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August 12 Maryland - The last game we attended on January 5 of this past season, we saw Randy Edsall coaching the UConn Huskies against Oklahoma in a disappointing Fiesta Bowl match-up to finish our season. His charges fell hard 48-20 despite some good efforts. On the other hand, we saw his team knock off Big East foes WVU,16-13 in OT, and Pitt 30-28 to win the Big East to earn the BCS bowl bid. We still say that they should have been sent to Florida to face VA Tech in the Orange Bowl, but that's the problem with the current BCS system. An 8-4 record does not warrant a major BCS Bowl bid, but that's what we're stuck with for now. A few days after the loss to the Sooners, we were surprised to hear Edsall had taken the place of Ralph Friedgen at Maryland. It seemed like a lateral move by both Edsall and by the Terps. He's a good coach, no doubt, but can he take the Terps to a higher level than where they've been? We also know that UConn football's academic record is not something to be proud of. That was one of the reasons that Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway was recently forced into retirement. The Terps return six starters on offense and six on defense. Soph QB Danny O'Brien returns with 22 TD passes and 2,438 passing yards from the previous campaign. TB Davin Megget (son of Dave) plays behind an O-line with four returning starters. The Terps have some firepower returning. Last season, the Terps fells to the Canes in Miami, 26-20. This should be a challenging opener for both squads under new head coaches. It should be an interesting game. With the loss of at least twelve suspended players, Maryland should tale advantage.
August 13 SUNY
Maritime - On Friday night, Sept 9, we drop down to
see a D-3 game since the Lenape Valley Patriots will be kicking off their 2011
season on Saturday. We'll see the SUNY Mariners play for our first time after their
greatest season ever. The school that resides under the Throggs Neck
Bridge in New York City won the ECFC title finishing 10-0 in their regular
season. They averaged 29.3 points on offense and allowed 23.1 in defense,
but that ratio was skewed in a 60-0 loss at the hand of Alfred University in the
first round of their first ever D3 playoff appearance. The program is run
by HC Clayton Kendrick-Holmes, Navy class of 1992. He was on the '91 squad
that we saw fall to Air Force that season, 42-6, on the way to a 1-10 season.
Evidently, he has much better impact as a coach
August 14 Western Connecticut - The Colonials will host the Mariners in Danbury, CT for our first trip there. WCSU, a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, finished 0-10 last year and is predicted to finish last this year. John Burrell heads up the program for his second year. Previous Colonial head coaches include UConn's Paul Pasqualoni and Princeton's Bob Surace. With a turnaround here, Burrell might find the Danbury school to be a good stepping stone himself, but he has his work cut out for him. LB Greg Galasso returns as the team's leading tackler with 71 and was the only All-Conference player from a year ago. The offense will rely on sophomores Kevin Smolensky at QB (1052 yards and five TDs) to hook up with WR Adler Florian more than last year to step up the scoring. We hope WCSU will show some improvement to make this game much more interesting than just a Friday night fill-in for our Saturday high school commitment. We had Penn State-Alabama or Army-San Diego State penciled in originally, but as we enter the 2011 season, we are committed to the LVRHS Patriots when they play on Saturday afternoons.
August 15 Navy - HC Ken Niumatalola's crew returns eight on offense excluding QB Ricky Dobbs and only three on defense from a 9-4 showing last year. We watched the Mids dominate the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Meadowlands 35-17 behind the 210 rushing yards of FB Alexander Teich. He returns for the Mids this season. Despite the graduation of Dobbs, Kriss Proctor steps in with some game experience filling in for Dobbs when he was injured during the last two seasons. Slotback Gee Gee Greene returns with 778 yards averaging 6.8 yards every time he touched the ball last season. Navy has some good speed at the wide-out positions, but the question will be Proctor's accuracy. The front line returns four starters and the fifth is senior David Sumrall. The Mids should have ample offense to run their deceptive triple-option once again. DE Jubaree Tauni will come off DE as a force while 6-5 297-lb Jared marks plugs up the middle of the 3-4. New linebackers and secondary players will be called on to get experience quickly for the game we will see when they visit South Carolina in their third game of the season at Columbia. We will possibly see the Mids play five times this year: against the SEC Gamecocks where GGA Alex Koreivo now attends school; at Rutgers on Oct. 15; home in Annapolis against East Carolina for homecoming; there's the possibility of Army tickets for us in Landover, Maryland on Dec. 10; and if Navy wins at least six games, which we think they will, we'll go to see them play in the Military Bowl in late December down in Washington, DC.
