Archive For The “Matt Laub” Category
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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It was a game that was pretty much the opposite of what Lehigh football fans would have wanted from homecoming.
People want games in Murray Goodman Stadium that are sunny and 70 degrees, with perhaps just a hint of wind. Instead, despite the fact that a threatened hurricane never arrived, temperatures dipped into the 50s to go with some cold, gusty winds, which caused not a few people to get runny noses.
Homecoming is supposed to be a happy time, but the dark, overcast skies didn’t make the game feel like a warm, welcoming place. Though the Marching 97 tried their best, as did the Alumni band, the dreariness hung over the stadium like an unwelcome guest.
Home fans always want a win on homecoming, hopefully with exciting, crisp, vibrant execution from the guys in the brown jerseys, but again, that too would end up being the opposite of what Lehigh fans were hoping for on this afternoon.
Yale would turn over the ball three times, be penalized 11 times for 94 yards, and be limited to 200 yards passing on the afternoon. But they would also enjoy over 200 yards rushing from RB Deshawn Salter, playing in his first career start filling in for injured RB Candler Rich, and that, coupled with plenty of mistakes on the Lehigh side, would amount to a comfortable 27-12 win for the Buldogs.
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|Lehigh QB Nick Shafnisky (Morning Call)|
Junior QB Nick Shafnisky spent Patriot League media day telling the gathered media about haters drinking the haterade.
Well, he didn’t exactly say it like that. But he did talk about proving the haters wrong.
“I love having people either be there for me or count me out,” he said. “Personally, I love it all. I love haters. I was just saying to my dad – the more people are talking bad about you, the more people you have to prove wrong. I love proving people wrong, and making my coaches from high school proud.”
Now finally healthy, Shafnisky finally has the chance to prove a lot of people wrong – those that doubted his ability to recover from a Rivalry game he’d rather forget, those that thought he might not get over the injury that severely limited him last season, those that picked Lehigh to finish fifth, sixth, or even seventh in the Patriot League.
Despite an infections optimism that carried all the way through the preseason, you could see the chip forming on Shafnisky’s shoulder that day, as well as junior LB Colton Caslow‘s.
How Shaf and Caslow perform with that chip on their shoulder is going to play a big part in the 2015 season.
“We want to show that the 3-8 team you guys saw last year is not what Lehigh’s about, and it’s not what Lehigh football is about,” Shaf said. “When they announced that we were picked fifth, Colton and I just looked at each other, and said, ‘We’ll see.’ Everyone has a different chip on their shoulder to prove everyone wrong.”
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Once upon a time, Lehigh’s football team was many preseason pundits’ consensus No. 1 in the Patriot League. It wasn’t even a question.
Sure, some of that was due to the fact that Fordham, now for the first time in years an full, card-carrying member of the Patriot League, was ineligible.
But in 2010 and 2011, Lehigh was the undisputed king, with wins over their Rivals, undisputed Patriot League championships, and even playoff victories against Northern Iowa and Towson.
This season, it’s a new team with a dynamic offense and a team loaded with talent that is the undisputed champion going into the 2014 season. With one of the best FCS quaterbacks in the nation, QB Michael Nebrich, and a talented defense backing them up, the Rams now have the targets on their backs.
And if Lehigh hopes to stand a chance to challenge the new kings of the hill, they will have to improve immensely on the defensive side of the ball.
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You’d think with a headline like “Past and Present Lehigh Football Players Go Prematurely Bald” that the next sentence I’d be writing would be an ad for “Hair Club For Men”.
Instead, though, I’m going to be writing about how a bunch of Lehigh football players going prematurely bald is a great, inspirational thing.
This past Sunday, “Team Jack” went to nearby Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to get their heads shaved in solidarity with their favorite teammate and biggest fan, ten year old Jack Knudson, and also raise more than $2,000 for the St. Baldrick’s foundation for pediatric cancer research.
(Photo Credit: Stephen Flood/The Express-Times)
Not that I’m counting, but it’s been 369 days since Lehigh lost everything they worked for in the span of game of football.
You could say that it was just one loss in an otherwise stellar year. After all 10-1 is 10-1, a season with a whole lot of success. (Ask Lafayette whether they would trade many of their seasons for a 10-1 campaign, losing to Colgate and missing the FCS playoffs, but beating Lehigh.)
But it was one solitary loss – heck, one half – that was the difference between a Lehigh Patriot League championship, and none. The difference between a spot in the playoffs, or none. The difference between the sweet feeling of receiving championship rings, or none.
As it stands now, it’s a giant game for both sides. A Raider win gives Colgate the Patriot League title (sans Fordham) and autobid to the FCS playoffs. A Mountain Hawk win allows Lehigh to survive, and continue, in their quest for the Patriot League title and autobid.
But Lehigh could have been 7-2 or 2-7 going into this November game in Hamilton, New York, and it still would have been a big game for this particular group of Mountain Hawk seniors.
If you went into Murray Goodman Stadium and said you knew exactly what to expect from this Lehigh Mountain Hawks team, you were lying.
Everyone involved with the Mountain Hawks football program had seen, or heard about, the loss to Bucknell.
If they had sharp eyes, too, they saw the former starting quarterback, Brandon Bialkowski, on the sidelines in a jacket, his arm immobilized so his collarbone can heal.
You had to go back a long way to find a Lehigh team with this much uncertainty, with this much at stake, with three games left.
And in this environment, this Mountain Hawk team responded.
The Mountain Hawks would never trail in this game, though the Crusaders would tie the game twice, at 7-7 and 13-13. But then, after filling in permanently after what seemed to be a rib injury to junior QB Matt McHale, freshman QB Nick “Shaf” Shafnisky came into the game and guided Lehigh on three touchdown drives in a convincing 38-20 victory.
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The football season starts in 92 days, and continue our 92 day countdown towards the Lehigh football season.
Today, we highlight sophomore LB Matthew Laub.
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Out of 128 seasons of Lehigh football, only ten teams have enjoyed ten victories or more, and the 2012 chapter of Lehigh football was one of those ten rare teams.
Most of the ten victories did not come easy, which, combined with the perception of a weak schedule, had to be the reason why Lehigh was the first 10 Division I-win school since the expansion of the playoffs to 20 teams to be denied a playoff bid.
That shouldn’t take away from the great accomplishment of this 2012 Mountain Hawk team, however.
There is plenty to celebrate from 2012, and plenty of good things to write about.
The cardiac 28-26 victory at sold-out Liberty, in front of nearly 20,000 intense fans, before the Flames would end up being Big South co-champions.
The heart-stopping wins against Fordham, Holy Cross and Georgetown, which all came down to the last play.
And, of course, falling behind 21-10 early to Lafayette in the 148th version of “The Rivalry”, before roaring to a 38-21 victory and shotting out the Leopards for three consecutive quarters.
For this last post of 2012, we celebrate the wins one more time, and unveil the Hawks of the 2012 season.
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