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Saving the Patriot League: The Grand Art of Compromise

Yeah, I'll admit it's, um, a bit presumptuous to start a blog post with "Saving the Patriot League".  And to follow it with a photo of Benjamin Franklin goes beyond audacious.

But I am coming to the inescapable conclusion that the Patriot League is in deep trouble.  And a Mr. Franklin, whose political skills were instrumental in the founding of our nation, would certainly be welcome in helping forge an acceptable compromise between the different world views of the Patriot League presidents.

I'm going to split this blog post into two parts: my analysis of what I think happened last week; and then I'm going to do my best, pale imitation of Mr. Franklin to attempt - nay, plea - for a compromise solution that all interested parties can accept.

Consider it... my Patriotic duty... to try to do something. (more)

Former Lehigh Head Coach Pete Lembo Heads to Ball State

(Photo Credit: The Muncie Star-Press)

You might vaguely remember, don't you, when RB Jonathan Hurt positioned himself under a desperation fourth down heave by the Leopards' backup QB and - after Lehigh's defensive back slipped on the play - side-stepped into the end zone for the game winning score.

That would end up being Lehigh head coach Pete Lembo's final game coaching the Brown and White, a bitter end to his hugely successful run in South Mountain where he would go 44-14 and secure the only home playoff game in Murray Goodman history.  (And until this season, his win over Hofstra in overtime was the last postseason victory by the Mountain Hawks.)

Almost five years to the day when Lembo left to coach the Elon Phoenix of the SoCon, Lembo left North Carolina to take on a new, exciting challenge: as the coach of an FBS team. Today, Ball State announced Lembo as their 16th head football coach, replacing former coach Stan Parrish. (more)

The Vote That Never Was: Meet the Ents

I'm  not as big a Lord of the Rings geek as Stephen Colbert is, but I know enough about Middle Earth to make a metaphor or two.

And after the Patriot League Council of Presidents locked themselves in a room for a couple days to make a decision and made... no decision... my mind cannot shoo away a vision of the Ents from the legendary trilogy.

I keep having this vision in my head from the movie The Two Towers, with the Ents gathered with Merry and Pippin, who are desperately trying to impart on the tree people the importance of getting the Ents to battle Saruman and his army to save Middle Earth. The Ents talked... and talked... and talked... and finally said, with Merry and Pippin waiting for their answer with baited breath:

"I have told your names to the Entmoot, and we have agreed you are not orcs." (more)

"The Vote" That Didn't Happen - Two Years Later

Excerpt from The Morning Call: November 18th, 2012

Special to the Morning Call

It was a scene that few could have predicted two years ago: the end of "The Rivalry", after 148 meetings.

While the 63-13 victory by the Mountain Hawks was not totally unexpected - after all, Lehigh has already ramped up their scholarships to the NCAA-mandated maximum, while Lafayette chose to remain true to the ideals of the now-defunct Patriot League - you get the feeling that it didn't have to end in this way.

Lafayette's facilities - still the best in the Patriot League in 2012, thanks to the Bourgers - saw more than just the final Patriot League game, and the final game in Lehigh's and Lafayette's season. They saw the sad, final chapter to one of the greatest rivalries in all sports. (more)

The Vote

The day that Patriot League watchers have been waiting for is nearly upon us.

Whether you think merit-based aid for the Patriot League in football is a good idea or not, the Patriot League presidents are getting together in the Lehigh Valley this week to discuss the possibility of allowing athletic aid for football that is not based entirely on need - in layman's terms, to allow the same sort of unrestricted athletic aid that is offered in a multitude of different Patriot League sports, from men's and women's basketball to softball.

It's quite possible that today, the Patriot League will vote on the matter, with a possible press conference to announce the decision today, or in the next few days. Before they announce the results, let me offer my own analysis of the situation. (more)

Breaking News: Lafayette to Vote No on Scholarships

Some breaking news - and some quick opinion - on a revelation from Lafayette's student newspaper that president Dan Weisswill vote "no" on allowing conventional scholarships to be offered in the Patriot League.

In the article, Weiss said, "increasing our commitments to athletic scholarships is not consistent with the mission and vision of our college," and that the institution is better suited using additional resources in other areas.

"I wasn't satisfied that it can be done without incremental cost and I don't think that it's appropriate at this time in the life of this college to be putting more money into football when there are other programs and needs that are more pressing," he said.

You can bet there's more. (more)

(Very Tentative) Lehigh Football Schedules, 2011 and 2012

While nothing can be definitively be said to be honestly and truly set in stone in terms of the 2011 and 2012 football schedules until the vote on allowing football scholarships comes to pass this week, the 2011 football schedule is rumored to be nearly complete and the 2012 schedule is rumored to be a work in progress.

As long as affiliate members Fordham and Georgetown do not budge from the schedules, there's some exciting times ahead next year - including visits from two Top 25 programs to Murray Goodman next year.

And for 2012... what if Lehigh were able to schedule an away game against... Rutgers? (more)

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh vs. Delaware

The final LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Junior QB Chris Lum (35-for-58 passing, 362 yards passing, 2 TDs, set Patriot League postseason records)
Defense: Senior LB Al Pierce (13 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble that led to points, 1 pass break-up) and junior LB Mike Groome (13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble that led to a touchdown)
Special Teams: Senior KR John "Prez" Kennedy (139 yards in kickoff returns, 3 tackles)
Underclassman: sophomore WR Ryan Spadola (5 catches 72 yards, including a tough thread-the-needle TD grab in the first quarter)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Last Look: Lehigh vs. Delaware, FCS Playoffs Round Two

(Photo Credit: Matt Breitel/The Brown & White)

It still is hard to comprehend that the football season is finally, truly, over. In case you're like me, you'll want to go over the final game recaps of Lehigh's fall in the second round of the playoffs.

