Archive For The “Quentin Jones” Category
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.
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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There is one real adage when it comes to defensive football: if you sit around and wait for something bad to happen, it probably will.
This season, the Lehigh Mountain Hawk defense knows it can’t afford to hang back and let bad things happen.
The 2015 Lehigh defense was a unit that saw flashes of strong play – just not enough of them.
And in 2016, this unit knows that the statistics from last year indicate a unit that needs to get better.
Most of all the identity of this defense needs to be formed.
In most places, we know the athletes. We know they have flashes of great play. The question that needs to be answered: what will its identity be?
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From early in practice on Friday, when the 2016 Mountain Hawks were performing tackling drills on what looked like huge red padded human-sized donuts, the defense brought the energy to the practice field on what was a beautiful Friday afternoon in the Lehigh Valley.
From the drills to the scrimmages, rising senior LB Colton Caslow and rising senior CB Brandon Leaks stood out in terms of their energy level, flying to the ball.
On one play during the scrimmage I saw, Caslow nearly took out someone holding up a down marker as he left his feet, trying to get at the offensive player.
On another, Leaks made a break on his receiver to give the Brown side a chance to crow against the White-jerseyed offense.
Though the contact has been “very limited”, coach Coen said the tackling practices have been making a difference thus far in the spring season.
“I was very happy with our defense,” head coach Andy Coen told me. “I believe our veteran players really took the bull by the horns and were very good leaders during practice.”
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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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The buzz went through the press box in the minutes before last year’s game versus Bucknell that QB R.J. Nitti, the starter for the 4-1 Bison, was not suiting up at quarterback.
Almost immediately, the mood of the Lehigh folks covering the game picked up.
Without Nitti, it would mean little-used QB Trey Lauletta would be the starter in his place. That, along with the injury to the regular starting RB C.J. Williams, what seemed originally like a close matchup between two close teams felt like a very good shot at a win for the winless Mountain Hawks and might actually get Lehigh’s season pointed in the right direction.
It didn’t work out that way.
After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, Bucknell would ride a record-setting performance by WR Will Carter, who would get 3 big-play touchdowns during a stretch of 31 straight Bison points to power through to a 45-24 win over Lehigh and effectively ending any dreams of competing for the Patriot League title.
For the last two seasons, the quest for Lehigh’s Patriot League title hopes have gone through a game versus Bucknell. This year is no different. The road to any sort of Patriot League title hopes for the Mountain Hawks start this weekend in Lewisburg.
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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|Senior SS Randall Lawson (Morning Call)|
Lehigh’s defensive numbers in 2014, as I mentioned before, leave a lot to be desired.
And when you look at the secondary, it’s the same story.
Out of 121 FCS teams, Lehigh ranked 110th in pass defense, and if you watched the unit last year, you also saw too many big plays allowed by the defense, too.
The silver lining, though, is that Lehigh only graduates two players in the secondary, DB Jason Suggs and DB Jamil Robinson, so the returning starters all have a years’ experience under their belt in defensive coordinator Joe Bottiglieri‘s defensive system.
This spring has also posed some challenges for the Lehigh staff, as there are a lot of secondary players on the shelf with injuries, making it a challenge for the remaining players.
It was a point when the Lehigh football team could have packed it in, or simply decided that they wanted to just play out the string.
Instead Lehigh went down to Washington, DC and got their second win of the season, as well as their first Patriot League win of the season, with a 27-19 victory over the Hoyas.
It wasn’t always pretty. Just like against Cornell, the mixture of young and veteran Mountain Hawks made some big errors to keep Georgetown in the ball game.
But despite the goofs, for Lehigh there was a lot more good than bad.
For the first time since a few weeks, hope and optimism, for the rest of this year up to the 150th meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette – and beyond – made an appearance.
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There have been times this season that Lehigh has been agonizingly close to winning games they have ended up losing.
It’s as if they’ve been stuck with bad karma; that they’ve been oh-so-close to winning, but some bad karmic event keeps them out of the victory column.
Against the Big Red on homecoming this weekend, the Bad Karma seemed to be at Schoellkopf Field for Lehigh once again.
A well-defended pass bounced into the hands of Cornell WR Collin Shaw set up one Big Red touchdown. and a low snap to punter junior P Austin Devine set up another, making a 17-0 Mountain Hawk become a very slim, thin-feeling 17-14 spot for Lehigh.
But then just like that, the Lehigh offense seemed to have finished with its bad karma, with senior RB Rich Sodeke leading the charge to set up one big touchdown, and scoring the final exclamation point on Lehigh’s first win of the season.
It all added up to a satisfying return to winning for the Mountain Hawks.
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