Archive For August 31, 2015
|Lehigh QB Nick Shafnisky (Morning Call)|
Junior QB Nick Shafnisky spent Patriot League media day telling the gathered media about haters drinking the haterade.
Well, he didn’t exactly say it like that. But he did talk about proving the haters wrong.
“I love having people either be there for me or count me out,” he said. “Personally, I love it all. I love haters. I was just saying to my dad – the more people are talking bad about you, the more people you have to prove wrong. I love proving people wrong, and making my coaches from high school proud.”
Now finally healthy, Shafnisky finally has the chance to prove a lot of people wrong – those that doubted his ability to recover from a Rivalry game he’d rather forget, those that thought he might not get over the injury that severely limited him last season, those that picked Lehigh to finish fifth, sixth, or even seventh in the Patriot League.
Despite an infections optimism that carried all the way through the preseason, you could see the chip forming on Shafnisky’s shoulder that day, as well as junior LB Colton Caslow‘s.
How Shaf and Caslow perform with that chip on their shoulder is going to play a big part in the 2015 season.
“We want to show that the 3-8 team you guys saw last year is not what Lehigh’s about, and it’s not what Lehigh football is about,” Shaf said. “When they announced that we were picked fifth, Colton and I just looked at each other, and said, ‘We’ll see.’ Everyone has a different chip on their shoulder to prove everyone wrong.”
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It doesn’t take an Engineer to see that much is expected of Lehigh football’s underclassmen this season.
As Lehigh football fans start looking at the season opener, a mere 5 days away, they’re looking at their theoretic depth charts and see some recurring themes:
Freshman. Freshman. Sophomore. Freshman. Sophomore.
Football is the ultimate team game, where experience counts in terms of knowing what it takes to win Division I football games. Yet up and down Lehigh’s roster, it’s very evident: to win in 2015, head coach Andy Coen will be relying on his underclassmen in a big way – underclassmen who will be a big part of this season.
“Thery’re going to get their opportunities early,” coach Coen told me during Patriot League Media day earlier this month. “I think we have 54-56 guys that are going to be freshman, sophomore-level eligibility. And there are going to be some kids from that freshman class that are going to play – that’s without a doubt.”
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Perhaps it should be called the curse of QB Dominic Randolph.
With Dom as the leader on offense, in 2009 Holy Cross won their first Patriot League football championship in the FCS Playoff era.
From there they proceeded to give Villanova all they could handle in a 38-28 thriller. The Wildcats would go on and win the FCS National Championship, beating Montana 23-21, and had the purpliest or Purple fans wondering about how and when the Crusaders were going to take the next step.
Unfortunately for Holy Cross fans, they’ve been waiting ever since.
Sure, injuries have played a part in Holy Cross’ struggles over the seasons. They also, certainly, have had more than their fail share of agonizing, close losses over the last four years. And even the rest of the league hasn’t paid Tom Gilmore’s team much mind, either, ranking them sixth out of seven Patriot League teams in the preseason poll.
Yet this team doesn’t seem like they should be picked sixth. Not with the skill guys they have coming back, and the guys coming back from injury.
Maybe they were simply picked sixth because of the “curse” of Dominic Raldolph. If they were, it’s a mistake.
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For the second year in a row, ESPN will be ushering in the first FCS football game of the year on the flagship station.
And for the second year in a row, the matchup will be worth your time.
It’s hard to picture two more iconic FCS programs in the last ten years than the North Dakota State Bison, winner of four straight FCS National Championships, and the Montana Grizzlies, who have made the playoffs eight of the last ten years and also made it all the way to two national championship games in the last decade.
It might not be easy to see Mount Sentinel in the distance with possible smoke from the huge wildfires in Eastern Washington, but what is certain is that these two perennial Top 25 teams seem likely to usher in the FCS football season with style.
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No teams can beat Georgetown in one area: timezones.
While head coach Rob Sgarlata might prefer you focus on how many games where Georgetown had a chance going into the 4th quarter, or how they have a sneaky good defense, the truth is nobody can touch Georgetown when it comes to getting players all over the world.