It was a year to remember on a whole lot of fronts.

Lehigh's first Ivy league sweep since 2005. The Patriot League's first win in the FCS playoffs since 2003. The Mountain Hawks' first outright Patriot League title since 2001 - and their first playoff victory since that time, too. To top it off, the three teams they lost to - Villanova, New Hampshire, and Delaware of the CAA - are all still alive in the playoffs today, implying that they are three of the top eight (or nine) FCS programs in the nation.

But today is a day to recap Lehigh's season-ending loss to Delaware this past Saturday, and below the flip are the recaps of the Mountain Hawks' final game in 2010. (more)

Sunday's Word: Devlin

(Photo Credit: William Bretzger/The Wilmington News-Journal)

Before the season started, I was hugely skeptical about Delaware QB Pat Devlin.

I didn't even have him listed as a top three quarterback in my preseason FCS all-America team.

I felt that he had some good statistics last year - playing on a losing football team - but I thought there were better quarterbacks around FCS. Say, Appalachian State QB DeAndre Presley, who is the current signalcaller for the Mountaineers' spread-option attack, or Stephen F. Austin QB Jeremy Moses, who ran the Lumberjacks' pinball, pass-happy offense.

But I became quite the believer in the frigid Delaware press box this Saturday.

"Devlin" is an appropriate season-ending "Word" for Lehigh for two reasons - reasons that you'll have to see below the flip. (more)

Lehigh 20, Delaware 42, Final

(Photo Credit: Mark Campbell/Delaware Athletics)

So the first team to 21 points indeed was the team that ended up winning, as I predicted.

And Delaware - to their immense credit - put up 40 points on Lehigh's defense. (So much for my bold prediction that the Blue Hens wouldn't put up 40 on the Mountain Hawks.)

But heading down the tunnel off the field after the Lehigh football season came to a cold end in the FCS playoffs in Newark, Delaware, there were no hung helmets from the Lehigh players. Some disappointment, sure. But no tears. No humiliation, as a different type of swarm came around the Lehigh players - a group of Lehigh fans, who silently gave their support for a season that exceeded all fans' expectations.

Lehigh came out of the gates with some momentum and kept the game close early on - but Blue Hen QB Pat Devlin, who looked an awful lot like a first rounder in the NFL draft this afternoon, kept making play after play to shred Lehigh's defense. (more)

Friday Water Cooler: Fun And Loathing In Northeast Football

Admit it: if you're a Lehigh or Delaware fan, you are having serious fun this week.  The playoffs are always great - but of all the first round matchups, without question no other matchup evokes the animal spirits like the one happening in Newark, Delaware this weekend.  (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Eastern Washington/Southeast Missouri State hasn't spawned hundreds of pages of smack, and dozens of print articles, on their matchup this weekend.)

For Lehigh, Delaware and Villanova, whose Northeast-based fans can enjoy a double-dip of playoff football (Lehigh/Delaware at noon on WFMZ 69, and Villanova/Stephen F.Austin at 3:30 on Philly CW 57 - honestly, are you going to pass that up to discover who wins the Big East?) it's the best of times.

But, it's also the one year anniversary of the "worst of times", too, for Northeast football - the announcement that Hofstra, joining Northeastern who had announced their decision a week prior, had …

Game Preview: FCS Playoffs, Lehigh at Delaware, 12/4/2010: Breakdown And Fearless Prediction

(Photo Credit: William Bretzger/The Delaware News-Journal)

Yesterday, I broke down the "Blue Route Rivalry" in terms of the players' views on the game, and the long and storied rivalry that has been Lehigh and Delaware through the years.

But it's not going to be Tubby Raymond or John Whitehead on the sidelines this weekend - it's K.C. Keeler and Andy Coen on the sidelines for the Hens and Hawks this time, and the dynamic count not be more different.  Rather than smack, it's all about mutual respect and the "challenge" of playing Delaware.

In this Part 2 of the playoff preview, I'll start with an extended breakdown of the Blue Hens, and then end with my (patent pending) fearless prediction of the game this weekend. (more)

Game Preview: FCS Playoffs, Lehigh at Delaware, 12/4/2010: The Blue Route Rivalry

"I was at Delaware practice the other day,", a message board poster on Any Given Saturday said, "and asked a couple of the seniors how they felt about the one time rival.

"Both said the same thing, before my time."

This is absolutely true, by the way.  The last time the Blue Hens and Mountain Hawks played on the gridiron was 2005, so the players do have a point.  If they were Blue Hens at that time, that would have made them redshirt freshmen when a missed extra point in overtime doomed Lehigh to a 34-33 defeat.

The talk this week will be of the renewal of a regional rivalry that dates to 1938.  It will involve talk of talkative former Blue Hen head coach Tubby Raymond, whose games with Lehigh in the 1970s up until the 2000s have gone into "legendary" status.  There will be a lot of rejoicing that the FCS playoffs can - once again - rekindle a regional rivalry that ought to happen a lot more often than it actually does.

