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.

I asked for “at least two pass interceptions.” I wasn’t at all surprised to see Draeland James get one – in fact, it looked like he was the intended receiver on the play. I kidded him about not taking the INT to the house after catching the ball with no one around him. But that 27-yard return to the CCSU 25-yard line was huge.  I was surprised that the first INT of the year went to first-time starter Izaiah Avent.  I really thought freshman Eric Mitchell was going to start in that spot, but evidently, d-backs coach Doug McFadden watched both Avent and Mitchell all week and chose to go with him. He also forced a fumble. He was terrific. The final stats for the Devils were greatly enhanced by a final drive that included six receptions for 76 yards while the Leopards were in major prevent mode. It produced no points. – Four stars for the ‘Pards.

I wrote, “Is a no-turnovers opener too much to ask for?”  I actually thought that WAS too much to ask for, but the Leopards pulled it off. For the record, Lafayette had three no-turnovers games in 2015 – against Princeton, Wagner and Harvard.  So, this marks the second year in a row in which they have played error-free in a victory over a Northeast Conference opponent. Now, there’s a bit of trivia you’re not going to get from everyone.  The only no-TOs game of 2014 was the Yankee Stadium No. 150 win over Lehigh. – Bonus points for the ‘Pards.

Now for the misses. As it turns out, near-misses.

I asked for “a game-opening kickoff return for a touchdown.”  This not only didn’t happen, but the KO return was in my book a disappointment. But even here, I have to temper the grade by the fact that Yasir Thomas is a freshman. He was probably hoping to make a strong impression on the coaches, but I’ll bet he won’t be running any more KOs out of the end zone in the future after getting only to the 11-yard line in a crucial time of the game.  His other return, from the goal line, was 17 yards. I think he’s going to be a big-play maker and I don’t want to squelch his enthusiasm. I happen to like the effort and attitude he showed. He’ll be held accountable by coaches and others who have been there in the past, and if he has the toughness I think he has, this will be a great lesson learned. There you, go; your E.A.A.T. lesson for the day.

I asked for “five sacks from the defensive front seven.” Lafayette got just two – from Collin Albershardt and Andy Labudev. Albershardt’s may have been one of the big plays of the game. Lafayette had just taken a 17-10 lead;  CCSU had third-and-13 and Albershardt was like a charging bull as he took QB Jacob Dolegala down for a nine-yard loss, forcing a punt. Lafayette took the ball and drove immediately for another touchdown. Labudev’s was big, too. It came on a first down after CCSU had moved to the Leopards’ 17 in the third quarter. CCSU wound up missing a 37-yard field goal attempt.  So in both cases, timing was everything.

I asked for “a 30-yard run by one of the tailbacks.” The longest run of the day from scrimmage for the Leopards was a nine-yarder by DeSean Brown. But it helped get Lafayette out of a hole on what became an 89-yard touchdown drive.  The second longest was an eight-yarder by C.J. Amill, and it was the first play of Lafayette’s final touchdown drive. Amill ran twice for 13 yards and caught a 12-yard third-down pass to produce a first down on the drive.

I wrote, “The bottom line is that I’d like to see the Leopards E.A.A.T. their way to a confidence and morale-building performance.”  I think they passed that test with flying colors. It’s only one of 11 games, but this one showed me something. Now, it’s on to the Blue Hens. At home.

Do you Leopard die-hards have your “cow bell apps” on your smart phones? Now’s the time to download those apps and get ready for Saturday night.

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