Friday, December 23, 2016

Meet John Garrett, the newest Leopard

John Garrett, Lafayette's new head football coach, receives a Lafayette cap from athletic director Bruce McCutcheon. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Sports).
The biggest Lafayette College sports announcement of the year was made on Wednesday and there was neither rioting nor celebrating on The Quad because virtually all the students had already left Easton for their homes, with final exams having been completed earlier in the week.

But the early returns on the reaction to the naming of John Garrett as the new head football coach have been overwhelmingly positive, even from the more cynical posters on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum. The college newspaper and an old, retired sports columnist got more negative comments than athletic director Bruce McCutcheon – except for one slam to which I don’t care to lend credence.

Like a brand new car being driven away from the showroom for the first time, Garrett may never look better than he did Wednesday. After all, he has yet to make one decision that will rustle the feathers of some Leopards “fan.” Squeaky clean. Not a dent in his armor.

Sure, there’s a segment of Leopard fans that badly wanted someone with Lafayette connections named as the head coach. One former linebacker is plenty riled up, but he wasn’t on hand on Wednesday. No Lafayette people in the final three? Not good.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Leopard in the postseason: Chris Brockman

Lafayette is in the playoffs!

Well, not exactly, but on the first weekend of a long offseason after another frustrating year on College Hill, I decided to go looking for some good news.

I found it by way of Colorado School of Mines, a Division II program that is playing in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals this weekend.

Do you know who the starting "Leo" linebacker is for Mines? One CHRIS BROCKMAN.

Lafayette followers will remember Chris as the outstanding strike linebacker for the Leopards in Art Link's first season as offensive coordinator. He was the team's leading tackler.

Big things were expected of him for 2015, but he never played a game because of injury. He could have applied for a medical red-shirt season but would have had to suspend his pursuit of a degree. He decided instead to finish college with his original class and play his final year of football elsewhere while going for a master's degree.

That  elsewhere is Colorado School of Mines. And he's doing great. He was an all-academic selection in the RMAC  on the study side.

The 225-pound Texan, who undoubtedly would have made a big difference in the Lafayette defense in 2015, has started every game for Mines. Mines is 10-2 as it goes to the game tomorrow (Saturday) aat Ferris State in Michigan. Mines is a top-20 team in Division II and has won nine games in a row to stand at 102.

Chris has 86 tackles, 12 tackles for loss -- both team highs -- and 5.5 sacks. He has one interception.

I know I missed him last year, just like I missed both Matt Rothrock and Brandon Bryant this year.

I'm pretty certain that the naysayers on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum would be a lot less critical because the Leopards would have won considerably more than three games in the two seasons.

Those years are history. Congratulations to first-team all-league tight end Dylan Wadsworth and second-teamers Jerry Powe and Matt Mrazek. All return next year. And on to the weight room for everyone.

Oh, yeah, and go get 'em, Chris. We're rooting for you.

Chris had nine tackles and a sack, but the Orediggers lost 38-17 to Ferris State.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lafayette-Lehigh FB: the rest of the story

I laid out a case in Saturday’s Morning Call of what I thought had to happen for Lafayette to have a chance to upset Lehigh. 

I have to admit that when I started compiling the information, I didn’t have a lot of confidence; but by the time I was finished, I actually thought it was doable.

Well, we all know it didn’t happen. It was 45-21, and at times it looked a lot worse than that and at other times it looked like it might get considerably tighter than that. So, here’s a look at how my formula worked out.

I called for no turnovers. I said a couple of interceptions and a fumble could turn things ugly “in a hurry”. Well, that DeSean Brown fumble on the first series, when the Leopards had meandered inside the Lehigh 20, hurt. A lot. It hurt the Lafayette coaches so much that Brown was not at RB the next time the Leopards got the ball.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Leopards-Raiders notebook: Adam Bridgeforth and more

Colgate's Adam Bridgeforth (21) makes one of his two interceptions against Cornell.
Photo courtesy Colgate University.
Adam Bridgeforth looked anything but happy about his first day of preseason football camp at Colgate in August. In fact, Raiders’ head coach Dan Hunt thought the talented cornerback appeared teary-eyed.

“I thought he was crying because he didn’t think he’d be able to perform, but it turned out he was so emotional about just being back on the football field that he had tears in his eyes during practice,” Hunt said via telephone on Thursday.

No wonder.

Bridgeforth, a Nazareth High School grad, broke into the starting lineup at Colgate midway through his sophomore year, then had a 60-tackle, two-interception junior year and was looking forward to a big final year. But in the first game of 2015, he blew out his knee in a game against Navy. He applied for and received a medical red-shirt season, so he worked hard to get back in shape.

He was working out with his teammate during an informal summer passing drill when he reinjured the same knee – the meniscus, this time, but bad enough to require another surgery.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

IMHO, Lafayette's athletics study raises some questions

For almost a week now I’ve been reading that Lafayette release that is entitled “Blueprint for Greater Success in Patriot League.”

The document has caused me to think about some past memories that have not been very positive – the late-1990s disaster that spawned threats like eliminating football and dropping to Division III. Or that 2007 strategic plan study that also was supposed to enhance the athletic programs at the college but came up pretty much empty.

I also witnessed as the college came almost kicking and screaming into the world of merit scholarships, particularly for first basketball, and more recently for football. Lafayette finally did get with the program, but its unwillingness to commit to do it 100 percent in the two major sports is still a disappointment to me and to the alumni and fans who bleed maroon. It’s also a stumbling block to success.

Now, here we are again, broaching the subject of “improving the college’s competitiveness in the Patriot League.” Those are not my words but the words in the opening sentence of last week’s release.