But for the kids on the field …

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh vs. Northern Iowa (and the 146th)

In the heat of the playoffs, I forgot to give "Players of the Week" for the 146th. Nobody probably cares, but I'll tag them after the LFN Players of the Week awards for round one of the playoffs. This weeks' awards go to:

Offense: Junior WR Jake Drwal (3 catches for 80 yards, 1 beautiful TD)
Defense: Senior FS John Venerio (2 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass break-up, the best 15 yard pass interference call ever)
Special Teams: Senior PR Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs (8 tackles, 1 pass break-up, 12 yards in punt returns, 1 blocked FG try)
Underclassman: Sophomore WR Ryan Spadola (9 catches, 127 yards, 1 huge TD)

And for the 146th:

Offense: Senior TE Alex "Wojdo" Wojdowski (2 catches, 35 yards, 1 big TD)
Defense: Senior LB Al Pierce (15 tackles, 2 tackles for loss) and senior LB Mike Groome (16 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)
Special Teams: Senior LB Shane Ryan (1 tackle, 1 blocked punt recovered for TD)
Underclassman: Sophomore QB Michael Colvin (31 yards rushing…

Last Look: Lehigh vs. Northern Iowa, FCS Playoffs Round One

(Photo Credit: Matthew Putney / The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Times-Courier)

There are an awful lot of fantastic photos of the first round of the FCS playoffs at the UNI-Dome, thanks to the folks at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Times-Courier.  I'd heavily suggest you head over there now to see a great, 28-photo layout of Lehigh's historic playoff win over Northern Iowa.

There are a lot of great photos to choose from, but I keep harkening back to that one play by senior FS John Venerio that continues to capture my imagination. The photo of that pass interference call - and, as you can see, a most correct call - seems to have been the huge play of the game, to me, and also makes for a nice visual of Lehigh's gutty, physical victory over the Panthers.

That, of course, is not the only article written - or broadcast - this weekend about Lehigh's victory. There's more. A whole lot more. (more)

Sunday's Word: Gravy

Thanksgiving is a time of family and reflection for most people.  It's also a time for lots and lots of football: of the NFL sort, of course, but also many high-school rivalries, particularly in the Northeast, take place on Thanksgiving day.  (One of those, Easton/Phillipsburg, is in our neck of the woods and have faced off against each other 104 times.)

For Lehigh football fans - who also spent this weekend enjoying their first postseason football victory since a home victory over Hofstra in 2001 - it was a time to do something on Thanksgiving that they haven't had to do in a long time - that is, enjoy their football season that is still in progress, and subsequently look forward to surviving another week in the playoffs.

Lehigh's got the Patriot League Championship. They got the ticket to the playoffs.  They already shocked the world. What enjoyable surprises are left? Maybe some "gravy"? (more)

Lehigh 14, Northern Iowa 7, Final

If you came looking for pretty football, you were probably disappointed.

If you came looking for subtlety, it probably wasn't your cup of tea.

If you came to the UNI Dome to root, root, root, for the home team, you were definitely not a happy camper.

But what you did see is a pretty damned good Lehigh defense shut down the University of Northern Iowa 14-7.

You saw a Panther team get more and more scared as Lehigh kept stopping them drive after drive, making huge interceptions in key spots, blocking field goals, seemingly tackling UNI QB Terrell Rennie behind the line of scrimmage every play.  You didn't see an offense that achieved 44 points against Colgate - but you did see one that made two gigantic big plays exactly when they counted the most.

You saw a team that won the first postseason game for the Patriot League since Colgate went to the national championship game in 2003.

Lehigh, you have the national stage. (more)

Friday Water Cooler: Setting Up Your Playoff Party

If you're in the Bethlehem area, and you want to take in the big game, you have two options.

One, you can go to Starters Riverport at about 1:00PM where the South Side Boosters are setting up a viewing party.  "No guarantee of sound as of yet," Lehigh fan ngineerreported, but it's likely that the game will have an ol' AM Radio handy so that the voices of Matt Kerr and Steve Lomangino can be heard calling the game while they carry the live streaming from the NCAAsports.com feed.

If you can't make it to Starters in Bethlehem, you can still enjoy the game this weekend - on your big screen. Finally delivering what former Lehigh executive media director Jeff Tourial asked me to do months ago, below the flip find instructions on how to stream the game from your laptop or PC. (more)

Game Preview: FCS Playoffs, Lehigh at Northern Iowa, 11/27/2010

(Photo Credit: Matthew Putney/The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Times-Courier)

"We just ran out of gas."

Those were the terse, displeased words of UNI head coach Mark Farley this week on Panther Sports Radio, trying to put their 30-14 road loss against Western Illinois behind them.

There have been no smiles from Farley's face talking about the loss last weekend - one that Panther Nation think cost them a first-round bye in the playoffs, despite the fact that UNI are Missouri Valley Conference champions in 2010.

“We fell into the trap of showing up,” a fired-up Farley said after the game. “We’ve proven to be a solid football team if we come out and play. …We came out like it was a Saturday afternoon scrimmage and paid the price for it. You have to prepare every week and you have to play every week. You can’t just show up at these things.”

He did, however, have one smile during his recap of last week and previewing next week's matchup - that of the health of their starting q…

146th Wrapup, And Postseason Awards Galore

(Photo Credit: Luke Sahagian/The Brown & White)

It's been a weekend to remember for Lehigh football.

First, "The Rivalry" win over our Leopard-print neighbors, 20-13, and the energy and excitement that the game always engenders.

Then, the realization that Lehigh will be travelling to one of the storied programs of FCS in Northern Iowa to compete in the UNI-Dome in the first round of the FCS playoffs this weekend.

To top it all off, Lehigh, head coach Andy Coen and a host of individual Mountain Hawks got recognized with post-season awards, prestigious award nominations, and a return to the FCS Top 20 for the first time since 2005.

