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Game Preview: Fordham at Lehigh, 10/25/2013

If the records and numbers determined the outcome, they probably wouldn't bother playing the football game.

Lehigh, at 1-5, faces off against Fordham, the 12th-ranked team in the nation, who sits atop the Patriot League at 6-1.

Fordham boasts one of the top offenses in the  nation - that part's pretty much known by everyone - but what few people realize is their defense, for the most part, has also been stellar.

Three weeks ago, on Friday night TV against the defending Patriot League champions, Lafayette, you probably heard or saw the four-minute stretch where QB Michael Nebrich helped score three straight touchdowns to put the game, basically, out of reach.  What you didn't maybe stop to think about is that the Rams stopped the Leopards on three quick, straight drives, allowing that offense to bowl over the Lafayette defense.

So don't play the game, the stats and highlights seem to say.  Fordham's too good.  Don't even bother.

But you can guarantee that this Lehigh team will still line up on Saturday, and they still believe that they can win this game.  And this week, after Lehigh's first win of the season, belief is not hard to come by on this team.

"[Fordham], they're as talented a group of guys who may have ever played in this league from the quarterback to the running back to the group of wideouts," head coach Andy Coen told the Morning Call'Keith Groller this week.  "It's a very, very impressive group that's coached very well. And I'm also impressed with their offensive linemen who are more athletic than they've been."

Impressive as Fordham might be, don't think for a second that junior SS Randall Lawson shies away from the challenge.

"You have to embrace games like this," he said. "This is what you live for, playing a great team like Fordham, especially for a team like us where we feel our record doesn't accurately represent us. It's a good opportunity to show the whole nation that you can't judge us by our record."

Lehigh fans and players are hoping that people from around the country will be watching Campus Insiders to watch the No. 12-ranked Rams in action - and show what the Mountain Hawks are capable of as well.  (If they're in the Lehigh Valley, they can still check it out on their regular TV station, Service Electric 2, with Mike Zambelli, Mike Yadush, and Al Di Carlo.)

Perhaps... a surprise on Saturday?

"I don't even want to call it a surprise," Lawson said. "I look at it as two good teams going against each other. We know the coaches will put us in a good position. If we prepare and compete, it's going to be right there for us."

Lawson's fire last week seemed to be exactly what the Mountain Hawks needed to keep the season alive.

His special teams play, a strip of Cornell WR Luis Uceta on a kickoff return, allowed senior DB Jason Suggs to scoop and score a critical touchdown that meant Lehigh never trailed up in Ithaca last weekend in a 31-14 win.

Lawson is hoping it will be continue to be Randall's Law at Murray Goodman this weekend - a place where Fordham has never won, a fact of which Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead is all too aware.

Last time Moorhead came to Bethlehem - albeit without his Patriot League superstar quarterback - he lost on a last-second field goal, a 34-31 win for the Brown and White.



Moorhead's gameplan against the Mountain Hawks is simple.

"Number one: take care of ourselves," he told the WFUV radio crew on Monday about his plan on beating Lehigh this weekend.  "and have a great week of preparation and effort and execution.  Winning the turnover battle, winning the explosive play battle, and winning critical downs, being great on 3rd down and being great in the red zone."

Coming off a bye week, Fordham, um, won the explosive play battle resoundingly against Penn two weeks ago, spanking the Quakers in a way they've never been spanked before in a 60-22 Ram win.  Nebrich had six touchdown passes, three which were 30 yards or more.

With scorelines like these, it's no wonder why Lehigh hasn't been this much of an underdog at home since Villanova, coming off a national championship the prior year, visited Murray Goodman back in 2010 in a 35-0 shutout.

But you don't get the feeling that this Lehigh team is intimidated in any way by this Fordham team, perhaps because they've already faced some formidable teams in their own right with Yale, James Madison, and New Hampshire earlier in the year, not to mention Monmouth, who has also been knocking on the door of the Top 25.

Yes, belief is not lacking on this Lehigh team.  The only question is whether, when they line up and face off against the Rams on Saturday, that belief and executing their gameplan will be enough.

Game Notes

This week's game notes see a lot of positive signs coming out of the Cornell game, but the biggest sign of all comes from the mid-week press conference where it was revealed sophomore RB Brandon Yosha returns this week from a leg injury.  

"He'll play, I don't know to what extent," Coen said. "He practiced (Tuesday), looked pretty good."

That wasn't the only good news, though: senior OL Wenner Nunes finally has gotten healthy enough to rise to the top of Lehigh's depth chart at right tackle, which is the side of the field where monster DE Bret Biestek rushes from.

On defense, the squad that played at Cornell seems to be the exact same group suiting up this week, after weeks of tweaking to find the right combination.  Junior LB Matt Laub on the outside, sophomore LB Colton Caslow on the inside, sophomore DE T.J. Stubbs on the line, and junior SS Randall Lawson seem to have finally settled into the starting unit.

Weather Report

Many of the Lehigh faithful are praying for a rain to equalize the playing field on Saturday.  Those fans aren't getting their prayers answered, though: so far, the forecast for Homecoming and Family Day is a perfect mid-fall day, high of 64... and a 0% chance of rain.

Famous Fordham Alumnus You Didn't Know About

Whenever I think of the NBA, I think of Mike Breen, former Imus in the Morinng sportscaster and Fordham broadcasting alumnus.  Those following his career in terms of an NBA announcer might see him as a guy who perfectly balances deadpan and excitement when it comes to an exciting basketball game, but my memories of him come from him being a laugh riot on Imus' program in the 1990s.

(Breen is one of a long line of famous Fordham broadcasters, the most famous of which is probably Vin Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.)

LFN's #DOTW (Drink of the Week)

First, I never before thought of making "Drink of the Week" into a hashtag.  But after a reader proposed it, I really like the idea of it.

Doing my "research" for this week's "Drink", I inadvertently stumbled upon a debate as to what the proper way to make a Bronx Martini.  The short version as to what a Bronx Martini is would be a mimosa made with gin, but there's all sorts of questions as to how much orange juice to add, how much vermouth, which gin to include, whether to include peel, or bitters, or not.

The real question is, do you approach this drink from DiCaprio, or Snoop?

The drink snobs seem to be trying too hard to be DiCaprio-ing it; so I'm going to just go ahead and Snoopify this a bit with this variation:

2 parts gin (Tanqueray)
1 part orange juice
1 part extra dry vermouth (not sweet; Martini & Rossi is my favorite, not too fancy)
Orange peel for garnish and taste

Put the whole thing in a shaker with ice and possibly some water: shake, pour, and garnish with the peel.  The peel is important; it provides some bitter that the drink needs to cut the sweetness.

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.

And try not to be too DiCaprio.

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