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Sunday's Word: Assumption

If you've been around a while, you probably know what they say about "assuming".

But any "assumption" you made about the Patriot League back in August has probably, by the end of this month, be proven untrue.

It was emphatically brought home this weekend with "Assumption" college, who - it was "assumed" by most - would be a homecoming opponent that would be cannon fodder for big, bad Fordham.

Now armed with football scholarships, a really good transfer QB to step into the shoes of QB John Skelton, and just a fresh new attitude that nothing could stop this Ram football team.  Right?

If you "assumed" that "Assumption" - a Division II school from the Northeast-10 conference - would roll over in front of Fordham, you'd have been made to look like a donkey after the Greyhounds' 30-24 victory. But take heart, folks who picked the Rams. There have been plenty of moments where anybody - and I mean anybody, which emphatically includes myself - who has followed the Patriot League has been made to look like an ass in some way. (more)


A Catholic division II college boasting a little over 2,100 undergraduates, "Assumption" College is known for its French study program, the fact that it only confers Bachelors of Arts degrees, and that, like Moravian in Bethlehem, it tends to sometimes be overshadowed by not only the plight of the nearby pro teams, but also by the Patriot League school in the same city (Holy Cross).

Tiny "Assumption" doesn't even seem like a likely opponent for a Patriot League school in most years, not least because as a Division II school in the Northeast-10 conference, they offer football scholarships. But since their head football coach, Cory Bailey, was a Fordham football alumnus who graduated in 1998, the team coached by the former alum got the gig - or maybe, the favor - to be an opponent for the Rams in 2010.

Going into the season, the "assumption" was that "Assumption" was going to be an easy homecoming opponent for the Rams. Folks tend to look at the teams below them in NCAA classifications are "cupcakes".

What an incorrect "assumption".

The Greyhounds put together a gameplan: they knew Fordham QB Blake Wayne, RB Xavier Martin and the Ram offense was tough. Therefore: hold onto the ball as long as possible and reduce their opportunities.

And boy, did they ever accomplish that.

Holding onto the ball for an eye-popping 43 minutes in the game (and only allowing the Rams sixteen minutes of offense - less than the time it took to hold halftime festivities!) QB Andrew Kupec (27 for 36, 279 yards 2 TDs) and WR David Canney (16 receptions, 163 yards) probably, to Patriot League fans, looked  a lot more like athletes like Holy Cross QB Dominic Randolph and WR Bill Edger than the players on the D-II team they "assumed" would be showing up.

With a 27-24 lead with 30 seconds to go, the Greyhounds' last drive ended up being a 34 yard FG by PK Brien Nowak to give "Assumption" a six point lead with 30 seconds to play.  Fordham made a solid, last-gasp effort to win the game, first by getting a great kickoff return by Martin into Greyhound territory, and Wayne getting off a 22 yard reception to WR Jason Caldwell with seconds left on the clock.  But Wayne's final pass attempt to TE Stephen Skelton would go through his outstretched hands - and give "Assumption" their second win over an FCS opponent this year.

"Give credit to Assumption as they played well and we didn't," said Fordham head coach Tom Masella after the game. "They controlled the tempo and we couldn't stop them defensively."

****

"Assumption"'s win did lay to waste a big "assumption" that many Patriot League observers have been "assuming" not-so-secretly: that football scholarships would instantly make the Rams into a powerhouse that will make them an instant wrecking ball through the entire Patriot League. Their inconsistent play over the month of September - which has been the only consistent feature of the Rams over the last four years - is a feature of a crazy month where all "assumptions" went out the window.

First, let's start with the obvious. Hands up anyone who thought that a Patriot League team would lose to a Division II school. Anyone? Anyone? I haven't been able to find out the information, but I believe that this is the first time a Patriot League school has lost to a Division II school since the inception of the Patriot League in 1987. This may not mean too much, since as a rule the teams of the Patriot League have not, as a rule scheduled many Division II schools, but it's still a milestone I'd rather not have to report.

