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Sunday's Word: Faith

At some point this year - I forget exactly when - my thoughts turned to my "Sunday Word" column, and I realized that it could be misinterpreted. Initially modeled after the "Word" from The Colbert Report, it finally got through my thick skull that when you stick the word "Sunday" in front of it it becomes something different - in the right context, it can be religious in tone, as if I'm delivering a sermon.

While I never intended it to become sermon-esque, I think, re-reading my "Words" for this year, that they have oddly veered into sermon-like territory. (Heck, last week I pitched a sermon for the Wildcat offense.)

It doesn't help that my "Words" tend to be more on the serious side when Lehigh is losing, and at 0-4 the Mountain Hawks are inviting me deeper into the sermonizing aspect of my "Words" and less into whimsical wordplay on, say, weather or weird Swedish words nobody has ever heard of.

Normally, I think it's ridiculous to bring the world of "faith" into my "Words". First of all, it tends to not be very amusing. Second, it's highly personal. And third, it has an uncanny and senseless ability to piss people off.

But I think in this case I'm going to make an exception.

*****

This morning, I was tired, achy, with a massive headache. Still grouchy from the loss yesterday, I didn't want to go to church. Somewhere, though, I found it in myself to grab a cup of coffee and head over to church in time. (The lady I live with also had a large part to play in my getting up to get over there, too.)

Today, the lesson was the book of Luke (verses 17:5-6, in case you were wondering). Without going into a lot of detail, the day's lesson was on "faith".

That's when I figured out that this should be this weekend's word. Because "faith" in the Mountain Hawks is hard to find right now.

In fact, if you looked around Murray Goodman this weekend, what you saw was an awful lot of pain, not "faith".

There are a lot of slouched shoulders. A lot of silence in the stands. They want to believe that Lehigh can turn things around. But after four losses, they've lost their "faith".

A lot has been made about the fact that this is the first time since 1982 that Lehigh hasn't won any of their first four games, and it's clear that not tasting victory since last year is having a stomach-twisting effect on everyone, from the top to the bottom. High hopes have turned into low expectations from some - and expectations that bad things will happen on the field.

(To go with the pain there's a touch of anger as well, with coach Coen in the post-game press conference coming close to barking at a member of the media - sitting inches from him - who asked a question that probably shouldn't have been asked ("How does it feel to be 0-4?").

Some fans genuinely seem baffled as to how this can happen - how a talented group of kids, a good group of kids, could be 0-4? They're, quite frankly, like me - they think that they have the silver bullet to fix the mental lapses or offensive or defensive schemes that can turn losses into wins. They want to fix the problems - start winning. They want to help.

With 1982 passed, some folks are openly worried if the spectre of another year- 1966 - might be invoked soon. Not only did Lehigh lose their first five games of that year, they went 0-9. All of a sudden losing to Georgetown at home next weekend - unthinkable when the season began - now doesn't seem so outlandish.

Nobody who is around this program wants to see that happen. There are a staggering number of people that do care very, very deeply about this program that want to see Lehigh win football games. (Numbers of people that, say, Villanova would drool over.)

But "faith" right now is at an all-time low.

*****

I went back to the last game Lehigh won - the "Rivalry" win to finally take one away from "that school in Easton" - to just remind myself how they won that game. Maybe there is a lesson - a Sunday school lesson, if you will - in how Lehigh can get back on the winning track.

For starters, what is striking was how few mistakes there were in this game: only 3 penalties. No turnovers. Another striking thing was that Lehigh won with only 13 net yards rushing. 13!

When I blogged about that wonderful win, junior QB J.B. Clark was the MVP, of course. But the win wasn't all on Clark's back: I singled out individual plays from nineteen other players who won the game for Lehigh. WR Nick Johnson's over-the-shoulder catch. RB Matt McGowan's tough efforts during the game, even though he was battling injury. FB Adam Watson's bulldoze in the end zone for a touchdown.

Clark didn't win that game with an amazing, "Phil Simms in 1986" sort of pass efficiency rating. But he did have his players believing, and every time Lehigh needed a big play one was there. The huge reception to WR Sekou Yansane. Big sacks by senior LB Matt Cohen and senior LB Al Pierce. It was all about big plays, and Lehigh had almost all of them.

I was struck by the number of seniors on that team - which seem like they are sorely missed on this 2009 version of the Mountain Hawks - but I was also struck by the fact that it wasn't just one player who brought the victory. It was the whole team.

*****

Ultimately, I came to only one conclusion today. The only way that this ship can be righted is for the kids playing out there to have "faith".

"Faith" in each other, "faith" that they will fix their won individual problems and the coaching staff will make adjustments to theirs, "faith" that there will be fans out there to cheer them on. "Faith" that the win last November was not an illusion, and that the tools to bring back the wins are somewhere there on that game tape.

They have to believe that though mistakes were made in the beginning part of the season, lessons can be learned from them in order to get better - that mistakes only lose you games if you keep making the same ones over and over.

They have to look at that 2006 Lafayette team that lost five games in the middle of the year - but marched up to Hamilton, NY and upset the Raiders and ended up as Patriot League champions. It still can happen - and the players have to have the "faith" that they can do just that.

They have to come out one more week and work hard - and win the game in front of them, and then go on to the next week.

They have to have "faith" that they will make some folks regret giving up on them in early October.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Very Insightful. I couldn’t agree more. The seniors from last year stepped up and made plays. They played with a ton of heart, especially down the stretch. No one has stepped up to accept the challenge this year. I also believe that pulling the starting quarterback was premature. The kid proved he could play last year. It just happens to be that the supporting cast has failed to show up to this point. No quarterback will step on that field and be successful until the more offensive players start playing with heart.
lehighpike said…
4 interceptions against an Ivy League opponent? Were not talking about Villanova or James Madison here. This is Lehigh. We have just as many athletes as they do. No excuses. Put Clark back in. And if you disagree with that, then at least let Colvin throw the football because it gets no worse that Saturday. Embarrassing!
Anonymous said…
I truly think that JB should be the starter. Lum deserved his chance out of frustration and the way he rallied the team the week before. He is a good quarterback, but let's go with Clark with Lum in reserve. I personally am shocked at the results this season. I expected much better.I still think there is good material on the team, so let's hope they can put it together starting with Georgetown, then RUN THE TABLE "in the Patriot League. I truly believe they have the ability to do so. Wouldn't that be a great turnaround.
Anonymous said…
Chuckster, I knew you wouldn't use Embarrassing as the word of the week. PLC run amok.

Chuckster, you must be some kind of Svengali: "let's hope they can put it together starting with Georgetown, then RUN THE TABLE "in the Patriot League. I truly believe they have the ability to do so." You say keep the Faith and this guy thinks this team that everyone has watched for the past 4 games can run the table! Divine intervention is the only way this group is running the table.
Anonymous said…
Clark throws wounded ducks as opposed to Lum who has arm strength. On its int receiver stopped. On others blame OC for obvious calls and lack of communications between QB and receivers
Anonymous said…
Lums got a very ugly delivery. As much as I hate to say it. Go back to the experience......
Anonymous said…
Blame the OC for three INT's and a reciever for one?? You don't think at least one of those INT's should be put on Lum? Sounds like a bunch of excuses from someone who has a personal relationship...Just win a dag gone football game!

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