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Five Things to Watch, Keys To the Game, Fearless Prediction: Lehigh at Bucknell, 11/9/2019

We're going to try something different this week.  No, don't worry, we'll still break down this week's game and everything, but we're just going to make it it quicker and a lot easier to read.

You can read College Sports Journal's preview of the game here, and my mostly-football-free "Tailgate Report" here.

Below, we're going to do a quick once-over of Lehigh's game notes and possible injuries, then we'll dive right into 5 things to look for with Bucknell, my Keys to the game, and the cherry on top will be my Fearless Prediction.

I called this game a "Family Reunion", thanks to all the coaching links between Tom Gilmore, Dave Cecchini and the makeup of both coaching staffs, and in Keith Groller's preview of the game in The Morning Call, he and Gilmore went into even more detail.

“It has been a long relationship,” Gilmore said of Cecchini. “I coached Dave’s younger brother, J.T., at Dartmouth in the mid-1990s. I coached at Dartmouth when Dave was still a player at Lehigh. Then I came here and we coached together and then he went to Harvard and I went to Holy Cross and competed against each other there up there. Then we competed again when he came back to Lehigh and I was still at Holy Cross. He did a very good job when he came back here."

RB Rashawn Allen (Courtesy Morning Call)

Game Notes

One thing we've been learning the hard way this year is that you really have to do your homework when going over game notes, because Lehigh's and Lehigh's opponents' notes have been known for being inaccurate.

This week the Lehigh two deep says RB Zaythan Hill and OL Brendan Passarelli are starting.  They are not.  Neither are making the trip to Lewisburg due to injuries they sustained against Holy Cross last week.

The absence of Hill might mean more work for RB Rashawn Allen, who was leaned on heavily after Hill went out in the second half, and RB Peter Lucas, who already was seeing time, will probably also feature more in Lehigh's three-headed rushing attack with RB Nate Hope II.

Passarelli's absence shows senior OL Ryan Oneidas as the next man up on the line, and it would seem like he'll end up being the starter.

CB Jaylen Floyd is also back after needed to sit out the first half of the Holy Cross game after getting called for targeting two weeks ago.  Other than that, Lehigh is - knock on wood - relatively healthy, though as ever, depth is always a concern.

RB Jared Cooper

Five Things to Watch With Bucknell

1. Cecchini and Gilmore have read each other's books.  Cecchini and Gilmore know each other like high school English teachers know The Catcher in the Rye.  They will do their best to throw in a bunch of new wrinkles, but we know what both teams want to be - Cecchini, a vastly-unpredictable offense that gets yards in chunks, and Gilmore, who wants to start with a fundamentally great defense and have things flow from there.

2. Bucknell's offense is less pass-happy than you realize.  Cecchini has gotten most of his reputation around "Air Lehigh", but the truth is he is much more balanced on offense than people realize. Sure, he hasn't suddenly stopped passing on first down, but he isn't going to shy away from the run, especially now that RB Jared Cooper has emerged somewhat on this offense (308 yards, but coming off a 100 yard game against Lafayette two weeks ago).  QB Logan Bitikofer has emerged too as a a very efficient passer (1,164 yards passing, 7 TDs, 3 INTs), and WR Brandon Sanders (52 catches, 425 yards, 3 TDs) is most often the athlete at the other end of his throws and is a big-play threat.  Together, the idea is to keep you guessing.

P Alex Pechin


3. Bucknell might have an NFL-caliber punter on their roster.  P Alex Pechin is an exceptional punter that not unreasonably might expect to get a call from a NFL team this coming April.  The Kennett Square, PA native is averaging - yes, averaging - 49 yards per punt, with more than half of his kicks going for more than 50 yards.  If the game gets to a battle of field position, Pechin is the type of player that will make sure the Bison win that battle, making him a big concern in that battle of field position.  You won't often see me highlighting the punter here, but Pechin is a very worthy exception.

4. Seventeen different defenders have tackles for loss on this defense.  This is the sign of a defensive front that gives very good push against the QB, and that has been a traditional strong spot for the Bison, and still is.  The linebacking trio of LB Simeon Page, LB Gerritt van Italie, and LB Rick Mottram blitz every which way, and have combined for an amazing 19 1/2 tackles for loss this season so far.  Lehigh's offensive line might have their hands full.

5. Bucknell is an extremely young team.  On the "1"s of their game notes, there are two players that are of graduating age after this season: senior NG John Hunt and NFL draft prospect Alex Pechin.  Everyone else is a junior or younger, so Cecchini will be looking for players to step up at the end of this year with the chance to develop for next year, too.


