Sunday, September 24, 2017

Some leftover thoughts from Leopards' loss to Princeton

Cleaning out the notebook from Lafayette's 38-17 loss to Princeton.

It was as though someone from Princeton had gotten his hands on a copy of the Lafayette football game plan.

The Leopards lined up for the first play at the 35-yard line after the Tigers’ kickoff went out of bounds. Good field position without having to take a hit.

Lafayette Coach John Garrett called a simple running play. Instead of it being stopped for no gain, DeSean took it for five yards. Nice.

Second-and-5, and another running play, with Brown gaining another four yards.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mrazek mystery continues and the Leopards languish

It was the second game of the 2014 season. Freshman wide receiver Matt Mrazek made the first start of his Lafayette College career. The guy people were proclaiming as the next Mark Ross didn’t have a catch as Lafayette won 50-3.

That was the only game in which Mrazek, native of LaGrange, Ill., did not catch at least one pass.

Until Saturday night.

And this time I couldn’t blame it on the fact that Lafayette freshman quarterback Sean O’Malley has a closer rapport with sophomore Nick Pearson. Pearson was injured while returning the opening kickoff, and I’m told he was on the sideline with an arm in a sling, watching as the Leopards laid another offensive egg – literally this time, being shut out 59-0 by No. 7-8 ranked Villanova.

I wrote last week how Mrazek seems to be getting the cold shoulder from someone. How else do you explain the fact that he has just one catch in the first half of the season opener against Monmouth and then no catches until the fourth quarter of the second game against Sacred Heart?

Now this!

Leopards’ coach John Garrett gave a long explanation on the Mrazek question at least week’s media luncheon, and you can read that on my blog.  I’m thinking Garrett would probably have pretty much the same answer this week, because nothing else has changed.

The Lafayette running game did nothing to relieve the pressure on the aerial attack. Yet the game stats show Mrazek was the targeted receiver only once.

Is that possible? Apparently so. Last season, Mrazek caught 11 balls in one game and nine in two others. His low for the year came against Villanova and Bucknell – three catches in each.

He would have had to be a miracle man to change the outcome of Saturday night’s game, but A SHUTOUT??

Involving Mrazek is only one of the Leopards’ problems. For example, they now rank 122nd of 123 FCS teams in average rushing yards per game (9.0), 114th in third-down defense (allowing 21 of 38), 110th in rushing defense (241.3 ypg), 107th in total defense (476.3).

Some of the glaring stuff against Villanova was the Wildcats’ 38:34-to-21:26 advantage in time of possession; 50-72 in offensive plays; 45.0-63.4 average yards per kickoff. Trivial stuff, you say. Maybe not.

Lafayette won only one thing: fewest penalties. The Leopards committed two for 25 yards, the Wildcats 11 for 107.  In the last two games, opposing teams have given Lafayette a total of 262 penalty yards.  Didn’t matter, though.

I can’t take any more sadness, so I’m stopping for now. They should be burning the midnight oil in Bourger Varsity Football House. Somehow, all the rhetoric has to be turned into reality, and that’s not going to be easy. Lafayette hasn’t defeated Princeton since 2003 and won’t be favored in this one, either.

If you thought 59-zip was ugly on Saturday night, you should have been there to see just how bad it could have been if the Wildcats had played all night. 

If this season was a boxing match, it would have been stopped long ago. Coach Garrett brought out the Monday Night Football song to put some fire into spring practices. Maybe he needs to bring "Rocky" to Fisher Stadium Saturday night. Think outside the box. It can't hurt. Can it? 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Where's Matt Mrazek? Here's the answer

John Leone was probably asked many times during his career as a basketball coach why he didn’t get the ball more to this guy or that guy.

So, it was somehow appropriate that Leone, who now works as the sideline reporter for the football game coverage on the Lafayette Sports Network, should ask about Leopards’ wide receiver Matt Mrazek during Tuesday’s media luncheon.

Mrazek was the target for just one first-half incomplete pass, then none in the third quarter against SHU. He finished the game with three catches in the fourth quarter, one for a touchdown. He and freshman quarterback Sean O’Malley didn’t connect on four other attempts in the final 15 minutes.

This came on the heels of a Monmouth game in which Mrazek had just one catch in the first half. In the second half, O’Malley’s first pass to Mrazek was incomplete, but the two then teamed up for eight straight completions – one a 17-yard touchdowns.