August 16 South Carolina - I just returned from Columbia earlier early August after dropping my daughter off to start her freshman year there. Steve Spurrier's team is predicted to take the SEC East once again with a boost from the re-installation of oft-troubled Stephen Garcia back at starting QB. The Gamecocks finished 9-5 last year but fell in their last two games to Auburn in the SEC championship and to Florida State in the Chick-fil-a Bowl. I watched them dump the Gators in the Swamp last season, 36-14. Garcia brings back 3,059 passing yards from a year ago. WR Alshon Jeffery hauled in the majority of those receptions, but Garcia has multiple targets with size and speed to throw to this season. Soph RB Marcus Lattimore returns after his freshman season with 1,197 yards and 19 TDs. He's a tough runner from what we saw against Florida. DEs Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram will hold the DE positions until to recruit Jadeveon Clowney steps in. Travian Robertson is a monster at DT. CB Stephon Gilmore returns as a two-time All-American, but the balance of the secondary will be inexperienced. The Cocks will be formidable and an early game at Georgia should indicate their potential to win the SEC East. We'll see them host Navy and their triple-option one week later. Can their defensive speed shutdown the Mids craftiness? Their offense should dominate the rebuilding Navy defense. As part of a mini-package, we'll be back to see USC host their hated rival, Clemson, over the Thanksgiving weekend. Anybody interested in our Citadel tickets on Nov. 19?
August 17 Liberty - Liberty visits Lehigh coming in with a record of 34-11 over the last four seasons, but no FCS playoff games to boast of. The Big South gets an automatic bid for the second time this year. All four seasons have come under the watch of HC Dan Rocco who took over the Flames after a 1-10 campaign. He started his collegiate career as a letterman at Penn State in 1979 and 1980 where his father was an assistant to Joe Paterno. He's a native of Huntingdon, PA, home of the alma mater, Juniata College ( he was one of those "townies"). He transferred to Wake Forest . Since then, he's had a pretty impressive coaching resume over the years. The Flames are favored to win the Big South with the return of Senior QB Mike Brown who led the FCS in total offense last year with 346.4 yards per game. His favorite target Chris Summers returns from a year ago with 76 catches, 1,081 yards and 15 TDs. NG Asa Chapman will be tough to move at 6'5", 380 lbs. The meeting between the favored Big South Champs and the favored Patriot League champs should be a good one when we see the two meet on Sept 24. It will be our first Flame game. We hope it will be a memorable battle.
August 18 Yale - Working on Yale's visit to Lehigh on Oct. 1 as our Big Tailgate Party with a few busloads of people. The Bulldogs return some key people to Tom Williams' squad in this third season at New Haven following a coaching stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Selected to finish third among the Ivies following a 7-3/5-2 record last year, Yale will rely on the arm of QB Patrick Witt who tossed for 2,216 yards and 12 TDs a year ago. The Elis return their top four ball carriers starting with Alex Thomas who carried for 710 yards and nine TDs. WR Chris Smith hauled in 46 catches for 452 yards. On defense, LB Jordan Haynes is the leader returning after compiling 102 tackles and two INTs in 2010. This will be a tough non-conference game for the Bulldogs and the third of three toughies at home (New Hampshire, Liberty, and Yale) for the Mountain Hawks before they head into the Patriot League fray with five conference games for the balance of the season. We've seen some good games with the Yalies over the years. This should be another.
