The narratives coming out of Bethlehem this week - emphatically, me included - are ones of possible Patriot League championships and how the offense is "clicking" and has been very, very good.
That's not usually a very good recipe for a big game for the home side, especially since word out of the Bucknell camp is very, very quiet, even though the Bison still are very much alive in the conversation of winning the Patriot League title and making Lehigh sit at home Thanksgiving weekend.
Last week, Bucknell traveled to the No. 9 team in the country, Charleston Southern, and proceeded to put up a very good fight in a game that didn't affect Bucknell's title chances one way or another. Though the final tally was 49-28, Bucs, the Bison didn't go away quietly against Charleston Southern's triple-option attack, staying within a touchdown most of the way until the home team pulled away late.
“Our guys played their tails off today and I am proud of them,” Bucknell head coach Joe Susan said afterwards. “We were able to take advantage of turnovers, but it was frustrating as the score got away from us. Charleston Southern is a very good football team.”
Want to get more worried? Look at the comments from acting Charleston Southern head coach Chad Staggs, who was in that position after head coach Jamey Chadwell served a one-game suspension.
“I don’t know that we played our best today but you have to give some credit to (Bucknell),” Staggs said. “They came out in the first drive and sort of punched us in the mouth a little. We certainly have to play better, but we won the game. I thought we matched them physically overall. We will look at the film and see how we played. We have to be more disciplined than we were today. We had way too many penalties today and that’s something we have to correct.”
With so much media this week, let's just get this all out there so we can get to the game breakdown. Both local and national media have zoomed in on Lehigh, who could potentially be the first FCS team in America to secure a postseason berth should they finish off Bucknell this weekend.
HERO Sports: FCS Playoff Spot on the Line Saturday for Lehigh Football
Lehigh — the program that hasn’t seen the light of the postseason since its current players were in high school and some were even in middle school — can put a berth in its pocket for the first time in five years if it lehigh-logoknocks off Bucknell. The Mountain Hawks haven’t played a playoff game since falling to eventual national champ North Dakota State in the Fargodome in Dec. 2011.
“That’d mean a lot, it’s been a while,” star sophomore RB Dom Bragalone told HERO Sports. “Not many people talk about Lehigh football, [present company excluded - LFN, ed.] but this year we’ve really been making a statement for ourselves. We just have to continue to work hard and get past these next two games and we’ll be on the bracket.”
“We kind of hesitated a little bit on whether to recruit him, but a few years earlier we’d recruited a kid (RB Zach Barket) and it was the same thing as Dom where he was from a small high school and he came to Lehigh and had a great career,” Lehigh head coach Andy Coen told HERO Sports. “So we thought the same thing, that we should bring this guy in and it has worked out great for both of us.”Morning Call: Mackenzie Crawford and Donavon Harris epitomize what Lehigh football is all about
"I am in there to provide protection as a running back and also play some tight end," senior RB/TE Kenny Crawford said. "It's a great experience and a lot of fun. It's a great way to go out after four years here."
Crawford said the difference for this year's team is its unity. In his previous three seasons, he has seen a little bit of everything, going from 8-3 in 2013, to 3-8 in 2014 and then a climb back to 6-5 last year.
"We're a really tight unit," Crawford said. "Offense, defense, we've all become really close and worked extremely hard in the offseason. We worked harder than we did in the previous three years. Things are just clicking the way they should be."Express-Times: Meet the actor filling big shoes for Lehigh football in chase of title
Sophomore CB Donavon Harris began the season behind junior CB Quentin Jones, one of the top defensive backs in the Patriot League. One hit gone awry in Week 5 at Yale ended Jones' season, though, with a severe concussion. He has taken a leave of absence for the semester, as he continues to get better with each passing day, but his presence hasn't fully left South Mountain.
Harris, who has since filled in as the starting cornerback, wears Jones' cleats pregame each Saturday to represent the player from which he learned plenty.
"I was just talking to him about 20 minutes ago and he said, 'Keep balling out, bro. Keep doing a great job out there,'" Harris said Wednesday. "Hearing different things like that really boosts my confidence and makes me want to go out there and ball out for him because knowing he was one snap away, his whole season was done with. I'm coming out there and balling out for him."
“As an offensive line it’s important that we’re all a unit,” [CoSIDA Academic All-District football team member and] senior OL Micah Tennant said. “All five of us need to be on the same page and really gel together in order for us to be successful.”
Offensive line coach Andy Marino has been with the Mountain Hawks for the past three years. He said he pushes his players to consistently improve and master block techniques to ensure the quarterback has enough time to read the field.
“It’s been really fun working with him for the last two years,” junior OL Tim O’Hara said. “He wants to show the guys that no matter what you always have something to improve.”American Sports Network: Stage is different but Lehigh’s Casey, Clemson’s Leggett cut from same cloth
“There were two reasons I chose Lehigh,” junior WR Gatlin Casey said. “I wanted to play (instead of walking on) and it had what I wanted academically. Plus if you are that good you are going to get noticed (by NFL scouts) no matter where you go play.”
Leggett and Casey go all the way back together to their Pop Warner playing days. They still consider each other friends; occasionally texting and hanging out when both are back in Navarre.
The stage that Casey and Leggett might not be the same but the city of Navarre, the Patriot League and all of the FCS knows just how good Casey is.
"The kids aren't dummies," Coen said. "They know what's at stake. We talked about it on Sunday that we have to take care of our business. I was really proud of the kids [at practice Tuesday night] in that the practice wasn't any different than it was for Colgate or Fordham. Our kids just do a great job and are matter-of-fact in going about their business. They listen to their coaches and they've been playing great."Lehigh Football Spotlight: Freshman FS Riley O'Neil
"What attracted me to Lehigh when I came here was the family atmosphere in the football program. Just talking to the coaches, players, and even watching the players talk to the coaches, you get a good sense about how everyone gets along. There's no tension or anything, everyone's loose, everyone acts like they're brothers. Coming in, that was a huge thing for me."Lehigh Football Report: Bucknell Edition
Head coach Andy Coen: "We really haven't had many ups and downs over the last couple of weeks. We've just been, what we do, and doing it well, and that explains the success we've had."