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It's Supposed To Suck, And It's Supposed To Hurt

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/Morning Call)

"You didn't cry or anything when Lehigh lost this weekend, did you?"

That was the greeting I got when I came back into the office (from another Lehigh football fan, interestingly) this Monday, as if he knew that I would be taking the loss this weekend especially hard.

I did not cry.  But I did hurt.  And I know not a few men that I respect that I know cried on Saturday.

This is probably not a revelation to most people who know me through this writing vehicle or in person, but yes, I took the loss hard.

Believe me, if you saw my wife and son recently, they'd probably tell you that I was not a pleasant person to be in the car with on Saturday.  Or Sunday.  Or Monday.

The truth is, I take every loss hard, and losses to what is the biggest rival in football, Lafayette, hurt especially hard.  It is an occupational hazard of caring too much about a sports team.

To me, losses to Lafayette are supposed to suck.  To me, losses to Lafayette are supposed to hurt.  It's the very nature of the thing, winning and losing.

And for me, I guess, it sucks more than most of my friends and acquaintances.  I have an inability to put it behind me in an evening, or even a weekend, even though I put in a good front, I think, to friends and family.

Most people move on pretty quickly, especially in this era of social media and distractions.  In a way, I envy them, but in another way I don't.

One of the best "Sunday Word" columns I've ever written, in my optinion, was one I wrote back in 2008.

It was a Swedish word, called "Lagom", which means, broadly: not too hot, not too cold.

I was not feeling particularly "Lagom" after that loss, where Cornell's quarterback threw a 20 yard touchdown pass to win the game on the final play.
I found myself on the way home from the game, genuinely depressed after the loss but needing to stop at a store to run an errand. I passed by a happy anonymous local couple, walking their young daughter around Main Street. 
They seemed perfectly "Lagom": blissfully in a wonderful disposition. Not too hot, not too cold.
Evidently, they were unaware of the cruel fate the Gods (or perhaps just Cornell QB Nathan Ford and WR Jesse Baker) had bestowed upon the Lehigh players and the Lehigh fans this Saturday. If they were, they wouldn't have been walking down main street merrily walking to their destination. 
They seemed well-adjusted; normal. They didn't seem like they had been dissecting a game in their head for the last hour and a half, calling friends and family on the cell phone, emotional and shell-shocked. As a matter of fact - incredibly - they looked happy. Relaxed. As if their entire Saturday afternoon was spent just enjoying the company of one another. 
It sure felt tempting to be them yesterday. Why should I follow Lehigh so closely, anyway, I ask myself? Wouldn't it just be easier to just walk away from covering Lehigh football, and avoid the pain of losses like this? Wouldn't it simply be better to be "Lagom?"
It's a "Sunday Word" I go back to on occasion, and seems especially apropos considering the aftermath of this weekend's game.

No Lehigh fan, including me, goes into any game, and certainly not a Rivalry game, expecting to lose.  The vision on Saturday morning of every Lehigh fan, whether casual or crazed, like myself, is one of victory.

And I woke up on Saturday really, really confident.

Sure, I had written three weeks ago that "the goal winning these last three games is the type of challenge that I've never really seen before for Lehigh, navigating a giant injury and coming off the sting of not just a loss, but a giant loss [to Bucknell]."

But despite the fact that junior QB Matt McHale had about a half's worth's of starting experience against Holy Cross - in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half of that game, he got drilled by a Crusader defender and had to be helped to the locker room - and freshman QB Nick Shafnisky had just over a game and a half experience under center, and only one start, I felt that the quarterback question was settled.

But looking back, why did I feel so confident?

By its nature, nothing about the Rivalry is particularly rational.  Insults fly, and you hate Lafayette this week because, well, you hate Lafayette.  You've separated in your tribe this week; your tribe wears brown.  You're ranked; they're 4-6.  You're so much better than they are, right?  Lehigh's going to win, of course, right, because that's what Lehigh does.  Right?

