My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Week 1: Prognosticating the Patriot

After months of waiting, debating and anticipating, the Patriot League 2005 football season starts this Saturday! Week one looks to be the unofficial "Mid-Major Weekend" as three NEC teams take to the road in hopes of an upset and one MAAC team plays host. In addition, we've got an always closely watched Patriot League/A-10 matchup and one league game to pay close attention to. It is also interesting to note that there are two night games: Georgetown @ Bucknell and Lafayette @ Marist.

So, here we go for this weekend's predictions:

Fordham @ Rhode Island

Year Three in the "Battle of the Rams" puts an exciting Fordham offense back on the field in a chance to win the rubber match. Last year the Rams (Fordham Rams that is) came within one point of knocking off the A-10 visitor. This year Fordham looks to bring back much more than URI, which was picked to finish last in the A-10 North Division. They're on the road and have to prove they've got some defense, but I like Fordham to redeem last year's setback and get started off on the right foot.

Predicted Outcome: Fordham 42 URI 32

Central Connecticut State University @ Colgate

The first ever meeting between Colgate and an NEC team brings former Colgate coach Ed Argast to town. CCSU had their best season since 1973 last year, finishing 8-2. Colgate, coming off a 7-4 season, looks to break in some new faces on offense and avoid the opening game jinx that has cursed the Biddle years. Historically, an opening game win means great things for the Raiders. It's only happened twice under Biddle believe it or not, but both times have led to 10 win or better seasons. It may stay close for longer than Raider fans like, but barring a complete flop by Colgate, the home game winning streak should stay in tact for now.

Predicted Outcome: Colgate 28 CCSU 10

Sacred Heart @ Holy Cross

Another NEC team, the Pioneers of Sacred Heart, try their stab at taking down a Patriot League team. Sacred Heart has had some decent mid-major teams for since the start of the millennium, however, truth be told, they haven't played anyone - ever. This is a fairly new program and this game marks the first time Sacred Heart has played a team from a playoff conference. Holy Cross and their senior crew should take control of this game early and give the Crusader fans something to smile about.

Predicted Outcome: Holy Cross 38 Sacred Heart 6

Monmouth @ Lehigh

The Hawks from the Jersey shore try and make roost in Mountain Hawk territory and based on internet chatter, think they have a shot at it. After two ten win seasons in a row, this mid-major is starting to think big and ask about playoff inclusion. They've beaten Georgetown twice and Lafayette once in the past few years. Unfortunately for Monmouth, it will be a rude awakening meeting the preseason favorite team from the Lehigh Valley. With Borda firmly at the controls this year, the offensive machine at Lehigh should get off to a better start than last year's showing against Stony Brook. The Mountain Hawks should have to call of the hounds early and give the two deep some work.

Predicted Outcome: Lehigh 45 Monmouth 12

Georgetown @ Bucknell

The only league game this week, it should be one worth watching. Both teams have substantial offensive questions to answer. Bucknell's defense should be able to handle the Hoyas unless they have found that missing ingredient to make their offense move. I wouldn't put it outside the realm of possibility for a Hoya upset. Georgetown has played some better opening games recently and they could catch the Bison still getting some kinks out. How the Hoyas are going to score against Bucknell remains to be seen, but the ball bounces funny ways. I'm not ready to give the Hoyas the nod (and I won't until they beat someone, thanks to last year's loss to Monmouth) but this has the potential to be a low scoring game and the bounces could go the Hoyas way.

Predicted Outcome: Bucknell 14 Georgetown 9

Lafayette @ Marist

The Leopards begin their title defense with a return trip to Poughkeepsie and the Marist Red Foxes. Lafayette handled Marist last year to the tune of a 48-7 blowout and a 49-0 blowout the year before that. There is really no reason to think that trend won't continue. I will be interested to see how the Lafayette tailbacks perform, as word is Jonathan Hurt will not get the start but rather senior Alfred Belton. Hurt looked promising, so if Belton beat him out, I want to see what he's got. Either way, this one should be all Lafayette.

Predicted Outcome: Lafayette 49 Marist 0

There you have it. Current record is 0-0. Good luck to all the teams that are playing this weekend. Let's go 5-0 out of conference!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Everyone, Welcome Homer

Now that the sane and rational part of my brain has ruled the roost for the summer, my old friend Homer dropped by this morning. It is not to be unexpected as the 2005 Colgate season opens this very Saturday, and Homer is known to get most excited at the beginning of a season when all teams are undefeated and conference championships seem perfectly obtainable.

So I welcomed Homer in for the day to come up with my first annual "13 Reasons Why Colgate Will Win the Patriot League". It's tough really, leaving the list to just 13 reasons. Many a good reason will get cut. Perhaps the dear readers will leave a few more in the comments. Anyhow, here it is:

13 Reasons Why Colgate Will Win the Patriot League

1. Ray LaMonica. This fifth year tailback has been quietly overlooked by many a Patriot Leaguer. They have to think back all the way to 2002 to remember that as a sophomore, this young man rushed for 877 yards in only six starts. He is quick and a totally different back than Jamaal Branch. Don't be surprised to see great things from #22.
2. Joe Pinion and J.J. Bennett. Who and who you might say? It is a long season and back up tailbacks are a good thing to have. God forbid something were to happen to Ray, we should all not forget that Joe is back after missing last year and he was the starter in 2003 before Mr. Branch took over. He hasn't played in a while, but he's got experience and had enough talent to be named the starter. That counts for something. J.J. is a newcomer who is not so 'new' to college football. He's technically a transfer from Kentucky by way of a community college. I'm suspicious that there's some talent there than could surface sooner rather than later.
3. Dick Biddle. Coach Biddle has hardly been asleep at the wheel folks. The man is a legend in the making (if he already hasn't attained that status). He will get the most out of the players he has, and the talent he's brought in over the past four years is very good; good enough to win the Patriot League and more.
4. Home Field Advantage. This cannot be understated. We have the benefit of Lehigh, Fordham and Bucknell at Andy Kerr. We are tough to beat at Andy Kerr. The last team to do it was Villanova in 2002.
5. DeWayne Long. Admit it Raider fans: you were wondering how we were going to be at wide receiver this year. Then DeWayne got his sixth year. You jumped for joy. You high fived your co-workers. You shed a tear...
6. No Bullseye. Sure, teams will still get up for a Colgate game like they have in the past, but the weight that was on the shoulders of this team has been lifted. They are not the top dog trying to stay on top. It is much easier getting there than staying there.
7. Coordinators. Colgate has enjoyed long tenures from Mike Foley and Ed Pinkham. They don't get the spotlight Coach Biddle gets, but they are definitely worthy of praise in their own right. Year in, year out, these two have some of the best offenses and defenses around. Their stability means that these new guys taking over have been in the same system from the start. The same system that has won a few championships.
8. Jared Nepa. Jared is an under appreciated linebacker who takes a back seat to others around the league when people start talking. Sorry, that's no good. Jared is one of the top players in the league and will manhandle people this year.
9. Geoff Bean. The superstar in the making, Geoff's coming out party as a sophomore is only the tip of the iceberg. He's the real deal.
10. Improved atmosphere and support. There is a buzz this year (at least in my ears there is). I'm sensing an increase in fan support for this program and just general excitement to get at it this year. Good vibes mean good things will happen.
11. Streaks. Yes, this is a brand new year, but I like having a few of them on my side. Biddle's winning seasons, home games in a row, wins over Lafayette. They are like a nice warm blanket to begin a season with.
12. Tight End. This option was sorely missing last year. Word is there was some healthy competition in camp. I think we'll see a lot more action from this position.
13. A Fresh Start. This is counterintuitive, but it actually makes a lot of sense. As good as Colgate was last year, we were at times predictable and, unfortunately I think, complacent at times. How do you top 2003's run? The same juice just wasn't there. Fresh faces looking to prove themselves and a clean slate free of other peoples expectations is just what the Raiders need.

CCSU Game Notes are Up

Let the countdown begin. Time to read the Game Notes on the Athletic Website. My first glance through it made me take note of the two deep and some of the youngsters who broke in.

