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Showing posts from 2015

On New Years' Eve, Lots Of Red Flags Around Sport of College Football

New Year's Eve is supposed to be about all the good things about college football.

For FCS, it's about the run-up to the FCS National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.  This season - again - North Dakota State heads to the party once again, while the No. 1 team in the nation. Jacksonville State, tries to be the team that finally harpoons the Bison to break their consecutive national championship streak.

In the FBS, the bowl games that really matter - the plus-one playoff teams, the four teams that could win their bowl championship - are being played.  Lots of people will tune in.  Advertisers will see a very strong return on investment on their ad buys for the game.  The administrators for Alabama, Michigan State, Clemson and Oklahoma will be entertained, and well paid.

Yet now, at the end of 2015, there are dark clouds on the horizon looming pretty much everywhere about the entire sport.  Folks are worried about head injuries more than ever.  The bowl system, with more exh…

My Recruiting Christmas List for Lehigh

It's the most wonderful time of the year, according to my radio.

Although it can't possibly be the most wonderful time of the year, since there's no Lehigh football or Patriot League football teams playing right now, I suppose the next best thing - recruiting period for the next four years of Lehigh football - is in full swing.

My thoughts for Santa pretty much involve the players I think Lehigh needs in the upcoming years, so, as I do every year, here's what I would like Santa to leave under head coach Andy Coen's tree this season.

(No lumps of coal, hopefully.)

Season In Review: Future Bright for Mountain Hawks, Come Close to Championship

Everything about the 2015 season screamed "rebuilding," even if the Lehigh faithful never really could bring themselves to completely believe it.

Lehigh was coming from a frustrating 2014 where the Mountain Hawks came close to beating James Madison at home, but couldn't finish the game, making Lehigh slide to an uncharacteristic 3-8 record.

There was the departure in the offseason of RB Chris Leigh, the one player that scored a touchdown for the Mountain Hawks in the 150th meeting between Lafayette and Lehigh in Yankee Stadium, and RB Brandon Yosha, the transfer running back that battled injury and chop blocks leading to his retirement from football as well.

With pretty much any other team and any other fan base, expectations for the year would have been low.  But at Lehigh, expectations are sky-high, for better or for worse, all the time.  Perhaps it's the historic success of the program; perhaps it's the fans, who are spoiled by all the Patriot League champion…

What It's Like To Be Disappointed

Being a college football fan sometimes means being disappointed.  It comes with the territory.

Disappointment comes in many forms.

In the Lehigh football world, there's the type of disappointment when a non-Lafayette game is lost, like when, say, the Mountain Hawks underperform in a loss to Yale.  While you can be upset that the Bulldogs push you around in your own house, the disappointment abates, eventually.  You get a bunch of really good wins, win the most important game on your schedule, and the disappointment fades away.  You move on, the Yale game an aberration in a mostly terrific year.

But recently, a bunch of Lehigh football players disappointed for a different reason.

What they did isn't exactly a secret, but I thought it worthwhile to say exactly what such news does to huge fans of the Lehigh football program, like myself, and how it affects many of the other passionate Lehigh fans that are a part of the great Lehigh football community.  It's not pleasant, bu…

Lehigh Rewrites Recent History And Throws Aside Lafayette In #Rivalry151, 49-35

All the Rivalry games are memorable in their own way for everyone in attendance, from the seniors playing in their last game to the kids playing on the grass embankment.

The there will be four plays that will be remembered the most, the four plays that defined this game for Lehigh and really demonstrated how tough this team was in 2015, and how tough they might be in 2016.

Most importantly, though, was the fact that Lehigh finally was able to chuck aside any doubts about winning a big game.

Wins against Lafayette are always important for the many Lehigh fans in the near-16,000 people who attend these games.  But winning this particular game was doubly important for this Lehigh squad that seemed to almost desperately need the win in order to demonstrate to the fans in the Valley who they are, who they were, and where they're headed.

Game Breakdown, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/21/2015

We break down the #Rivalry151 - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

One of the things that makes Lafayette such a dangerous and frightening team is the fact that they're 1-9, oddly enough.

As a Lehigh fan, despite the Xs and Os, you have to wonder if Lehigh will come out flat tomorrow, after a heartwrenching loss last week to Colgate, 49-42.

Coupled with that is the fact that Lafayette has had two weeks to contemplate the end of their football season, to get healthy, to come to terms with the end of their football careers.

Sometimes, even in a huge Rivalry game, with a Patriot League championship on the line last week, you wonder if the Mountain Hawks can bring it as intensely as they brought it to Colgate.

Despite the breakdown, despite the football side, the question is - can they?

Game Preview, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/22/2015

Chuck laid down on the couch, his therapist staring at his pencil.  He focused at a spor on the celing, listing to the pelt of rain on the thin roof overhead.

"Do you remember it now?" the balding doctor with the shaggy salt-and-pepper beard asked.

"I... I don't remember," Chuck said.  "I have a vague recollection, some faint memories, about being... excited.  About being excited for a football game, but not The Rivalry I expected.  It was being played... in a stadium I didn't recognize.  It was a dream.  A nightmare.  It had to be a nightmare."

