Skip to main content

Game Preview: Monmouth at Lehigh, 9/1/2012

(Photo Credit: Monmouth Athletics)

We meet again.

Returning last year's trip to Kessler Field in West Long Branch, New Jersey, the Monmouth Hawks swoop into Bethlehem to try to get their first-ever win against Lehigh.

In 2005, when I wrote my preview of that game,  I had to really struggle to find the words to talk about a team I hardly knew.  But Monmouth is no longer "Monmouth Hawks: International Team of Mystery" to Lehigh fans.  They have NFL-caliber athletes on the squad; they can put points on the board; and they won't be a walk in the park.

As Lehigh fans, we'd hope we'd see a similar Monmouth team to the one in 2005 that visited Bethlehem - a nice tune-up to start the year and a way to break in new players

But for some reason, since that time when Lehigh has hosted NEC teams at home, Lehigh has struggled mightily.

In head coach Andy Coen's first game as a collegiate head coach, a rainstorm and a loss marred the event, with a 17-16 loss to Albany, and Central Connecticut State also spoiled the 2009 season opener, 28-21.

Reading those recaps again, recurring themes appear.  "Working out the kinks".  "Sloppy play."  "Turnovers killed us."  "Offense couldn't get anything going."

Even after Lehigh's season-opening win over Monmouth last year, the Hawks were plenty dangerous the rest of the way.

They would upend Villanova just a week after their loss to Lehigh, upsetting Villanova 20-9.

The teams of the NEC are no opening-day cupcakes.  Full athletic scholarships - even just a limited number of them - has made a major difference in the competitiveness of the entire league.

Similarly, this Lehigh squad has plenty of questions to answer going into this weekend's game.

Will senior QB Mike Colvin be able to do the same thing against Monmouth that QB Chris Lum was able to accomplish?  It may not be fair to judge Mike against Lum's stat line from that game - 22-of-35 for 346 yards and 4 TDs - but that's probably what's going to happen.  Crucial will be if Colvin can keep a singular stat - interceptions - as close to 0 as possible.

Will the Monmouth offense, which returns almost all of its starters, have its way with the Lehigh defense?  As good as some of Lehigh's starters are, like senior NG Sajjad Chagani, senior LB Billy Boyko and senior CB Bryan Andrews, there are an awful lot of defensive Mountain Hawks that will be getting into their first game action.

This is, of course, the challenge for Lehigh in 2012, along with their national ranking. 

All the teams on their schedule dream of knocking off a top team in FCS, and with Lehigh at No. 11/16 in the nation, every game is their Super Bowl.  You know Monmouth has been looking at this game since December, knowing they'll have a chance to knock off a great team.

They'll get Monmouth's best shot.  They'll get the trick plays.  They'll get the extra plays in the playbook that don't come out against the D-II teams. 

It's a challenge, I'm sure, that all the Lehigh players, fans, and members of the athletic department, can't wait for any longer.

Game Notes
Lehigh's game notes for the Monmouth game are out, but you can enjoy my extremely detailed preview of the offense and defense from my last two blog postings.

Weather Report
This just in: Hurricane Issac will be nowhere near the Lehigh Valley.  With a sunny day and a high of 88, bring some extra bottled water to the game as you enjoy Murray Goodman Stadium.

A Word on Monmouth

The 2011 version of the Monmouth Hawks could have had one of the stranger seasons statistically in all of football.

Start with their won/loss record.

In six home games at Kessler Field in West Long Branch, NJ, the Hawks went 0-6, including a fairly comprehensive 49-24 defeat to Lehigh in the season opener.

But on the road, Monmouth went 5-0, including wins over Villanova, Central Connecticut State, and Bryant.

The Monmouth Hawks' football program is probably best known for the NFL star that came from their ranks, Dallas Cowboy WR Miles Austin, who has made two consecutive Pro Bowls after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2006.

(In his college career, he actually traveled to Murray Goodman in the 2006 meeting between Lehigh and Monmouth. He caught 7 passes for 126 yards and a 66 yard touchdown strike in a 54-26 Mountain Hawk victory.)

From last season, SS Jose Gumbs is the latest Hawk to get onto an NFL roster - as a rookie he made the final cut for the New Orleans Saints.
The Hawks have only known one football coach - Kevin Callahan, who has been the head kahuna since the programs' inception in 1993. He's led Monmouth to five NEC titles in the last twenty years, but hasn't captured an NEC title since 2004.

He actually served under the tutelage of two other legendary coaches in the NEC: Albany's Bob Ford and Wagner's Walt Hameline, two of the longest-tenured coaches anywhere in the Division I ranks.

In 2012, Monmouth has been picked by many publications, like, oh, the College Sports Journal, to finish sixth in the NEC.  But it would be foolish to think "sixth" and immediately think "noncontender".

A survey of coaches in the media teleconference made it clear that any school can take the league this year, including Monmouth, returning 18 starters, or even 7th-placed Wagner, who return even more.

Of course, if Monmouth knocks off No. 11/16 Lehigh from their perch at home, it could be a singular win that vaults them into the national scene.

LFN's Drink of the Week
It was strange; last year, after reading this article from Currents Magazine I decided to make the "Drink of the Week" the simple Gin and Tonic.  And after seeing Lehigh drub Monmouth 49-24 last year, it was clear I made the right choice.

One of the basic tenets of the "Drink of the Week" is that: if something worked last year, don't do anything foolish to turn the luck against Lehigh.  So once again, please enjoy the classic Gin and Tonic this weekend as your "Drink of the Week".

Sensible drinking can be a part of a pleasant tailgating experience, but only if you drink responsibly and for God's sakes don't get behind the wheel of a car when having consumed too much alcohol.


Popular posts from this blog

Patriot League Commit Tracker, Class of 2022

(Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein/NJ Advance Media)

With this year's early signing period in December, along with traditional signing day in February and additional signing of recruits up until May, it felt like the right time to resurrect the Patriot League Commit Tracker for the class of 2022.

This is intended to be a rolling list, updated as we go, as student-athletes going to any Patriot League school sign National Letters of Intent.

We don't know the whole story yet behind each school's recruiting class.  But this post is intended to put in one place what we know so far.

As I learn more, I will add more names to each list.

Troy Pelletier Hasn't Stopped Outworking His Rivals On His Journey To Professional Football

Many Patriot League football fans remember the 153rd meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette, one that ended happily for the Mountain Hawks.

They might remember the MVP performance of QB Brad Mayes, or perhaps the halftime speech by OL Zach Duffy that seemed to spur the Mountain Hawks to victory.

Or perhaps they might remember the spectacular single play of Mayes rolling right and finding WR Gatlin Casey in the end zone to give the Mountain Hawks a lead they didn't relinquish.  It was an incredible play by Mayes, who returns this upcoming year for his senior season, and Casey, who, having exhausted his eligibility at Lehigh, will be playing one more year at Middle Tennessee State.

As great as those individual moments are, though, they are not my biggest takeaway of that game.

Too many Lehigh people forget that Lehigh was down 31-21 at half, and that victory was no sure thing.  And they sometimes forget that so much of that victory came from the grinding of WR Troy Pelletier, deliver…

Remembering Lehigh's Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond&…