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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 Lehigh football fans and Colgate fans live for.

"The Lehigh team will meet a worthy opponent in the Colgate tram, but the Brown and White will not be found wanting.  It took a few games for Lehigh to find itself, but that end has been achieved, and it is not hard to predict a win for the Brown and White, thought they will be held to a low score by the Maroon."

Lehigh C Bill Springsteen
Though this might seem like text I wrote from one of the original Lehigh Football football previews back in the late 1990s, these words were actually penned by the original Lehigh Nation, the student writers of The Brown and White back in 1922.

The Maroons (as they were then known) were to face off against the Brown and White in Johnson City, New York, but not as equals.  To Lehigh fans, despite the predictions of victory by the student paper, they had to know this game wasn't going to be easy.

A budding young star, C Bill Springsteen, started on the 1922 squad.  He was one of the last great Lehigh football players recruited under the former coach Tom Keady. As the Twenties would proceed, the Brown and White would see many struggles on the football field due to the decision to clamp down on academics and, for all practical purposes, de-emphasize football.

"Bill's fight and ability to to diagnose the plays of the opposing team showed that he was entirely deserving of the captaincy," his Epitome entry reads, adding for good measure that he was  "a tower of strength in the line and a natural born leader of men."

One of the interesting sidebars to this first-ever matchup between Colgate and Lehigh was that Colgate's coach, Dick Harlow, was originally slated to come to South Bethlehem to become Lehigh's coach, but he instead opted for the Chenango Valley and the more-powerful Maroons.  James A. Baldwin instead took over the Lehigh football team and did an admirable job considering that much of his team's talent was being taken away from him at the same time.

Lehigh went into the big game with a lot of injuries, including Springsteen, who had a "bad shoulder", according to The Brown and White.

"A great deal of interest is being manifested around the campus concerning the game with Colgate," the paper continued.  "From all indications, about half the student body will follow the team to New York State to witness the fray."
Front-Row Seat for the Shellacking

The optimism made way to grim reality in fairly short order.

"Colgate overpowered the fighting Lehigh eleven Saturday in one of the hardest-fought games of the season by the score of 35 to 6," The Brown and White summarized the following week.  "The game was played in the First Ward Stadium, Binghamton, New York before a crowd of about ten thousand.  There were about three hundred Lehigh students there, a great many of whom 'bummed' their way to the stadium.  It was an enthusiastic crowd, they cheered their loudest even when the team seemed hopelessly overwhelmed."

Springsteen, who would later play in the NFL for the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Chicago Cardinals, would recover a fumble and return it for Lehigh's only touchdown, which must have delighted the 300 Lehigh fans in attendance.

But the Maroons didn't waste any time reasserting themselves, thanks the Colgate's offensive line "tearing great gaps in Lehigh's line" and allowing FB Nicholas Mason and RB Eddie Tryon to score 35 unanswered points.


Like Springsteen, Tryon would play football professionally for the New York Yankees of the All-American Football League, and he certainly seemed like he got the better of the deal in Binghamton.

"It is to Lehigh's credit that, although the team was overpowered, they fought gamely to the end," the B&W reported.  "The battering Maroon team outweighed the Lehigh eleven and were able to gain ground at nearly every play.  Lehigh never ceased to fight, but she could not hold the New York team."

It probably didn't seem at the time that Colgate and Lehigh would ever be equals on the gridiron after the Brown and White "bummed" their way back to South Bethlehem after the game, never mind becoming conferencemates more than sixty years later.  But eventually the athletic paths of Lehigh and Colgate would finally come together in 1960, where both schools, who were mid-sized institutions with high-class academics and pretty good football teams in their respective divisions, would start playing each other regularly.

*****

It's funny to see the story of Lehigh and Colgate battling for the same coach, because if anything epitomizes Colgate and Lehigh consistently throughout their entire athletics history it's the fact that one seems to take from another all the time.

It happens routinely on the recruiting trail, where Lehigh coaches and and Colgate coaches are basically going to the same high schools pitching the same types of academically-minded football players, with the same recruiting pitch, "Come here, and not only will you compete for Patriot League Championships, you might have a chance to play in the FCS playoffs, too."

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention here Fred Dunlap, the legendary head coach who coached at both Lehigh and Colgate for more than ten years at both places.

His athletic career started at Colgate, where he was a letterwinner in both football and wrestling.  From there he started on his coaching career which led him to Lehigh for a decade of success.

Dunlap made his coaching mark by presiding over a period of Lehigh dominance over Lafayette in the Rivalry.  After losing his first two tries against the Leopards, he went 8-1 the rest of his career against them, along the way setting up the foundation for Lehigh's Division II Championship team of 1977.

"It's like a bowl game," he said. "At the end of your season, regardless of what kind of year you've had, you can look forward to that game.  The Game was good to me,.  It was great to put kids into such an exciting game. The circumstances are as exciting as Army/Navy when you get that stadium packed."

Though he returned to his alma mater in 1975, during a 1998 interview with The Morning Call, he explained another reason as to why he left South Bethlehem.

"One of the reasons I came to Colgate was that we lost so many recruits to Colgate," Dunlap remembered. "Back then, Colgate was Division I and Lehigh was Division II, but we were competitive in those days."

