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Final Ivy and Patriot Thoughts on the Year

As a Lehigh fan, it was a season to remember - one of the all-time great ones.
Assuming there's no shenanigans, the Mountain Hawks will be enjoying their first Lambert Trophy since 2001, and there's still a great possibility that senior QB Chris Lum's record-breaking season may result in the first-ever Lehigh football player to ever receive the Walter Payton award, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy at the FCS level.

But before this awesome season comes to a close, two interesting articles came out over this holiday season that are worth reporting before we wax philosophic about the season that was and before we start to announce prospective Lehigh recruits.

Lehigh's Recruiting Christmas List

First of all, let me be the first to wish all my readers a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and joyous Holiday season.

And if you're a Lehigh fan, you're probably also wondering what new Mountain Hawk recruits might be needed to continue Lehigh's dominance over "that school in Easton" and also continue their run of Patriot League championships and playoff appearances.

Below the flip, see what recruiting needs would make my Lehigh Valley Christmas even happier.  (Santa, are you listening?)

The 2011 FCS Head Coaching Carousel, And What it Means to Lehigh

While Lehigh was making their run in the FCS playoffs this year, there were a host of interesting head coaching moves that directly involved three of Lehigh's opponents in 2011.

From the Mountain Hawk perspective, the most interesting such move was that of sort-of Patriot League member Fordham, who was relieved of his head coaching duties at the conclusion of a dismal 1-10 season where the Rams lost by double digits in their last eight games.

The Rams' hiring of head coach Joe Moorhead from the staff at UConn is but one of the interesting FCS offseason coaching moves.

Football Season Over, but Accolades Keep Pouring In

While Lehigh fans are (understandably) still a bit disappointed that the season is over, the winter just got a little warmer realizing that the Associated Press and Sports Network released their all-American teams this week, and four different Mountain Hawks were honored.

To go along with the all-Patriot League team that was released at the end of the regular season and the AFCA All-America team, it's worth going over the many Lehigh plaudits for the 2011 season.

Sunday's Word: Thunderstruck

Lehigh's great playoff ride has come to an end in the ThuderDome, where a loud, partisan North Dakota State crowd listened to an AC/DC song with the title of this "Sunday Word", "Thunderstruck", and struck down Lehigh's offense, shutting out the Mountain Hawks 24-0.

It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise wonderful, historic season for Lehigh - one that will go in the record books as one of the best ever.

Yet it's impossible to look at this game at some level and wonder, "What if?"

What if senior QB Chris Lum's favorite receiver were not suspended in an unprecedented move by Montana athletic director Jim O'Day, representing the NCAA's FCS subcommittee?

In other words, what might have happened had junior WR Ryan Spadola not been "thunderstruck" by O'Day and the NCAA?

Lehigh 0, North Dakota State 24, Final

In the end, not having junior WR Ryan Spadola didn't matter.

In front of more than 18,000 loud North Dakota State fans, and a fearsome Bison defense, the Mountain Hawks couldn't overcome the injuries, the noise, and their own miscues in the 24-0 defeat in the FCS Quarterfinals.

It would be the furthest Lehigh had made it in the FCS playoffs since 2001, when they travelled to Furman and were defeated 34-17 by the Paladins.

Lehigh "Hurting" from Suspension, But It Could Be a "Galvanizing Event"

(Photo Credit: Michael Vosburg/The Forum via the Morning Call)

Head coach Andy Coen made no bones about it to Keith Groller of the Morning Call yesterday.

He said the team is "really close, and is still hurting" from the first-ever-of-its-kind suspension of junior WR Ryan Spadola for an offensive tweet.

Spadola, who didn't even get on the plane to Fargo yesterday, is missed by all.

"I think it can be a galvanizing event for our team," Coen said, however,  "I haven't really talked a lot about it with them. I may before kickoff. I just told them we are a family and sometimes issues pop up within a family and you learn from them and grow from them and you get stronger."

Breaking Down North Dakota State, FCS Quarterfinals, 12/9/2011

The gap between the regular season and the Towson game was very long - a two week gap that seemed like an eternity.

The gap in between last weekend's 40-38 win against Towson and this weekend's FCS quarterfinal game against North Dakota State was shorter in terms of time - but, for obvious reasons, has seemed even longer than the two-week layover from the last game.

