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2018 Week 8, Holy Cross: Game Breakdown and Fearless Prediction

We break down the Holy Cross game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

Head coach Bob Chesney is in his first year in Worcester and is working to build up his mark on the program, despite a 1-6 record.

He came to Holy Cross from Assumption College, where he compiled a 44-16 record and made the nearby school a solid member of the NE-10 conference. Assumption has been a strong D-II school over the last decade, engineering an upset over Fordham in 2010 (though that was before Chesney's time).

When Chesney came to Holy Cross, he brought in an almost entirely new staff from the one that Tom Gilmore had assembled.  Only four positional coaches remain, while Chesney brought in a new offensive and defensive coordinator.

Holy Cross also had, by far, the toughest schedule of any school in the Patriot League in September, starting with Colgate, who sits undefeated, Dartmouth, who sits undefeated, and Boston College - yes, that Boston College.  Throwing out those three games, the Crusaders have been inconsistent, upsetting Yale, but being upset at home by Bucknell.  So it's hard to tell what Lehigh is going to get this week.

In Lehigh's game notes, we see senior DL Julian Lynn sliding into the place where the injured junior DL Colin Nace was starting, though there is a chance we will see Nace this weekend as he may be healthy enough to play this weekend.  Similarly senior LB Mark Walker is travelling this weekend too, where he'll rotate in with junior LB Jon Seighman and junior LB Keith Woetzel at linebacker.  Woetzel is finally fully back from his arm injury, which should be a big help to the defense.

Sophomore OL Matt Fest has been at center the last few weeks at a place on the starting lineup where the Mountain Hawks have struggled - Lehigh's fourth player lining up at center this year.  He's listed as the top guy after his baptism of fire the past few weeks, and Lehigh Nation is hoping that the experience he's been getting will translate into some continuity on the O line this week.

Breaking Down Holy Cross
Offense

For so many years, Holy Cross was a sort of pass-happy team that sort-of resembled an old run-and-shoot offense, with thee or four RPO-style wideouts, a back out of the backfield that can catch the ball, and a great QB to guide the team and spread the ball around, like QB Dominic Randolph or QB Pete Pujals.

The 2018 Holy Cross Crusaders under offensive coordinator Patrick Murphy are much more run-heavy than the Crusaders you might remember, using a stable of backs to spread out the load and using the passing game as more of a way to keep the defense honest.

Patient 6'2. 212 lb senior QB Geoff Wade is the main game-manager for the Crusaders and he's more of a burly dual-threat QB than we've seen in purple in the past.  He's run 66 times for 120 yards (though that includes sacks) and has added 1,009 yards passing and 7 TDs as well.  He's pretty accurate with the decisions he does make, connecting on 60% of his throws.

Part of Holy Cross' problem is that the running back unit has had a lot of injuries overall, which means nine different Crusaders have run the ball.

5'9, 175 lb junior RB Domenic Cozier, however, is the top all-purpose yardage gainer for Holy Cross (491 all-purpose yards, 5 TDs) and he's listed on the top of the depth chart this week.  Right below him is junior RB Miles Alexander, (228 all-purpose yards, 1 TD) who will also get tons of work as well.  Both are frequent targets in the passing attack as well.

Unlike years past, where Holy Cross QBs spread the ball here, there, and everywhere, Holy Cross' "ones" on the depth chart get the most targets: WR Blaise Bell (192 yards), WR Richie DiNicola (265 yards, 1 TD), and WR Martin Dorsey (333 yards, 3 TDs), who has emerged as Wade's go-to guy at receiver, insofar as they have a go-to guy.  Senior TE Derek Mountain has mostly been asked to be a pass blocker.

Holy Cross' O line is averaging allowing more than 3 sacks a game, though a good part of that has to be attributed to the fact that the level of competition they've played has been so good.  6'6, 300 lb senior OL Jackson Dennis anchors an otherwise extremely young offensive line.  Overall, Holy Cross' offense is a nice blend of seniors and underclassmen.  It's easy to see that the Crusaders are pointed in the right direction.

Defense

Holy Cross runs the popular 4-2-5 defense that is the rage these days, similar to that run by Yale and New Hampshire.  Defensive coordinator Scott James brought the defense with him from New Hanmpshire and it's had mixed results from an extremely young team.

Senior DE Teddy Capsis is probably the most recognizable name on the D line from last season, and he's having a solid year this year with 26 tackles and 4 sacks.  When it comes to pass rushing, the Crusaders have been effective, but opponents have been able to make hay on the ground against Holy Cross, as opponents are averaging 5 yards per carry against the defensive front.

Another player who has blossomed in the new system is senior LB Ryan Brady, who has amassed an eye-popping 11 tackles for loss and 79 total tackles, and senior LB Jack Haddon also has returned recently, solidifying the Crusader middle.  In a game that is looking like it will be wet and run-oriented, the Crusaders have a pretty good defensive front to disrupt that.

Sophomore WS Joe Lang (77 tackles) and junior CB Chris Riley (2 INTs) highlight a solid, but very young, secondary.  Notable on this Holy Cross team is that, like years past, they haven't forced a lot of turnovers, especially in the secondary with only 3 interceptions on the season.