The premise has an interesting and potentially positive sound to it. Especially in the sport with which I am most familiar, football, which has been a major part of my freelance writing career for nine years now. And it comes at a time when the Leopards have won only three of their last 20 games overall and just one of their last 10 in the league. If the college is truly interested in bettering itself among its peers, this may be a good start.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Lafayette sports history II: 2 1/2 months later

To quote the immortal Oliver Hardy (invariably speaking to buddy Stan Laurel): “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

That was my initial reaction to the internal release from Lafayette College early this week that it would hire a consulting firm to conduct a six-month “thorough review” and come up with “precise recommendations” for a “shared strategic direction that ensures the athletic’s program’s resources are aligned with the mission and goals of the institution,” according to a quote from athletic director Bruce McCutcheon. By the way, the italics are mine, not the college’s.

A headline on the college’s website shouts, “Lafayette Seeks Blueprint for Greater Success in Patriot League.”  I want to shout back, hip, hip, hooray! Someone is finally stepping up to the plate for the coaches and student-athletes and wants to recognize the impact success on the field or the court or the diamond can have.

But, then I remember. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen the college take swings at this issue – and miss badly.  So, before I go too far with this, I thought I’d present a little history course in the form of a couple of columns I wrote years ago. Then, I’ll take my own swings.

Today’s Lesson in “Lafayette Sports History 101” is a column that appeared in The Morning Call on Jan. 20, 1999. The headline on the column was: “All seem to be on same page at Lafayette ... A.D. Atkinson said the recent recent adversity has had a positive effect throughout the college."

Lafayette sports history I: Deja vu all over again

To quote the immortal Oliver Hardy (invariably speaking to buddy Stan Laurel): “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”

That was my initial reaction to the internal release from Lafayette College early this week that it would hire a consulting firm to conduct a six-month “thorough review” and come up with “precise recommendations” for a “shared strategic direction that ensures the athletic’s program’s resources are aligned with the mission and goals of the institution,” according to a quote from athletic director Bruce McCutcheon. By the way, the italics are mine, not the college’s.

A headline on the college’s website shouts, “Lafayette Seeks Blueprint for Greater Success in Patriot League.”  I want to shout back, hip, hip, hooray! Someone is finally stepping up to the plate for the coaches and student-athletes and wants to recognize the impact success on the field or the court or the diamond can have.

But, then I remember. We’ve been here before. We’ve seen the college take swings at this issue – and miss badly.  So, before I go too far with this, I thought I’d present a little history course in the form of a couple of columns I wrote years ago. Then, I’ll take my own swings.

Today’s Lesson in “Lafayette Sports History 101” is a column that appeared in The Morning Call on Nov. 3, 1998. The headline on the column was: “Lafayette plants seeds of doubt.” Does any of this sound familiar?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Leopards FB notebook: Kaizer Butler and more

Kaizer Butler was jogging around on the Fisher Stadium turf with some of his Lafayette football buddies Saturday morning.

When I asked him later in the day how much working out he’s been doing, he said, “If you asked me three weeks ago, I’d pass out doing pushups.”

The defensive back is a long way from being ready to even practice, let alone play football again; but the fact that he’s where he is right now is somewhat of a miracle.

In June of this year, the 19-year-old California was stricken with a rare autoimmune disease called Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. It is an inflammation of the blood vessels that limits the flow of blood to organs like the kidneys, lungs, nose, windpipe, etc.
Kaizer Butler, Coach Tavani and Jerry Powe meet the media after the win over Georgetown.

Butler experienced kidney failure and his lungs filled up with blood. He was placed on life support at one point, but he managed to fight through the critical period.

He is still taking oral doses of chemotherapy, although they are being slowly reduced; he is taking steroids, which are also nearing an end, and he is being treated for high blood pressure.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leopards, Hoyas both need a win Saturday

Dissa and Data, less than two days from the biggest football game of Lafayette’s 2016 season to this point.

LEAGUE HISTORY – In its 15 years in the Patriot League, Georgetown has won more than one league game just six times, with its best league mark coming in 2011 – 3-2. The Hoyas have been winless in six seasons, the last being 2009. Their league mark in those 15 years was 17-70.

In those same 15 seasons, Lafayette has been winless once (last year), has had three one-win seasons and seven seasons with four or five victories. Three of those five-win seasons produced championships (2004-6), as did the 4-1 of 2013. Lafayette has won 10 of the 15 head-to-head league matchups.

RECENT HISTORY AT FISHER – In Fisher Stadium league games between the Leopards and the Hoyas, Lafayette has a 4-3 edge. The least Leopard win at Fisher was in 2014. Maybe you remember that one. Lafayette had just 250 yards of offense, but Ross Scheuerman ran for three touchdowns. Jared Roberts had an 81-yard punt return that led to a score and Lafayette blocked a field goal. The final score: 24-21.

You might not want to remember the two Lafayette-G-town Fisher games prior to that one. In 2012, Lafayette turned the ball over seven times and handed the Hoyas a 20-17 victory. Two years earlier, Lafayette ran up 509 yards of offense, including a 131-yard rushing performance by Jerome Rudolph but also committed four turnovers and lost 28-24. Four players were injured in that game.

LAST YEAR IN D.C. – I’m not sure where you start with this one. While the 2015 season had lots of low points, none was any lower than this afternoon against a team that came in with a 2-3 record and had been walloped 45-0 by Harvard the previous week. The Hoyas played like all world – or the Leopards played like they were in another world. Kyle Nolan threw five touchdown passes a secondary that, compared to the rest of the team, was pretty much intact with Matt Smalley, Jared Roberts, Phillip Parham and Alex Merriman. And the Hoyas’ defense, which allowed 173 yards per game in the first five starts, allowed Lafayette just NINE yards on 20 rushing attempts. Five sacks. Eleven tackles for loss. Sad day.