A whole lot of happy news and information follows below the flip. (more)

Monday's Word: Norris Division

So how do you come up with a "Word" that includes the 146th version of "The Rivalry", the state of Lehigh's football program, and an upcoming trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the football team - their second trip to the Hawkeye state this year? If you're me, you choose a word that - on the surface, anyway - has nothing to do with football at all.

Look into it further, though, and trust me, it will make complete sense.

Don't worry, Flyers fans, we won't be talking about Red Wings or (shudder) Blackhawks today. We'll be sticking with football - and how this Lehigh team, and their defensive-minded group, will be travelling to the heart of America to play the champion of the conference that could be considered FCS College Football's "Norris Division". (more)

Lehigh 20, Lafayette 13, Final

Two years ago at Fisher Field, J.B. Clark clutched onto the Lehigh/Lafayette MVP trophy throughout the post-game press conference as if someone were going to snatch it away from him.

This year in Easton, bearded senior LB Al Pierce, a man of fewer words than J.B., didn't have the hardware with him after Lehigh's 20-13 victory over Lafayette in the 146th edition of "The Rivalry". He won the MVP trophy, though - the first defensive player to do so since 2000, when CB Matt Salvaterra did so - but when he spoke to the media after the game, the trophy was nowhere to be found.  When asked about the award, he said that it hadn't really "set in yet".

Somehow, that was fitting for a senior leader that is a lot more about letting his play do the talking on the field than in a press conference. (more)

Lehigh vs. Northern Iowa, NCAA FCS Playoffs, First round, 11/27/2010

The hopes of a Lehigh home game - or a first round bye - were dashed on Sunday morning when the FCS playoff subcommittee elected to send Lehigh to Northern Iowa in the first round of the playoffs.

That's the bad news. The good news is: Lehigh will be playing a member of the royalty of FCS in Northern Iowa in the Patriot League's first non-CAA first round game since Lehigh beat Western Illinois 37-7 in Macomb, Illinois in 2000.

All things considered, it's a interesting matchup for the Mountain Hawks. (more)

Where Will Lehigh Go?

I know Lehigh won.  And you'll be able to read my full recap of the game tomorrow in all it's glory, I promise.

But I'm going to make this very quick blog posting to let you, dear reader, know what I think might happen tomorrow during the playoff selection show.

Lehigh might get a first-round bye.  The chance is very, very real.  (more)

Friday Water Cooler: The Complicated Postseason Situation

I know, I know, as a Lehigh fan I'm not supposed to speculate about the postseason right now.  There's ONE season, and it's LAFAYETTE season right now.  Just win this weekend, and everything that will happen involved with the playoffs will happen.

But I can't help it.  I'm a national columnist, and part of what I do is speculate on playoff positioning.  In this column for College Sporting News I do so, prognosticating that Lehigh will host Robert Morris in the first round of the playoffs.

(While we're speculating, looking at the picture on the left, I'll speculate that someone photoshopped the heads of Alec Baldwin and Merryl Streep onto somebody else's heads.  No, really, is that all I need to do to get involved in show business?  I've got better cut-and-paste skills - not that that's hard or anything.)

So let's say - for the sake of argument - that it's 2:30 PM, and Lehigh is beating Lafayette 50 to 0.  What should a Lehigh fan be look…

Preview of the 146th: Lehigh at Lafayette, "The Rivalry"

The game means nothing in the rest of the Patriot League race.  The Mountain Hawks will be playing another game after the one this Saturday, no matter what happens.  Sure, there's a better chance that Lehigh has a home game in the playoffs and/or a first round bye if they win, but Lehigh's football players will get their rings anyway.

But for Lehigh's players and fans, this return to Fisher Field represents a kind-of victory tour to the place where - arguably - the tides turned for this program.

Two years ago, Lafayette was 7-3 going into this age-old "Rivalry" game, looking for an outside shot at an at-large bid to the playoffs.  Lehigh, at 4-6, already was resigned to the fact that they were playing out the string - and that a win in a "bowl" atmosphere at Lafayette was the only thing that could salvage the season.

Now, the tables are turned. It's not a perfect analogy - since Lafayette cannot ruin Lehigh's postseason hopes - but they sure c…

"The Rivalry" - The History of the Craziness

(Photo Credit: The Brown & White)

For passionate alumni, "The Rivalry" signifies the last throes of the year before family items occupy the schedule, where the focus comes on turkeys, hams, and presents. The weekend before Thanksgiving offers the one chance a year many alumni get to see many of their own outside their busy lives.

And for students, "The Rivary" means the nearing of the end of a semester of tough classes, which all comes together with an outpouring of directed energy.

"For us students we have class from 8 to 4, eat dinner at 6, and then have to go do 6 to 7 hours of homework," one current Lehigh student said in regards to going to athletics events. "So priorities have to be taken into account. After all we are paying $51,050 a year, so sacrifices have to be made to ensure a stable future."

"Rivalry week" happens the week before Thanksgiving, in between four o'clock exams and final exams. It's not surprisi…

"The Rivalry" - The History of the Series

(Photo Credit: Jane Therese, 2004, New York Times)

In years past, I've tended to recycle a lot of my previous years' posts when it comes to talking about "The Rivalry". That tradition will continue to some degree - as, really, the history doesn't actually change - but this year I'm going to less recycling and more new writing on this subject on which entire books have been written and documentaries have been made.

