Category Archives: Patriot League

Remembering Lehigh’s Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond's team - a win that might have kept the Blue Hens out of the playoffs that year, and might have allowed Lehigh to squeeze into the playoffs at 10-1 with a precious at-large bid.  (And they did it on homecoming!  Homecoming!  "It was one of the most enjoyable wins I've ever had," Higgins said years afterwards.)

The other memory that came rushing back was the run-up to Delaware's home I-AA playoff football game a year later.  I remember the visceral excitement that I had that Lehigh was going to have a chance to beat Delaware twice in two years at their place.  And I was looking in the newspaper for what Tubby Raymond had to say about Lehigh.  Nothing.

And Tubby's 2001 team simply shut up, and hit Lehigh in the mouth repeatedly in a 47-22 rout that wasn't as close as the final score might indicate.  When RB Antawn Jenkins dove over a Lehigh player into the end zone to punctuate Delaware's 33rd unanswered point after Lehigh briefly went up 10-7, I felt like I was smashed in the mouth, and I wasn't even suited up.

After the game, Tubby was hugely respectful to the Mountain Hawks, turning from Disney villain to charmer in a single stroke.  "We ought to play Lehigh every year," he said, favorably comparing the Mountain Hawks to any team on their Atlantic 10 schedule.  "It's a great game and a great national rivalry."

And that was Tubby Raymond, in a nutshell to Lehigh players, coaches and fans - a mixture of competitive verbal needling (that sometimes cut close to the bone), enough so that you wanted to see him beat more than any head football coach in America.  He tended to back up the talk with excellent teams - when Lehigh teams beat Delaware, these were not ordinary wins - they were gems, and when the Mountain Hawks lost to his teams, they were crushing.  And then, when the clock read 0:00, win or lose, Tubby would say something that made it hurt just a little bit less, allow you to regroup, and make you want to circle Delaware on the schedule for next year.

I never had the honor of meeting Tubby Raymond, but he had an awful lot to do with my passion for Lehigh football, and for that I am grateful for him.
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Lehigh At Bucknell Game Preview: Injuries Force Youth Movement During Possible Championship Run

When the 2017 Lehigh Mountain Hawks released their very first positional two deep back in September, it had five freshmen and nine sophomores listed. 

That's a fairly normal type of depth chart for a largely veteran team that was ranked in the FCS Top 25.

Only two freshmen,  OG Jackson Evans and LS Jack Dean, were expected to contribute right away, while sophomore FS Riley O'Neil had already started nearly every single game he'd played since his freshman season - already a veteran.

Entering the ninth game of the season, the depth chart that head coach Andy Coen will present to the officials on Saturday will look very different.

The two defensive captains on opening day, senior DT Jim Mitchell and junior SS Sam McCloskey, won't be anywhere to be found - both injured, out for the year.  Junior CB Donavon Harris - still out with a head injury.  Junior LB Mark Walker - out.  Junior ROV Nick Thevaganayam - out.  Senior TE Drew Paulsen - out.  Senior WR Gatlin Casey - most likely out.

In fact, Lehigh's depth chart will have on it eight freshmen, including four (WR Jorge Portorreal, OL Jackson Evans, C Chris Fournier, and ROV Divine Buckrham) who are starting.  Additionally, five sophomores will be starting, including one, sophomore CB Marquis Wilson, who has only started one other football game.

The 2017 season will be remembered not-so-fondly for the number of terrible, season-ending injuries that have freakishly occurred.  And to close out the regular season, it is the next men up, a huge number of them underclassmen, that will determine the ultimate fate of this football team.
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Lehigh’s Bye Week: Former Teammates of Lehigh Players Shine; Army Surges; Columbia Shines; Bucknell Stuns

I know, I know, it's strange when there's no Lehigh football game result to pick apart.  That doesn't mean that the rest of college football stood still during the Mountain Hawks' bye week.