LFN's Keys to the Game


1. Mixing Up The Passing Game.  It's going to be critical for Lehigh to use Bucknell's aggressiveness against them and complete short passes to a variety of targets.  QB Tyler Monaco is up to this challenge - he'll need to check down sometimes, set up those screens, and some good things will happen if he does.

2. Force Bitikofer Into Bad Decisions.  Lehigh has gotten away from the pin-the-ears-back defense that generated a ton of sacks in some of their earlier games, but it would a good idea to let loose on Bitikofer to make sure that he doesn't pick the Mountain Hawks apart.  When he's running for his life, life is better for Lehigh, and here's hoping LB Pete Haffner, LB Keith Woetzel and the defense can keep heaping on the pressure.

3. Expect The Unexpected.  It requires a lot of focus to beat a Dave Cecchini-coached team, something Lehigh has never had to worry about before.  If you come out flat, he will come up with something that will attack the weakest spot of the defense, when you least expect it.  Lehigh will need to be pretty firm from the very first play in order to win this game.

LB Keith Woetzel

Fearless Prediction

If there's one thing that Patriot League play has taught us, it's that every team seems to be remarkably even, with any team able to beat any other.  There's no team that seems head and shoulders ahead of anyone else, which makes this game, again, probably another dogfight.

Can this Lehigh team play a game where the outcome is not in doubt in the 4th quarter?  You'd love to see it, but this isn't the Bucknell of eight years ago that was a horrible matchup of strength vs. weakness.  This Bison team seems to have plenty of tools to win this game, but the question is will they get it together enough to get a signature win for the Cecchini era.  Like Lehigh last week, Bucknell remembers a blowout loss to the Mountain Hawks last year, and are eager to define their season with a very, very meaningful win over Lehigh.

It seems to me like Lehigh is going to bring a business-like attitude to Bucknell, and if they do that and don't give up the big plays that plagued them last week, they should secure the victory.  They'll win, and see what happens.

Lehigh 27, Bucknell 13

Comments

Anonymous said…
Great summary! Really looking forward to this game to watch this offense explode and the D come together again.
Anonymous said…
This one is totally intriguing. Must win for Lehigh however, and I agree with the score.
LU defense the difference under Tom Gilmore.

Then onto Princeton/Dartmouth...great day of Eastern FCS football.
Anonymous said…
Gilmore might be one and done. Dismal performance against an awful team.
Anonymous said…
So disappointing. Hope Monaco is ok. Our line gave no protection at all and the 3 qbs were under ton pressure. Shoup arm looked weak, was he hurt? So glad they gave Beesmer a shot. He was under also pressured but looked poised and made some great throws with strong arm. Even showed good mobility but could have made some better run choices when he had open field. We need some change and I vote he gets the start next game if Monaco can’t return...maybe even start him if Monaco is good to go? Have to try something and build for future.
Allen said…
Very very painful to watch the Lehigh Bucknell game. Is it lack of talent OR poor coaching.
Anonymous said…
Tom Gilmore isn't going anywhere.. Stop th nonsense.. Two big games remain for a massively improved season. Pards think they can win the PL.. Wouldn't it be sweet. To ruin that fantasy..
Anonymous said…
Allen,
No consistent healthy OL or QB play in 2019. Cannot win any league in America with that situation. Tom Gilmore will be around for a while.

Would LOVE to spoil the Patriot League dreams of that School From Easton..
Anonymous said…
Totally agree on OL and QB comment. We need to get healthy on the line and have some good recruits for next year. Also interested to see how Beesmer will compete with a recruit like Shapiro. It can only get better
Anonymous said…
Like travelling back in time watching Gilmore screaming at players and assistant coaches. He can't be around more than a few years.
Anonymous said…
Not looking forward to this next game, could get ugly. Will Monaco be clear to play. Beesmer is good option and I like his potential. We need our OL healthy and D needs to get fired up.
Anonymous said…
I am definitely looking forward to the Sacred Heart game. Why would the game get ugly? Sputtering offense again? Possible. But Lehigh's defense is very good, excellent even, and is going to keep them in any game. Ugly was our defense in 2017 and 2018 with some of the worst FCS defensive coaching of all time. Not happening in 2019. Sacred Heart ain't no NDSU or JMU.
Go Lehigh!
Anonymous said…
Good points on the defense and looking forward to seeing them Saturday. Offense is still very big concern. If Monaco is out, give Beesmer the start and have Summerville ready to show what he can do. The coaches obviously have confidence in Monaco and they see all offense at practices., Shoup is struggling and is he still hurt? His style will not work when there is no OL and he is more of a runner? We just have to get something going, get the OL healthy and establish the run. Any updates on the transfer portal?

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