Archive For The “Riley O’Neil” Category
For the first time all season, it was a dark, wet day for a Lehigh football game.
It was not at all ideal for the more than 15,000 fans, and countless tailgaters that made it to the tailgates but not in the stadium, partying and tailgating outside the gates of Murray Goodman.
It was also not at all ideal for Lehigh’s high-powered passing game, and during a disastrous second quarter with three turnovers, it felt like the wheels were coming off the Mountain Hawks’ chances at successfully defending their Patriot League title.
It seemed like everything that could go wrong, was actually going wrong. Three fumbles resulted in three Lafayette recoveries. A third down conversion incompletion by Lafayette QB Sean O’Malley became an unexpected first down, thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept their drive alive. A 14-7 first quarter lead became 17 unanswered points, leading to a 24-14 deficit against the best defensive team in the Patriot League.
In this most important of football games for many of the Lehigh faithful, it seemed like they were losing it by shooting themselves in the foot.
Then halftime happened, and everything changed. More rain, and worse weather, did not deter Lehigh from their goal. And a couple of Rivalry legends were made in the process.
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The media in the run-up to the Wagner game has been more upbeat than one might think considering the Mountain Hawks’ 0-4 start.
That’s not to say that head coach Andy Coen is at all happy with how things have started, but his answers to this week’s media questions were not what some fans may have expected.
“I’m disappointed, I’m not going to lie,” he told Keith Groller of The Morning Call. “But again, this is a funny game. It’s never easy. It’s hard to win a game. It really is. At times last year we made it look really, really easy. Right now, we’re making it look really hard.”
On Lehigh Sports Central this week, he said he felt like Lehigh was more competitive against Penn than they were against Yale.
“We just continue to make mistakes,” Coen said. “We got the ball first, and turned the ball away.. we’ve got to get away from all of that stuff, and start playing better football.”
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Spotlight On: S Sam McCloskey
Some of the names, senior OL Zach Duffy and senior OL Brandon Short, were hardly surprises – after all, they were team captains last year.
Another, senior DL Jimmy Mitchell, is a steadying leadership force on the defensive line – again, not much of a surprise.
But the presence of junior S Sam McCloskey as the fourth team captain raised some eyebrows. It’s unusual to be a junior team captain, though QB Nick Shafnisky and LB Colton Caslow had been team captains as juniors.
As head coach Andy Coen explained, “What’s really impressive is that in our ballots contain only seniors with the ability to write-in people. A lot of our guys obviously had to write in Sam, so that was really interesting to see. Our coaching staff feels he’s ready right now to be a strong captain and his peers obviously feel the same way.”
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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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Junior WR Troy Pelletier seems to want the game to start now. Like, yesterday.
When you read and hear the interviews with him at media day this week, he seems to want the game to start right after the interview, to go on the field and get the game over with right now.
Though he knows he and teammate junior WR Gatlin Casey are on top of the total receiving yardage list in FCS, that’s not what he wanted to talk about on Wednesday.
“I haven’t really put much thought into it,” Pelletier told Greg Joyce of Lehigh Valley Live. “I just know good things are going to happen if we prepare the right way. We focus on each day to get better. We’re confident if we put ourselves mentally and physically taking care of our body, good things are going to happen.”
There was lots of “focusing on getting better, taking it one game at a time” talk from both Pelletier and head coach Andy Coen this week, as you might expect. But their body language said something else: when will Saturday get here?
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It honestly felt like a day from another era out there on Saturday – in a good way.
In a world of bitter political debates, supposedly declining college football attendance, alleged tensions between the generations and the ongoing charges increasing collegian apathy, there it was: the official attendance total of the Colgate/Lehigh game of 9,255.
There were a multitude of reasons why people wanted to go see the game. Perhaps it was something good to do with the family on Family Weekend. Maybe it was a concerted effort to get students into the games, and keep them there, with new policies and new promotions. Maybe it was a thumb-your-nose effort at the fans who come for cocktails but don’t go enjoy the game. Maybe it was individuals, all as a unit, wanting to come out and see if this high-flying, record-setting Lehigh football team is for real.
Or maybe it was all of them; I have no idea, but I know it required a whole lot of planning and a huge amount of effort from a whole lot of people, and I’m glad they did.
Because it felt like something special was brewing in Bethlehem – and not just from the team making everyone pay attention to them on Saturday. It was the whole thing – the team, the fans, and the atmosphere. On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, it felt like “it” was back.
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At times it felt like the playing field was just the personal playground of WR Gatlin Casey, especially when he broke free for a 93 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But it was more than that.
At other times, it felt like the defense, with freshman FS Riley O’Neil pouncing on a loose ball after a sophomore SS Sam McCloskey forced fumble. was the critical piece to keeping Colgate from winning this game. But it was more than that.
And at other times, it felt like the offense, under the expert signalcalling of senior QB Nick Shafnisky, kept finding big plays, on many occasions to Casey, that kept the game out of reach for the Raiders.
In reality, it was all three phases of the game for Lehigh that finally formed the chemical reaction somewhere in the middle of the first half that erased a 17-7 deficit and transformed the different bits and pieces into an impressive 45-31 victory.
For in the first half, down 14-7, the game looked like it might just get away from the Mountain Hawks.
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In all the pregame talk about an offensive showcase, we all forgot about how defense might be critical for the winning team in this important Patriot League Lehigh and Colgate clash.
Many saw the previous box scores and just assumed that Colgate’s powerful offense, who put up more than 50 on Yale, would do something similar to the Mountain Hawks defense.
After a 75 yard touchdown run by Colgate QB Jake Melville to start the game, the Lehigh defense forced two enormous turnovers, including a forced fumble by sophomore SS Sam McCloskey that was recovered by freshman FS Riley O’Neil on Colgate’s first drive of the second half.
The play would allow Lehigh to tie it up with a 25 yard FG by sophomore PK Ed Mish, and it would fire off a string of 17 unanswered points that would give Lehigh a 31-17 lead that they would never relinquish.
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