"Go on," the doctor said.  "This is good.  Very good.  By confronting what.... happened last year, you can finally face up to it and defeat it.  Defeat your nightmare.  Defeat a year's worth of angst.  Defeat it."

"I don't know," Chuck said.  "It's all so hazy."

"Let's see if we can work this out," the doctor said.  "We'll work it …

Fifity Years Ago: Fred Dunlap's First-Ever Win Comes In The Rivalry

Head coach Fred Dunlap's first season at the head of the Engineers wasn't going very well in 1965.

"Lehigh has impressed me very much," Dunlap was quoted as saying in The Brown and White.  "They're very warm people with a very healthy attitude in that they think very positively in competing with schools and teams in our league."

"Here you can easily get the team up for a big game, while at Cornell where you're dealing with bigger numbers and play the big school, the team is hurt by playing week after week of big games."

Nowhere, I think, was Mr. Dunlap's ability to grab the positive from a negative situation more on display than with the 1965 team.

Three times, against Cornell, Delaware and Bucknell, Lehigh would give up more than 40 points a game.  Loss after loss mounted, going into the final weekend of the season and the game against their hated Rival to go.

But Mr. Dunlap always had a way of being positive in the middle of a gloom…

The Rivalry - My Book, and My Story

A hundred and thirty-one years ago, a college in Easton approached a bunch of students in South Bethlehem and challenged their newly-founded "foot-ball" team to a game.

Such are the simple origins of the football Rivalry between Lehigh University and Lafayette College.

The Rivalry is a big deal in the way that only a game contested one hundred and fifty other times can be.  It's inspired teams quitting in the middle of the game over issues of emotion and fairness.  It's involved postgame brawls, institutional needling, scientific raids of each other's campuses, pajama marches to serenade Moravian girls, pep rallies filled with smoke, and along the way was an integral part of the formation of the sport of college football, from the days of stocking caps to the days of leather helmets to facemasks to artificial turf.

It also inspires fanatical, crazy alumni like me to write books about it.

My book, The Rivalry, takes a look at the early days of the Lehigh/Lafayett…

Horror, Sadness, Frustration, And Redemption

The morning of Friday the 13th, I was thinking about Lehigh going up to Hamilton and playing Colgate.  I was working on my game breakdown, trying to figure out if junior QB Nick Shafnisky would be able to be effective against the Raiders' run defense.

By the evening, I was tearfully trying to call my parents, with a profound sick feeling in my stomach, wondering if any of the many friends they have over in Paris were OK and out of harms way.

I don't know if these thoughts about Paris, this Saturday's game and The Rivalry will make much sense together.  But I will try.

Heartbreak in Hamilton As Lehigh Can't Get Last Five Yards, Fall 49-42 To Colgate

Five yards.

With all the offense, with all the touchdowns, with all the passing yards by junior QB Nick Shafnisky, all the rushing yards from freshman RB Dominick Bragalone, all the plays, all the yards of offense gained, and allowed, it came down to five yards.

1st and goal at the five.  A minute to play.  Five yards from the end zone, five yards from the opportunity to come from behind and make the score 49-48, and then to have freshman PK Ed Mish trot out and attempt the game-typing extra point, to tie the score for the seventh time on the afternoon, or possibly try a two-point conversion to get the win.  Five.  Yards.

It came down to four shots from five lousy yards.

The game was a thriller.  A classic.  Both Colgate, who would clinch a share of the Patriot League championship today, and Lehigh, who wouldn't, were incredibly evenly matched.  Every time Colgate scored, Lehigh responded with a touchdown of their own, never trailing by more than a score, but never leading, eithe…

Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Colgate, 11/14/2015

We break down the Colgate game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

The updated weather report out of Hamilton is that the snow showers are supposed to end by Saturday morning. Gametime should be 38 or 39  degrees with gusts of wind up to 20 mph.

On paper, this should be a good thing for the home team.

Colgate is not in control of their championship and playoff destiny by some sort of fluke.  Their young team tested themselves early, going 0-3 against three tough teams in Navy, New Hampshire and Yale, managing to outlast Holy Cross in a critical Patriot League game that could have deep-sixed their season, and then won the rest of the Patriot League games in front of them, including a Fordham team that had dominated most of the teams on their schedule.

Game Preview, Lehigh at Colgate, 11/14/2015

A year ago, two Patriot League schools accustomed to competing for championships instead were merely competing for pride.

Colgate and Lehigh used to circle each others' names on the calendar back in February.  That's because more often than not, the outcome of that game had been critical in determining the Patriot League championship, the status of an autobid to the FCS playoffs, or both.

Last season, though, for the first time in a long time, there were no championship or postseason implications on the line.

On Saturday, for both the Mountain Hawks and Raiders, the "good old days" will be back.

In February, with both schools coming off of uncharacteristic under-.500 records, it was not intrinsically obvious that the game on November 10 in Hamilton, New York would once again have a championship on the line.

Yet here we are, with snow somewhere in the forecast, and a game with a 1:00 PM kickoff, with a likely on-field temperature of a brisk 37 degrees,

It's what …

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 10, 11/9/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

It was a crazy week no matter how you look at it, with four Top Ten teams falling from the ranks.