Almost forgot in this extraordinary week is the fact that there's an actual football game to be played in Fargo - a game against the most complete football team that Lehigh will have faced up until this point.

Below the flip, see my breakdown of the Bison, keys to the game, and Fearless Prediction.

Game Preview: FCS Quarterfinals, Lehigh at North Dakota State

(Photo Credit: Dave Wallis/The Forum)

Let's say you're a Lehigh player right now.

Today, you learned that your star receiver, junior WR Ryan Spadola, was suspended by the NCAA by making an offensive tweet.

To call it a distraction would be the understatementoftheyear.

No Lehigh team has ever gone through this.  Heck, no team has ever gone through this.  No player has been suspended by the NCAA for tweeting something.

So the question is to you: how do you respond?

Breaking: Spadola Suspended By NCAA

On Saturday, it was a head-scratching lead-in on head coach Andy Coen's press conference on Lehigh's historic 40-38 win over Towson in the playoffs.

The consensus from the folks I talked to coming out of the room was: why would you lead the press conference with that question?  It seemed like much ado over nothing - though none of us, it must be said, read the tweet in question, either.

Five days later, it broke that the NCAA would be suspending junior WR Ryan Spadola, and he would not play in Lehigh's FCS quarterfinal game against North Dakota State.

Bring On The Bison

You get the feeling that the Big Guy up there knew this would happen - just like last year.

In 2010, Lehigh did something out of the ordinary on their regular season schedule, playing their opener at Drake University in Iowa.

And when the Mountain Hawks had a road playoff game after qualifying for their first FCS Playoff game since 2004, they were sent out to Iowa again to take on the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

In 2011, it wasn't Lehigh that played out at the FargoDome in North Dakota - that would have been Lafayette, who played their season opener further west then the Leopards had ever played.

It means that Lehigh's trip this week out to the FargoDome won't be something completely unfamiliar to them.  They've all played in a dome before.  They know something about travelling to a Missouri Valley football team. And - if they've checked with Lafayette - they'll know a little about what to expect in their trip to the Roughrider state as well.

Rounding Up the Press on Lehigh vs. Towson

(Photo Credit: Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

As Towson entered the field before their playoff game versus Lehigh, and unidentified player came through the large, inflatable tiger head holding a championship belt, not unlike one a prizefighter might wear.

As someone who writes about Lehigh football, it provided an irresistible storyline for the playoff game, with echoes of Ali vs. Frazier.  The Thrila in Manila.  A prizefight.

It makes naming this game the "Towson Thrilla" from here on forward just that much easier.

What did the the Lehigh players think about the move after the game?

"We had no knowledge of it until we saw them run out with it," junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola said to me later.  "It was bad on their part because it just got us more fired up."

As we go over the mountain of great press about this phenomenal game, I'd like to round up the highlights of those articles, as well as empty out my own notebook, before de…

Sunday's Word: Big Time (Lehigh vs. Towson)

(Photo Credit: Karl Merton Ferren/Baltimore Sun)

So-called "big-time" collegiate athletics has had an awfully rough year.

When the entire QB Cam Netwon affair - you remember, the father of Auburn's star quarterback getting caught offering his son's services for a six-figure sum of money - feels like it happens a decade ago, you know the overall feeling of college football in those Bowl Subdivision ranks has to be one of nausea rather than school pride.  Between the horrors at Penn State, which are unfolding in slow motion in front of the entire world, and the latest conference realignment madness, where money has made a Boise State to the Big East scenario plausible, "big-time" college football, and perhaps even all of "big-time" college athletics, seems severely broken.

And then, suddenly, amidst all the lunacy, something comes along that makes you remember why you started following college football in the first place.

Many, many people do not c…

Lehigh 40, Towson 38, Final

It was billed as a shootout between two of the top offenses of FCS.

And it was, indeed, a shootout between the the powerful running game of Towson, and the powerful passing game of Lehigh.

It was billed as a game for supremacy in the East.

It was, indeed, a showcase between the champions of the Patriot League and the champions of the Colonial Athletic Association, or CAA, for Beast of the East.

