Category Archives: Lafayette

The 2017 Patsy Ratings: No. 2, Lafayette

Frank Tavani always made sure the Patsies were celebrated in downtown Easton.

Perhaps it was the Bourger Field House needing an event to host in February when the men's wrestling team was out of town, or that field hockey practice was finishing up - the shindigs that Bourger fielded back in those days were great.

All that steak, not overcooked, was barbecued outside, filling the Eastonian air with charred meats usually only present during Lafayette/Lehigh week.  Many students would come up - giving up their vegan diets, maybe just this one time - to eat beautiful steak sandwiches, and to sip delicious Coke under huge cardboard cutouts of their beloved head coach.

Today, Lafayette has a new head football coach, and so far there's no Coke billboards with head coach John Garrett on them.  And there was no smell of steak as the Committee got the folder filled with the printouts of Lafayette's Patsy Ratings class.

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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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Frank Tavani Retires After Thirty Years Of Rivalries And Thirty Years At Lafayette

The first time I asked a question of Lafayette head football coach Frank Tavani was in 2004.

It was at Fisher Field, and I had just spent my first game ever in the press box.

I had gone into that press box hoping to cover an expected Lehigh victory over Lafayette, the final crowning glory to yet another Lehigh football season.

I barely knew what I was doing, how I should act, or how to set up a computer in the press box.  But there I was, taking notes for a "game diary" for a national website called I-AA.org.

I had proven my bona fides for writing by penning a very long, very detailed summary of the Lehigh/Colgate game a few weeks prior.  That game, a Lehigh victory that went down to the wire, was sort-of a precursor to the type of coverage I do now during Lehigh games in terms of tweeting, except rather than tweet it out instantly to followers, I would write all the observations down, shuffle them up, edit them, and put them in a thousand-word article.  (Trust me when I say it made sense at the time.)

But Lehigh did not beat Lafayette in 2004.

Instead, fourth year head coach Frank Tavani's team would dominate the Mountain Hawks on both lines of scrimmage to secure a well-deserved 24-10 victory, and in so doing punched their first-ever ticket to the I-AA Playoffs.

It was in this environment where I would first ask a question of Frank Tavani, that year a finalist for the Eddie Robinson award for the best head coach in I-AA football.
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Fate Determined That Lehigh Would Crush The Sweet Dreams Of Their Rival Lafayette, 45-21

The parties raged on in the parking garage next to Fisher Field, which were packed with Lafayette fans eager to enjoy a party with plenty of great food and copious drinks.

The tiny businesses below Fisher Field, the small bits of capitalism next to the concrete husks of factory jobs that have left ages ago, had plenty of visiting Lehigh fans, enjoying the tailgates and ready to invade the stadium that they hadn't seen in four years.

In the line coming into the stadium, a silent protest of hundreds of Lafayette students clad in black, handing out a political statement on a piece of paper and showing some signs that were up seemingly to simply show that these people exist, and are not happy.

Somewhere in this mix of people escaping, people expressing and people denying, a football game was played, one that matched an 8-2 team that was headed to the national stage and the FCS playoffs, the other a 2-8 squad that had their fans questioning the tenure of their head coach.

It was one of the strangest disconnect of emotions that I've ever seen in a Rivalry game, one where the outcome, a 45-21 victory by the Brown and White, was almost expected by everyone going through the crowded gates at Fisher Field.

There was plenty to celebrate - for one side, anyway.
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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Dominates The Leopards In A 45-21 Rivalry Win

In the most-played college football Rivalry, there was a mild concern of complacency on the Lehigh side.

Would they be able to manage the emotions of the Rivalry after a bye week?  Would they come out flat, and let 2-8 Lafayette take away their chance at an outright Patriot League championship, an undefeated Patriot League record, and a 9-2 regular season mark?

The Mountain Hawks proved resoundingly that fans needn't have worried.

Lehigh rolled to a 17-0 lead before Lafayette connected on a big pass play, then kept the foot on the gas to get to a 45-7 lead before starting to put in the second stringers.

It was pretty telling that the biggest outpouring of emotion during the game happened when Lehigh's marching band, the Marching 97, marched off Lafayette's pep band after they went over on their time to play.  It was that sort of day for a joyous Lehigh victory.
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#Rivalry152 Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction: Don’t Sell Lafayette Short

We break down #Rivalry152 - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

When you take away The Rivalry, when you take away the emotions, when you take away the craziness, the energy - what do we have?  When you look at the Xs and Os, what do you have?

Certainly, this game, like every Rivalry game, will be dictated and informed by emotion.  You can count on the fact, as a Lehigh fan, that Lafayette will play out of their minds.  For their seniors, it is guaranteed to be their last game played together as a team.  For them, there is no practicing on Thanksgiving.