Lehigh's bye week came during a time when Penn State football, already rabid at the best of times, was at peak foaming-at-the-mouth after Happy Valley hosted ESPN College Gameday on Saturday morning and Michigan on Saturday night.

In case you've been living under a rock, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley has a local connection: he went to Whitehall at the same time a guy called QB Nick Shafnisky was under center.  Now, Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman with the Nittany Lions after a 263 yard, 3 TD effort against the Wolverines as Penn State coasted to a 42-13 win.

Completing the return to 1986, Notre Dame also went to 6-1 after their own resounding 49-13 win over USC Saturday night as well, surprising in the ease in the way RB Josh Adams carved through the Trojan defense for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Oh yeah, Josh Adams' high school isn't too far from Barkley's - he came from Central Bucks South in Warrington, the same high school where Lehigh freshman LB Nate Norris played.

Seeing the success of Barkley and Adams on college football's biggest Saturday showcase serve as a fresh reminder that Lehigh's football players frequently come from the same schools that produce some of these massive football talents.
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Your Bye Week College Football Viewing Guide

If you're anything like me, you're probably wondering what to watch when there's no Lehigh football game to attend or view on a fall weekend.

Fortunately, dear Reader, I'm available to help you answer that question.

From the early morning College Gameday at Happy Valley to Colorado/Washington State "Pac 12 After Dark", there are a boatload of different opportunities to immerse yourself in the wild, wonderful world of college football.

Every week on College Sports Journal, I compile a list of links of every live internet stream that the NFF College Football Broadcast schedule puts out.  But this week, you don't even need to go there, because everything you'll need, Patriot League, FCS, or FBS, I'll have right here.
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Patriot League Fans Stunned At the Firing of Tom Gilmore at Holy Cross

It was clear that Holy Cross' 32-0 loss to Yale wasn't going to yield many highlights for their end-of-the-year DVD.

“We just couldn’t string anything together,” head coach Tom Gilmore said after the loss. “They got us on our heels. They were executing some big plays and it snowballed. Yale kept the pressure on and it one of those days we couldn’t flip the momentum.”

At 2-5, the Crusaders did, and still do, have a chance to win the Patriot League, if they win the rest of their games and Lafayette loses twice - certainly not an inconceivable notion.

Even so, Holy Cross athletic director Nathan Pine sent shockwaves through the Patriot League this weekend when he called head coach Tom Gilmore and told him that he was being terminated immediately, with Brian Rock, the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, taking over in an interim basis.

“Traditionally I’m not a proponent of a mid-season change,” Pine told Jen Toland of The Worcester Telegram-Gazette, “but I’ve watched carefully, and especially over these last three weeks our team has seemed to spiral and our performance has gotten progressively worse and so I didn’t want to delay the decision any longer, because hopefully this can be a rallying point and a galvanizing moment for our team to still have some success at the end of the season. I just didn’t feel like that would happen if we didn’t have a significant change.”

The fall of this Holy Cross team and the circumstances that led to Gilmore's firing was stunning.
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An LFN Investigation: What’s Wrong with Patriot League football?

This week, Lafayette plays Harvard up in Cambridge, where the 2-4 Leopards are expected to lose to the 2-2 Crimson.  I say expected to lose because with one exception since 2000, that's what's happened every time Lafayette has played Harvard: they have lost 12 out of their last 13 to the Johnnies, and have a lifetime record of 3-19 against them.

The expectation among Patriot League football fans is that football scholarships was supposed to change all of that.  Simply offer conventional football scholarships, add to that a chance to play in the FCS Playoffs, and suddenly football recruits choosing between Harvard and Lehigh for business would start choosing Lehigh.

It hasn't worked out quite that way.

Through five games in 2017, the combined record of the Patriot League is a mind-boggling 8-21 outside of Patriot League contests.   And of those eight wins, only one has come against a team from the Ivy League - Colgate's 21-7 win over Cornell.  Collectively, the Patriot League is 1-7 against the Ancient Eight, with six of those seven losses coming by more than two touchdowns.

