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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)

The Northern Iowa Panthers won the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship this year. They did so, however, with two conference losses, including last weekend's 30-14 loss to Western Illinois, who is also playing a first-round game in the FCS playoffs.

DE Ben Boothby is the sack leader on their extremely tough defensive line, with eight, and the Panthers are seventh nationally in sacks averaging 3 per game, and also near the top of the subdivision in tackles for loss, averaging 6 - not a typo - per game. Their tough front seven, including LB Jamar Thompson and LB L.J. Fort, is particularly tough on the run, 15th nationally and only allowing 107 yards per game.

But offensively, the Panthers have not been as consistent as they would like to be. They are a run-heavy team, led by mobile QB Tirrell Rennie and RB Carlos Anderson, and rely on a monstrous offensive line to move the pile.

*****

More importantly, though, than my brief introduction to UNI Panthers, is that Northern Iowa is a part of FCS royalty. FCS football is defined by teams like Delaware, Montana, Appalachian State... and Northern Iowa.

The Panthers' reputation is one that has come so close to the FCS championship, but have been unable to do so. There's no Steve Bartman in their history, but at times it's seemed awfully close to being the case. The 21-16 last-quarter loss to Appalachian State in the FCS National Championship game in 2005. The 39-27 defeat at home to Delaware in 2007. The 21-20 loss to Richmond in 2008 - on a miracle final Spider drive.

The UNI-Dome is a great venue for FCS college football, seating 16,000 and once being the home of QB Kurt Warner.  (No word if the "Greatest Show on Turf" was really the UNI-Dome's turf.)   This year, they've installed a brand-new HD video board.  They've averaged more than 14,000 per game this year - and while Thanksgiving should hold down attendance some, it should still be a rocking time in the Dome this weekend.

While I'm not thrilled that Lehigh will be playing so far away from Bethlehem, this matchup has a lot of juice in the sense that it's a brand-new opponent - Lehigh has never faced Northern Iowa - and that should Lehigh prevail in this game, they will travel to No. 3-seeded Delaware to face the Blue Hens.  (A home game would have been better, but...)

It's going to be an exciting week, preparing for an elite Missouri Valley football team in front of a packed stadium.  Let's hope Lehigh has a chance to win this game, against a team that is the type of school that embodies FCS football perfectly.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Interesting that the champion of the Patriot League has to travel to play a team with a 7 & 4 record and who lost their last game.
Anonymous said…
That dome is LOUD and intimidating. Not deserved this year for sure, but not surprising at all, knowing how the power rating of PL the last few years. LU will have yet another change to change perceptions around, almost 10 years to the day from the very satisfying McComb Massacre. Looks like its going to be a defensive battle, and will require some coaching like never before. But if Will and the boys can give Chris a few seconds, we can win. I cannot wait..
Anonymous said…
You know, if they can track em down, I'd bring in a couple of players from that 2000 team to talk to the squad this week.
Anonymous said…
It's about money, and Lehigh, with their lack of support from the FAITHFUL would have trouble drawing 5000.
Anonymous said…
Traveling so far should not be a suprise given the downward spiral of talent in the PL the last few years.

Coach C for Offensive coordinator of the year. Should be a lock!

Nice work coach......
Anonymous said…
Our second trip to Iowa this year. May it be as successful as the first.
Douglas said…
I think they may be able to hang with UNI, the Alma Mater of the late great Gerry Leeman... 10 years ago, they proved that tue could hang and dominate teams from this league ( different name back then) .. Of course that was one of the top Higgins teams but we'll see..
lehidude said…
This wouldn't hurt half as bad if Coastal Carolina didn't get a home game, the purported last team in North Dakota State didn't get a home game, or if Bethune-Cookman didn't get a first round bye.
Anonymous said…
This is certainly not a slap. NIU is 12th ranked we're 22nd. This is about money. The committee knows that a big crowd is no longer a likely scenario at LU. For a national playoff game? I'd say the measley 5000 stated byu the poster before is accurate. The students will be home for Thanksgiving and don't give a crap about the team. NIU sellout! Let's travel well LU faithful!
Douglas said…
I agree that NIU will draw a decent crowd since most of their students are not that far away in the first place so will come back early plus I suspect they have a supportive local community unlike Lehigh which seems to have lost local fans as well as students.. Since Lehigh football attendance is down around 40-50% from its peak around 10 years ago, no wonder they won't get a home game..

As evidence of the student stands early in the L-L game being pretty empty until well into the game, students just seem to care about the party and tailgate aspects....

If the Coen led group have another good season next year, student interest will probably increase... It became less cool to be at the games when they kept losing at home in past years...
Anonymous said…
As a Colgate fan, I am tempted to match the posts of many (purported) fans of LU
who make many negative comments on our fan site, but I won't..am very tired of them, but I say good luck in representing our league! We could all use some positive news! And Happy Holidays everyone! (to the creator and moderator of this site... Great job!)
Anonymous said…
Please go back to your lame Pink Raider site losah! Hate the Gate 4 lyfe you dork!
Anonymous said…
Waiting to read the Iowa papers about this matchup, and see if they remind readers what LU did to Western Illinois a decade ago. Unfortunately it'd be better for us if no one knew about the Macomb Massacre..
VAHawk said…
In the 2000 Lehigh-W. Illinois game, Coach Higgins brought out all of the plays that they hadn't used during the year and completely had their defense confused. By the time they figured it out, we were up 30-7. Brant Hall & Josh Snyder were unstoppable. And our "D" did the rest against their all-run offense. Hopefully, Coen can do the same this weekend.

We got no respect before that game too (until they lost the game). Let's see if Coen can learn from the past...
Anonymous said…
The kids have to play the game dumb dumb Coen's doing just fine
Anonymous said…
In that case, ____ you and the mountain haywagon you rode in in, "dork hawk"! Try to be nice , and this is the thanks one gets! You will always be second rate to the CU! Would have beaten you this year also if not missing starting QB and top receiver! You, for one anyway, are a poor loser AND (temporarily, appearing for one game only, a fluke "winner" - back to whipping your a__es as usual next year, after this brief interruption... and also, by the way... Lafayette forever!
Anonymous said…
Ha a supporter of the worst team in the Patriot league, a loyalist to hate the gate, how exactly does that work? Ill send you a post card from the final eight bwahahahaha you d-bag...suck it~!

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