Archive For The “Colgate” Category
This week, Lafayette plays Harvard up in Cambridge, where the 2-4 Leopards are expected to lose to the 2-2 Crimson. I say expected to lose because with one exception since 2000, that’s what’s happened every time Lafayette has played Harvard: they have lost 12 out of their last 13 to the Johnnies, and have a lifetime record of 3-19 against them.
The expectation among Patriot League football fans is that football scholarships was supposed to change all of that. Simply offer conventional football scholarships, add to that a chance to play in the FCS Playoffs, and suddenly football recruits choosing between Harvard and Lehigh for business would start choosing Lehigh.
It hasn’t worked out quite that way.
Through five games in 2017, the combined record of the Patriot League is a mind-boggling 8-21 outside of Patriot League contests. And of those eight wins, only one has come against a team from the Ivy League – Colgate’s 21-7 win over Cornell. Collectively, the Patriot League is 1-7 against the Ancient Eight, with six of those seven losses coming by more than two touchdowns.
This is not what fans of the Patriot League signed up for five years ago when they decided to offer the same sort of scholarships that schools like Delaware, Montana and North Dakota State. But is the problem scholarships, or is it something else?
It was a very different time for Lehigh football, but in 1966, the Engineers started out the season 0-5, and had to travel up to Hamilton, New York to take on the Colgate Red Raiders.
“Lehigh faces its toughest opponent of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Red Raiders of Colgate, at Kerr Memorial Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y,” the 1966 Brown and White preview read.
After their 21-15 loss to Colgate in 1966, the Engineers would fall to 0-6 and eventually finish 0-9 on the season, the last time Lehigh started a season 0-6 and the last time Lehigh would go winless in a season as well.
It was that sort of historic elephant that the 2017 Mountain Hawks had on their backs this Saturday, whether they realized it or not.
Had they lost to their Chenango Valley rival, they would have been the first Lehigh football team to go 0-6 in more than fifty years. 0-5 entering this game, ironically their sixth shot at a football victory would involve going to the same venue to play the same opponent they played fifty-one years ago trying to avoid a 0-6 start.
Turning around an 0-5 start could be one of the hardest jobs in football, especially against a hated conference rival, and especially in a place that has always been a difficult place for Lehigh to play.
And it wasn’t easy. The 2017 Mountain Hawks had help, both from some tough calls against Colgate and from some boneheaded penalties against the Raiders that were justified.
But this group of athletes achieved that goal that eluded the same goal of the Lehigh Engineers of 1966. The football team playing this Saturday won a hard-fought 41-38 contest that maybe, just maybe, might have turned things around just in time.
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Not headed to the the frozen tundra this afternoon to catch the Lehigh/Colgate rivalry?
OK. I do sort-of understand. My sled dogs are in the shop, too. Besides, it is really tough on them to pull the smoker up to central New York when the temperature is 80 degrees.
So how do you catch the game?
Never fear. LFN’s here.
“We’re looking for positives,” Steve Degler of Lehigh Sports Central said several times.
And coach Andy Coen did mention a few positive things, like the play of junior RB Dominick Bragalone, and the improved play of Lehigh’s defense.
But he also mentioned how important it was to “educate his players” about the rivalry Lehigh has with Colgate as well – how playing up in Hamilton is never easy and this game is a rivalry game.
“Next to the Lafayette rivalry, I look to Colgate next,” Andy said. “We have to educate our young players that this rivalry is a very, very tough one, and I know Colgate view themselves as the toughest guys going, and we need to prove they are tougher than they are.”
Lehigh and Colgate is always a big game, whether both teams are going in undefeated or, as in this case, an 0-5 team is squaring off against a 2-3 team.
In a testimony to how evenly matched both of these teams have been over the years, Colgate and Lehigh have split their last 10 meetings, and no team has won more than 3 straight against the other since the inception of the Patriot League.
Colgate and Lehigh have faced off 54 times, and the overall record has been, fittingly, close, with Colgate holding a slender 29-23-2 advantage. The last tie came in 1980, a 17-17 tie at Taylor Stadium in which Lehigh’s John Whitehead and Colgate’s Fred Dunlap faced off as head coach. In a way, that hotly-contested tie sort-of epitomizes the competitiveness of this rivalry today.
Sometimes, the lawnmower engine you’ve pull-started five times finally gets up and running after the sixth time you’ve pulled the recoil starter handle – the gas igniting, the smoke billowing, the engine humming.
And other times, after you pull the recoil starter handle, you hear the parts stirring, something in there wanting to fire, but it doesn’t. Something’s amiss – some debris, something out of tune – but the upshot is, ignition doesn’t happen.
This is the place where Lehigh football is right now.
The lawnmower that is Lehigh football has ignited – a little. The engine has had power, and created a whole lot of smoke. But in the end, each time the system has returned to rest, unable to use the power to get the job done and achieve a single victory. Things are out of tune.
It’s not ideal to have to be in a must-ignite moment against, historically, the second-biggest rival on the football schedule, the team against whom so many epic battles have occurred for the Mountain Hawks – many of them which helped determine the Patriot League Championship and FCS Playoff autobid.
And yet, here we are, with the recoil starter handle in hand, hoping that this time, the sixth time, everything is tuned correctly and everything starts firing all at the right time.
It’s recruiting season. Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated. It’s all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world. In that, it’s a win for everyone.
While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I’d comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.
This summart isn’t a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of “starred recruits” (they list Holy Cross as the “winner”), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN’s yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons “winner”: Lehigh) or HERO Sports’ list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the “winner”). It’s just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.
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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.
It honestly felt like a day from another era out there on Saturday – in a good way.
In a world of bitter political debates, supposedly declining college football attendance, alleged tensions between the generations and the ongoing charges increasing collegian apathy, there it was: the official attendance total of the Colgate/Lehigh game of 9,255.
There were a multitude of reasons why people wanted to go see the game. Perhaps it was something good to do with the family on Family Weekend. Maybe it was a concerted effort to get students into the games, and keep them there, with new policies and new promotions. Maybe it was a thumb-your-nose effort at the fans who come for cocktails but don’t go enjoy the game. Maybe it was individuals, all as a unit, wanting to come out and see if this high-flying, record-setting Lehigh football team is for real.
Or maybe it was all of them; I have no idea, but I know it required a whole lot of planning and a huge amount of effort from a whole lot of people, and I’m glad they did.
Because it felt like something special was brewing in Bethlehem – and not just from the team making everyone pay attention to them on Saturday. It was the whole thing – the team, the fans, and the atmosphere. On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, it felt like “it” was back.
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