Sometimes, the Rivalry, the Hate, and everything else, blinds us to the facts.  And the facts are that was always going to be a tougher assignment than it might have seemed from looking at won-loss records or past history.

Looking at it again, feeling hurt, and feeling sucky - as I'm supposed to feel - I'm starting to realize the enormity of the challenge posed to this coaching staff, and this team going into this specific game.

*****

One of the things I asked Justin Lafleur and Steve Lomangino after the game this weekend was when the last time Lehigh started someone at quarterback in the biggest game of the year with one starting game of experience or less.

In my twenty-five years of watching and following Lehigh, I couldn't recall a single other time when it happened.

There were certainly years when the starter to begin the season was not the quarterback to finish the season.

There was the year that QB Mark Borda began the 2005 season as the signalcaller, and then-sophomore QB Sedale Threatt took over after a fractured right leg ended Borda's season prematurely versus Yale.

There were also years where the starter the week before the Rivalry was not the starter in the Rivlary.

That happened in 2007, when QB Chris Bokosky started in a win against Bucknell, only to have QB Sedale Threatt return for the finale.

There were also times when a freshman took the reins in the big Rivalry.

In 1996, then-freshman QB Phil Stambaugh stepped in and famously led the Mountain Hawks to a 23-19 upset victory over Lafayette, subbing in for injured QB Seka Edwards.

Over and over when you go through the history of the Rivalry on Lehigh's side you see this pattern of starting quarterbacks in the Rivalry, when an injury forces a change.

You occasionally see all of these scenarios - upperclassmen who started the season coming back from injury to compete in their final games of their playing careers at any level, or you also see freshmen, or lowerclassmen who have to take over the starting duty due to injury.

But all of these were different than Lehigh's situation this past Saturday.

When Stambaugh took over in 1997, Lehigh was 3-7, and clearly playing for the future.  The Rivalry was going to be the one game that mattered that season.  Playoffs?  Championships?  Those hopes were dashed on October 4th, when Colgate delivered Lehigh their second conference loss.

“Leading up to the game, I had a 102-degree fever all week,” Stambaugh himself said in the run-up to this week's game. “No one knew this besides my family and close friends. I was getting by on pure willpower. … I said to my coaches later on in recent years, ‘I don’t know how you guys didn’t know I was sick that week.’ I was out of it.

“I didn’t want to miss a practice or anything,” he said. “… It didn’t matter what game we were playing, I would do anything I could to be able to play, whether it was a rivalry game or not. As I matured in college and started to see how much that rivalry really meant to our school, it became that much more important and I was very happy I didn’t miss it my freshman year. I look back on that and I’m glad I pushed through it because of how much it meant. I kept it to myself and powered through it. I played most of that game in a fog.”

But Stambaugh had two complete starts - not to mention finishing the game against Bucknell - to prepare him for the big Rivalry game at the end of the year, even if he has a 102 degree fever.  Both of these low-pressure starts were a setup for head coach Kevin Higgins to have a game-time lab for Stambaugh to find his feet to prepare him for success in that game.

When Threatt took over after Borda's season-ending injury in 2005, it's true, Lehigh was a nationally-ranked team and a team with a good chance to make it to the FCS playoffs as the Patriot League's automatic bid.  The pressure was on to maintain that high level of play.

But Sedale had a year in the system, actually had gotten in a few drives as a freshman and sophomore, and also was a starter in four games going into the game against Lafayette.  As backups went, he had a lot of experience in Pete Lembo's system, finishing up the Yale game and leading the Mountain Hawks to four wins where Lehigh put up more than 40 points on four straight Patriot League opponents, including Colgate.

When Threatt took over from Bokosky in 2007, Lehigh was nowhere near the national rankings with a 4-6 record, having lost any prayer of a Patriot League title after one of the biggest butt-whoopings at Murray Goodman stadium by Holy Cross.

But it was a foregone conclusion that Threatt, the preseason Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, would try to recover from injury to play in the Rivalry in an attempt to finally win the Big One against Lafayette, the only game that mattered for Lehigh that season.  There was no ranking, no title to defend.  Only an attempt to stop Lehigh's senior class from being one that never enjoyed a win over Lafayette.

