Archive For The “Troy Pelletier” Category
It was a very different time for Lehigh football, but in 1966, the Engineers started out the season 0-5, and had to travel up to Hamilton, New York to take on the Colgate Red Raiders.
“Lehigh faces its toughest opponent of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Red Raiders of Colgate, at Kerr Memorial Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y,” the 1966 Brown and White preview read.
After their 21-15 loss to Colgate in 1966, the Engineers would fall to 0-6 and eventually finish 0-9 on the season, the last time Lehigh started a season 0-6 and the last time Lehigh would go winless in a season as well.
It was that sort of historic elephant that the 2017 Mountain Hawks had on their backs this Saturday, whether they realized it or not.
Had they lost to their Chenango Valley rival, they would have been the first Lehigh football team to go 0-6 in more than fifty years. 0-5 entering this game, ironically their sixth shot at a football victory would involve going to the same venue to play the same opponent they played fifty-one years ago trying to avoid a 0-6 start.
Turning around an 0-5 start could be one of the hardest jobs in football, especially against a hated conference rival, and especially in a place that has always been a difficult place for Lehigh to play.
And it wasn’t easy. The 2017 Mountain Hawks had help, both from some tough calls against Colgate and from some boneheaded penalties against the Raiders that were justified.
But this group of athletes achieved that goal that eluded the same goal of the Lehigh Engineers of 1966. The football team playing this Saturday won a hard-fought 41-38 contest that maybe, just maybe, might have turned things around just in time.
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It was Colgate 28, Lehigh 14 as the first half was coming to a close. The Mountain Hawks had the ball, but the pall over Lehigh fans everywhere was very evident – “here we go again,” most seemed to be thinking.
You couldn’t blame fans necessarily for thinking that way, of course. The Mountain Hawks hadn’t found out yet this year how to pull out a game like this, and normally, a two-touchdown deficit to Colgate feels like a four-touchdown deficit, the way they run the ball and gradually crush the spirit of opposing teams.
Driving and scrambling – somewhat of a broken play – junior QB Brad Mayes found junior RB Dominick Bragalone downfield with a big 35 yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 28-21.
And then, gradually, over the course of a half of football, Lehigh put mistakes behind them just as the uncharacteristic mistakes by Colgate seemed to mount. One Colgate touchdown would be called back. Then another. And Lehigh would battle back to tie the game twice, fall behind by a field goal with 5 minutes to play, and then score the winning touchdown and get a game’s only turnover at the exact right time to preserve the win.
Somewhere, Al “Just Win, Baby” Davis was smiling.
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You could say that following Lehigh football through the first five weeks has been an exercise in frustration.
That’s probably understating things quite a bit.
The season was not supposed to unfurl itself in this way.
The Mountain Hawks, rated in the Top 25 to start the season, remained that way after losing a tough game against Villanova, but then fell out of the national rankings when they followed that up with a loss to Monmouth.
And since, the team has just kept losing, each week more excruciating than the last.
Some Lehigh fans appear to think that the Mountain Hawks could turn things around and make a run at the Patriot League Championship in a world where the Patriot League is a combined 9-20 against out-of-conference foes.
I suppose it is still possible.
But to this fan, this goal can’t be the focus of the coming week.
Speaking as a fan, I feel the focus of all the players and coaches needs to be on one singular goal: how to win one, singular, football game.
In their last 3 football games against Division I competition, Wagner scored a grand total of 34 points in three losses.
Tonight on a cold, windy evening in Staten Island, the Seahawk offense came to life against Lehigh.
The Seahawks scored on their first offensive drives of the first half and second half on big plays, a 50 yard run by RB Ryan Fulse and a 30 yard pass from QB Ryan Massei to WR William Dale. Fulse would add a touchdown and RB Denzel Knight would add touchdown runs of 24 and 60 yards to put up five touchdowns on the Mountain Hawk defense.
Unlike prior weeks, Lehigh maintained a lead against Wagner during stretches of the first half. Junior RB Dominick Bragalone got a 26 yard run to give Lehigh and early lead, and junior QB Brad Mayes would take it in on a read option to go up 14-7.
But then the Seahawks would go on a 30-6 run after that aided by five Mayes interceptions.
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(Photo Credit: Alex Fisher/The Daily Pennsylvanian)
Both Penn head coach Ray Priore and Lehigh head coach Andy Coen aren’t necessarily focused on the numbers and the exploits of individual members of their offense.
Priore, focused on finally beating Lehigh for the first time in his head coaching tenure, and Coen, trying to right the ship after a very shaky 0-3 start, have different things to worry about.
But this weekend’s affair at Murray Goodman, if the past is any guide, could have the potential of a highlight reel of tremendous catches by some receivers that are getting looks by NFL teams.
Twice before Penn WR Justin Watson and Lehigh WR Troy Pelletier have played against each other, and both times Watson and Pelletier have lit up the opposing secondaries for some tremendous catches and some amazing numbers.
For Penn, it’s allegedly about building off the win over Division II Ohio Dominican last week. For Lehigh, it’s supposed to be about getting their first win, and getting some positive momentum back in their season. But for fans, there’s definitely the potential of an offensive circus this weekend that could be immensely entertaining.
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One of the quirks of being a Lehigh fan is that generally, the Mountain Hawks play an Ivy League team in their season opener. This year, that team is Yale.
