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FCS East Wrapup: The Cross Passes Their First Test

(Photo courtesy the Worcester Telegram-Gazette)

It was the FCS Game of the Week last week - and unless you were prepared to pay Stretch Internet to watch the game or lived in the Worcester area, you couldn't watch the game - but Holy Cross' 27-20 victory over Harvard was not only the only matchup between nationally-ranked teams, it was one of the best games of the weekend. (Don't take my word for it: just click on Crusader Vision on the Holy Cross football website and see for yourself the report filed by NESN.)

There was more going on that just the Holy Cross/Harvard game, but the Crusader's big win was the Patriot League's best win of the year in a year where the League desperately needed one.

  • Despite the best efforts of Harvard's student newspaper to paint this game as a "David vs. Goliath" story, Holy Cross' 27-20 win in this game was anything but. "This was a marquee game in the early part of our season," head coach (and former Lehigh defensive coordinator) Tom Gilmore said after the game. "Most people were looking at this from outside the program and saying, 'This is [Holy Cross'] first big challenge." While Holy Cross never trailed, Harvard was right in it until the end, driving for the game-winning score when a fumble by Crimson junior QB Collier Winters was recovered by senior LB Andrew Ciliano for the victory. Senior QB Dominic Randolph was the do-everything quarterback Crusader fans hoped for in this game, not only racking up another 293 yard passing performance (with 2 TDs and 0 interceptions) but also leading the team in rushing with 41 yards and another TD. With this game - a big win against a Top 25 team and last year's Ivy league co-champion - Holy Cross has squarely established themselves as the team to beat in the Patriot League.
  • Lehigh will be facing Holy Cross later in the year, but also Harvard - and while (chuckle) "David" in the matchup with "Goliath" came out on the short end, the Crimson showed plenty to worry about for Lehigh in preparation next week. Start with senior DL Carl Elrich, with 4 tackles and 2 tackles for loss for a defensive line that held Holy Cross to 79 net rushing yards. On offense, junior QB Collier Winters went the whole way and had an efficient 22-for-37 day with 195 yards and 2 TDs, while adding 40 yards rushing. And save the final turnover, Harvard played fairly efficiently on offense, gaining 327 yards. Lehigh fans can start worrying already about the Crimson.
  • While you can read my own game report about Liberty beating Lafayette 19-13 this weekend, "that school in Easton's" opponent next week was busy giving Villanova fits on offense. Penn battled gamely on defense, but ultimately fell 14-3 to crown Villanova as the undisputed "Big 5 Football Champions". Villanova senior WR Matt Szczur returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, while the Wildcat defense, led by junior LB Terence Thomas' 10 tackles at 2 sacks, held the Quakers to 54 yards rushing or an anemic 1.6 yards per carry to make the early lead hold for Villanova. In a reversal of fortunes from last year's Penn game, where junior QB Chris Whitney came in for senior QB Antwon Young to win the game, it was Young who came in for an ineffective Whitney to loft a 5 yard TD pass to senior WR Brandyn Harvey to add an insurmountable 11 point cushion. (Villanova head football coach Andy Talley assured folks in the CAA conference call this week that there was no quarterback controversy.) The Quakers have a lot to be proud of, especially on defense, where senior LB Jake Lewko (13 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss) spearheaded the effort against the No. 2 team in the nation only allowing 6 completions for 59 yards from both Whitney and Young.
  • Almost lost in these two great matchups was a shocker: that Stony Brook, who lost earlier in the year to Hofstra and Colgate, upset last year's Ivy League co-champion Brown 21-20 with a missed extra point being the difference. Surprisingly, the Seawolves ended up winning the game through the air, with sophomore QB Michael Coulter ending a cool 10-for-12 passing for 137 yards and the game-winning pass to junior WR Donald Porter with 47 seconds left in the game. Stony Brook ruined junior QB Kyle Newhall's debut - 29-of-45 for 267 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, but two interceptions. Brown will take on Harvard next weekend in an intriguing game next weekend.
