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FCS East Wrapup: Nova Soars and James Madison Crashes

(Photo courtesy Hofstra Athletics)

Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. If you had one FCS game to go to this past weekend, you most certainly wouldn't have picked James Madison visiting Hofstra: you'd have gone to Villanova to see the No. 2-ranked Wildcats take on the No. 5-ranked William & Mary Tribe.

Trouble is, had you chosen the better game on paper to watch, you would have seen a yawner - the excitement, incredibly, was in Hempstead, Long Island. (No really, was that the first time those words have ever appeared anywhere?)

  • Every year there seems to be that senseless CAA upset - Rhode Island putting everything together to upset UMass, say, or Towson winning against Villanova. This year's first CAA upset came at Hofstra - the yes, the same Hofstra that struggled against Stony Brook and scored a grand total of 10 points against Richmond and FBS Western Michigan - where the Pride didn't fall against James Madison in a shock 24-17 upset. While in retrospect it looked like a chance for the Dukes to let down after a tough 24-13 win at Liberty, the Pride put it all together by jumping out to a 21-10 lead by the end of the first half for starters, happily grinding out the end of the first half with a time-consuming drive ending with a 4 yard TD pass from Pride senior QB Cory Christopher to freshman TE Dave Wilson. After that, Hofstra's "D" took over: after the Dukes would take the opening drive of the second half for a touchdown, junior DE Deron Mayo and company would hold James Madison to two 3-and-outs and force an interception by freshman DB Jordan "Don't Call Me Rodney" Dangerfield which led to the final FG. Hofstra seeks to build off the momentum of this huge win at home versus Maine this weekend - and have to be thinking they have a real chance to build some steam towards a playoff shot. Meanwhile James Madison gets to "cool off" with a tough matchup at home with the No. 1 team in the country, Richmond - which feels like it could be a must-win. (Such is life in the CAA.)
  • Meanwhile, the "clash of the titans" at Villanova stadium started with junior QB Chris Whitney hooking up with senior WR Brandyn Harvey for a 57 yard TD strike - on a flea-flicker - and the Wildcats never looked back in a 28-17 laugher. (Just think - the Versus Network and the CAA could have had a thriller in Hempstead instead of a game that was a dominating Villanova performance.) The Wildcats' defensive performance featured four sacks and two turnovers, and sophomore DB James Pitts featured in both: one tipped ball that led to an interception, and a fumble recovery. (Not to mention 15 tackles.) Not to be forgotten either was a monster performance by junior LB Terence Thomes with 14 tackles in a defensive effort that yielded 472 yards of Tribe offense - most of it coming through the air - but only yielded 17 points, including only one touchdown and three FGs by Tribe senior PK Brian Pate. No rest for 'Nova as they travel to New Hampshire for another Sports Network Top Ten battle - while William & Mary travel to Northeastern to take on the winless Huskies. (Of course, can you count any CAA conference game as a gimme after seeing what Hofstra did?)
  • Two weeks ago, St. Francis (PA) and Wagner battled to the highest-scoring game in NEC history, a 56-48 triple-overtime win by the Seahawks. What do both teams do for an encore? Not score an offensive touchdown, of course: Wagner must have given up a late grand slam in their wet 6-2 defeat to Bryant, while the Red Flash would go down 27-6 to last year's NEC Champions Albany. Week four, 104 combined points; week five, 8 combined points. I mean, what are the odds?
  • I love rivalry games, and one I want to see someday is the Rhode Island "Governor's Cup" pitting Brown and Rhode Island. This year's game wasn't a joy for the spectators - playing in rain and mud - but at least Brown came away happy with the trophy in a 28-20 victory over the Rams. It was not, by any account, a pretty game to watch: URI junior QB Chris Paul-Etienne went out with an injury on the first play, and the Rams never seemed to get in scoring synch with a whopping 17 penalites and a failure to convert on third down until late in the 3rd quarter. In a sloppy game, it was Brown's two offensive stars - senior WR Buddy Farnham and senior WR Bobby Sewall - that shined. Farnham's eye-popping 274 all-purpose yards - of which 97 were a punt return for a touchdown - and Sewall's 50 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns and 2-point conversion - made the difference for the Bears. Rhode Island faces off against Towson this weekend, while Brown will play Holy Cross this weekend in the biggest Ivy/Patriot matchup of the week.
  • It won't go down in the annals of history as a program-defining win, but Holy Cross will gladly paint their 42-21 win over Northeastern as a win over a "big, bad, scholarship CAA" school - even if the Huskies are 0-4 and haven't eclipsed 21 points in four tries. Senior QB Dominic Randolph tossed 5 touchdown passes in limited action as the Crusaders coasted to a 42-7 lead before head coach Tom Gilmore lifted him in the fourth quarter. Twelve different Holy Cross receivers caught passes: junior DL Mude Ohimor notched four tackles and two sacks: and Holy Cross got a nice tune-up before facing off against Brown this coming weekend.