  • Rich Rosabella (frosh) as the second string center
  • Steve Jonas (frosh) as the second string right tackle
  • Erik Burke (soph) is behind Kenny Parker and is also returning kicks
  • Both ILB backups are sophomores, Robert Wenger and Mike Gallihugh
  • Our secondary is young except for Chris Williams. The entire second team and one cornerback are sophomores
I think this bodes well for the program. Young guys should get some reps this season and contribute to the team. And there are still plenty of seniors though to take charge and lead Colgate to victory. I think I like this situation a lot.

Men's Basketball Rumors

It's early and there's not much to go on, but it would appear that Coach Davis has offered scholarships to two players:

6'8" 215 Power Forward Michael Godwin from Rockwall,Texas and 6'9" 230 Power Forward Donald Lawson from Chicago.

If anyone can find something on Godwin, please share!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

#1 Lehigh

Well dear readers, this marks the last installment of my Patriot League preview. It's been a lot of fun putting this together and getting feedback from everyone. I'll look to get this done a little bit earlier next time around. Enjoy and best of luck next weekend!

#1 Lehigh

Recent History

In addition to Hamilton, New York, the other pillar of the Patriot League for the better part of the last decade rests firmly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks have made their mark on both Patriot League football and the national I-AA football scene as they've won half of the league's titles and a fair share of I-AA playoff games as well. Other league teams certainly owe the Mountain Hawks a debt of gratitude for improving the outside perception of the league and for taking on I-A and I-AA scholarship programs numerous times.

The past five years have seen the former Lehigh Engineers led by relative youngster Pete Lembo. The 1992 Georgetown graduate inherited in 2000 an already outstanding I-AA program from now Citadel coach Kevin Higgins who left at the time for the bright lights of the NFL. Lembo has done nothing short of an outstanding job, giving the fans in Bethlehem the best winning percentage in I-AA over the past seven years.

Last season was no exception to what has become expected of Lehigh, as Mountain Hawk fans saw their team share the Patriot League title with hated rival Lafayette and host a I-AA playoff first round game in Goodman Stadium. Even though they failed to advance, Lehigh continued to make Patriot League fans proud with a one point loss to eventual National Champion, James Madison.

Off Season Developments

For those following the program, this off season thankfully provided less to write about as Lehigh has become quite a target for teams looking for new coaches. Both coordinators as well as the majority of other coaches stayed put for in Bethlehem. Lehigh does welcome a new defensive line coach, Jay Bateman, from the University of Richmond. Bateman was at one time the youngest head coach in the nation as he led Siena College before they dropped football. In addition, Tony Trisciani begins his tenure at Lehigh as the linebackers coach, coming from I-AA quarterfinalist New Hampshire.

(Late edit: A coordinator was lost. The position was filled internally.)

On the recruiting front, Lehigh is another school that appears to be mining the rich local talent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey: 16 out of the 29 players come from those two states. Some standouts appear to be: Adam Watson from New Jersey power Bergen Catholic (and he brings his teammate Brian Jackson); Quadir Carter out of the Hill School (teammates of Jamie Swagler, a Colgate recruit); Max El-Hag who made a name for himself at Lawrenceville; and lastly Jarvis Lewis, all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana appears to have impressed the staff in camp and may see some time this year.

In addition, Matt McGown at running back is now eligible after transferring from the University of Richmond and should provide some depth behind Eric Rath.

2005 Schedule

2005 brings an exciting schedule to bear. After bringing in Monmouth of the NEC for what should be a tune up game (although one can never be certain), the highly anticipated resumption of the Lehigh/Delaware series takes place in Newark. That game should be one that all I-AA is watching as it may have playoff implications down the road and, for us Northeasterners, is a quality Patriot League/A-10 match up that always gives us reason to talk. Delaware is just the beginning of a fairly tough road stretch that first heads south for VMI and then up to Cambridge against Harvard. A 4-0 start should send the Mountain Hawks soaring in the rankings.

Holy Cross starts the Patriot League slate with a visit to Goodman followed by another Ivy foe Yale. The Mountain Hawks then take to the road for a game against their other Pennsylvania rival, Bucknell, before making the long drive up to central New York of an annual game that has meant many a conference title in the past.

The season rounds out with a home game for Georgetown, a short trip across Route 78 to the Bronx and the Fordham Rams before finishing at Goodman Stadium when the Leopards come to town for the 141st meeting of Lehigh/Lafayette.

Season Outlook

The chemistry for a repeat title run appears in place, starting with seven of 15 all Patriot League players return this season; perhaps most importantly the duo of Mark Borda at quarterback and Eric Rath at tailback. Rath runs behind fellow senior Greg Fay who became the starter half way through the 2004 season. These three skill positions should provide plenty of exciting offense to watch.

The biggest asset Lehigh lost to graduation would be now Arizona Cardinal Adam Bergen at tight end. It will be up to Gerran Walker and Winfred Porter at wide receiver to provide the main targets for Borda. Three seniors in Kevin Zebluim, Adam Kovacs and Greg Petrosky should round out the Mountain Hawk signal caller's choices, along with any new faces that emerge from camp.

In order for this offensive dynamo to continue to function as in years past, the offensive line will have to find athletes to replace two all-league captains. Two seniors in Adam Selmasska and Tom Toth should anchor the line while the remaining three spots will be battled out by four other players that saw time last year due to Lehigh injuries.

Even with their offensive prowess, the hallmark of recent Lehigh teams has been a stingy defense, and this year's version should prove no different. Six starters from last year's squad remain and are bolstered by the return of Royce Morgan at defensive tackle. Morgan went down in the second game of the year versus Villanova with a broken leg and boosts a defensive front that lost both all-league defensive ends. The task of containing opposing quarterbacks will most likely be up to a pair of juniors, Matt Mohler and Paul Fabre. Besides Morgan on the inside line, seniors Josh Cooney and Will Mitchell return as starters.

The linebacking corps are manned by veterans Anthony Graziani, Owen Breininger and Matt Purdy. While Graziani was an all-league selection, Breininger and Purday saw significant time last year, playing in all twelve games. The defensive backfield loses a pair of heavyweights in Karrie Ford and Neal Boozer-Gallman, but returns another standout that was lost to injury: Kaloma Cardwell at safety. Cardwell's all-league selection even though he only played seven games speaks volumes of his talent and respect. The cornerback positions should be held down by juniors Andrew Nelson and Brannan Thomas.

If this defense continues to perform in the manner of its predecessors, not only will Lehigh be a strong favorite to win the league, but due to the presence of several juniors in the lineup, it could be a force in the future as well.

The kicking game was one of the Mountain Hawks low points last year, and unfortunately for Lehigh this year could prove to have similar difficulties. Lehigh will be looking for a new punter to replace three year starter Kyle Keating and junior Justin Musiek should get the full time nod at place kicker in the hopes it will provide the team with more consistency.

Predicted Finish

1st. My reasoning rests in what could be an equation fit for an Engineer: RT + HS + HGVLc = PF. Or, in other words: Returning Talent + Historical Strength + a Home Game Versus the other top candidate for preseason favorite (Lafayette College) = Preseason Favorite. We all know that football seasons are hardly mathematical equations due in no small part to the funny shape of that oblong ball we use, but for crystal ball prediction purposes, it will have to do!

It will most definitely be a long hard road to hoe for Lehigh, as several dangerous stretches to the schedule will require 110% focus week in and week out. As the a top dog out of the gate this
year, all teams will be up for a game against the Mountain Hawks. The tight rope to the championship could falter at times least expected: For example, right after taking on two of the top programs in the nation in Delaware and Harvard, former Lehigh assistant will bring in an improved Holy Cross Crusader squad for a shot to knock off the big guys. Further down the stretch with Lehigh focused on Bucknell and Colgate, it could be easy to forget about the Georgetown Hoyas. With those games in the bag and looking forward to revenge against the team from Easton, they still have to head on the road to play almost the same Fordham team that came within a touchdown of beating Lehigh last year. In my humble opinion, should Lehigh take the reigns of their own destiny this year, Fordham might just be the most dangerous game on the schedule because it's on the road before the big rematch against Lafayette that could mean the title.