August 19 Iowa - Iowa has defeated Penn State in their last three meetings. Since the Lions joined the Big Ten back in 1993, Iowa leads the series, 9-5. At State College, the Hawkeyes have won five of the seven meetings. The last time I attended, U of I won by the unusual score of 6-4. We wondered if we'd seen JoePa coach for the last time, but he's still around. The Iowa offense coming off an 8-5/4-4 season, including an Insight.com Bowl win over Mizzou, replaces Rick Stanzi at QB with QB James Vandenberg who played extensively in 2009 when Stanzi was injured. RB Marcus Coker will carry the pigskin most of the time as he totaled 5.45 yard per carry last season garnering 622 yards. Marvin McNutt will be the primary WR for the Hawkeyes and a big target at 6'4". The defense has a lot of holes to fill this season. Mike Daniels returns at DT with the only experience up front. CB Micah Hyde moves to FS to take advantage of his experience in a developing secondary. Improvement will be sought on special teams that lost some games for the Hawkeyes last season on long returns and blocked kicks. Last year, Iowa dominated the Lions in a 24-3 win before PSU found some offense a few games later. This game will be the Big Ten opener for Iowa after a week off. PSU opens the previous week at Indiana. Iowa always gives the Nittany Lions fits at home. The winner here should get the better bowl bid at the end of the season.
August 20 Penn State - JoePa enters season #46 as Head Coach of the Lions. We saw his 2010 squad split the games we attended last year falling in game #6 to Illinois, 33-13, before winning four of the next regular season games with Matt McGloin replacing Rob Bolden at QB. We saw the Lions win #400 under Joe against Northwestern, 35-21. The two QBs from a year ago battle to start again this year. Bolden was ineffective to start the season before suffering a head injury in 2010. McGloin, a walk-on, stepped in to win the next three games, won four, but tossed five INTs versus Florida in the Outback Bowl loss. The Lions are relying on either or both to improve. Three O-line starters return to protect them and to block for Silas Redd who replaces Evan Royster in the backfield. Redd averaged 5.7 yards a carry a season ago. Derek Moye and Justin Brown are primary targets in the passing game. Moye had eight TD catches in the last eight games of last season. The defensive secondary should be strong as all starters return as do experienced LBs Mike Mauti and Nate Stupar for Linebacker U. DE Jack Crawford and DT Deven Still will need to stay healthy to apply a pass rush up front. With experienced personnel returning at a lot of key positions, the Lions could surprise, but a lot of that is going to be based on the play at QB. One of the two QBs will have to step up big-time for the Nittany Lions to challenge for the first Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on December 3. Alabama stops into State College on September 10. We'll see the Lions host Iowa and Illinois in October. Their last three conference games in November loom as their toughest - hosting Nebraska, at Ohio State, and at Wisconsin. Their QB play will have some time to develop before then and it will be to their advantage if they can. If not, the task is formidable. If PSU struggles this year ,we could possibly see the beginning of "the Golden era" not too far off.
August 21 Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights return from
their first bowl-less season after six straight following a 4-8/1-6 campaign.
Not that any of the bowls they've played in are of significance, and they still
haven't won a conference title despite HC Greg Schiano's status of being the
elderly statesman among Big East coaches in his 11th year. Nobody else is saying
it yet, but you heard it here first. His job is on the line this season. This is a make or break year for HC
Schiano. One conference win last year and being selected to finish last in
2011 could spell the end for him if the Knights don't exceed those expectations.
He's done a lot to gain some respectability for this program. Alum feel
he's done a lot of good things for the program off the field (i.e. APR) and on
the field (six minor bowls), but he just can't get them to that next desirable
level. I think there will be calls for a change if the Knights don't go
bowling this year. Every Big East program will have improved except this
one. RU's biggest improvement is squarely on the shoulders of former Pitt
offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti who replaces the unimaginative, overused
"wildcat" with his pros-style offense. Running it will be soph QB Chas Dodd
after much heralded QB Tom Savage left for Arizona. Chas might change his
name to Chase since he'll be playing behind a line that allowed an NCAA record
61sacks last season. WRs Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison will have to get
open quickly unless the running game of Jeremy Deering and frosh Savon Huggins
becomes effective to take some of the pressure of the QB. Former RB Joe
Martinek lines up a FB to block for both. Scott Vallone sets up again at
NT. A lot of experience was lost in the secondary.
