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FCS East Wrapup: Signs of the Apocalypse?

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you probably already know that my "Sunday Word" this week was "Assumption", so selected because of the shocking 30-24 win by the Division II Greyhounds over the Fordham Rams, (who are still a member of the Patriot League despite their decision to offer full football scholarships starting with the current freshman class).

Ultimately, the wordplay of the tiny college from Worcester, Mass was too great to pass up.  (Read it, and I hope you agree.)  But a close second as to my selection of "Sunday Word" wasn't far off from that, either: that word would be "Apocalypse".

What else could explain a September that is simply jam-packed with improbable outcomes that might have one looking in the scripture or historic documents to see if, say a 3-1 Georgetown team or a 2-0 Dartmouth team might be a sign of the Rapture? (more)

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.

Though it may seem to the outside observer that the Hoyas' rise to the top is incredible, it's for sure no fluke.

Two weeks ago vs. Lafayette, the Hoyas came from behind and gave their defense - which has historically been the strength of their team - a chance to protect a lead. A variation on that same script was the story as well against Holy Cross, a team they hadn't beaten since 1999.

After Holy Cross DL Mude Ohimor recovered a fumble late in the third quarter to give the Crusaders their only drive starting in Georgetown territory - and ended with Holy Cross' only score of the game, a touchdown pass from QB Ryan Taggart to WR Gerald Mistretta to give Purple a 7-0 lead - Georgetown's defense got to business, allowing only one first down over the next seventeen minutes of play and allowing Georgetown's offense to do just enough to win the football game.

"That first half was like a tennis match; everybody was volleying and nobody was scoring any points," Kelly said after the game. "We said we have to win the second half, and we've been doing that for the last couple weeks."

With the score Holy Cross 7, Georgetown 3, and playing a classing field position game, the Crusaders and Hoyas exchanged punts until backup P Rob Dornfried shanked a punt out of bounds, setting up the Hoyas at their own 40 yard line and a chance to take the lead. The Hoyas made the most of it, with QB Scott Darby first finding WR Keerome Lawrence for a 11 yard pass play, cumulating with a seven yard TD run by RB Phillip Oladeji to give the Hoyas a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

“Field position was the key,” Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore said after the game. “We were solid the beginning of the year on special teams, but we’ve taken a step back. They converted the third downs and fourth downs. Overall on defense, we did a good job. But the big difference was third- and fourth-down conversions in the second half.”

The win - and the Hoyas' early success - led to an uncharacteristic sight at Georgetown's Multi-Sport Field - an overflow crowd. "With nearly 5,000 registrants, this was the largest Homecoming Weekend crowd since 1970 (when the Grateful Dead was the Homecoming band at McDonough Gym),", said DFW Hoya from Hoya Saxa, "but tickets sold out a half hour before game time and many tailgate participants were left to watch the game through a fence."

(Hoya Mania taking over the Georgetown football community? Paging Kirk Cameron!)

Other bloggers at the game were Joe Tutino, a student who reported on the game for Chu Chu Rah Rah, a Holy Cross blog. Aside from posing some uncomfortable questions about offensive play-calling, another interesting aside was the presence of former Northeastern head football coach Rocky Hager in attendance. "Not a clue as to why he was in attendance," he reported, "but I’m sure watching Tom Gilmore ply his trade here as a spectator rather than as an opposing coach on a flooded Parsons Field seemed much better."

(Didn't I read that somewhere in the writings of Nostradamus? "Before the Reckoning, a man named the same as a old hero from 1976 will witness something ne'er before seen since half a score ago. That is the time to put Hershey's syrup on your doorknockers, and stock up on canned goods?" Something like that?)

While Holy Cross' trip to the Bronx to take on the humbled Rams this weekend won't count in the Patriot League standings, it will count in spades when it comes to putting either Fordham's or Holy Cross' football teams back on track for the rest of the season. Georgetown, on the other hand, can forge a commanding 3-0 Patriot League conference record if they can pull off another league victory in Hamilton, New York over Colgate.

Other goings-on in the world of FCS Eastern football:

  • For those looking for Apocalypse signs, aside from Georgetown's current dominance of the Patriot League and Assumption's win over Fordham, there are plenty of other signs of craziness here in the East. Start with Dartmouth - winless two seasons ago, but now undefeated this September and celebrating their first two-win winning streak since 2003. It almost seemed like there was divine intervention in their 21-19 victory over Sacred Heart, too: a 38 yard FG sailed wide left in the closing minute that would have given the Pioneers a 1-point lead.

    “I expected us to block it,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said. “That was the feeling I had. I told the guys the next snap, ‘We’re going to win this ball game.’ We do a good job and we block one earlier. Does that enter into a kicker’s mind? Yeah I think it does on occasion, and the pressure — it’s a big kick, and he just pulled it.”

    Dartmouth will take on one of the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League - Penn - this weekend, while Sacred Heart will host Central Connecticut State this weekend in a key NEC matchup.
  • Another sign of the Apocalypse: an Ivy League team not named Harvard beating... a CAA team. Vastly improved Columbia erupted with two unanswered touchdowns in the 4th quarter to give Baby Blue a dominating 24-10 victory over Towson.

    “The punter punted the ball and the kicker kicked the ball and we recovered kicks, and you know, we had some penalties, but not a whole bunch,” highly quotable Columbia head coach Norries Wilson said after the game. “You know the players and the coaches put a lot of work into this week. I just stayed out of their way, and they got it done, and they did a fantastic job.”

    While Wilson stayed humble, it's obvious from Jake Novak at Roar Lions Roar that two keys to the Lions' big victory were their newfound running game, led by RB Leon Ivery, and a revelation on defense in DE Josh Martin, who terrorized Towson QBs with 3 sacks and 4 QB hurries.

