Category Archives: Sean McDonnell

Hints, And Only Hints, Of A Championship Lehigh Football Team In Big Loss to UNH, 64-21

It would be all so easy if football were a video game.

If the players were pixels, with easy-to-read sliders with their statistics on them.

ESCAPABILITY: 72
TOUGHNESS: 91

Then the FCS playoffs would be easy.  You'd plug in the teams, they'd hit each other virtually on the screen, and there would be a result, quantifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team.  A representative score would come out, and there would be one side bursting with victory, and the other in agony in defeat.

There would be bitterness, some teeth-gnashing, but at least you'd have figured out that the teams gave it their best shot.

But real life is not a video game.  Sometimes, star players go hunting, and come down with an illness.  It keeps them out of practice, and on the day of the big game, they're not 100%, or even 75%.  Sometimes, foot injuries do not heal, as much as you wish that they would.

And then a team like Lehigh travels up to New Hampshire, not able to put their absolute best foot forward.

Not that it's an excuse - injuries, and all sorts of other things, happen during a football season.  New Hampshire exposed what may have actually been weaknesses hiding in plain sight for this Lehigh team, exposing the soft white underbelly of the Mountain Hawks - the ability to stop an elite running game.

But it was heartbreaking to have Lehigh not be able to put their absolute best foot forward, to not be able to go down with two of their four team captains at full strength.

Instead, all that Lehigh fans got to see were tiny glimpses of the team they had gotten to know so well over the last couple of months, sandwiched around a lot of evidence on how much better the Mountain Hawks need to be in order to compete for a national championship.
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Lehigh at UNH Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction: FCS Game of the Week

We break down the FCS Playoffs Game of the Week below the flip.

You heard right.

One of my FCS Playoff pet peeves (especially in the first round) is that, for some reason, ESPN (who owns the TV contract for all rounds of the FCS playoffs) and the NCAA do not space out all the games in fixed time slots.

If ESPN and the NCAA wanted to generate excitement about the playoffs, it would be fairly easy to space out every game with a kickoff every hour (Noon, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, etc.) all the way up to 8:00 PM.  That way, hardcore FCS football fans can watch part of every single game, with at least one game getting to crunch time every hour from about 2:30 PM on.  It would be compelling theater.

But ESPN and the NCAA, for some reason, choose not to do this, and indeed this year, ESPN has five FCS playoff games kicking off at 2:00 PM, one kicking off at 3:00 PM, and a couple of stragglers kicking off at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM, respectively.

Why?  There is literally no good reason for this.  ESPN is causing hardcore FCS football fans to watch less FCS football.  I'd love to be able to catch Weber State/Chattanooga, but it's on at the exact same time as Lehigh/UNH, so my chance of catching that game live is below zero.

Had Lehigh/UNH kicked off at Noon, and had Weber State/Chattanooga kicked off at 3:00 PM, suddenly I would have watched more ESPN3.  Foolishly, I thought that was also in ESPN's (and the NCAA's) best interest that I am writing about and talking about more FCS playoff games all day.
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Lehigh At New Hampshire Game Narrative Street: UNH Remembers Last Year’s Loss To Colgate

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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No. 7 UNH Plays Like Championship Contenders, Buries Lehigh, 45-27

UNH Athletics
It was not a good half of football.

"I'm disappointed with today's outcome," head coach Andy Coen said after the game. "We never gave ourselves a chance. UNH really jumped us from the get-go and were very physical. We did not tackle very well. They really controlled every aspect of the game through the half."

For Lehigh fans, it made for some tough viewing at the place they call the "Dungeon" on a rainy, grey afternoon in Durham, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire scored touchdown drives of 71, 74, 84, and 90 yards in the first half, converting some 2-point conversions for good measure, to coast to a 29-0 lead.  They never looked back.
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Game Breakdown: Lehigh at New Hampshire, 9/13/2013

"These next ten games shape what we are, and this next one is absolutely huge," New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell said in the CAA teleconference before their home opener against Lehigh this weekend.  "We got to win this battle.  We got to get ready for this really good Lehigh team."

It's hard enough preparing for a week of football, but hearing that cannot make head coach Andy Coen or any of the players in the Lehigh football program very happy.  They're not going to be sneaking up on anybody.

In addition to the revenge factor, Lehigh will be playing at 3:30 PM in the afternoon under the lights at Cowell Stadium.  It's the first time lights have made their appearance at Cowell stadium, making it, sorta, the first Wildcat "night game".

And as you can see, UNH players had some "lightness" about it today.