As it stands now, the Patriot League appears to be Lehigh's to lose. It won't be handed on a silver platter and their might be a blemish or two on their league schedule, but with how close the race is between the top teams of the Patriot League, I'm going to stick with RT + HS + HGVLc = PF. Or in the case, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

Best of luck to everyone in the Patriot League this year, of course except when you're playing Colgate!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

We've Got Captains

Nepa and Saraceno were named co-captains for this year. Nepa seems like a no brainer since he's already established himself as a defensive leader. Saraceno is interesting (and quite exciting) to see since he was not in school last fall semester. He must have impressed the coaches not only with skill but also work ethic and leadership to get the captain nod from Biddle. I think that's very good news for Raider fans - and it also should mean we'll see Mike under center to start the season. Keep in mind fans, he's a junior in terms of eligibility.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Express-Times Story

Recent story about the upcoming season just surfaced. It would appear that the Biddle quotes would have come from before DeWayne Long got his sixth year of eligibility.

Not so sure about the QB comments though. I think Saraceno is getting the ball come September 3rd, but maybe there is still plenty of competition if he doesn't perform as well as they want? Should be very interesting to watch what happens.

Edit: There seems to be a problem for some linking directly to it. Here's the Colgate right up:

The Raiders finished 4-2 in league play last season. In the three seasons before that, they had only two total losses to league foes in winning the title in 2003, tying for it in 2002 and finishing second in 2001.

Coach Dick Biddle believes he has quality players returning but perhaps not the depth of recent seasons. He's replacing quarterback Chris Brown, tailback Jamaal Branch and last year's top wide receivers Luke Graham and DeWayne Long.

"I think we recruited well and I think we're going to be very good," Biddle said. "Our depth will probably come from our freshman class. You have to ask what you're asking of your quarterback. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a freshman."

That could be Alex Relph, whose father, Bob Relph, was the starting QB for the Raider squads that went a combined 18-3 in 1976-77.

"I think we have to replace two very good receivers. They kept people off our backs last year making big plays. We'll find a tailback. We've always had good tailbacks in our offense."

The defense looks for leadership from linebacker Jared Nepa, the leading tackler last fall, and strong safety Geoff Bean, the second-leading tackler and interceptions leader with six. Both were All-Patriot second teamers.

Three former players from local Skyland Conference schools are projected starters: junior Jake Sulovski of North Hunterdon at center, and the Wurst twins, seniors from Delaware Valley Regional -- Jeremy at offensive tackle and Josh at defensive tackle.

Local connection: C Jake Sulovski, North Hunterdon, Jr.; OT Jeremy Wurst, Delaware Valley, Sr,; DT Josh Wurst, Delaware Valley, Sr.; DE Owen Brenner, Hunterdon Central, So.; LB Mike Gallihugh, Blair Academy, So.

For those intersted, the URL is

Fordham Wraps Up Camp

There is a nice write up appearing on the Fordham website about their end of camp scrimmage. Realizing that of course it is not a true game situation, it sounds like the first offense pretty much had their way with everything BUT the first defense. That's good news for Ram fans (I think) because defense is the question mark for them this year.

Patriot League wins out of conference go a long ways to bolstering our league's image and playoff chances, so be sure to wish them luck against Rhode Island next weekend. Just remember to specify which Rams you are rooting for!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pittsburgh Area High School QB

I ran across a little quote in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that I found quite interesting. Moon High School has a quarterback by the name of Casey Williams. Mr. Williams appears to be quite an athlete, maybe along the lines of former Bucknell QB Daris Wilson. Casey will be a senior this fall and is returning to QB after spending last year as a running back. He's got great speed and ran for over 1,000 yards last year.

What caught my eye is this statement, which occurs after the obligatory comment by the coach that he wishes Williams attracted more Division I interest:

"Williams has attracted the interest of Ivy League schools including Columbia, Yale and Penn but said he is more interested in Patriot League schools such asBucknell and Lehigh."

Leaving the editorialization about I-AA is Division I interest, who else thinks it is pretty darn sweet to read about a kid saying "Yeah, the Ivies want me but I'm more interested in the Patriot League"? We've come a long way baby...

I just hope that if he is that good, he finds his way up to Hamilton instead of somewhere in Pennsylvania!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Pool for All You I-AA Football Fans

We have been extended an invite to join a weekly I-AA Top 25 "pick en" and point spread pool - online. is a site run by AGS regular "HensRock" and he graciously invited yours truly and any other Patriot League aficionados to participate. I think it will be a fun way to keep up on the rest of I-AA and to compete against other I-AA fans.

I have joined and you should too. Now I know, I know: Colgate and Delaware fans getting along so nicely? What's next, North Korea disarmament?

You've got nothing to lose since it costs nothing to join, so stroll on over and give it a go!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Women's Soccer is the Team to Beat

The women's soccer team has the bullseye squarely on the back again this season, as the women were picked by the Patriot League coaches and SIDs to win their 11th title in 16 years. They are also currently getting votes on the national scene as well.

With two scholarship classes on the field, this team has the potential to do even more damage in the league and hopefully in the NCAA tournament. The team takes the field this Sunday versus Siena at Van Doren Field. Time to get out and support Colgate athletics!

#2 Lafayette

Sorry for the delay on this one (when it rains it pours - believe it or not 13 has been a busy man at work. Plus, it doesn't help when Rambacker starts on one of his infamous rants!). Here's what you have been waiting for (and yes, it means that you can guess who #1 is - but I've never been secret about that):

#2 Lafayette

Recent History

After a slow start in in 2000, the Frank Tavani years have seen Lafayette quietly build themselves into a winning program, culminating with winning in 2004 their first Patriot League Championship since the Erik Marsh years. However, given the fact that the Leopards haven't strung together back to back winning seasons since 1991-92, and as returning champions they won't sneak up on anyone in the league this year, the task at hand in Easton is a tall one.

With that in mind, last year's championship (and of course win over rival Lehigh) looks to have done wonders for the Lafayette program. Confidence and excitement about the program are at stratospheric levels at a school that has yet to jump on the scholarship bandwagon like the rest of the Patriot League (sans football). Lafayette Football is now the bright spot of Leopard athletics, and given the fact that Tavani won last year with a relatively young team, "Pard" faithful have every right to be hungry for the season to start.

Off Season Developments

There were two big developments on the Lafayette coaching staff, and amazingly, they both involved the same person: Associate Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach Bob Heffner. At first it looked like Heffner was on his way to Illinois and the allure of Big Ten football, then to the Leopards delight they got him back. For a guy that's been the offensive coordinator at Maryland, sought after by Illinois and coached in the Canadian Football League, Lafayette looks to have a real winner sticking around in Easton.

Tavani appears to have continued to find ways to lure talent to Easton, particularly from right across the state line. Two of the biggest standouts from the class hail from the Garden State: Jerrell Robinson, a 6-3 270 pound Defensive Lineman from Paterson Catholic and Shaun Adair, a 5-10 170 pound Mr. Everything that will likely start out as a wide receiver but played quarterback and running back too at Morristown High School. Both Robinson and Adair are two freshman that could see playing time this fall.

Seven other classmates call New Jersey home including Andy Romans, who could turn into a fine Patriot League linebacker. Other than that, trying to give a scouting report on Lafayette when resident Patriot League expert "Andy" is watching could get tricky. I will leave it up to him to give the readers the rest of the Leopard scoop.

2005 Schedule

The Pards have a curious schedule that includes seven home games and, interesting enough, they nearly all occur in a row. The Leopards start off making a trip to Poughkeepsie and the Red Foxes of Marist before welcoming A-10 foe Richmond to Easton for the start of a three game home stand. The Richmond game should be an early test of the Lafayette team as the Spiders will be out to avenge last seasons controversial loss. The first Ivy game on the slate is Princeton, who were one of two Ivy teams to mar the Leopard schedule last year, followed by Fordham to close out the first home stand.

