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Lehigh 21, CCSU 28, Final

At the time, I didn't think this picture I took would be the story of the game. Unfortunately it was.

Tied at 21 after an ugly first half, Lehigh had only their second red zone opportunity of the game. Second and goal at the CCSU 4 yard line. Junior TE Alex Wojdowski starts the play and is wide open. Junior QB J.B. Clark hesitates, and then tries to fire it in - but CCSU DB Nick Delgado stepped in front of the outstretched arms of Wojdowski and stuffed the drive.

It would have given Lehigh their first lead of the day. It also would have negated what was an extremely sloppy first half, with an anemic offensive performance by the Mountain Hawks which was only mitigated by the fact that the Blue Devils turned over the ball twice in the red zone, and that junior DB John "Fear Itself" Kennedy turned a kickoff into a 93 yard touchdown. Also, on Lehigh's only sustained drive of the day (and I mean that), Clark found Wojdowski on a 7 yard TD strike to tie the game at 14. It was like the UFC: ugly slug. Counterpunch. Ugly slug. Counterpunch. Both locker rooms had to have been lit up with obscenity with the poor quality of play; only Lehigh's defense kept them in it.

Looking at the drive chart after the interception, the defense - who, remember, had injuries mounting on this hot day, were on the field nearly 30 minutes and were working their way down to the freshmen on the defensive depth chart - fell apart. The worst thing about the drive was that Lehigh had CCSU stuck on a 3rd and 5 - then tried to get a late personnel change while CCSU QB Hunter Wanket quickly snapped the ball. It was a 15 yard "illegal participation" penalty - which kept the drive alive and what ultimately ended with a 40 yard screen pass to CCSU WR Josue Paul for a TD. That TD would end up being the difference.

The genesis of this debacle was the offense. Clark's numbers defy belief. 7 for 29 for 122 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs. Take away the TD pass to the wide-open sophomore WR Jake Drwal for a 58 yard strike and you have only six more completions on the afternoon for 64 yards. There were only 18 rushes on the afternoon for a whopping 62 yards. Their longest drive of the game was four minutes, and only twice out of fourteen drives did an offensive drive go over two minutes.

As a result, the crowd was taken out of the game early. It was eerily quiet in the stands as CCSU would mount yet another drive after a Lehigh 3-and-out. The fourth quarter, Lehigh got the ball on offense for 2:12 out of a 15 minute half. There were ten incompletions, and only one first down as a result of one positive play from scrimmage. How can fans get into the game when they can't see any positive offensive progress? You can only cheer great hits and stuffs for so long.

One thing really gets my goat about this game.

I did not think that deep passing would win this game (because of CCSU's very solid secondary), and unfortunately I was right. Let's say that a steady diet of deep passing to set up everything was the gameplan; I can accept that. But why in Good Heavens would you keep going to it? Even a cursory look at CCSU would show that their great strength is running the ball, winning the time of possession game, and wearing down a defense: they were one of the top rushing teams in all of FCS last year. (And in this game, did they ever win that time of possession battle: they had possession 43 of 60 minutes in the game. Almost three straight quarters worth of CCSU offense.)

If you pass and you're not effective, all you're going to do is turn the ball back to that running offense. Did they think we would outlast them on defense, going down to the third string defenders? At the beginning of the game, you might want to establish the tone of the game as a track meet; again, I may not agree, but I can accept that. But when the tone is set and it's not how you want it, you can't just keep going to what doesn't work over and over again. When was someone going to try something different?

And what was infuriating was that on the one drive where Lehigh DID do well, they mixed up the run with junior RB Jay Campbell and junior RB Jaren Walker effectively. Why not at least try it again - just once - in the second half? At worst it might have given the defense a breather. Lehigh's running backs only had 12 rushes the entire game. CCSU's fullback had 13.

The sad thing is that Lehigh's defense played heroically. Backups like junior LB Ben Flizack and sophomore LB Devin Greene made some big stops to give Lehigh's offense a shot, and senior DT B.J. Benning, senior LB Matt Cohen, junior SS John Venerio, senior LB Heath Brickner and senior LB Tobi Showunmi had very good games. Yes, they did give up a lot of offensive yards to the Blue Devils, but considering they were on the field for 43 minutes and only gave up 28 points the effort was fairly amazing.