This year was different than all of those seasons, and as far as I can tell, any other season in history.

What you don't ever see - at least I've never seen - is a freshman, or extremely inexperienced player, coming into the situation that Lehigh found itself this weekend - playing for a league title and a postseason bid with one of two quarterbacks that had a one start apiece in their careers.

Without making excuses for losing, I think it should be said how challenging a spot this was for this Lehigh team to pull off.

If you look at the other side of the ledger, too, Lafayette's starter, freshman QB Drew Reed, was also in a vastly different situation.  By the time he entered Murray Goodman, he had had four starts, having spent his time in the game-time lab in low-pressure situations, just like Stambaugh.

On Lehigh's side, it was never going to be easy to replace Bialkowski at any time, a guy with a 64% completion percentage, 2,647 passing yards, and 18 TDs.

But Lehigh found itself in a position to win all their games and win the title, to beat their Rivals for the 6th consecutive time, and make the playoffs.

Head coach Andy Coen couldn't use these three games as a low-stress lab for future success.  They were successful now, already, and had a title to compete for right now.  Despite the injury and the loss to Bucknell, they were considered a Top 25 team.  What would people say if he threw in the towel on the season with everything to play for, even though it might have been the best solution for 2014?

Was it fair for me, for any Lehigh fan, for any of us, to expect either quarterback, with so little experience with playing Division I football games, to carry the team on his back and win the game by himself?

Upon further reflection, I don't think so.  And it was something that Andy, while still not making excuses, said as well.

"You have to realize how hard it is to go through a season and prepare three different quarterbacks and win games," he said.  "We were trying for our third week in a row with a second or third string quarterback. If other things were different, if the defense was a little more stout, if special teams were a little bit better, it’s a collective thing.

"I always go back to it’s a team game. All three phases feed off each other and we weren’t able to do that today regardless of the quarterback. It was obvious there were some guys wide open there that we couldn’t get the ball to. I’ve seen those guys all make those throws before [in practice], but they didn’t make them today."

After Andy, I think, of every person in the stadium on Saturday, there were five seniors who also understood that better than anybody.

They knew better than anybody that McHale, or Shaf, or both, had to do their job and not turn over the ball, and they'd have to do the rest.

Senior WR Sergio Fernandez-Soto, who hasn't been 100% since October, somehow took himself off the exercise bike long enough to get in the game and catch 2 balls for 20 yards.

Senior WR Lee Kurfis knew that he needed to catch anything thrown in his general direction, and in the second half, he did everything he could, nabbing 7 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, including one where he showed his elusiveness by faking two Lafayette defenders and making a mean cut between them, making a big catch and keeping the drive alive.

“I think our quarterbacks might have had trouble getting into a rhythm,” a frustrated Kurfis said. “Coming into a game this big it’s nerve-wracking. Matt and Nick have played in big games before but maybe not one this big. Sometimes they were catching on to something and finding something deep within themselves, but for the most part we were back and forth between quarterbacks and the execution just wasn’t there on the whole offense.”

In the stretch run, though, he was the same productive player he was when Brandon was the quarterback.  In the final three games of his Lehigh career, he had 20 receptions for 254 yards and 3 TDs, good enough to break WR Ryan Spadola's single-season receptions record that he set just last season.

That he did that with two quarterbacks that had a combined 20 passing attempts in a live game up until November was really remarkable, and a great effort that needs to be remembered.

Senior OL Matt Lippincott knew that he'd need to protect whomever was back there the best he could, while senior FB Zach Hayden would have to force enough holes in the line to give the quarterback the run support he would need.

(Of all the heartbreaking pictures that are etched in my mind after 149 - and there are plenty - the view of Lippy staring downfield after watching Lafayette scoop and score their final touchdown really, really hurt and sucked the most.  But then again, it's supposed to hurt.  It's supposed to suck.)