But none was more shocking than 3-5 Mercer upsetting 6-2 Chattanooga, 17-14.

The Bears, who only resumed football three years ago, have only offered football scholarships over the last two years, which makes the upset just that much more stunning of a team that was considered the prohibitive favorite from the SoCon this season.

Mercer's three wins came against non-scholarship Stetson, under-scholarshipped Austin Peay, and winless East Tennessee State, themselves in their first season resuming football.

The Bears' first win against a fully-funded school symbolized the craziness of last weekend's scores.

Big Part Of Lehigh Title Run Is Offensive Line Resurgence

Going into last weekend, most people thought that Holy Cross might pose a problem for the Mountain Hawks defensively.

The Crusader defense had shut out two opponents, contributing to wins over Lafayette two weeks ago, 42-0, and a CAA team, Albany, 37-0.

How would Lehigh's offensive line do against Holy Cross' defensive front?

Once the dust had settled on Saturday, the answer was: "just fine, thanks for asking."

The Mountain Hawks did an awful lot of things right on offense last week, jumping out to a 41-10 halftime lead, carving out 543 offensive yards and executing 83 offensive plays.  But the foundation for that offensive explosion came from a vastly improved performance on the offensive line.

With Title Hopes On The Line, Lehigh Explodes For a 51-38 Win Over Holy Cross

From the first two plays of the game, the Mountain Hawks seemed like they were going to dictate the terms of the rest of their 2015 season.

It started with a slicing kickoff return from freshman KR Mike Gies, who saw some huge holes and got things started with a 39 yard return.

The very next play freshman QB Brad Mayes, again looking more like a senior than an underclassman, found senior WR Derek Knott who lost his defender on a double move, and then turned on the afterburners for a 61 yard touchdown.

It was that sort of half, and that sort of day for the Mountain Hawks, who put the pedal on the gas and didn't let up until they had secured a very satisfying victory.

Game Breakdown, Holy Cross at Lehigh, 11/7/2015

We break down the Holy Cross game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

If you look at the statistics, you might think that this game may be a barn-burner.  In the Crusaders' last three games, they've put up more than 30 points each time.  Lehigh has eclipsed 30 point in their last two games as well.

If it does end up being a high-scoring affair, it may end up echoing a Holy Cross/Lehigh game that took place twenty-four years ago, and is considered by many to be the most exciting non-Lafayette-related football game ever played at Murray Goodman Stadium.

In 1991, Holy Cross was a Division I-AA powerhouse.  Though Gordie Lockbaum had graduated much earlier, the Crusaders' scholarship athletes kept Holy Cross' 34 game winning streak over I-AA opponents alive.  Lehigh, also ranked nationally, was the best chance for Holy Cross to be upset in many years.

Both had some of the top offenses in I-AA.  And in front of 14,055 fans, both teams treated the fans in …

Game Preview, Holy Cross at Lehigh, 11/7/2015

“We didn’t execute as well as we wanted coming out of the half,” he said. “In the past we may have crumbled a little bit, but we kept fighting. We kept working through the adversity.”

You might think these were the words of someone from Lehigh this weekend, perhaps Mountain Hawk head coach Andy Coen or freshman QB Brad Mayes.

The words were not theirs, however. They were the words of Holy Cross junior QB Pete Pujals after their thrilling 34-33 win over Bryant.

Holy Cross comes into this weekend's game at Lehigh with an identical record as the Mountain Hawks, 4-4.  Like Lehigh, they are playing to finish the season strong and force their way into a playoff conversation by winning their last three games to finish at 7-4.

Listing to Holy Cross' post-game press conference from last week, you can pluck many more words from Pujals and head coach Tom Gilmore that could have been taken from Lehigh's.  "Believing".  "Character."  "Finding a way to win.&quo…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 9, 11/3/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

Pity Dartmouth.

The Big Green and Harvard, whom I've had in my Top 25 all season, played a game last Friday that was as great as a game between Top 25 teams can be.

For 3 1/2 quarters, Dartmouth controlled the game, up 13-0 and the Big Green's defense, somewhat surprisingly, completely smothering Harvard's potent offense.

Then, in the span of about six and a half, Harvard, amazingly, pulled out the win.

One touchdown pass to WR Seitu Smith, one Dartmouth fumble and another touchdown throw from QB Scott Hosch to RB Justice Shelton-Mosley, and Harvard took their first lead of the game with 36 seconds left in the game.

It was a great game to watch, and amply showed that both teams were worthy of Top 25 status, but it is impossible, as a neutral fan, to not feel for the Big Green, who had them right there.

A Door Opens To A Possible Championship For Lehigh Football

One thing was known going into the game this weekend: Lehigh's chances at playing for a share of the Patriot League championship were in the hands of others.

Fordham, the undefeated leaders of the Patriot League, were in control of their own destiny.  If they won their last three games, they would win the Patriot League, and there was nothing that this young Mountain Hawk team could do about it.  At best, they would be second place.

This weekend, Colgate upset the Rams 31-29 in Hamilton, and thus opened the door for a co-championship.

