Archive For The “2015” Category
Perhaps you’ve heard that the Cubs, managed by a Lafayette grad called Joe Maddon, broke their more than century old championship drought vs. the Cleveland Indians last night.
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks’ championship drought isn’t quite as long as that.
But if the Brown and White hope to raise the trophy at Murray Goodman Stadium this weekend, they’ll need to break a mini-curse of their own.
It refers to the Mountain Hawks’ inability over the last four years to win both Game 10 and Game 11 on the schedule, specifically during the last four years.
There have been years that Lehigh has needed Game 10 to have a chance to win the Patriot League, but haven’t been able to get it done. There have been other years where they’ve needed Game 11 to do so, and missed.
When Games 10 and 11 have title implications, and when Lehigh wins those games, they tend to be Patriot League champs. When they lose one or the other, there tends to be the type of hurt that the Indians got to experience firsthand last night.
The Lehigh seniors almost certainly remember how that feels, on the potential last day of their playing careers at Murray Goodman Stadium.
Everything about the 2015 season screamed “rebuilding,” even if the Lehigh faithful never really could bring themselves to completely believe it.
Lehigh was coming from a frustrating 2014 where the Mountain Hawks came close to beating James Madison at home, but couldn’t finish the game, making Lehigh slide to an uncharacteristic 3-8 record.
There was the departure in the offseason of RB Chris Leigh, the one player that scored a touchdown for the Mountain Hawks in the 150th meeting between Lafayette and Lehigh in Yankee Stadium, and RB Brandon Yosha, the transfer running back that battled injury and chop blocks leading to his retirement from football as well.
With pretty much any other team and any other fan base, expectations for the year would have been low. But at Lehigh, expectations are sky-high, for better or for worse, all the time. Perhaps it’s the historic success of the program; perhaps it’s the fans, who are spoiled by all the Patriot League championships, wins over Lafayette, and FCS playoff wins, but that’s what playing at Lehigh is all about.
What the 2015 Mountain Hawks will be best known for is righting the ship from that awful 2014 to return to the winning ways that all Lehigh fans seem to expect. Going into the 2015 offseason, the Mountain Hawks 6-5 record wasn’t good enough to win a Patriot League championship – though they came very, very close – but it definitely shows that the foundation has been rebuilt for future success.
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From the first two plays of the game, the Mountain Hawks seemed like they were going to dictate the terms of the rest of their 2015 season.
It started with a slicing kickoff return from freshman KR Mike Gies, who saw some huge holes and got things started with a 39 yard return.
The very next play freshman QB Brad Mayes, again looking more like a senior than an underclassman, found senior WR Derek Knott who lost his defender on a double move, and then turned on the afterburners for a 61 yard touchdown.
It was that sort of half, and that sort of day for the Mountain Hawks, who put the pedal on the gas and didn’t let up until they had secured a very satisfying victory.
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One thing was known going into the game this weekend: Lehigh’s chances at playing for a share of the Patriot League championship were in the hands of others.
Fordham, the undefeated leaders of the Patriot League, were in control of their own destiny. If they won their last three games, they would win the Patriot League, and there was nothing that this young Mountain Hawk team could do about it. At best, they would be second place.
This weekend, Colgate upset the Rams 31-29 in Hamilton, and thus opened the door for a co-championship.
If Lehigh beats Holy Cross this upcoming weekend, travels to Hamilton and beats Colgate, and returns home and beats Lafayette in the 151st meeting of The Rivalry, Lehigh will at least win a share of the Patriot League championship.
That’s something to celebrate.
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Head coach Andy Coen admitted that an onsides kick caught him a bit off guard.
It was not a situation that Lehigh Mountain Hawks folks were very familiar with, to be honest. Since joining the Patriot League back in 2001, the Hoyas had lost every single time they made the trip to Murray Goodman Stadium by a margin of more than 20 points.
Having cut the margin to 27-21, on the brink of possibly beating Lehigh in Bethlehem for the first time in the modern era, Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata rolled the dice, and attempted an onsides kick with 14:55 to play in the game.
But junior LB Evan Harvey saw the onsides kick the whole way, and expertly grabbed the ball with both hands and fell down on the ball.
It was plays like that that won the game.
You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman QB Brad Mayes, who looked fantastic in spots throwing 18-of-24 for and 214 yards in his first-ever collegiate start. You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman RB Dominick Bragalone, who racked up 169 net yards on the ground and was difficult for the Georgetown defense to contain. But alone, that’s not won the game for Lehigh on Saturday. It was a lot of little things done right, like fielding that onsides kick, that won it, and in so doing kept Lehigh’s Patriot League title hopes alive.
