Category Archives: Bucknell

The 2017 Patsy Ratings: No. 6, Bucknell

The smell of aged buffalo meat wafted through his imagination.

It was some prior incarnation of the Patsies, and it was Burger Day.  Flown in from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, they were the best bison burger meat the Big Sky had to offer, along with bonus buffalo milk cheddar slices.  The silky-tasting burgers, with the melted buffalo cheddar on fresh brioche, was a treasured memory.  Even the grilled mushrooms on the top seemed opulent in some way.

He also remembered the Bison's mascot, sitting down on the bench, awaiting the announcement of Bucknell's recruiting classes, Bucknell students waiting with baited breath hearing each name.

(Or perhaps they were in Sojka Pavillion for Midnight Madness, or a midweek game versus Loyola.  It's all a bit hazy.)

Nonetheless, it was still jarring to see a folder with coffee cup rings on it, "BUCKNELL" written on it in Sharpie and some numbers crossed out on it.  What happened?  Where were the burgers?

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Davenport, Kpassagnon Only Two Of Possible NFL Draftees Lehigh Faced Last Year

One of the more interesting aspects of covering Lehigh football for so long is the fact that you end up seeing future NFL players on their rise to the big show.

In fact, two players who squared off against the Mountain Hawks in particular have an excellent chance of being drafted on Day 2 or Day 3 of the NFL draft.

But those not the only Lehigh football opponents that will be hoping to get a phone call from an NFL team this Friday or Saturday.

Though few Patriot League, Ivy League or even CAA players enter their football programs with the NFL as their main goal, every football player that matriculates to these schools still harbor the dream of dominating their league and as a result get an opportunity to pursue their NFL dream.

And it is true that NFL scouts come to FCS football games to look for talent that might have been overlooked.  Many years ago I was in Hofstra's press box, watching the Pride take on New Hampshire, with NFL scouts from the Colts and Saints there to watch WR Marques Colston play.  The Saints decision to pursue Colston may very well have come from that game in Hempstead, New York.
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Seven Positive Thoughts About All the Patriot League Recruiting Classes

It's recruiting season.  Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated.  It's all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world.  In that, it's a win for everyone.

While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I'd comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.

This summart isn't a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of "starred recruits" (they list Holy Cross as the "winner"), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN's yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons "winner": Lehigh) or HERO Sports' list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the "winner").  It's just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.

Let's start.
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Earning A Championship Is Hard, But Lehigh Does So In 20-13 War Against Bucknell

When Lehigh players, coaches and fans went to bed on Friday night, they probably had visions of the Mountain Hawks' powerful offense attacking, and overwhelming, Bucknell to coast to a share of a Patriot League Championship and the conference's FCS Playoff bid.

About ten minutes into the game, the 7,049 fans in attendance had probably figured out that if Lehigh was going to win a championship, it wasn't going to be won like that.

It was going to have to be earned.  It was going to have to be grabbed from Bucknell, smashing them in the mouth the same way they were smashing us.

It cannot be emphasized enough how Lehigh had to earn every single inch of this Patriot League victory, how not easy this win really was.

How the Mountain Hawks fell behind, clawed and scratched back to get the lead.  How they had to stop the Bison stampede at key spots, get crucial turnovers, and fire up critical, difficult field goals by sophomore PK Ed Mish.  Even extra points, normally considered automatic, took on new dramatic tension.

The offense got punished on every single play up until the final couple of victory formations.  But in the end, it was not only a victory, but a victory of the most beautiful, rare sort - the type of win that officially buries the past.

"Sometimes the hardest ones are the ones you enjoy the most," Coen said. "When you're winning a championship, it should be hard. Bucknell made it hard on us today, but we're the ones with the trophy and I can't be more proud of a group of guys than I am of these guys."

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Are Patriot League Champs, Claw Back And Earn Title 20-13

Bucknell hardly made it easy.

The Bison jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and made the lead 13-7 on the backs of touchdowns by RB Joey DeFloria and RB Chad Freshnock.

With a chance to build on their lead, though, Lehigh's defense stopped Bucknell again, and again, and again.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawk defense, led by heroic performances by senior LB Colton Caslow (11 tackles) and senior LB Pierce Ripanti (10 tackles), forced two turnovers that became a field goal by sophomore PK Ed Mish and a critical stop on Lehigh's doorstep that preserved Lehigh's Patriot League Championship.

It was a fitting place, in a fitting game, for Lehigh to take this elusive Patriot League championship and to allow Lehigh to finally crash an FCS Playoff party they had been denied five years ago.  They overturned their loss to Lafayette here in 2013.  They overturned their 4th-and-5 at Colgate last year by a sophomore CB Donavon Harris interception that preserved the slender 7 point lead.

It was tough as hell, but Lehigh got their, um, stuff together, and won the damn championship.
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How Will I Watch Bucknell At Lehigh This Afternoon?


How will you watch Bucknell at Lehigh this afternoon?  What a ridiculous question.  Like me, you're headed to the stadium for a 12:37 kickoff.