If Lehigh beats Holy Cross this upcoming weekend, travels to Hamilton and beats Colgate, and returns home and beats Lafayette in the 151st meeting of The Rivalry, Lehigh will at least win a share of the Patriot League championship.

That's something to celebrate.

Lehigh Does the Little Things In Order To Survive Georgetown Rally, 33-28

Head coach Andy Coen admitted that an onsides kick caught him a bit off guard.

It was not a situation that Lehigh Mountain Hawks folks were very familiar with, to be honest.  Since joining the Patriot League back in 2001, the Hoyas had lost every single time they made the trip to Murray Goodman Stadium by a margin of more than 20 points.

Having cut the margin to 27-21, on the brink of possibly beating Lehigh in Bethlehem for the first time in the modern era, Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata rolled the dice, and attempted an onsides kick with 14:55 to play in the game.

But junior LB Evan Harvey saw the onsides kick the whole way, and expertly grabbed the ball with both hands and fell down on the ball.

It was plays like that that won the game.

You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman QB Brad Mayes, who looked fantastic in spots throwing 18-of-24 for and 214 yards in his first-ever collegiate start.  You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman RB D…

Game Breakdown, Georgetown at Lehigh, 10/31/2015

We break down the Georgetown game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

Head coach Rob Sgarlata should be a trendy pick for coach of the year in the Patriot League.

In a year when Georgetown was picked last in the preseason poll, Georgetown instead is playing meaningful football games at Halloween, and have a golden opportunity to finish above .500.

And they have to be looking at the game versus Lehigh as a critical one to achieve that goal.

First, there's the matter of Fordham.  While beating the preseason favorite Rams are high on the list of all Patriot League fans, the odds of them beating the other teams on their schedule, Holy Cross and Lehigh, are much greater.

There's also that tiny matter that Georgetown hasn't beaten Lehigh since 1925.

Lehigh also happens to hold the second-longest active winning streak of consecutive wins against the same opponent (14).  The longest current streak is Penn over Columbia (18).  It's no wonder that the Georget…

Game Preview: Georgetown at Lehigh, 10/31/2015

"We are still our own worst enemy," head coach Andy Coen said after last weekend's tough loss to Fordham, 59-42.  "Whether it's penalties, turnovers, if you turn over the ball more than the other team, it's going to be hard to win games.  And this is a league where things are very, very competitive."

He's right.

After a week where a scary car accident made everyone involved with Lehigh Athletics pause, and after a week where the availability of arguably the Mountain Hawks' most important player, junior QB Nick Shafnisky, is in doubt, the Hoyas (4-4, 2-1) come to town right in the thick of the Patriot League championship race.  Every team above Lafayette and below Fordham have an overall record of either 3-4 or 4-4, and that includes the Hoyas.

The road to getting into the conversation starts this weekend versus Georgetown, against a team that would like nothing better than to get their first win against Lehigh in the modern era.

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 8, 10/26/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

The story of the week in James Madison after their loss to Richmond wasn't the fact that College Football Gameday was there, nor was it about their big CAA conference loss, which took them out of the drivers' seat for the CAA title and conference autobid.

It was the fact that their superstar quarterback, QB Vad Lee, sustained an injury that would require surgery and take him out for the remained of the season.

The play didn't look like much.  The Dukes, who were already down by two touchdowns, saw Lee simply try to make something happen on a routine 2 yard run left.  A shoestring tackle by Richmond's linebacker wasn't particularly dirty, though in retrospect it looked like his foot was tackled awkwardly.

A play afterwards, Lee remained in, and collapsed after hucking a deep pass, and his incredible career at JMU was done.

Lehigh's Battle To Make This Season A Huge Success

I remember my time at Lehigh as a time to define new moments for myself.

It was a time to jettison old nicknames, to break out of the scripts my parents and then-friends had written for me.  It was time to write a new script, and a time to break out into a new, better direction.  It was a time to step away from the old girlfriends, as hard as that was at times, and start to live in the moment and form new relationships, ones that were not encumbered by what happened before.

I think that's something that can be applied to the Fordham loss as well, in the context of Lehigh's 2015 football season.

There are two possible outcomes from this game.

One outcome is that the defeat ends up defining the season, a loss made so frustration by an agonizing combination of bad luck, missed opportunities, and a record-breaking performance by RB Chase Edmonds.

But the other is to jettison that past, and set off on another winning streak to go through the rest of the regular season, and in so d…

Lehigh Gets Chase-d Out Of the Bronx, 59-42

Say Doc Brown had shown up at your house October 21st, 2015, and told you something about the upcoming Lehigh/Fordham game.

Suppose he lets slip that senior QB Nick Shafnisky would go out with an injury before halftime, and that Fordham RB Chase Edmonds would set a Patriot League record for rushing yards in a game while getting over 400 all-purpose yards.

Would you have gone to the game?

Would you have bothered to be one of the 5,000 fans in attendance who watched the No. 11-ranked Rams face off against a game Mountain Hawk squad?

The truth is, even though the loss was certainly frustrating and a teeth-gnashing reminder of what could have been, with two minutes to play in the game freshman PK Ed Mish lined up at the 27 yard line with a chance to make it a one-score game.

