Archive For November 15, 2013
(Photo Credit: Stephen Flood/The Express-Times)
Not that I’m counting, but it’s been 369 days since Lehigh lost everything they worked for in the span of game of football.
You could say that it was just one loss in an otherwise stellar year. After all 10-1 is 10-1, a season with a whole lot of success. (Ask Lafayette whether they would trade many of their seasons for a 10-1 campaign, losing to Colgate and missing the FCS playoffs, but beating Lehigh.)
But it was one solitary loss – heck, one half – that was the difference between a Lehigh Patriot League championship, and none. The difference between a spot in the playoffs, or none. The difference between the sweet feeling of receiving championship rings, or none.
As it stands now, it’s a giant game for both sides. A Raider win gives Colgate the Patriot League title (sans Fordham) and autobid to the FCS playoffs. A Mountain Hawk win allows Lehigh to survive, and continue, in their quest for the Patriot League title and autobid.
But Lehigh could have been 7-2 or 2-7 going into this November game in Hamilton, New York, and it still would have been a big game for this particular group of Mountain Hawk seniors.
(Photo Credit: Chris Shipley/Special to the Morning Call)
There’s no doubt about the fact that it was a terrific day for Lehigh football on Saturday.
For the only the second time this year, the Mountain Hawks never trailed, and the many questions that surrounded the team after the loss to Bucknell were, in large part, answered.
But I also heard something interesting, too, in several conversations with fans.
It’s the idea that Lehigh’s “losing” to Bucknell was the perfect thing to happen to this team at this time.
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If you went into Murray Goodman Stadium and said you knew exactly what to expect from this Lehigh Mountain Hawks team, you were lying.
Everyone involved with the Mountain Hawks football program had seen, or heard about, the loss to Bucknell.
If they had sharp eyes, too, they saw the former starting quarterback, Brandon Bialkowski, on the sidelines in a jacket, his arm immobilized so his collarbone can heal.
You had to go back a long way to find a Lehigh team with this much uncertainty, with this much at stake, with three games left.
And in this environment, this Mountain Hawk team responded.
The Mountain Hawks would never trail in this game, though the Crusaders would tie the game twice, at 7-7 and 13-13. But then, after filling in permanently after what seemed to be a rib injury to junior QB Matt McHale, freshman QB Nick “Shaf” Shafnisky came into the game and guided Lehigh on three touchdown drives in a convincing 38-20 victory.
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It’s that time of the week where I share with you your weekly Lehigh fan viewing guide for Week 11 of the college football season.
But for Lehigh fans, though, with the kickoff of the winter sports season, there’s a lot more than just that.
Tonight, men’s hoops kicks off vs. Minnesota in an attempt to ruin Richard Pitino‘s head coaching debut; women’s hoops kicks off vs. Niagara, with Matt Markus on the call; for LehighSports.com; and after Holy Cross is wrestling’s first meet of the year vs. Bucknell.
To take any of it in here are the links:
Audio at ESPN Lehigh Valley
Video via ESPN3
(Photo Credit: Peter Cooke/Boston Globe)
We break down the Holy Cross game – and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.
If you’ve followed the Patriot League for some time, you know plenty about the wrangling that went on when the league was debating whether to change the existing financial aid structure to allow schools of the League to offer football scholarships that resembled, say, the same types of scholarships that Delaware or New Hampshire can offer.
You could argue that this decision has completely altered the course of the Patriot League this season.
On Lehigh’s depth chart, freshman LB Colton Caslow has stepped into the Mountain Hawk linebacking unit and forced his way into the starting lineup, and other impact freshmen like freshman DB/RS Brandon Leaks have pretty much been instant impact players since very early on the season.
Additionally – amazingly, actually – of the six Patriot League schools that are now eligible to offer football scholarships (Fordham started offering them years ago), all six have seen a freshman attempt a pass in a game that counts. Two weeks ago, Lehigh freshman QB Nick Shafnisky finally got in a game and threw a pass.
The Crusaders have a quarterback that is in serious contention for Patriot League Freshman of the year – and he’s the reason why Holy Cross is still alive for the Patriot League title.