Countless football teams have taken this "300" mentality and turned it into wins.  Quarterbacks that used to struggle to not get intercepted suddenly become the second coming of QB Tom Brady.  Linebackers that didn't wrap up their tackles before suddenly become LB Mike Singletary.  It can happen to Lehigh.  Don't think that it can't.

That shouldn't stop us, though, from looking over the Leopards and seeing what they're all about.  They will put together a gameplan to come away with victory.  It's up to the Mountain Hawks to keep that from happening.

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#Rivalry152 Game Preview: Two Different Paths For Two Ancient Rivals

It is an easy narrative to point at the 150th meeting of The Rivalry as the turnaround for the Lehigh football program, where the Mountain Hawks got together after that bitter, bitter loss and decided that enough was enough, and that they were going to not allow their team to be a cellar-dweller.  

For Lafayette, though, you need to go back further, past some very enormous wins over Lehigh, and wonder. 

"I can't believe I typed it, but there it is," I wrote back in 2006 after a crushing 49-28 loss where Lehigh was dominated on both lines of scrimmage.   "We've lost three straight to Lafayette. and I've got some news: We're no longer the hunted. The sooner we realize that we now have to be the hunter, the better off we'll be."

The co-championship they shared with the Leopards that year had the feel of the worst consolation prize imaginable.  For the second straight year, Lafayette had stolen the FCS Playoff bid right from under the Mountain Hawks, and it was Lehigh left to sit at home to stew.  The post game press conference was as down and dark as could be, the double indignity of losing to Lafayette, and losing any chance at a postseason bid, at the same time.

It felt like Lafayette was on the brink of becoming permanent contenders for the Patriot League championship, meaning their torture of Appalachian State and UMass in the playoffs in consecutive years would be a regular happening over the next decade.  

But it never happened.

This year, Lehigh travels to Easton in their big Rivalry game, sitting at 8-2 and having already clinched a portion of the Patriot League championship, only seeking to remove the "co-" from the word "championship".  As emotions go, the Mountain Hawks couldn't be riding more of a high, winners of eight straight.

And Lafayette sits at the opposite extreme, sitting at 2-8 and wondering how they've gotten to this point, with only three wins over the last two years.
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This Week, The Rivalry Can Be The First Healing Step

In a world that is rocked by the division of ugly elections and the blowing up of the political order, the business of beating Lafayette in the 152nd meeting of The Rivalry offers a rare sliver of personal unity among the people of Lehigh in an otherwise divided country.

The short version of the tale of the football Rivalry between Lehigh and Lafyette is simple: It's the most-played college football Rivalry in the world.  It's united fans of Brown and Maroon through a grand total of 34 Presidential elections, some of them bitterly divisive, others not.

The current tally of games sits at 151, and the game this weekend, the 152nd, will be played in Easton.  It's been waged every year, with only one interruption since 1884.

And the two schools, in competition in pretty much everything since the founding of Lafayette (1826) and Lehigh (1865), eventually coalesced around football as the main driver of The Rivalry between them.

I've spent a good portion of my adult life being around The Rivalry.  I've studied it, blogged about it, and even written a book about it.  It's something you ought to see once in your life, if you can, because it's unique, it exudes its own special energy, and it has an emotion and spectacle that many bowl games would dream to have.

The world has changed, and football has changed, a lot since 1884.  What hasn't changed, I think, is the weird and particular chemistry that seems to happen when these two teams get together for a football game.  To call it a big tailgate party doesn't really describe it.  To call it schoolyard intensity doesn't do it justice.  To call it a "bowl game" doesn't really capture it either.  It's just The Rivalry.  It's all of those things, and more.
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100 Years Ago, Lehigh and Lafayette Squared Off For The 50th Time

"A special feature of Saturday's game will be the press service for a special wire from the sidelines to the press box with will provide good service to newspaper men covering the game," The Brown and White said in regards to the 50th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette that was to take place on Saturday, November 25th, 1916.

"With the co-operation of the Western Union Company, this scheme has been worked out: The details of various plays will be given to an operator who will send them from a table placed on the sidelines over the wire to the press box.  The operator in the stand will receive them and they will be called to the press representative through a megaphone.  One Lafayette and one Lehigh man will give the plays to the field operator - the man who carries the ball, the man who makes the tackle, fumbles, penalties, and every detail of the game will go over the wire.  All of this will be done so quickly that the press will have every play complete before the next play is begun."

"This service is not surpassed on any field in the country," The Lafayette also noted.  "As far as is known, only one other, Franklin Field, uses this system.  By far the majority let the newspaper men do the best they can by themselves."

In the 50th game of The Rivalry, technology was then a big part of the story.  The reporters in the press box, including both student newspapers, would be one of the rare few that would get a play-by-play call of a college football game.
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