Archive For August 14, 2015
These ain’t your mothers’ Bison anymore.
For years football games against Bucknell didn’t register on the radar screens of all Lehigh fans, thanks to a fifteen-game winning streak against the Bison.
They do now, though.
After that long winning streak, it may, perhaps, have been forgivable for Mountain Hawk fans to think Bucknell’s homecoming win at Christy Mathewson Stadium two years ago might have been a bit of a fluke.
Any thoughts of a fluke were put to bed after last year’s double-digit spanking at the hands of the Bison, though.
At a school known around the league as a hoops-first, football-somewhere-down-the-priority-list type of place, Bucknell was a hair away from being in the drivers’ seat for the Patriot League championship, taking eventual league champs Fordham to overtime before falling in extra time.
Head coach Joe Susan‘s goal this year is to have Bucknell take their new culture of winning and take it to the final, logical step: winning the Patriot League and going to their first-ever FCS playoff appearance.
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Like many Division I football programs, Lehigh started their preparations for the upcoming Patriot Football season last Thursday.
If you had to list the desires of the football team going into the preseason, chief among them is eradicating the memory of last season, whether it was the 3-8 record or especially the final game of last year.
But what I think really gets the Lehigh players going, and in fact what gets most players going at FCS schools, is that they get a shot at something truly special.
For Lehigh players, it means they can get a shot at taking down a nationally-ranked team, James Madison, in their own house, a shot at returning a Patriot League Championship trophy to Grace Hall, a shot at turning things around against Lafayette, and a shot at winning a national championship against the best schools of their subdivision.
It’s a time of optimism for all FCS schools, but it’s the shot that truly makes it special.
And if there’s one thing I fear more about the future of college football than anything else, it’s when schools remove opportunities to give schools a shot at something special.
It was a very notable fact that there were no long faces at Lehigh’s table at Patriot League Media Day.
That’s not to say everyone was satisfied.
It is true that the Mountain Hawks were picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll, the lowest they had ever been picked as far as anyone could remember.
It is also true that, when the subject of the defeat at the hands of Lafayette in the 150th meeting of the Rivalry came up, visible discomfort crossed the faces of junior QB Nick Shafnisky, junior LB Colton Caslow, and head football coach Andy Coen, as you would expect.
But the results of the preseason polls and the outcome of the last game of last season could not dampen the enthusiasm emanating from Lehigh’s table today.
“Last year, we were picked second, and this year, we’re picked fifth,” Shafnisky said with his characteristic fast-paced energy. “and… we’ll see how we turn out this year. I can’t wait to see.”
“We’re going to put our cleats on, and run as hard as we can to go catch them, Coen said in the same video, seemingly ready to lace them up himself and take the field and knock a few heads if necessary.
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In the past, the opening comments from the Patriot League Executive director took a good ten to fifteen minutes.
But since it was Jennifer Heppel‘s second day on the job, her opening comments were short and sweet.
“I turned on the computer, retrieved a voicemail, and despite the fact that I was convinced I would lose the battle, I considered it a day well lived,” she said.
Before addressing the assembled media at the Green Pond Country Club, she had met with all seven Patriot League football coaches and discussed the different rules changes.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be here honored to be the next leader of the Patriot League,” she continued in her brief comments.
A few minutes later, Lehigh was picked to finish fifth in the preseason Patriot League football poll. Sophomore WR Troy Pelletier, junior LB Colton Caslow and senior P Austin Devine were named to the preseason all-League team, and just like that, the media were unleashed to meet with the coaches, administrators, and athletes.
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Lehigh’s relationship with the schools of the Ivy League go all the way back to the 1880s.
1887 was the year that Princeton, one of the first institutions of higher learning that sponsored o football program, first squared off against Lehigh, throttling them 80-0.
And it would be 1890 when Yale, another one of the early football powers, first hosted Lehigh, with the Eli ending up as 26-0 winners.
These traditional Ivy League football opponents appear on Lehigh’s football schedule for 2015 and will be a critical litmus test for this your Mountain Hawk football team after Lehigh hosts Penn.
These games, too, will not simply be speed bumps in the schedule, either. There’s a lot more emotion in these games for Lehigh than meets the eye.