Monday, November 15, 2010

Analysis of the Week - Lafayette

This week, I have turned to one of the most astute and knowledgeable posters of the Holy Cross football team: breezy. Aside from his great thoughts from the games--many of which he travels to--I have found that he constantly digs deeper with regard to the team. He often inquires about how many of the younger players on the team are doing by seeking out reports from the Junior Varsity games, and keeping a close eye on the depth chart and participation reports. I always enjoy reading what he has to say about Holy Cross' games come Sunday morning. Thank you, breezy, for providing us with the "Analysis of the Week."

Back from the game today in Easton -- great day for a football game -- who knew it was the middle of November?

Good turnout on the Holy Cross side, and the fans had plenty to cheer about today.

Lafayette QB Ryan O'Neil (brother of former HC QB John O'Neil) played very well and displayed none of the inaccuracy that Lafayette fans have bemoaned. HC QB Ryan Taggart also played well although he started slowly in the passing game.

HC special teams deserve special kudos in this game -- the fumble recovery on the Lafayette FG attempt at the end of the second quarter that was returned for a TD, some excellent kickoff returns by Zitnik and Fess, recovery of both onside kicks, the blocked punt, and some deep kickoffs by Lemieux that were well covered stopping the Lafayette returner around the 20-yard line several times.

Although Lafayette had a wide margin in total yardage, much of that was due to a couple of long drives in the 4th quarter when the HC defense was playing prevent style (someday someone will explain to me what the prevent defense actually prevents).

HC offense played much better in second half and each time Lafayette would close to within 3 points, the offense responded with a TD.

HC had two penalties early in the first quarter but only one more penalty for the rest of the game -- a very questionable pass interference call.

Fortunately, the game was played without any apparent injuries on the HC side and only one injury to a Lafayette defensive back that did not appear to be too serious.

It's a good thing, too, because HC has had a ton of injuries this year. Freshman RB Reggie Woods got his first action of the season, rushing three times to give Sam Auffant a breather. Freshman DT Michael White saw substantial action alternating with Tony Ruoti. On many passing downs late in the game, freshman LB Mike Tucker was inserted at DT in an effort to put some pressure on the Lafayette QB.

A good day. Let's get a win against Bucknell next week to end the season with a winning record.

I completely agree with this assessment, especially the recognition given to the Special Teams units, which is what I will harp on in my assessment. Just as these units outclassed the Colgate Raiders, they made Lafayette look like a feeble Pop Warner team out there. Often times, Special Teams is a great way to take momentum from an opponent and use it to ignite the entire sideline and team. 

For all intents and purposes, Holy Cross was as dead as a carcass for much of the first half. The first four drives of the game for HC went: punt, field goal, downs, downs, and punt. While Lafayette was not doing much on the offensive end themselves, they were the better team for the first 29:32. Lafayette was poised to go up 13-3 as their stellar kicker Davis Rodriguez (you would not know how good he was in his last three performances against Holy Cross) lined up to kick a 42 yard field goal. Enter: Cav Koch and the field goal block unit. Benefiting from a bobbled snap, Koch took the ball 68 yards to the house to give the Crusaders a 10-7.

Boom. Just like that instead of being down by 7 or 10 at the half, HC is up by 3. One can make the argument that it was not the Holy Cross Special Teams that were so good, but it was the Leopards' that was simply atrocious, but HC simply did their job on Special Teams. The Crusaders ostensibly did not deserve to be leading at halftime, but thanks to Special Teams, they took the momentum with them into the locker room and it carried over into the second half. 

