Archive For The “Princeton” Category
What a difference two weeks makes.
At times it’s hard to comprehend how desperate it felt for Lehigh fans after the Mountain Hawks’ slender loss at Villanova to fall 26-21 to the nationally-ranked Wildcats.
At 0-2, after a pair of excruciating losses, a rematch with the defending Ivy League champions Penn awaited, a game that the Quakers had circled on their calendar since about December. Following that tough test would be a Princeton team that laid 52 points on Lehigh last year and returned almost all of the skill players on the team that beat them then.
A losing record going into the Colgate seemed like a best-case scenario.
And yet, here we are after these two tough tests, and the Mountain Hawks are 2-2, with a boatload of momentum going into their game vs. 0-2 Yale next weekend. Suddenly, 3-2 and a three-game winning streak going into an enormous game vs. Colgate seems like a real possibility.
The reason for this dramatic, and important turnaround?
The Lehigh defense, who shut out Penn in the second half and shut down Princeton in key areas of the second half as well to allow Lehigh to maintain a three-score, largely drama-free lead.
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(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)
Once upon a time, Lehigh’s offense had the nickname “Air Lehigh”, and players like QB Scott Semphiphelter, QB Phil Stambaugh and many other Mountain Hawk quarterbacks hucked the ball around Murray Goodman Stadium like kids in a sandlot, and posted some serious passing numbers that made the place a very fun spot to watch college football on Saturdays.
Today at Murray Goodman, senior QB Nick Shafnisky brought us back to those Air Lehigh days with a game with the same type of offensive firepower.
Pairing up with junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey for more than 100 yards receiving apiece, the Whitehall, PA native brought Lehigh fans back to the future with a 461 yard passing performance, coming oh-so-close to setting a Lehigh record in the process.
In the end, Lehigh fans left Murray Goodman stadium with a lot of pleasant memories about a beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon and a resounding 42-28 win over a Princeton team that hung 50 points on them last season. Not that winning football games at Murray Goodman stadium the past few seasons wasn’t fun, mind you – but few wins evoked the sandlot quality that this game did.
Never fear. LFN’s here.
We break down the Princeton game – and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.
Something of note this week that I forgot to mention in my Narrative Street and my Game Preview is the fact that the two opponents that Lehigh lost to earlier in the year, Monmouth and Villanova, are doing extremely well. Both teams’ only losses have come to FBS programs, and both schools acquitted themselves very well in both circumstances.
2-1 Monmouth was never out of the game vs. Kent State, falling 27-7 to the Golden Flashes in a game after Kent State was stunned by fellow FCS member North Carolina A&T in four overtimes, 39-36. The Hawks largely kept Kent State’s offense in check and kept them in the game, and their star defensive player, DB Mike Basile, had an eye-popping 16 tackles and a blocked kick.
If Monmouth can upset heavily-favored and nationally-ranked Charleston Southern this weekend in their home opener, the Hawks would go to 3-1 and would most likely get strong consideration in many peoples’ Top 25 votes. It would also make Lehigh’s loss to them to start the season sting a little less.
Nationally-ranked Villanova, also 2-1, lost their season opener to Pitt, most notably holding the Panthers to a lower point total on defense (28) than both Penn State (42) and Oklahoma State (38). After their win over Lehigh, the Wildcats impressively dispatched Towson 40-21 at home to maintain their No. 19 ranking nationally.
Villanova will be facing off against Lafayette in Easton this weekend, their first trip there in more than 90 years, and seem like prohibitive favorites to win there Saturday night. If they do, Lehigh’s “schedule strength” won’t be harmed very much by their presence on the schedule.
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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What a win it was.
The consensus from anyone on the Lehigh side was that the 0-2 Mountain Hawks needed a win. Any win. And it wasn’t going to be easy, against last year’s Ivy League champs, out for vengeance.
And then it happened – the sort of half of football that makes all the loss experiences worth it, the type of tale of redemption after the disappointment of being so close to tasting victory and possible national recognition, only to have it taken away by a few yards in a game of inches, or a drive where the defense couldn’t get that one final stop.