The story of college football's most-played rivalry is a great one, and worth retelling. So many young Lehigh and Lafayette young men have participated in something truly special and unique in the world for more than 100 years. NFL players, future business leaders, athletic directors, football coaches and countless other young men have participated in this game to end all games. Harvard/Yale might be older. Ohio State/Michigan might be better known. But when it comes to the number of games played and just the sheer intensity of rivalry, yo…

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh vs. Georgetown

A tiny bit of housekeeping to do before the 146th. The LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Senior TE Alex "Wojdo" Wojdowski (5 catches for 69 yards, with every one, it seems, converting a crucial 3rd or 4th down) and senior RB Jay Campbell (118 yards, 1 TD)
Defense: Senior LB Mike Groome (11 tackles, 1 pass-break-up to force a punt)
Special Teams: Senior PK Tom "Razza-Dazza" Randazza (3/3 on FGs of 32, 23, and 31 yards, 59.7 average on kickoffs, and living out a kicker's dream, recovering a football on the kickoff to set up his last championship-clinching score)
Underclassman: Sophomore WR Ryan Spadola (6 catches, 113 yards, including a 25 yard reception that set up Campbell's TD)

What a surprise: Spadola wins the Underclassman of the week award again. (When he becomes a junior, who the heck am I going to give it to?) Congratulations to all the winners!

Last Look: Lehigh vs. Georgetown

(Photo Credit: Ben Caffrey)

Though it is "Rivalry Week", before we get to hating on our 2-8 rivals - you know, "that school in Easton" - it's worth taking a peek back at the win that got the Mountain Hawks the outright Patriot League Championship, and a host of other weekly awards: a Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week award to senior PK Tom "Razza-Dazza" Randazza, andLehigh's first appearance in the national rankings at No. 22 in the Sports Network Top 25, Any Given Saturday and FCS Coaches' Poll.

Oh yeah - there's also the Lehigh Sports Magazine, too, where the Patriot League championship trophy makes a surprise cameo visit, too. "It's back where it belongs," head coach Andy Coen said.

I'm not sure anything could really top, however, the picture here, grabbed from former football player OL Ben Caffrey. Hope you don't mind, Ben. (more)

Sunday's Word: Hangover

You'd think on this weekend - one of rings, championships, a restoration of the natural order that all Lehigh fans aspire the Patriot League to be, a huge winning streak - that I'd come up with a different "Sunday Word" this weekend.  "How about 'Glorious'", I hear fictional fans tell me?  "Or 'Rings', something the football team clearly had on their minds going into the game?  (Radio Man Matt Markus reported that one unidentified Mountain Hawk was heckling the Hoyas by pointing at his ring finger during the game.)

Strangely, I really struggled to find the right word. Yes, there was a lot of 'glory'. Yes, the 24-7 win over Georgetown does guarantee that this team will get the 'rings' they so desperately wanted. Yes, 'playoffs' would also be a legitimate "Word", too, since now the Mountain Hawks will be playoff-bound for the first time since 2004.

And yet - and yet - the regular season is not over. F…

Lehigh 24, Georgetown 7, Final

The halftime score read: Georgetown 7, Lehigh 6.

And head coach Andy Coen, as you might guess, was none too pleased with his team.

All week, he had told his team to focus on Georgetown. To not overlook them on the way to playing "that school in Easton". To not think about rings. To not settle for a share of the Patriot League championship. To be hungry.

And yet, there it was. Georgetown 7, Lehigh 6, going into half.

A Georgetown team that was different from the other Georgetown teams challenged Lehigh almost the entire way. But ultimately the Mountain Hawks wrestled the game away from the Hoyas and got the 24-7 win they wanted - and removed the "co-" from the Patriot League championship. It would be a celebration to remember - because this was no coast of a win over the Hoyas. Not by a long shot. (more)

Friday Water Cooler: Can Lehigh Host?

I suppose it's natural to think this way.

I know, I know. Georgetown is much improved. Lehigh cannot fall asleep against the Hoyas - they have come so far, and can't get stopped now. All that is true.

But if you haven't at least mulled the possibility of Lehigh hosting a game in the playoffs - should they win this weekend, of course - you either don't know how the playoffs work or you had better check your pulse.

Should Lehigh win this weekend, what other results might be friendly to a potential first-round matchup at Murrray Goodman? We'll look at them below the flip. (more)

Game Preview: Lehigh at Georgetown, 11/13/2010

(Photo Credit: Georgetown Athletics)

"Georgetown - with a combined 5-38 record since head coach Kevin Kelly took over the program in 2006 is now sitting atop the Patriot League with a 3-1 record and a 2-0 record in Patriot League play, thanks to their defensive-minded 17-7 victory over Holy Cross this weekend," I wrote in the last weekend in September.

What a difference a month makes.

The Hoyas' extremely promising 3-1 start in September turned into a winless October - and a 3-6 record. The whispers that "this Hoya team is different" were silenced, as Georgetown returned to what they had done an awful lot in the last nine years - lose football games.

But for the Hoyas, a good part of their frustration this season could be overturned if they manage to beat Lehigh. It won't just be for pride, or even just the Hoyas' tiny senior football class - they could also stay alive in the race for their first-ever playoff appearance, too. (more)

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh vs. Holy Cross

After this week's big win over Holy Cross, the LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Junior QB Chris Lum (21/33 passing, 212 yards, 8 rushes for 64 yards, not including a 10 yard TD run called back due to penalty, 3 TDs)
Defense: Senior LB Al Pierce (6 tcakles, 2 tackles for loss including one very loud sack) and senior SS Casey Eldemire (3 tackles, 2 pass break-ups, 1 forced and recovered fumble)
Special Teams: Senior PK Tom Randazza (4/4 on extra points, 22 yd FG, 44 yd FG, 6 booming kickoffs, including 1 touchback) and senior KR/DB John "Prez" Kennedy (111 yards in kickoff returns, including a 64 yarder and not including a 30 yard return called back on a penalty; 1 pass break-up)
Underclassman: Sophomore WR Ryan Spadola (8 catches, 87 yards)

Tempting to rename the "Underclassman award" to the "Ryan Spadola" award.  Congratulations to the winners!

