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Game Preview: Monmouth At Lehigh, 9/27/2014

A lot can change in a week.

At least that's what Lehigh players and fans are hoping.

Frustration abounds in Mountain Hawk Nation in their 0-3 start, and no matter that two teams they've played, New Hampshire and James Madison, have displayed that they are Top 25 caliber teams.

It can't be used as an excuse that Lehigh seems to be the opponent circled on every team's schedule, either.  That's part of being at Lehigh: you always have the target on you.

Monmouth (2-1), too, will have a very large target on Lehigh's back, after last years' narrow 28-25 loss to the Mountain Hawks and will undoubtedly have looked at the national defensive rankings at the FCS level and seen Lehigh's squad ranked 120 out of 121 total non-transitioning FCS teams in total defense, beating only Columbia, who has only played in one game this season.

But a lot can change in a week.  At least that's what Lehigh players and fans are hoping.


You have to pity senior DT Tim Newton this week.

DT Tim Newton
Picked to be available to media, instead of talking his more philosophical feelings about his senior season, he's instead was asked about the parallels between his season and the freshman season of his brother, LB Colin Newton, where the Mountain Hawks also started out 0-3 in 2009.

"The Newton family has been around for the best and worst times of the Lehigh University football program over the last seven years," Greg Joyce of the Express-Times said this week.  "The pinnacle was in 2011 when Colin, then a senior, and Tim, then a freshman, played together as the Mountain Hawks went 11-2 and won the Patriot League championship."

Granted, it was a tough week to say the least for anyone involved with the Lehigh football program.

The Mountain Hawks left Yale with five injured players, including their star running back, sophomore RB Brandon Yosha; two starting offensive linemen, sophomore C Brandon Short and senior OL Shane Rugg; and sophomore LB Colton Caslow and junior LB Mat Verdon.

Two, Rugg and Short, are undergoing season-ended surgery from cut block injuries, while Yosha, Caslow and Verdon are not going to be available this weekend.

I don't use the word "adversity" to describe a football program's struggles often, but it sure seems to apply so far for the 2014 season, with Short and Rugg joining senior S Stephen Wilmington and junior WR Derek Knott in the season-ending-injury club.

"Injuries are part of the game and the game doesn't stop," head coach Andy Coen told Keith Groller of the Morning Call this week. "It's next man up. The kids that came in last week really did a nice job. So, we've got to keep them healthy and keep working with them."

Injuries plus a struggling defense has to be music to the ears of Monmouth head football coach Kevin Callahan, who is 0-5 lifetime against Lehigh, but could see a golden opportunity for his first-ever win against the Mountain Hawks.

Even if Callahan doesn't say it this week.

“We’ve seen the video, we understand who they’re playing, we understand the offensive firepower of the teams they’ve been playing and how quickly they can score points and move the ball,” Callahan said during the Big South media teleconference. “All three of the teams they’ve played, Yale included, are teams that have a lot of weapons. They’re a team that’s very dangerous.”

So is Monmouth, who put up 52 points on Delaware State in their first game of the year, and, as Keith Groller points out, is a team who is third in the nation in rushing defense.

Last week, the Hawks fell behind 24-7 to Duquesne, rallying to cut it to a one-score game but ultimately falling, 30-21.

“I didn’t think we played well enough in the first half to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game,” Callahan said afterwards. “In the second half I was happy the way our players fought back and got themselves back in it.  We put ourselves in the position that it was a one score game and we had the ball. If we could have been able to get on the board at that point I think it could have changed the outcome.  We didn’t have the ability to make plays when we really needed to today. Duquesne did a good job along the defensive line and we made it difficult for us to find any consistency in the run game. Without being able to run the ball, it made throwing the ball all the more difficult.”

Like all the teams before them, Monmouth, too, is circling Lehigh on the calendar.  Like Yale and others, a win over the Mountain Hawks would be extra-special to them.

But this Lehigh team is working hard to compete, hoping the the hard work will pay off this week against Monmouth to help build some confidence before a critical game versus Bucknell looms.

Tim Newton this week talked about his brother Colin, who was a team captain during Lehigh's amazing 11-2 season in 2011 where the Mountain Hawks won the Patriot League title and beat a Towson team featuring RB Terence West in one of Lehigh's finest games anywhere, 40-38.

In that game, which was a shootout, the outcome hung on one critical play close to the Lehigh goal line, and Colin was involved.

The guy flying with the LU socks is Lehigh LB Colin Newton
He was flying through the air, and it was evading his pressure that helped DE Tom Bianchi sack Towson QB Grant Enders in the end zone.  The safety was the difference in the game.  Tim Newton was there in that game as well.

Tim said this week his brother is a very positive person, a guy who always talks about turning things around.  "There is light at the end of the tunnel," he told him this week.

There is indeed, light at the end of the tunnel.  A lot can change in a week.  At least that's what Lehigh players and fans are hoping.

Game Notes

The game notes show some of the new faces that will be showing up on the squad this weekend, none more critical than junior C Stephen Camasta, Short's replacement at center.  Junior OL Matt Cohen moves in at tackle, while sophomore OL Zach Duffy moves into the guard position where Rugg was.  The good news is that Camasta and Cohen are big 300 lb guys on the offensive line which show that, perhaps, the "next men up" might be up to the challenge.

Yosha is on the two-deep, but barring a miracle will not play, leaving senior RB Rich Sodeke and freshman RB Chris Leigh, assuming he's over his ding in the Yale game, as the two big running threats.

Listed below Verdon and Caslow on the depth chart are senior LB Tashan Mitchell and senior LB John Gonos, both of whom saw time versus Yale last week.  It seems likely that they will be in the rotation at linebacker, while it's conceivable that senior LB John Mahoney and freshman LB Hobbie McCain might see their first action of the season as well.

Weather Report

The weekend's weather for the home game couldn't be more perfect for late-September football.  High of 81, abundant sunshine, 0% chance of rain.  It's going to be a great afternoon for a Division I football game.

Famous Monmouth Alumnus You Didn't Know About

WR Miles Austin
Did you know former Cowboy WR Miles Austin went to the NFL from Monmouth?  The nine-year NFL veteran was signed by the Cleveland Browns in the offseason.

LFN's Drink of the Week

Normally, I'd go with a "Drink of the Week" that got us here - just cut-and-paste something from a prior win over Monmouth, and call it good.  But clearly, after an 0-3 start, I need to change things up.  It's not the time to simply mail in what I've been doing all along.  Clearly, a shake-up is needed.

So let's shake things up on this hot day with a Drunken Milkshake.

A delicious Milkshake
It couldn't be easier to make: 1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream, plus one cup Guinness.  For the ladies, who like a very sweet milkshake, you can add a shot of Bailey's Irish Creme to the party.  For guys like me, who prefer something less sweet, I'd add maybe a half a shot of Irish Whiskey instead, or perhaps some Kahlua, or coffee.  In either case, this will shake things up for sure at your tailgate.

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.  Make a day of your tailgate, stay late and sober up before driving.

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