At what was effectively the "two-minute warning" in the game, Lehigh had battled all the way back from Shaf's injury, their own penalties and mistakes, and put the Mountain Hawks in a position to steal …

Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Fordham, 10/24/2015

We break down the Fordham game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

Fans, coaches and players alike are keenly aware of the importance of this weekend's game.

“If you look at our win against Bucknell and our win against Penn, which are our two best wins of the year, those were our two best weeks of practice,” senior TE Chris Ruhl told The Brown and White this week. “It was our most intense week of practice. It was our most focused week of practice, so head coach Andy Coen has been pushing for us to set the standard with that.”

Also in this week's game notes for Lehigh, which I forgot about for yesterday, sees a big return on the two-deep as well in junior LB Colton Caslow.

"We've still got a lot of work to do and we're still working hard on getting better every single time we step on the field," senior LB Noah Robbsaid this week. "We've made a lot of progress, even from two weeks ago. We're getting there."

Lehigh fans hope …

Game Preview Lehigh at Fordham, 10/24/2015

The enormity of the challenge of Lehigh's 2015 football schedule was evident to everyone looking at the schedule.

"October 10th, at Bucknell.  October 24th, at Fordham".

In August, every Lehigh fan wants to be an optimist.  They want to believe that this is the year that they win a Patriot League champions.  They look at the entirety of the schedule, and say, "Yeah.  We could win that one."

But even the biggest optimists looked at this two-game stretch, at Bucknell, and at Fordham, and had to pause, and perhaps exhale.   "Number Two and Number One in the league last year," they think.  "On the road.  And Fordham, a Top 15 team for the last two years, who has gone to the FCS playoffs for two straight years, with a returning Jerry Rice award-winner in RB Chase Edmonds."

Lehigh defied their preseason expectations by beating Bucknell 21-10 two weeks ago, setting up an extremely meaningful game in the Bronx this coming weekend for this young Moun…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 7, 10/19/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

Last week, I said people around the country are starting to understand that James Madison is a pretty damn good FCS football team.

Apparently, someone at College Football Gameday was also paying attention to the Dukes as well.

At 7-0, James Madison University was chosen as the site for ESPN's pregame show College Football Gameday, to highlight their game versus another Top 25 school, Richmond.

It's not the first time College Football Gameday has elected to cover an FCS school.  The nationwide program has already made a couple stops in Fargo, North Dakota to cover the North Dakota State Bison, and last year the hot rumor was that Gameday was going to cover Lehigh vs. Lafayette's 150th celebration at Yankee Stadium, but ultimately decided to go with Harvard vs. Yale, as "The Game" was for an Ivy League championship and "The Rivalry" ended up being for pride.

Harrisonburg, Virginia I'm su…

LFN's Midseason Report Card

Not that long ago, Lehigh football players had to take those dreaded 4 O'Clock exams, an essential, dreaded part of the Lehigh experience.

Today, though the 2015 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are getting areport card of a different sort.

Past the halfway point of the season, it's time to take a step back and see where the Mountain Hawks are, and where they need to go to get back to the top of the Patriot League.

The season, as befitting a young team, has been inconsistent.  At times, Lehigh has looked like a team that could possibly win the Patriot League title.  At other times, though, they haven't.

Fortunately for all Lehigh fans, the Mountain Hawks last game, a gritty 21-10 win over Bucknell, was the equivalent of acing the mid-term exam.  That win, which brought Lehigh back to a 3-3 record, was huge.  But tougher challenges await in the last five weeks of the season.

Your Lehigh Bye Week Viewing Guide

Did you think you would get off easy on watching college football simply because it's Lehigh's bye week?

First of all, it gives you time to catch up on watching ESPN's College Football Gameday, where you can see the Lehigh flag that frequently makes an appearance on the program.  (Who knows?  Perhaps Gameday will head to Lehigh for the Fordham game next weekend, or maybe perhaps #Rivalry151 in November.)

There's also so good opportunities to scout out Lehigh's upcoming opponents in Patriot League action.  Three Patriot League games are taking place at lunchtime, and another is happening at 3:30 PM.

If you receive the CBS Sports Network, you can see whether Bucknell will make it a perfect Patriot League sweep over Army-West Point in the 2015 football season.  The Bison face off against the Cadets at noon, and if you don't have it available on TV, it can be seen via subscription from Army's website.  In much of the Lehigh metro area, too, the game can be hea…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 6: 10/12/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

People around the country are starting to understand that James Madison is a pretty damn good FCS football team.

At 6-0, they bear little resemblance to the team that squeaked by 3-8 Lehigh last season.  The lowest offensive point total they put together in a game was 38 - versus Stony Brook, who could be a playoff team.  QB Vad Lee is firing on all cylinders, just showed up in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd, and the Dukes faithful may be getting a look from College Football Gameday in a few weeks.

After they made mincemeat of Lehigh in Week 2, I knew they were good.  But I didn't really know how good until they got into the league portion of the schedule.  They pounded Towson 51-30 last weekend, and they will in all likelihood go 7-0 after their trip to 2-4 Elon this weekend.  I've had them at No. 1 the past three weeks or so, and they've amply justified my pick.

