Sunday, November 19, 2017

After a brief hiatus, a press box opinion of the 2017 season

It's Sunday evening and  I'm getting ready to take a few days off after a busy football season.

I haven't forgotten about the Leopards, and I'm planning to do a recap of the season in my own mind when I return.

I can say that Anthony Giudice has to serve a 365-day suspension, as Kevin Zataveski did, and he won't be able to get that season back as a fifth-year kind of guy. This is not a medical issue.

That is a bummer. Zataveski lost his junior playing season but was able to practice. Giudice, unless something unforeseen right now happens, will have only a game or two left because he will be a senior in 2018.

I expect some things may happen within the program in the time I'm laying back. If I find out about them, I'll address them when I return.

One teaser. I'm wondering why Coach Garrett never requested a review of the Mrazek catch that, from what I'm told, was apparently inbounds and should not have been ruled incomplete. It happened right in front of the Lafayette bench. It was impossible to see the thing clearly from the press box, but I'm told the TV replays showed it to be a catch. What might a first down at that point have meant in the grand scheme of things. Hmmm.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Lafayette-Lehigh sidebar: 30 years ago, the Garretts stunned the Engineers

Who said it?

"I remember sitting there last year after we lost to Lehigh … and it was downright embarrassing, I remember thinking how badly I wanted to beat Lehigh. We had also lost the previous year to them and there was just no way the seniors on this team were going to go out having had their tails kicked by Lehigh three years in a row. We planned to turn it around this time."

Answer: Dean George Tanaka.

Ring any bells? No?

The quote was made by “Superman.”

Better known as Dean Cain, who played the Man of Steel in the television series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Supewrman.”.

So what?

Ask Lafayette head football coach John Garrett.

Dean Cain was a superstar defensive back for the Princeton Tigers in 1987 when they played Lehigh in Princeton’s Palmer Stadium.

He intercepted three passes in that game, the last one coming at the Princeton 2-yard line. From that spot, the Tigers drove down the field, with Jason Garrett, the quarterback; Judd Garrett, the running back, and John Garrett, the wide receiver, making the plays.

And, with eight seconds left in the game, Rob Goodwin booted a 38-yard field goal to give Princeton a 16-15 victory.

A couple of days later, Keith Groller, who covered Lehigh football that season, wrote in The Morning Call, “The officials helped the drive, too, stopping the clock several times when Tiger receivers had to roll several feet to get out-of-bounds after being tackled. The refs also generously stopped the clock for a first-down measurement with eight seconds left when there appeared to be little need for one. The Tigers, out of timeouts, used the assist from the striped-shirts to get Goodwin on the field and e poised and ready to boot his game-winner.”

John Garrett had a good laugh when he shared the story of that game with a couple of us at Tuesday’s media luncheon previewing the 153rd Lafayette-Lehigh game.


I don’t know if Lehigh will be looking to get revenge on Garrett Saturday in Goodman Stadium. I do know that the comment made by Cain could easily come out of the mouth of lots of Lafayette senior if the Leopards upset the Brown and White in #153. Lehigh has won the last two games in the series by 45-21 and 49-35.
   
  





Saturday, November 11, 2017

Leopards postgame: Talking to Coach G

I thought I'd try something a little different in the aftermath of today's Lafayette-Colgate showdown in Fisher stadium.

Coach John Garrett meets with the media in Kirby after each game. Today, there were just two of us -- the writer for The Lafayette and myself. 

The questions, in bold are, mine. I get to use very few quotes in my game story in the newspaper, so here are the rest.

 OPENING REMARKS – I was really proud of how our team competed defensively to make them earn every yard they got and to not give up big plays. I was pleased how they made it hard for the Colgate offense to score. They did get us on the trick play, which was very well executed by them. And then offensively, I really liked how our guys competed and drove the ball. We just didn’t finish drives. Their trick play and then the interception for the touchdown (are) two scores, and other than that, the game’s right there in the balance.

ON A DAY LIKE TODAY, DO YOU COME WITH EXPECTATIONS THAT MAYBE YOU ARE GOING TO RUN BETTER?  -- Well, Paul, what we do is we construct a game plan to see what’s the best way to move the ball and it’s typically a combination of running it and throwing it. There were some formations we thought we could get some run, and we did. We were able to pop a couple early and gain some yards but then the game started to turn, and we had to throw it more because we were behind.

