Category Archives: Troy Pelletier

LFN’s Look at the Spring Offense and Special Teams

(Photo Credit: The Morning Call)

Going to practice this Wednesday, I wondered how things were going with the Mountain Hawks this spring.

You never really know what to expect until you go, and on a surprisingly chilly evening, I arrived up at Lehigh's practice fields.

A lot of times at practice you hear jeremiads from the coaching staff on "spirited competition" and competing for positions.  But you don't always see it on the practice field.

On Wednesday, though, it was there.  I saw it.

Maybe it's a product of a lot of players knowing where they fit on the team, and that's certainly what is my impression in regards to the Lehigh offense.

When you have returning all-Patriot League players at running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line, that's one level of comfort.  When you have a returning quarterback that started three games, including an FCS playoff game, and led an 63-35 win over Yale with 524 yards passing, that's yet another level of comfort.

Perhaps that's why it was an entertaining scene of players jawing at one another and competing against each other.

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2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.

They come to Lehigh willing to sacrifice so much, because they want to win games, of course, but they also play the game in order to win championships - Patriot League Championships.

They want those rings.

Sure, they get to square off against the Villanova's, James Madison's and New Hampshire's of the FCS world to measure themselves against the best of their division.  And they get to participate in the nation's most played Rivalry in all of college football, putting them in an elite club of players and into college football history.

All of those things are very important, of course, and allow them great playing memories and, in the case of the Lafayette game, perennial bragging rights.  

But 2015's heartbreak in Hamilton, the 49-42 loss to Colgate, really hurt on a fundamental level for this Lehigh team.  When that senior class was recruited, one of the things that is a part of the deal is that the Mountain Hawks have won Patriot League championships at least once in every four year span.  Until, that is, the class of 2016, though they came agonizingly close several times.

That disappointment seemed to inform this year's team, which also had a couple of fifth-year seniors in senior WR Derek Knott and senior ROV Laquan Lambert, that so many of last year's team didn't get the chance at the championship rings that they ended up earning this season.  

It informed them all the way to a championship, and rings.
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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 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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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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Round 1 of the 2017 FCS Playoffs: Lehigh vs. New Hampshire!

Stop me if you've heard this before: As a reward for being the surprise outright winner of the Patriot League football championship, the reward is a trip to New Hampshire, the winner headed to seeded James Madison for a second-round game.  And somewhere, Sam Houston State looms on the horizon.

This is the exact situation that Colgate found itself last season, and this year, Lehigh is poised to run through the exact same gauntlet and the exact same teams.

Sunday morning, Lehigh found out their opponents for the FCS Playoffs; the New Hampshire Wildcats.  The game will be played at New Hampshire at 2PM EST, and will be available to watch on ESPN3 on your computer and possibly ESPN Gameplan Pay-Per-View on your TV.
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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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Fordham At Lehigh Narrative Street: Stats Don’t Win Ballgames, Players Do

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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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Train Keeps Chugging Through Worcester, Dominate Holy Cross In 46-14 Win

On the first drive of the game, surprise Holy Cross starting QB Blaise Bell connected on a long pass to WR Jake Wieczorek, setting up a big touchdown run by WR Brendan Flaherty.

On the last drive of the game, freshman RB Domenic Cozier ran up the middle to score his first collegiate touchdown for the Crusaders.

In between those two touchdowns, it was for the most part all Lehigh.

Lehigh's defense held Holy Cross to 281 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers - most of it coming on a couple of pass plays - and allowed the offense to to pummel Holy Cross' defense with a balanced attack.  With three passing touchdowns from sophomore QB Brad Mayes and three rushing touchdowns, two of them by sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone, Lehigh would score 46 unanswered points to win resoundingly, 46-14, at Fitton Field.
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Lehigh 35, Georgetown 3 Postgame Thoughts: The Long Road Back To National Recognition

(Photo Credit: Chris Barry/The Brown and White File Photo)

In terms of national recognition, life in the Patriot League isn't always easy.

Certainly Patriot League players and fans read the preseason magazines about FCS.  And last I checked, the youth of America still watch ESPN, and they see some FCS darlings in the FCS Kickoff Classic, like North Dakota State.

They tune into the college football landscape, and they see Eastern Washington upsetting Washington State, Bo Pelini coaching Youngstown State, Albany upsetting Buffalo.

Yes, the national FCS scene has their darlings, and frequently it feels like the Patriot League and their opponents are mere afterthoughts in the world where Big Sky teams are putting up big scores, Sam Houston State is beating all comers, The Citadel is dominating in the South, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference sees almost half its members in the Top 25.

And despite having junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the FCS in receiving,respectively, despite a five game winning streak, and despite their emergence as a top contender for the Patriot League title past the halfway point of the season, Lehigh sits just outside the national Top 25 polls.

Respect in the Patriot League is easy to lose, and hard to earn back - and this Lehigh team seems to know how fragile that is.
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