This sets the Mountain Hawks up in an odd situation – Lehigh is in their third game, and Yale is an unknown quantity. It’s something that all teams playing against Ivy League teams face, but at times it feels like something that the Patriot League has to deal with more.
Over the years, there’s been a back-and-forth debate: who benefits more, the team that’s had two weeks to work out the kinks, or the team that has the element of surprise?
“I’d like to believe we have the upper hand,” head coach Andy Coen said this week, “because we have played two games and you’d hope that Yale will make some first-game mistakes and we’ll be able to take advantage of them.”
Yale’s sophomore QB Kurt Rawlings had a different perspective.
“Being able to go in and have two weeks rather than [against] most teams [when] we only get to prepare for one week [has been a plus],” Rawlings said. “Having two weeks to be able to study up and almost know what they’re going to be showing and doing, is certainly going to help us. … They beat us last season, but I’m really excited. I think we’re going to do pretty good against them.”
(Photo Credit: Monmouth Athletics)
Football is a physical game, and it requires a tremendous amount of strength to line up, play after play, to push people around down after down.
As a result football games sometimes can evolve into contests where the teams push each other around, and such games can end up where one team gets worn down and the other pulls away for a big victory.
That’s what happened this weekend at Monmouth.
The Hawks started out behind the eight-ball early, falling behind by two scores, and then rallying to take a 27-21 lead relatively early in the third quarter. But the physical beating, slowly and surely, took its toll, eventually knocking the offense out of kilter and the pushing the defense out of the way for their powerful running game. In the end, Lehigh only could be punched in the mouth so many times, and fell, 46-27.
It was an especially hard loss to take because this isn’t how the 2017 season was supposed to happen.
“The tougher man wins,” head coach Andy Coen said after the game. “They were a lot tougher and more physical than we were.”
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(Photo Credit: Kyle Craig/Lehigh Valley Live)
Head coach Andy Coen would hear nothing of moral victories in the post game press conference.
“I thought we had every opportunity to win this football game,” Lehigh’s frustrated head coach said.
“When you go through this stuff,” he said, flipping through the pages of the post-game statistics packet, “you’re going to see a lot of mistakes. You see it with some young guys, guys in their first game, but we had some guys that where it was just out of character.”
It was a game where neither side looked like they were in mid-season form, though you could see the quality shine through offensively on both sides at different times. So the outcome hinged on mistakes, and who made fewer of them – and that team was Villanova.
That shouldn’t take away from the offensive fireworks on both sides.
There was the tremendous blocking up front that set up a great rushing day for Villanova RB Matt Gudzak, who ran for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and an effecient all-purpose yardage of a day for Wildcat QB Zach Bednarczyk, who went 17 for 23 passing and scored three touchdowns, two through the air and on the ground.
And there was the electricity of junior QB Brad Mayes repeatedly connecting with senior WR Troy Pelletier, senior WR Gatlin Casey, and the newest starter in the receiving corps, junior WR Luke Christiano. Mayes went 33 for 49 passing for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, and some of them were a sight to behold.
Yet it would boil down to mistakes – a pass here with too much mustard, a dropped reception there, a missed assignment there – and Lehigh simply made too many of them to beat a quality Top 10 ranked team at home.
“After the game, and we all got in our circle,” coach Coen said, “and I just told them all, you guys need to look into your mirror, and see how you feel about what you did or didn’t do right. They were a very good football team, and I give them a lot of credit – they were very fast, and very physical. This was an opportunity for us to beat a very good Villanova team, and also an opportunity to beat someone from the CAA, which I thought would be very important for us. We didn’t get it done.”
It’s different when you’re returning champions.
That much was clear when sifting through all the preseason print pieces and videos covering the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
Expectations return – you’re no longer the “hunter”, as head coach Andy Coen explained, you’re the “hunted”.
Managing those expectations has been almost as important for this Lehigh football team as the regular conditioning and X and O’s drills of camp.
The common thread with the many print and video pieces and the many interviews is a sense of maturity and a businesslike ethic around this team, especially amongst its leadership.
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Spotlight On: QB Brad Mayes
Rightfully, much of the focus of Lehigh’s football coverage this offseason has been on the offense. That makes sense; after all, Lehigh ranked near the top of every receiving and rushing category in 2016.
Yet most of that coverage has been on guys that have been on preseason FCS all-American teams (senior WR Troy Pelletier, junior RB Dominick Bragalone) or probably should have been on more of them (senior WR Gatlin Casey).
Oddly, the focus on those all-League caliber players have shifted the focus from what could be the most important transition from the 2016 offense to the 2017 offense – the transition to a new starting quarterback.
Certainly, junior QB Brad Mayes was no ordinary understudy for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks last season.
Though technically he did back up QB Nick Shafnisky, he showcased his obvious talent multiple times last year, most notably breaking a Yale Bowl record with 524 passing yards and scoring 6 passing touchdowns in a 63-35 win over Yale.
Much press has rightfully gone to the receivers and running backs, but the direction of the 2017 football season might come down to the play of the quarterback whose number switched from No. 14 to No. 4 this season.
“I think Troy and Dom are outstanding players and they deserve all the recognition they’ve been getting,” Brad told me. “And I’m excited to play alongside those guys, because that makes my job that much easier.”
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