE Austin Douglas (31 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks) has stood out. In the linebacking unit, junior LB Stephen Hadley leads the team in tackles (55) with another freshman, freshman LB Mike Carbone, not far behind (51).

This front seven hasn't dominated games: they average giving up 177 yards on the ground, and are averaging a little more than 2 sacks a game. But they are agressive and force turnovers at an alarming rate: they've forced 11 fumbles on the year so far, more than one a game.

In the secondary, senior S Chris Ekpo (47 tackles, 1 INT) and junior CB Wayne Moten (32 tackles, 2 INTs) headline a shortish unit which only has 5 interceptions on the year. All year, it seems like teams have been able to make hay against this unit.

Special Teams
Senior P/K Jacob Stein has been an outstanding field goal kicker for the Raiders, going 8-for-10 on his limited attempts this year including a 40 yarder to go with 31/33 on extra points. As a punter, he's an above-average 37.8 yards per punt. His kickoffs don't usually make the end zone, however.

The Raider return game has left something to be desired this year. Sophomore QB/RB Charles Babb and freshman WR Noah Jackson have been returning kickoffs, but with their longest returns being 31 and 37 yards they haven't broken any yet. Senior WR Pat Simonds retuns punts, but only averages a paltry 3 yards per return.

Keys to the Game
1. Protect the ball. More than ever, whomever is running the ball back there, ball protection will be crucial towards a Lehigh victory. Two hands! Two hands! If we don't allow any stripped balls to be recovered, we will have an excellent chance to come away with victory.
2. Best defense is ball-control offense. The best way to keep our defense fresh is to keep them off the field with long sustained Lehigh offensive drives ending in touchdowns.
3. Under 100 yards. Our safeties will have a tough job in run support hitting gaps and bringing down Colgate's huge backs, but they'll have to get it done in order to help contain the rushing game. My defensive goal for this game would be to keep Sullivan, Eachus and/or Scott under 100 yards each for the game. Make it happen.

Fearless Prediction
A huge game for Lehigh; a huge league rival, a big crowd in all probability, and a meaningful game in November. This game will tell whether Lehigh is a Patriot League contender this year, or if we already need to be looking more at "The Rivalry" and next year instead.

It could happen. Lehigh could put it all together and play their best game of the year. The inconsistency could be gone. Lehigh's defense could come together and we could play turnover-free ball and jump out to a quick lead that Colgate cannot overcome.

But I don't think so.

Colgate 31, Lehigh 20

Comments

Doug H said…
Good effort by Lehigh except that special teams coaches should be fired after this season... special teams cost Lehigh this game.... too late to fix it now I guess just hope next year brings some kicker who can make a PAT every time
allen said…
good effort by Lehigh exept for dumb mistakes and inability to kick extra points or field goals.
And how about a run when we needed 2 yards near the end of the game.
I don't know if the problem is young kids, as Coen said after the game or poor coaching, lack of talent, poor recruiting or what, but I'v watched Lehigh football for the last 15 years or so and this year is really upsetting
ngineer said…
I haven't been this ticked off in a while. The play calling was atrocious. I lost count of the number of 'bubble screens' and flairs that did nothing. The verticle passsing game was an after thought in the first half. However, the inability to recognize the need to get the TWO YARDS at mid field with a minute and half (and only 1 timeout due to blowing two earlier)is inexcusable. Why are we throwing downfield when we desparately need TWO YARDS for another set of downs??? Yes, the kids made some mistakes. Kicking game cost us 5 points, early fumble handed Colgate a TD. But the kids overcame those mistakes to be in a position to win and the play calling and lack of management let them down. At this time of year, this is very disturbing. The kids gave great effort today. I cannot say the same for the coaching.
Anonymous said…
The Offensive coordinator should have been escorted out of the booth, and put on a bus to somewhere in Mexico after his play calling with 1:38 left, 1 timeout and two plays to make 1 yard for a first down. J.B. could have spiked the ball, and had 3 opportunities to set up the FG. The way #48 was blocking, and #47 running all day, should have been the call. The players didn't loose this game, the coaching did.
Anonymous said…
It was LU's game to win, and they should have, and should have set themselves up to cheer on HC's opponents over the next couple weeks. I can only echo the sentiments about the special teams and coaches. Its EMBARASSING on a D1 level. I do feel for Jason Leo who has developed a major psychological issue.

That being said, JB Clark is developing into a major force to be reckoned with. If he can find a replacement for Fitz next year, he could have something special going.
Anonymous said…
Fitz and Sekou are exciting with the ball in the open field, some of the longer throws where a bit scary as our recievers had to wait for the ball. Colgates secondary was suspect going into the game, they proved it yesterday.

Coen keeps referring to how young we are. I count 16-17 Juniors and Seniors on the starting roster.

Many of the teams we played are just as young, if not younger in their starting line ups.

What will next year bring? the AD has to see through this BS and make a change now!

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