  • In an early season injury list that would give anyone pause, Colgate just keeps churning out backs who rush for 200 yards or more. Sophomore RB Jordan McCord ran 44 times for 212 yards as the Raiders survived an early scare from Dartmouth to win 34-15. The Big Green actually held a brief 15-13 advantage before Colgate settled down and ground out an 8-play, 60 yard touchdown drive to retake the lead. On the ensuing drive, sophomore SS Vinnie Nicosia crushed Dartmouth senior QB Alex Jenny to force a fumble, which the Colgate offense promptly turned into McCord's second TD on the afternoon.
  • Colgate will take on Fordham this week, a team which looks like it's in disarray after a sloppy 40-28 defeat in the "Liberty Cup" to crosstown rival Columbia. While Fordham head coach Masella - with characteristic understatement - said that his team "need to make some adjustments and play more consistently" next week versus Colgate, the box score says the real story: 3 interceptions, 1 fumble. A mind-boggling 14 penalties for 164 yards. Return units that gave up 14 yards per punt return and 21 yards per kickoff return. While Ram senior QB John Skelton did torch the Columbia secondary for 383 yards and 4 touchdowns, it was Fordham's porous run defense that allowed Columbia senior RB Ray Rangel (118 yards, 1 TD) and senior QB M.A. Olawale (40 yards, 2 TDs) to have big days running the ball. If Fordham hopes to pull off another upset in Hamilton, they need to clean up their act - fast.
  • Cornell found a big weakness to exploit in Bucknell's secondary - they had given up the big play, allowing 5 touchdowns over 30 yards in their first two games. Saturday, the Big Red exploited it perfectly for a comfortable 33-9 win over Bucknell. Senior QB Ben Gantner connected on two 30+ yard pass plays for touchdowns, while senior WR Stephen Liuzza added a 65 yard TD run for good measure. "I thought we were just the faster team; the better team from top to bottom," Cornell head football coach Knowles said. "I just thought we were in great shape and we looked sharp with what we did." Ouch.
  • With Yale's 31-10 win over Georgetown, the Ivy League's only wins in the first weekend of their football season came over Patriot League schools. While Hoya junior DB Paul Sant'Ambrogio's 38 yard fumble return for a touchdown cut the deficit to 17-10 right befor halftime, Yale head coach Tom Williams wasn't much threatened after that by the Hoya offense as he got his first-ever victory as a head football coach. For Yale, sophomore QB Patrick Witt went 22-for-29 for 216 yards and 2 TDs. The Hoyas did have a decent passing attack behind freshman QB Isaiah Kempf's 332 yards passing, but two interceptions - and a dismal 1-for-4 in the red zone - meant for the third straight week Georgetown failed to score an offensive TD.
  • Finally, Lehigh's opponent this coming week started out of the gate well, getting a TD on their opening drive against a SoCon school led by a former Lehigh head football coach. But Princeton highlights ended there as head coach Kevin Higgins' return to the area was a happy one in a 38-7 blowout over the Tigers. "I’m not sure they are 31 points better then us,", Princeton head coach Roger Hughes said after the game, "but we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had. I thought overall we moved the ball pretty effectively and the defense did a great job at times. There were glimpses of what I think this team can become.’’ Only trailing 10-7 at halftime, Higgins took advantage of two missed field goals and two late interceptions by Tiger sophmore QB Tommy Wornham to the tune of 28 unanswered points by freshman RB Van Dyke Jones, sophomore RB Terrell Dallas and backup freshman QB Miguel Starks. Lehigh fans will certainly be hoping that Princeton will keep the momentum of the Citadel game going at Goodman Stadium this Saturday.


Anonymous said…
When Randolph leaves they will be at the bottom of the pack, wait and see. Other than him they stink. Big win over who? Harvard? Big deal!

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