Take senior DB Ettian Scott, whose hometown is listed as Okinawa, Japan. Or senior RB Jo’el Kimpala, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or sophomore WR Luke Morris, who comes from Honolulu, Hawai’i.
If Georgetown’s policy of not offering football scholarships might be seen as a hindrance in some circles, it’s clearly not much of a setback when it comes to getting players that hail from, well, all over the world.
In Year 2 of the Sgarlata era, the Hoyas are hoping to make the jump from 3-8 squad to an over .500 team, and challenging for the Patriot League title. Impossible? Some might think so. At media day, the Hoyas were picked 7th out of 7 teams.
Yet senior LB Matthew Satchell said at Patriot League Media day that this Georgetown team would be a “down and dirty fighting team,” showing that this squad may be a tougher out than people imagine, especially with their tough defense.
It was bound to happen sometime. I got the message from a friend of mine, whom I met with a whole bunch of other guys at Lehigh heading up to Rathbone dining hall so very long ago.
He had just dropped his own son off at college.
He remembered heading up to Rathbone with all those guys and gals that first weekend in South Bethlehem, brought together almost at random, the only thing really linking everyone together being they got in to Lehigh. We didn’t know it then, but it was the first step of an exciting adventure that, for all of us, anyway, would be rewarding and wonderful.
I didn’t initially get into this writing thing to talk about how great it was to be a student at Lehigh, oddly enough, though for me it was, indeed, great. I’ve gotten here over time, after writing about an awful lot of football games, writing about the Patriot League, writing about Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, and about “what I damn please ( a term coined by my grandmother concerning my grandfather, incidentally).
Like my time at Lehigh, my writing life started small, and unexpectedly has become an exciting adventure that has continued to be rewarding and wonderful. Even if, sometimes, I hate my own writing and wish it were better, or I wish I could attend just one more practice before I make a preview, or I wish I could get one more interview of Bucknell’s head football coach at Media Day.
Normally an event at Murray Goodman Stadium in August would involve Lehigh’s football team, either involving pictures for the upcoming season, or perhaps a scrimmage.
Not this Wednesday, however.
The announcement was largely expected in soccer circles, but yesterday’s announcement confirmed that the ownership team of the Philadelphia Union, they of Major League Soccer, were going to be launching a USL franchise in the Lehigh Valley, to be playing games at none other than Murray Goodman Stadium.
It’s a great thing for the Lehigh Valley, and a fantastic opportunity for Lehigh Atletics, too.
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The spectators at tonight’s scrimmage couldn’t have missed the emotion coming from the sidelines.
Sure, it was a practice, not a game situation, but as Lehigh was practicing its red zone defense, the sidelines – darkened somewhat by the lights, which had gone out briefly as the sun set in the Lehigh Valley – was loud.
The defense was behind each other, as a unit, rallying their Brown shirts to deny the offense a chance to punch the ball in the zone.
It was more than a passionate tweak at the day’s competition, the White-shirted offense. It seemed like it signified that they were ready to take on all comers.
The defense stopped the offense in the Red Zone once again, and it felt good – for both the defense and the fans gathered on a beautiful summer evening, a cool breeze blowing through the Whitehead practice fields.
The past two years have been ones of Ram nightmares for Lehigh fans.
Even though it seemed like QB Michael Nebrich was never 100% healthy as a Fordham Ram, he always seemed like he was plenty nimble enough to step up in the pocket and drop forty or fifty points on Lehigh’s defense.
But now, it’s a new year. Nebrich has graduated, as well as an eye-popping thirty-two other Fordham football seniors, many of whom had key responsibilities on both offense and defense.
Head coach Joe Moorhead knows his 2015 Fordham Rams will look different. But exactly how different?
And will the Rams be able to simply reload and win a second straight title and qualify for a third straight FCS playoff appearance?
If the preseason polls are any indication, Fordham was picked to win it all for the second consecutive year.
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It may not have seemed like much, a bit of news quietly released during the news dumping ground of Friday afternoon by ESPN Stats and Info.
“Upgrades sharpen ESPN’s college FPI model,” the release was titled, a piece which explained some changes that were being made to ESPN’s “Football Power Index”.
One of those changes involve how FCS wins and losses were represented in their model.
And it’s actually a bigger deal than you think.
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