Sunday’s Word: Irish

Is it hokey?  At times.  Do I believe it's exactly the way things happened?  Absolutely not.  But my favorite all-time football movie is, and remains, Rudy, and his quest to become a member, even if for just a day, a member of the Fightin' "Irish".

Aside from being one of the few football movies my wife will willingly sit down and watch with me, the "based on real events" story somehow, almost twenty years later, hits just the right notes and proceeds at just the right pace as Rudy Ruettiger goes from junior college to South Bend to dressing for a game.

Not coincidentally, Rudy was broadcast this past Saturday night on NBC, and the airing no doubt was spurred by the surprising real-life Notre Dame football team, who sits undefeated at 9-0 and also sits at No. 4 in the BCS.

This season, the parallels between the team with golden helmets in South Bend and the team with the golden helmets in Bethlehem come into focus.
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Lehigh 36, Holy Cross 35, Final

(Photo Credit: Jerome Gordon/Facebook)

The term "Any Given Sunday" comes from the film by Oliver Stone of the same name, but it really comes from Steve Sabol and NFL Films, and the music and sentiment those films provided.  "On any given Sunday..." I can still imagine Mr. Sabol bellowing, with the military-esque soundtrack backing him him... "even a 1-8 team can beat the best team in the land."

This Saturday, we almost saw one of those types of moments at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass.

Not looking anything like a one-win team, Holy Cross gave Lehigh every single last thing they could handle, rattling off 21 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter against the No. 1 defense in the Patriot League and putting themselves in position to fire off the game-winning 43 yard kick with 11 seconds to play.

The field goal would barely have the distance, but would be just wide right - the margin between winning and losing the game.  Lehigh's 36-35 win would be the second time in three Patriot League games that their opposition would be in position to tie or win the game in the final seconds, but miss the conversion.

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Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Holy Cross, 11/3/2012

We break down the Holy Cross game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

In my preview piece yesterday, I talked about the craziness of this series, featuring bad weather, power outages, and the like.  Adding to the intrigue is that this Saturday, for the Crusaders, it's Senior Day.

Ask anyone around the game of football, and they'll tell you senior day always adds a wrinkle to a contest.  No senior in uniform wants to lose on senior day - and sometimes, seniors who haven't played up to their potential suddenly rise up and find a sense of urgency to win at home, one last time.

It's another reason to throw the record out the window this weekend up in Worcester.

There's also the other matter of Boston College, Holy Cross' rival from another time, agreeing to allow Lehigh to practice there a day early thanks to the power outages that continue to disrupt the Lehigh Valley. 

That the BC Eagles would help Lehigh out has Crusaders of a certain age seething - and adds another layer of intrigue to this late-November game.

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Baylor Bears Q&A Session

With the season opener just about one week away, LHN had the pleasure of sitting down for a Q&A session with the Baylor Bear Pit. The Bear Pit provided some great insight into the key members of the Baylor squad, potential line-up combinations, and expectations for the upcoming season. Enjoy!

1.) Why don’t you tell everyone at Lehigh about what the Baylor Bear Pit is and what you guys do to support the Baylor basketball team?

The Baylor Bear Pit is a student organization at Baylor designed to support and cheer on the Bears’ basketball team to victory. We sit behind the baskets and try to be as loud and enthusiastic as possible. We have cheers that we do, but our most famous one is the Sic’ em, where we all form bear claws with our hands and then ‘slash’ through our opponent taking out their heart. The Bear Pit is open to any Baylor student and is filled on a first come, first serve basis.

2.)  Everyone knows about the two returning starters from last year’s team in guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, but who do the fans expect to fill the other 3 spots vacated by the departures of Acy, Jones, and Miller?

Yes, Heslip and Jackson bring back a tremendous amount of experience in the backcourt. Brady knocks down three-point jumpers like its his job and Jackson is a true leader of this team running the point. He was able to make shots in big games last year, including Mississippi State, West Virginia, Kansas. He can also find the open man with great court vision. In terms of who will replace the future NBA stars Acy, Jones III, Miller, it could be anybody on the Baylor bench. Those who did not get many minutes will have a great opportunity such as Cory Jefferson, A.J. Walton, or J’Mison Morgan (who sat out last year after transferring from UCLA). The freshman, all five played in the exhibition, also have an opportunity to replace last year’s stars barring any redshirts, which are still possible. The biggest name is 7’ 1’’ center Isaiah Austin who towers over others on the court, but Rico Gathers can also be a force in the paint. The bench is deep and whoever steps up in practice and game-situations see the floor.

3.) Over the last few years, Baylor has had as much size in the frontcourt as almost anyone in the country, but this year’s team seems to be very deep in the backcourt with Watson, Bello, Rose and Franklin, so do you envision more 3 guard line-ups this year?

In our exhibition game against Abilene Christian University, Coach Scott Drew started three guards in Heslip, Jackson, A.J. Walton and two forwards/centers in Austin and Cory Jefferson. In the first wave of subs, three more guards, Rose, Deuce Bello, and Gary Franklin, and two forwards, Gathers and Morgan, came in for the starting five. I believe to expect more of the same throughout the season because we have a lot of speed in the guards who can also shoot lights out and control the tempo of the offense. We still have size in the frontcourt, however, I expect to us to run whenever we get the chance.

4.)    What were the big takeaways from the preseason game versus Abilene Christian? How did the highly touted freshman class in Rose, Gathers, and Austin look?

