Archive For The “Game Narratives” Category
One of the quirks of being a Lehigh fan is that generally, the Mountain Hawks play an Ivy League team in their season opener. This year, that team is Yale.
This sets the Mountain Hawks up in an odd situation – Lehigh is in their third game, and Yale is an unknown quantity. It’s something that all teams playing against Ivy League teams face, but at times it feels like something that the Patriot League has to deal with more.
Over the years, there’s been a back-and-forth debate: who benefits more, the team that’s had two weeks to work out the kinks, or the team that has the element of surprise?
“I’d like to believe we have the upper hand,” head coach Andy Coen said this week, “because we have played two games and you’d hope that Yale will make some first-game mistakes and we’ll be able to take advantage of them.”
Yale’s sophomore QB Kurt Rawlings had a different perspective.
“Being able to go in and have two weeks rather than [against] most teams [when] we only get to prepare for one week [has been a plus],” Rawlings said. “Having two weeks to be able to study up and almost know what they’re going to be showing and doing, is certainly going to help us. … They beat us last season, but I’m really excited. I think we’re going to do pretty good against them.”
It was days later, and head coach Andy Coen was still frustrated with last week’s loss.
That was the takeaway from the two pieces that came out in the local media this week, one from Lehigh Sports Central, and the other from Keith Groller of The Morning Call.
“Still a lot of frustration there,” he told Steve Degler. “You know there are going to be some mistakes in that first game, but veteran guys, new guys, we made too many mistakes, and gave Villanova too many opportunities. It was very tough to take.”
In last week’s post game press conference, and this week’s media meeting, the theme was “cleaning up the mistakes”.
“We’re really excited and want to put that first ‘W’ in the win column,” junior LB Matt Butler said. “We left a few plays on the field against Villanova; plays we’d like to have back. We had a few mental errors that cost us. We need to clean that up this week.”
It’s different when you’re returning champions.
That much was clear when sifting through all the preseason print pieces and videos covering the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
Expectations return – you’re no longer the “hunter”, as head coach Andy Coen explained, you’re the “hunted”.
Managing those expectations has been almost as important for this Lehigh football team as the regular conditioning and X and O’s drills of camp.
The common thread with the many print and video pieces and the many interviews is a sense of maturity and a businesslike ethic around this team, especially amongst its leadership.
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Anyone at all worried that it’s just a wee bit too quiet from Lewisburg? I am.
The narratives coming out of Bethlehem this week – emphatically, me included – are ones of possible Patriot League championships and how the offense is “clicking” and has been very, very good.
That’s not usually a very good recipe for a big game for the home side, especially since word out of the Bucknell camp is very, very quiet, even though the Bison still are very much alive in the conversation of winning the Patriot League title and making Lehigh sit at home Thanksgiving weekend.
Last week, Bucknell traveled to the No. 9 team in the country, Charleston Southern, and proceeded to put up a very good fight in a game that didn’t affect Bucknell’s title chances one way or another. Though the final tally was 49-28, Bucs, the Bison didn’t go away quietly against Charleston Southern’s triple-option attack, staying within a touchdown most of the way until the home team pulled away late.
“Our guys played their tails off today and I am proud of them,” Bucknell head coach Joe Susan said afterwards. “We were able to take advantage of turnovers, but it was frustrating as the score got away from us. Charleston Southern is a very good football team.”
Want to get more worried? Look at the comments from acting Charleston Southern head coach Chad Staggs, who was in that position after head coach Jamey Chadwell served a one-game suspension.
“I don’t know that we played our best today but you have to give some credit to (Bucknell),” Staggs said. “They came out in the first drive and sort of punched us in the mouth a little. We certainly have to play better, but we won the game. I thought we matched them physically overall. We will look at the film and see how we played. We have to be more disciplined than we were today. We had way too many penalties today and that’s something we have to correct.”
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Junior WR Troy Pelletier seems to want the game to start now. Like, yesterday.
When you read and hear the interviews with him at media day this week, he seems to want the game to start right after the interview, to go on the field and get the game over with right now.
Though he knows he and teammate junior WR Gatlin Casey are on top of the total receiving yardage list in FCS, that’s not what he wanted to talk about on Wednesday.
“I haven’t really put much thought into it,” Pelletier told Greg Joyce of Lehigh Valley Live. “I just know good things are going to happen if we prepare the right way. We focus on each day to get better. We’re confident if we put ourselves mentally and physically taking care of our body, good things are going to happen.”