Lehigh Accepted the Challenges So That They Could Feel Victory

You don't have to be a militaryphile to love football.  But to love football, it helps to have an appreciation for the military.

I remember once, long ago, on this blog I made an incorrect reference and quote in regards to the Vietnam war.  Then-head coach Pete Lembo, a pretty good military historian as well as a pretty good college football head coach, wrote me to clarify almost immediately.  He was right; I was wrong.

One of the most iconic military personalities was General George S. Patton, the controversial yet beloved World War II soldier that was an amazing figure.  He also provided this quote, applicable to both the military and football:

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”

I pulled out this quote from General Patton because it seems particularly apropos in regards to this Lehigh football team this week.

Lehigh Changes Helmets and Changes Trajectory, Defeats Bucknell 21-10

The first surprise was Lehigh's uniforms.

Heading out of the locker room, the Mountain Hawks did not come out in their usual gold helmets, whie jerseys and brown pants.

Instead they came out with the white helmets unveiled in the Bronx - white helmets with "Lehigh" in brown on the sides.  They matched the rest of the uniform extremely well - not the pinstripes that were worn in Yankee stadium, but all-white jerseys and all-white pants with brown numerals.  White socks and white shoes completed it.

It seemed to have been unveiled today by coach Andy Coen to usher in a new team, and  a new, fresh start.

But the best part of the afternoon was that, whatever the reason, the new uniforms worked.

After an early touchdown, the Lehigh defense would only allow a field goal the rest of the way to the Bucknell offense - without two of its top playmakers.  When preserving a two-score lead, the Lehigh offense grinded the Bison defense into so much burger meat with a 17 play, 54 yard…

How To Watch Lehigh at Bucknell If You're Not Going

If you're not able to catch the Bucknell game in person,  you can stream the game here from the Patriot League Digital Network.  It's a 1:00 PM start and it's the only available video broadcast of the game.  The link is below:

Patriot League Digital Network

What I like to do in times like this is to mute the PLDN broadcast, and to listen to simulcast of what's local in the Lehigh Valley on AM 1230 and AM 1320 (which you can put on your actual radio, if you like that sort of thing).  Today Matt Kerr, Matt Markus and Steve Lomangino are on the call:

http://www.espnlv.com/

As bad luck may have it, the whole Patriot League slate up against one another on the Patriot League network.  There is a chance to catch the end of the Lafayette/Georgetown game after the Lehigh game.  If so, you will be able to find that here:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

*****

For the East Coast, and specifically Penn State and Notre Dame fans, there's a boatload of great F…

Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Bucknell, 10/10/2015

We break down the Bucknell game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

The rivalry between Lehigh and Bucknell could not be more strange.

The Mountain Hawks hold a 44-31-3 advantage in the series and have played each other on-and-off for the last 127 years.  But Lehigh, relatively speaking, has dominated since the NCAA established Divisions in 1978.

Since both Bucknell and Lehigh were reclassified as Division I in 1978 and started competing in Division I-AA together, Lehigh holds a 27-9-1 advantage.

But any good Lehigh fan will point out, though, the last two years have see two of those nine losses.

And both weren't just losses - they were butt-whoopings I don't need to go over again, a humbling 48-10 loss to Bucknell in 2013 and a bad 45-24 loss last season.  Then again, Bucknell is 16-5 in their last 21 games, so it's not like they only has success against Lehigh.

One more interesting fact is that this weekend's Lehigh/Bucknell game is occurring whe…

Game Preview, Lehigh at Bucknell, 10/10/2015

The buzz went through the press box in the minutes before last year's game versus Bucknell that QB R.J. Nitti, the starter for the 4-1 Bison, was not suiting up at quarterback.

Almost immediately, the mood of the Lehigh folks covering the game picked up.

Without Nitti, it would mean little-used QB Trey Lauletta would be the starter in his place.  That, along with the injury to the regular starting RB C.J. Williams, what seemed originally like a close matchup between two close teams felt like a very good shot at a win for the winless Mountain Hawks and might actually get Lehigh's season pointed in the right direction.

 It didn't work out that way.

After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, Bucknell would ride a record-setting performance by WR Will Carter, who would get 3 big-play touchdowns during a stretch of 31 straight Bison points to power through to a 45-24 win over Lehigh and effectively ending any dreams of competing for the Patriot League title.

For the last two seasons, t…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 5: 10/5/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

This week was a huge one in the Missouri Valley conference, as two battles between ranked teams took place.

While North Dakota State beating South Dakota State might not have been surprising, the relative ease of which the Bison dispatched the Jackrabbits was, a 28-7 game that really wasn't all that close.

And Illinois State, in a true "show-me" game, at least to me, really did show that they are as advertised, beating Northern Iowa 21-13.  While controversial RB Marshaun Coprich did play for the Redbirds, his 143 yards and 2 touchdowns were instrumental in their key conference win.

These two wins cleared a logjam in my Top 10 and established two clear frontrunners in the Missouri Valley race.

Yale Came Into Our House And Pushed Us Around

In the movie Rudy, Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine gets painted unjustifiably as a bit of a jerk.

His treatment in the movie, I feel, is what prevents Rudy from being a mostly-loved movie from a near-universally loved movie.