The Pards head back on the road for a visit to the newest Patriot League stadium in the conference and Georgetown, before returning to Easton for another home stretch of four games. Columbia is the first to town before a Harvard homecoming (the second Ivy loss last year, and interestingly enough, the second trip the Crimson make to Easton in as many years) ends the Ivy schedule. The tests don't stop as Bucknell is up next followed by Colgate to finish off the home stand. Lafayette then closes out the season with a trip to Worcester and Holy Cross before wrapping up the schedule with a short drive to Bethlehem and the 141st playing of a little game that you may have heard of: Lehigh vs. Lafayette.

Certainly a favorable schedule for Lafayette if not for the final game of the year taking place at Goodman: an A-10 opponent at home along with Fordham, Bucknell and Colgate too. Throw in two losses last year that have to go to Easton as well and the Leopards could have one of the best schedules in the league.

Season Outlook

If defense wins championships, then Lafayette fans should love that old adage. Ten out of eleven defense starters are back with the Pards sole lose being linebacker Wes Erbe. Even with that loss though, the heart and sole of the Leopard defense will be led by the strong linebacker core of Maurice Bennett and Blake Costanzo along with defensive lineman Marvin Snipes. The line also brings back standouts Andrew Brown and Daniel Liseno. Finally, defensive backfield will be anchored by Torian Johnson and seniors Larry Johnson and Tye Murphy at the corners. That group coming back intact should give opposing teams fits and compete with Bucknell for the top defense in the league.

The offense has some holes to fill but thankfully returns some key cogs in the machine: Brad Maurer at quarterback and Archie Fisher at wide receiver, who returns after a season ending injury two games into the season. Lafayette fans are high on Maurer, and by all rights they should be. He came in as a sophomore splitting time and by the last seven games he won the quarterback job outright. Over the span that he was the sole starter, Maurer completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 886 yards and four touchdowns, as well as six rushing touchdowns. In what could be a taste of what is to come, Maurer by all means brought his 'A' game in the NCAA playoffs throwing for 211 yards against Delaware. Frankly, he reminds this fan of Ryan Vena from Colgate - and unless you're from Lafayette or have an unhealthy obsession with the former signal caller and current AFL player, that's not good news.

Jonathan Hurt has the daunting task of replacing 2004 Offensive Player of the Year Joe McCourt; however based on some limited playing time last year, Hurt has the potential to step right in and be a factor. Fans can look to his 2004 Richmond performance of 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns to get a flavor of his capability. The biggest obstacle for the Leopards this fall will be replacing three members of an outstanding offensive line in 2004. It won't be impossible to find quality players to compliment Drew Buettner and Robert Stroble, as Lafayette enjoys significant depth on the line and any number of players may step up and find themselves in a starting position. The key to this group will most likely be how they gel as a unit. With Heffner still at the helm, I don't think the drop off will be noticeable, if it exists at all.

Predicted Finish
Second. With that much coming back from a championship year, Lafayette makes a compelling case for first. But, and it's a big but, there are three key reasons why I don't know if they can:
  1. Lafayette hasn't beat Lehigh at Goodman since 1989 - only once in the history of that stadium.
  2. That year was also the last time the Leopards beat Lehigh in back to back seasons.
  3. Lafayette has also never beat Colgate under head coach Dick Biddle.
Those three monkeys on the Leopards back are so big we should be calling them gorillas. Given how close the Patriot League race could be this year, those kinds of streaks could dash the Lafayette championship run.

With that in mind though, the schedule for the most part looks favorable and the talent looks up to the task of repeating. The offense should be very capable and could even improve upon last year with Maurer having another season under his belt. Yes, Lafayette fans should be very hungry for the season to start. And if that old adage about defense is true, the Leopards might just be hoisting that trophy once again - but this time in Bethlehem. For Lafayette fans, it probably wouldn't get much better than that.

Some updates

First, #2 in the preseason write up is almost done. Look for it by tomorrow morning at the latest. Next, I think the "new" scoreboard rumor I heard for Andy Kerr is just a rumor. I drove by the stadium this weekend and the same old scoreboard is up. I'm pretty sure it's on Roach's list of things to get done, but maybe it's next year.

Finally, if you don't visit AGS, give this thread about Georgetown a quick read. An AGS legend and Delaware fan, 89Hen, lives in the D.C. area and scouted out their recent scrimmage. There are some great pictures of the new construction and some players in action. Very nice "amatuer" work done!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Non Athletic, But Still, More Good News for 'gate

The annual bible of college bound seniors and their parents, U.S. News and World Report, published their online rankings today. Colgate moves up a spot in the National Liberal Arts Category and breaks into the Top 15. The bad news is that Hamilton joins us at 15 (along with Grinnell). What's up with that?

Taking a look at our illustrious league, here's how we all fared:

Colgate - #15 National Liberal Arts
Bucknell and Lafayette - #27 National Liberal Arts
Holy Cross - #32 National Liberal Arts
Georgetown - #23 National Universities
Lehigh - #32 National Universities
Fordham - #68 National Universities
American - #85 National Universities

Very nice looking league my friends, very nice. As much as we can debate the rights and wrongs of it, until next year, you are your ranking for many a high school senior. Keep up the good work Patriot League!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Football Gods Shine Upon Us

DeWayne Long will be suiting up for the Colgate Raiders this fall! After speculating that DeWayne might return, to actually find out he was granted a sixth-year of eligibility really makes this fan happy. This is fantastic news for Colgate football. Wide receiver was one of the two huge question marks for the offense this fall and returning a first-team all Patriot League selection to the mix gives us a deep threat that may have been missing.

DeWayne should be joining Kenny Parker as the other starting wideout. Long, Parker and LaMonica (along with perhaps transfer J.J. Bennett) suddenly seem like a pretty potent offense to attack behind that line we have returning. If Mike Saraceno pans out the way that some have said he will, take heart ye Colgate faithful; it has the potential to be a great season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Here's the field itself. I think it looks sharp and can't wait to get down there in November for a closer inspection. Way to go G'Town! Posted by Picasa

Hot off the presses, The 13 Yard Line was graciously given some very recent shots of the progress down in D.C. You're looking at the MSF (the name for now. Anyone with a lot of dough can have a field named after them!) about a week ago. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fourteen Years Later...

Steve Poapst is still plugging along in the NHL, this time with the Pittsburg Penguins. That's might impressive to still be playing in the NHL for that long. I think I just got a new team to root for this season! Go get 'em Steve.

In other Colgate Hockey news, seasons tickets just went on sale. So if you've been waiting for that seat in the upper right corner behind the goal, now's your shot.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Big "What-if" for Bucknell

Looks like a former Bison player, Joe Villani won the starting center job for the University of Pittsburgh.

Interesting story to say the least. It's not every day that a Patriot League player transfers to a I-A school, sits out for a season and then as a walk on wins the starting job. Perhaps he would have been REALLY dominate if he stuck around at Bucknell.

My question is, what "two-time All American" was he "throwing...all over the place and pushing him on the ground like nothing"? If my math is correct, that would be the 2003 season he was a freshman at Bucknell. The closest thing I can find is Adam Lord, but if that's true, Mr. Villani is embellishing just a wee bit, no?

Oh Yea, Lehigh has Camp at Lehigh Too!

Interesting read about our Patriot League brethern, who started camp while the Eagles are still there. I for one can't imagine having to share facilities with an NFL team. How much does it suck to not be able to use your own fields?

But then, I wonder if it helps the Mountain Hawks get any more press practicing at the same time? If so, is it worth it?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

#3 Colgate

(disclaimer: The homer in me is doing his best job to stay home for this column. It is tough, so I'll apologize now for any overly pro-Colgate slant that arises.)

We're heading towards the home stretch now. Players have reported to camp (recent pictures) and the start of the season is a little more than three weeks away! So up next is...

#3 Colgate

Recent History

Two words: Dick Biddle.

When talking Colgate football in the past decade, it can basically be summed up in those two words. Under Coach Biddle's tutelage, the Colgate "Formerly Red" Raiders have become one of the pillars of the Patriot League by virtue of nine straight winning seasons, four league championships and a 76-31 overall record (45-10 in the Patriot League). The highlight of this amazing run was arguably a 15-1 season and a trip to Chattanooga in 2003.

All this success is even more impressive considering he inherited an 0-11 1995 team that hadn't seen a winning record since 1990. Given that record and the fact that current and former players are said to radiate praise for Biddle, this could be as close to a Cult of
that Colgate football will ever experience.