But with all that was billed and all that was hyped the last two weeks regarding this game, played in front of a sellout, standing-room crowd of 11,196 at Johnny Unitas Stadium, nobody could have anticipated that the outcome of the game, the game-winning play, would come on Lehigh junior DE Tom Bianchi sacking Towson QB Grant Enders in the end zone.

Breaking Down Towson, FCS Playoffs Second Round, 12/3/2011

(Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun)

My brain says the bye week is a good thing for a football team.  Injuries get an opportunity to heal, there are more hours in the week to break down game film, and the student-athletes get a few days to sit back, relax, and contemplate what they've accomplished this year.

(It also gives another week for senior LB Mike Groome's playoff beard to grow out, to allow "Mike's beard to be big enough for everyone", as senior LB Colin Newton told me this week.)

But it also means that the wait for this weekend, with a full holiday weekend in between Lehigh's last regular season game and this week's "elimination game", has seemed endless.

But the wait is nearly over.

Below the flip, see Towson broken down, as well as my "Keys to the Game" - and, of course, the "Fearless Prediction".

Game Preview: FCS Playoffs Second Round, Lehigh at Towson

(Photo Credit: Doug Kapustin, The Baltimore Sun)

If past performance were indicative of how things are going to go this Saturday, Lehigh would have nothing to worry about.

In eleven meetings with the Tigers, Lehigh   has gone 10-1 against Towson, and lit them up for more than 40 points in five of those meetings.

But nobody at Lehigh has any illusions that this Towson team will resemble those Tiger teams from the 1990s and 2000s.

The Tigers' story is an easy one to admire: from a 1-10 season to a 9-2 record in the SEC of FCS, Towson is easy to like, too recently a member of the FCS "haves" to be hated by anyone.  But even though they're a feel-good story, there's a reason these Tigers are CAA champions.  They are loaded with talent.

The Amazing, Different, Powerbroking Football History of Towson

While doing research this week for the matchup between the Tigers and Mountain Hawks, I looked into the archives of my blog, as I often do, for special insight on the history of the team Lehigh is to face.

You might think there would be something - anything - in there about an early 2000s matchup with the Tigers, or, perhaps, something about their time in the Patriot League.

You'd have been wrong, however.

The history of Towson is at once different, for the most part frustrating.  And yet, they are a crucial reason why the Patriot League is here today, with a bid to the FCS playoffs.

Were the Tigers powerbrokers in the world of FCS football, too?  I think you could make that case.

Lehigh Prepares for Towson

(Photo Credit: Stephen Flood/The Express-Times)

Lehigh's success in the Patriot League has been well documented, as this year is the tenth league championship the Mountain Hawks have achieved.

When it comes to success against the champions of the most dominant FCS football in the East, however, Lehigh has enjoyed a few good battles - but have almost always lost.

Lehigh has gone on the road and beaten the champion of that conference only once, the famous 24-23 win in 1998 over Richmond.  (They then lost a heartbreaker at another opponent from that same conference the following weekend, 26-20 to the eventual FCS National Champion UMass Minutemen.)

If you think the scope of the task of going on the road and defeating the CAA champion is going to intimidate this group of Mountain Hawks, though, think again.

"People look at us as a non-scholarship program and maybe think we're a fluke; but we're looking forward to proving people wrong," junior WR Ryan Spadolatold Kei…

Towson Making A Believer of the Commander-In-Chief

(Photo Credit: Karl Merton Ferron, the Baltimore Sun)

It was a poorly-kept secret that President Barack Obama would be making the first-ever presidential visit of Towson.

The first basketball fan, whose brother-in-law is Craig Robinson, the head basketball coach of visiting Oregon State. was there to see a Division I basketball game.

But when the game was arranged last year, few folks thought that the President would be taking pictures with the CAA champion Towson Tiger football team - who were on campus preparing for their first-ever Division I home playoff game.

As a Lehigh fan, I couldn't help but hope that the presence of the President, First Lady Michelle Obama, and the First Family would distract the Tigers just a little from their gameplans for Saturday.

Sunday's Word: Thankful

For the second straight season, Lehigh's football team will be playing after Thanksgiving.

And for the second straight season, Lehigh will also be playing in a second-round game in the FCS Playoffs.

For these two reasons alone, there is plenty to be "thankful" for this holiday season, for Lehigh fans and players alike.  As we run-up to the playoff showdown against Towson, though, it's worth taking a look back from where Lehigh was, and where they are now.

