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2018 Week 3 Lehigh Players of the Week and Report Card: Navy

I've never done one of these before after Lehigh's played an FBS opponent. 

That's because the last FBS opponent Lehigh played was in 2003, when the Mountain Hawks lost to UConn 35-17.

The Lehigh Football Nation blog was in its first year of existence back in 2003, and undoubtedly I wrote about it - but it's not currently in the archives here at Blogger, because I archived those first two years offline. 

What I can tell you about that UConn game was that Lehigh faced off against a future NFL player in QB Dan Orlovsky and that QB Chad Schwenk got hurt late in that game, which made it his final game in a Mountain Hawks uniform and effectively threw the rest of that season in some turmoil.

Fortunately turmoil doesn't seem to be a part of the report card today.

The key to hanging around in this challenging game was for Lehigh to play a turnover-free or to minimize turnovers.  That didn't happen here, with QB Brad Mayes throwing three interceptions.  Granted, some were tipped passes, and it wasn't all on Brad, but the turnovers were big setbacks in the upset attempt.

Putting those aside a moment, there were some spots during the game where Mayes seemed to get in a positive rhythm and strung together some completions.  But they didn't happen often enough.

Two electrifying touchdown runs by freshman RB Rashawn Allen were truly amazing to watch.  In both runs Allen showed an amazing ability to bounce off of defenders and turn on the jets outside to convert into scores.  In a game where it seemed like running the ball would be at a premium, his 16 carry, 148 yard performance was something really positive to take from the game - though his one blemish, a fumble, was a bit of a momentum-killer.  Still, the idea of Allen and RB Dominick Bragalone in the same backfield now has my imagination racing.

The receiving corps seemed to feel the absence of WR Luke Cristiano overall.  Mayes did spread the ball around a lot when he was working the short and medium passing game, finding WR Jorge Portorreal the most with 7 catches, but Lehigh's receivers never were able to get a lot of separation from Navy's defensive backs.  That meant a lot of short completions, and a lot of short completions short of the 1st down markers, too.  A deeper passing game, and receivers getting past the 1st down markers, are going to be critical to get this offense going.

Going against an FBS defensive front with half your offensive line out with injury is, to put it charitably, hardly ideal.  But the Lehigh offense really felt it, especially in the pass game.  Even though Navy was only credited with 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss, their near-constant pressure didn't allow Brad much time to set up passes at times.  Part of that is undoubtedly Navy's strong defensive front combined with Lehigh inexperience, but protection needed to be better to have a chance to pull off the upset.

I thought that the O line did play pretty physical and there were times, most notably a 4th and 1 play, where the line did a terrific job getting the hole together for the first down. 

Like most, I didn't like the turnovers, and as I noted, part of the issue seemed to be consistency overall in the offense.  But overall, despite the outcome, there was a lot to like as well - not just Allen, but also some of the movement that was able to be made on offense at times with a less-than-100% unit.  And I'd be remiss if I didn't say how much I enjoyed Lehigh battling all the way at the end, outcome not in doubt, with QB Tyler Monaco connecting with WR Cam Richardson in the closing seconds to not only secure the final score, but to also secure a place on Scott Van Pelt's "Bad Beats" this week on ESPN.  (I didn't know this at the time, but Navy were 30 1/2 point favorites over Lehigh, and that Monaco-to-Cam score made the people who bet on the Mountain Hawks and 30 1/2 points very happy.)

I wanted to shout at the TV several times: "You can't arm-tackle Navy!"  Sure, I get the fact that Navy's speed option isn't exactly easy to prepare for, and the Midshipmen run their misdirections pretty damn well, not to mention QB Malcolm Perry is a speedy, really difficult to tackle back.  But some of Navy's touchdowns seemed to come at times when Lehigh would come in and try to take down fullbacks and tough runners with simple arm tackling, and it just wasn't happening.  The CBS Sports Network announcers mentioned it, too.  After such great tackling in the first couple of weeks, seeing those types of missed tackles - even though it was against Navy - was a bit disappointing.

Having said that, LB Keith Woetzel was a man on fire out there.  Not only did he lead the team in tackles with 13, he played through a broken hand, playing the second half with a club.  That performance shows some unbelievable guts and definitely earned respect.

The defensive backfield didn't have as much pass protection as they normally are tasked to do, but aside from a couple of big plays they did a pretty good job overall. S Riley O'Neil's interception of QB Malcolm Perry was a really great read and stood out as an excellent play, and if you can find out where the pass interference was on CB Donavon Harris in the 1st half, you deserve some sort of award.

Senior S Sam McCloskey again stood out as his fire and consistency really stands out week to week.  This time out he had 10 tackles and 1 1/2 tackles for loss.

Navy did do a number on Lehigh's rushing defense, and put up the points as a result.  But just like on offense, there was some good to take out of this going into this week against Penn.  It's hard not to like the warrior mentality of Woetzel and McCloskey, and overall physically the team kept battling the whole way.  It isn't hard to see how that physical battle should be able to help this defense continue to improve in the weeks to come.

For the second straight week, PK Ed Mish did an outstanding job punting the ball, averaging 51 yards per kick and booting 3 punts over 50 yards, including a 62 yarder.  Though Lehigh's and Navy's returners both generally went the fair catch route, Lehigh's coverage units seemed to do a good job and kept what returns Navy did have to a minimum. 

LFN Players of the Week:

Offense: RB Rashawn Allen (16 carries, 148 yards, 2 TD)
Defense: LB Keith Woetzel (13 tackles, 1 TFL)
Special Teams: PK Ed Mish (5 punts, 51.1 average, longest 62 yards, 3/3 XP)
Underclassman: WR Jorge Portorreal (7 catches, 48 yards)


Anonymous said…
Good job with this assessment, all in all pretty objective. I like the format.

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