Archive For The “Gatlin Casey” Category
We’ve all been there, Lehigh fans. I know I was as an undergrad.
You enter the mid-term needing something big to save a bad grade, so you work furiously, trying to catch up on months of the readings you should have been doing, going over homework you skipped for some good reason – that good reason escapes you now, of course – to try to ace the midterm that can pull your grade back up from the dead.
With copious amounts of coffee, you go over the readings, taking the notes you should have been taking all along. You stay up all night to go over all the material, catching several catnaps during the morning. You finally enter the classroom of the test – and you deliver the grade you needed. You save your GPA, and you find yourself finally back on track – and then you collapse in a heap of bones on your bed.
OK, maybe the Colgate victory was not quite like that.
In a way, though, it feels like it – the win injects a huge measure of hope into a season that was pointed in the wrong direction, and allows Lehigh Nation to look at the midseason as a place to keep winning games and to possibly fight and claw their way to another Patriot League Championship.
LFN’s midseason grades are below.
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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.
You could say that following Lehigh football through the first five weeks has been an exercise in frustration.
That’s probably understating things quite a bit.
The season was not supposed to unfurl itself in this way.
The Mountain Hawks, rated in the Top 25 to start the season, remained that way after losing a tough game against Villanova, but then fell out of the national rankings when they followed that up with a loss to Monmouth.
And since, the team has just kept losing, each week more excruciating than the last.
Some Lehigh fans appear to think that the Mountain Hawks could turn things around and make a run at the Patriot League Championship in a world where the Patriot League is a combined 9-20 against out-of-conference foes.
I suppose it is still possible.
But to this fan, this goal can’t be the focus of the coming week.
Speaking as a fan, I feel the focus of all the players and coaches needs to be on one singular goal: how to win one, singular, football game.
In front of about 5,000 fans, Lehigh fell into a too familiar game script.After falling behind by two touchdowns, Lehigh clawed to get back into the game but ultimately gave up touchdown after touchdown, falling 56-28 in what felt like a role reversal …
(Photo Credit: Monmouth Athletics)
Football is a physical game, and it requires a tremendous amount of strength to line up, play after play, to push people around down after down.
As a result football games sometimes can evolve into contests where the teams push each other around, and such games can end up where one team gets worn down and the other pulls away for a big victory.
That’s what happened this weekend at Monmouth.
The Hawks started out behind the eight-ball early, falling behind by two scores, and then rallying to take a 27-21 lead relatively early in the third quarter. But the physical beating, slowly and surely, took its toll, eventually knocking the offense out of kilter and the pushing the defense out of the way for their powerful running game. In the end, Lehigh only could be punched in the mouth so many times, and fell, 46-27.
It was an especially hard loss to take because this isn’t how the 2017 season was supposed to happen.
“The tougher man wins,” head coach Andy Coen said after the game. “They were a lot tougher and more physical than we were.”
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It pretty much started with RB Pete Guerrerio’s 70 yard kickoff to open the game, and continued throughout a bruising, physical football game.Lehigh would battle back from a 14-0 deficit to take the lead at halftime, but ultimately surrendered the lead…
(Photo Credit: Kyle Craig/Lehigh Valley Live)
Head coach Andy Coen would hear nothing of moral victories in the post game press conference.
“I thought we had every opportunity to win this football game,” Lehigh’s frustrated head coach said.
“When you go through this stuff,” he said, flipping through the pages of the post-game statistics packet, “you’re going to see a lot of mistakes. You see it with some young guys, guys in their first game, but we had some guys that where it was just out of character.”
It was a game where neither side looked like they were in mid-season form, though you could see the quality shine through offensively on both sides at different times. So the outcome hinged on mistakes, and who made fewer of them – and that team was Villanova.
That shouldn’t take away from the offensive fireworks on both sides.
There was the tremendous blocking up front that set up a great rushing day for Villanova RB Matt Gudzak, who ran for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and an effecient all-purpose yardage of a day for Wildcat QB Zach Bednarczyk, who went 17 for 23 passing and scored three touchdowns, two through the air and on the ground.
And there was the electricity of junior QB Brad Mayes repeatedly connecting with senior WR Troy Pelletier, senior WR Gatlin Casey, and the newest starter in the receiving corps, junior WR Luke Christiano. Mayes went 33 for 49 passing for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, and some of them were a sight to behold.
Yet it would boil down to mistakes – a pass here with too much mustard, a dropped reception there, a missed assignment there – and Lehigh simply made too many of them to beat a quality Top 10 ranked team at home.
“After the game, and we all got in our circle,” coach Coen said, “and I just told them all, you guys need to look into your mirror, and see how you feel about what you did or didn’t do right. They were a very good football team, and I give them a lot of credit – they were very fast, and very physical. This was an opportunity for us to beat a very good Villanova team, and also an opportunity to beat someone from the CAA, which I thought would be very important for us. We didn’t get it done.”
Lehigh fell behind 21-7 and 28-14 in the first half, and battled back in the second half to give themselves a shot to win, but for the second straight year the Mountain Hawks came close but couldn’t close the deal, falling 38-35 to Villanova at Murray …
Spotlight On: QB Brad Mayes
Rightfully, much of the focus of Lehigh’s football coverage this offseason has been on the offense. That makes sense; after all, Lehigh ranked near the top of every receiving and rushing category in 2016.
Yet most of that coverage has been on guys that have been on preseason FCS all-American teams (senior WR Troy Pelletier, junior RB Dominick Bragalone) or probably should have been on more of them (senior WR Gatlin Casey).
Oddly, the focus on those all-League caliber players have shifted the focus from what could be the most important transition from the 2016 offense to the 2017 offense – the transition to a new starting quarterback.
Certainly, junior QB Brad Mayes was no ordinary understudy for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks last season.
Though technically he did back up QB Nick Shafnisky, he showcased his obvious talent multiple times last year, most notably breaking a Yale Bowl record with 524 passing yards and scoring 6 passing touchdowns in a 63-35 win over Yale.
Much press has rightfully gone to the receivers and running backs, but the direction of the 2017 football season might come down to the play of the quarterback whose number switched from No. 14 to No. 4 this season.
“I think Troy and Dom are outstanding players and they deserve all the recognition they’ve been getting,” Brad told me. “And I’m excited to play alongside those guys, because that makes my job that much easier.”
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There’s a pretty good chance that senior WR Troy Pelletier, who made the Patriot League’s preseason all-Conference team and is on the Walter Payton Award watch list to start the year, will be the starter in the season opener vs. Villanova.
It’s also not a headline that junior RB Dominick Bragalone, also on the Patriot League’s preseason all-Conference team, is likely to -shocker! – be a starter on September 2nd.
But that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t plenty of questions as the Mountain Hawks enter into their fall training camp for fans to think about.
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