Championship Wrapup: A Whole Lotta Champions Playing This Weekend

Contrary to popular belief, I am not employed in any capacity by the Patriot League or Lehigh Athletics, though sometimes it must seem like I am.

But there were two Patriot League championships clinched by teams from Lehigh this weekend, not just the the co-championship clinch by the Mountain Hawk football team this weekend at Fitton Field in Worcester.

A surprising turn of events in the Patriot League women's soccer tournament meant No. 3 seeded Lehigh, after upsetting top-seeded Army 1-0 Sunday afternoon, won the Patriot League championship and got to their first-ever NCAA tournament.

It caps off an extraordinary year for Lehigh Athletics in general - most of whom play this weekend, too. (more)

Last Look: Lehigh vs. Holy Cross

It's not often that I have to lead my "Last Look" blog posting with a scoreboard shot  from my cell phone, but there were no other real good pictures of the game at Fitton Field this weekend from Holy Cross or Lehigh, so I had to settle for my own Plan B.

I've gone away from taking photographs of the games - something I used to do - but I forgot that sometimes, at away games, it's crucial.  I didn't even bring a camera to Fitton this weekend - all I had was my phone that was decidedly not very smart.

Fortunately, when it came to print recaps this weekend, the game was much, much better covered by the Morning Call and the Worcester Telegram-Gazette. (more)

Sunday's Word: Hungry

(Graphic Credit: CollegExperience.Net)

It was a fantastic weekend for Lehigh all around, for the players, coaches, fans, and even their "fearless cheerleader", as I was called on the Lehigh Sports Forum this weekend.

The 7-2 record looks great. The 3-0 conference record looks even better. The offense is putting up points, the defense shutting down Patriot League opponents. Confidence is there. Parts of the game that had been trouble spots in September are now becoming assets. Things are looking pretty good.

But junior QB Chris Lum had a quote in the postgame this weekend that is crucial for Lehigh to remember this coming weekend. Simply, that Lehigh needed to stay "hungry". They absolutely do. (more)

Lehigh 34, Holy Cross 17, Final

It seems like this season Lehigh's football seniors were busily trying to tick off everything on their "bucket list" they'd meant to do before they graduated.

Beat Princeton: Check. Have a winning season against the Ivy League: Check. Chest-bump head coach Andy Coen: Check. Come back from a three-score deficit: Check. Douse coach Coen with ice water after a victory: Check.

There was last weekend's win against Colgate, too. Sure, that game also was a check mark, but that meant a lot more than just that. It would erase three years of futility against head coach Dick Biddle and the Raiders, sure. But to beat them for the first time - and in such successful fashion - meant a whole lot more than just the victory.

And it also would allow the seniors to make another more important check mark: Winning Season: Check.

It was a brisk, perfect football Saturday at Fitton Field this Saturday where Lehigh finally beat Holy Cross 34-17. And in the process - and a Lafayette lo…

Before the Purple: Week 9 Football Predictions

This will be the quickest blog post ever since I'm on my way to Fitton Field to see the Lehigh/Holy Cross game.

If you're unable to make it up to Worcester to watch the game today live, the game will be broadcast on TV on WFMZ 69 with Steve Degler and Mike Yadush calling the action. If you're not in the Lehigh Valley, there's some otehr special news: the game will also be broadcast live nationally on Fox College Sports Atlantic starting at (I believe) 12:30PM. As others have said, FCS Atlantic couldn't have picked a better game to select in terms of the Patriot League race.

Additionally, over on College Sporting News I wrote an article about "America's Top 20", detailing all the races for the (now) ten autobids to the FCS playoffs and the possible ten at-larges. As of right now, I have Lehigh picked to win the Patriot League - hopefully, this does not change after Saturday.

In that piece are my picks for Saturday's FCS games. Below the flip are my…

Game Preview: Lehigh at Holy Cross, 11/6/2010

(Photo Credit: Holy Cross Athletics)

For this "Sunday's Word", I chose "Boiling".  It played very well into the Lehigh football theme this year, which was "212 Degrees".

But another football theme, unspoken but still very much on the minds of everyone in the football program, is "revenge".

After the Colgate game, a lot was made of the fact that the seniors had never beaten the Raiders, either in Hamilton or Bethlehem.  Before this year, all three games were close, but all were losses.  On Saturday, it was time to enact that revenge, to give the seniors their only potential taste of victory of the 'Gate - and they did so emphatically, with a dominating 44-14 victory.

"I really enjoyed today, I ain't gonna lie," head coach Andy Coen said, just barely hiding a smile. "Because our seniors hadn't beaten Colgate. It's the best win... until, hopefully, next week. They haven't beaten Holy Cross, either." (mor…

LFN's Players of the Week, Colgate vs. Lehigh

After this week's big win over Colgate, the LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Senior OL Will "Got Your Back" Rackley, senior OL R.J. McNamara, junior OL Jim Liebler, senior OL Ricky Clerge, junior OL Troy McKenna (474 yards of total offense, 0 sacks allowed)
Defense: Junior LB Mike Groome (12 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss) and senior LB Al Pierce (5 tackles, 1 pass breakup, a crushing hit to set up the interception return for TD)
Special Teams: Junior LB Tanner Rivas (Blocked FG attempt, 10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss)
Underclassman: Sophomore QB Michael Colvin (41 yards rushing, 2 TDs)

Congratulations to the winners!