Hands up who thought after this weekend that Georgetown would be 3-1 this weekend after handling last year's Patriot League champion Holy Cross Crusaders 17-7. Anyone? Anyone? Who made the "assumption" in August that the Hoyas, after the first week of October, could have a commanding 3-0 Patriot League record after only five weeks of the season are complete? Certainly not me - and only the most rabid of Hoya fans might have believed it.

Hands up who thought that perennial Patriot League title contender Lafayette would be 0-3 this weekend and be winless in September. Anyone? Anyone? Folks knew that Penn would be a tough game for head coach Frank Tavani and the Leopards - I'm pretty sure Quaker head coach Al Bagnoli's troops, who put a major scare in Villanova this weekend, wasn't intimidated by any life-sized cutout of Tavani "having a Coke and a smile" - but losing to both Georgetown and Princeton? I certainly didn't think that would happen.

Hands up who thought Holy Cross would be 1-3, and seriously behind the eight ball, after September. Anyone? Anyone? Folks mostly thought that the Crusaders, with the "Randolph offense" and some solid Patriot League players, could at least go 2-0 over the District of Columbia. Georgetown, however, proved them wrong.

Hands up who thought that the teams of the Patriot League would be 2-5 vs. the Ivy League in September. Anyone? Anyone? I'm not sure if anyone "assumed" that Bucknell would able to beat Dartmouth, but going into the season folks at least thought that Bison head coach Joe Susan would have been able to just will them to some win, any win, in September.

Let's linger on this one a minute. Lehigh's win over Princeton and Fordham's win over Columbia are the only Patriot League victories over the Ancient Eight, and even one of them has an asterisk since Fordham offers football scholarships. (The team they beat - Columbia - beat Towson of the CAA this past weekend, too. Anyone pick that game? Anyone?)

Lafayette lost to Penn and Princeton, Bucknell lost to Dartmouth, Holy Cross lost to Harvard, and even mighty Georgetown lost to Yale on a last-second TD run. (Did I just call the Hoyas "mighty"?) 1-5 versus the Ivy League, our supposed "brothers in arms" league. I think in August, at least two wins here was a decent "assumption". Right?

Hands up anyone who thought the non-Fordham Patriot League out-of-conference record would be 5-12, or a 41.6% winning percentage. Anyone? Anyone? Granted, this record includes a loss to a Big East school (Syracuse beating Colgate), two Lehigh losses to FCS Top 25 teams (Villanova and New Hampshire), a Colgate loss to a FCS Top 25 team (Furman), a Holy Cross loss to a FCS Top 25 team (UMass), and a Lafayette loss to a FCS Top 25 team (Penn).

These may have been somewhat expected - but with the exception of Lafayette's second-half loss to Penn, every one of these games were at least two touchdown deficits at halftime. That's one competitive game in six "marquee games" for the conference. I'll take the fall on this one: I "assumed" that one of these teams - at least - had the stuff to compete in these games and make them closer.

(Think adding a Fordham with football scholarships would help this record much? Well, you'd have a win over Columbia, and one over Rhode Island of the CAA, who also upset New Hampshire. But you'd also have a loss to Bryant, a school that hasn't been in Division I but a couple of years, and a loss, of course to Division II "Assumption".)

If you want to get even more depressed, look at the teams that the non-Ivy League Patriot League currently has in the win column.

Howard, who is 0-3 and who recently lost 50-7 to Florida A&M.

Monmouth, who is 0-3 and Colgate, the preseason favorite to win the Patriot League, needed a last-gasp 2-point conversion to keep from the upset.

2-2 Drake, who got pummeled by nationally-ranked Montana State 48-21 and barely squeaked by 0-4 Valparaiso 21-19.

And, finally, 1-3 Davidson, who followed up their 17-13 loss to Georgetown by getting thumped by Division II Lenoir-Rhyne 41-13.

Let's just put it this way: this is not an out-of-conference resume that will do the Patriot League any favors come time to look for at-large bids to the playoffs.

