Senior OL Will Rackley didn't look too happy in this picture in the Morning Call, taken during the 35-0 loss to Villanova at home this past Saturday.
The consensus was that Villanova looked like a team that were a real chance to repeat as CAA champions and national champions, too. However, the sting was softened somewhat by the fact that the matchup between Rackley and Villanova OL Ben Ijalana attracted not a few NFL scouts to Murray Goodman this weekend. (more)
Morning Call: Villanova Proves It's Already a Level Above Lehigh
Morning Call: Photo Gallery, Villanova at Lehigh
Villanova is studying a potential move from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to become members of the Big East Conference.
But make no mistake, the scholarship-giving Wildcats are already at a higher level than Lehigh and the rest of the Patriot League, which has had its champion eliminated by Villanova in the playoffs the last two years.
"We needed to move the ball and keep our defense from doing exactly what they wound up doing, and that's being stuck on the field [too long]," head coach Andy Coen said. "We also wanted to limit their big plays and we gave up three big ones that led to scores for them.
"Our kids thought if they did all of the right things today, they had a chance to win the football game. But we didn't do all of those things and played a very good team that executed very well on both sides of the ball. When that happens, you end up in these types of games."
Junior QB Chris Lum was 18-for-31 for 172 yards, but had three interceptions. Michael Colvin, used to change tempo as a running quarterback, completed two of his five passes.
"I am still confident we can throw the ball," Lum said. "It was just a mental mistake here, [lack of] execution there. That's what constantly stopped us. Yeah, Villanova's a great team. But it doesn't matter who you're playing. You have to execute. A lot of it is on our shoulders, not on who you're playing."
Express-Times: Lehigh Falls to Villanova in Home Opener
"This will not affect the confidence of the football team, I guarantee that," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. "Obviously disappointed in the outcome of today. You play teams like this you look at it as a great opportunity. I know every kid wants to put their best foot forward.
"I think we gave a really great effort; we just made far too many mistakes."
"The biggest disappointment was mental errors including myself," senior CB John Kennedy said. "Not being aligned properly before the snap, those kinds of things. That helps them execute their gameplan."
Morning Call: Lehigh Can't Dwell On Missed Opportunity
Brown & White: Wildcats Sour Hawks in Football Home Opener
The Mountain Hawks feel they are better than the 4-7 team of last year, and know they missed a chance to prove it.
While acknowledging Villanova's talent and execution, Lehigh didn't excuse its own performance.
"You can make as many big plays as you want," sophomore WR Ryan Spadola said, "It doesn't matter if you don't walk away with a 'W.'"
"The kids aren't dodging any bullets," Coen said. "They know they made mistakes, and they're accountable for them and that's where you have to start. If a kid is accountable for a mistake, there's a good chance he's not going to make it again.
"There are no excuses for what happened here. We could have played better. Now, would we have won the game, I don't know. But we would have had a lot better chance."
"This will not affect the confidence of this football team, I will promise you that," Coen said. "We have outstanding character kids in the program and we have talented kids in the program. We have to watch the film, get better on the mistakes we made, so we don't make them next week. We won't dwell on this. It's the second game of the season."
"We're not going to dwell on this," Lum said. "I know we can do some great things. We need to have another great week of practice. We'll be ready on Saturday."
Philadelphia Inquirer: Villanova Overwhelms Lehigh
Delco Daily Times: Villanova Bounces Back, Soars Past Lehigh
“Anytime you shut a team out, especially a team like Lehigh that can score, you really had a good victory,” Wildcats coach Andy Talley said. “We really felt like Lehigh would have to throw the ball to be in the game. We really felt like we could stop their running game.”
“I thought we were a little sluggish in the first half,” Talley said. “In the second half we played much better, a lot quicker. It’s not a team that really spikes for any one game but your opener, in a big venue like the Linc and with Temple and all that, we probably spiked some a little and came back down to earth in the first half.”
“We just want to come out and play hard and physical,”said senior DB Fred Maldonado, who had a team-high seven tackles. “We try to stay on the same page.”
"Senior RB Aaron Ball has great breakaway speed, but he's become a real power runner as well," alley said. "Senior RB Angelo Babbaro is just nifty. We have a really nice 1-2 punch. The key is trying to keep them healthy. It helps when you can switch them off."
CBS Sports: Small PA Schools Yield More Big Time O-Line Prospects
Where Evans is now is exactly where two of the nation's premier interior linemen want to be. Coincidentally, the two are from small schools in Pennsylvania, Villanova OL Benjamin Ijalana and Lehigh's senior OL Will Rackley.
At 6-feet-4, 320, Ijalana is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2-rated offensive guard prospect behind only Florida State's Rodney Hudson. Ijalana is projected to be a late second- to early third-round prospect in the 2011 draft. Ijalana, who was the only Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) player named to the 2010 Outland Trophy Watch list, is projected to be a guard at the next level, but he's primarily lined up at tackle and has been counted on to protect the quarterback's blindside.
Entering his fourth year as a starter, Ijalana has started all 39 games during his career. He possesses quick feet, long arms and sound technique, which allow him to keep defenders at bay. Ijalana has the attributes necessary to succeed at guard or tackle, and while many believe his best position at the next level is guard, one veteran observer views him more as a tackle.
"He's more of a finesse player and lacks aggression down after down," the scout said. "He uses his athleticism and long reach to his advantage, but has to get off the line quicker and explode into the defender. He's more advanced as a pass protector than a run blocker, which leads me to believe he will play tackle in the NFL."
Rackley, on the other hand, has played inside and outside during his time at Lehigh. At 6-4, 305, Rackley is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 9-rated senior guard and is projected to be a late fifth-, early sixth-round pick next year.
A four-year starter for the Mountain Hawks, Rackley has displayed tremendous toughness during his career, especially last season. Before the start of the season, Lehigh coach Andy Cohen disclosed that Rackley played with "many bumps and bruises" and had an "ankle injury" for most of last year. He marveled over Rackley's work ethic and desire to be the best.
That desire hasn't gone unnoticed outside of Lehigh. Villanova's 35-0 victory over Lehigh on Saturday was well attended by NFL scouts. NFLDraftScout.com confirmed that evaluators from the Ravens, Browns, Lions, Patriots and Giants convened at Goodman Stadium on Saturday to watch the two up close.
"When you watch guys from bigger schools you kind of know what to expect," said one scout. "But, when you watch guys from smaller schools, you never know what you're going to get. ... These are two guys that are similar all-around and could potentially be drafted in the first few rounds of the draft. They also play an hour away from each other. I guess you can say whoever plays better in this game will have bragging rights."