Most recently, the 2004 campaign, which saw the return of several top offensive stars including 2003 Walter Payton winner Jamaal Branch, could be viewed to be a slight disappointment for the Raider faithful, as the team "settled" for a 7-4 season and third place Patriot League finish. The once lowly standards have been raised in Hamilton, and the test is now on to see how the program responds to what is by most standards a rebuilding year.

Off Season Developments

In what has become a hallmark of Biddle's tenure, this past off season saw very little coaching turnover. Besides losing Jon Genson to VMI (and gaining former Colgate All-American center Kevin Bolis to the staff in the process), every other member of this winning combination has stayed put. To put some perspective on the stability that Colgate has enjoyed: offensive coordinator Mike Foley has been at Colgate for 21 seasons (5 of them as head coach); defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham has been with Biddle from the beginning (10 seasons); linebacker coach Bob Fraser is going into his 8th season and quarterback coach Dan Hunt is going into his 11th year, having stayed on with Biddle from the previous staff when he was made head coach. It is no coincidence that the consistency in coaching at Colgate has yielded substantial dividends on the field.

When it comes to the Class of 2009, on paper one could deduce it was an outstanding recruiting season. Colgate brought in what looks like as balanced a class that one could hope for - and may include some kids who will see time this season. Some highlights: Eric Tupta, linebacker from Ohio, is perhaps the best of the defensive class. He's 6-2, 235 pounds, ran a 4.7 40 time, 335 pound bench and had a 500 pound squat; Rich Rosabella, a 6-0, 280 pound offensive lineman, whose high school coach was former Red Raider running back Bill Sparacio, chose Colgate over Georgia Southern; J.J. Bennett and Jordan Scott have great potential in the backfield along with Mike Beatty at fullback; Brent Dillingham, a 6-5 240 pound tight end, joins five other offensive lineman coming in at 275 pounds or more - not counting Rosabella; and Anthony Fucillo (MA) and Dan Pitcher (NY) both shined at QB in their respective state all-star games.

2005 Schedule

If history offers any insight into future performance, the cards are aligned pretty well for Colgate. The slate starts off in Hamilton against NEC foe Central Connecticut. This first game is key for the Raiders, as Colgate's 2-7 record in opening games under Biddle reveals perhaps the biggest Achilles Heel of the program. Next up the welcome mat is rolled out, sans snow we hope, for the second year of four games in a row with preseason ranked A-10 foe UMass.

The traditional Ivy schedule follows, with a trip to Dartmouth, Cornell at Andy Kerr for Homecoming, and then back on the road to face the Tigers of Princeton. With all of the out of conference games out of the way, Biddle's squad settles in for six straight Patriot League contests. It starts with Fordham at home, Holy Cross in Worcester, Lehigh at home for Family Weekend and traditionally the biggest crowd of the season, Lafayette in Easton, Bucknell back in the Chenango Valley and then finally a trip to D.C. and Georgetown in their brand new stadium.

With three of the top Patriot League programs heading to the friendly confines pictured above, the Raiders might have one of the more favorable schedules in the league.

Season Outlook

The largest task for this team will be replacing the trio of quarterback Chris Brown, running back Jamaal Branch and wide receiver Luke Graham. It will be no small feat, as Brown was 25-5 as a starter, Branch was an All-American Walter Payton Award winner and Graham ended his career at the top of many Raider records, including all time receptions. Colgate's recruiting efforts over the past few years will be put to the test right from the start.

At quarterback, the first shot at the reigns will most likely be given to Mike Saraceno, although sophomore Lee Sloan and incoming freshman Fucillo and Pitcher could all makes cases for themselves in fall camp. At running back, there is good news in that Ray LaMonica returns to the starting role he had as a sophomore in 2002 as well as transfer J.J. Bennett could see time as well. Finally, the wider receiver question remains somewhat unanswered, as potential sixth year senior DeWayne Long awaits word from the NCAA on eligibility for the fall and Kenny Parker makes the move from third string running back last year to starting wide receiver this year. If Long's appeal does not work out, look for local product (Cazenovia) Craig Perkins, also making a move from linebacker to wide receiver, to get the starting nod.

With all that turnover to contend with, perhaps the best news for the Colgate offense is the return of three offensive lineman in Jake Sulovski, Matt Mushel and Todd Mulligan - along with two seniors who saw significant time last year, Jeremy Wurst and Ryan Hall, looking to fill the last two spots. For a offense that loves to run, that could be the winning combination that Colgate needs. With LaMonica back in 2002 form and Long returning for another season, it could prove down right outstanding.

On the opposite side of the ball, the defense looks to continue its steady ways this year, as it brings back leading tacklers Jared Nepa at linebacker and Geoff Bean at strong safety, along with fellow starters Chris Petrone and Josh Wurst on the line and two other members of the secondary. The linebackers and line are also bolstered by Zach Dollar, Jeff Galletly and Brent Smith who all return with significant experience. With this crew coming back, Colgate could very well improve on its defense that last year ranked 12th in all I-AA giving up just 299 yards per game and only 150 yards rushing.

Special teams will have a tall order in replacing four year starting placekicker Lane Schwarzberg, whose leg won more than one game for the Raiders.

Predicted Finish

Third... What, you expected first?

In all seriousness, this is a Colgate squad that could win ten games or lose six games; it will all depend on how the unknowns play out. That said, six losses would prove to be quite a shock for a school that has come to expect to be in the race for the title each year. The fact that Fordham, Lehigh and Bucknell all have to come up to Andy Kerr beginning in mid October plays into the Raiders hands. With some fresh faces and lower expectations on the team from the outside, I expect to see some excitement in this program that was somewhat lacking last year.

The gelling of the offense will be the key to just how far Colgate can go towards winning the championship. The safe bet for now is that Biddle's steady hand will lead this Raider squad to its tenth straight winning season. Just how much winning, we'll have to wait and see.

UMass Ranked #9 in Sports Illustrated

Looks like our second week game will feature someone that Sports Illustrated thinks highly of...

The Patriot League previews should start up again shortly. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Calling All Fantasy Players: I-AA!

If you're interested in having some fun with I-AA fans across the nation, this is the second year that a Lehigh guy, kardplayer (AGS handle), is putting together a I-AA Fantasy League. Last year it was pretty fun - although I didn't win! My strategy for the "Patriotic Ivys" was to play the best Patriot and Ivy guys that I could find. The team wasn't as good as a true all-star team could have been because some of our best guys got cherry picked in the draft. No complaints here though- it was all in good fun.

So, if you're interested in participating this year, you can email and ask to be in the league. That's it. You don't need to be an expert or commit much to it. There is a website he sets up and after you rank players for a draft, you choose your rosters for the weekends game. As the season progresses, you can pick up free agents, trade, etc.

Give him an email and get involved!

The Hiring Just Won't Stop!

Alice Tym was named the Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Women's Adminstrator today. Alice presumably replaces long time Colgate coach and administrator Janet Little. This effectively completes the "Roach Administration" as all of Mark Murphy's senior administrators are now elsewhere.

I hope Alice is the right person for the job. She is young (1996 Yale Grad) but her bio sounds like she is able. Welcome to Colgate Alice!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Please Colgate, Never Let This Happen

From time to time the issue of a mascot is discussed on the Colgate campus, and given today's politically correct climate, it has to be hard to come up with something that is not offensive so some group out there.

Therefore, PLEASE Colgate, avoid with all of your good intelligence, creating some abomination like MEACKIE.

#4 Fordham

Time to keep rolling into right into...

#4 Fordham

Recent History

After making the transition to Division I-AA from Division III football in the late 1980's, Fordham's storied program finally returned to glory in the new millennium under now Richmond Coach Dave Clawson, having won the Patriot League in 2002 and defeating Northeastern in the first round of the I-AA playoffs. Clawson followed up that wonderful run with another quality nine win season in 2003 before being plucked away by the Spiders because of his success.