Some people will never forgive the moviemakers, for the convenience of drama, for changing the reality of his coaching career.

Yet despite this fact, actor Chelcie Ross manages to deliver one of the iconic halftime locker-room speeches in cinema.  You're not really supposed to like him, as the movie goes, but somehow he manages this great line:

"No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around."

It's great because it is a universal football concept.  Bowl-eligibility, conference games, even in playing out a 3-8 season, it doesn't matter.  Nobody wants to play the game of football and get pushed around, ever, but to be pushed around at home?  Somewhere, you have to draw a line.

This weekend, Yale pushed us around.  At hom…

On Cold, Dreary Homecoming, Lehigh Overpowered by Yale 27-12

It was a game that was pretty much the opposite of what Lehigh football fans would have wanted from homecoming.

People want games in Murray Goodman Stadium that are sunny and 70 degrees, with perhaps just a hint of wind.  Instead, despite the fact that a threatened hurricane never arrived, temperatures dipped into the 50s to go with some cold, gusty winds, which caused not a few people to get runny noses.

Homecoming is supposed to be a happy time, but the dark, overcast skies didn't make the game feel like a warm, welcoming place.  Though the Marching 97 tried their best, as did the Alumni band, the dreariness hung over the stadium like an unwelcome guest.

Home fans always want a win on homecoming, hopefully with exciting, crisp, vibrant execution from the guys in the brown jerseys, but again, that too would end up being the opposite of what Lehigh fans were hoping for on this afternoon.

Yale would turn over the ball three times, be penalized 11 times for 94 yards, and be limite…

Not At Homecoming? Really? Watch the game here:

If you're not able to catch the Yale game in person - really?  You can't? -  you can stream the game here from the Patriot League Digital Network.  It's a 12:30 start and will be the same broadcast that's available over the air on SE2 in the Lehigh Valley, with Mike Zambelli and Mike Yadush on the call.

Patriot League Digital Network

If you're in the car and you have a phone, don't tear through your data plan - listen to Matt Kerr and Tom Fallon on the call, with Matt Markus reporting the pregame and sideline.  It's a simulcast of what's local in the Lehigh Valley on AM 1230 and AM 1320:

http://www.espnlv.com/

Last night saw three games of interest to Lehigh fans: Princeton remained undefeated by outlasting Columbia in a Nor'Easter, 10-5, Colgate nearly blew a 14 point lead but held on to beat Cornell 28-21, and Georgetown got trounced by Harvard 45-0.

Played at the same time today as Lehigh/Yale is Albany/Holy Cross (1:00 PM), which is available on …

Game Breakdown, Yale at Lehigh, 10/3/2015

We break down the Yale game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

All week everyone's been tracking the progress of a potential superstorm, hurricane Joaquin.  While the main concern, of course, is the safety of everyone in the hurricane's path, people are also wondering whether the storm will be affecting the game this weekend in the form of wind or rains.

It turns out, if the tracking goes the way the majority models are indicating, that Lehigh's 12:30 game at Murray Goodman might not only escape the rain, but there might not be any showers to speak of.

In the latest hour by hour at Weather.com, the forecast actually only has modest showers in the morning, ending by 11:00 AM (just in time for tailgating), and remaining partly cloudy all the way until 4:00 PM on Saturday, an absolute perfect window for the football game and Goodman stadium homecoming activities.

In short, it's increasingly looking like the storm will either move very slowly through t…

Game Preview, Yale at Lehigh, 10/3/2015

“The past is the past and we aren’t concerned with it. We have learned from our mistakes, and we are ready to move on.”

That was freshman RB Micco Brisker, who told this to The Brown and White this week in regards to last week's game versus Princeton.

It's a good attitude to have going into this weekend's game versus Yale.

It would be easy to complain about injuries, or the officials, or unlucky bounces of the football last week.  But to this team's credit, that wasn't what the discussion points were about in the weekday media sessions.  It was about owning those mistakes, and moving on.

“We need to cut out mental mistakes like penalties and missed assignments on the field, as well as win the turnover margin by forcing more turnovers defensively and preventing them from happening offensively,” said junior LB Colton Caslow this week.

This weekend Lehigh will be looking to move on, actually, from two different games, one from last weekend, where it felt like the Mou…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 4: 9/28/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

I don't ordinarily do do two things with my poll that I actually did this week:

1. I usually don't demote a team completely out of the Top 25 if they're a Top 5 team and they lose.

2. I usually don't demote a team from the No. 1 slot if they win their game.

But that's exactly what I did, after I looked at my poll with a fresh new set of eyes after some of the more interesting outcomes from the weekend.

I'd been meaning to demote Villanova for some time, not only due to their sort-of lackluster performance over the beginning of the season, but for their seemingly lackluster play going back to last season when Sam Houston upset them in the FCS Round of 8 last season.  I was looking for a dominant performance against the worst team on their schedule, Penn, and instead the Quakers upset the Wildcats 24-13.

You could argue that they were getting things done with defense.  You could have said that with …

Princeton Weekend Shows Work Needs To Be Done To Be Contenders

I always enjoy making the trip to catch a Princeton game when I can.