He didn't stop there.

He took over the program at Colgate and built it into one that was a force most of his years as head coach, guiding the Raiders to multiple I-AA playoff appearances.

After he left coaching, he didn't stop his involvement in athletics.  He became the athletic director for Colgate, where he was involved in the formation of the Patriot League back in 1986, and the championship trophy was named after him.

In 1995, on the heels of a disastrous 0-11 season, he came out of retirement to help search for a new football head coach.  He suggested that they hire from within, a coaching assistant named Dick Biddle who would merely remain with the Raiders for the next seventeen years.

Dunlap is even the subject of an upcoming new book written by his son, Dunlap Rules, 

"The book is written in a vignette style," his son said, "with each chapter being a separate story. The book begins at the time when they were college kids. The vignettes weave back and forth between personal and professional (football) stories. The book talks a little bit about their life before football, then also progresses through Dad's time when he was coaching at Lehigh and then at Colgate. The book then covers some of my own adult experiences, examining how I took what I learned from them and applied it in my life."

It sounds like a great book.

*****

With all this reminiscing, you might forget that the game this weekend will help determine the winner of this year's Fred Dunlap trophy.

Like Lehigh, the warriors of the Chenango Valley are red-hot entering this matchup, winners of five of their last six games.

Like the Mountain Hawks, two of their last three losses came against Princeton and Yale.

Unlike the Mountain Hawks, the Raiders upset Fordham, 31-29, which puts them in the driver's seat for the championship.

If they beat Lehigh this weekend, they can finish no worse than 6-1 in the Patriot League.  They could tie Fordham and share a co-championship, but they would be practicing on Thanksgiving, because they would gain the Patriot League's autobid to the FCS playoffs.

If they lose, and Fordham beats Georgetown this weekend, they would need to beat Bucknell, and hope Lafayette upsets Lehigh, in order to be certain to make it to the postseason.

For Colgate, the path is simple.  Win, and they get no less than a co-championship.

For Lehigh, too, the path is simple.  Win, and they have the chance at a co-championship, and if the chips fall right, they play on Thanksgiving.

Lehigh and Colgate for the championship is what everybody at Colgate and Lehigh wanted back in August.  We got our wish.  We got our football game.

Game Notes and Injury Report

Starting on Saturday
As is becoming a custom these past few weeks, the parlor game for Lehigh fans is rapidly becoming the state of junior QB Nick Shafnisky's health.  Is he 100%?  Will he start?  Or is he still recovering from that hip pointer, the situation that has persisted the last two games and seen freshman QB Brad Mayes come in and start and do very well?

The Express-Times reported that Shaf will be getting the start this weekend at Colgate.

"I think this is the type of game Nick can really help us win," coach Andy Coen said.  "We'll go through the week just to solidify things, but for the most part, we're expecting him."

Does this mean we won't see any of last week's Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week?  Not necessarily.  

"I don't know," Coen said. "We'll see how the game goes."

The game notes show one important bit of information, that junior DE T.J. Stubbs will not be making the trip due to back issues, which means yet another underclassman, freshman DE Julian Lynn, will get more playing time on the defensive line.  Seven underclassmen are on Lehigh's depth chart on defense, including one true freshman and two sophomores.

Weather Report

An Ordinary Day at Colgate
It wouldn't be Hamilton in November, dear Reader, if it weren't cold, windy with a chance of snow on Saturday, and indeed the weather report calls for just that: a northwesterly wind at 16 miles per hour, a high of 38 degrees (and a low of 33), and even, just for good measure, a chance of precipitation, currently sitting at 20%.  As the week progresses, the forecast has gotten more cold, more wind, and more potential for light snow - in other words, more Colgate-y.

Tailgating at Colgate

"Do I make this check out to Colgate Athletics?"
Getting to Colgate isn't easy, travelling up that lonely hour of driving up a maze of upstate New York roads, ending at Route 75 and Hamilton, NY.  The stadium, situated on the south side of town, is easy to find and can't be missed.  There are two lots, both fairly close to the stadium.  The policies can be found here.

Famous Colgate Person You've Never Heard Of 

Few people remember that the Addams Family, the funny show of oddballs that made popular by a 1960s sitcom and subsequent movies, were actually originally cartoons designed by Colgate alumnus Charles Addams.

Addams only attended Colgate for two years before departing for Penn, undoubtedly being so creeped out by the place that it inspired his lifelong artwork.  (Actually it was more inspired by an abandoned house on his block where he lived as a child in Westfield, New Jersey - supposedly.)

LFN's Drink of the Week (#DOTW)

Last weekend, I got a suggestion for Drink of the week that was red.  It was also Pirate-themed.

Look at this picture of Colgate's mascot below and tell me that a RED drink that's PIRATE-THEMED isn't appropriate for this weekend.

Sure, it will be cold. Sure, a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps might warm you up before wind chills and possible snow.

But a Bloody Pirate - it has to be it!

Arrrr!

The good news is that it's easy to make.  3 parts Bloody Mary mix, 1 part rum.  The recipe calls for ice and a shaker, but in 38 degree cold?  Forego the ice; it will be plenty cold enough at "tailgate temperature".

Celery, and cooked shrimp - you're done!

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.

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