The Lafayette’s Michael Kelley ‘14 and the sports editor for Lehigh’s The Brown and White debate who will win the 149th edition of “The Rivalry.”
Why Lehigh will win:
By Kerry Mallett ‘15
Sports Editor | The Brown and White
Why will the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks win on Saturday and walk away with a Patriot League championship, FCS playoff bid, and bragging rights for at least another year?
Lafayette’s perpetual inferiority complex is one reason, but the fact that no current Lafayette player—not even the seniors—have won a Lehigh-Lafayette game is another. Not a single one of their players can even imagine what it would feel like to beat the better school from South Bethlehem, because they haven’t managed to do so since 2007. And after Saturday’s game, they are going to have to wait at least another year.
On the other hand, Lehigh has won the game for the past six years, and the seniors are hungry to have an undefeated-career record in rivalry games. Our younger players share this hunger and will be motivated to increase the rivalry to six consecutive games.
The Leopards also haven’t won a Patriot League championship or gone to the FCS playoffs in their four years, while Lehigh accomplished both in 2010 and 2011. The Hawks have the experience in playoff situations and have shown, especially after the 148th rivalry match, that they can come back from a big deficit and play clutch late in the fourth quarter.
Besides the team’s accomplishments, the Hawks have a line-up that absolutely trounces Lafayette’s.
Senior running back Keith Sherman has 945 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. He had a career high 184 rushing yards last week against Colgate and will easily be able to break through the Leopard’s feeble defensive line.
Senior ride receiver Lee Kurfis, who has 8 touchdowns and 1,272 receiving yards on the season, will continue to do what he’s done all year. He will grab big receptions all day and easily blow past Lafayette’s measly cornerbacks and safeties.
Nick Shafnisky, the Hawks starting quarterback after senior Brandon Bialkowski’s season-ending shoulder injury, is a freshman who has won two straight Rookie of the Week titles. In his first two collegiate games, he completed a combined 22 of 33 passes for 270 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. It will be fun watching Lafayette’s defense trip over each other trying to catch this young quarterback.
Now, that’s not to say that Lafayette doesn’t have a solid squad. The team has a reason to be proud of its offensive players. Senior WR Mark Ross, only needs 80 yards to reach 1,000 on the season for the second time in his career. Junior TB Ross Scheuerman is also having a stellar year and is is 72 yards short of 1,000 rushing yards on the season.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to crush them on defense.
Senior defensive back Tyler Ward had made 59 solo tackles and has been a force to be reckoned with all season.
Junior defensive linemen Tim Newton has four and a half sacks, totaling for a loss of 22 yards for opposing teams, and will give Lafayette’s freshmen quarterback Drew Reed a difficult time in the pocket throughout the game.
The final reason Lehigh will beat Lafayette is simple: home field advantage.
While the Leopards thought they had a fighting chance last year, keeping the scoring margin to 38-21, the year before they choked and lost to the Mountain Hawks 37-13 on our home turf.
Welcome back to Goodman Stadium, Lafayette. It’s game time.
Why Lafayette will win:
By Michael Kelley ‘14
Sports Editor | The Lafayette
Why will Lafayette defeat Lehigh for the first time since 2007? Easy answer.
For starters, this is the most put-together team I have witnessed in my time on College Hill. I watched a team last Saturday bounce back in eye-opening fashion from such a devastating loss to Colgate. And what a bounce back it was: a 27-14 victory against No. 5 ranked and previously undefeated Fordham. It was one of the biggest wins in program history.
Let’s talk about momentum. Yes, I understand the Mountain Hawks defeated Colgate in impressive style and carry their own momentum into the 149th rendition of ‘The Rivalry.’
But Lafayette started its season 1-5. Many members of the media, including us at The Lafayette, wrote this team off. Yet Head Coach Frank Tavani would repeatedly reference his senior class’s leadership this season. This was when the Leopards were 1-5.
Their performance over the past month has put enough truth behind that statement. I have covered Lafayette football for three seasons now and in 2012 and 2011, I watched total team collapses in the form of lack of effort, frustration, intra-team bickering, etc.
But this season, leadership is obviously in place and that gives me real reason to believe that this team will be physically, mentally and emotionally ready come 12:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
Need more? How about an offense that has soared since the emergence of freshman quarterback Drew Reed. The Lakeland, Tenn. native has started four games and the Lafayette offense has averaged just over 34 points per game while going 3-1 in that span.
In his time as the signal-caller, which amounts to just about nine halves of play, he’s thrown for 14 TDs and 1,303 yards, with a stellar 73.6 completion percentage.
Reed has help on offense. Wide receiver Mark Ross ‘14 is one of the most dynamic receivers in the Patriot League and is slowly but surely building a rapport with Reed that will certainly play a role in the outcome of The Rivalry tomorrow.
Pick your poison. Double cover Ross, but Reed will find another open target. In his start against Georgetown, Reed completed passes to nine different receivers.
Now that the passing attack is finally cooking, we have seen breakout performances from running back Ross Scheuerman. In his latest outing against previously undefeated Fordham, the junior totaled 201 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the league in all-purpose yards, averaging 155 yards per game.
I expect a heavy dose of Scheuerman to balance the passing attack tomorrow, especially seeing as though the Mountain Hawks have the Patriot League’s worst rush defense.
Defensively, this unit is as healthy as its been thus far. And it is consistently getting pressure and forcing mistakes in the form of five sacks and five turnovers last weekend against Fordham.
Expect a variety of looks to cause confusion for Nick Shafnisky, Reed’s far less impressive freshman QB counterpart. If Lehigh had senior Brandon Bialkowski, we might be a little more concerned.
Lehigh’s offense runs through senior running back Keith Sherman, who’s getting close to the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Too bad the Leopards have the Patriot League’s No. 2 rush defense. Sherman will be shut down.
I’ll close this column with a statistic: Lafayette is 4-2 in championship games against Lehigh. History is on its side. Throw in the determination of a strong senior class who has yet to beat their archrivals, and I think that Lafayette has more than enough to capture their first Patriot League championship since 2006.
It’s the beginning of a new Leopard dynasty, with Drew Reed at the helm, and it starts with a victory against Lehigh…in their own stadium. It’s our time now.