  • I had a feeling when Cornell entered Colgate this weekend - with the Big Red coaching staff playing down this rivalry game as "just another game" - that this one might be a blowout. The 94th meeting between Cornell and Colgate in the "white-out" involved the Raiders "plowing" through Cornell, 45-23. If you're a Patriot League opponent on Colgate's schedule, you have to fear a comment like this from Cornell head coach Jim Knowles: “You’re looking for answers and when they take what you’ve practiced and ram it right back down your throat and score, that’s a little unnerving. We did everything we could to regroup but they’re a great team. We could not match up today, that’s for sure.” Yikes. And that's before he said “[Colgate’s] line is the best line that I’ve gone against at this level. Junior QB Greg Sullivan does an outstanding job of reading things and managing the offense (298 all-purpose offense, 3 TDs) and they’ve got great running backs (like sophomore RB Nate Eachus) that break tackles and get extra yards. When you can’t stop the run or slow them down, you’ve got very little chance to win.” Cornell tries to regroup against Harvard this weekend in a big Ivy League showdown, while the Raiders will bask in a rare nationally-televised appearance this Thursday at Princeton, to be broadcast on ESPNU.
  • In Lafayette's long history, they had never beaten Yale. Head coach Frank Tavani challenged his team to be "legends" and make "history" to be that first team to beat the Eli, and they did to the tune of a 31-10 domination. While Lafayette's defense was predictably stunning - senior DL Andrew Poulson had two sacks, and senior LB Mark Leggerio had 12 tackles and was Patriot League Defensive player of the week, more worryingly for all Lehigh fans was the way Lafayette's offense came together: senior RB Maurice White has 21 carries for 121 yards, and senior QB Rob Curley went 20 for 28 passing with 241 yards and 1 touchdown. The Leopards will look to continue their winning streak at home against Columbia next weekend, while Yale will host Dartmouth and attempt to break their two-game skid. (Against 0-3 Dartmouth, they'll have an excellent chance to do just that.)
  • While this blog has chronicled the frustrations of Lehigh's season so far, less has been said about Fordham's excruciating 0-3 start with a loss to URI, an loss to their crosstown rival, and a brutal loss to Colgate. But Fordham managed to pull one out against FCS newbie Old Dominion rallying for a 35-29 victory. The key for the Rams was to get some running game going: junior RB Xavier Martin and sophomore RB David Whiting both ran for over 100 yards, and the offense led by Patriot League player of the week senior QB John Skelton broke a school record by gaining 687 yards of total offense. Still worrying for the Rams, however, was how two of their three fumbles directly led to Monarch touchdowns - not to mention two missed extra-points and 11 penalties for 105 yards. Still, Fordham has something Lehigh does not have yet - a win - as they host Bryant this weekend.
  • Finally, the Georgetown defense would play extremely strong for a half - only allowing 90 first-half yards and allowing the Hoyas to hold onto a 6-0 halftime lead. But backup sophomore QB C.J. Hopson's entrance into the game in the second half would allow the 3-2 Bison's triple-option offense to get moving - and score just enough in a 14-6 victory. The Hoya defense would only allow 262 yards of offense on the afternoon - and be led by junior QB Travis Mack's 11 tackles - but ultimately they'd be let down by an offense that ended up getting 3's instead of 6's. "In my mind we should have had 21 points (at halftime)," Georgetown head coach Kevin Kelly said. "In my mind we need to score touchdowns in the red zone and we didn't get any." The Hoya offense - with only 219 total yards on Saturday, and one offensive touchdown in four games - is still struggling mightily.


Anonymous said…
So what you're saying is that every Patriot League team is doing well and some are exceeding expectations, despite not awarding athletic scholarships? You're saying that Colgate, Holy Cross and Lafayette are making "Top 20" noise? You're saying that Fordham, Bucknell and even Georgetown has reason to be optimistic?

Is there any reason at all for a Lehigh fan to even get out of bed on a Saturday anymore? This week against Georgetown is critical. I can't believe that I am even saying that. Imagine, for a program that as recently as four years ago was mentioned as a perennial top tier program, we are left with a game againt lowly Georgetown as our "litmus test". We are measuring ourselves against them and Bucknell?

And it's not time to consider getting a new head football coach?

Giving Andy Coen the coaching reins was a little like handing the keys of a Rolls Royce to a 15 year old kid.


Voice of Reason
Anonymous said…
Memo from league HQ to Fordham, Bucknell and even Georgetown: Don't expect to compete for a Patriot League title. Forget it.

Still wonder why Fordham is going on its own?

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