And senior RB Keith Sherman - the Sherman Tank, Boobie, whatever you want to call him - did absolutely everything he could to carry the inexperienced quarterbacks, the offense, the team, win this game.

It's really not enough to simply say that Keith had the best three games of his Division I football career.

Even before this Saturday, he was carrying this team on his back and trying to carry this team over the finish line.

You could see it the instant Bialkowski went down in the blowout defeat to Bucknell.  Something just went off inside of him.

Suddenly, it wasn't enough to rely on Brandon to just get the ball to Lee to win games - someone would have to step up.

Boobie would.

And after the loss on Saturday, his efforts in the two wins just to get Lehigh to this point really came into focus.

When Shafnisky came in for his first action against Holy Cross, there was Tank, exploding through the line for a 60 yard touchdown.

When McHale went down with an injury, two plays later, Shaf would find - who else? - Keith for a 20 yard screen pass.  Touchdown.

Aganist Colgate, Keith was the structure that set up the win, with 184 yards rushing, and 40 yards receiving.  By the time he put the icing on the game with his first touchdown, he had pretty much done everything in the game but score, out-rushing the entire Raider squad.

One last time, he was asked to carry the team on his back on Saturday, and once again he was up to the challenge.

Nobody in the stadium was surprised that he got 143 yards rushing, including converting a 4th and 2 from the 13 yard line where he seemed to hurdle the Lafayette defensive line to cut the deficit to one score in the middle of the 4th quarter.

There was no earthly way he was going to be denied the end zone in that spot, if you knew him at all.  One last time, the offense, the team, coach Andy Coen, the fans, the Nation - he'd carry them on his back and pull us over the finish line.  After all, he'd just done it last week, and the week before.

Despite Lehigh giving up 378 passing yards, despite the fact that it felt (to Lehigh fans, anyway) like every single bounce was going Lafayette's way, despite the fact that Lehigh's passing game wasn't carrying the team (but nor was it losing the game), Sherman, Kurfis, Lippy, Hayden, Soto - they had Lehigh within 8 with 8:49 to go.

I remember how loose Lehigh seemed after the kickoff after that score - like this is how it is with this team, we're the team that's dead but doesn't die, the Walking Dead of teams that you just can't kill off.

That confidence - that belief that, despite having under 100 yards passing on the day, that somehow, some way, this team would find a way to win this game.  That's on Keith, on Lee, on Zach, on Sergio, on Lippy.

Lafayette in no way rested easy in this game, referring repeatedly to the fact that Lehigh was the master of comebacks.

"No question we had to be aggressive, because we knew Lehigh had come from behind all year long," Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani said, and it was a theme that continued with a host of different Lafayette players as well in the post game press conference.  "On the series before, we had tried to pound the ball a little bit and they did a great job of stopping us [and Sherman got the touchdown]."

It was not the offense that lost this game.  It was not Sherman, despite a fumble, his only misstep on an otherwise heroic afternoon.  It was not these guys.

It was the fact that Lehigh gave up too many big plays - something that senior FS Tyler Ward noted, crestfallen, after the game.

“The main thing that hurt us today is the same thing that hurt us all year — big plays,” he said. “For the most part during the season we did a good job but there would probably be three or four big plays (a game) that were touchdowns or really got drives going for the other teams. We’ve been giving up too many big plays this year and it really hurt us today.”

The one that really was the dagger was just a short bubble screen, one set up get great blocking downfield on the left side, and then WR Demetrius Dixon cut across the middle of the field through the interior linebackers, and one Dixon got to the secondary with some downfield blocking by WR Mark Ross, he was gone.

"We missed the bubble screen one other time," Tavani said.  "We were just trying to move the ball down. I don't know if we've ever thrown the bubble for a touchdown."

When the game was over, I hurt.  Because losing is supposed to suck.  It's supposed to hurt.  But as the days went by, I started to see a little more into the game, how challenging this assignment really was, and how heroic the efforts were to keep Lehigh in this game despite the fact that not everything was firing on all cylinders.