HOYA BLOCK ATTACK – Georgetown is tied for first place in the FCS in punts blocked this season with three and is second in the country in total kicks blocked with six. In a Tuesday conference call, Coach Rob Sgarlata said, “I’d like to pat myself on the back and say we spend a lot of times on special teams, which we do,” he said, then he gave kudos to special teams coordinator Kevin Doherty and the players themselves. “They take a lot of pride in what they do. Once you get one, and another one, the kids start believing, so we’re excited. They’re always looking for different ways to improve their technique. They’ve impacted almost every game that we’ve had with a blocked kick , so hopefully it continues.” Hunter Kiselick, who wears #1 – a jersey the Leopards should be watcnin g for every minute – has blocked three of those kicks. He’s a fifth-year senior, and Coach Sgarlata loves his effect on the team. “He’s a special kid,” Sgarlata told us on Tuesday. “He has two speeds: stop and full speed. He’s an inspirational leader for the guys … Emotional and humble.”

JOEY CHENOWETH --  "We don't want another 1-10. Look at our facilities, the nicest in the  league; we have the best alumni support, great coaches. We should start winning games; we're going to start winning games. The coaching staff  is working 12 hours a day to get us better. The biggest thing is we can’t look at what’s happened in the past. It's going to be great for our momentum going into next year and will get us the confidence we had before the season started. We were so confident. We knew we had the guys to get it done. Everybody was fired up. We need to finish. These last three games are very important."

A LOOK AT THE 2016 OPPONENTS -- At 6-2, Villanova has the best record among the eight teams Lafayette has already faced this season. The Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in the FCS and are 4-1 in the CAA. Fordham is 5-2, and its game with Lehigh this week has huge league ramifications. Princeton is 4-2; Army West Point is 4-3 after getting whipped last week by North Texas; Bucknell is 3-4, Holy Cross 3-5, Delaware 2-5 -- five straight losses -- and Central Connecticut State 1-6.  That's an aggregate record of 28-29. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A note to "bison137" and the LSFF guys

I was looking over the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum comments from Saturday’s Bucknell football game and came across a comment from “bison137,” the forum’s resident Bucknell expert.

Reinhard seems a bit confused himself.  He says:  "A familiar Bucknell misdirection play, a naked flanker reverse that should have been no surprise, fooled the Leopards not once, but twice."

In fact, Bucknell had not run that play even once this year, and I haven't seen it run even once in Carter's four years.  They do very occasionally use him on a jet sweep, where he gets the ball on a direct handoff from the QB, but never on the sort of misdirection toss play that produced the TDs.  That was new to the playbook.  

Also Reinhard has Bucknell getting a first down on a fake FG, even though they did not line up for a FG at any point in the game.”

I did mess up on the field goal – I knew it was a punt and made the error. Sorry about that.

As for the flanker reverse on which Will Carter scored a pair of touchdowns, I specifically asked Coach Tavani about that play after the game and got the following answer:

“We have seen it. We had young freshmen out there, two of them. By formation we knew it and we got burned on it twice. That’s obviously not good. [It was] nothing new. We’ve seen it in practice and we’ve run against it and we didn’t do a good job with it, obviously. You’re telling them and you’re screaming it out, telling them the play’s coming. Coaches are calling it out.”

I couldn’t use all that in the story.

I may be old, and often can be confused, but not this time.

Great play. Lafayette should add it to the playbook. It was perfectly run. I almost used the cliché: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” In fact, I think I said that very thing in the press box when it happened.

Here are just a couple of other leftover items from the Saturday game, etc.

Someone else on the LSFF mentioned something about the move that put RB Mike Dunn on defense for the Army game. FYI: Dunn was never intended to be a defensive player, but the secondary has taken some big hits because of injuries, so he was put over there as short-term insurance. Then, when C.J. Amill and Mayfield were hurt, Dunn was immediately moved back to offense. At Bucknell, DeSean Brown played the first series, Rajhan Meriwether the second series and Dunn the third series. Series #4, #5 and #6 featured the same rotation and Brown played the final series of the first half. Dunn got his nifty 18-yard touchdown run -- watch that one on film if you can -- and played the entire second half.  We may have witnessed a changing of the guard there. He's only a freshman, but he did have a post-grad year at Cheshire Academy.

I guess it's impossible to calculate how much the loss of Brandon Bryant has affected the Leopards' defense. But I have to say Michael Root and Rob Hinchen are really working hard at the LB spots, and both return next year. Root had 15 tackles on Saturday to bring his season total to 70. Hinchen had nine and is now at 55 despite having been a backup prior to Bryant's injury. those three guys, with some more experienced guys in front of them in 2017, should be solid.  

Contributing frosh -- Dunn wasn't the only Leopard freshman to play strong roles for the Leopards, even though the outcome wasn't what they'd want. DL Demetrius Breedlove had six tackles, five of them solos; Eric Mitchell had his first interception and a 31-yard return to help set up Lafayette's second touchdown and he also made three tackles; Yasir Thomas caught two passes and returned two kickoffs, the longest being 25 yards.

DISSA & DATA -- The Leopards came away without any serious injuries. T.J. Jones suffered a blow to the head and is under concussion protocol, which makes his availability for this week uncertain ... Hopefully C.J. Amill, who missed the Bucknell game because of a hip pointer, will be better this week and ready to contribute ... Only 25 defensive players were available for practice last week, Tavani said, and he said he may go to just one day of actual contact practice this week. Whether that day is Tuesday or Wednesday hadn't been determined when I spoke with him. Going to Wednesday would give players an extra recovery day from the previous weekend; going Tuesday would give them extra recovery time before this Saturday's game ...  


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dissa & Data: Talking Leopards at the lunch table

DISSA AND DATA -- Chewing on some stuff from Tuesday’s weekly football media luncheon:

THE RUNNING GAME – Asked about the problems with the running game, Coach Frank Tavani said, “I think there are a variety of issues. Some of it falls on us (coaches). You’ve got to have some patience with it and got to keep doing things. Don’t just run a play and then, if it doesn’t work, that you don’t call it again. Obviously, we’ve shown great ability to throw the ball, but also have shown that’s not getting it done. Some of it has been with the backs, some with the line. As soon as you mold the group together, then you have missing parts up front and they’re trying to regroup. I can say some is on us as well as far as emphasis in practice and following through with what you practice and getting those things called in the game and not to get impatient and move away from it. It’s a two-way street I’m evaluating it heavily.