Wait - really?  You're not going to Murray Goodman today?  Why not?  Unscheduled dental emergency?  Flying in from Buenos Aires?  Need to find out how to catch the game online, by a video stream or online radio?

Never fear.  LFN's here.

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Bucknell At Lehigh Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction: One Win Makes Lehigh The First Guaranteed Postseason Contender

We break down the Bucknell game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

In case you have been living under a rock - or maybe just new at this - there's a game going on this Saturday that's, um, pretty important to Lehigh's Patriot League title hopes.

To just go over the scenarios one more time, just so we're all on the same page, Lehigh is in the driver's seat this weekend.

If they beat Bucknell tomorrow, they are Patriot League champions - no worst than co-champions - and they will clinch the FCS autobid, being the first Division I football program in the nation to clinch a postseason berth.

If Bucknell wins, it opens the door for other possible not-so-good Mountain Hawk outcomes where Lehigh are co-champions without playoffs, or (if they lose to Bucknell and then to Lafayette), neither champions or playoff contenders.

Certainly a Lehigh win would allow all Mountain Hawk fans to know that, even after the 152nd meeting of The Rivalry, even after a sold-out crowd at Fisher Field in Easton, the Mountain Hawks football season would not end there.

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Bucknell At Lehigh Narrative Street: All Is Quiet On The Bucknellian Front

Anyone at all worried that it's just a wee bit too quiet from Lewisburg?  I am.

The narratives coming out of Bethlehem this week - emphatically, me included - are ones of possible Patriot League championships and how the offense is "clicking" and has been very, very good.

That's not usually a very good recipe for a big game for the home side, especially since word out of the Bucknell camp is very, very quiet, even though the Bison still are very much alive in the conversation of winning the Patriot League title and making Lehigh sit at home Thanksgiving weekend.

Last week, Bucknell traveled to the No. 9 team in the country, Charleston Southern, and proceeded to put up a very good fight in a game that didn't affect Bucknell's title chances one way or another.   Though the final tally was 49-28, Bucs, the Bison didn't go away quietly against Charleston Southern's triple-option attack, staying within a touchdown most of the way until the home team pulled away late.

“Our guys played their tails off today and I am proud of them,” Bucknell head coach Joe Susan said afterwards.   “We were able to take advantage of turnovers, but it was frustrating as the score got away from us. Charleston Southern is a very good football team.”

Want to get more worried?  Look at the comments from acting Charleston Southern head coach Chad Staggs, who was in that position after head coach Jamey Chadwell served a one-game suspension.

“I don’t know that we played our best today but you have to give some credit to (Bucknell),” Staggs said. “They came out in the first drive and sort of punched us in the mouth a little. We certainly have to play better, but we won the game.  I thought we matched them physically overall. We will look at the film and see how we played. We have to be more disciplined than we were today. We had way too many penalties today and that’s something we have to correct.”
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Bucknell at Lehigh Game Preview: Reversing A Mountain Hawks Curse

Perhaps you've heard that the Cubs, managed by a Lafayette grad called Joe Maddon, broke their more than century old championship drought vs. the Cleveland Indians last night.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawks' championship drought isn't quite as long as that.

But if the Brown and White hope to raise the trophy at Murray Goodman Stadium this weekend, they'll need to break a mini-curse of their own.

It refers to the Mountain Hawks' inability over the last four years to win both Game 10 and Game 11 on the schedule, specifically during the last four years.

There have been years that Lehigh has needed Game 10 to have a chance to win the Patriot League, but haven't been able to get it done.  There have been other years where they've needed Game 11 to do so, and missed.

When Games 10 and 11 have title implications, and when Lehigh wins those games, they tend to be Patriot League champs.  When they lose one or the other, there tends to be the type of hurt that the Indians got to experience firsthand last night.

The Lehigh seniors almost certainly remember how that feels, on the potential last day of their playing careers at Murray Goodman Stadium.


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Villanova 26, Lehigh 21 Postgame Thoughts: It’s Not How You Start, But How You Finish

I like winning.

Who doesn't?

Admittedly, it is a bit of a selfish impulse on my part.  It is always easier to recap a heroic made-for-TVesque Lehigh win than a loss.  Narratives and nicknames flow like water when games have outcomes like that.

Not so today, after Lehigh's 0-2 start.  It's harder to pull together the game recaps when the outcomes of the games instead show a team that is on the brink of learning how to win, but hasn't been able to figure out how to turn that corner.

Two games into the season, I don't see a Lehigh team that is necessarily bad, or pointed in the wrong direction.

Instead, I see a team that is trying to figure out how to put away a tough opponent and win football games.

And frankly, there's nothing wrong with that yet.

*****

Trying to hit the right tone after a loss like Saturday's poses a special challenge.

I've seen all sorts of Lehigh wins and losses.  I've seen all the highs and the lows of the Andy Coen era.

Makes Me Smile, Always
I've seen the most thrilling FCS playoff win I've ever seen in person at Towson, and I was at Yankee Stadium in November of 2014, the worst of all the Rivalry defeats by a team sporting Brown and White.

But by far the hardest games to get right are these "moral victories," where Lehigh plays a truly strong game across the board against a team that is expected to be a playoff team, but falls just short.

