Back in March, looking at the schedule, plenty of Lehigh and Fordham fans looked at the schedule and circled October 28th, 2017 as a must-see game.
WR Troy Pelletier? RB Chase Edmonds? Are you kidding me? It might be a battle of nationally-ranked teams! There's an outside chance ESPN College Football Gameday might show up in New York City! Imagine that!
College Football Gameday did indeed come to New York City this season. But it wasn't for the matchup on October 28th, 2017.
Now that the date is very close to being upon us, a very different College Football Gameday-free matchup awaits.
Sure, WR Troy Pelletier will be suiting up for Lehigh, and even though he didn't suit up versus Georgetown this week, it's anticipated that RB Chase Edmonds will suit up this weekend as well. The game, without question, will be a showcase for some athletes that might very well find themselves playing on Sundays. For that reason, this could be a special game in the Bronx.
But instead of a battle of Top 25 teams, it's the 2-5 Mountain Hawks taking on the 2-6 Rams.
And yet - there is some bullishness in the Bronx this weekend as well, for despite the disappointing records.
For Lehigh, at 2-0 in the Patriot League, and Fordham, at 1-2 in league play, a Patriot League Championship and an autobid to the FCS Playoffs still remain as a possibility for both teams. It's perhaps not the matchup that folks expected back in the preseason - but for both talented offenses, there's still everything to play for.
|RB Chase Edmonds|
Not for two offenses featuring experienced quarterbacks, powerful offenses, and a Walter Payton award candidate apiece on each squad.
Not for two teams who started the year in the FCS Top 25, making FCS football watchers wonder if both teams might find themselves tussling in late October for the Patriot League championship.
In the preseason, they looked like potential juggernauts. But when September rolled around, the Mountain Hawks and Rams kept disappointing.
Neither team was supposed to lose to Yale by double digits.
Neither team was supposed to lose to a team from the NEC in September. A week before Lehigh lost to Wagner, 37-20, Fordham fell in a shootout to Bryant, 45-40.
In the month of September, Lehigh was 0-5, while Fordham was 1-4, their sole victory came against Central Connecticut State, a wild 38-31 game that could have gone either way. After falling behind by three scores early, Fordham rallied to tie, and under two minutes to go, Fordham DB Lawrence Menyah jumped a passing route and took it to the house for the decisive score.
In the case of Lehigh, it seemed like it took longer than everyone expected to pull together a complete team. The offense still put up a lot of points, but it took longer for the defense to come together into a unit that could slow people down enough to win football games. Just in time, the team seems to have pulled it together to potentially make a run through the Patriot League.
For Fordham, though, their woes have come from a different source - a ton of critical injuries that has decimated the Rams' depth.
Last week against Georgetown, "The Rams were without both QB Kevin Anderson and RB Chase Edmonds – along with missing others to a flu bug – but were able to scrape out their first Patriot League win of the season," The Ram reported.
|DL Manny Adeyeye|
“I don’t know if there’s a word I could use to really do justice to how proud and impressed I am with the players, of course, with the coaching staff,” head coach Andrew Breiner told WFUV. “That number of injuries and illnesses are a lot to overcome in a conference game and my full credit goes to our players, to our coaching staff.”
The Patriot League really puts their teams behind the eight ball in terms of depth, thanks to their preseason roster limit of 90 athletes. And this season, Fordham has really paid the price. Against Georgetown, they had to start a true freshman at running back to replace their Walter Payton-award candidate, a little-used backup QB under center, and have five true freshman on the two-deep on offense, including two receivers.
Certainly it's too much to ask for any football roster to have two or three Chase Edmonds on it, but the Patriot League's roster limits have done the Rams no favors - especially if, as The Ram's report implicates, a flu bug swept through the offense as well.
