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Monday's Word: Awesome

As soon as he came in the press conference, he told the media folks there that it was "fitting that we win a football game in this way." It was a quote that was used in many of the local press reports of the game as well.

What the rest of the media did not pick up was the pause, and the word "Awesome" right after it.

Do I know if coach Coen set out to make "awesome" the word of the week - and the game? I don't know for sure, but I do know that as soon as coach Coen mentioned the word, he mentioned it again a bunch of times in the post-game press conference (and, for good measure, on Lehigh Sports Magazine tonight), I knew it simply had to be the "Word".

When many folks think of the word "awesome" they think of the 1980s. Big hair, Whitney Houston records, the (ack) Breakfast Club, you know the drill.

But that wasn't what coach Coen was talking about.

 He was talking about the true definition, meaning "inspiring awe", or "an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration."

It's a great way to describe what happened in the game. But his pregame comments - taken in their entirety - I think shows a lot about coach Coen, too.

"All coaching is is hang in there with your guys, and they got better all year," Coen said. "We finally got some plays to go our way this game. This was such a tough season for our guys. I'm so happy for them that we were able to get the win here today. To score and take the lead in the fourth quarter for the first time, then give it up, then win the game in overtime, after all the tough losses they've had during the season, I think it speaks volumes to these guys and how they hung in there with us all year.

"Every week, you had to pick them up off the ground - but I tell you what, the time Tuesday came around they were excited to play football. We talk a lot about the kids in our program - we want to bring guys in who are competitors, leaders, and guys who love to play football. I told them before the game that we have those people in the room. It just hasn't worked out for us. So let's just go out and get this one.

"Even when it didn't look great for us out there they kept battling and battling and.... " Coen stopped, getting a bit emotinal. "Awesome. Awesome for those guys."

****

He was talking about the whole team, but he could have been talking about any number of the seniors out there specifically on defense. When I thought of "awesome" battlers on Saturday, I think of senior DT B.J. Benning, who just stood up Lafayette runners so often in the middle, and senior LB Matt Cohen, being such a constant, disrupting force on defense. They're the only starting seniors on defense that Lehigh will be losing (along with senior LB Heath Brickner, who was hurt), but they will leave awfully big shoes to fill. Senior DE Stephen Brown, who got a sack yesterday and spent a lot of time on Lehigh's "D' line, also graduates.

"Our defensive coaches this year were awesome," coach Coen said again later. "The amount of injuries, the pieces they've had to move around, the people they've had to plug in, the changing schemes - guys were in and out."

In fact, the word snaked its way pretty much everywhere in the Lehigh post-game press conference, too. Junior QB J.B. Clark, MVP of the 145th, used it when talking about the 63 yard pass to sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon. ""That was De'Vaughn all the way," Clark said. "It was a great catch and two defenders hit him when he came down, but he bounced away and got it all the way to the 6. That was awesome."

When I look on Clark's performance this game, I think of it in terms of what coach Coen said: a battler. He battled to convert third downs. He faced a beating from Lafayette's pass rush, but he stood in there and never let a sack or a third-and-long prevent him from picking himself up and making a play.

Senior FB Anthony Fossati, the strongest guy on the team, battled on a 1 yard touchdown run to get in the end zone. That might have been his only carry of the year - and important touchdown, one that gave Lehigh the lead.

And when the Mountain Hawks saw it was overtime, while some of the fans' stomachs were in knots that wasn't the case on the sideline. The team was huddled around coach Coen and running backs coach R.J. Ryan, together listening to them speak.

"Coach Ryan played here and we all respect him. He really got us fired up as the clock was ticking down. The whole offense came together and [he] said to us, 'This is why you play the game. Who is going to step up and make the play to win this game?' That really got us fired up," starting senior OL Frank Giacalone said to the Brown & White.

Giacalone and Fossati are the only seniors graduating on offense, along with frequent target senior WR Jim Potocnie.

It's sometimes hard to remember, but one of the reasons why coach Coen was chosen to lead Lehigh (after Pete Lembo decided to leave for Elon) was the thought that he understood the emotions - or the "awesomeness", if you will - of "The Rivalry". He was to be a master motivator for this special game.

Pete Lembo was a great coach at Lehigh. But one thing he never was able to do was win two consecutive games over "that school from Easton". Coach Coen has had to struggle to bring consistent winning football back to the Mountain Hawks, and - let's face it - he's struggled at times. His record has not been near the equal of Lembo's. But he's done something that coach Lembo could not do.

And in Bethlehem, beating the Leopards counts for a lot. Not everything, but a lot.

*****

The Brown & White piece on the game adds another interesting quote at the end. "Coach Coen and the rest of the Lehigh University football coaching staff really did a great job this season of solidifying a team mentality," said senior LB Al Pierce [who will be returning next season]. "His motto was to keep us together. Everyone was behind Coen's motto and behind one another."

That the players have stood 100% behind coach Coen was very clear in the post-game press conference. When uncomfortable questions came up about Coen's job - Coen is in the last year of his contract, and at 4-7 this season was nothing what anyone really expected or wanted, despite the win over Lafayette - the players had real emotion written on their face.

There were no tears, but it was very clear that they want coach Coen to remain. Looking at their performance also bears this out: Lehigh could have easily laid down when things got tough, but the team never came apart and the players played hard for Coen up to the very end of this season.

Like Pierce said, they kept together and were behind one another. Their loyalty to coach Coen is "awesome".

And while we may never know whether coach Coen really did need to win this game this weekend to keep his job, one thing's for sure: we'll be seeing him again next year as head coach.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Beating the hated team down the highway is huge for LU and I couldn't be happier for the kids, who have been through so much for the last 4 years, but it is a said state of affairs when a coach can survive the horrid record this guy has put up over the last four years.

It is said when people start accepting this 1 game as success for the entire season. What about playing for a League championship, or how about at least a winning season?

Have we really regressed to this?
Anonymous said…
Our second President is credited with the following quote, "You can not always guarantee success but you can deserve it".
Of course, when he made this remark, Mr. Adams was not referring to a sporting contest, he was referring to life. However, watching this team always seems to bring this quote to mind. On Saturday they were able to overcome the errors and shortfalls of the season and they "deserved" success. Congratulations to everyone involved in LU football and special congratulations to the senior class. Well done.
rich said…
Chuck is LFN board down or is it me? Since AGS problem have not been able to get board to load?
Anonymous said…
No winning seasons, No championships, Over Half his first recruiting class quit. Beat Lafayette twice. Good luck to Lembo & Gilmore (and the former Lehigh players on his staff) at least we can connect to a winner
Anonymous said…
Over at LC VOY board, not much talk about how the superior team was once again beaten by our guys...only squawking about "poor officiating" and how #48 taunted QB Curley after final interception. Did this even happen? There's alot of chatter and I'd love to know if it is something to be concerned with or just sour grapes by losers.

Can someone find out?

VOR
Anonymous said…
Finally this season, we met a team that ultimately made more crucial mistakes than we did. The result was a victory. In past games, the defense played well, but there was always a mistake or two that really cost this team a chance at victory. Lafayette's mistakes were huge and resulted either in points for Lehigh or resulted in their not scoring. Two LC INTs in the end zone...a fumble by the punt returned into the end zone... failure to get points inside the 3 leading to a 97 yard TD drive for LU...

It was so appropriate that a seasn worth of frustration ended on a positive note against Lafayette.

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