Some might call this making an excuse for failure.  I don't think that's the case.

I do think that, obviously, things could have done better.  Lehigh could have made one, or two, or three more stops.  They could have completed one, or two, or three more passes, and put Lehigh in position to win.  I keep thinking back to that bubble screen ans thinking: What if one of those eleven men on defense could have made one tackle?  Dixon, after all, started on the left, and then veered across the middle of the field.  You could plausibly say every man on the defense had a chance to take him down, and didn't.

But it's worth acknowledging that this wasn't an ordinary assignment out there with the quarterbacks.  That lesser teams would have cratered three straight after Bucknell, and perhaps fallen out of the Top 25, and would have been never heard from again.  Lehigh would have been playing for the Rivalry only - not the Patriot League championship, not the playoffs.

I think about what happened to Northern Iowa this year.

When playing North Dakota State, they lost their best defensive player for the season, LB Jake Farley, to a broken leg.  They ended up losing a thriller to the Bison, but then lost their next four conference games, effectively eliminating them from the playoffs this season, too.

That did not happen to this Lehigh team.  They endured.  They battled.  They put themselves in this position with two completely inexperienced QBs.

As time goes by, I feel like this is what's going to be remembered more than the loss on Saturday, even though right here, right now, it hurts.  It sucks.  It's supposed to suck.  It's supposed to hurt.

“We had a really poor start in the second half, but even in the fourth quarter we battled back to a one-score game," Andy said afterwards, staring at the final statistics and chewing his gum like it was going to jump out of his mouth at attack the paper.  "Again I was feeling confident in our guys because we had rallied around each other so many times in the past and felt we’d be able to do it again but they had the big play right away and that cooled the jets a bit."

Keith Sherman, the composed senior that had become a staple in a lot of winning press conferences this season, spoke of the Rivalry as well.

"The night before the game, we always have our players meetings and we tell them to try and do it for the seniors because this could be their last game," Sherman said.  "And this is bigger than just us. There are a bunch of people who watch Lehigh football and it brings joy to their hearts," seemingly looking at me, and a whole lot of other unnamed people out in the ether when he said it.  "We just try to communicate to them [the underclassmen] and let them know that every play counts. It’s going to be a tough game.

"Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it today. We really wanted to be 4-0 against Lafayette. Biggest game, 4-0, for the championship, there were so many things going into it. We just try to communicate that so they can be composed."

*****

Head coach Andy Coen, the guy who worked with Boobie, Lee, Lippy and the rest of them, got emotional in the press conference, and I think I know why.

He, more than most people, understood what this team was up against on Saturday, how challenging this was.

He, like me, wanted the best for this senior class - the championship, the 4-0 over Lafayette, the playoffs.

After the student-athletes left, and it was only him, with the microphones and the press, he expanded on his thoughts on this team, and what it would take to get rid of the hurt, the suck, of the loss.

"The first thing is we’ve got to get out recruiting," he said, shoulders down, the hurt starting to etch over his face.  "Watching our football team, it’s obvious we have some needs."

"I thought our linebackers really developed during the season. Their play was much better. We need to get a bit more depth and bigger, physical guys on the defensive front. We’re working hard at that, and in the secondary, we’re going to lose some guys to graduation. We have to create more competition back there."

"That’s the first thing now, you roll into recruiting," he said, as you could see on Andy's face that, he, too, thought this team would somehow, some way win this Saturday.  "You’re doing it all year round in terms of evaluating film, talking to prospects and those types of things. Now, the off campus contact period will be coming up. We’ll jump into that."

"I’m looking forward to that because it’s incredibly important to the future of the program," he said, composing himself more.  "What you saw this year throughout the league is a lot of freshmen playing. We played quite a few. I thought the one kid, freshman LB Colton Caslow who played inside linebacker for us for nine weeks. I thought he played at an All-League level this year.

"You’re going to see an influx of these younger kids playing. It’s going to be really important in the recruiting process.  We need to address the roster and make sure we’ve got the types of players who can win championships."

Suddenly Andy got serious.

