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LFN Midseason Report Card: All-Nighter Before Midterm Saves Passing Grade?

We've all been there, Lehigh fans.  I know I was as an undergrad.

You enter the mid-term needing something big to save a bad grade, so you work furiously, trying to catch up on months of the readings you should have been doing, going over homework you skipped for some good reason - that good reason escapes you now, of course - to try to ace the midterm that can pull your grade back up from the dead.

With copious amounts of coffee, you go over the readings, taking the notes you should have been taking all along.  You stay up all night to go over all the material, catching several catnaps during the morning.  You finally enter the classroom of the test - and you deliver the grade you needed.  You save your GPA, and you find yourself finally back on track - and then you collapse in a heap of bones on your bed.

OK, maybe the Colgate victory was not quite like that.

In a way, though, it feels like it - the win injects a huge measure of hope into a season that was pointed in the wrong direction, and allows Lehigh Nation to look at the midseason as a place to keep winning games and to possibly fight and claw their way to another Patriot League Championship.

LFN's midseason grades are below.

OVERALL: It's impossible to say that a 1-5 record, on the aggregate, is anything but a disappointment from a team, for better or for worse, that was ranked in the FCS Top 25 to start the year. 

It was a tremendous joy to see Lehigh upset Colgate last weekend to get out of their skid to start the year, but the midseason grade doesn't only include that game but some other really tough losses, including giving up 65 points to Penn and what should have been a very humbling loss to lightly-regarded Wagner.

It can't be emphasized enough how encouraging Lehigh's win was this week.  But it did highlight how far the Mountain Hawks still need to go to win games in the second half of the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C+The stat line of this weekend's game against Colgate shows two critical statistics that heavily contributed to Lehigh winning the game: net rushing yards (212) and sacks allowed (1).  This was in contrast to those averages per game overall (118 net yards and nearly 3 sacks a game) that contributed mightily to Mountain Hawk losses.

A game closer to the average for the season was the Wagner game, where the Mountain Hawks ran for 139 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry, while also yielding four sacks.

It is true that the Mountain Hawks have been ravaged by injury on the offensive line, having been down several starters most of the year.  And the "next men up" seems to have finally found their stride last week.

If the Mountain Hawks are to continue to win games in the second half of the season, both pass protection and rushing yardage will have to continue to improve.  The "late-night cramming" for the Colgate game was a great start.  I'd like to see it continue to get better each week.

OFFENSIVE SKILL POSITIONS: B+Junior QB Brad Mayes showed some great resilience last week, bouncing back from a rough game vs. Wagner to deliver a tremendous game vs. Colgate, going 22 for 30 for 297 yards and 2 TDs.  So many of Lehigh's veteran skill players, as expected, have been performing tremendously well.  Senior WR Troy Pelletier set Lehigh's all-time reception record.  Senior WR Gatlin Casey seems to have a highlght-reel TD catch every week.  And junior RB Dominick Bragalone, when healthy, has been a tremendous force that seems to open things up for everyone on offense.

In this environment the emergence of freshman WR Jorge Portorreal has been an happy, unexpected surprise, taking over the starting slot receiver role and emerging as a reliable set of hands with speed defenses need to respect.

So why the B+?  Because for all the talent and high expectations, the offense hasn't always come up big during crunch time.  In the second half of the season, I'd like to see a stronger job taking care of the ball, especially later in games.  It's no coincidence that Lehigh's win came in a game when they didn't turn over the ball.

OVERALL OFFENSE: B.  The offense, as promised, has put up points.  At times, it has looked like the best offense in the nation.  But it hasn't always been consistent enough to win games every week.  Against Colgate, the offense was more consistent and played tremendously.  The challenge in the games in the second half of the season will be to make plays and minimize mistakes on a consistent basis.

DEFENSE: D-.   The overall numbers are not pretty.  276.2 rushing yards per game.  257.5 passing yards per game.  3 registered sacks - total.  And yet, there are occasions where the Lehigh defense gets some big stops - including last week versus Colgate.  There are spots where the defense makes great plays.  But it's hasn't been near consistent enough to win games consistently.

Certainly a rate of over 500 total yards of yielded offense per game is unsustainable, and despite the fact that Lehigh did win last week, they gave up more than 500 yards again last week. 

The defense, in a way, got lucky they pounced on a Colgate turnover near the end of the game on Saturday.  It was only their fourth forced turnover on defense on the season - of their four fumble recoveries, two of them came on freakish plays on bad bounces on special teams.  (And one of the two interceptions, oddly enough, came at the end of the first half against Wagner when WR Gatlin Casey was put in on defense to stop a hail Mary attempt.)

Even with all of that, the Mountain Hawks still have the opportunity this week to build on last week's success and continue to improve week to week on the defensive side of the ball.   Against the Raiders, sophomore LB Keith Woetzel had a career day of 13 tackles, 9 of them solo tackles, while senior DE Tyler Cavenas (4 tackles for loss) and senior DB Quentin Jones (6 pass break-ups) have had periods where they have been forces to be reckoned with.  Like the offense, the key to improvement on the defense is doing things more consistently - and forcing turnovers has to be a point of emphasis. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: D.  If there has been one area of big disappointment this season, it's been on special teams, specifically on return coverage. 

Last week, Colgate WR Owen Rockett not only had 139 yards of returns against the Mountain Hawks, he also won Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.  That is something that the Lehigh kickoff coverage unit should be reminded about often this week.

The kicking game hasn't been the same weapon it was last year since junior PK Ed Mish has been battling injury, though it also hasn't strictly made the difference between winning and losing games this season, either.    In the return game. senior DB Quentin Jones and senior WR Gatlin Casey have struck fear in teams to the extent that teams kick away from them, so that has limited their ability to get some big runbacks.

Overall, this team has the opportunity to build themselves into not only a team with a winning record, but a team that could, if they win the rest of their games, become Patriot League Champions. 

Right now, at the midpoint of the season, they are a team that needs to continue to improve to achieve that goal.  The late-night cram session has shown that this team still has promise to close out the year well.  I'm looking forward to seeing them do so.


LU808 said…
D- is generous to a fault

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