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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 Mountain Hawk team.
The optimists from the summer are still here.  They already saw one tough road win against the Bison.  Though it's going to be a huge challenge, they also see the potential for another.


Yeah, Still Pretty Happy At Fordham
In 2012, first year Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead guided the Rams to a 6-5 record.

Though Fordham was not allowed to compete for the Patriot League title that season, they knew where they stood in the league.  As far as the Rams were concerned, they were competing for a Patriot League title, even if it wasn't official.  (Fordham's decision to allow for conventional football scholarships before the rest of the league made them ineligible for the title, per league rules.)

In the final game of that season, Fordham lost to the Patriot League champions Colgate 41-39.  Had their games been official, the Rams would have been 3-3 in the League.

Since that time, Fordham has only lost one game to a Patriot League school, and has gone undefeated against the Patriot League at home.

In 2013, the playoff-bound Rams lost a wild 27-14 game at Lafayette where their starting quarterback, QB Michael Nebrich, was hurt, and the Rams turned over the ball five times.

20 of Lafayette's 27 points were scored as a result of turnovers or missed field goal attempts, while then-freshman Leopard QB Drew Reed did just enough to preserve the win.

Though the Leopards certainly took advantage of the opportunity presented to them, the loss looks like a fluke when you look at the Rams' overall body of work over the past two and a half years.

There's the FBS wins.  You read right, wins, the first Patriot League team to beat an FBS team since Colgate beat Buffalo back in 2003.

The first was a thrilling 30-29 win over Temple, where Nebrich found WR Sam Ajala on the last play of the game to tie the game, with the extra point cementing the victory.

"Look.  See This?  This is MY football."
Then there was an exciting win against Army-West Point this season, 37-35, up at Michie Stadium to open up the Rams' season.  The difference in the game was, oddly enough, a bobbled extra-point attempt that P Joe Pavlick picked up and ran in for the 2-point conversion.  When Army-WP scored a late touchdown and failed to convert, Fordham's win was all but assured.

You could almost say that the Fordham win came about because they knew how to win, while Army-WP, unfortunately, has found new and creative ways to lose most weeks over the past few football seasons.

And that what should scare you about this weekend.  More than the talent, more than the coaching, Fordham knows how to win games.

That might remind you of what Lehigh used to be like before last season.

In 2012, Lehigh had a fantastic season by most measures.  They went 10-1, and they knew how to win.  In fact, that was the major criticism from the broader FCS nation - they made games close when, on paper, it seemed like the games shouldn't have been nailbiters.

A Happy Moment In Lehigh's Last Win Over Fordham
The game against Fordham that year, in retrospect, seems like an indication that there might be a change of the guard sooner rather than later.  Lehigh held on for a 34-31 win in a back-and-forth affair, only won on the very last play by a FG attempt by PK Jake Peery.

But every Fordham game in that 2012 season seemed like dress rehersal for the following two year run.  There was the feeling that as Moorhead would get more and more scholarship classes, when Nebrich's leg would heal, Fordham might become a real force.

They're there now.

Fordham's resurgence has helped make the Bronx a nightmare for the Mountain Hawks.  In 2013, in a matchup of nationally-ranked teams broadcast on CBS Sports Network, Nebrich may have had his best-ever game as a Ram as Fordham won a 52-34 shootout.

And little more needs to be said about the 150th meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette last year in the southern part of the Bronx, the 27-7 defeat to the Leopards in the 150th meeting of The Rivalry at Yankee Stadium.

The optimist Lehigh fans out there want to see a return to those years in 2012, when the Mountain Hawks knew how to win and knew exactly how to win football games by doing the little things, sometimes leaving the opposition shaking their heads as to how they lost.  The optimists look at the game this weekend in the Bronx, and see a chance to grab it all back from a team that took it from them.

The only thing that's certain is that doing so will not be easy.

Weather Report

The weather for this weekend's big tilt in the Bronx should be beautiful for late October, with a forecast of party cloudy skies and a high of about 60 degrees.  Consider wearing shorts.  After all, when can you ever wear shorts in the Bronx in late October?

Tailgating at Fordham

Nice Place to Watch a Game
Don't be fooled by the address - Fordham's Jack Coffey Field is in a major city, sure, but it's in a beautiful part of the Bronx across the street from the world-famous New York Botanical Garden.  If you plug in your car's navigation system to "New York Botanical Garden" you'll won't be able to miss Jack Coffey Field, and its only tailgating lot, Lot A, off of Southern Boulevard.

Fordham's tailgate policy states that Lot A opens for tailgating three hours prior to kickoff, and in past years they've had great events in and around the stadium before the game.  Right next to Fordham's campus, it's a beautiful place to watch a game.  You won't think that you're in a big city at all.

Famous Fordham Person You've Absolutely Heard Of 

Did He Think His Time In the Bronx "Disgusting"?
Did you know that businessman, real estate developer, reality-show star and sometime Presidential nomination seeker Donald Trump went to Fordham for two years as an undergraduate?  Yes, indeed, it's true.  If we do actually see President Trump next year, we have the Rams partially to thank.

If you thought that Trump might be playing up his time on Rose Hill, think again.  "The billionaire thought he was too good for Fordham and made that crystal clear in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal," the student paper The Ram notes.  In the book, Trump says “I began by attending Fordham University, but after two years, I decided that as long as I had to be in college, I might as well test myself against the best.”

Apparently, Fordham University was one of the first-ever victims of a Trump firing.

LFN's Drink of the Week (#DOTW)

The Lehigh football team is ready for a challenge this weekend.  Ready to challenge yourself with a New York-themed drink that was all the rage in 1978, the years of Disco and Studio 54?

It will be a challenge to get all the pieces to The Universe, unveiled at Studio 54 in 1978 and made world famous from there.  (Apparently, the Universe in 1978 was green, a fact I do not remember from 1978.)

The centerpiece to the drink is Midori Melon Liqeur.  Melon liqueur?  Yes!  Such a thing exists.

It consists of 1 part Midori, 1 part pistachio liqueur (!), 1 part vodka, 1 part lime juice, and 3 parts pineapple juice (perhaps this can be diluted a little bit with water if it's a bit too sweet).  The key with The Universe is that it needs to be poured in a champagne glass, because, apparently, there are only champagne glasses at Studio 54, the end of the Universe, or whatever.

I'm ready for the challenge.  Are you?

As always, Drinks of the Week have a place in responsible tailgates, but only if you behave yourself, don't get behind the wheel while impaired (or worse), and are over 21. Please do that.  And leave plenty of time to sober up.  The Universe isn't for the faint of heart.

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