Even worse is that the injuries came at arguably the most inopportune times.
|RB Micco Brisker (Morning Call File)|
The football schedule has done Fordham no favors on the injury front, either. The Rams will be suiting up for their eighth straight game, while the Mountain Hawks have freshened themselves up after a bye week has allowed them to heal their bodies.
“We had a really good bye week and accomplished a lot of things,” Lehigh head coach Andy Coen told Keith Groller of The Morning Call. “We gave them a rest and got kids off their feet for a few days and some guys who were banged up entering the Georgetown game are much healthier. The only negative of the bye is that we had some momentum and we wanted to keep our edge so we didn’t get rusty.”
"I took the time to give my body a break," junior RB Micco Brisker said on Facebook Live. "Chilled out for a little bit. We just wanted to keep going right into Fordham, but the bye week is necessary. We needed to give our bodies a break."
But nobody on Lehigh's side is thinking that Edmonds will be held out another week, who only has 8 more yards to become the Patriot League's all-time leading rusher.
“We all know what he’s capable of and he’s still the best weapon they have,” Coen said.
Game Notes and Injury Report
With all the talk about Fordham's injuries certainly, Lehigh hasn't been immune from injuries either. Hardly.
During the course of this season, Lehigh's secondary has been decimated, with junior CB Donavon Harris, junior S Sam McCloskey, and now junior ROV Nick Thevaganayam all out. Thevaganayam, who suffered a scary injury last week, is healing at home and is expected to make a full recovery, but he's out versus Fordham. Harris and McCloskey are still out and are still not listed on Lehigh's two-deep.
Sophomore CB Marquis Wilson, an LFN fave, might be in line to make his first start this weekend at Fordham. He has 13 tackles, mostly on special teams, while we'll still probably also see plenty of freshman CB Jaylen Floyd as well.
This weekend's weather should be tremendous for a late October football game in the Bronx, with mostly sunny skies and a high of 67. You might want to consider shorts.
Coffey Field at Fordham is hardly as urban as one might expect, going there for the first time - it's as if someone took, say, a portion of Duke's campus, and plopped it down in the middle of the Bronx. It has a rolling green lawn in the middle of campus and looks and feels like any other private Patriot League University, except that it's in the middle of a city.
It's easy and sometimes relatively quick to get around three miles from Fordham's campus, which is very near the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo. The challenge is getting to the Fordham campus in that three mile area, which will be the longest, trafficy-est part of your trip. Once there, though, there is an outdoor parking lot for tailgating and a parking garage right next to it. You'll know when you get there that a football game is going on.
The Southside Boosters are sending a bus to the game, though the bus is sold out. But that does mean there should be some rowdy, noisy Lehigh fans at the game.
Not far from Fordham's campus is an appropriately named place called the Bronx Burger House, perfect for help selecting this week's Burger of the Week.
Your typical, uncomplicated Bronx Burger place has 17 burgers to choose from - including the one heart-stopping one I had to choose as this week's Burger of the week.
Feast your eyes on their signature Chris M. Bronx Bomber Burger - a regular burger in every way with lettuce and tomato, but with two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun. (I probably wouldn't have gone with the cheese fries as a side - perhaps, raw kale leaves instead?)
If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know the superstitious reverence I have for my Drinks of the Week. If they delivered a win last year, you can bet they will almost certainly be repeated the following year as well - even if it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Last season, Yianni's Taverna sponsored the Lehigh/Fordham game, so as a form of tribute I chose as my Drink of the Week "Three Times the Vine", a Greek-inspired mixed drink. Normally when visiting the Bronx, Greek food isn't the top food destination - that would be the world-class Italian food nearby - but, you know, superstitious reverence.
The first step to make "Three Times The Vine" is to make some chamomile tea, sweeten it, and cool it down. Then add 2 parts Metaxa, 1 part (or less) sweet Greek Samos wine, 1 part of that cooled-down tea, and 1 part lemon juice. Put that in a shaker, strain in a glass and float the sparkling wine on top.
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. Three Times the Vine isn't for the faint of heart.