Agony and One Regret After Watching My Team Lose a Huge Game

I grew up in a family where the men didn't easily show their emotions, a character trait that extended itself to sports.

It certainly didn't help that one grandfather, a proud military man that stormed the beach in Normandy, had seen and experienced things that were a whole lot bigger than sports, though he enjoyed watching Major League Baseball's "Game of the Week" as well as college football.  It also didn't help that another grandfather, though a loyal corporate employee and Boston Red Sox fan, lived through a period of such baseball and pro football angst that there was little to truly celebrate except the Sox's latest collapse or broken dreams.  (And the Pats were the definition of mediocre.)

My father, too, has always been a sports fan but also didn't do things like swear under his breath at the TV, stand up watching the game because "sitting down ruins the luck", or speak in tongues because his favorite team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  

As I watched New Orleans lose tonight on an utterly devastating play - whether it was THE most devastating play in NFL postseason history will have to be debated by historians - I sat down in my chair for the first time in over an hour.  My son, not always one to watch football games but was caught up in this one, was next to me, and I gave my son a warning.

"Never root for a team," I told him, almost immediately regretting in afterwards.
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LFN’s Top Blog Reads of 2017

We're approaching the end of 2017, and it's been an interesting year where Lehigh football fans have experienced a multitude of emotions: anger; sadness; redemption, and, finally, joy.

As you all know, the Mountain Hawks came back from the precipice of a disastrous season to come back and win back-to-back Patriot League championships and back-to-back FCS Playoff appearances.

In that vein, I thought I'd share the best and most-read LFN pieces from last season, from No. 10 to No. 1.

Going through all my stuff from the past year, these were the pieces that really stood out to me.
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Lehigh Inks 12 On Early Signing Day, And Here Are My Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein/NJ Advance Media)

Yesterday, Lehigh announced the signing of 12 football student-athletes to National Letters of Intent, or NLI's.

Nobody knew exactly what was going to happen in regards to student-athletes, whether they would sign national letters of intent, or not.

What ended up happening was a floodgate of signings, not just at Lehigh but across college football.

I entered Wednesday thinking that a good target for announced Lehigh football recruits was six, based on little other than my history of observing this stuff.  As it stood, I saw schools like Delaware announcing six football recruits signed before breakfast, and Lehigh had inked their sixth recruit well before I had my leftover General Tso's chicken for lunch.

It wasn't just amongst Patriot League or FCS schools, either.  Penn State signed 21 recruits, including one of the top athletes of the Lehigh Valley, who flipped to the Nittany Lions from UCLA.  Some estimates speculate that when the dust settles on this early signing period, over half of eligible football recruits will have signed with their schools.

For the student-athletes and their families, committing during this time offers some great benefits.  It binds the schools' scholarship offers to the student-athletes, and can pull the plug on some of the signing-day circuses that have sprung up in years past.  It also moves much of the pomp and circumstance to the end of the second marking period, an academic lull where tests are complete and there is time to have a celebratory signing ceremony in the library.

Overall, early signing day seems to be a major win for the student-athletes, who get to commit earlier, get to worry less, and get to experience the celebration for their collegiate signings that is becoming more and more the norm at a time when it suits them better.  Whether you love the process or hate it, this way of doing it seems to have a lot of benefits, and it's here to stay.
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Patriot League Commit Tracker, Class of 2022

(Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein/NJ Advance Media)

With this year's early signing period in December, along with traditional signing day in February and additional signing of recruits up until May, it felt like the right time to resurrect the Patriot League Commit Tracker for the class of 2022.

This is intended to be a rolling list, updated as we go, as student-athletes going to any Patriot League school sign National Letters of Intent.

We don't know the whole story yet behind each school's recruiting class.  But this post is intended to put in one place what we know so far.

As I learn more, I will add more names to each list.
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With Early Signing Period Approaching, What Does Each Patriot League Football Program Need?

You may not be aware that this year the NCAA has not one, but two, signing day periods this year.

Coined "Show Your Cards Day" by Arizona director of personnel Matt Dudek, Sports Illustrated calls it this "because programs and recruits now have to make their intentions clear to one another while the programs and the recruits still have time to make other arrangements."

Here at LFN, we agree that "Show Your Cards" day is an accurate way of describing the brave new world of football recruiting.  And, like all NCAA rules, this affects the Patriot League as well as the Big 10, Pac 12 or any other Division I conference.

For Patriot League programs, what cards are likely to be revealed?  What are the recruiting needs of each school going into early signing day?  Here at LFN, we take a stab at predicting what might be revealed this week.
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Remembering Lehigh’s Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond's team - a win that might have kept the Blue Hens out of the playoffs that year, and might have allowed Lehigh to squeeze into the playoffs at 10-1 with a precious at-large bid.  (And they did it on homecoming!  Homecoming!  "It was one of the most enjoyable wins I've ever had," Higgins said years afterwards.)

The other memory that came rushing back was the run-up to Delaware's home I-AA playoff football game a year later.  I remember the visceral excitement that I had that Lehigh was going to have a chance to beat Delaware twice in two years at their place.  And I was looking in the newspaper for what Tubby Raymond had to say about Lehigh.  Nothing.

And Tubby's 2001 team simply shut up, and hit Lehigh in the mouth repeatedly in a 47-22 rout that wasn't as close as the final score might indicate.  When RB Antawn Jenkins dove over a Lehigh player into the end zone to punctuate Delaware's 33rd unanswered point after Lehigh briefly went up 10-7, I felt like I was smashed in the mouth, and I wasn't even suited up.