FCS East Wrapup: Tightening Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: AP/Boston Herald)

The Pat Toomey/Joe Sestak race isn't the only race that's too close to call right now.

In the CAA, NEC and Big South - playoff conferences all - there are a number of races for FCS playoff autobids and (potentially) at-large invites that are also hotly contested.

The CAA, with seven teams in the Top 25 of the GPI, are guaranteed their autobid (of course) and also are guaranteed a couple of at-large bids, with the potential of having even more.  But let's take a closer look which teams could be playoff-bound from the East - and, by extension, could be possible opponents of the Patriot League champion. (more)

Last Look: Colgate vs. Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call)

This weekend's game between the Mountain Hawks and Raiders saw The Sports Network's Craig Haley in attendance, adding a national voice to the press voices reporting on Lehigh's 44-14 domination over Colgate:

"When senior CB Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs picked off a Steve Rizzo pass at the Colgate 48-yard line, he saw open field to the Raiders' end zone. He then went the distance to highlight Lehigh's surprisingly easy, 44-14 pasting of Colgate, a win which has put the finishing line in sight of the Patriot League leader - a possible first league title since 2006 and a first berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs since 2004."

As Haley put it, a Patriot League title "in view" means a whole lot of happy recaps of the game on the Lehigh side, including a live blog by Ben Watanabe from the Express-Times.(more)

Sunday's Word: Boiling

Back in March, when the thoughts of most Lehigh students involved either spending even more time in the library or the NCAA tournament, this years' Lehigh football players, far away from the fall spotlight, chose the theme of their upcoming season.

The theme was "212 degrees".

"That's the 'boiling' point of water," head coach Andy Coen told Keith Groller of The Morning Call at that time. "The thought is that you want to heat up and when you get to 212 degrees, you boil and you can do some special things. I think they picked up a good theme because we have been close the last couple of years. We have been playing at 210, 211 degrees in a lot of games. This year we need to get to 212."

That quote leaped back into my mind after watching a football game where the frustrations of the college careers of a lot of Lehigh players finally seemed to hit 212 degrees. By any objective measure, Lehigh "boiled" this weekend. (more)

Lehigh 44, Colgate 14, Final

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call)

When head coach Andy Coen was asked where the win this weekend ranks with him - excluding the wins against Lafayette in "The Rivalry", of course - a smile escaped.

Coen wasn't the only smiling Mountain Hawk fan this afternoon, either.

In a game that was billed as one that would probably be a dogfight until the very end, Lehigh jumped out to a 31-0 lead and never really looked back in a 44-14 stomping.

The Maroon Marauders that were supposed to run all over Lehigh's "bend but don't break" defense with the top rusher in FCS, RB Nate Eachus, didn't. The Lehigh offense, that was supposed to struggle against a top-flight team, didn't. This Lehigh team, which was supposed to lose the close games against the great opponents, didn't.

It had to be the most satisfying non-Lafayette win in coach Coen's career. (more)

Friday Water Cooler: Lehigh/Colgate Won't Break 10,000

(Photo Credit: Colgate Connect)

I talk a lot about "hating the 'Gate" during this week. On my Facebook page, I'm listing 27 reasons why I "hate the 'Gate", and it's a good-natured ribbing of Colgate from a guy who actually respects the Raiders the other 51 weeks out of the year. It's fun, it fires up the Lehigh and Colgate fans, and it gets folks to come out and see a really good football game where a pair of high-academic, solid football programs are facing off in spirited competition.

Or so I hope.

Attendance for non-Lafayette football events has been in serious decline over the past few years. Some of that is due to the fact that Lehigh hasn't been Patriot League champions since 2006 - and even that year, where Lafayette pounded Lehigh 49-27 and earned the autobid to the Patriot League playoffs instead, hardly felt like a championship - and it's clear that the bandwagon fans turn out for a winner in big games. But that folks are n…

Game Preview: Colgate at Lehigh, 10/30/2010

(Photo Credit: Colgate Athletics)

Over the years, Lehigh/Colgate games have earned their reputation as being big games in the Patriot League race.

Start with the history of the Patriot League. Lehigh and Colgate own or share fourteen Patriot League championships in football. They own six of the seven postseason wins in the FCS playoffs of the Patriot League. (Fordham has the other.)

Many years, this game looms as important as to determining the champion of the Patriot League - and for precious bids to the FCS playoffs. And as a result, fans have flocked to this game in the past. In 2004, the Lehigh/Colgate clash was a battle of Top 20 teams, and was played in front of 13.929 fans.

But this "Hate the 'Gate" rivalry - as coined by one-time Lehigh LB Matt Mohler - hasn't been the same in the past three years. The Mountain Hawks haven't been nationally ranked now for quite some time, while Colgate has often been in the FCS Top 25. Furthermore, Lehigh has los…

LFN's Players of the Week, Bucknell vs. Lehigh

Should I just hand out my awards to sophomore WR Ryan Spadola every week? This week's LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Senior WR Craig "Braveheart" Zurn (6 catches, 51 yards) and senior RB Jay Campbell (106 all-purpose yards, 80 yards rushing, 26 yards receiving)
Defense: Junior LB Tanner Rivas (4 tackles, 2 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble against a very athletic QB)
Special Teams: Senior CB Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs (3 punt returns for 31 yards, 4 tackles, 1 interception)
Underclassman: Sophomore WR Ryan Spadola (was there ever a doubt? 6 catches, 111 yards, 130 all-purpose yards, 3 TD grabs, and a downed punt inside the 1 yard line)

Congratulations to the winners!

