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.
But, thanks to a couple of nice defensive plays by Beau Bosch, I got to feeling better. And when the ‘Pards stopped LU on third-and fourth-down plays to get the ball back, I was feeling pretty good.
But fr plays into the next series, a Drew Reed pass went off the hand of Matt Mrazek and into the hands of Lehigh freshman Riley O’Neil. Five plays later, Nick Shafnisky and Troy Pelletier hooked up for the first of their two touchdowns in the game.
That turnover by the Leopards enabled Lehigh to get its first points.
Lafayette got those points back – but after it was too late. Freshman Yasir Thomas’ interception set up a Blake Searfoss-led drive for a touchdown. Aided by a nice 25-yard hookup with Dyland Wadsworth, Brown scored a touchdown on a one-yard run and Lafayette got a two-point conversion on a pass from Searfoss to fellow QB Reed. It was in the playbook and they got a chance to use it. Cool.
In the end the turnovers were a wash.
I said if Lafayette could limit Dominick Bragalone to the 88 yards he had a year ago, it would be positive. Well, Bragalone didn’t go crazy, but he had 110 yards and a touchdown and he made some Lafayette defensive players’ tackling look bad. He’s not a guy who can be grabbed at; he must be hit head on. He bounced off defenders a number of times.
I said the Leopards should have someone spying Shafnisky to stop him from running. Beau Bosch did a nice job, sacking him for a nine-yard loss on Lehigh’s second offensive play and then getting him for a short loss later in the same series. For the game, Shafnisky was sacked three times – Robin Cepeda, back in the line-up after missing four games – got him twice. Shafnisky had just 13 net yards on seven carries, but he did get loose for a couple of first downs. Overall, his running was no factor.
I wrote that the kids, meaning the Lafayette freshmen, particularly those on defense, needed to show a maturity beyond their years. Well, Lehigh’s talented receivers found some easy pickings, accounting for three touchdowns. Eric Mitchell had six tackles; Yasir Thomas had four and the interception on which he had a 23-yard return, and Demetrius Breedlove had just one tackle. Nick Pearson and Izaiah Avent, the latter a sophomore with freshman football eligibility because he didn’t play last year, had two tackles each, and Kevin Hutchinson and Tommy Strasburger had one each. That’s a bunch of young kids getting their baptism in the series.
I wrote that the Leopards should use Bucknell’s game plan, particularly the defensive part. Lehigh was held under 100 yards by the Bison, but it got 219 against the Leopards. The hurter was Nana Amankwah-Ayeh, a 230-pound junior who ran like a bull in the second half and finished with 82 yards and a touchdown.
In the end, Lafayette made far too many mistakes, allowing Lehigh to score pretty quickly. No Lehigh scoring drive took more than 3:11 off the clock, and only once did the Brown and White need more than eight plays to score – an 11-play, 51-yard drive. The longest scoring drive of the game for the winners was 86 yards – their 16th TD drive of 80 yards or more this year. They had five scoring drives of 90-and-over yards.
CASLOW INJURED – The only player who had to be helped off the field was Lehigh linebacker Colton Caslow, the top defensive player for the Brown and White. Asked about the injury, Coach Andy Coen said, “I don’t know. We’ll have to find out. I was really (ticked) off at the end of the game. I might get in trouble for this. Roster sizes in our league, I think we need to expand them. This is something we all talked about as head coaches. It’s a challenge. I would have liked to take a lot of guys out of the game, but you don’t get that opportunity because you just don’t have enough players.” Patriot League team rosters are limited to 90 players, while other conference against which PL teams play, are “well over 100. Whether 100 is the (right) number (for the Patriot League), maybe that’s too much. Maybe it’s not roster size, but what we have to talk about is how financial aid get distributed for walk-on guys.” Coen said Lehigh never did get to 90 players; the most he had was 84, he said. Tavani has addressed this same issue multiple times and has promised that he will have 90 players for the start of summer camp in 2017. He said that this year, too, but never got close..
EXTRA POINTS – Lafayette kicker Jacob Bissell wasn’t in uniform, and Coach Frank Tavani would only say “he was cleared to play and it’s a health issue.” Tavani didn’t find out until Wednesday that Bissell could not play, and he gave the Lafayette men’s soccer team goalie a quick tryout, to no avail. Ryan Forrester handled all the kicking duties and had a PAT blocked. He put one kickoff into the end zone … Tavani said he would be meeting with a couple of recruits after talking to the media. He said, “We almost have our class intact; we only have three spots left. We’re further ahead than we’ve ever been.” … To people who have been looking for a change in the head coaching spot, Tavani said, I have news for them; they owe me a lot of money. Everybody is asking about my health. I never felt better. This is a great school and a great league. I’m comfortable in my own skin about how we treat these young men and how they graduate and how they handle themselves on and off the field.” … It was mentioned the Dylan Wadsworth that he looked more like a wide receiver than a tight end on the 56-yard touchdown play on which he actually pulled away from a defender. “Extra adrenaline,” he said. Wadsworth was also asked about the first drive, which ended in a fumble. “We definitely felt confident; it would have been nice to punch them in the mouth. We were here ready to play and that would have been confidence booster. But that’s how it goes sometimes and I think we responded pretty well later in the game. There was nothing we could do about it.”