After the game, Tubby was hugely respectful to the Mountain Hawks, turning from Disney villain to charmer in a single stroke.  "We ought to play Lehigh every year," he said, favorably comparing the Mountain Hawks to any team on their Atlantic 10 schedule.  "It's a great game and a great national rivalry."

And that was Tubby Raymond, in a nutshell to Lehigh players, coaches and fans - a mixture of competitive verbal needling (that sometimes cut close to the bone), enough so that you wanted to see him beat more than any head football coach in America.  He tended to back up the talk with excellent teams - when Lehigh teams beat Delaware, these were not ordinary wins - they were gems, and when the Mountain Hawks lost to his teams, they were crushing.  And then, when the clock read 0:00, win or lose, Tubby would say something that made it hurt just a little bit less, allow you to regroup, and make you want to circle Delaware on the schedule for next year.

I never had the honor of meeting Tubby Raymond, but he had an awful lot to do with my passion for Lehigh football, and for that I am grateful for him.
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Lehigh Wrestling Gets Superstar Treatment at PPL Center. Lehigh Football Needs The Same At Murray Goodman.

"We knew it would be nice," Lehigh wrestling head coach Pat Santoro said. "But it was even better than we expected."

Pat was talking about the reception his Lehigh wrestling squad experienced at Allentown's PPL Center this weekend, when a sellout crowd over nearly 10,000 people came to watch No. 1 Penn State grapple with No. 5 Lehigh in a collegiate wrestling event.

It was, by all accounts, something special to behold. 

"I thought it was really cool and an exciting place to wrestle," said Penn State wrestler Nick Nevills. "These fans were really into it, a rowdy bunch. It's a lot more fun as an athlete to wrestle in an environment like this. I'd say it was one of the most exciting times I have had in my career."

The sense of spectacle at the PPL center, though, puts a spotlight on what more can be done at Lehigh itself to make their athletic contests into spectacles.  It requires money to be spent and energy to be expended.  But the result is the extra excitement that makes the student-athletes' careers.
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Pelletier, Casey, Mayes, And Lehigh Offense Put On A Show In 59-29 Loss To Stony Brook

(Photo Credit: Alec Turner c/o Lehigh Athletics)

For those that care about these things, Lehigh entered the first round FCS playoff matchup 21 1/2 point underdogs.

And if we're being fair, that was probably the right number.

The Seawolves were 9-2, nationally ranked with seven conference wins in the tough CAA and one of their losses coming to a very strong FBS team in South Florida.  In contrast, unranked Lehigh came into the game 5-6 and only were here because they upset Colgate 41-38 on the road and won enough Patriot League conference games to win the autobid.

Yet a young Lehigh team was game to put their best foot forward and to have a heroic sendoff for potential NFL prospect senior WR Troy Pelletier, and in that, the game was a rousing success.

With junior QB Brad Mayes expertly picking apart one of the top defenses in FCS, time after time he'd find Troy for reception after reception, each one highlighting his impressive skill set as an audition for the next level.

It wouldn't be enough to win the game, but it was enough to keep the Mountain Hawks within striking distance until the Seawolves would pull away in the 4th quarter.

It was also enough to establish Troy as the all-time greatest receiver in Patriot League history.
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Lehigh Battles Hard, But Gets Blown Out 59-29 To Stony Brook In 1st Round of FCS Playoffs

It was marginally better than last seasons 1st round loss to New Hampshire, but it still wasn't close.

After holding Stony Brook scoreless in the first quarter and battling back to a 24-14 deficit at halftime, Stony Brooks' 2-play, 77 yard drive where QB Joe Carbone found TE Cal Daniels for a 40 yard touchdown pass to make it 31-14.  Despite a couple of second half touchdowns to keep it somewhat close, Stony Brook would add four more touchdowns in the second half to really pull away from the Mountain Hawks.

Statistically, Lehigh battled pretty hard most of the way - especially on offense, when senior WR Troy Pelletier concluded his Division I football career as gaining the most receiving yards in Patriot League history.  On the day he had 10 catches for 94 yards and a terrific touchdown grab that undoubtedly caught the eyes of some NFL scouts.

Junior QB Brad Mayes (33-for-48 passing, 333 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and junior RB Dominick Bragalone (75 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD) showed that they should be a great returning duo for next season with great performances, while senior WR Gatlin Casey (11 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) finished out his Lehigh career with a stellar performance as well.

Tune in later for a fuller recap.

Lehigh Battles Hard, But Gets Blown Out 59-29 To Stony Brook In 1st Round of FCS Playoffs

It was marginally better than last seasons 1st round loss to New Hampshire, but it still wasn't close.

After holding Stony Brook scoreless in the first quarter and battling back to a 24-14 deficit at halftime, Stony Brooks' 2-play, 77 yard drive where QB Joe Carbone found TE Cal Daniels for a 40 yard touchdown pass to make it 31-14.  Despite a couple of second half touchdowns to keep it somewhat close, Stony Brook would add four more touchdowns in the second half to really pull away from the Mountain Hawks.

Statistically, Lehigh battled pretty hard most of the way - especially on offense, when senior WR Troy Pelletier concluded his Division I football career as gaining the most receiving yards in Patriot League history.  On the day he had 10 catches for 94 yards and a terrific touchdown grab that undoubtedly caught the eyes of some NFL scouts.

Junior QB Brad Mayes (33-for-48 passing, 333 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and junior RB Dominick Bragalone (75 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD) showed that they should be a great returning duo for next season with great performances, while senior WR Gatlin Casey (11 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) finished out his Lehigh career with a stellar performance as well.

Tune in later for a fuller recap.

The Bonds That Tie The Lehigh Family Are Strong, May They Never Be Broken