Garrett’s answer is textbook stuff. So, rather than paraphrase it, here it is in its entirety.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sean O'Malley: A late addition, but a fast learner

Freshman Sean O'Malley will be Lafayette's starter on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lafayette College.
Is Connor Wedington the new Christian McCaffrey at Stanford? The freshman receiver is wearing McCaffrey’s #5, and he caught six passes for 82 yards in a 62-7 win over Rice in the first game of his college football career last week.

Why should we care, you wonder. Or, why should we care about Hunter Bryant, a tight end at the University of Washington, or David Cormier, a running back at Air Force, or Parker Cardwell, a wide receiver at the University of California.

I mention them only because, in May of 2016, they had four of the top five scores in an Elite 11 Seattle camp featuring mostly high school juniors. The camp had more than 40 quarterbacks among the group and one of them was a kid named Sean O’Malley of Beverly Hills, Calif. 

It was a truly elite group, and O'Malley fit right in.

Maybe O’Malley didn’t have the reputation of those other four guys at the time, but he was ranked second best among the quarterbacks. That should have been enough to get him some strong looks from premier football schools, but when National Signing Day 2017 came and went, he wasn’t among the signed players. 

He was not forgotten, however, and about six weeks after NSD, he was announced as committing to Lafayette College.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Leopards-Monmouth: A home game for Garrett? Not!

George Webber, the lead character in Thomas Wolfe’s classic, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” didn’t like what he saw when he returned to his home town.

John Garrett, Lafayette’s first-year head football coach, isn’t expecting to have the same kind of feelings on Saturday when he and his Leopards open the season against Monmouth University in the Haswks’ brand new $16-million stadium.

Speaking about it on Tuessday at the weekly football media luncheon, here’s what Garrett had to say.

“I’m really just excited, getting to play back in my home town. My parents live 15 minutes from Monmouth University in Monmouth Beach. It’s going to be fun; it’s going to bring back great memories. We moved to New Jersey in 1970 when I was 5 years old and my dad was coaching for the Giants.

"They had training camp at then Monmouth College, so I would go see practices at Monmouth College when I was 5, 6, 7 years old. To have your first game there is pretty ironic and pretty cool stuff, so I’m excited about that personally, but also excited for our team. They’ve really work hard and improved immensely. They’re excited for what they’re about to do and I’m happy for them that they get this chance."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Leopards football preview: TV, Internet and roster news

Coach John Garrett addresses the Leopards at the end of the final training-camp practice.

This is the day! At noon, we’ll get together with Coach John Garrett and a couple of is players to talk about the season opener at Monmouth.

My preseason stories appeared in today’s Morning Call, but when I checked The Call’s website, I didn’t see the schedule and the possible starting lineups that ran in agate in the paper.

The schedule includes the television and computer online coverage of the Leopards’ games. Pretty impressive stuff by Scott Morse and the crew at Lafayette, with the LAFAYETTE Sports Network Carrying most of the load – on RCN cable Channel 4 and on WBPH Channel 60.

But the Monmouth game will be on ESPN3 only. And LSN will not be covering the Harvard or Georgetown games, although I don’t understand for the life of me would not want as much coverages As possible. Harvard’s game will be on North East Sports Network and the Ivy League Network; and Georgetown will be available only online through the Patriot League Network. The PLN online will carry all except the Monmouth game, so there is plenty of chance to see the Leopards without leaving home.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lafayette football: The QB search continues

John Garrett knew it was coming. The new Lafayette College was facing the media at the annual Media Day luncheon last week, and it was inevitable that he would have to face questions about his quarterback battle at some point.

It came at the very beginning of the question-and-answer period, and I’m happy to say I was not the first to bring it up. I might be accused of being a broken record on the subject, so I waited patiently and let Express-Times writer Brad Wilson throw it out.

Garrett delivered some of the familiar phrases like “great group of guys”, “we don’t make the depth chart,” “a really competitive situation”, “when it is clearly determined by the players by their performances on the field”, “a meritorious situation.”

He said the process of evaluating all these quarterbacks hadn’t slowed the progress of installing the offense the Leopards will use when they open the season at Monmouth on Sept. 2. So, finally I asked how long he could continue to evaluate before deciding which QB would prepare for the opener as the designated No. 1.