In the early stages of the second half, Special Teams came up big once again. With Tom Kandish standing inside his 20 yard line, Perry Townsend blocked a punt giving HC fantastic field position. In Kandish's defense, he was practically mimicking Dustin Pedroia by crouching down to field a ground ball at second base. The snaps for Lafayette were low all day, and Townsend capitalized on the Leopards' miscue. The ensuing drive for Holy Cross stalled after just three plays, and as Rob Dornfried lined up for what would be a mere chip shot from the 23 yard line, the field goal unit for Holy Cross would fail and execute all in the same play.
  • Failure: Lafayette was able to get a strong push through the middle of the Holy Cross line and block Dornfried's three point bid.
  • Execution: The headiness of Dornfried to track down Brandon Ellis, who recovered the blocked kick, was a touchdown saving tackle--the first tackle of Dornfried's career I believe.
    • Talking to senior offensive lineman Graham Gawryszewski on the ride home from Easton, Graham commented that it was not Cav Koch's touchdown at the end of the first half that was the play of the game, but it was Dornfried's tackle along the Lafayette sideline that was the big play. I agree with him. If Ellis takes it pay dirt for six, Lafayette regains the lead 14-10--a major momentum shift.
Special Teams is all about retaining or giving away the momentum in a football game. Our offense greatly struggled to get going until the latter stages of the game, the defense allowed Ryan O'Neil to sling the ball all across the field, yet the Special Team units were there throughout the entire game. Thank you, breezy, for shedding light on the play of Special Teams along with several other aspects of Saturday's game in Easton, PA.

Check back in the coming days for a final look at the Lafayette vs. Holy Cross game.

Kevin Doyle '11

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More Color on the '90-Wide' Mentoring Program

Last Thursday evening, November 4th, Mr. Bill Maloney '59 led his 26th rendition of a
Mentoring/Career Planning evening for the HC Football team. Hats off to Bill,
Dominic Blue '98, Craig Cerretani '79, Dan Adams '07, Pete Mondani '79, and Brian Hopkins '98 as they and yours truly provided career and life wisdom and passion to the current
Crusader gridiron contingent and the Holy Cross cheerleaders as well.

The night started at 7pm and was still going strong with personal conversations at 10pm.

Reactions to the Lehigh Game

Over on Lehigh Football Nation, arguably the best FCS football blog there is around, Chuck Burton writes an article every Monday entitled: "Sunday's Word." This Monday, the word he formulated his article around was: "Hungry." Any why shouldn't it be? Lehigh came out very hungry from the get-go, and really took it to Holy Cross on the defensive end. Eventually, their potent offense came around and they ran away with a convincing 34-17 victory.

To piggy back on LFN's "Sunday's Word," if I was to write a similar article on Holy Cross' behalf, the word would be "Deflation." Just when Holy Cross began to blow up the proverbial balloon, Lehigh came up with a big play to deflate the Crusaders. Here are several instances that illustrate the theme of deflation:
  • Holy Cross is one play away from stopping Lehigh inside the Red Zone and entering halftime just down 7-3, but Lehigh puts one into the end zone: 14-3 Lehigh.
  • Holy Cross is able to force a fumble on Lehigh's first possession on the second half, but proceeds to go 3 and out after getting the ball, and Lehigh scores on the next possession: 21-3 Lehigh.
  • Holy Cross finally gets a touchdown of their own to make it 21-10, but cannot stop Lehigh on the next possession and the Mountain Hawks go up 28-10 early in the 4th quarter.
  • With Holy Cross clinging to a glimmer of hope, they fumble the kickoff and Lehigh gets the ball back. 
Lehigh had an answer for everything Holy Cross did; it really was that simple.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Analysis of the Week - Lehigh

Lehigh flat out beat us this past Saturday. They were the better team, and I do not believe anyone would deny that. I wish them the best of luck in the FCS playoffs, and believe they will represent the Patriot League well. With that being said, I want to look at one play that Lehigh runs that crushed us on Saturday.

Coach Gilmore constantly preaches that one needs to simply: "Do your job!" If each player on either the defensive or offensive end simply "does their job" and takes care of their assignment, than we will be successful as a collective whole. Lehigh obviously made the "do your job" philosophy a very tall task, yet if Holy Cross defended a play that Lehigh has crushed opponents with all season, they may have found themselves in the game in the waning moments, rather than down by three scores. I look to PurplePeopleEater this week for the most accurate analysis regarding this play, as well as the play of the game for Lehigh:

IMO - that play just before half was pivotal (going into half 7-3 and with whatever momentum a last score holds, we had something positive..and the fact that we didn't allow more points in the first half would've been a key at half). And then that late first half score coupled with an early 3Qtr LU score really made it tough. 

But regarding that LU 1st half TD, anyone at the game can recall our "D" yelling that there was no LU players on the left side...I don't think we even had a cornerback or ayone out there as LU had no one there either. Upon the snap, the entire play rolled right but an LU player flared out of the pack and was all alone on the left. It seemed like the play was drawn out exactly like it ran (call it a 'trick' play but it was creative, affective and done exactly at the right time). That was the play of the game!!!