IT’S A MATTER OF HOW LONG UNTIL THEY FINALLY SCORE, AND THEY DID WITH THE END AROUND PLAY – It was very well executed and they were not only able to call it at a good time but also get the edge blocked and get outside.

TELL ME ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE OF (SEAN) O’MALLEY – I was really proud of how he competed. He got the ball out. He made good decisions throughout the day. The interceptions were just really location. One ball was out front of an open receiver and there just happened to be a defender right there. Nine times out of 10 that ball just falls incomplete. And then the other one was off a receiver’s shoulder pad and that popped up into a defender’s hands, and nine times out of 10 that just falls incomplete. So, the ball didn’t bounce our way on those two plays and it impacted the game, one for a score and the other for a big flip of field position that gave them an opportunity to have the ball down in close. But I was really pleased how our defense responded and held them to a field goal.

WAS SEAN OKAY ON THE HIT THAT WAS RULED TARGETING? – Yeah, he bounced right up and really had no ill effects of it at all. I thought the next play he was the same Sean O’Malley, the great competitor that he is.

WHEN YOU SAY YOU CONSTRUCT A GAME PLAN TO DO DIFFERENT THINGS, IT DOESN’T GO TOWARDS 18 RUNNING PLAYS AND 49 PASSES, OR DOES IT? –We always react to the events of the game, Paul. And when you get behind you need to try to advance the ball quickly and the best way to do that is to throw. So, when it gets behind 14-0, then 21, then 27, you get into two-minute mode and you need to throw quickly. That’s really where the imbalance comes.

FIELD GOAL BLOCKED – Yeah.

HOW ABOUT COLGATE – They’re a good football team. Coming into the game they ranked highly offensively running the ball and defensively they’ve really been able to stop all aspects of opposing offense; and that’s where I thought our team really competed well. We made it really hard for them to advance the ball, even though they had a lot of rushing yards, it was really because of a lot of attempts. We really limited a lot of long runs. They didn’t get many. And then passing, there were hardly any significant passing yards at all. They completed five of 17 passes; our defense made them one-dimensional because we got pressure on the quarterback when they decided to throw it and I thought our secondary and linebackers really did a good job of covering the guys. There really were not many open receivers. They made them earn everything and I really just liked how our team competed and responded to the different adversity during the game. The turnovers, we get a stop or a field goal. The defense really responded. And even when we were down offensively, our kids just kept competing and were able to move the ball in every instance of the game, whether it was early, when the game was in the balance, or responding to a negative play. They really showed some resiliency. I was really proud of how they played.

AND NOW IT’S LEHIGH. YOU DON’T KNOW LAFAYETTE-LEHIGH, DO YOU? Well, I’ve heard about Lafayette-Lehigh all my life because it was my dad’s first coaching job. In 1958 he was a member of the Lehigh staff, so he’s often said that’s the best rivalry he’s ever been around, and he’s been around football a long time. So, I’m really excited about this week. It’s a huge game not only for the Lafayette community, for our team, but also for the league as well because obviously a win by us can knock Lehigh out of it. So, the stakes are high, and it’ll be a great week of preparation and a great atmosphere. Really looking forward to it.

DYLAN WADSWORTH’S INJURY? – Yeah, he injured … his knee at Georgetown. And pretty significant, so he’s not ruled out of the Lehigh game and we’ll see how that goes during the week.


AND GIUDICE? – Anthony is ruled ineligible by the NCAA. It was unfortunate that we didn’t have him.   

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Lafayette-Colgate: How far have the Leopards come?


Lafayette Coach John Garrett checks the play card with quarterback Sean O'Malley.
Photo courtesy of Lafayette sports information.
One of the first salvos of the week was fired on Monday when, on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum, a poster named “killaBee” asked a question: “So, does anyone believe the defense can shut out Colgate?”

Later the same day, another poster named “edge29” posted, “I’m hoping Garrett was playing possum with the offense up until this week.”