The biggest takeaway from the game against ACU was that we are just as talented and deep, if not more so, than last year. We run a fast paced offense, which allowed us to pass the century mark, something we only did once last season. I would say that the Bears’ biggest weakness is turning the ball over. We had 19 against ACU and even 25 assists do not make that a good ratio. ACU shot 50 percent in the first half and went to the line 24 times in the second half. I believe that the later problem is more easily fixable than the first considering we had a problem with turnovers last year. Both Jackson and Rose, however, had a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, which is encouraging since they are our point guards. The freshman class looked phenomenal and is incredibly blessed with that much talent. Austin was the only freshman who started and all could still be redshirted this year if the coaches deemed it necessary. I believe everyone knew about Austin, but Gathers have blown me away. Watching him in practice and games you can just tell that he is a strong, physical player. The dude is built like a tank; he’s huge. He had ten rebounds against ACU, seven of which were offensive. Rose was impressive as he came in and ran the point with limited freshman mistakes. He played the most minutes (24) and had four assists and only two turnovers. Taurean Prince and Chad Rykhoek were impressive when they were on the court. Coach Drew gave a speech before the season asking for consistency, that the returns have to bring something everyday and the rookies cannot be rookies anymore. Each player has to step it up in order for this team to have success.

5.)    CJ McCollum is on a lot of the same preseason lists that Pierre Jackson is on, but with 5 inches on Jackson I don’t think Pierre will spend much time playing defense on CJ, so who do you expect to spend the most time guarding McCollum?

It looked like that Baylor will play a lot more man this year than they did last year. In that case I expect A.J. Walton, our defensive specialist, to have the opportunity to shut down the explosive McCollum. That’s a tough task for anyone though.

6.) Finally, the media has high expectations for Baylor, picked 2nd in the Big 12 and ranked in the top 20 in the preseason rankings, so what are the fans in Waco’s expectations for this Baylor team this year?

Yes, I believe that the regular season Big 12 championship will come down to March 9th when Kansas comes to play Baylor. Second is a good pick by the media, since the Jayhawks have been dominant and Baylor seems to come up just short in years past. There is a different feel about this team though. There’s experience and leadership and the returners from last year have gotten better. The freshmen seem to be fitting right in as well. I think the fans expect another good season and to maybe compete for a Big 12 title, and a run to the sweet 16 or beyond. I think that this team is better than last year’s though. I know that’s a tough claim to make, especially with a small sample size against ACU and when last year’s squad started 17-0, went to the Big 12 championship game, only lost in the Elite 8 to eventual champion Kentucky, and had three starters turn pro. Still, I point to the intangibles that I would argue are more evident this year. They will have to take it one game at a time with a tough non-conference schedule starting with your Lehigh Mountain Hawks. They may be talented, deep, and experienced yet youth could be their downfall. Youth can be one of their biggest assets or biggest detriments depending on their mindset before each game. I think they have the right guys and coaches to stay on track for their goal.

Special thanks goes out to the Baylor Bear Pit, best of luck on the 9th, but Go Lehigh!



Game Preview: Lehigh at Holy Cross

If there is just one thing you, dear Lehigh fan, take away from this Holy Cross preview, let it be this: Tom Gilmore-coached teams never give up, and more specifically, never give up against Lehigh.

In a series punctuated by power outages, snowstorms, close shaves and just outright weirdness, you can make a very good case that when Lehigh plays Holy Cross, you throw the records out the window.

The 1-7 Crusaders showed some of that fight last weekend vs. Fordham, a 36-32 heartbreak of a loss that had Holy Cross with the lead up until the last 11 seconds of the game.

In that game, Holy Cross didn't look like a 1-6 team, and you can count of the fact that the Crusaders won't look like a 1-7 team out there this weekend, either.

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Sunday’s, Monday’s, Tuesday’s Word: Sandy

(Photo Credit: CNN)

The bye weekend is always a weird weekend, mainly due to the fact that there's no football game to recap, no game to travel to, no undefeated record on the line.

It was made weirder, too, by "Sandy".

The epic "Frankenstorm" - as it's been dubbed - that was headed towards my house and the Lehigh Valley ultimately dwarfed my weekend, even pushing - gasp! - football to one side as I frantically did everything to get the house prepared for the storm.

It seemed to parallel a similar storm that hit a couple top teams in FCS - thus making, for the time being, the Mountain Hawks the only undefeated team in all of FCS.
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What To Do on the Bye Week

Admit it.

Even though you have that Halloween party to go to, even though you're preparing for the Frankenstorm, that appears more and more that it's going to pound our area starting Sunday night, even though you're planning on taking your kids to that Halloween party, parade, or trick-or-treating, something's missing.

It's a fall Saturday without Lehigh football.

But cheer up, Lehigh fans.  Even if you don't care to watch Penn State's inevitable loss to Ohio State this weekend, there's plenty of FCS football available on TV and the internet that has a lot more bearing on the Patriot League title race and the Mountain Hawks' standing in the playoff chase.

You don't have to wait for Sunday night.
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Players of the Week and Press Roundup, Bucknell vs. Lehigh, 10/20/2012

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call)

I love the picture of this sack by senior DE Anthony Verderame on Bucknell QB Brandon Wesley - a huge sack during the game.

It's a part of the Morning Call's pictorial of the Bucknell game this past weekend by photographer Kevin Mingora, who covers all of Lehigh's home games.

It may seem hard to believe, but there was a time once when finding photos of games online was an arduous task.  Now, between Mr. Mingora's gallery, the Brown & White gallery, and the Facebook gallery from Lehigh Athletics, there are tons to choose from every week.

It's a pretty good time to be a Lehigh Blogger.  (Oh yeah, and 8-0 is pretty nice, too.)

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