This is not what fans of the Patriot League signed up for five years ago when they decided to offer the same sort of scholarships that schools like Delaware, Montana and North Dakota State.  But is the problem scholarships, or is it something else?


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An LFN Investigation: What’s Wrong with Patriot League football?

This week, Lafayette plays Harvard up in Cambridge, where the 2-4 Leopards are expected to lose to the 2-2 Crimson.  I say expected to lose because with one exception since 2000, that's what's happened every time Lafayette has played Harvard: they have lost 12 out of their last 13 to the Johnnies, and have a lifetime record of 3-19 against them.

The expectation among Patriot League football fans is that football scholarships was supposed to change all of that.  Simply offer conventional football scholarships, add to that a chance to play in the FCS Playoffs, and suddenly football recruits choosing between Harvard and Lehigh for business would start choosing Lehigh.

It hasn't worked out quite that way.

Through five games in 2017, the combined record of the Patriot League is a mind-boggling 8-21 outside of Patriot League contests.   And of those eight wins, only one has come against a team from the Ivy League - Colgate's 21-7 win over Cornell.  Collectively, the Patriot League is 1-7 against the Ancient Eight, with six of those seven losses coming by more than two touchdowns.

This is not what fans of the Patriot League signed up for five years ago when they decided to offer the same sort of scholarships that schools like Delaware, Montana and North Dakota State.  But is the problem scholarships, or is it something else?


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Lehigh At Wagner Game Preview: Two Teams Battling Their Own Curses

Lehigh has never played Wagner in football, despite the fact that the schools are separated only by an hour and a half drive and that the institutions both sponsor FCS football in an area of the country where nearby opponents are sometimes hard to come by.

Long-time Patriot League fans might remember Wagner as legendary Lafayette head coach Bill Russo's coaching stint before he came to Easton to coach the Leopards for an 18 year stretch from 1981 to 1999. 

Back in those days, Wagner was a Division III school, playing local schools like Iona, Pace, Seton Hall and Fordham, during a time when it was OK to field a Division III football program and a Division I athletics program (this is something that is no longer allowed today).

Since then, though, many Lehigh fans may not know that much about Wagner College, the Seahawk football program, and their ascent to becoming, eventually, and FCS playoff team.


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LFN’s FCS Top 25, 9/19/2017


I don't officially vote in any of the FCS Top 25 polls, but I do share who I think deserves to be in the Top 25, and let's just get all the drama out of the way now - James Madison is my clear-cut No. 1.

I know, right?  Shocking.

This week saw two Top 10 teams of mine last week go down - and Virginia, the games weren't close.  One might not have been too much of a surprise, as it came against a nationally-ranked team at their place.  But the other stunned a lot of people, including myself, and frankly, I hate missing the call of a Patriot League team upsetting a CAA team.
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Villanova at Lehigh Game Preview: Battle Of Nationally Ranked Teams Highlight Mountain Hawk Season Opener

One has been here before; the other has not, at least not lately.

Over the course of the last few seasons, Villanova Stadium has hosted all sorts of games involving Top 25 teams.  James Madison, New Hampshire, Richmond - all of these CAA teams have been to the Main Line, at one time or another, at the same time the Wildcats have also been in the Top 25.  When it comes to hosting big football games, Villanova is no stranger to that situation.

Not so, Lehigh.

Sure, the Mountain Hawks have played a bunch of Top 25 teams over the course of the last several seasons.  And last year, Lehigh returned to the Top 25 as well.

But the Mountain Hawks haven't hosted a game like this, a Top 25 tilt between two opponents that are both in the Top 25, since the Mountain Hawks beat New Hampshire 34-27 back in 2012.

This year's season opener represents the cumulation of the long, hard road of building a Top 25, national-caliber FCS football team.  Last season was a year of a Patriot League championship, a return to national respect, and rings.  And it all leads to this weekend, one of the biggest games on the Week 1 FCS National schedule that will provide a tremendous test to see how this 2017 Mountain Hawk team might turn out this season.
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