Following Clawson's departure, the reigns were passed to Ed Foley, offensive coordinator for the Rams since 1999 and, all things considered, it was a successful transition. While the Bucknell alum led the team to a slightly disappointing 5-6 record, a deeper look into the program shows that the 2004 team was young and dealing with the graduation of several record breaking superstars. Furthermore, all the games were competitive including a one point loss to Rhode Island, and overtime loss to Brown, showing that the Rams could have easily recorded a 7-4 or better record in 2004. One disturbing trend though that has to be on Foley's mind is the lack of homefield advantage the Rams showed under his first season, as four of their six losses happened right in the Bronx.

Off Season Developments

Early this spring the biggest news story for the Rams was the installation of a new Fieldturf surface at Coffey Field, which, without having seen it, surely improves the situation on Rose Hill. Having played in that mud myself, it is great to see Fordham putting money into its facilities.

The staff, which remained fairly stable with only two coaching changes, brought in 34 recruits with a majority of them coming from the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut areas. There is also a nice helping of talent from Florida and Ohio with a dash of Texas thrown in there for good measure.

The class of 2009 includes: Chad Brooks, a 3rd team All New York State defensive lineman; Fonzie (yes, that appears to be his real name) Culver, linebacker and 2nd team All Ohio State honorable mention; two time All Massachusetts State lineman Justin Sarabaez; Craig Stevens, a two time All State New Hampshire running back; Ryan Mehra a large linebacker who was second team All New Jersey and was part of two state championship teams at Ringwood and Ryan Gorsuch who was an offensive lineman for two time state champion and nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.

2005 Schedule

This year's slate starts with a grudge match return visit to Rhode Island followed by a trip over to Pittsburgh and perhaps Patriot League hopeful Duquesne before coming home to break in the new turf against intercity rival Columbia.

It's then back on the road for a long stretch with games at Lafayette, Brown, Colgate and Georgetown before finishing up with four game home stand.

This season ending stand will start with the recently coined (unofficially of course) "Jesuit Jihad" versus Holy Cross, before the Patriot League season is closed out with Bucknell and Lehigh making trips to the Bronx. The last visitor to Rose Hill will be ambitious Thruway foe Albany for Senior Day.

All in all it's a balanced schedule that seems to continue the Rams trend of scheduling better competition.

Season Outlook

If Fordham fans were somewhat happy with a 5-6 record in a transition year, 2005 could give them plenty more reasons to have a smile on their face. Last year's youth is back with experience this time, as seven starters return on offense, most notably at the skill positions. Record setting quarterback Derric Daniels will lead the Ram offense for the second year, and running backs Jamaal Hunte and James Prydatko and, perhaps the most exciting member of the three - Jonte Coven, make up the "Triple J" backfield. Coven was last year's Patriot League Rookie of the Year and could be giving opposing defenses headaches for years to come.

The receiver corps will have to start some new faces to compliment returning fifth year senior Rashawn Haynes. All this skill is complimented by the return of three out of the five hogs up front on the offensive line.

The defense, though, has some serious holes to fill, two of them quite big: All-American defensive back Tad Kornegay and All-Patriot League linebacker NaQuinton Gainous. In addition to Gainous, Fordham lost the other starting linebackers to graduation as well. It will be up to two seniors Marcus Taylor and Alex Hunter and most likely sophomore Ryan Kleve to step up to the opportunity that awaits.

There is somewhat better news in the defensive backfield, who return two seniors in Tommie Stephens and Greg Whelan however both cornerback positions appear to be up for grabs. Juniors Reshard Hicks and Cary Williams, who were both on the two deep last year, appear to not be on the roster for the fall. The defensive line is in a similar position with two starters coming back, seniors Jay Edwards and (fifth-year) Edward Gordon. It will be up to juniors Cory Terzis, Marques Brown and sophomore Michael Breznicky look to fill the rest of the spots.

With all of those new faces on defense, Ram fans might have reason to take heart: the defense beat the offense in the spring game to the tune of four turnovers.

Special teams should be a bright spot for the Rams as two time all Patriot League selection placekicker Micah Clukey returns for the kicking duties and and second team Patriot League punter Anthony DiFino is back as well.

Predicted Finish

Fourth. While there should be plenty of potential to put points on the board, Fordham faces the opposite dilemma of conference mate Bucknell: defense. While the safeties should be a strong point, Fordham's biggest problem may be stopping the run, which is not good news when conference mates Lafayette, Bucknell and Colgate tend to make their living with the run.

The schedule isn't really helping either, as a four game home stand has to wait until the end of the season and based on last year's results, home games were not a strength. More importantly, will those home games still matter in terms of conference championships after trips to Easton and Hamilton?

In order for there to be any hope to take home the title, the defense must build on the success it appears to have had this spring. If not, Ram fans will have to leave it up to quarterback Daniels and the Triple J backfield to try and flat out outscore the opposition. It's certainly not an impossible situation as the defense has the potential to prove adequate with several seniors stepping into starting roles, however, Fordham's best strategy in 2005 may end up to be making sure they are the last team with the ball at the end of the game.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

#5 Bucknell

The next installment of my Patriot League preview brings us to:

#5 Bucknell

Recent History

The 2005 season will mark the 3rd campaign for head coach Tim Landis and one has to be impressed with how quickly he put the Bison on the right track. Coming into the fall, Landis boasts a 13-10 record and a 7-7 Patriot League conference record. Looking closer at the prior seasons will also reveal a one point loss in 2003 to undefeated Penn and a six point loss to A-10 foe Villanova in 2004. Excitement for the program appears to be building as well, with the last year's game against Penn registering the largest crowd at Christy Mathewson - Memorial Stadium since 1989: 10,602. Clearly, something is going right in Lewisburg.

While it's been a few years since the 10-1 1997 season that saw Bucknell on the verge of winning the Patriot League Championship, the Bison have never really been out of it. Averaging just over six wins a season in the past ten years, it seems that this team is always around to compete; they just haven't been able to take that last step towards a championship. The lone blemish in that span of time came in an interim year of 2002 that saw the squad coping with the death of a head coach. Given that history, one has to admire Landis's ability to provide strong leadership to the program.

Off Season Developments

In what seems to be a theme in the Patriot League this year, coaching changes dominate the headlines this off season. Former defensive coordinator Tripp Merritt was lured away to become the head coach at Davidson, forcing Landis to promote Jared Backus to the post. Perhaps even more interesting is the hiring of Jim Reid to the position of special teams coordinator and defensive line coach. Jim has been around I-AA football for some time, with head coaching stints at UMass and Richmond as well as I-A experience at Boston College and Syracuse. Bucknell also welcomes four other new coaches, two of them former players under Landis at Davidson and St. Mary's.

The Class of 2009 brings in 32 new faces, with the biggest story in this observer's opinion being that over half of that number came directly from Bucknell's own back yard. While Pennsylvania is definitely a rich state to recruit from, that high of a number causes my eyebrows to raise, especially when there are only two players from the football recruiting magnet state of Florida.

Some highlights in the class appear to be: Ben Bouffard at quarterback, who was a first team all-state quarterback and Player of the Year - with the one question mark being that the state is Vermont, which is not typically known as a football hotbed; Stephen Cooney on the offensive line, who was a second team all-state performer in Pennsylvania; all-New England defensive lineman Stephen Edwards; third team Pennsylvania all-state pick Devon Lutz at defensive back; another second team all-state Pennsylvania defensive lineman in Brian Peters and Todd Rinaldo at linebacker who received a first-team all state pick from New Jersey.

Sadly, this off season also marked the tragic loss of a freshman defensive lineman, Mark Oppong from a viral infection. One never likes to hear of news like this.

2005 Schedule

The 2005 schedule does not appear to be one that favors the Bison, especially towards the end of the season. Starting with a home opener against Georgetown under the lights, Bucknell then goes on the road to face NEC member Stony Brook and then heads upstate to Ithaca to play resurgent Cornell. A trip back to Lewisburg to play Marist is then followed by a road trip to always difficult Penn.

It is at this point that the schedule gets really tough. Villanova and Lehigh come to Christy Mathewson for back to back weekends, and then the Bison head on the road to Lafayette, Fordham and Colgate before settling back home to finish of the season vs. Holy Cross. With those two tough out of conference games followed by media preseason favorite Lehigh at home and then a make it or break it road trip through the gauntlet of recent Patriot League champions, one has to wonder how the Bison are going to hold up. Let's just say that if they make it through that stretch with success, they could very well be representing the league come Thanksgiving time.