Special Teams

Multitalented P/K Derek Ng is only 2/3 on field goal attempts this year - but one of them was enormous, a FG that was the game-winner in OT V's. Yale.  He also is averaging 36.3 yards per punt.

RS Spencer Gilliam has stood out on the Crusader return units.  He has 348 yards on kickoff returns and also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown vs. Boston College.

LFN's Keys to the Game

1.  Lehigh Line Play.  When the weather is ugly, thats the time for the Big Uglies, and the Lehigh lines need to win that battle is they are to have a chance.

2. Turnovers.  No.  Holy Cross is counting on Lehigh to make more mistakes than them to win the game, and that starts with turnovers.  Play turnover-free ball, and the Mountain Hawks have a chance.

3. Ground and poundThe weather should lend itself to a steady Bragalone/Allen diet running the ball.  I'd throw the balanced playbook out and lean on the run and ask the O line to win this game - prove they can do it.

Fearless Prediction

It's hard to escape the thought that this game will come down to turnovers.  To a degree, both teams haven't been able to get out of their own way, and it sure feels like the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.  It feels to me like the younger, hungrier team will win this.

Lehigh 13, Holy Cross 22

Comments

Anonymous said…
Please confirm you're just posting the losing score first to be annoying. The Dodgers beat the Red Sox last night 2 - 3.
Anonymous said…
Not sure why you are so bothered by having the Lehigh score first, it is a Lehigh blog. Seems like a very petty thing to keep bringing up.

Anyways, could this be the worst Lehigh football team like maybe ever? Has to be the worst in the PL era. I actually hope they keep losing so it becomes a new brainer to get rid of Andy and his terrible staff.
John Miller said…
Certainly one of the worst since I was in school in the mid-60s. I have no idea how Sutjak? the d-coordinator still has a job after last year. 56-0 to a 1-6 team? Time to clean house in the coaching staff, Sterrett.
Anonymous said…
Absolute DISGRACE. Coaching staff needs to be gone. The team has given up. That is no longer in dispute.

Anonymous said…
I am done with PL action for 2018. Hand Colgate the title now and look forward to their run in the tourney.

Now onto some real FCS football next week- Princeton-Dartmouth. One of the all time IVY matchups of the last couple of decades. Chuck, I suggest taking a pass on next week's LU game and doing your tailgate report, breakdown and prediction for Princeton-Dartmouth. I want to be there!
Anonymous said…
The mistake was made years ago when they hired Cohen. I'll never forget his first season as head coach taking a team just loaded with talent and turning it into a 6-5 debacle capped off by a bad loss to Lafayette. Lehigh's should have been head coach is sitting in the mid-west turning a D-3 program into something.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous 10:16

If you’re referring to Cecchini, Valpo is struggling big time this season in a year they were supposed to turn a corner. I agree it’s time for Coen to go, but saying his entire tenure was a bust is just plain stupid.

5 PL titles
51-20 in PL
Two road playoff wins
Anonymous said…
I'm doing this by memory.....but I seem to recall a 5-7 season, two 4-7 seasons and two 5-6 seasons. I seem also to recall that Cecchini was offensive coordinator for for both playoff victories. Who cares about the Patriot League. The vast majority of the wins were against losing programs. The problem with Lehigh is we have come to accept mediocrity in all sports. The football program is just a symptom of a much greater malaise that has infested the entire athletic program (with the exception perhaps of men's basketball). We accept a baseball team that is almost never .500. We accept a wrestling team full of free rides that takes years to win an EIWA title. We accept women's sports that are a train wreck. A quality university needs a competitive athletic program. Winning athletics enhance the quality of life of students, and add prestige to the university. I feel sick to the core for the kids on this team. They deserve better and I pray to God that the administration of Lehigh gets off their collective butts and rectifies the situation ASAP.
Anonymous said…
A few points to unpack:

- Cecchini is 1-7 in his 5th season as HC at Vapo. All the kids there are his. All the assistants are his guys. Some guys are better as coordinators.
-I think it's naive to say if he was HC it would be different. He absolutely was a key piece of the best stretch of Coen's tenure but so was Kotulski. Part of being a gd HC is surrounding yourself with good assistants. Coen has not been able to do this consistently and the ups and downs of the program during his time reflect that.
- The reality of the PL is you need to win the conference to compete nationally (playoffs). If you think a non-schollie team was ever going to with the national championship you were mistaken. Those wins were awesome, and punching above LU's weight class in terms of talent on the field.
- I could not agree with you more that in recent years the, with schollies the program has not taken the next step (and, in fact, back slid to the point of being unacceptable). If you are able to beat CAA and MVC teams in the playoffs without schollies, you sure as hell cannot lose to Georgetown with them. We need a coach who has recruited at this level with schollies before. I'd love to see someone from CAA (maybe an OC/DC) take the reins. This is another area where I take issue with Cecchini being a viable option.
- I do not follow the other LU teams (probably a symptom of what you're describing above) and do not feel like I can weigh in.

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