Give CCSU credit. They came to Lehigh to play Central Connecticut State football. And they did. Well. And Lehigh was unable - or unwilling - to play CCSU football. And as a result, Lehigh lost.

All that's left to ponder is if Lehigh will get any offensive yards against Villanova next weekend - who has one of the best defenses in all of FCS and who just uset FBS Temple this Thursday, 27-24. An 0-2 start seems likely.


Anonymous said…
The Lehigh weakness under Coen is the defense. You can't stop the run with 3 down lineman, unless they are quick and strong, which is difficult to find. CCSU had 4 down lineman who avg. 230 lbs. They were quick, strong who knows, since Lehigh didn't run the ball. Under coen LU lost a lot of games late because the d-line is shot. Lets see 4 down lineman.
ngineer said…
I agree that continually trying to throw deep when you can't is insanity. When we ran with any consistency, we went down the field and scored. While the D played heroically, they did not adjust to the option and attack the QB early. They let him string it out and then pitch. You have to force that pitch early. Execution was poor. Our much bigger line got shoved around. Haven't seen this bad a performance since the Holy Cross debacle of 2007. However, first game debacles are not uncommon, when one team is not ready. Proof of how good or bad Lehigh is will be seen next Saturday night.
Anonymous said…
After reading Groller's column and then his game report in the Call, I get the suspicion that he is beginning a campaign to promote McInerney for returning to the Valley. Has he conceded the season already?
Anonymous said…
I cant believe the Alum of this school with such a proud tradition of football is not shouting from the press box to get rid of this staff!
ngineer said…
One does not call for everyone's heads based on a bad first game. Some of the top programs in the country start out a season shooting themselves in the foot. Holy Cross tried to give away their win to Georgetown. The mark of a good team and coaches is whether they will improve on this 'portfolio'. Obviously, we're not expecting miracles down on the Main Line next Saturday, but we better see a spirited display on the field--especially from the offense. Playing at night should help the defense, since they may be on the field awhile, again. The character of this team will now be measured in how it responds.
Anonymous said…
As this football program has lost it's "fire" and "intensity" so have some on this board.

It has not been 1 game, it has been 4 seasons!

Yes, thank goodness we beat the team down the highway last year, but that use to be not good enough for this program so rich in tradition.

The excuses are all gone(Although some continue to find more). It wasn't a game day monsoon as it was in previous years, these are this staffs recruits, the same guy is still calling the plays. And you still have an unspiring head coach who doesnt have the presence to motivate his team.

Coen's strategy was to have a tough running game whe he came to this program. I think he can run the ball, but doesn't for some mind bogiling reason!

How soon we all forget............
Anonymous said…
I would not say the defense performed heroically. They were awful. Just like the offense. They were on the field so long because they couldn't stop the run. I waited for an adjustment at the half. The coaches must have said keep doing what you're doing. The count of missed tackles was mind-boggling. CCSU ran all over us all day. With the open lanes and they're quickness, it's no wonder they continually ripped off 5-8 yard runs. What type of defensive scheme is this, and for this opponent? Truth be told, we were out-coached as well as out-played. The offensive plan was just as miserable. Wideouts run straight down the field with double coverage and lobbed timing pass? And if it doesn't work, do it again?

I would have liked to see Chris Lum late in the game. He doesn't have the experience but he sure displayed a bullet arm in the Spring game. I would have preferred a change to try to spark something. Maybe it wouldn't have worked. Maybe we should ask the offense to call their own plays? Could they really do worse?

As Andy said after the game, the players and the coaches need to look in the mirror. I agree. Especially the coaches. This is a staff that has lost 10 games by a touchdown or less in 3+ years. They know how to lose.
Anonymous said…
LU under this defensive coach the last 4 years has never been able to stop the run, except against Bucknell & Georgetown. 3 tired, unathletic lineman are beat by the end of a game not to mention a season.

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