    Towson's platoon of quarterbacks, which include former Citadel QB Bart Blanchard who played under Lehigh connections Kevin Higgins and offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini, doesn't seem to be working despite the fact that statistically Blanchard had a pretty good day, going 12-for-16 and scoring the Tigers' only touchdown.

    1-1 Columbia will be welcoming red-hot Princeton to Kraft Field for the Lions' third straight home game at the upper tip of Manhattan, while 1-3 Towson will be hosting nationally-ranked UMass and will be hoping for, well, the Year of the Apocalypse to continue with a mammoth upset victory over the Minutemen.
  • Another sign of the Apocalypse: in the CAA, Rhode Island, who just enjoyed their best bye week in recent memory basking in their 28-25 upset victory over New Hampshire, is 1-0 in conference play. New Hampshire, Maine, Towson and 2008 national champion Richmond, on the other hand, sit below the Rams at 0-1.

    Maine's 0-1 record comes at the hands of nationally ranked William & Mary, who made a furious comeback from a 14-3 deficit to upend the Black Bears 24-17 on the road. "I've experienced some tough losses here. This is as tough as it gets," Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove said.

    Richmond's 0-1 record came at the hands of Delaware, who surprisingly lost handily at home to Delaware 31-13. After tying the game at 13, in the second half the Blue Hens would score the next 17 points to put it away. "They ran it and we didn't tackle, and we couldn't get them off the field on defense," Richmond coach Latrell Scott succinctly said about the loss.

    To put this in perspective, the Rams are tied with Delaware, Villanova, who survived an early injury to WR Matt "Superman" Szczur and escaped Villanova Stadium with a 22-14 victory after CB James Pitts intercepted a Quaker pass late in the 4th quarter and took it to the house to seal the game, and UMass, who barely survived Stony Brook 26-21 after Minuteman CB Tyler Holmes intercepted a pass on the Seawolves attempt at a game-tying drive.

    Stocked up on powdered milk yet?
  • It's tempting to look at the final score: Syracuse 42, Colgate 7, and assume that this game was a whitewash. But there are plenty of fans that have looked at the particulars: that Colgate's offensive line seemed to match up surprisingly well with the Orange, that RB Nate Eachus racked up 147 yards and a touchdown against the supposedly athletically superior team, that Colgate only allowed 15 minutes of offensive possession to their former rivals.

    If you watch the game online on ESPN3, you'll see a Raider team that ground out the yards, matched up well against the Orange, and made it a game, making Orange fans shift in their seats nervously as the scoreboard read Syracuse 7, Colgate 0 through most of the first half.

    "Colgate had to play just about error-free football to have a chance to win the game, and the Raiders couldn’t manage that," John Pitarresi of the Utica Observer-Dispatch opined. "That’s okay. This is a very good football team and there is no doubt it remains the favorite in the Patriot League."

    That certainly feels true, but the truth is that Colgate had a chance to make a memorable statement against an FBS team, and the final score read a 35 point blowout.

    The Orange have a bye week to contemplate exactly how good their football team is with two wins against FCS opponents, while Colgate has a must-win game against Georgetown this weekend. There are a lot of Patriot League fans - especially at Lafayette - who will be big Raider fans this weekend.
  • If you're a Lehigh fan, sad with the loss to New Hampshire, one cornflake of hope to you might be the transitive property of football.

    Lehigh's 35-22 win over Princeton was a defining moment for the Mountain Hawks, overcoming a tough Tiger team to win the game. Lafayette, meanwhile, lost to the same Tigers in excruciating fashion 36-33 in double overtime.

    "We had plenty of opportunities to win that game," Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani said after the game. "We played a lot better tonight overall and I can't fault the kids' effort. But it's one play here, one play there."

    With Lafayette leading most of the game, Tiger QB Tommy Wornham's 4th quarter drive ending in a 5 yard TD run - and questionable 2-point conversion call to WR Trey Peacock - tied the game at 24. A field goal from special teams player of the week PK Davis Rodriguez would give the Leopards the lead with 7 minutes to play, but Wornham and the Tigers would not say die, embarking on another drive that concluded with a 24 yard FG from PK Patrick Jacob that would send the game to overtime.

    With another Jacob FG from Princeton in the first overtime, Lafayette seemed to be well poised to get the game-winning touchdown to ice the game - but a screen pass to RB Alan Elder from QB Ryan O'Neill would end up three yards short of the sticks, having the Leopards settle for another Rodriguez FG and a second overtime.

    The second overtime started off fine - but with 3rd down and goal from the Princeton 9, O'Neill fired the ball to an open WR Mark Layton - who dropped the rifle pass.

    "Nine times out of ten, he makes that play," WR Kyle Hayes said after the game. "He'll make it 10 out of 10 from now on, I know it. He's that kind of player."

    After another Rodriguez FG, Princeton did what Lafayette could not - put it in the end zone. Aided by a late hit out of bounds after a Wornham 12 yard run, the Tigers leaned on RB Jordan Culbreath to get the last seven yards for the touchdown - and the win.

    0-3 Lafayette hosts 1-1 Harvard this weekend, angry off their 29-14 loss at Brown, and Tavani knows this will be a challenge. "[The schedule is] not getting any easier, that's for sure, But you have to keep getting off the mat and work hard or it could get worse before it gets better," he said. "We have to make sure it gets better. We have to find some way to win at home against Harvard."
  • That's not the only signs of the Apocalypse, either. In my CSN Way column this week, I profile some other teams - Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois, and Prairie View A&M - that also seem to show that a once-in-a-millenium event might be happening in all of FCS.


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