Know Your 2014 Opponents: James Madison

(Photo Credit: Lehigh Athletics)

When the Dukes come to Murray Goodman Stadium this September 6th, it won't quite be a full decade since James Madison last came to Bethlehem.

But the occasion of that almost-decade-old meeting - the first round of the FCS playoffs in 2004 - is not easily forgotten by either side.

For fans of the Purple and Gold, it was the first step towards a memorable FCS National Championship run - all four wins coming on the road.

For fans of the Brown and White, however, the memory always goes back to those seven downs.
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Posted in 2004, Dean Marlowe, Everett Withers, FcS Playoffs, Football, James Madison, Know Your 2014 Opponents, Lehigh, Mickey Matthews, Vad Lee | Leave a comment

1912: Lehigh Climbs The Summit For Their First Rivalry Win In Four Years

Going into the 1912 season, the Rivalry was at a point when Lafayette was a dominant force over the Brown and White.

In an era where Princeton, Yale, and the Carlisle Indian School all competed for the top, Lafayette was right there alongside the top teams in the nation.

And soon, Lehigh would be in the conversation once again as well.

In 1911, Lehigh announced their seriousness to vault back into contention by signing four key transfers, including a future Brown and White hall-of-fame quarterback, QB Pat Pazzetti, from Wesleyan.

"The Pennsylvania college is pulling strongly for a record-breaking football team this year - hoping to put one on their old rival, Lafayette - and is doing all in its power to get the athletes in the institution," The Lafayette reported.
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Posted in 1912, A Rivalry: Stories From The Most-Played College Football Series, Book, Football, Lafayette, Lehigh, Pat Pazzetti, Rivalry, Tom Keady | Leave a comment

1893: Lehigh’s Powerful Team Helps University Cope With Uncertainty

It was common knowledge in 1893 that Lehigh was a rich institution.

“[Our] forced economy in itself is a great hindrance to our success in athletic competitions,” a 1890s letter sent out by Lafayette’s alumni committee said.  “Our nearest antagonists - Lehigh, Princeton, Pennsylvania - are now so wealthy, that we, with our comparatively untrained teams, are at great disadvantage.  Our alumni all desire our success but few realize how much this success depends on them.”

Thanks in no small part to Asa Packer’s bequest to Lehigh of a huge sum of money and stock after his death in 1879, the University was the richest institution of higher learning at that time, surpassing, according to the New York Times, even Harvard and Yale.

The vastness of Lehigh’s endowment was actually controversial.

“In one view, the gift is the noblest one of the kind ever made,” the New York Times said of the bequest, “for it establishes the only institution - so far as we know - which gives absolutely free tuition to all comers, rich or poor.  It is merely in an economic sense that the opinion is expressed that any addition to the more than 300 colleges now dwarfing and starving one another in this country is wicked waste of resources.”

For more than a decade Asa’s success in building the railway and navigating the business dealings of the railroad barons kept his family, and Lehigh University, rich, even a decade after his death.

But in 1893 that would begin to change.
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Posted in 1893, A Rivalry: Stories From The Most-Played College Football Series, Asa Packer, Book, Football, Godwin Ordway, Lafayette, Lehigh, Walter Okeson | Leave a comment

1887: Lehigh’s First-Ever Win

Lafayette dominated the early Rivalry, but in the late 1880s the tides turned dramatically, thanks to a play devised by the founder of Lehigh’s football program.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the origins of the play have also been disputed with a distinct Lehigh/Lafayette flavor.

The “V Trick”, or “Lehigh V”, as it’s known in South Bethlehem, was a revolutionary play in college football at the time.

It involved, on a kick resulting in a change of possession, to have the eleven men form a “V” with interlocked arms to direct the mass of the entire team against a hapless weak link on the opposition’s line, with the halfback running behind the rush line.

This was especially effective after a kick, since the ten men would be able to run forward and get a head of steam going, applying their mass momentum to make larger gains.  To some, it was the basis of all the mass momentum plays that followed, such as the infamous “Flying Wedge” implemented by Harvard.

Though it would ultimately be banned, plays like the “V Trick” were an important historic milestone in the evolution of college football.

And the origins of the play come down to who you believe: Richard Harding Davis, the former Lehigh football player, or Parke H. Davis, the former Princeton and Lafayette football coach.
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Posted in 1887, A Rivalry: Stories From The Most-Played College Football Series, Book, Football, Lafayette, Lehigh, Parke Davis, Richard Harding Davis, Rivalry, The 150th | Leave a comment

1884: The Birth of A Rivalry

The same year Lehigh and Lafayette started their football Rivalry, the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty was laid down on Beldoe's Island on August 5th, 1884.