By any measure, Villanova is a strong team at this point of the year.  Their defense held Pitt to only 28 points, a squad that turned around and hung 42 on Penn State.  If you're grading on a curve, Lehigh's offense scoring 21 points on this daunting unit - not bad.

Sitting at No. 19 in the FCS Coaches' poll, the Wildcats were a playoff team last year, and were picked to finish 4th in the CAA, behind the No. 2 team in the nation that eviscerated Virginia in Week 1 (Richmond), and two current Top 25 teams that were also FCS playoff teams last season, William & Mary and James Madison.

Given a recent history like that, many rightfully expected that Lehigh might struggle against the Wildcats, as is befitting their ranking.

They Are Pretty Good
But that's not what happened.

On the road, the Mountain Hawks came in and came back from a 6-0 deficit to go up 14-6 at half, stuffing the Villanova run game on 4th-and-1 and orchestrating two excellent scoring drives.  At times during that half, Coen said in the post-game presser said that the Mountain Hawks "dominated the line-of-scrimmage at times."  Against such a quality team like Villanova, that's very positive.

We all know the rest of the story: in a game of inches, Lehigh came up just short on 4th and 10 to turn over the ball on downs.

Yet that escapes a key point: against the No. 19 team in the country, the Mountain Hawks were in a position to win.

Which is, of course, the conundrum of the coverage of the game.  They were right there!  They had a chance to win what could have been a season-defining game that pushes them through a daunting out-of-conference schedule that features three awfully tough Ivy League opponents in defending Ivy League co-champions Penn, always-tough Princeton, and Yale at the Yale Bowl, a place where Lehigh hasn't won in over a decade.

But it didn't happen that way.  Instead, Lehigh starts out 0-2.

The end result is a mix of happiness that the Mountain Hawks were in it, and yet undeniably frustrating that Lehigh, on the brink of achieving a season-defining upset, came one or two yards short of the goal.

I think the most important thing to remember is how this loss, in the end, will not define Lehigh's season.

My mind keeps drifting back to Colgate, and the Raiders' 2015 season in particular.

If you were "Colgate Football Nation" at this stage of the 2015 season, two games in, the Raiders started the season 0-2.

They got trounced by Navy, 48-10, and then got pulverized by New Hampshire the following week, 26-8.

Would Colgate Football Nation have rushed to the exits, saying that things needed "fixing" and saying the season was on the brink of disaster?

Sure, there was a higher level of concern among the fans when Yale pulled off a miracle comeback to beat the Raiders the following week, 29-28, to give Colgate an 0-3 start.

Not a Panic Moment for Colgate Fans
But, crucially, the wheels didn't come off most of that fanbase.  Frankly, they're used to an early-season schedule of incredibly daunting opponents, a trend that continued last weekend when their ancient Rival Syracuse pounded them 33-7 in the first game of the Dino Babers era.

After Colgate's 0-3 start, in what was unquestionably the most crucial game of the season, an away game at Holy Cross, it was the Raiders successfully pulling away late in the second half for a 31-14 victory.

It set the tone for the rest of the season, and you know the rest of that story.  It ended with a Patriot League championship, wins over Fordham and Lehigh, a rematch win over New Hampshire, and a shock victory over James Madison.

Looking back now, it's easy to see that Colgate team as one that took some time to find itself.  But they did, and it happened in spite of the two hugely lopsided losses in the first two weeks.

Colgate fans that stayed the course after their 0-2 start were rewarded.

What about other fanbases after this past football weekend?

Is Fordham Football Nation ready to put their team in the FCS national championship game after eviscerating an 0-2 Division II team 83-21, a game that was 31-0 at one point and ended up as a glorified practice in the second half?

Is Georgetown Football Nation starting to panic after only beating Marist 20-17, relying on a 4th down touchdown pass to preserve victory?  Are they asking to revoke the need-based aid of their starting quarterback?

Probably not panic button time for Bison
Is Bucknell Football Nation in the dumps after giving up 30 points to last year's NEC champions and FCS playoff participants Duquensne?  Are they calling for the offensive coordinator's head and asking for a switch to the Wing-T?

What about the two other Patriot League teams that lost last weekend, Holy Cross and Lafayette?  Are their fanbases crying that the season is over after losing to New Hampshire and Delaware last weekend?

If they are, they are missing the point of this part of the preseason.

The nature of the first two games of the season is that they're an "incomplete".  Would season-defining wins been welcome?  Definitely.  But they're no reason to panic.

For my part, after sleeping on it and getting over how Lehigh was this close to beating the No. 19 team in the nation, I see a lot to be hopeful about for the rest of the season.  There was a lot of improvement from the first weekend, and there's no reason to believe that the improvement won't continue going into next weekend's visit to Franklin Field.

I don't know what the future has in store for Lehigh in the next three out-of-conference games, before a no-doubt-about-it important game vs. Colgate in October.  But what I do think is that this team deserves everyone's patience over the next three weeks.  Based on a very good performance on Saturday - one that came up a yard short - that's the least we can do for them.