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Princeton At Lehigh Narrative Street: Remembering Last Year's Disaster

I hinted at this #NarrativeStreet in yesterday's Game Preview, but the narrative that keeps jumping to the forefront in the run-up to the game this weekend is the "disaster" - head coach Andy Coen's words - of last year's game at Princeton.

There were other losses in the 2015 Lehigh football season.

There was James Madison, where the eventual playoff-bound Dukes impressively blew the Mountain Hawks out of the water, 55-17.  The 59-42 loss to Fordham where QB Nick Shafnisky was lost to injury right before halftime.  The Colgate game.  The Yale game.

But there was something about the loss at Princeton that really got under coach Coen's skin that was different than the other losses - an anger at the way it happened, the way that things seemed to come apart in the second half after matching the Tigers score-for-score in in the first half.

All the narratives seem to point to last year's "disaster", and hoping that the team has learned from it.


“It was a disaster last year,” Coen said. “The game started and we were pretty neck and neck, and then we turned the ball over and they scored right at the end of the half, which is where things fell apart for us. In the second half, we had six possessions and turned the ball over on five of them, which you can’t beat anybody when you play like that.”

What frustrated Andy so much was the fact that Lehigh outgained Princeton in the game overall, netting more than 500 yards of offense on the evening, but thanks to turnovers and other unforced errors, the Mountain Hawks were only able to make it into 26 points in a sloppy game.

A year later, he still doesn't seem completely over how his team lost that game like that - even making ball protection a major point of emphasis this preseason.

Princeton's Bob Surace has the reputation around the Northeast as a guy that uses gimmicks and trickery as a part of his regular play-calling soup.

Much of it centers around Princeton's unique quarterback setup, where QB Chad Kanoff and QB John Lovett are almost interchangeable, sometimes with one QB coming in for one play, and switching to the other after the play is over.

“They’re both starters,” Surace told The Trentonian. “They’re going to be on the field together. They’re going to be on the field separate. We’ll utilize them through their strength on any given week.”

Several times vs. Lehigh last season Princeton unveiled the two-quarterbacks-on-the-field lineup, but in one case, it backfired: the lateral from one to another was sniffed out by CB Olivier Rigaud, where he forced a fumble, picked it up, and returned it for a touchdown.

"Offensively, it's still the same stuff that drives defensive staffs crazy because you gotta deal with a multitude of things," Coen told Greg Joyce of Lehigh Valley Live. "At the end of the day, they always settle in on something standard. ... With what they do, I don't think they can really change things year-to-year or week-to-week. It's window dressing for a lot of different things.  What you need to find out is what are their nuts and bolts going to be? And then you gotta defend that."

Junior CB Quentin Jones pretty much knows what to expect.

"We're expecting everything," he said. "We're just going to focus on our keys and stay focused on what we're supposed to read so we don't get confused by all the alterations."

So does sophomore CB Donavon Harris, who talked to The Brown and White.

“The team is known to be very versatile having two quarterbacks in the game," he said, "and that was hard for us to stop last season, seeing that they’d have one at wide receiver and have a lot of trick plays that we weren’t expecting going into the game.”

Concerning Surace's offense, right after the Lafayette game, Surace wasn't completely satisfied with that unit.

"I thought we played hard on offense, but we didn't play smart," he said.  "We didn't catch the ball,  we're going to have a lot of corrections.  Certain positions have to step up and play better for us to reach the goal of winning next week.   We can wear teams down if we play that well up front on our offensive line."

Lehigh's defensive confidence is much higher after their response in the second half of the Penn game.

"We've given more effort these first three games than we have at all in the past two years," Quentin Jones said. "(Last) week, when we put it all together on both sides of the ball, it showed."

The matchup of Lehigh's offense and Princeton's defense will also be on display, and Lehigh's stable of running backs, all of whom contributed mightily to the Mountain Hawks' win at Penn.

Sophomore RB Micco Brisker talked with Keith Groller of The Morning Call about his role in the backfield.

"Sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone is definitely the faster of us two and I'm more of a power-style back," he said. "Sometimes in the open field, I can be shifty as well. But when you rotate us in, we give the offense a change of pace and problems for the defense to keep up with. I think it gives our offense the best chance of being dangerous."

Brisker, Bragalone and junior RB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh will be called upon again to have a strong day to beat Princeton next week.

"Defensively, they're pretty sound," Brisker added for WFMZ 69.  "From a running back perspection, me, Dom, Nana, we're all going to have to get as many chips as we can, and pick up these blitzes, because I think that's going to be the key to victory."



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