Archive For The “Tim Newton” Category
The word that sums up the 2014 football season for Lehigh is almost, and nowhere was that almost more symbolic and frustrating was in their opening weekend against a team that would make it to the FCS Playoffs, James Madison.
Early in the 4th quarter, thanks to a gutty touchdown run by senior RB Rich Sodeke, Lehigh held a 28-24 lead on the Dukes and had taken advantage of a litany of James Madison miscues to get the ball at their 20 and a golden opportunity to stomp on the throat of the Dukes.
But that 4th quarter instead was an all-too-accurate look into the small things that cost the Mountain Hawks wins this season.
In the end, it wasn’t the talent that had Lehigh limp to a 3-8 finish in the 2014 schedule. It was a whole lot of little things.
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I know it’s been several years in the making. I know we are almost at the eve of the biggest edition of the Lehigh/Lafayette Rivalry yet, the one in Yankee Stadium, the 150th meeting, the one I’ve been waiting for years to arrive.
Yet it’s one play, one play, that I keep thinking about in the run-up to this game.
I keep seeing that bubble screen in the 149th meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette, the one that put the game out of reach, the one that turned Lehigh’s bid for a championship last season become one that fell just short of a championship.
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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A lot can change in a week.
At least that’s what Lehigh players and fans are hoping.
Frustration abounds in Mountain Hawk Nation in their 0-3 start, and no matter that two teams they’ve played, New Hampshire and James Madison, have displayed that they are Top 25 caliber teams.
It can’t be used as an excuse that Lehigh seems to be the opponent circled on every team’s schedule, either. That’s part of being at Lehigh: you always have the target on you.
Monmouth (2-1), too, will have a very large target on Lehigh’s back, after last years’ narrow 28-25 loss to the Mountain Hawks and will undoubtedly have looked at the national defensive rankings at the FCS level and seen Lehigh’s squad ranked 120 out of 121 total non-transitioning FCS teams in total defense, beating only Columbia, who has only played in one game this season.
But a lot can change in a week. At least that’s what Lehigh players and fans are hoping.
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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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(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)
At the University of Alabama they call it “A-day,” and hold it in from of more than 76,000 fans.
Head coach Andy Coen didn’t brand Lehigh’s spring scrimmage “L-day”, and, well, there weren’t exactly 76,000 fans who came to Murray Goodman Stadium on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, either.
Instead, though, the fans that came were treated to a pass-happy scrimmage that featured no tackling contact after the third series, thanks in part to the fact that Lehigh only suited eight linemen on the morning.
It was a scrimmage that featured a whole lot of energy – and a whole lot of newness.
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With the secondary out of the way, it’s time to focus on Lehigh’s spring roster battles as they relate to the rest of the defense, the linebacking unit and starting defensive line.
On the coaching front, rabid Lehigh football fans will recognize the two position coaches at both linebackers and defensive line.
Both coached alongside of current head coach Andy Coen during two of the Brown and White’s best-ever defensive seasons in 1998 and 1999.
Joe Bottiglieri was the defensive coordinator for the legendary 1998 team, which went 11-0 in regular season play and shocked the world by knocking of Atlantic 10 champions Richmond in the first-ever playoff victory for the Mountain Hawks since Lehigh joined the Patriot League. Along with current defensive line coach Donnie Roberts, Lehigh’s defense held the eventual I-AA champions, UMass, to 26 points and putting Lehigh in a position to win with a minute left in the quarterfinals.
This season, Coach Bott and Coach Roberts will try to recreate that same magic with this year’s team.
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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.
Every single Lehigh player remembered.
They remembered the chaos on the field last year at Murray Goodman Stadium, when Colgate beat Lehigh and celebrated on their field, Lehigh’s field, after their championship win.
They remembered the team photos. The hats. The championship trophy. The championship picture. In their house.
And they remembered that they didn’t want to see that again this season.
For the second straight week, senior RB Keith Sherman ran over a Patriot League opponent. For the second time in two must-win games, Lehigh won a game they had to have to keep their Patriot League title and playoff hopes alive.
But up in Hamilton, it wasn’t a time of whooping and hollering after the game.
It was a line and a postgame handshake – in other words, business. And Lehigh, in their most complete defensive performance of the season, got their business done in very impressive fashion.
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