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Game Preview: Lehigh at Cornell, 10/18/2014

You hate to put it this way, but this weekend's tilt between Lehigh and Cornell could be the anemic force versus the extremely movable object.

Lehigh's defense would be the movable object, ranking dead last in FCS in total defense, but the Not So Big Red's offense, ranked 121 out of 123 FCS teams, hasn't exactly impressed either.

It sets up two teams extremely hungry for victory this Saturday, eager to get something positive going before the rest of the regular-season schedule gets back underway.

In May, this might have seemed like a speed-bump up in Ithaca.  Now, it seems like a game that must somehow be a victory to get the bus out of the ditch.


It's homecoming up at Cornell this weekend, making the game at Schoellkopf field a rare 3:00 start for the Mountain Hawks this season.  Homecoming is guaranteed a decent crowd filled  with red - and a bit more excitement for the home team, because no team wants to lose Homecoming.

Cornell and Lehigh actually have a fairly long, quirky history.  Way before the Patriot League and Ivy League days, Ithaca was a stop on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, making it a logical place for the Lehigh football team in the late 1800s.

They played seven times from 1887 to 1894, when the series abruptly stopped due to, let's just say, a disagreement.

In their final game of the year, Lehigh agreed to travel to Cornell to play their final game of the season.  When they got there, Cornell told the Lehigh athletes that unable to procure "neutral" referees for the game.  They could choose to leave and go home, or accept three Cornellians as officials, including the captain of last year's team.

Reluctantly, they agreed, and suffered through terribly biased officiating, according to The Brown and White, through the second half.

Clinging to a 6-4 lead, the referee whistled a play dead, but Cornell's halfback picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown.  Lehigh's players protested, but the Cornell officials let the play stand.  Outraged, Lehigh left the field and got on the train home.

The students did not forgive, nor did they acknowledge the score, reporting the game as a 6-4 Lehigh victory.

More recently, Cornell was the first-ever visitor to Murray Goodman stadium in 1988, a 27-14 win for Lehigh.

Nathan Ford, tormenting my dreams once more
The last time Cornell was in Murray Goodman stadium in 2008, Lehigh lost on the very last play of the game, a 25-24 loss when QB Nathan Ford found WR Jesse Baker with a high rifle shot in the right side of the end zone in a play I can see as clearly today as I saw it then.

"Never mind the good, or the bad. It comes down to one play," I wrote.  "One play to learn how to win. One play to give Lehigh a much-needed victory. One play for a player to step up and make a play. One play for the coaching staff to put the defense in the position to make a play, to maximize the chances to win. But just like last week, this Lehigh team did not learn how to win today."

(I was so upset after the game I ended up writing one of my best Sunday Words ever afterwards, "lagom", trying to give myself a sense of balance after the loss.)

Ithaca has not been kind to Lehigh over time, who has a 2-12-2 record against the Big Red.  Their last trip to Ithaca, in 2001, was a happy one, though, a 38-35 win.

For Lehigh today, though, the mission is clear: Win, and build.  It doesn't matter how they win, only the fact that they need a win to catapult the season in the right direction.  Only a  win, no matter how good or how ugly, can do so.

Game Notes

There is some good news in the game notes in that senior OL Wenner Nunes and sophomore LB Colton Caslow seem like they're back in the mix for starting spots, Caslow finally being 100% after missing several games with an injury.  His return is welcomed.

One guy who is not on the depth chart is sophomore RB Brandon Yosha, who is still recovering from a leg injury.  Senior RB Rich Sodeke will continue to be the workhorse this week it seems, with freshman RB Chris Leigh also stepping in.

This may seem like a small move to some, but something I found interesting was senior WR Derek Gaul has stepped in over junior LB Matt Laub as the team's long-snapper.  Gaul, who had his best day yet as a senior last weekend, seems to be having an expanded role.

Weather Report

Unseasonably warm temperatures this week in the Valley might make you think about wearing shorts up to Ithaca.  Think again.  The forecast for Ithaca is going to be cold and rainy, high of 55, and a 40% chance of showers.  Beautiful fall colors and appropriate fall weather, no doubt - but pack your poncho.

Famous Phony Cornell Alumnus You Didn't Know About

Sure, I could have picked a real Cornell alumnus to highlight here, but how could I not put the Nard Dog, Andy Bernard, here in this space?  (The actor who plays Andy, Ed Helms, actually went to Oberlin College, and I'm pretty sure wasn't edged out by Stephen Colbert in his college glee club, either.)

Nowhere in The Office is it stated where CFO David Wallace went to college, but to me he's clearly a Lehigh person, which would what really happens in the workplace with Cornellians in general - they work for Lehigh people.

LFN's Drink of the Week

A cold, day in Ithaca watching two winless teams calls for only one drink, one of the banes of my existence back when I was an undergrad.  That's right - Red Death, or, as I like to call it, Big Red Death.

If you're cold and wet up in Ithaca, a small nip of this drink will warm you right up.  I emphasize "nip", because this concoction of one part vodka, one part sloe gin, one part amaretto, one part Southern Comfort, one part Triple Sec and one part lime juice is very potent.  Keep the glasses small.

(Red Death, incidentally, tastes better after a win.)

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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