Chris Lum and the Walter Payton Award

Some football players are their own biggest mouthpiece.  But senior QB Chris Lum, Lehigh's classy superstar from Lake Orion, Michigan, is not.

For many people voting on the Walter Payton award, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, they look at statistics, and in Lum's case, they are mighty impressive.

But for a star quarterback - who is most assuredly an NFL prospect - the Lake Orion, Michigan native is surprisingly willing to dish credit to others the way he dish completions to his receiving targets.

It's Towson after Turkey

On Sunday, the playoff matchups were announced, and it was revealed that Lehigh would be playing the champion of the CAA, Towson, on the road in Towson, Maryland.  (Time TBD)

Some folks seemed, perhaps, a bit miffed that Lehigh didn't get the opportunity to host a home playoff game - but on balance, were pleased.  They'll be able to make a short trip to battle the best team in the CAA this year, and also line up against a team that was once a member of the Patriot League.

It's a matchup that has pleased everyone I've talked to.

Lehigh 37, Lafayette 13, Final

This year, I had the good fortune to attend my 23rd  "Rivalry", the most-played  rivalry in college football with 147 meetings.

And as a Lehigh fan, I was immensely pleased with the outcome.

And yet, I cannot recall a stranger edition of this game in my experience.

To the seniors who played in this historic game, it was a shining moment in their football season - something they had wanted to do since they came to Lehigh in the first place.

But I don't think anybody thought it would go down like this.

BEAT LAFAYETTE!!

It's gameday, and it's time to BEAT LAFAYETTE!!!!

Should Lehigh win, they will give themselves the opportunity to be seeded - if the cards fall exactly right.

Below the flip, here's what to look for, should that happen.

Breaking Down the Boys of Easton: The 147th Meeting

It's "Rivalry Week", the games of Beirut have been going strong (around both Bethlehem's and Easton's campuses), and there's a rival to defeat on what is scheduled to be a clear, beautiful, late November day.

Below the flip, see Lafayette broken down, as well as my "Keys to the Game" - and, of course, the "Fearless Prediction".

Game Preview: The 147th Meeting Between Lehigh and Lafayette

(Photo Credit: File Photo/The Express-Times)

It's tempting, if you're a Lehigh fan, to look ahead.

After all, no matter what happens on Saturday, Lehigh will be playing football again after the 147th meeting between Lehigh and "that school in Easton".

There's a school of thought to close up the playbook, play not to lose, and find a way to keep the injuries down, rather than play an entire football game.

But this is not going to happen on Saturday.  For "The Rivalry" is a season unto itself.  It means a lot more than playoff position or bragging rights.

And this Lehigh team knows that the Leopard team that lines up against them is 0-0 in this season, and so are they.  They've won one championship; and they have two more to go.  Another championship is for the taking this Saturday.

Flashback: November 18th, 1961: Lehigh 17, Lafayette 14

In 1961, fifty years ago this week, Lehigh was dominating, and Lafayette was struggling.

The "Packers", as the Brown & White called them then, were 6-2 going into the traditional rivalry game at the end of the year. There was no postseason berth - and no "Middle Three" championship, as Rutgers had beaten both the Leopards and Packers - but Lehigh was No. 2 in the Lambert Poll behind Amherst, and a resounding win over their arch-rivals could make them the No. 1 team in the East.

The Leopards, on the other hand, suffered through an "rather disastrous" 2-5-1 season in 1961, according tothe Brown & White, only squeaking by Muhlenberg and tying Temple in the "Mud Bowl", their only other victory came against Tufts - which seemed, though, to portend a tougher game for Lehigh than the records might show.

And it certainly was one for the ages.  With hall-of-fame head coach Bill Leckonby on the sidelines, Lehigh would avert a certain tie and eke …

Flashback: November 25th, 1911, Lehigh 11, Lafayette 0

It would be past the days of George B. Walbridge and Charles "Babe" Reinhart, but the shadow of the talent level of those Walter Camp All-Americans for Lafayette would help continue Lafayette's dominance over Lehigh in the early 1900s.

"Lehigh, that time honored rival of Lafayette, to-day mourns over the remains of colors trampled in the mud and marred beyond recognition by eleven Maroon and White warriors," told the Lafayette student paper after their 11-0 shutout of Lehigh.