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“We are still our own worst enemy,” head coach Andy Coen said after last weekend’s tough loss to Fordham, 59-42. “Whether it’s penalties, turnovers, if you turn over the ball more than the other team, it’s going to be hard to win games. And this is a league where things are very, very competitive.”
After a week where a scary car accident made everyone involved with Lehigh Athletics pause, and after a week where the availability of arguably the Mountain Hawks’ most important player, junior QB Nick Shafnisky, is in doubt, the Hoyas (4-4, 2-1) come to town right in the thick of the Patriot League championship race. Every team above Lafayette and below Fordham have an overall record of either 3-4 or 4-4, and that includes the Hoyas.
The road to getting into the conversation starts this weekend versus Georgetown, against a team that would like nothing better than to get their first win against Lehigh in the modern era.
Say Doc Brown had shown up at your house October 21st, 2015, and told you something about the upcoming Lehigh/Fordham game.
Suppose he lets slip that senior QB Nick Shafnisky would go out with an injury before halftime, and that Fordham RB Chase Edmonds would set a Patriot League record for rushing yards in a game while getting over 400 all-purpose yards.
Would you have gone to the game?
Would you have bothered to be one of the 5,000 fans in attendance who watched the No. 11-ranked Rams face off against a game Mountain Hawk squad?
The truth is, even though the loss was certainly frustrating and a teeth-gnashing reminder of what could have been, with two minutes to play in the game freshman PK Ed Mish lined up at the 27 yard line with a chance to make it a one-score game.
At what was effectively the “two-minute warning” in the game, Lehigh had battled all the way back from Shaf’s injury, their own penalties and mistakes, and put the Mountain Hawks in a position to steal the game away.
The enormity of the challenge of Lehigh’s 2015 football schedule was evident to everyone looking at the schedule.
“October 10th, at Bucknell. October 24th, at Fordham”.
In August, every Lehigh fan wants to be an optimist. They want to believe that this is the year that they win a Patriot League champions. They look at the entirety of the schedule, and say, “Yeah. We could win that one.”
But even the biggest optimists looked at this two-game stretch, at Bucknell, and at Fordham, and had to pause, and perhaps exhale. “Number Two and Number One in the league last year,” they think. “On the road. And Fordham, a Top 15 team for the last two years, who has gone to the FCS playoffs for two straight years, with a returning Jerry Rice award-winner in RB Chase Edmonds.”
Lehigh defied their preseason expectations by beating Bucknell 21-10 two weeks ago, setting up an extremely meaningful game in the Bronx this coming weekend for this young Mountain Hawk team.
The optimists from the summer are still here. They already saw one tough road win against the Bison. Though it’s going to be a huge challenge, they also see the potential for another.
The first surprise was Lehigh’s uniforms.
Heading out of the locker room, the Mountain Hawks did not come out in their usual gold helmets, whie jerseys and brown pants.
Instead they came out with the white helmets unveiled in the Bronx – white helmets with “Lehigh” in brown on the sides. They matched the rest of the uniform extremely well – not the pinstripes that were worn in Yankee stadium, but all-white jerseys and all-white pants with brown numerals. White socks and white shoes completed it.
It seemed to have been unveiled today by coach Andy Coen to usher in a new team, and a new, fresh start.
But the best part of the afternoon was that, whatever the reason, the new uniforms worked.
After an early touchdown, the Lehigh defense would only allow a field goal the rest of the way to the Bucknell offense – without two of its top playmakers. When preserving a two-score lead, the Lehigh offense grinded the Bison defense into so much burger meat with a 17 play, 54 yard drive that caused Bucknell head coach Joe Susan to need to burn all three of his timeouts just to get the ball back.
It was enough to come out of Lewisburg with an enormous Patriot League win going into the Mountain Hawk bye week.
If you’d like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.
A question FCS voters frequently get is: How to rank FCS over FBS upsets?
Bascially, the same questions plaguing rankings on the FBS side (“Is Jacksonville State simply a really, really good FCS team? Or is Auburn really bad?) cuts the other way in the FCS world.
Jacksonville State almost beat Auburn. But the meaning of that close shave is still undetermined. Auburn didn’t look like much last week after being dominated by LSU. What if the Tigers finish under .500? How will Jacksonville State’s close shave look then?
With Furman’s upset over UCF 16-15, we have another opportunity to play the game of “how good is this team, really?” Furman’s in my Top 25, barely, mostly on the back of their upset win against a team that quite recently was seen as a quality mid-major in the FBS world. But the Paladins are 1-2, though with one of the toughest schedules in FCS. So, again: How good was the win?