August 22 East Carolina - The head coaching position at ECU is an enigma to me. HC Ruffin McNeil's career as a player at ECU and then has a coach in college over 30 years been primarily on defense. However, any coaching success he has had whether as HC or defensive coordinator seems to be based on the success of the offense. McNeill took over as defensive coordinator at Texas Tech under Mike Leach following the 49-45 Red Raider loss I witnessed at Oklahoma State in 2007. Before and after his move as DC, the defense allowed 27.8 ppg before he took over and 27.1 after he took over on the way to a 9-4 record. Three losses came under him allowing 43.6 ppg. In 2008, his defense allowed more points (362) than the previous season, but the Raiders went 11-2. In 2009, his defense settled down to 292 points, a 22.5 average, and he stepped in as interim HC to win the Valero Alamo bowl over a 6-7 Michigan State team after the release of Mike Leach for treating Craig James's son unfairly. Last year at ECU in his first year, the Pirates allowed 572 points to the opposition and finished 6-7. In ten games, the Pirates allowed 40+ points in ten games. The defense was last in the nation in yards allowed. His team scored 33 points or more in ten games and only won three of them. Navy scorched a school scoring record in their 76-35 win at Greenville. ECU is switching over to the 3-4 defense to try to correct things. We will see what that impact will bring when we see these two square off at Navy's homecoming on Oct 22. The number could be just as high this year. Navy isn't changing the triple-option, and all key players except for Ricky Dobbs return. On offense for East Carolina, QB Dominique Davis returns from a stellar season. We saw him start as a freshman for Boston College against Maryland back in 2008. Last season, he kept the Pirates competitive throwing for 3,967 yards and 37 TDs. He ran for nine himself. WR Lance Lewis was the recipient of nine TD catches. On defense, three players return on the secondary, but against Navy's option, the Pirates will need to shore up their forces up front. Navy's rebuilding a defense, and Davis could take advantage. It seems as if both teams should continue advancing the scoreboard in Annapolis just as they did down in Greenville last year. My record in a game was 111 points in 1999 when Army topped Louisville in a Conference-USA game at the time. The Mids and Pirates totaled the same amount of points last year. With a different academy and another C-USA team, we may wind up watching a contest of "can you top this?" It could be a record-setting event.
August 23 Illinois -
With Nebraska now in the Big Ten, and the conference split into two divisions
(Legends and Leaders - I can't remember who is in which), the schedule maker
brings the Fighting Illini back to Beaver Stadium for the second year in a row.
August 24 Holy Cross - The Crusaders, 6-5/4-2 a year ago, hope to return to the top form they enjoyed two years ago when the battled to the Patriot League Championship and an FCS playoff berth. Head Coach Tom Gilmore will be looking for improvement at the QB slot where Ryan Taggart returns with 1,899 passing yards, 284 rushing yards, and 19 TDs combined. If he doesn't come through, The Cross has three other solid QBs waiting in the wings. The ranks of WR thinned out a little at graduation, but Gerald Mistretta returns with 374 yards and three TDS along with TE Alex Schneider, an all-Patriot League selection. Three offensive lineman starters including All-leaguer Mike McCabe return as a solid nucleus to block for RB Sam Auffant who rambled for 451 yards and two TDS and will be looking to improve those numbers. On defense, All-League LB Ricky Otis comes back with 107 tackles from a year ago and Chandler Fenner leads the secondary. Like Lehigh, whom we'll see the Crusaders play on November 5 as part of our Lehigh Valley double-header this year, the team from Worcester, Mass will play some pretty good non-conference competition to start the season. UMass, New Hampshire, and Harvard get things rolling with the Crusaders early. They'll be looking to challenge the favored Mountain Hawks for the Patriot League title at Goodman Stadium. Looking at the annals of our history, we haven't seen the Crusaders compete since 1987 when they walloped the Lehigh "Engineers" at old Taylor Stadium on the Bethlehem campus led by Heisman candidate Gordie Lockbaum, 63-7! Back then, both teams were members of the Colonial League. This will be only the third HC game we'll attend. Last year, the Mountain Hawks triumphed 34-17. We look forward to this one.