I remember sitting at my desk on the afternoon of October 30, the day that Colgate played at Lehigh, and decided to splurge on spending the $6.95 to watch this game online. Aside from being very impressed with how well Lehigh moved the ball through the air, I recognized that they continually went to this throw-back pass when absolutely needing a big play. Against Colgate, they ran the play once with their primary quarterback Chris Lum (a 9 yard TD pass to Jake Drwal), and ran it another time with their "Wildcat" quaterback Michael Colvin (a 7 yard TD pass to Alex Wojdowski). This was Lehigh's bread and butter when they needed to convert, and, sure enough, they burned us on it twice. 

The play at the end of the first half, that PPE alluded to, definitely was the major changing point in the game. Going into the half down 4 (7-3), instead of 11 (14-3) is a major difference, especially because Lehigh would be receiving the ball to begin the second half. 

Although PPE already explained the play, I will do my best to explain how it works as well. The main objective of the play is to have the entire offense, but more importantly the entire defense too, flooding to one part of the field. Lehigh accomplished this with having Chris Lum and the offensive line roll out to the right side of the field; the receivers all broke to the right side as well. What made this play, however, was how the Lehigh tight end Alex Wojdowski sold his block exceptionally well, and then leaked out to the wide side of the field. He was all alone, and while Anthony DiMichele was in position to potentially make a touchdown saving tackle, Wojdowski danced around him for six. DiMichele was sucked into the design of the play, and struggled to recover. 

Lehigh's offense is much more than just this one play--call it a trick play if you want--but this throw-back pass will definitely burn another team later in the season; I can guarantee you that. The Mountain Hawks did a great job of setting up this play so they were in a position to be successful when calling it. 

Look for my reactions of the game as to "What went right, and what went wrong" later today.

Kevin Doyle '11

Monday, November 1, 2010

Joe Tutino '12 Weighs in on the Colgate Trip

Although it is coming a little later than usual this week, Joe Tutino has fabulously provided his great insights to our trip to quaint Hamilton, NY. I cannot think of a single part of the trip that Joe left out, other than myself having some serious digestive problems on our drive from the hotel to Colgate on Saturday morning; there definitely was something peculiar in those sausage links.                

            Figuring that we have a bye week this week, I thought I’d delay my recap so there would be something to read about over this weekend. It’s only been a week, but the excitement of the Colgate win is still fresh in everyone’s minds. After a long ride through the winding roads of western Massachusetts and eastern New York, a huge win over the 1932 National Champions proved to be a huge momentum booster heading into the bye week as the boys prepare to take on the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh University this coming Saturday. All things considered, the winner of this game will be in complete control of its destiny for the Patriot League Championship (as I write this, Lehigh dismantled Colgate 44 to 14 on Senior Day in Bethlehem). This week proved to be big as injured guys have slowly made their way back onto the field and into pads, enthusiastically preparing for another potent offensive attack in Lehigh. But, for one last time, let’s take a look at the game that kept us alive in the hunt for another PLC…

As Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ chimed through the speakers at Colgate’s Andy Kerr Stadium, the sun slowly descending behind the hills of Hamilton, NY, the Holy Cross football team erupted into unrestrained jubilation after upsetting the preseason Patriot League favorite Raiders of Colgate University, 31 to 24. To those who were not there, it is extremely hard to put into words the anxiety of scoring early, losing the lead and then scoring on a really bold play to win the game. Recording the first road win of the 2010 campaign and the first road victory at Colgate since Kerr Stadium had a grass surface back in 2000, the Cross took full control of their own postseason destiny as they have the last couple of seasons, not to mention taking at least a few more years off of Coach Gilmore’s life. Something felt very different about this game almost from the very beginning. As soon as we arrived at the locker rooms to the time the boys stepped on the turf for warm-ups, the entire team was vocal and upbeat, something that was not really seen or felt before last week’s defeat at Dartmouth. The hangover from the Hanover trip was almost nonexistent and that was evident in practice this past week. The entire coaching staff did a great job of keeping the guys loose, yet focused on correcting mistakes from Dartmouth and, boy, did it show. The boys were talking a good game on the field, but they brought the intensity to back it up against what appeared to be an arrogant Colgate squad.