THE DEFENSE & FRESHMEN – The woes of the defensive unit the past two games have been well chronicled, and when Coach Tavani was asked about the problem Tuesday, he said, “Too many young kids out there. That’s the bottom line. That’s not an excuse. Too many freshmen. In the secondary, they’re making some mistakes, but they’re going to be very, very good. I had individual interviews with all our freshmen, completed them just this morning. We’ve used quite a few young people. Anybody who loses arguably the best linebacker (Brandon Bryant) in the conference, that’s a hole in your defense. Say what you want, but I’d like to Nick Saban lose his best defensive linebackers and see what happens to his defense. We are missing his play and his leadership and and how much he cares. He’s on the sideline on crutches and he’s burned up like he had played.” For the record, freshman Demetrius Breedlove very quietly made his first career start last Saturday. He has nine tackles for the year. Other freshmen who have at least one tackle include Eric Mitchell (24), Dante Lonardo (freshman eligibility, 15), Tre Jordan (10)J, Colin Thorne (3), Strasburger (3), Kevin Hutchinson (3), Nick Pearson (3), Dmitry Smith (3), Mike Dunn (1), Yasir Thomas (1).  

PERSONNEL --  When he was asked about running back Tyler West, Coach Tavani said, “He’s been out with a hamstring pull. He was in blue (no contact) yesterday and still didn’t look 100 percent. He pulled his hamstring two weeks ago in special teams practice, and at this time of year, that’s not taking care of yourself. A soft tissue injury means you’re not hydrating properly and taking care of yourself.” (West and) Tommy Strasburger, a freshman who Tavani said “showed potential to help us at safety, where we could use help,” were hurt in the same practice, same injury, and Strasburger is still out. Tavani also said freshman running back Mike Dunn had been moved to defense last week to prepare to play because he had played outside backer and safety in high school, “so it was pretty natural. But giving what we’re looking at because we don’t know C.J. Amill’s status for a couple of days with a hip pointer, Dunn was moved back to offense “and he’s one of the three backs we’re preparing to play in this football game.” Others would be DeSean Brown and Rajhan Meriwether, who had four carries in the last two series of the Army game.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lafayette-Army West Point game day schedule

If you’re heading to West Point, N.Y., on Saturday for Lafayette-Army West Point football, and you’re wondering what’s going on in connection with Homecomking at the Academy, here’s a little travelogue.

Activities Timeline:

THREE HOURS BEFORE KICKOFF: CADET REVIEW – A full-dress Cadet parade takes place on “The Plain.” The schedule reading from says “weather permitting.” Well, I see the low is supposed to go to about 33 degrees by 7 a.m., and by parade time it’s supposed to be bright sun and about 45 degrees. Sounds like that will allow for anything outdoors, including the changing of the leaves, which should be very nice – I hope.

FORT PUTNAM – The Fort, located within walking distance of Michie Stadium, is open to the public on game days. It is not handicapped accessible, however, due to the nature of the grounds. The fort protected the Great Chain across the Hudson River and blocked British Naval ships from using this route to Canada.

BLACK KNIGHTS ALLEY – An interactive fan zone with pray areas for children and autograph sessions, interactive sports stations manned by Army West Point cadet-athletes, a live radio broadcast, food and beverages, camouflage face-painting, bounces houses and more.

PREGAME MICHIE STADIUM EVENTS – You might want to take a seat early and take it all in.
1.       TWO HOURS TO KICKOFF – Stadium gates open.
2.      25 MINUTES TO KICKOFF – West Point Band takes the field.
3.      20 MINUTES TO KICKOFF – Cadet march-on.
4.      15 MINUTES TO KICKOFF – The National An them.
5.      10 MINUTES TO KICKOFF – Parachute demonstration and delivery of the game ball.
6.      5 MINUTES TO KICKOFF --  Army West Point team takes the field.

NOTE: Enhanced security measures remain in effect at West Point and at stadium access points for all home football games. All fans 16 and over must present a valid ID to enter West Point. The Academy strongly encourages all fans to arrive as early as possible.
Anyone who appears under the age of 30 and attempts to purchase alcohol must have a valid ID. Alcohol will not be permitted inside the stadium. Persons who appear to be intoxicated or acting disorderly or passing alcohol to minors will be ejected from the stadium.  A long list of items including artificial noisemakers, bottles, cans or other beverage containers, firearms, knives and weapons of any kind, footballs or throwing objects, laser pointers, profanity, signs or flags on sticks or poles, smoking, soliciting, umbrellas, etc. are prohibited. “Bags are permitted inside the stadium but are subject to thorough search prior to entering the stadium.”

This information was provided by Matt Faulkner of the Army West Point communications department.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Do Leopards have a secret weapon for Army?

Trent Crossan
If Lafayette wants to give Army West Point a dose of its own medicine on Saturday afternoon in Michie Stadium, Leopards Coach Frank Tavani has the right answer in his own locker room.

At 5-9, 195 pounds, he’s roughly the same size as Army’s starting quarterback, Ahmad Bradshaw (5-11, 196) or backup Chris Carter (5-9, 197).

Just like Bradshaw or Carter, this Leopard is going to graduate as a commission officer in the U.S. Army.

And just as Bradshaw and Carter, if they EVER pass in the Cadet offense, have 6-1 Jermaine Adams and 6-1 Jeff Ejekam to throw to, my QB has as a Leopard teammate a 6-2 target who is also a future commission Army officer.

But my secret weapon QB has one thing that neither Bradshaw nor Carter has on his impressive sports resume.

My man, a Lafayette sophomore defensive back these days, scored eight touchdowns in one game as a high school junior.

As a quarterback.

In a triple option offense.

