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."
For senior WR De'Vaughn Gordon, who will be starting in Spadola's place, he told Michael LoRe of the Express-Times that he would be ready to step up in his place:
"Obviously I was saddened because of the situation and he's a big part of our team, but it's not a one-man team," Gordon said after the team's walkthrough at the Fargodome on Friday. "You never know when a player's going to go down, so you have to practice like you'll be starting on every play. I've always been prepared and ready to step into that role."Senior QB Chris Lum also didn't seem like he was distracted from the fracas, either. "Our whole team backs Ryan," Lum said. "There's no animosity within the group. The whole situation was shocking and kind of a bummer, but we moved on quickly and refocused."
"(This incident) brought us together a little more because we're partly playing for him now," Gordon said. "We're not ready for our season to end and we're not ready for his season to end on a note like that. We want to go out and win this so we have Spadola ready for next week."
"This place reminds me a lot of the UNI Dome where we played [and beat] Northern Iowa last year," he said. "But I think we're going to have a lot more fans here than we had at UNI. It was super loud at UNI on third downs and it's going to be louder here on every play, so we're really going to have to stay focused."Lehigh will be sporting some new high-tops, too, which should help the Mountain Hawks get grip on the hard, cement-like turf of the FargoDome.
"We still have something to prove to a lot of people out there on a national level," Lum said. "We deserve to be where we're at and deserve respect on a national level. We're just one of eight remaining teams.
"We've been focused all year. We've had a distraction this week, but Ryan handled it very well and the team has rallied around him. We'll miss Ryan, but De'Vaughn Gordon will definitely step up and a lot of other guys will step up and we'll get a lot of big performances from a lot of players."
The players were all sporting new Nike high-top basketball sneakers for today's walkthrough at the Fargodome in preparation for today's Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game at North Dakota State.Tune in at 4PM, either on ESPN Gameplan, ESPN3 online, or on the radio with Matt Kerr and Mike Yadush for the radio play-by-play on ESPN 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley, or on LehighSports.com. I think we could be in for another classic.
"I played on a field like this in middle school when we played on the turf at a local college," senior WR Jake Drwal said. "It's actually pretty grippy, a lot more than I thought it would be. I can cut pretty well in the basketball shoes."
"In youth league we'd play games in the Pontiac Silverdome and it was just like this," Lum said, who is from Lake Orion, Mich. "It's hard, it's quick, but I think we'll be all right. I think everything is going to be quicker. When you fall on the ground it might hurt a little bit more, but it's football."
Also, you can tune into my Facebook page for my live commentary of the game as well, which is "simulcast" as well on my Twitter Feed as well.