Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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.

Here is what went right against Lehigh:
  • Good to see Sam Auffant get to the outside and use his speed to break a run of 20+. We have run the sweep to the wide side of the field plenty of times in the last several games and have had success with it.
  • Billy Edger continues to demonstrate how he is one of the top receivers in the Patriot League. His touchdown catch in the final seconds of the fourth quarter gave him 7 TDs on the year which puts him first in the Patriot League in TD receptions. Remember, Edge also missed the Harvard and Georgetown games in the beginning of the year due to injury. 
  • Rob Dornfried did his job on Saturday. After struggling early in the year by missing a couple extra points and a field goal, Dornfried is showing why he is one of the premiere kickers in the League. He was 2/2 on PATs and 1/1 on field goals. On the season, Rob is 7/9 on field goals and 19/23 on PATs.
  • Ricky Otis was a stonewall on defense as he has been all year. Otis recorded 14 tackles, and also recorded a fumble in the beginning of the 3rd quarter that was recovered by safety Alex Johnson.
  • As has been a trend for much of the season, many receivers were getting involved in the passing game. The duo of Ryan Taggart and Mark Tolzien combined to find eight different receivers throughout the game.
  • The team has the cliche "never say die" attitude. Even when losing 34-10 in the game's final minutes, the sideline was still up and the offense was moving the ball (granted, Lehigh did have their second unit in). A big shout out goes to freshman offensive lineman Manny Mendoza for keeping the sideline vocal. I don't know how he stayed positive when the Patriot League Championship was all but lost, but he did.
Now, for what did not go according to plan:
  • It is hard to pinpoint what exactly went wrong against Lehigh, but reflecting back onto the game, it seemed like the offense never got into a groove. Credit the Lehigh defense for much of that. What aspects of the offense failed to perform?
    • As great as the quarterback play was against Colgate, the same efficiency was not there on Saturday. There were several overthrows, misreads, and miscommunication between quarterbacks and receivers.
    • Only 23/43 when passing the ball. That is simply too low of a passing percentage.
    • I am not exactly sure what the reason is, but why can't Alex Schneider become a bigger part of the offense? Not sure if this is simply the quarterbacks not getting him the ball, or whether it is play calling, but in the second half of the 2009 season he emerged as when of the bigger threats on offense. This season? He has just 187 receiving yards and one touchdown.
  • I thought the play calling was a little too conservative, especially when we got behind in the game. I was hoping we would open up the play book a little more. Specifically, and this came in a special teams situation, I thought there was a perfect time to run a fake punt in the 3rd quarter--a fake punt that we work on every week during practice. 
    • On 4th and 1 on Holy Cross 37 yard line in the beginning of the 3rd quarter when we trailed 14-3, we elected to punt the ball. Not a terrible decision, but Lehigh went onto score on their ensuing possession to go up 21-3. This may have been a good time to take a chance and extend the drive; maybe we could have put points on the board and made it a one possession game. 
  • Killed in the time of possession department. This happened for two reasons:
    • The defense failed to come up big on 3rd down as Lehigh was 9/18 on 3rd down conversions.
    • The offense struggled to sustain drives exhibited by seven punts throughout the game
  • The defensive line, after playing an exceptional game against Colgate, was pushed around by Lehigh in the trenches. Coach Gilmore said in his pre-game speech that this game would be won up front--Lehigh got the best of us here. Elusive quarterback Chris Lum found great success running quarterback draws as he picked up 64 yards on the ground. Lehigh's rushing total for the game eclipsed 200 yards; I don't think anyone thought the Mountain Hawks ground game was going to be that strong.
  • As I mentioned in a previous post, the defense was undisciplined on multiple occasions and were burned on Lehigh's throwback pass. We had practiced against it all week, we knew they were going to do it, yet we were unable to stop it.
This was a real tough game to swallow, especially for the seniors. A win against Lehigh would have almost certainly given Holy Cross their second straight Patriot League Championship in so many years. From a pure emotional level, it will be hard to get up for these next two games as the PLC and a playoff berth is not on the horizon, but these seniors have had a winning record in their three previous seasons. You can bet that in their last they do not want to have a below .500 record. 

Now, onto Lafayette. If you have not been down to the brand new Fisher Field, I suggest you try to make the trek down to Easton. It is one of the state of the art facilities for FCS football, and our games down in Easton have been filled with drama recently. Who could forget in 2006 the coming out party Dominic Randolph had to the Patriot League (34/46 for 352 yards and 4 TDs)? Or, how about that 2008 game where it was the "mystery man"--a name the voice of Holy Cross football Bob Fouracre anointed Rob Koster--who hauled in a last second pass from Dom Randolph to beat the Leopards? If the 2010 edition of the Crusader-Leopard battle in Easton is anything like the prior two meetings, you don't want to miss it!

Kevin Doyle '11


  1. Thanks for the props, guys, for my blog. I agree that big plays were a huge part of this game - your boys in Purple got some big plays, but couldn't convert those big plays into big scores or positive momentum.

    Wanted to also add a real note of credit to you guys: with the game out of reach, your players really earned their last TD and showed what great fighters you have in your program. Rest assured that there was a Lehigh guy who was genuinely impressed with that.

  2. Mr. Doyle you are nothing if not comprehensive. Wish the results on the field were as good as the color provided here.

    Do you have a prediction for Saturday?

  3. Kevin, these two articles are classy, informative and professional. The Holy Cross football community is fortunate to have you providing this service! Though this game was a disappointment, all involved with Holy Cross should be proud of the football program and that includes your blog!! Well done!!