There have been other November football matchups over the last three years that have been big games for the Brown and White.
There was also an “agony of defeat” game against Colgate last season, too, where the Mountain Hawks lost everything: an undefeated season, a Patriot League championship, and even a spot in the FCS playoffs with their 35-24 loss to Colgate, despite a 10-1 overall record.
Those games, however, don’t hold the same level of intrigue as the one this weekend against Holy Cross.
In all three of those November games in prior years, the Mountain Hawks were not only riding big winning streaks, they were also relatively healthy.
This time around, though, the Mountain Hawks need to turn things around after suffering their most lopsided loss to Bucknell since 1966, and – adding injury to insult – seeing senior QB Brandon Bialkowski lost for the year with a broken collarbone.
It’s the most uncertainty on the Lehigh sideline in a November football game in a long time.
My vote for the FCS Top 25 for the week ending 11/4/2013 follows below the flip.
But first, check out this great picture from the crazy Delaware/Towson game this weekend, courtesy of Towson Athletics.
Three times, Towson had a chance to put away Delaware up by 2 touchdowns. Three times, the Tigers didn’t convert.
With 4 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter, Towson (8-2 overall and 4-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association) had a chance to pad a 28-10 advantage, but senior PK Drew Evangelista’s field-goal attempt from 33 yards banged off the left upright.
On the ensuing possession, Tigers LB Monte Gaddis put enough pressure on Blue Hens senior QB Trevor Sasek to incite him to float a deep pass that junior CB Tye Smith intercepted at Towson’s 26-yard line. Smith wove his way 74 yards into the end zone, but the Tigers were flagged for clipping, which nullified the touchdown with 2:27 remaining.
And on Delaware’s penultimate series of the contest, Sasek severely underthrew junior WR Michael Johnson on second down-and-2 at Towson’s 16, but Smith dropped a sure interception that would have led to the Tigers cementing a 31-17 lead.
Instead, Delaware would rally from 22 points down in the fourth quarter to escape Johnny Unitas stadium with a 32-31 victory, stunning the Towson crowd. You could say everything about this win for Delaware was Lehigh-esque: from the amazing second half comeback from three scores down to the stunned silence from Johnny Unitas stadium, the same one that Lehigh delivered in 2011 in their 40-38 playoff victory.
Face it – it was a weird weekend without Lehigh football.
It’s been a while since the Mountain Hawks have had a bye weekend this late in the season, and while Lehigh “disappeared” from the Patriot League title race this weekend, a lot more became clear in the Patriot League title race while they were not playing a football game this Saturday.
Three teams – Colgate, Lafayette, and Lehigh – can guarantee their spot in the playoffs if they win their remaining games. Two others – Holy Cross and Bucknell – need to win, and get help, in order to win the autobid. Only Georgetown has been eliminated from the race officially. (Fordham, at 9-0, is not eligible for the Patriot League’s autobid, but barring a late-season collapse seems well poised for one of FCS’s at-large bit to the playoffs.)
Lehigh reappears this week with a simple goal: win this week, and get to next week. But there’s no margin for error. One loss, and realistically, Lehigh can watch their chances at a Patriot League championship and the FCS playoffs “disappear”.
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Lehigh Hoops Nation, as part of the continuing effort to get everyone prepared and ready for the ’13-’14 edition of Lehigh Basketball, was fortunate enough to chat with freshman guard Georgios Pilitsis. This Q&A should help Mountain Hawk fans get to know Georgios. Special thanks to the freshman guard from Greece for sitting down to chat….
So I came to a realization during this bye week.
That realization is: online advertising ain’t what it used to be.
Once upon a time, I thought that it would be just fine for me to write all my great stuff on Lehigh football for free, and to have the magic of affiliate ads, context banners, and maybe some other doodads to compensate me somewhat for the time and energy that I put in.
But I’m afraid I’ve come to the conclusion that this business model will no longer work the way things stand right now.
It is not a conclusion I came to easily.
But I do have an idea for a somewhat alternative business model for the content that you like on LFN. How it ends up working will ultimately determine whether I will be able to keep providing my great LFN content for free, or ultimately put it behind a subscriber firewall.
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