*****

Many folks "assumed" that Lehigh would be 2-2 after this month of September. That's the one "assumption" that folks had that was largely correct. Lehigh would beat Drake and Princeton, and would lose to two nationally-ranked CAA opponents.

If you had asked me in August if I would have been happy with a 2-2 record in September, I'd have answered yes. For sure.

Yet I also made some "assumptions" that this team would perform better, too.

After a great first half against Drake, I thought that Lehigh had the opportunity to coast to a big victory in Des Moines that would give great momentum going into the year. That "assumption" did not hold true. To their credit, Drake really took advantage of a bunch of Lehigh errors and made it a game. Fortunately, Lehigh survived that test.

I thought that Lehigh would have their hands full against Villanova, but I did think that the Mountain Hawk offense could at least score some points against the Wildcats, especially at home. That "assumption"? Wrong.

I knew the Princeton game had the potential to be a tough one for Lehigh - one which was a real wild card. I "assumed" the offense would still struggle, but that the Mountain Hawks would still put themselves in a position to win a close game. Here, by "assumption" was proven wrong in a positive way: even with a slew of injuries, QB Michael Colvin ably led the Lehigh offense in the second half to late touchdowns and beat Princeton by nearly two TDs.

It seemed like this offense was finally getting ready to blossom. I wasn't sure they could win a tough game in New Hampshire, but I had high hopes that they could score a few times, feed off some momentum shifts and maybe make a game of this thing.

Another week, though, and another week that my "assumptions" would be wrong. Lehigh's offense couldn't get more than 10 points off of silver-platter opportunities either set up by defensive turnovers, great special teams plays, or just flat-out boneheaded penalties from New Hampshire.

Now, New Hampshire didn't just become a nationally-ranked Top 25 team by accident. One of the big reasons they got there was with a great defense, led by CB Dino Vasso, S Hugo Souza and a bunch of great defenders. But I don't think it's too much to "assume" - or expect - that Lehigh's offense get more than 10 points in those situations.

*****

All this painful exercise proves is, well, I didn't know much either, about Lehigh or the rest of the Patriot League.

Before the season, I read some articles on how the Hoyas really were starting to believe in themselves and a brand-new offensive system, but I shrugged them off, thinking that a young team would have to take some lumps before they would see dividends.

I heard whispers that Holy Cross may not be the juggernaut they seemed after I read their August press releases, but I "assumed" that having a bunch of players there that had won the championship would carry over - and at least beat Georgetown.

I heard a lot of things about all the Patriot League teams, and almost all of it has been proven wrong. A lot of it is because of Georgetown, but not everything.

*****

What does this mean the rest of the way?

First of all, it does prove that old saying: when you "assume", it makes an ass out of you and me.

It also means that one needs to guard against making any "assumptions" the rest of the way, even into the month of October. It might be fair, based on last month, to "assume" that Fordham will continue to be inconsistent, that Colgate will continue to struggle, that Lehigh's offense will continue to confound, that Bucknell and Lafayette will continue to be winless, and that Georgetown will run through the Patriot League with a 9-2 or 8-3 record.

Don't "assume" anything. Through the old - and new - "assumptions" out the window. Nobody knows what to expect the rest of the year. It's going to be an interesting ride the rest of the way.

Comments

Anonymous said…
You're absolutely right! You shouldn't assume! You should get behind the Hawks! Wait until they start playing league games! Whose side are you on anyway? I sure hope the players don't read this blog!!
Anonymous said…
Yes, we should get behind our team and cheer the players on no matter what!! I also hope they don't read this blog but I do know they hear the negative comments coming from the stands on Saturdays! Coaches, scholarships...there's always something to complain about. It is what it is right now. There are lots of games to be played. Let's cheer these guys on to a championship and stop dwelling on the negative!
Anonymous said…
Lafayette lost to East Stroudsberg in 1994 before pummeling Lehigh 54-20! :)
Anonymous said…
Is Laf. bringing the 1994 team back to play this year????

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