Season Outlook

Besides a tough schedule, Bucknell will be dealing with the loss of the nation's top rushing quarterback, Daris Wilson. The loss of this one man, first team all Patriot League, show is compounded by the loss of two other first team Patriot League players on defense as well as two second team offensive lineman. It is these kinds of losses that have clouded up the crystal ball of many prognosticators, myself included.

Quarterback is without a doubt the biggest question mark for this spread option team and it will be a battle between sophomores Terrance "No Relation to Daris" Wilson and Ryan Ahern. Spring practices have most likely given the nod to Wilson so opposing teams could be looking at another three years of trying to stop someone named Wilson. There is some good news in the running back position as Blamah Sarnor returns from injury (although has been saddled up this spring with a hamstring problem) as well as his replacement last year, Josh DeStafano who ended up averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The wide receivers will be unknowns trying to replace Bison standout Nisan Trotter. The final piece of the puzzle will be the offensive line. The line needs to replace some big shoes to graduation and spring injuries to two starters Stefan Niemczk and Joel Hoffer hasn't helped.

The very good news for the Bison is the return of Sean Conover on the defensive line. This 6-5, 270 pound beast was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and returns as the 2005 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and adds a 2005 Preseason All-American to his trophy case as well. The even better news is that he won't be alone as cornerback and special teams threat Dante Ross joins Conover on defense.

The good news continues as Conover is joined on the line by fellow classmates Andrew Decker, Brandon Bailey and Jacob Burney. That foursome will spell a lot of trouble for opposing offenses. Right behind the line will be the anchor for the linebackers, Dorian Petersen, however a spring injury has put the burden on sophomores Peter Salvatore and Ryan Slater to play inside. The outside linebacker spot is a big question mark. Besides Ross at corner, the defensive backfield will be young and inexperienced, so if there is an Achilles Heel to this defense, it's deep and away from Ross.

Special teams should be a strength with Ross as the return man again and Ryan Korn looking to start his third season as the Bison placekicker.

Predicted Finish

Fifth. Defense is where Bucknell will win games this year so there is definitely plenty to look forward to for Bison fans. However, games can't end in ties anymore so someone has to be found that can replace the electric Daris Wilson as well as running backs Sarnor and DeStafano need to stay healthy in order for this team to survive what could be one of the toughest schedule in the Patriot League. While I suspect there is offensive talent there, it will most likely be young and putting youth on the road like that and against some top I-AA programs out of conference is a daunting task to say the least.

Bucknell's hope truly lies in two confidence building wins to start the year, a tougher road win at Cornell followed by a hopeful blowout of Marist at home to start the season. If the Bison find themselves 4-0 heading into Penn, they might have the swagger they need to take it to the Quakers before two very trying contests at home. If, and it's a big if, they find themselves playing good, winning football after the Mountain Hawks leave Lewisburg, then maybe they will have what it takes to run those three road games that will mean so much to their league standing.

They just may be able to do it - no one should be taking them lightly. At this point though, I just can't see a sophomore quarterback, behind a mostly untested offensive line, leading the spread option to victory with this kind of situation before them. The defense will keep the games close, but I still don't see it. However, if they do make a run, watch out NCAAs. This team will be for real.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Football Reports Sunday!

Yes dear readers, the time is almost upon us. This Sunday, the Raiders begin their quest for 10 straight winning seasons, a Patriot League title and a I-AA National Championship.

Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

#6 Holy Cross

Next up:

#6 Holy Cross

Recent History

Last year marked the first campaign for Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore and with him came the hope for Crusader fans that new life will be breathed into a program that had fallen from the very pinnacle of I-AA to arguably the bottom of the divisional barrel. For a team that has had one winning season since 1992, some signs of life are evident: The longest losing streak in Division I was finally halted mid season at 15 straight losses with a win against Dartmouth and the win total from the 2003 season was tripled to three.

Obviously, there is still plenty of work for Coach Gilmore and staff to accomplish if Holy Cross is to return to the glory of not so long ago. In the years immediately preceding 1992, Holy Cross was a program that saw 60 wins over the course of six years, with two of those seasons an unblemished 11-0 perfection. Needless to say, recent years have been tough of Crusader alumni and from time to time the demise is blamed squarely on the decision to join the Patriot League and forego athletic scholarships. That argument aside, you will still find plenty of passion for Holy Cross football and hopes are high again in Worcester.

Off-Season Developments

The biggest changes for Holy Cross are undoubtedly in the defensive coaching ranks. Gilmore, a former defensive coordinator at Patriot League rival Lehigh and Ivy foe Dartmouth, appears to have cleaned house on his former side of the ball. Four new defensive coaches will be on the sidelines this fall along with a new tight ends coach. The biggest name would be David Kotulski as defensive coordinator. Koltulski may sound familiar to long time Patriot League followers, as he spent eight years at Bucknell, including a stint as interim head coach in 2002. After a trip out west to Utah State, Koltulski has come back home to the Patriot League. Of course, the hardest change to swallow for Crusader fans could be the addition of Ryan Mattison coaching the secondary. Why you ask? Let's just say their is no love lost between some Jesuit schools in Massachusetts.

A relatively large recruiting class was brought in by Gilmore. While it's no Cornell, 35 players is still a large number to deal with. Some highlights appear to be: Luke Botting, a 6-4, 270 pound offensive lineman from Ohio that won the Anthony Muñoz Foundation Lineman of the Year award; Jon Brock out of Georgia, who the Crusaders have listed as a wide receiver since he had 1,100 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns however he's also rushed for 2,500 yards and 35 touchdowns; his teammate Daryl Brown, listed as a defensive back however he was an all-state (North Carolina) selection as both a defensive back and a running back; Michael Kielt, an all-state (Connecticut) tail back who was also the Connecticut Post Defensive Player of the Year; Brian Rusate, a 6-1, 250 pound offensive lineman who joined Kielt on that same Connecticut all-state team and Bobby Stapleton, a 6-3 225 pound all-state (New York) defensive lineman who led the entire state in sacks his senior year (19).

Forgive the length, but when you have 35 players, highlighting six isn't that much! Looking at the class as a whole, it appears that Gilmore has cast himself a wide net and there could be some real gems in there. Only time will tell.

2005 Schedule

In terms of out of conference scheduling, the Crusaders certainly haven't let up any slack here. After opening with Sacred Heart and Georgetown at home, Holy Cross welcomes to Fitton Field a Harvard team that has won 11 straight. As if that wasn't enough, after that game it's time for the team to head on a bus down to Delaware - and they're not headed to Dover. No, it is the perennial I-AA powerhouse Fightin' Blue Hens that will welcome Holy Cross to the Tub.

The road trip continues with stops to Yale and Lehigh, before the Crusaders can come home to face a Dartmouth team looking for revenge and a Colgate Raider team that was almost beat at Fitton during the 2003 season. The Patriot League season then wraps up with a quick trip to the Bronx for the "Jesuit Jihad" followed by a welcome final home game against defending Patriot League champs Lafayette and then a season ending trip to Lewisburg and the Bucknell Bison.

Season Outlook

There really are two trains of thought here. The first is that, well, Holy Cross has been bad in the past so why should this year be any different? Wait - OK, I'll say it: They've been really baaaaaad. They haven't beat a Patriot League team other than Georgetown since 2002 (Bucknell). With that off my chest, I will say that I do see a heartbeat there in Worcester and I have to reminisce back to another conference mate, not so long ago, that was coming off a winless season.

Yes, it is dear old Colgate that stunk up the field in 1995 only to get a new head coach and become only the second team in NCAA history to follow a winless season with a winning one, coming in at 6-5 in the 1996 season. So why not Holy Cross? In fact, they have less of a turn around to make with a head coach now in his second year and three wins under their belt from last year. They can easily start the season 2-0 and head into two of the toughest games on their plate. That said, a win against Harvard or Delaware would be a candidate for upset of the year - the Crusaders pull one of those off and their confidence will be sky high for the rest of the fall. But even if they don't and they find themselves 2-2 at this point, they've got some great experience to head into the Patriot League Schedule with. Wins against Yale and Dartmouth are very possible and out of Lehigh, Colgate, Fordham, Lafayette and Bucknell, winning one or more of those games is not a far stretch of the imagination.