UNH couldn't be more motivated for the game, their home opener, this weekend.  Which makes my breakdown all the more important.
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Game Preview: Lehigh at New Hampshire, 9/13/2013

WMUR 9 New Hampshire
"In their last meeting..."

You've probably heard a lot of that this week in regards to this big matchup against the No 7 team in the country.

It ended up being Lehigh's signature win last year, their 34-27 victory that only looked better when the Wildcats turned their season around and made a deep run in the FCS playoffs.

It also will be an impediment to any hope of sneaking up to Durham, New Hampshire and surprising New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell with their dynamic offense and good athletes.

That's because the Wildcats had a bye week last week, and McDonnell spent his weekend off scouting the Mountain Hawks.

"I was really impressed with their quarterback,, mentioning sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky, sophomore RB Brandon Yosha, and seemingly everyone else on the Lehigh offense by name in the CAA teleconference this week.   "He did a hell of a job doing the things he does well.  They did a lot of different things out of multiple sets, and they had a good mix against a good JMU team."

It was very obvious McDonnell had not forgotten last year's loss at Lehigh at all.
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Know Your 2014 Opponents: New Hampshire

Ever think that, sometimes, it takes all the stars to align for an upset victory?

In Lehigh's 34-27 win over New Hampshire last season, it felt like that could have been the case.

The Wildcats were a young team with somewhat dampened expectations, coming to Murray Goodman stadium to try to find themselves.  Meanwhile, Lehigh, fresh off one of the most improbable Mountain Hawk wins ever, their 29-28 win over Princeton, had momentum and confidence to spare.

While Lehigh is expected to lose to supposedly "full-scholarship" teams from the CAA, everything seemed to align - the weather, the home game, and a Wildcat team that was still a work-in-progress.

But the stars aligning for Lehigh last year, however, makes for a much steeper challenge in 2014.
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New Hampshire An Opponent to "Respect" In Every Sense of the Word

It is very, very easy to "respect" New Hampshire's football program.

Sure, they have earned "respect" nationally for their incredible, sustained success on the field.

They're known as the original FBS killers, making it a habit of knocking off teams like Rutgers and Northwestern well before Appalachian State famously knocked off Michigan, James Madison upended Virginia Tech, or, most recently, North Dakota State took it to Kansas State.

They're also known perennially as a team in the FCS Top 25, inhabiting the rankings in some way for an incredible 130 weeks.  In 2004, behind a third-string quarterback, QB Ricky Santos and his Wildcats beat Rutgers 35-24 and have been nationally-ranked ever since.

FBS nightmares, all those Top 25 appearances, and nine consecutive playoff appearances to go along with that give UNH mad "respect" with the wider FCS community, and also make for a thrilling opponent when they come to to town.

But they also have earned "respect" in another way, too.  They've done so by building their success the right way, not compromising academics for all their athletic success.
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Game 4 Breakdown: New Hampshire at Lehigh, 9/28/2013

(Photo Credit: John Doyle/Foster's Daily Democrat)

“I think we just need to get better coming out in the second half,” said UNH senior OL Seamus O’Neill in their win over Colgate two weeks ago. “We need to focus on playing the entire game. When we’re up on someone we need to keep our foot on the pedal.”

Sound somewhat familiar?

One of the more interesting subplots going into this weekend's game is how New Hampshire, thus far the ultimate first-half team, does against Lehigh, thus far the ultimate second-half team.

What I truly like about the Wildcats, though, is their game notes, which are extensive and easy to get to.  There's also the matter of their video preview as well, which was equally as valuable to me.

Let's break these guys down.
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Game Preview: New Hampshire at Lehigh, 9/28/2013

(Photo Credit: John Huff/Foster's Daily Democrat)

This weekend, it's homecoming at Lehigh.

The pre-football festivities for homecoming start at in the middle of Friday, with a campus rally, followed by a dinner and a movie presentation.

The movie happens to be Monsters University, the hit Disney/Pixar movie from this summer where the heroes Mike and Sully flash back to their days at old Monster U., and we find out how they made it through their college years.

It so happens that there is an associated website with the release of the movie that is still up - complete with references to the Monsters U. athletic program and homecoming

"The MU faithful were put to the test last year, losing the conference championship with a "Hail Scary" pass from Fear Tech. But MU is back this year with an excellent new recruitment class -- including three top-tier high school standouts: Bart Gates (quarterback), Uriah Pemberslime (fullback), and Harry Phiegel (wide receiver). The entire university community is buzzing with the prospect of Gates throwing to Phiegel for four years of touchdowns. "

In this entirely coincidental, fictionalized summary of the Monsters University football team is everything you need to know about this weekend's game.
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