You read it right. Eight touchdowns! In one game! Oh, and he also converted a two-point run to give him 50 points in that game.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Remembering some Army games; media day notes


1992 – A 9-yard touchdown pass from the late Tom Kirchhoff to Craig Roubinek give the Leopards a 36-35 lead over the Cadets with just 1:04 left in the game. But Army quickly moves to the Lafayette 36, where Patmon Malcom kicks a 43-yard FG with 4 seconds left to produce a 38-36 victory … a flu bug did what lots of linebackers couldn’t do and hit Erik Marsh so hard he had to miss the game … Roubinek account for 20 points with three TDs and a 2-point conversion … Kirchhoff was 24-for-32 for 294 yards and four TDs … Mark Wogenrich, who currently covers the Penn State beat for The Morning Call, covered Lafayette in 1992 … Who subbed for Marsh that day?  It WAS indeed Jarrett Shine, who was a freshman and ran 12 times for 70 yards against the Cadets.

1989 – Army wins 34-20, but Ted Meixell writes in The Morning Call that the Leopards played their best football of the season … Frank Baur was 22-for-39 for 222 yards but no touchdowns … Tom Costello carried 30 times for 107 yards … Tom Moncman, who went on to be a Lafayette assistant coach and then head coach at both Liberty and Parkland high schools, recovered a fumble … Daryl Boich and Dwayne Norris and 24 and 22 tackles, respectively … Army gained 417 yards rushing in the game with its wishbone offense …

1988 – Army wins 24-17, gaining 450 yards on 76 running plays … Cadets had two 100-yard rushers in the game and would have had a third had he not took two clock-killing knees at the end of the game … Baur was 24-for-42 for 286 yards. He passed for one TD and ran for another, but he also was intercepted four times …

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Wanna beat the Rams? Scheme for more than Edmonds

When you mention  Fordham offensive football, it’s easy to think of Chase Edmonds as a one-man wrecking crew.  But, it simply isn’t true.

He said it himself when somebody asked him about it after his monster night in the Rams’ 58-34 Patriot League victory over Lafayette.

“Are you ever concerned that a lot of the offense is coming from you?” the junior tailback was asked after rushing for 359 yards and scoring four touchdowns to set a bunch of Patriot League rushing records.

“No, no,” he answered immediately. “I’m not sure what Kevin (Anderson) threw for today (181 yards and three touchdowns), but I knew he had an efficient day throwing the ball (12-for-18). He also ran for 100 yards (actually 108 on 10 carries, one for a touchdown). There are going to be games like that. These last couple of weeks, we have high expectations for our offense. We haven’t been clicking on all cylinders as we should be.”

Friday, October 7, 2016

FB Notebook: Leopards running game ... Rams coach ... Eric Mitchell

How many time have you heard Lafayette football Coach Frank Tavani talk about absolute need to be able to run the football?

Sometimes it seems like every week. He said it again after the loss to Holy Cross, in which the Leopards threw 46 passes, completing 33 for 280 yards and rushed 23 times for 93 yards.

“Now, do you need 300 yards a game rushing?” he asked rhetorically. “No, but 150 anyway. And that’s just starting. You need to have that element. The defense has to be kept on their toes. Now they know what we’re doing. You saw at the end of the game when they know we have to throw, they just pin their ears back. And we have some guys up front who are first-year starters and they’re struggling.”

Tavani’s inference that a running attack that gave his team 150 yards a game would be good enough for him, got me thinking. When was the last time a Lafayette team averaged 150 yards per game?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bryant, Reed injuries and other Leopard notebook stuff

No more tackling in 2016 for Lafayette's Brandon Bryant. Bummer.

It doesn’t seem right to start a blog like this with an injury report, but this isn’t just any injury. It’s Brandon Bryant, a guy who was on target to put his name among the best linebackers in Lafayette history before this year was finished.

Now, the 5-11, 225-pound junior from Cherry Hill, N.J., will be spend the rest of this year and probably the first half of next year rehabbing his knee after a freakish accident in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game with Holy Cross.

Here’s how Bryant put it in an email to me: “I was blitzing off of the edge and as I was grabbing the QB (Crusader Geoff Wade), my body swung out to the side. My knee bashed into his and caused my leg from the knee down to wipe.”

What makes the thing freakish is that the “his” in Bryant’s statement is Leopard teammate Beau Bosch, who also was chasing down Wade.  Wade got away and Bosch and Bryant went down to the turf in opposite directions. Bryant tried to get up and walk, but he was unable to do that. When he went back down, I knew it was not good. I just didn’t know what not good meant.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lafayette-Holy Cross: a midweek notebook.

Some things to think about as Lafayette and  Holy Cross get set to open the Patriot League season at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Fisher Stadium.

PETER PUJALS – Will the talented senior quarterback be playing on Saturday for Holy Cross after being hurt against Dartmouth?  Coach Tom Gilmore was non-committal on Tuesday but referred to Pujals’ injury as “lower leg.” Pujals threw for 358 yards and six TDs last year against Lafayette; he threw for just 135, but also ran for 115 in 2014, and he threw for 222 and ran for 55 as a freshman. He has thrown for 1,110 yards and 10 touchdowns this year and been intercepted five times in 175 throws. He was on crutches with his one foot in a boot in the second half on Saturday and said after the game there was no break. He will assuredly not be 100 percent if he is able to play at all on Saturday.

Lafayette Coach Frank Tavani said his team is practicing as though Pujals will play. Then he said, “I hope he does play. Once he plays one play in this game, the fifth of the season, it negates the possibility of seeing him again next year. There’s always an upside. He’s an outstanding player, and he’s doing great things. You want to play people at their strength, but they put a severe spanking on us a year ago when we were as depleted as any team I’ve ever been around and everybody knew it. They knew it. We were down 42-0 and blitzes were still coming. That’s a little bit of interesting  motivation. We’ll be back. This is an entirely different game. We haven’t focused on last year.”

