Archive For The “Know Your Opponents” Category
Most of the teams on Lehigh’s football schedule have become so familiar that it seems like they are on the Mountain Hawk football schedule every single season. Ivy League teams, Villanova, Monmouth… to anyone following Lehigh football over the last decade, they are names fans have heard of.
Not so Wagner.
That’s nothing against the Seahawks, who have played many Lehigh opponents in the last five years (Lafayette, Central Connecticut State, Monmouth, Georgetown, Holy Cross, and Colgate in the FCS Playoffs in 2012).
But, strangely for a school so close to Bethlehem, Wagner has never played Lehigh in football. That will change this season, when the Mountain Hawks travel to Staten Island to compete in their only night game of the year.
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Last season, there were two iconic games that set the tone for the Lehigh football season – one a tough loss, the other a tough victory.
The first iconic moment was simply called “the Monmouth game” – the season-opening game where the Mountain Hawks started out slow, allowed the other Hawks to build up a double-digit lead, and after a furious comeback, Lehigh came up just short. Lehigh had multiple opportunities to seize control – but didn’t.
It threatened to become the narrative that defined the season – that is, until the second iconic game, which was simply called “the Penn game”, and also broke down to a specific moment – the end of the first half.
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The 2016 Yale Bulldogs might have experienced the biggest swings of any other school in college football.
They experienced the low of getting destroyed at home against Lehigh, giving up an amazing 63 points to the Mountain Hawks led that day by QB Brad Mayes in a 28 point defeat.
And they were dominated by some of their bigger rivals in Ivy League play, losing 42-7 to Penn and 31-3 to Princeton.
Yet of their three wins, they pulled off two enormous upsets – beating Ivy League title contender Dartmouth at home, 21-13, and finally breaking Harvard’s nine year hex against them in “The Game”, scoring a touchdown with 4 minutes left to secure a tremendous 21-14 win over their bitter Crimson Rivals.
The Ivy League starts play on September 16th, where Lehigh will find Yale travelling to Murray Goodman Stadium in the Bulldogs first game of the year.
The Mountain Hawks will be playing their third game of the season, and Mayes will be going against the team which he had a record-breaking performance.
The Eli will have had all offseason to bask in the glow of breaking the nine-game winning streak of Harvard against them – and once the enormity of their win over Harvard fades into the distance a little, to focus on avenging last season’s 63 points that Lehigh put on them last year.
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Monmouth and Lehigh have a lot more in common than meets the eye.
They don’t share a conference – the Mountain Hawks are in the Patriot League in all sports, while the Jersey Hawks (my name for Monmouth’s mascot) compete in the Big South in football, and the MAAC in all other sports.
But athletically, in terms of everything from enrollment, participation to overall athletic department spending, Monmouth and Lehigh are like peas in a pod. They are both universities; they both have between 4,000 and 5,000 undergrads; and the size of their athletic departments are similar as well.
The Mountain Hawks and the Jersey Hawks have also been frequent opponents of the other in football and men’s basketball as well. Since 2010, Lehigh has played Monmouth twice in men’s basketball and five times on the gridiron. (Recently, it was announced that Monmouth’s hoop squad and their wacky bench antics will be headed to Stabler this fall to play Lehigh hoops as well.)
But in football the last few years, Lehigh’s games against Monmouth have proven a liability to their national stature. That’s because they’ve lost their last two games against the Jersey Hawks, and while their loss last season wasn’t stated as a reason why the Mountain Hawks didn’t earn a home game in the FCS Playoffs, it was the one, big blemish on Lehigh’s record that may have prevented them from being in consideration for a possible seed (and, by extension, at least one home game).
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