Archive For The “Jorge Portorreal” Category
(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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We’ve all been there, Lehigh fans. I know I was as an undergrad.
You enter the mid-term needing something big to save a bad grade, so you work furiously, trying to catch up on months of the readings you should have been doing, going over homework you skipped for some good reason – that good reason escapes you now, of course – to try to ace the midterm that can pull your grade back up from the dead.
With copious amounts of coffee, you go over the readings, taking the notes you should have been taking all along. You stay up all night to go over all the material, catching several catnaps during the morning. You finally enter the classroom of the test – and you deliver the grade you needed. You save your GPA, and you find yourself finally back on track – and then you collapse in a heap of bones on your bed.
OK, maybe the Colgate victory was not quite like that.
In a way, though, it feels like it – the win injects a huge measure of hope into a season that was pointed in the wrong direction, and allows Lehigh Nation to look at the midseason as a place to keep winning games and to possibly fight and claw their way to another Patriot League Championship.
LFN’s midseason grades are below.
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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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“We’re looking for positives,” Steve Degler of Lehigh Sports Central said several times.
And coach Andy Coen did mention a few positive things, like the play of junior RB Dominick Bragalone, and the improved play of Lehigh’s defense.
But he also mentioned how important it was to “educate his players” about the rivalry Lehigh has with Colgate as well – how playing up in Hamilton is never easy and this game is a rivalry game.
“Next to the Lafayette rivalry, I look to Colgate next,” Andy said. “We have to educate our young players that this rivalry is a very, very tough one, and I know Colgate view themselves as the toughest guys going, and we need to prove they are tougher than they are.”
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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Stop me if you’ve read this before.
“Lehigh gives up a couple of early touchdowns. The Mountain Hawks rally, but mistakes doom them – they turn over the ball on offense, give up some big plays on defense, and special teams miscues make it harder to come back, and they get blown away in the second half.”
It describes the Villanova game, it describes the Monmouth game, and now, unfortunately, it also now describes the Yale game this weekend.
On Saturday, the Mountain Hawks gave up a couple of early touchdowns. Undeterred, Lehigh would get a couple stops and take advantage of good special teams play, and rally to make it a one point game. Then, a pass interference call would resurrect a Yale touchdown drive, then a Yale sack and fumble recovery would set up another Yale score at the end of the half for a 28-13 edge at halftime.
At the beginning of the second half, Lehigh would score a quick-strike touchdown, but would give up a touchdown in response, getting outscored 28-14 in the second half en route to the defeat.
It’s the script that Lehigh has found themselves following the last three weeks, and until Lehigh deviates from that script, the Mountain Hawks will find themselves winless.
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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.”