Suddenly, all the narratives that defined the first two losses were overturned. Times when the offense were stopped short became touchdowns. The defense became a Steel Curtain. The win was as definitive as it was season-affirming. It was difficult to find much to criticize in Lehigh’s 49-28 victory over Penn that had spent all offseason plotting their vengeance against the Mountain Hawks, yet Lehigh still did that to them.
And that’s the big, looming danger of this week: that the Mountain Hawk hangover from the win, from the party, from the exhilaration of the flipping of narratives, is so great that Lehigh gets blown off the line of scrimmage early by a talented Princeton team that most certainly has that capability, and had it on display at home last week vs. Lafayette.
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Today’s “Know Your 2016 Opponents” series continues with the team that is predicted by College Sports Journal to finish 4th in the Ivy League: Princeton.
Lehigh’s visit to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium last fall wasn’t a whole lot of fun for the Mountain Hawks. In fact, it was one where head coach Andy Coen felt like Lehigh made too many mistakes to win.
But what really stood out to me was Andy’s response to a question I had – whether he felt like the Mountain Hawks needed to play the perfect game to win on that thick, hot, humid evening.
As we hit the 92 day mark before the 2016 Lehigh football season officially starts, it’s time to take a look at the overall schedule – and opponents – the Mountain Hawks will be facing.
Every Lehigh football fan knows that their Rival of Rivals, Lafayette, is only 18 miles away from Bethlehem.
What fans may not know is that, by drawing a circle around Lehigh on Google Maps, you can surround seven of the Mountain Hawks eleven 2016 opponents. (The site NCAA Savant has an interactive, zoomable map that shows the schools quite clearly.)
The only FCS programs within the circle that Lehigh doesn’t play are Delaware, Wagner, and Columbia.
Lehigh will be hosting Monmouth, Bucknell, Fordham, and Princeton, all of whose fan bases are within two and a half hour’s drive, and will have “road trips” to Penn, Villanova, and Lafayette, which couldn’t be easier for Lehigh football fans.
However, if you wanted to earn frequent flyer miles supporting Lehigh football, you had better hope the Mountain Hawks make the FCS playoffs.
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I always enjoy making the trip to catch a Princeton game when I can.
Aside from the sentimental attachment that I have to the place, there’s a lot to recommend it as a destination for anyone.
After Lehigh’s 52-26 loss to Princeton, however, the Mountain Hawk people I saw after the game couldn’t wait to get out of there and regroup.
Everything about this early, challenging schedule for the Mountain Hawks seems to have been designed to determine how close Lehigh is at becoming contenders once again. It’s a challenging, strong out-of-conference schedule that doesn’t need an FBS team on it to make it a stern test for this group of players.
If anything in particular was learned about this weekend’s game, it’s that this Mountain Hawk team still needs work in order to win their Patriot League games and possibly win a Patriot League championship. Spectacular individual plays, like junior CB Brandon Leaks upending Princeton RB Dre Nelson, are great, and like any other Lehigh fan I love to see them. But the stuff needed to win football games are greater than individual plays, unfortunately.
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Head coach Andy Coen stood outside the locker room, obviously agitated at the result of the game. Outside, beautiful fireworks were exploding over Princeton Stadium on a beautiful night.
In front of the locker room, the fire was coming from Lehigh head coach, verbalizing what all the players, and fans, saw on the evening.
“The turnovers, the penalties, the blocked extra point, losing momentum there, that was all stuff we had control over,” Coen said, seemingly wanting to get back onto the field right then and there, with the fireworks going off, and play the game all over again. “They had no control over that. It was our problem jumping offsides, it was our problem dropping balls, our problem not being focused enough. And if you are not focused enough, then someone else will play.”
It was so frustrating because the Mountain Hawks had some real pretty looking numbers on the stat sheet. They outgained Princeton 561 yards to 497. Junior QB Nick Shafnisky had 348 yards passing, many of them to sophomore WR Troy Pelletier, who broke a school record for completions in a game with 15. Freshman RB Dom Bragalone played an outstanding game, becoming the second freshman running back in as many weeks to rush for over 100 yards in a game.
Yet Lehigh didn’t win in the only statistic that really matters – points. Last week, Lehigh doubled up Penn. This week, Princeton would double up Lehigh, 52-26.
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