In order to turn imagination into reality, the Crusaders are going to have to look to their senior offensive leadership in tailbacks Gideon Akande, Steve Silva and quarterback John O'Neil. Akande is a threat on kick-off returns as well as various spots on offense as he had 882 all-purpose yards in 2004. Silva has the distinction of being the first Holy Cross player since Gordie Lockbaum to lead Holy Cross in both rushing yards and receptions, so if that's not someone to take seriously I don't know who is. O'Neil started all 11 games last year at quarterback and managed to throw for over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. In addition to those three returning, every other offensive starter will be back, including Sean Gruber at wide receiver.

However, for a defense that gave up an average of over 33 points a game and almost 42 points a game to Patriot League opponents, you can begin to understand why Gilmore cleaned house. As long as the defensive woes for the Crusaders continue, they will lose a lot of games. Six starters return to the field this fall with the bulk of the losses coming on the defensive line and the linebacker corps. Matt Dugan at linebacker and John Markus Pinard on the line will be hard pressed to lead a defense that appears to be lacking in experience.

Predicted Finish

Sixth. While there is some joy in Mudville, there is still a lot of work to be done on the defensive side of the ball. The good news for Holy Cross fans is that happens to be Gilmore's specialty, and he's brought on staff another coach who made that his forte at Bucknell for many years. This season could really go either way for the Crusaders: some early wins and some good experience against top I-AA teams may just be what the doctor ordered for a team that really just needs a big shot of confidence more than anything else.

However, inertia has a funny way of getting involved in athletics and it is awfully hard to change the direction of a program that his been down for more than a decade. Some early let downs for Holy Cross and this could very well be another three win season. I have a hunch though that progress has been made and will continue to be made in Worcester. Gilmore seems up to the task and this might just be his best hope of a year to do something until his own recruits start to pan out. I give them the nod to beat Georgetown, wins some Ivy games along with Sacred Heart, and find themselves knocking on the door to .500. It will take a win against one of the top 5 teams in the league to do so, but 2005 could just be the time for it. It will also be the year that sets the tone for the rest of the Gilmore years. Frankly, there's a lot riding on these 11 games for Holy Cross. Best of luck.

Monday, August 01, 2005

2005 Preseason Write-up: #7 Georgetown

With a short 34 days from today, August 1st, until the kickoff in Andy Kerr Stadium vs. Central Connecticut State University, I thought it was time to give my preseason write up and preview to the Patriot League. My plan is to release a bit on each school in descending order of my preseason ranking (see the April 2005 archives if you need a refresher).

Therefore, with no further adieu we start with:

#7 Georgetown

Recent History

The 2005 season marks the fifth time the Georgetown Hoyas will compete in the Patriot League as an associate member for football. The past four years have not seen the Hoyas with a winning record or with more than 2 conference wins. In G'Town's defense, not only have they been making the jump from the MAAC, they've also had to deal with inconsistency at the coordinator positions. This upcoming season sees both coordinators returning, and that is definitely good news for the Hoya faithful.

On a little tangent thought, it is interesting to read the spin on Georgetown's perception of themselves in Head Coach Bob Benson's online bio. Coach Benson has "built the Hoyas into one of the elite Division I-AA Non-Scholarship programs in the nation over the last eight seasons. This season will be the fifth for Benson and the University in the Patriot League, one of the top I-AA conferences in the country." While I'm all for self promotion, that is a bit much. Georgetown's success in the last eight years was the first four, and the Patriot League, while I love it dearly, isn't one of the top I-AA conferences in the country; unless you consider maybe 7th or 8th out of 16 conferences to be "top".

Off-Season Developments

The biggest news off-season by far the the construction of the Multi-Sport Facility on campus. This facility will be the new home for the Hoyas as early as this fall and will significantly upgrade the current situation in Washington, D.C. Its mere presence on campus should give the team a lift.

This recruiting class seemed to be along the lines of what Patriot League fans have gotten used to: some really good athletes are mixed in there with names we're not sure about. QB Jonathan "Gunner" Coil appears to have picked the Hoyas over the rest of the Patriot League, Ataefiok Etukeren made a good name for himself in the New Jersey prep leagues, and Brent Tomlinson is supposed to be a nice "catch" at Wide Receiver, playing in the Illinois High School East/West All-Star Game. The key for the Hoyas, who have had a few years of these kinds of classes, is translating talent and desire into victories on the field.

For returning players, defensive end Michael Ononibaku had the biggest highlight for the team: named to the Sports Network 2005 Preseason All-American team (Honorable Mention). This
SID proclaimed "one man wrecking crew" (or "wreaking crew if you read the sub-headline to the link - d'oh!) should be quite a force to contend with and the honor is well deserved.

2005 Schedule

This year's schedule continues to cause the Hoyas to step up the Patriot League plate fairly quickly. The season opener starts in Lewisburg, surprisingly at night. That's the first I've seen of this, so any Bucknell fans that wish to fill the readers in on what's going on would be well appreciated. That follows with a trip to Holy Cross before the Hoyas enjoy some home cooking against what could be a tough Brown squad. Then it is back on the road against NEC foe Stony Brook, who played Lehigh fairly competitively in last year's match up. Lafayette and Duquesne head to D.C. before a trip to Central New York is in order - however it's to Ithaca and Cornell this time; not Colgate. Fordham is next to go south, this time for a good old Jesuit Homecoming, before the Hoyas go on the road one last time against the Mountain Hawks. The season then wraps up with Davidson and Colgate hopefully playing in the new Multi-Sport Facility. I wonder how long that name will last?

All in all the 2005 schedule looks to be an improvement over 2004 basically because VMI and a mid-major program have been replaced with Ivy League opponents. I hope Georgetown continues this trend.

Season Outlook

This season could be one of great potential for the Hoyas. Home games against Colgate, Fordham, Lafayette and Brown don't hurt, and all signs point to a lot of experience returning. Nine starters on defense, led by #35 Ononibaku, along with 31 letterwinners could give the Hoyas a shot at developing their offense to the point where they can win some games.

And developing the offense is just what Georgetown needs in order to make any noise this year. The 2004 season saw G'Town average just under 16 points per game - with that stat bolstered by above average wins against St. Francis, VMI and Davidson. The Patriot League average was less than 13; and frankly, less than two touchdowns per game is not going to cut it in the Patriot League (or any for that matter).

So is there any good news for the offense? Seven starters return along with 32 letterwinners, so the experience is there. One question will be who is taking over the helm for the Offense: Keith Allan, Nick Cangelosi (a 2004 transfer from UNC), or perhaps someone else not yet on the radar screen such as newcomers Coil or Ben (yes, related) Hostetler?

Kim Sarin returns in the backfield as the first Hoya to ever gain over 1,000 yards in a season, along with Emir Davis who lead Georgetown in rushing touchdowns last year as a freshman. Add to that mix Glenn Castergine returning at TE and some younger faces in the receiver slots, and this fan thinks it will all come down to the trenches. (Late edit: It appears that Kim Sarin had off season back surgery and his playing time could be limited this year. Davis will have to step up big time.)

Yes, it is my humble opinion that Georgetown's success this year boils down to the offensive line. Taking a quick look at the roster, I can see only two senior offensive lineman and four juniors. That's not good news for whoever is at quarterback, and for Sarin and Davis running behind it.

Predicted Finish

Seventh. Last year's loss to Monmouth showed me that Georgetown still has a long way to go before they climb out of the Patriot League cellar. The margin is closing and a win or two against a Patriot League team other than Holy Cross is not out of the question, but if I'm a Hoya fan, I would be measuring this season's success in small doses. If Georgetown can get some good experience for the freshman and sophomore's on the line, 2006 could just be the year that the Hoyas make a case for the middle ranks of the league.

However, until some proof for consideration exists on the field, I have to pick them dead last.

Good luck to the Hoyas and I won't mind being proven wrong!