August 25 Lafayette - We watched the Leopards' spots removed early last season in the opening loss to Georgetown. Though a well played and competitive game, the Hoyas are a struggling program and vanquished Lafayette in Easton, 28-24. QB Ryan O'Neill was 33 of 42 for 304 yards, 2 TDs and an INT before succumbing to a leg injury late in the game. RB Jerome Rudolph returns as the team's best runner after playing three game and missing the balance with a concussion last year. The 'Pards lost a lot as he carried 24 times for 131 yards against Georgetown. FB Pat Creahan demonstrated his blocking and catching skills a year ago and expects to play a key role on offense this year. WRs Mitchell Bennett and Kyle Hayes ( a rival of Lehigh's Mike Groome during his days at Kittatinny (NJ) Regional) will return as prime targets with 394 and 546 yards in 2010 respectively. The offensive line weighs in at 312 lbs on average. Defensively, LB Ben Eaton totaled 70 tackles a year ago and DE Mike Grimaldi's experience will bear some pressure from the outside. Hofstra transfer Tyler MaFarlane looks to shore up the D as well. DB Brandon Ellis is the best among four Leopards returning to the secondary. The Leopards play an unusual schedule where they will take their first four games on the road including at North Dakota State ( a first) , Penn and Stony Brook. Then they'll play five games at home of which three will be 6 pm starts including the game we'll see when they host Patriot League foe, Colgate, during $1 hot dog night! Their last two games will be on the road including their finale against rival Lehigh in their 147th meeting, longest rivalry in NCAA history. Last year, we watched Lafayette give their biggest foe a game losing 20-13 before the Hawks took flight to Iowa to defeat Northern Iowa in the first round of the FCS playoffs. If we can't go to the 147th meeting due to a scheduling conflict with HS playoffs, Charlie Roberts, Lehigh alum, will fill us in on that one. In the annals of collegefootballfan.com history, Lafayette has one of the worst records of all time at 2-10.
August 26 Colgate - The Red Raiders are pre-season
selections to finish second challenge Lehigh for this year's Patriot League
title. The key to their success will be based on the return of a strong
starting offensive line returning and the legs of consensus All-American RB Nate
Eachus which propelled him to carry for 1,821 yard and 21 touchdowns a year ago.
Last year's team finished 7-4 under HC Dick Biddle who's tallied a record of
122-55 at Gate since 1996. TB Noah Jackson also returns with 358 yards on
the ground a year ago. Steve Rizzo will likely replace the big shoes of Greg
Sullivan. He ran for 176 yards and threw two TD passes. All-league
OT Vittorio Ottanelli will lead the blocking up front. On defense, LB
Chris DiMassa captains the team after leading with 92 tackles last season.
The number two tackler, Pat Friel, also returns at LB for his junior season.
The toughest opponent on the Red Raiders' slate is the week before we see them
visit Lafayette when they host Lehigh the week before in what could mean all the
marbles for the Patriot League championship. Last year, Colgate beat the
Leopards, 24-14, as Eachus ran all over them for 212 yards and two TDS.
Colgate is 2-4 in the annals of our history going all the way back to 1966 when
the beat Princeton in our first game ever, 7-0. Their second win came only
two years ago over those same Tigers 42 years later, 21-14, in two OTs when
Eachus ran for 98 yards and two TDs his freshman season.