BRENDAN FLAHERTY – The Crusader receiver came to last year’s Lafayette game with 56 catches in six games and six TDs.  He torched the Leopards’ defense with seven catches for 95 yards and four touchdowns – including the last three of the game. This season, he had only 12 catches in the three games for 120 yards and one touchdown.   He didn’t play against Albany and he caught only one pass against New Hampshire – on the first play of the game. Can’t afford to lose sight of him on Saturday.

I asked Coach Tavani if playing against an obviously injured Pujals or a backup with a lot less experience, the Leopards' defensive strategy might including going with more blitzes than normal. He said, As our defensive staff does every week, you want to have your defensive package to defend what you're seeing on film and what they're giving you. You start zeroing in like, oh, he's not going to play so we're going to do this, even the backup we saw last year is a very athletic kid. He apparently has a hamstring issue or something and the third guy they list now, we don't have any idea. So we're not going to see a whole lot of different plays. They may try to run the ball a little bit more or, who knows. They have a very experienced offensive line so that's a real plus ... you don't necessarily have to have this great guy at the helm if your o- and d-line are solid and playing, then you have a running game and a defense that's getting it done. That puts a little less pressure on the guy, so I'm sure there'll be more emphasis on the o-line protecting whomever, if that's the case. We have to be prepared to go as if he's playing and that's the way we'll prepare."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two-point play call, bogus penalty and more Leopard stuff

Frank Tavani has made a big deal this year about the E.A.A.T. slogan adopted by his football team. Effort. Attitude. Accountability. Toughness.

Well, on Tuesday, he practiced what he’s been preaching.

The head coach took full accountability for the no-call in Saturday night’s game at Princeton, when his Leopards scored a fourth-touchdown to pull within four points at 35-31.

It’s a pretty good bet that almost everyone in Princeton Stadium was sure the Leopards would go for a two-point conversion to pull within three, hoping to then get a defensive stop and perhaps have another opportunity to drive for either a winning touchdown or a tying field goal.

The call for the two-point attempt never was given. Lafayette wound up losing 35-31.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lafayette-Princeton: Cleaning the notebook

Lafayette's Rocco Palumbo goes up for one of his five catches against Princeton.
Photo courtesy of Lafayette College.
I’m not sure what Frank Tavani meant when he said Sunday, “We’ll take a closer look at what it is we can do,” but I have to think that the Lafayette running game may be in for even more attention this week after the third straight game in which it lagged well behind in its production.

But when I brought up the well-documented fact that the style of his day – quarterback under center, a traditional blocking fullback and two halfbacks – has become almost yesterday’s news on the college scene, replaced by the shotgun, pistol, run-and-shoot, spreads, he said, “Yeah, the game is completely different; (Jon) Gruden and I talked about this all the time. It’s fastbreak football. High scoring. You’ve got to be pretty good at it and be willing to put your quarterback up for a lot of hits.”

Tavani said he had 25 to 30 carries a game every week in his day,  and much of that was tough, inside, football. “We do some (QB under-center), depending on situations. Defenses are moving around all over the place now; they’re more athletic, and people are more than willing to commit more players to the box (to stop the run). It was a big deal when you put six or seven in the box, now you see eight, nine, sometimes even 10 with a safety in the middle of the field. You have to be pretty big, fast, strong. Nobody has a steamroller; everybody spreads people out to create space in there.”

Fifth-year senior Nick Zataveski  (6-6, 300) was back in the starting lineup on Saturday night, and the offensive line, which included Cam Smith (65, 310), Connor Staudle (6-6, 320), Kevin Zataveski (6-4, 300) and Logan Grieser (6-3, 310) did a pretty good job in the passing game. Giving Drew Reed a chance to thrown downfield to Matt Mrazek, Nick Palumbo, Joey Chenoweth and Dylan Wadsworth. Mrazek had a 41-yard play and a 24-yard touchdown. Palumbo had a 35-yarder and Chenoweth a 31-yarder in separate scoring drives. Palumbo, who Tavani said “stepped it up and is gaining confidence” had a career-high 101 yards on five receptions.  He had only three catches in the first two games, and adding him to the mix could be huge as the season progresses. He had 34 catches last year but reportedly had an unspectacular training camp.  He was spectacular on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Leftovers from Lafayette's football media lunch

Some quick shots from Tuesday’s media luncheon:

THE NUMBERS GAME -- We had Princeton Coach Bob Surace on a conference call, and I asked him how many players the Tigers would have in uniform on Saturday for the game against Lafayette. He said "probably everybody who's healthy ... about 100." The Ivies can bring in as many as 32 players a year, which would give them a four-year roster of 128. Lafayette may have about half that many in uniform on Saturday. Coach Frank Tavani has always said that in the days of need-based recruiting at Lafayette, he never won a personnel battle from an Ivy school. Although everyone had to use the same figures to determine "need," he has said, the Ivies somehow always managed to be able to provide more. Take a look at the Princeton roster. Double numbers galore. "But they can only play 11 at a time," Tavani said.

THE "OPENER" QUESTION -- Coach Surace said he'd "rather play two games" than have to open the season against a team that has already played twice. He said Princeton didn't begin preseason camp until Aug. 24, which was two weeks later than Lafayette. He said there were a lot of double-session days and that the Tigers didn't have an outside scrimmage. He talked about the fact that teams often make the biggest improvement between their first and second games and that the improvement between the second and third game "is huge." He didn't talk about the element of surprise he has in his favor, but it's a major concern. “They’re going to line up in a lot of different looks, and they’ll have every blitz imaginable,” Tavani said of Princeton. “I’m sure we’re going to see something, as we do every year, that we haven’t seen. You have to make adjustments at halftime. Their young men already have (Lafayette’s) tendencies and know who they’re going to play. I look at (last year’s) film and don’t know who they’re playing. We know what we think we’re going to see. We just need to execute what we’re doing."   

TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO -- Coach Tavani said his defense is preparing for an 80-play game Saturday evening in Princeton Stadium. The Tigers play fast and give the fans their money’s worth. Last year, Princeton ran 45 running plays and 33 pass plays; in 2015, it was 37 runs and 55 passes and in 2012, it was 54 runs and 20 passes.  Lafayette will undoubtedly want to shorten the game, but if its running game is again ineffective, and if the Leopards don’t have a crisp short-pass attack in its place, the Tigers will control the tempo. That would not bode well for Lafayette.

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Dissa and Data:" Delaware at Lafayette football

Some 50 years ago, my father was involved in a bowling league for which he kept track of scores and wrote a short column. He called it “Dissa and Data.” He was very proud of that piece. He made me read it often. 

In honor of him, because he always said he wanted to have the kind of job I had at The Morning Call – even though he died before I got half way through my career, here’s some “Dissa and Data” about the Lafayette-Delaware football game.

It must be nice to have the  luxury of pulling aside a kid who last year rushed for 795 yards and telling him, basically,  sit it out, son, we’re red-shirting you for 2016. No questions asked.

If I were Kareem Williams, I don’t know how thrilled I’d be at the thought of such a thing, but that’s what’s happening.  The former Parkland High School star, who ran for 93 yards to lead the Blue Hens a year ago against Lafayette,  is not on the two-deep. And in the game notes, it is written, “is expected to red-shirt this season …”

Kevin Tresolini, a long-time friend who covers Delaware for the Wilmington News-Journal reminded me that Williams was supposed to red-shirt in 2015, but when Wes Hills was injured in the Blue Hens’ season opener, Williams suddenly became the next man in. So much for the red-shirt at that point.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lafayette delivered lots of wishes in its CCSU win

Okay, so how did they do at fulfilling my wish list?

I asked the Lafayette football team for several  things in its season opener at Central Connecticut State. Lafayette won the game 24-10, and even though that was not among the items on my list (but I did pick the Leopards 30-21 in my game day box in The Morning Call), I take that as a bonus.

Let’s start with the good.

 I asked for “a four wide-receiver set” and mentioned four guys. We saw lots of four-wides on Friday night, and Joey Chenoweth got a team-high eight catches and Yasir Thomas had four in his Lafayette debut. And, do I really have to mention Matt Mrazek. He probably c0uld have caught twice as many passes against the Blue Devils. – Four stars for the ‘Pards.

I asked for “no presnap penalties.” I really didn’t think this was a reasonable expectation, but Coach Stan Clayton’s guys delivered. Even Logan Grieser managed to hold his position in his first collegiate game. The line may not have had the game every Lafayette fan would like to see, but with Nick Zataveski and Jake Marotti, both tackles, injured, the’ll give the guys a pass. Don’t be surprised if Kevin Zataveski is moved from center to tackle (his position last year) and Mike Donnelly is moved from tackle to center (a more comfortable position) for Saturday night’s game against Delaware. The line gave up three sacks and Lafayette had far too many plays of no gain or negative yards – 16 to be exact. But they never stopped battling against a defensive front that had a good bit of experience. – Four stars for the ‘Pards on the initial request.

I asked for “the ‘old’ Drew Reed.” For the most part, I really liked what I saw – especially on those three touchdown passes. He threw to eight different receivers and five of them had at least one reception of 20 yards or more. Nice to see him go five times to TE Dylan Wadsworth because I think that as other teams scheme to limit Mrazek, Wadsworth will become a more serious weapon. I don’t think any of the sacks was from slow decision-making, but I do admit I left the game wondering if we’re going to see Reed take off and run himself. Lafayette will be happy if Reed has more 31-for-42 games with no interceptions. – Four stars for the ‘Pards.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A scouting report on the CCSU Blue Devils

When Central Connecticut State football coach Pete Rossomando was on a teleconference with Lehigh Valley media earlier in the week, he was asked by Brad Wilson of the Express-Times to give us a couple of players to watch.

His offensive choice was junior running back Cameron Nash, who isn’t even listed as a starter for the Blue Devils. Nash is the leading returning among the backs, having rushed for 676 yards and caught passes for another 218. His home town is listed as Smyrna, Del., but he played high school football at New Smyrna High. He started out and red-shirted at West Virginia but transferred to CCSU. Last season was his first with the Blue Devils. He ran 73 yards for one touchdown and was on the receiving end of an 84-yard TD pass play, so the Leopards will have to be keyed on him. Rossomando called him “a really special type of running back.”

For a defensive pick, Rossomando gave us junior strong safety Najae Brown. Brown also is a big-timer who had 88 tackles, ran back an interception 39 yards for a touchdown and also had a 95-yard kickoff return TD in 2015. Rossomando called Brown “a pretty good player … hie was as good as they came last year.”

Ironically, Rossomando didn’t cite Asia Bolling, the Devils’ 6-3, 210-pound senior defensive end. Bolling is definitely a disrupter. The stats we received in the game notes indicate that he had 64 tackles, ranking fifth on the team, but 22 of them were for losses. He also had a team leading seven quarterback sacks. But on the college website, the stats show he had 14.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. That's a pretty significant difference, but ee figures to be a handful for the Leopards’ offensive line. I'll be checking with the sports information people about which numbers are correct.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A wish list for Lafayette's Friday night opener at CCSU

Can  C.J. Amill get Lafayette's football season off to a fast start Friday night?

 Some things I’d like to see Friday night in New Britain, Conn., where Lafayette opens the 2016 football season against Central Connecticut State and hopes to break a six-game losing streak it carries over from last year:

A game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown – by C.J. Amill or Yasir Thomas.  I think either of these guys is as fast and as elusive as Matt Smalley, and I remember how Smalley electrified the Fisher Stadium folks on the opening KO of the 2013 season with a 98-yard return touchdown. Amill had 698 return yards in 2015, but no TDs. Thomas returned two punts for scores in his senior year in high school. No KO TD? I'd settle for a punt return TD. I'm not greedy, am I?