In attendance at that event was the president at that time, Republican Chester A. Arthur, and Democrat Grover Cleveland, who would win the presidential election later in the year.

In 1884, Mark Twain lived in a house just outside Hartford, Connecticut, a Victorian Gothic mansion where he and his family settled after he had penned The Innocents Abroad.  That year, in the upstairs billiards room, he wrote Huckleberry Finn.

More local to the Rivalry, in that same year the city of Easton would get electric power for the first time in its history.  “Electric lights now burn brightly in Easton’s streets,” the Lafayette student newspaper noted, “and in many of her business houses and places of amusement.”  (South Bethlehem wouldn’t get electric streetlights until 1887.)

It also would be year of the first-ever meetings between Lehigh and Lafayette on the gridiron, only a couple of years after the early collegiate athletic powers of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and others had established standardized rules for “rugby football”, as it was still called at the time.
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Posted in A Rivalry: Stories From The Most-Played College Football Series, Book, Football, J.S. Robeson, Lafayette, Lehigh, Richard Harding Davis, Rivalry, The 150th | Leave a comment

My Upcoming Books on the Rivalry: Confessions of a Book Writer

Now I know, dear Reader, you're not sitting there on your smartphone or computer waiting with baited breath as to why - dear God, why - have I not been cranking out blog postings on a regular basis over the last month.

But I'm going to tell you anyway.

Over the last few years I have been working on a book.

And the story of that book continues below the flip.
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Posted in Book, Football, Lafayette, Lehigh, Rivalry | Leave a comment

Patsy Ratings – Georgetown’s Class of 2018

In the distance, a lawnmower is heard on a bright, sunny day at Committee headquarters.  The caps and gowns from graduations across the East coast are hung up on the hooks at the door.  Half-empty bottles of scotch, and a few Yuengling bottles, litter the conference room table.

A knock is heard at the door.  A Committee member gets up from a pizza and beer-induced coma, and answers the door.

"Package from Georgetown," the UPS guy says.

The Committee member signs for the envelope, and opens it up.  It's the complete list of recruits for Georgetown's Class of 2018, complete with a plush stuffed Hoya.

"Ah yes," the Committee member mutters to himself.  "It's May, and it's about the time that both Hoya football fans turn their attention to recruiting."

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Posted in Class of 2018, Football, Georgetown, Lehigh, Patsy Ratings, Recruiting | Leave a comment

Brown Defense Starts Strong, But White Offense Wins The Day, 37-35

(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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Posted in Brandon Yosha, Brown/White Game, D.J. Kee, Derek Gaul, Football, Josh Parris, Lehigh, Nick Shafnisky, Spring, Stefan Sansone, Tim Newton | Leave a comment

Spring Season: Quarterbacks and Special Teams

Senior QB Matt McHale?  Hurt.  Got an injury that he's rehabbing that has him ruled out of spring ball.

Sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky?  Just this week, he got tendonitis in his throwing shoulder, which limited his time this spring.

Senior QB Gerard Poutier?  Sorry, no.  Still rehabbing a leg injury that he sustained last season.

Suddenly, a former walk-on athlete had gotten most of the reps this spring at the most important position on the field.

Senior QB Albert J. Visconti may not have been the guy that was hyped the most going into the spring, but the former walk-on now has the opportunity of a lifetime that's every walk-on's dream: a chance to be "the man" in the highlight of the spring football season.

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Posted in A.J. VIsconti, Austin Devine, Brandon Leaks, Derek Knott, Football, Josh Parris, Lehigh, Quarterbacks, Ryan Pandy, Special Teams, Spring Football | Leave a comment

Spring Season: Wideouts and Running Backs

It's hard being an offensive player at Lehigh, thanks to the shoes you have to fill.

This season, though, at wideout and running back, it's even more difficult than usual.

At running back, all the incoming backs need to be able to do is outdo the accomplishments of RB Keith Sherman - who only was Lehigh's first 1,000 yard rusher in the last eleven years, and also nearly carried last year's team on his back to a Patriot League championship.

And then there's wide receiver, where the highest profile offensive players in the last two years, WR Ryan Spadola and WR Lee Kurfis, were back-to-back FCS All-Americans and broke a good portion of Lehigh's receiving records.  Kurfis, too, nearly carried Lehigh on his back to the playoffs last season.  And Ryan is plyin his trade in the NFL, eager to break through onto the Dolphins' roster once again.

All the new group from this spring needs to do is to equal their level of excellence.  Simple, right?
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Posted in Alex Buford, Andy Coen, Brandon Yosha, Derek Gaul, Football, Josh Parris, Lehigh, Rich Sodeke, Running Backs, Spring Football, Wide Receivers | Leave a comment