Saturday, April 30, 2016

Leopards will face a talented bunch of QBs in 2016

Offensive coordinator Mickey Fein (left) keeps a close eye on Drew Reed (7) and Blake Searfoss.
When “Franks Tanks”, one of the regular posters on the Lafayette Sports Fan Forum whose name sounds like he should be a supporter of football coach Frank Tavani , predicted a 3-8 season, only two league wins and “our 7th losing season in a row” recently, he elicited the following reply from “Andy”, who seems to be more of a glass-half-full guy most of the time.

“I think we can do better, I hope the kids do,” he wrote.  “Over .500 in the league at a minimum.  Considering the budget, talent, a (senior) QB at the helm, if the result is 3-8, well …”

That comment about the senior quarterback got me thinking. Sure, Lafayette supporters everywhere are hopeful that Drew Reed can return to his form of 2013, that magical freshman season that ended with the promise of a Patriot League championship ring.

And, if it’s not Reed in command, the hope is that another rising senior, Blake Searfoss, who has had some success as a backup and a starter, can make his final year a big one.

My point, though, is that even if Reed or Searfoss has a banner year, it’s going to take improvement in a number of other areas as well if the Leopards are to turn things around.

Reed passed for 2,008 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and was intercepted 10 times. Searfoss passed for 529 yards and one score and was intercepted four times. Between them, they were sacked 38 times for 278 yards in losses. Reed scored one touchdown rushing but was not a running threat.

I did a bit of research, and at this moment, it looks like every other Patriot League team is projecting a senior starter at quarterback. And, the five veterans in the group all have credentials that are more impressive than the two guys at Lafayette.

Without going into great detail, here are the quarterbacks the Leopards will be facing – barring injuries, of course – this season.

COLGATE – Jake Melville rushed for 1,073 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed for 2,552 yards and 11 TDs last year.  He had a pretty calm day against Lafayette in 2015 – 9-for-18 passing for 145 yards and no scores and 72 yards and one touchdown rushing in a 28-19 victory.

HOLY CROSS – Peter Pujals was 286-for-484 passing for 3,195 yards and 28 TDs and ran for 319 yards and one TD. Against Lafayette, he was 27-for-36 passing for 358 yards and six TDs and ran for 18 yards in a 42-0 victory.
LEHIGH – Nick Shafnisky  rushed for 674 yards and 12 Tds and passed for 2,279 yards and 15 TDs. In the Brown and White’s 49-35 win, he was 21-for-27 passing for 283 yards and four TDs and also ran for 109 yards and a touchdown and was named the game’s MVP.

FORDHAM – Kevin Anderson was 229-for-342 passing for 3,183 yards and 32 TDs and ran for 341 yards. In the Rams’ 35-7 victory over the Leopards, he was 10-for-20 passing for 149 yards and 2 TDs. He ran for just nine net yards.

BUCKNELL  – R.J. Nitti compiled 2,477 yards and 13 TDs passing and scored six TDs rushing but was minus-182 net for year. In Bucknell’s 35-24 victory over the Leopards, he was 15-for-26 passing for 241 yards and four TDs and ran for 30 yards and a TD.

GEORGETOWN – The Hoyas are the only PL team that does NOT have a returner at quarterback. The only player with experience is rising senior Tim Barnes, who played in five games last year and 14 in his first three seasons. He has thrown just 56 passes.  In G’town’s 38-7 win over Lafayette, in which Kyle Nolan threw for five TDs, Barnes was 0-for-1 passing and ran three times for 20 yards in mop-up duty.

The bottom line: The Lafayette defense’s ability to more effectively deal with some talented QBs is going to be critical. The Leopards compiled only nine sacks in 2015. That is the lowest total in Coach Tavani’s 16 seasons at the helm. The next lowest were 14 in 2011 and 15 in 2010. The highest single-year sack total was 31 in 2004. Also, the team had just five interceptions on 310 opponents' pass attempts and gave up completions on 63.5 percent of those attempts. 

AN HONOR FOR OLE – Olav “Ole” Kollevoll, who was Lafayette’s athletic director from 1965 until his retirement in 1989, was inducted into the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Hall of Fame earlier this month.  A native of Norway, he served as captain of three different sports teams during his collegiate career at Colgate, played Triple-A baseball in the Boston-Atlanta Braves organization and also represented the USA in the 1947 World Hockey Championships.  He is a member of Lafayette’s Maroon Club Hall of Fame. A great guy and a good friend for many years, he died in 2010 in Florida at age 87.  

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