A four-wide-receiver set that has Matt Mrazek and Joey Chenoweth on one side and Nick Franzese and Yasir Thomas on the other. I think as a group, they would be uncoverable. Mrazek and Chenoweth combined for 90 receptions last season, but only four touchdowns. Franzese has been a guy on a mission in summer camp, where he and Mrazek have caught almost everything thrown their way. Thomas? Just watch him fly.

Five sacks from the defensive front seven. LB Brandon Bryant is a beast and can light up the place. While it would be nice to have Matt Rothrock at DT, the thought of a quick inside tandem of Lavel Ramsey and Andy Labudev teaming up with DEs Collin Albershardt and Beau Bosch is intriguing. It’s time for that Art Link 4-2-5 to assert itself.

Mike Donnelly
A game without a presnap penalty.  This is really wishful thinking, given the Leopards’ annual battle with this egregious offensive mistake. But I know Coach Stan Clayton has been constantly on his troops about their discipline. The left side is solid; on the right, Logan Grieser makes his first start after missing 2015 with an injury and Mike Donnelly fills in for injured Nick Zataveski. The 0-line is thin but perhaps the most athletic group the Leopards have ever had. Frosh Jake Marotti and Dylan Murphy came with great credentials. Both will certainly play. When they do, they’ll need to not let the moment overwhelm them.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rothrock, N. Zataveski injuries stun Leopards

You don’t have to scrimmage to be at risk of injury. Lafayette’s football team learned that painful lesson last year, and I’m sorry to say the phantom-injury bug has taken its toll on the Leopards again, with less than two weeks to go before the season opener.

When I greeted Coach Frank Tavani Thursday morning in Fisher Stadium, his first words were not something like “glad to see you,” but rather something more like “wait’ll you hear what’s happening again.”

By the count of the head coach, the Leopards have had 187 plays of “live” all-out scrimmage during the first 2 ½ weeks of preseason camp. Those plays, the equivalent of more than two full games, have been injury-free.

But when Lafayette opens the season on Friday, Sept. 2 in New Britain, Conn., against Central Connecticut State, two projected senior starters – offensive tackle Nick Zataveski and defensive tackle Matt Rothrock – won’t be in the lineup.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pocono delivers again -- spread the news

This photo was taken DURING the race. Wide open space ... sad.
As Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Joseph Newgarden chased one another down the main straightaway once again in virtual lock step at speeds of some 215 miles per hour at Pocono Raceway Monday afternoon, I wanted to break out in song.

With all due respect to the late, great Frank Sinatra, my reworked version of his iconic “New York, New York” would start out something like this:

Start spreadin’ the news,
I’m watchin’ today,
I want to be a part of it,
Long Pond, Long Pond.

Corny, yeah. But true.

A very small percentage of the originally expected crowd elected to stick around for the third Monday main event of the 2016 Pocono season. Chances are they weren’t sitting in front of their television sets and glued to the NBC Sports Network feed, either.

That was their loss.

The guys from the Verizon IndyCar Series put on a great show again, with Will Power producing Roger Penske’s ninth win on the Long Pond tri-oval.

Sure, it would be nice on a big track like Pocono to have a field of more than 22 cars, but it’s not always necessary to have the numbers.

It’s all about competition, and in that department, IndyCar is delivering.

Nine different drivers led, and the lead changed hands 29 times. It was a lightning quick event, too, taking just 2 hours, 46 minutes and 29 seconds, thanks to only four cautions for a total of 20 laps. The average speed was 180.198 miles per hour.

I was told that the ticket presale was going pretty well – until people began looking at long-range weather forecasts. As the prediction of rain persisted over a two-week period, sales dried up.

Now, the question is, how does the word get out so that the 2017 and 2018 events, which were announced within the past two weeks, turn the corner? Pocono certainly took a bath on this one. What are the odds of two NASCAR events and an IndyCar race ALL having to run on Mondays in the same year?

Back in May, when people turned out in almost historic numbers for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar crowd was talking about how that race was going to have a positive impact on the rest of the series.

I don’t see that happening. It certainly didn’t happen in the Pocono Mountains this week, even though the Pocono management has taken a bold step with its ticket pricing.

For me, these are still the only real race cars out there. The drivers in the series seem to be more fan-friendly than they have been in many other years, too.

The racing is terrific.

Watch for some sort of replay of the ABC Supply 500. Maybe it’ll get you singing, too.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lafayette Leopards get it when it comes to E.A.A.T.

Talk about teamwork! Lafayette's offensive line Angus Evans (81), Cam Smith (79), Connor Staudle (67), Kevin Zataveski (62), Mike Donnelly (66) and Nick Zataveski (68) are perfectly in synch as they and fullback Kyle Mayfield (25) lead the way for running back DeSean Brown on Thursday. 
The football team’s slogan for the 2016 season is E.A.A.T. – and it has nothing to do with calorie intake.  It stands for Effort-Attitude-Accountability-Toughness.

After Thursday’s practice in Fisher Stadium, I talked with four members of the team. I asked each of them the same question: Which of the four aspects of that slogan means the most to you?

Here are their answers.

DESEAN BROWN, Junior running back – “I’d say effort because it’s something you can control. All of them can be controlled, but I think effort is the biggest thing because it’s something you can teach yourself. Some people don’t have the mentality to be a tough guy, and and some people just don’t grow up being accountable for things they do. I think effort is something you can teach yourself. Go out there and play hard whenever you want to.”

DREW REED, Senior quarterback – “I think they all feed off one another. If you come out with the right attitude you’re going to put forth the right effort. Attitude, I think, is maybe the biggest one. If you have the right attitude, you’re going to put forth the effort and you’re going to be tough. You’re going to be accountable if you have it, because you’re going to be doing the right thing. Attitude is the biggest one because they all play off of that one.”

BEAU BOSCH, Junior defensive end – “It’s hard to sort one out because they play off of each other. but I would say it would have to be accountability. Being able to have your teammates count on you to do your 1/11th and effort, toughness… it’s really hard to pick one.”