No Lafayette football game since “Lehigh 150” has meant as much as Saturday’s matchup with the Raiders. I mean, the college has a “Fill the Hill” promotion in which the first 1,000 fans entering Fisher Stadium will receive a free T-shirt – which will leave out all those Markle parking garage tailgaters who wait until the last minute.

Or, you can bring non-perishable food items to the gate and receive a free ticket for each item. That’s a steal-deal if I ever heard one.

And it’s Senior Day, when a bunch of players who have gone from the peak of a Lafayette-Lehigh game that brought nearly 49,000 spectators to Yankee Stadium and ended in a 27-7 Leopards’ rout, to the valley of two seasons that produced a total of just three wins in 22 games. The thought of this gang ending the frustrations of 2015-16 is interesting.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bison OT TD: 'Freak play' or not, it was that kind of night


At some point of the second half of Saturday’s Lafayette-Bucknell football game, I turned to Jim Finnen, for 50 years the voice of Lafayette College sports before retiring and a long-time friend of mine from the Schaefer 500 at Pocono days, and said, “This game’s gonna end on some kind of a long play. Maybe a goofy one.”

I wasn’t talking about a 95-yard interception return for an overtime touchdown.

I was thinking more along the lines of a long punt return or a hail Mary pass. After all, for most of the evening, punters were the stars.

Offense? It was hard to come by – 394 total yards for both teams combined.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Leopards-Crimson: The Livestats view wasn't very pretty


My wife thought I was crazy. At times, I agreed with her.

I didn’t travel to Cambridge, Mass., today for the Lafayette-Harvard football game.

I didn’t see the Ivy League Network feed because for some reason, the username and password didn’t connect and I was eventually locked out.

When I saw on Twitter that Lafayette president Alison Byerly was listening to the game on internet radio, I tried to get it. I failed and failed and finally gave up.

So, I didn’t hear the game, either.

I READ the game. That’s correct, through the Livestats feature on the Lafayette and Harvard websites, I was able to sit in the quiet of my family room, in front of my computer, and READ a play-by-play account and keep up with running statistics at the same time.

Nuts, right? Well, maybe not.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Leopard report: Don't give up on the offense


Lafayette's C.J. Amill (2) looks for the end zone. Photo courtesy of Lafayette College.

Given the ongoing struggles of the Lafayette offense’s running game, it shouldn’t be a surprise that sooner or later, Coach John Garrett was going to have to address the situation for the media.

Actually, he talks about it a lot in bits and pieces, but at Tuesday’s luncheon, it got more than usual attention when someone asked the first-year head coach whether the complications of the new offense might require more time and patience to install than the defense. The questioner said he saw offensive progress, but not to the degree of the defense.

“Well, there are a lot of ways to answer that question,” Garrett began. I knew then and there that the answer was goingnto be a complicated one. Here it is.
“We are looking at each game and figuring out the best ways to advance the ball, and we have had a lot of players who we were expecting to play on offense NOT play. So, we had younger players playing earlier than you would expect and these kids have done a remarkable job competing against veteran teams.”

When talking about expected players who are not playing, Garrett was undoubtedly referring to a group that includes at least four offensive linemen – Tanner Kern, Nick Zataveski, Cam Smith and freshman John Burk O-line coach Gordon Sammis has had his hands full getting the pieces to fit together successfully.

“It’s funny, I had to ask (sports information director) Phil (LaBella) before the press conference last week when I looked at Fordham’s depth chart and I said, ‘What is GR next to their name?’ He said, ‘That means he’s a fifth-year graduate player’ and I said ‘Oh, okay, we don’t have any of those guys who played a lot of football.’

“Offense has more volume than defense. Offense has more plays, that type of thing. Younger players are having to learn not only how to play, but how to execute in the game, so I’m just concerned about us improving each week – and we’re improving each week in every aspect of it. We don’t look at it like this side’s ahead or that side’s ahead. I’m sounding like a reporter right now, but, after the first couple games, you’d say, Oh gosh (the score) might have been reversed (if some key players were in the lineup). So, we really don’t concern ourselves with that. We just concern ourselves with the next play and trying to execute it to the best of our ability.