FCS East Wrapup: The Best Undefeated Team You Never Heard Of

(Photo Credit: Bethune-Cookman Athletics)

If you look at the College Sporting News' Gridiron Power Index, this week, there are two undefeated teams that are not a total surprise in the list.

No. 1 on the list, 7-0 Appalachian State - you've probably heard of them, the poster kids for a "little" FCS team upsetting FBS teams, not to mention their perennial FCS playoff appearances and national championships.

Coming in at No. 4 is 8-0 Jacksonville State - another team that has become accustomed to splashy headlines as well, first by becoming the home of LSU QB Ryan Perrilloux and then by winning an epic game against an FBS team eariler this year in their 49-48 double-overtime win against the Rebels Rebel Black Bears. Ole Miss hasn't exactly been SEC royalty this year, coming in at a weak 3-4 so far, but the Gamecocks' win - and undefeated record, with their SEC victory - has given them the accolades. Point is: if you follow FCS, you know something about this …

Last Look: Bucknell vs. Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call)

With the Brown and White, Lehigh's student newspaper, not providing coverage for homecoming, and the local Lewisburg papers' staying away from this 1-6 Bison team this week, coverage was pretty slim pickings this week in terms of the game. You could reread my great coverage of the game, of course, but you can also enjoy the local writeups of the game as well. (That includes a fantastic set of photographs by Denise Sanchez of the Morning Call that show sophomore WR Ryan Spadola's fingertip catch in the end zone in the first quarter.

All those links are provided below. (more)

Sunday's Word: Raiders

(Photo Credit: L.A. Times)

It seems destined that this weekend's "Sunday Word" would have both a Colgate and a Bay Area tilt.  "Hate" would have to be a close second, considering that  it's going to be "Hate the 'Gate" week once again, but with the Giants besting the Phillies in one of the most excruciating MLB playoff games in history, there's another commonality between the Bay Area Bozos (my nickname for the San Francisco Giants - do I sound bitter?  Really?)  and the word I chose for this Sunday's "Word".

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has had a slogan that has defined his team for several generations: "Just Win, Baby", an expression that has been softened from its original implications of winning dirty to drilling down the game of football to what's important - it's not the number of first downs you win, passing yards you get, or penalties you suffer, as long as you end up the winner of the scoreboard.�…

Lehigh 32, Bucknell 10, Final

(Photo Credit: Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call)

On the opening drive of this game, sophomore WR Ryan Spadola finished a crisp offensive drive - which lasted less than three minutes - with a pretty fingertip catch in the end zone to give Lehigh's first score on a picture-perfect October afternoon.

But shortly after that fantastic grab that would give Lehigh the lead, as it turned out, for good - Bucknell's special teams "simply got penetration", as head coach Andy Coen said in the postgame press conference, as the extra point was blocked to give Lehigh a 6-0 lead.

It summed up a day that ended up being a comfortable win for Lehigh - with an offensive performance that many Mountain Hawk watchers have been yearning for since QB Phil Stambaugh - but still had enough uncomfortable moments to prevent it from being the sort of statement game that would establish this Lehigh team as top dogs in the Patriot League. (more)

Week 8 Football Predictions, 10/23/2010

For those who are interested - below the flip are my selection of picks today's Patriot League football games being played.

For my picks of the rest of the week, click here to visit the College Sporting News and read: "How A Sixth-Stringer Won the Day for Richmond", where I pick the Sports Network Top 25.

Since my life has become a crucible of craziness, I'm reverting to doing "one-line analysis" of my picks these days. Last week, I went 5-1, putting me at 28-12 on the year. Let's keep the good times rolling. (more)

Friday Water Cooler: Polls?

Polls have been a part of college football almost as long as there's been college football.  In a sport where teams are spread out across the country and don't play each other, it's a way to gauge the relative merits of one team against another.

And fans of college football have always had a love/hate relationship with polls, too.  When they are kind to your team or conference, they're great; when they're not, they're biased, unfair, or voters are stupid - or some variation on that theme.

The Sports Networkrecently revealed the complete list of their voters in their Top 25 poll - in an effort to provide some accountability to some of their more questionable teams making cameo appearances in the "Others Receiving Votes" area. Their revelation, however, has raised more questions than answers. (more)

Game Preview: Bucknell at Lehigh, 10/23/2010

(Photo Credit: Bison Athletics)

When the Bison hired Joe Susan away from Rutgers this offseason to replace Tim Landis, they were looking to change history in Lewisburg.

A recent history that included: no Patriot League title since 1997, the Tom Gadd years. No postseason FCS playoff appearances. Three straight years of losing records. And seven out of eight consecutive years where the offense didn't score as many points as the defense relinquished.

It also includes another ignominious historical record for the Bison - twelve straight losses to Lehigh. Since beating Lehigh 21-14 in that title year of 1997, Bucknell hasn't beaten the Brown & White since. Most haven't even been close. In their last seven meetings, Lehigh has scored 30 or points in every single contest.

It's Homecoming for Lehigh, and the Mountain Hawks are coming off a heartening 21-19 win at Harvard. They'll be faced by a rebuilding Bison team that will almost certainly count this as their …