Archive For The “Ed Mish” Category
According to the FCS record books for 2017, there are 123 Division I schools listed in the team statistical Rankings.
Out of 123 teams, Lehigh was ranked 119th in total team defense, allowing 477.7 yards per game.
And the defensive numbers don’t get much better the more you look.
Rushing defense, 117th. Passing yards allowed, 89th. Team sacks, 118th. Red zone defense, 103rd.
Total sacks in 12 games: 10, or 0.8 per game. Total interceptions in 12 games: 4, or 0.25 per game. Total takeaways: 13, or a little over 1 per game.
Though the final defensive numbers from 2017 are unable to be sugar-coated, nobody involved with Lehigh’s defense is running away from the facts this spring. In fact, they feel they are better than this.
“When you hear so much about your defense not being good,” defensive coordinator Craig Sutyak said this week, “you start to believe it, and I think our kids started to believe it too the last couple of years. But we’re not going to beat ourselves. We’re going to have faith in ourselves, faith in the guys next to us, and we’re going to continue to grow as a unit.”
It has been a most unusual season for Lehigh.
Starting the year off at 0-5 and getting swept in their out-of-conference schedule, the Mountain Hawks were in danger of having their season go off the rails.
But two things have come together over the last five football games that have put Lehigh on the brink of back-to-back championships.
The first is the late blooming of the Lehigh defense, which kept battling every week since the low point of the September 30th loss to Wagner to do the job in four of their five Patriot League conference games.
The second is the development of junior RB Dominick Bragalone into a bellcow running back, a back who has to be in the conversation for Patriot League offensive player of the year.
In five Patriot League games, Bragalone has run for 863 yards in 5 games, rushing for 11 touchdowns and adding two more receiving touchdowns as well.
The South Williamsport, PA native certainly wasn’t unknown before this week – after all, as a freshman and a sophomore, he had already rushed for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. But this year, where he’s amassed 1,200 yard rushing and an FCS-leading 16 rushing touchdowns, he’s gone into full Monster Mode, and Lehigh fans are loving every minute of it.
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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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In order to understand how UNH will be looking at this weekend’s game against Lehigh, you need to go back to the narrative of last week.
And then, you need to go back to the narrative from last year.
But first, let’s start with last week, where the Wildcats were not only battling their Rival Maine in the “Battle for the Brice/Cowell Musket”, they were battling to keep their playoff dreams alive.
The Wildcats, who had qualified for the FCS playoffs for twelve consecutive years, had fallen behind their bitter Rivals Maine, 14-7 at halftime.
With both teams at 6-4. it must have had the feel of a playoff game as well as a Rivalry game. The winner would likely have a good shot at a playoff game; the loser would likely be out.
And the starter, sophomore QB Trevor Knight, was out of the game with a foot injury. The backup, senior QB Adam Riese, would have to be the trigger guy to rally the Wildcats to the win.
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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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Death by boa constrictor does not come quickly. It comes when the snake puts light pressure on the circulatory system of its prey, seriously disrupting the blood flow and causing the bloodflow system to go haywire, eventually causing cardiac arrest.
That’s a fairly accurate description of how the game flow went in Lehigh’s asphyxiating opening-day loss to Monmouth, 23-21.
With visions of Lehigh’s potent offense in their heads, most of the 4,828 fans in attendance thought they might see the type of offensive show they enjoyed the last time Lehigh played a football game at Murray Goodman stadium, something like the 49-35 win over their bitter Rivals Lafayette, for example.
Instead they saw the Monmouth boa constrictor slowly wrap itself around the Mountain Hawks and squeeze the life away, possession by possession.
The 2016 Mountain Hawks will be leaning on their offense to carry them in the early going on the season.
That’s because they return eight starters from last year’s squad, which was one of the more prolific offenses in all of FCS.
Looking over the stat sheet from 2015, there’s plenty of athletes carrying over that makes Lehigh Nation drool. The return of a sophomore that was a 1,000 yard rusher as a freshman. The return of an experienced quarterback that has started games each of the last three years. The return of a deep threat receivers that invokes fear in opposing defensive coordinators.
There’s not a lot of drama on the offensive side of the 2016 Lehigh football depth chart. But there’s a lot that has Lehigh Nation extremely excited about the potential for this year.
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Everything about the 2015 season screamed “rebuilding,” even if the Lehigh faithful never really could bring themselves to completely believe it.
Lehigh was coming from a frustrating 2014 where the Mountain Hawks came close to beating James Madison at home, but couldn’t finish the game, making Lehigh slide to an uncharacteristic 3-8 record.
There was the departure in the offseason of RB Chris Leigh, the one player that scored a touchdown for the Mountain Hawks in the 150th meeting between Lafayette and Lehigh in Yankee Stadium, and RB Brandon Yosha, the transfer running back that battled injury and chop blocks leading to his retirement from football as well.
With pretty much any other team and any other fan base, expectations for the year would have been low. But at Lehigh, expectations are sky-high, for better or for worse, all the time. Perhaps it’s the historic success of the program; perhaps it’s the fans, who are spoiled by all the Patriot League championships, wins over Lafayette, and FCS playoff wins, but that’s what playing at Lehigh is all about.
What the 2015 Mountain Hawks will be best known for is righting the ship from that awful 2014 to return to the winning ways that all Lehigh fans seem to expect. Going into the 2015 offseason, the Mountain Hawks 6-5 record wasn’t good enough to win a Patriot League championship – though they came very, very close – but it definitely shows that the foundation has been rebuilt for future success.
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Not that long ago, Lehigh football players had to take those dreaded 4 O’Clock exams, an essential, dreaded part of the Lehigh experience.
Today, though the 2015 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are getting areport card of a different sort.
Past the halfway point of the season, it’s time to take a step back and see where the Mountain Hawks are, and where they need to go to get back to the top of the Patriot League.
The season, as befitting a young team, has been inconsistent. At times, Lehigh has looked like a team that could possibly win the Patriot League title. At other times, though, they haven’t.
Fortunately for all Lehigh fans, the Mountain Hawks last game, a gritty 21-10 win over Bucknell, was the equivalent of acing the mid-term exam. That win, which brought Lehigh back to a 3-3 record, was huge. But tougher challenges await in the last five weeks of the season.
It doesn’t take an Engineer to see that much is expected of Lehigh football’s underclassmen this season.
As Lehigh football fans start looking at the season opener, a mere 5 days away, they’re looking at their theoretic depth charts and see some recurring themes:
Freshman. Freshman. Sophomore. Freshman. Sophomore.
Football is the ultimate team game, where experience counts in terms of knowing what it takes to win Division I football games. Yet up and down Lehigh’s roster, it’s very evident: to win in 2015, head coach Andy Coen will be relying on his underclassmen in a big way – underclassmen who will be a big part of this season.
“Thery’re going to get their opportunities early,” coach Coen told me during Patriot League Media day earlier this month. “I think we have 54-56 guys that are going to be freshman, sophomore-level eligibility. And there are going to be some kids from that freshman class that are going to play – that’s without a doubt.”
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