From the span of 1896 (the only year Lehigh didn't play Reinhart's Lafayette team, due to an eligibility dispute) to 1911, the Maroon and White would put a serious hurt on the Brown and White, winning 16 contests to 5.

The Rivalry

The yearly struggle between Harvard and Yale, in a contest otherwise known as "The Game", might be older.

The annual tilt between Ohio State and Michigan, pushed incessantly on ESPN, might be better known to the casual college football fan.

And the "Civil War" between Army and Navy every December might have its own special day on the calendar.

But nothing touches "The Rivalry" to end all rivalries between Lehigh and Lafayette.

No two schools have played each other more often. 

No rivalry (with a small "r") can touch the sheer intensity of the fans on both sides, at once infused with an unmistakable eastern Pennsylvania flavor, yet also representative of two private institutions of higher learning where academics rule the roost.

Others have their "Game". Others have rivalries, with a lower case "r".

But Lehigh and Lafayette have "The Rivalry", the one which all others are measured against.

Sunday Word: Goal

(Photo Credit: Matt Smith/The Express-Times)

"Goals".  Such an easy term to grasp.  It's used in almost everyone's life in some form or another.  Set a "goal" for yourself, and achieve it.

Every person this year who put on a uniform in a Patriot League school had as a "goal" to win the Patriot League.  (Yes, even Fordham, whose wins didn't technically "count" towards the league title, used it as a goal, too.  Per head coach Tom Masella, they were very much aware what their place in the standings would be.)

But only the guys in Brown and White would achieve that "goal" this year.

On the field and after the game this Saturday, there was a lot of talk about "goals".  It's important to note, however, that winning the Patriot League championship was only one "goal" of many.

The next "goal" - having a senior class that has not lost to "that school in Easton" - is the next achievement t…

Lehigh 34, Georgetown 12, Final

(Photo Credit: Eric Schumacher)

It was billed as the Patriot League Championship game - a winner-take-all game between the two best teams in the Patriot League in 2011.

In the end, though, the game ended up looking a lot like the last eleven times the Hoyas lined up against the Mountain Hawks.

Lehigh's offense racked up over 500 yards of offense and held onto to ball nearly 38 minutes as they took home their second consecutive Patriot League championship with a fairly convincing 34-12 victory.

Breaking Down Georgetown, 11/12/2011

It's the Patriot League Championship game, it's being played in Bethlehem on a spotless November Day, and it's bound to be a great game.

Below the flip, see Georgetown broken down, as well as my "Keys to the Game" - and, of course, the "Fearless Prediction".

Game Preview: Patriot League Championship Game: Georgetown at Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Rick Sinclair/Associated Press via the Washington Post)

Head coach Andy Coen tried to say it, in a preseason article in the Morning Call. (subscription required).

I tried to say it, in a preseason piece on the Hoyas called: "Know your 2011 Opponents".

Even the casual blogger Casual Hoya said it, too, with a refreshingly ill-researched homer piece about how the Hoyas were going to compete this year for the BCS National Championship.

The consensus was: Watch out for Georgetown.

Now, in Week Eleven of the college football season, the first winning record for the Hoyas since Georgetown joined the Patriot League isn't simply a feel-good story about a team that's spent more than a decade losing a lot of football games.  It's a story about a Patriot League Championship game, taking place in Bethlehem, for sole possession of the title and autobid.

And for the Hoyas, potential payback for last year.

The Night College Football Died

(Photo respectfully taken from CrossingBroad and @jon_wertheim)

To say Joe Paterno was a college football legend - the word "legend" just doesn't seem legendary enough to describe the man who had coached at Penn State for 46 years in Happy Valley.

I have been to Happy Valley to see "big-time" college football at Beaver stadium.

I have seen up close the near cult-like behavior Penn Staters had for the guy they called JoePa - a personality cult that seemed goofy and a little harmless.

But I don't think it's goofy or harmless anymore.

The resignation of a leading Penn State fundraiser, the athletic director, and even the president of Penn State evoked sadness, outrage, and a call for justice.  But when the Penn State board of trustees fired the coach that had been given God-like powers, it set forces in motion that are as frightening as they are sickening.