"I don’t like playing for championships and losing at home," he said, the disappointment replaced by anger, "hammering an emphasis on the middle two words", the Express-Times' Brad Wilson noted.

Reality started to sink in further as he talked about the Rivalry and its challenges.

"When I first came here, they had lost two then I lost my first two and I knew how hard it was to win," he said.  "I thought the biggest motivator that Lafayette today was they would have been the third class to never beat Lehigh. That, to me, in this Rivalry is much more motivating than you win and get to go to the playoffs."

Then the emotion started to take over - an emotion I saw in back in 2009, when Andy Coen came out ahead in a tough-fought Rivalry game at home.

To refresh your memory, in 2009 a 3-7 Lehigh team beat Lafayette in overtime, 27-21, when LB Al Pierce intercepted QB Rob Curley in overtime, likely sending Lafayette packing from the FCS playoffs.

It was a critical moment in Lehigh athletics - one that Coen even told me in the preseason was the event that "started this thing in motion", all the success, the championships, the winning.

It was also at this time that the seniors in this game today, Keith Sherman, Lee Kurfis, Matt Lippincott, and the rest of this class were getting recruited by Andy.
"All coaching is is hang in there with your guys, and they got better all year," Coen said after that game. "We finally got some plays to go our way this game. This was such a tough season for our guys. I'm so happy for them that we were able to get the win here today. To score and take the lead in the fourth quarter for the first time, then give it up, then win the game in overtime, after all the tough losses they've had during the season, I think it speaks volumes to these guys and how they hung in there with us all year.  
"Every week, you had to pick them up off the ground - but I tell you what, the time Tuesday came around they were excited to play football. We talk a lot about the kids in our program - we want to bring guys in who are competitors, leaders, and guys who love to play football. I told them before the game that we have those people in the room. It just hasn't worked out for us. So let's just go out and get this one. 
"Even when it didn't look great for us out there they kept battling and battling and.... " Coen stopped, getting a bit emotional. "Awesome. Awesome for those guys." 
Flashing forward to today, Coen referred back to that weekend again this Saturday.

"When you’re with a bunch of guys as much as you are as a coach, guys for four years, you just get so attached to these guys," he said, his eyes welling up, choking up a bit.  "I don’t know if it’s necessarily different than other groups, but these kids believed in what we were doing, what we were talking to them about. They’re special because they could have gone other places. People are telling them, "You go there, you're going to be there a year, and then Coen's going to be fired,' all that stuff.  But the kids came here anyway and had a great experience.  You want to win games, you want to win championships, but you want the kids to leave feeling great about their time here. I think we did that pretty well."

At 3-7 in 2009, Coen's job appeared to be hanging by a string going into that weekend, but the kids, with no trophy to play for, won the game anyway.  We may never really know if they needed to win that game to save his job, but it sure felt like it at the time.

"Here’s what I told them last night," Coen told them in 2013.  "This year had been very rewarding …up until today. But I told them that they’re all champions last night. They just didn’t have a trophy to symbolize it. After the game, I told them that they’re still champions - but you just don’t have a trophy. You don’t have a trophy today because for these 60 minutes today, you got outplayed.

"But for what they did during the year, they had a pretty good year. Seniors, you tell them you love them and the other guys just have to go back to work to make sure the next time you have an opportunity you do today, you take advantage of it."

*****

Losing sucks.  Losing hurts.  It's supposed to suck.  It's supposed to hurt.

And to some fans, it manifests itself as anger.

There are some fans that feel it's only really a one-game season.  "Patriot League championships and the FCS playoffs are nice and all, but my season is only made by beating Lafayette."

You may agree or disagree with their assessment of the importance of the game, but the truth is there are some alums for which beating Lafayette is the Alpha and Omega.  Nothing else matters.

It doesn't matter that your quarterback, senior QB Brandon Bialkowski, was playing at an all-league level and then got his collarbone broken three weeks ago against Bucknell.

"Tough cookies.  Just beat Lafayette.  Nothing else matters."