There was lots of “focusing on getting better, taking it one game at a time” talk from both Pelletier and head coach Andy Coen this week, as you might expect. But their body language said something else: when will Saturday get here?
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Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Florida. South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia.
No, this isn’t a list of Power 5 opponents that are suddenly going to be hosting Lehigh and Holy Cross in football the next few years.
It’s a list of just a few of the many states across the country that will be carrying the TV broadcast of the Lehigh/Holy Cross clash.
It’s going to be airing on something called the American Sports Network, which isn’t a network in the broadcast sense but more of a network in the Internet sense: a network of interconnected stations, some over-the-air broadcasts, some local cable stations, that will be carrying Lehigh football over their airwaves.
If you live in PA, all you need to know is the game is going to air on CSN-Philly, CSN-MidAtlantic+, WHP-2 Harrisburg, WPNT-2 Pittsburgh, or WSWB-2 Wilkes-Barre. If you live somewhere else in the lower 48 states, a full list of broadcast outlets can be found here.
It adds to the tension of what is already a big game this weekend.
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Although you see big, bright smiles on the faces of senior CB Brandon Leaks and senior WR Trevor Soccaras when talking about the performance over the last four football games, their focus has understandably been on Georgetown and guarding against a possible letdown.
Such thought is undeniably warranted, especially if they caught the college football scores from yesterday.
There was only one college football game being contested Thursday night, which was Monmouth vs. Presbyterian.
The Hawks, who already beat Lehigh on opening weekend and also beat Fordham last weekend, had a short week to prepare for their Thursday game. But few people thought they would struggle against 1-4 Big South leaguemate Presbyterian, who had already lost to a Division II school (Florida Tech).
Instead, the classic letdown game happened – a 17-13 loss that almost certainly doomed any chance Monmouth has to not only win the Big South, but also to qualify for any sort of at-large postseason berth.
There’s no question that this weekend’s Colgate and Lehigh game is an enormous game for both sides. There’s also a bit of a quarterback “controversy” on the Lehigh side as to who will come out for the first series, award-winning sophomore QB Brad Mayes or award-winning senior QB Nick Shafnisky.
One thing that has gone a bit unnoticed is the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the game this weekend.
Not so much the impact of the southerly weatherly system on the weather at Murray Goodman, which is still on target for a mostly cloudy, 65 degree day, with a small chance of showers in the late afternoon, but the impact on the Lehigh and Colgate players, many of whom call Florida their home.
Added to the already-challenging coaching twists centering around 4 O’Clock exams, something that head coach Andy Coen reminded me of last week, is the concern that the fourteen Lehigh football players from Florida, including Mayes, senior LB Colton Caslow, junior WR Gatlin Casey and a bunch of others, have for their families back at home.
Overall, seventeen Lehigh football players (14 from Florida, 3 from Georgia) and sixteen Colgate football players (15 from Florida, 1 from North Carolina) have family and possessions potentially impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
You can’t blame some of those athletes being a bit distracted if they have a bit more on their minds than just football.
Maybe it was the choice of senior OL Brandon Short as one of the student-athletes interviewed this Wednesday, or maybe it was the mention from junior DE Harrison Johnson that this game could be your last.
This Lehigh football team clearly remembers September 21st, 2014, the last time the Mountain Hawks went to the Yale Bowl.
It is true that it wasn’t the last time the Mountain Hawks played Yale. There’s last year, too, that 27-12 dud that Lehigh put up against the Bulldogs, too.
But the loss last year to Yale at Murray Goodman isn’t the reason why senior QB Nick Shafnisky is calling this another “motivational game”. It’s more about the 2014 game, and the lost season for Brandon Short.
I hinted at this #NarrativeStreet in yesterday’s Game Preview, but the narrative that keeps jumping to the forefront in the run-up to the game this weekend is the “disaster” – head coach Andy Coen‘s words – of last year’s game at Princeton.
There were other losses in the 2015 Lehigh football season.
There was James Madison, where the eventual playoff-bound Dukes impressively blew the Mountain Hawks out of the water, 55-17. The 59-42 loss to Fordham where QB Nick Shafnisky was lost to injury right before halftime. The Colgate game. The Yale game.
But there was something about the loss at Princeton that really got under coach Coen’s skin that was different than the other losses – an anger at the way it happened, the way that things seemed to come apart in the second half after matching the Tigers score-for-score in in the first half.
All the narratives seem to point to last year’s “disaster”, and hoping that the team has learned from it.
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