Press Roundup, Holy Cross vs. Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Stephen Flood/The Express-Times)

Picture-perfect weather.  An announced crowd of over 9,000 fans - and almost certainly more than 10,000 fans in the seats (if you count students, who get free admission).

Most importantly, though, a gutty win for the guys in Brown and White.

And a win that folks are still talking about in the Lehigh Valley - setting up a winner-take-all showdown next weekend against Georgetown for the Patriot League championship and autobid.  (Yes.  Georgetown!)

A bunch of different articles highlight the win - and start to set up next week's game, too.

Sunday's Word: Gut Check

Last year, I used the word" "Fun" to describe a particular Lehigh victory, and in that "Sunday Word" I ended up recalling the Fun Bunch, the Washington Redskins' offensive players (WR Virgil Seay, WR Charlie Brown and WR Alvin Garrett, along with TE Rick Walker and TE Don Warren), that had their own unique celebrations after  touchdowns.

It's funny that this year, I'm going to refer to a favorite quotation from their coach at the time, the legendary Joe Gibbs.  (Even though I'm not a Redskin fan.)

Rich Tandler, author of the book "Gut Check", says that "gut check was a favorite phrase of Gibbs’, as in 'it was a real gut check out there,' in referring to a particularly challenging game situation."

After watching Lehigh battle Holy Cross last weekend, I knew almost instantly that I was going to go with "gut check" as a "Sunday Word".

For if there was ever a "gut-check" win for Lehigh this …

Lehigh 14, Holy Cross 7, Final

Going into the game, it was reasonable to believe that it was going to be a Brown & White offensive show over the team from Worcester in the White and Purple.

It was reasonable to believe, too, that the outcome would have hinged upon the many Mountain Hawk offensive stars that have emerged over the course of the season: notably, senior QB Chris Lum, junior RB Zach Barket, or junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola.

But it did not.

In a game where Lehigh would get shut out in the first half and not log a single passing touchdown, they would win the football game - thanks to three unlikely heroes.

Breaking Down Holy Cross, 11/5/2011

Ever have such a good idea, that you're amazed you never came up with it before?

That's what happened to me yesterday, when I discovered I could break up my game previews into two different blog postings: one for a more general look at the game, and the other a technical breakdown of the opposition.

Below the flip, see Holy Cross broken down, as well as my "Keys to the Game" - and, of course, the "Fearless Prediction".

Game Preview: Holy Cross at Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Associated Press via the San Francisco Examiner)

It's been a strange week this week for the Lehigh football program.

When they came home after their 45-25 win over Colgate, they came home to a dark campus.  A power outage had knocked most of the lights on campus - including the electricity in the Lehigh athletics office.

Which, in the run up to the home game against the Crusaders this weekend, is par for the course.

Since head coach Tom Gilmore became the head of the Holy Cross football program, whenever the Crusaders have come to Bethlehem, strange things have happened - and the Mountain Hawks have come out on the losing end of the deal.

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh vs. Colgate, 10/29/2011

Why do I keep forgetting to post my Players of the week each week?  Should I blame it on the power outage?

This week's LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Junior QB Zach "Bracket Buster" Barket (188 yards rushing, 224 all-purpose yards, 4 TDs, 2 TDs rushing, 2 TDs receiving)

Defense: Senior LB Mike Groome (14 tackles, 1/2 tackles for loss, 1 big stop of Eachus on 3rd down) (tie)

Defense: Junior LB Billy Boyko (13 tackles, 1 key sack on 3rd down)

Special Teams/Underclassman: Freshman RB Jason Suggs (122 kickoff return yards, and no Lehigh drives after kickoffs started behind the 35 yard line)


For the Fordham game:

Offense: Senior QB Chris Lum (32/47, 413 yards, 3 TDs) (tie)

Offense: Junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola (13 catches, 216 yards, 1 TD)

Defense: Senior DE Andrew Knapp (5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss including 1 sack)

Special Teams/Underclassman: Sophomore P/K Tim Divers (2 punts, 45.0 average, 2/3 FGs, 36.22 yards)

Congratulations to the wi…

Press Roundup, Lehigh vs. Colgate

It's been a crazy week so far in the Lehigh Valley, with the freak October snowstorm that made its way through the area, and the resulting power outages on campus that continue to this moment.