There's also another faction of fans, the ones that follow the recruiting commits to Lehigh in January, the ones who visit Spring Practice in May, the ones that go to the Alumni Steak Fry in August, and the ones that take a day off during an otherwise productive fall day to spend the time in Murray Goodman.

They're the hardcores.  They read the FCS Top 25 polls, and see Lehigh there every week.  They post on message boards, read feeds on Twitter and Facebook, and know that Lehigh has some level of national standing.

They're the ones that break down the offensive two deep, and knew that, going into the game, that a Lehigh win would give them a functional Patriot League championship and a trip to the FCS playoffs.  They knew that there was a real possibility of a home playoff game with a win.

It didn't matter that the tough veneer from the early-season win over New Hampshire was in the past, the incredible come-from-behind win against Princeton a memory.  Lehigh is a Top 25 team; therefore, we're a Top 25 team.

"Just beat Lafayette.  Nothing else matters."

Then there's the people I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, those that are lagom, those that don't get into the highs and lows of life.  They see Lehigh/Lafayette as a good time to catch up with people, eat some good food, and enjoy themselves - but not too much.  Don't take the risk; it's not worth it to invest your time, your energy, your life, to follow this stuff.  Lagom.

But they are missing out.  Despite the fact that is sucks right now, it hurts right now - yes, Virginia, it still hurts, days afterward, and it might hurt weeks, or even months afterward - I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I wouldn't have traded Saturday's heartbreak to be in a position to not care about Saturday's heartbreak.

I would have missed out.  I would have missed out on seeing the games of two incredible athletes, Lee Kurfis and Keith Sherman, trying to do everything they could to pull this team over the finish line.

I remember.  I will remember.  It is worth remembering.

It's a performance, I think, that will hurt less and suck less with age.

I believe that the folks that hurt now, are angry now, will change their minds.  They'll see the game for what it was: a team dealt a huge blow in the final chapter of the season - and coming this close to pulling it off.

They'll see it as the type of challenge that would do in a multitude of teams in the FCS, yet this team somehow got it to this point, to eight wins, to make every game in the season meaningful.

But for now, it sucks.  It hurts.  It's supposed to suck.  And it's supposed to hurt.

And more importantly to the program, the people, the fans and everybody, that suck, and that hurt, has to propel this team into next season.  To motivate everyone, the coaches, the players, the fans, to not forget the suck, and the hurt.

Because that's the key to making sure it doesn't happen next time.

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#TheRivalry Flashback: November 21st, 1987: Lehigh 17, Lafayette 10

Since becoming an undergrad at Lehigh back in the late 1980s, I first heard about the historic nature of the football team and "The Rivalry" through the stories that fellow students would share.

I did not attend the final meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette at Taylor Stadium, which was the final time a football game would be played there.

Those that did attend said that was that it was cold.

"I remember it being one of the coldest games ever," Mark Redmann recollected, "with strong Northwesterly winds and the temperature hovering around 20.  By the end of the game, the stands were half empty because most of the fans just couldn't take the cold.

"Fortunately, several of my fraternity brothers snuck in flasks to help fend off the chill."

Dominick Bragalone Goes Into Monster Mode As Lehigh Is One Win Away From Title

It has been a most unusual season for Lehigh.

Starting the year off at 0-5 and getting swept in their out-of-conference schedule, the Mountain Hawks were in danger of having their season go off the rails.

But two things have come together over the last five football games that have put Lehigh on the brink of back-to-back championships.

The first is the late blooming of the Lehigh defense, which kept battling every week since the low point of the September 30th loss to Wagner to do the job in four of their five Patriot League conference games. 

The second is the development of junior RB Dominick Bragalone into a bellcow running back, a back who has to be in the conversation for Patriot League offensive player of the year.

In five Patriot League games, Bragalone has run for 863 yards in 5 games, rushing for 11 touchdowns and adding two more receiving touchdowns as well. 

The South Williamsport, PA native certainly wasn't unknown before this week - after all, as a freshman and a sop…