Aside from the sentimental attachment that I have to the place, there's a lot to recommend it as a destination for anyone.

After Lehigh's 52-26 loss to Princeton, however, the Mountain Hawk people I saw after the game couldn't wait to get out of there and regroup.

Everything about this early, challenging schedule for the Mountain Hawks seems to have been designed to determine how close Lehigh is at becoming contenders once again.  It's a challenging, strong out-of-conference schedule that doesn't need an FBS team on it to make it a stern test for this group of players.

If anything in particular was learned about this weekend's game, it's that this Mountain Hawk team still needs work in order to win their Patriot League games and possibly win a Patriot League championship.  Spectacular individual plays, like junior CB Brandon Leaks upending Princeton RB Dre Nelson, are great, and like an…

Frustrated Lehigh Can't Overcome Mistakes, Trickery, Fall to Princeton 52-26

Head coach Andy Coen stood outside the locker room, obviously agitated at the result of the game.  Outside, beautiful fireworks were exploding over Princeton Stadium on a beautiful night.

In front of the locker room, the fire was coming from Lehigh head coach, verbalizing what all the players, and fans, saw on the evening.

"The turnovers, the penalties, the blocked extra point, losing momentum there, that was all stuff we had control over," Coen said, seemingly wanting to get back onto the field right then and there, with the fireworks going off, and play the game all over again.  "They had no control over that.  It was our problem jumping offsides, it was our problem dropping balls, our problem not being focused enough.  And if you are not focused enough, then someone else will play."

It was so frustrating because the Mountain Hawks had some real pretty looking numbers on the stat sheet.  They outgained Princeton 561 yards to 497.  Junior QB Nick Shafnisky had 3…

How To Catch Lehigh/Princeton If You're Not Seeing the Pope

Anything else happening today of note?

If you're not able to catch Lehigh/Princeton in person, whether due to the Pope being in town or just because you need to catch up on your wildflower collection, you can stream the game here from the Ivy League Digital Network.  Unfortunately, it is not a free service, like that of the Patriot League and NEC, so if you wish to enjoy the game this way, it will cost you a few bucks.

Ivy League Digital Network

If you're anything like me and are too cheap to spring for the $10 required, everyone's favorite radio call will be available here from Matt Kerr and Matt Markus will be reporting the pregame and sideline:

http://www.espnlv.com/

While waiting for Lehigh/Princeton to start, you can catch the first Patriot League conference game of the season, Colgate at Holy Cross:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

It also may be on your local TV.  Check your local listings.  It doesn't appear to be on in the Lehigh Valley area…

Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Princeton, 9/26/2015

We break down the Princeton game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

It's rare that I talk about last week's opponent in this space, especially when the focus should really be on how to beat Princeton.  But Penn's 24-13 win over No. 4 Villanova was so stunning to this reporter and such a great thing for head coach Ray Priore's Quakers that it's worth mentioning here.

It was a result that seemed to even stun Penn's head coach, who earned a whopper of a first win thanks to winning the time of possession battle (holding onto the ball for more than 39 minutes on offense), benefiting from Villanova miscues (a roughing-the-punter call kept one Penn drive alive that ended in a touchdown) and making huge plays (as the Wildcats were driving to score, Penn LB Tyler Drake strip-sacked Villanova's quarterback, leading LB Donald Panicello to scoop and score a 92 yard touchdown return).

"Wow, just wow," Priore said after the game. "You …

Game Preview, Lehigh at Princeton, 9/26/2015

Rarely are scouting opportunities so accessible.

Shortly after Lehigh beat Penn last weekend, there was an opportunity for a Patriot/Ivy doubleheader for FCS football mavens, and a chance for Lehigh football fans to get a sneak peek at next week's competition.

What they saw couldn't have made any Mountain Hawk fan breathe easy.

What they saw was a dominating performance by the Tigers, a 40-7 walloping that had local sportswriters like Brad Wilson of the Express-Times dig down deep to describe the depth of the blowout.  "If Frank Tavani had seen Saturday's train wreck of a 40-7 loss to Princeton by his Lafayette football team coming," he wrote, "he'd have done everything in his power to derail the Leopard Express from proceeding down the track to Disaster City."

In Wilson's defense, the depth of the completeness of the win over Lafayette was hard to adequately describe.  Princeton only allowed six first downs in the first half, and only let up a…

My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 3, 9/21/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

A question FCS voters frequently get is: How to rank FCS over FBS upsets?

Bascially, the same questions plaguing rankings on the FBS side ("Is Jacksonville State simply a really, really good FCS team?  Or is Auburn really bad?) cuts the other way in the FCS world.

Jacksonville State almost beat Auburn.  But the meaning of that close shave is still undetermined.  Auburn didn't look like much last week after being dominated by LSU.  What if the Tigers finish under .500?  How will Jacksonville State's close shave look then?

With Furman's upset over UCF 16-15, we have another opportunity to play the game of "how good is this team, really?"  Furman's in my Top 25, barely, mostly on the back of their upset win against a team that quite recently was seen as a quality mid-major in the FBS world.  But the Paladins are 1-2, though with one of the toughest schedules in FCS.  So, again: How good was th…