But that hasn't stopped the local press from churning out a host of different articles about the big Patriot League clash between Lehigh and Colgate this weekend.

Even the relatively silent media around Utica took notice - with an actual written postgame story, and an actual quote from a Colgate player who played in the game.

Who said gumshoe reporting is dying north of Binghamton and east of Buffalo?

Sunday's Word: Power Outage

Almost as soon as the season began, I circled 10/29/2011 on the calendar.

I very much wanted to go to Hamilton, NY that day - the weekend, of course, of a game that seemed in the preseason to be one that could pratically determine the Patriot League championship.

But what I wouldn't - and probably couldn't - have ever predicted was a freak snowstorm that hit our area.  In October.  A week after a 65 degree weekend.

That snowstorm - and the "power outage" that resulted - is today's "Word", as it not only affected my travel plans for Saturday but it continues to affect people everywhere in our area.

Lehigh 45, Colgate 25, Final

(Photo Credit: Bob Cornell/Colgate Athletics)

Before the season even started, Colgate senior RB Nate Eachus had to have looked at this home game at Andy Kerr stadium and thought it would be his best opportunity to put on a show.

The preseason Patriot League favorite for the Payton award didn't say anything about - he's too humble for that - but you have to believe he knew that the national TV coverage on CBS Sports Network, and Colgate's traditional place in the Patriot League hunt, gave him a chance to show off his skills on a national level.

He did have a pretty good day in his final game against Lehigh, with a gutty performance befitting the Hazelton, PA native.

But it ended up paling in comparison to the guy doing the same job on the other sideline.

Game Preview, Lehigh at Colgate, 10/29/2011

It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Raiders.

Before the 2011 football season got started, it was easy to circle October 29th on the calendar and say, "This will be a big game on the Patriot League schedule."

And CBS College Sports, too, agreed, making it one of their two nationally televised games on the year.

Somewhere along the way, though, the Raider season jumped off the tracks.

And now, with two conference losses and their chances at the Patriot League title basically having evaporated, Colgate is now playing to get back to .500, protect a perfect 3-0 record in "their house," Andy Kerr Stadium, and finish out the year strong.

There would be no better way for the Raiders to do that than to upend a Top Ten team - and a pretty good rival, at that - in Hamilton this weekend.

Sunday's Word: Jack

It's been a bye week when I've been thinking a lot about Jack.

And that's thanks to the latest member of the Lehigh football team, second grader Jack Knudson.

Jack is an incredibly inspirational kid from nearly Salisbury Township who hasn't let anything keep him down, or kept him from pursuing his dreams.

And a few weeks ago, members of the Lehigh football team added Jack as their newest member.

Stories don't get much better than this.

Press Roundup, Lehigh vs. Fordham

(Photo credit: Sarah Strackhouse/The Brown & White via the Express-Times)

When times are good for the Rams, Fordham usually gets some decent coverage in what is considered the "media capital of the world".

But when they lose to go to 1-5, even if it is to the No. 8-ranked team in the country, you're hard pressed to find any mention of the Rams in the New York Post, Daily News, or New York Times.

The good news, though, is there's still a lot of press for the Mountain Hawks' accomplishment this weekend.

Sunday Word: Answer

Rarely do "Sunday Word"s come as easily as the one coming out of this weekend.

It was abundantly clear to me when junior WR Ryan Spadola caught his back-breaking touchdown against Fordham that I had both a "Sunday Word" and a new nickname for the Howell, New Jersey native.

"The Answer"'s touchdown grab from senior QB Chris Lum came at the end of the third quarter, where - through a combination of Lehigh miscues and some battling from Fordham - the Rams still had a chance to battle back and make this a football game, down by only two scores.

But a 63 yard post pattern to Spadola - where he easily sped into the end zone - and Lehigh had the "Answer" they needed on how they were going to beat Fordham.

Lehigh 34, Fordham 12, Final

A warm and windy day in the Bronx could not stop the Lehigh machine from rolling
this weekend.

This potential "letdown" game?  Hardly a letdown for the guys in the brown pants.

And the "game before the bye week" curse that has afflicted Andy Coen-coached teams could not slow the Mountain Hawks down, either.

While - once again - Lehigh had some mistakes that led to Fordham scores, they shouldn't obscure a smothering performance by the No. 8 team in the country, a fairly comprehensive 34-12 victory that shows that the Mountain Hawks have the answers to an awful lot of questions out there on the field.

Friday Water Cooler: Football Attendance

If you look at the small picture, it probably looks like it's going to be a banner year for football attendance across all of the nation.

In FBS, five schools (Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Penn State, and Alabama) average more than 100,000 fans thronging in their stadiums, and with a bunch of rivalry games yet to go, it looks like there might be more than ten teams that average more than 90,000 fans per game.

And in FCS, too, five teams (Appalachian State, Montana, James Madison, Jackson State, and Georgia Southern) are averaging more than 20,000 fans a game.  That's already up from last year, too, where James Madison and Georgia Southern have rejoined the 20,000 club this year.

Yet these individual attendance wins obscure a larger picture.

For every Michigan or Appalachian State, there is another side of the coin - a college football program that is seeing attendance diminish year to year.  And there are plenty of reasons for this decline.

Game Preview, Lehigh at Fordham, 10/15/2011

(Photo Credit: Brian Kraker/The Ram)

To a lot of people in Patriot League circles, Fordham is a test case.

When it comes to a high-academic football program that also offers "football scholarships", i.e., aid for football players that is not needs-tested, Fordham is the only program that does business in this way.

Scholarships were supposed to - automatically, it seems - make the Rams into an FCS powerhouse.  Free of the yoke of needs-testing, Fordham was supposed to more glory for their football program.  More games against FBS opponents.  Domination over Patriot League opponents.  And - who knows? - perhaps even an invite to the FCS playoffs.

Two years into the experiment, nobody is talking about the FCS playoffs, nor are they talking about dominating the Patriot League.  With arguably the toughest-ever schedule in the history of the Patriot League, an injury-riddled Ram team is searching for an answer for the question of winning football games.

LFN Players of the Week, Lehigh at Bucknell, 10/8/2011

This week's LFN Players of the Week awards go to:

Offense: Senior QB Chris Lum (30/37 passing, 368 yards passing, 30 yards rushing, 4 TDs)

Defense: Senior DE Ben Flizack (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass-breakup) (tie)

Defense: Senior LB Colin Newton (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass break-up)

Special Teams: Sophomore P/K Tim Divers (1-1 FGs, 35 yards, 3-4 XP (kick blocked), 6 points scored, 4 punts, 38 yard average)

Underclassman: Freshman RB Jason Suggs (77 kickoff return yards, including a 34 yard return)


And - I forgot last weekend's winners, for Yale vs. Lehigh! They are:

Offense: Junior WR Ryan Spadola (11 catches, 148 yards) (tie)

Offense: Senior WR Jake Drwal (10 catches, 112 yards, 3 TDs)

Defense: Junior LB Sam Loughery (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass break-up)


Special Teams: *None*

Underclassman: Sophomore DB Tyler Ward (6 tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 pass break-up)

Congratulations to the winners!

Press Roundup, Lehigh vs. Bucknell

(Photo Credit: Liz Rohde/The Daily Item, via the Morning Call)

Senior QB Chris Lum and senior DE Ben Flizack didn't just run away with a 30-6 victory on Saturday - they also ran away with Patriot League Players of the Week awards, too.  For Lum, it was his fourth time being honored by the League, while it was the first time for FLizack.

Lum's command performance (30-for-37, 368 yards passing, 30 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 1 interception) earned him a co-Offensive Player of the Week award from the Sports Network as well, making him the only player to be honored twice by the organization.

Their awards capped off a bunch of happy recaps - and a bit of gnashing of teeth from Lehigh fans and media folks that were stuck on I-80 on their way to Lewisburg - of their fifth win of the season.

My FCS Top 25, 10/10/2011

Below the flip, see my Top 25 for this week.

Sunday Word: Combos

Lest anyone think I'm succumbing my popular "Sunday Word" column to commercialism, I haven't yet gotten any checks to sell out my weekly editorial page yet.  (None that have cleared, anyway.)

But when Lehigh folks think of "Combos", do they think of the crunchy, delicious, oven-baked pretzels with a spicy, cheese pizza-flavored filling made with real cheese?

Or do they think of the other, many, "combos" at the disposal of head coach Andy Coen?  (more)