Photos by Hana Isihara ‘17
It’s been five years now. Five times since 2007, Lafayette has lost to Lehigh in the most-played rivalry in college football.
No member of the Lafayette football team has experienced victory against the Mountain Hawks. Is that cause for concern?
Head coach Frank Tavani appears to care very little.
“None of those things in the past really mean anything,” Tavani said at Tuesday’s media luncheon. “That rearview mirror is tiny and that windshield is huge and we are looking out front.”
Why should anyone on Lafayette look anywhere else but towards tomorrow? The Leopards registered one of the biggest wins in program history when they defeated No. 5 ranked and previously undefeated Fordham 27-14 last Saturday.
“I think the game against Fordham gave us a lot of confidence,” freshman quarterback Drew Reed said. “Everybody feels great going into this week.”
“[Lehigh] is the next team in our way.”
There will be an added kick to the 149th rendition of “The Rivalry.” Tomorrow will be the seventh time the rivals play for the Patriot League championship and the fourth time an FCS playoff berth is at stake.
The Leopards have won four of those six matches. History appears to be on their side.
Time will tell but here is another interesting statistic: In the Tavani era, when losing the week prior, Lafayette is 0-6 against Lehigh. But following a win, the Leopards are 5-2.
Lafayette has experienced an absolute roller coaster ride this season. Five losses in its first six games led many to believe it was all but over.
“A lot of teams would have packed it in a long time ago,” Tavani said. “A lot of people have written us off.”
The Leopards responded by winning three of their next four, including two league games, to position themselves for their first outright league title since 1994. Tavani and Lafayette last clinched a share of the league title in 2006.
“Now I know nobody believes except us that we should be here,” Tavani said. “I’m also aware that nobody wants to see a 5-6 team go to the playoffs. That doesn’t mean a thing.”
Reed is “human”
Reed had his toughest outing of his young career against Fordham when he threw four interceptions and missed several reads and progressions.
“Our quarterback showed he is human and made a fair amount of errors,” Tavani said.
“Let him keep doing what he’s doing and not screw him up,” Tavani said regarding preparing Reed for his first Lafayette-Lehigh matchup. “He doesn’t get too high or too low, he’s very steady.”
“If he’s nervous, he hasn’t shown it to anyone.”
Lafayette is 3-1 with Reed as its starting quarterback and his emergence has given much reason to believe that this is the year the Leopards return to championship form.
“This is definitely the biggest game of my life so far,” Reed said.
Preparing for the rivalry
Throughout the media luncheon on Tuesday, Tavani and players alike were asked about any preparation changes implemented this week.
“You have to go about the week the same way you have been doing it,” Tavani said. “If you have a good week of preparation, you have a good opportunity to have success on Saturday.”
One change in practice relative to other weeks in the regular season is the use of the sound system – fake crowd noise is blasted throughout each practice this week to mimic the atmosphere at Goodman Stadium tomorrow.
“I’m not sure the neighbors will be happy about it,” Tavani said.
The team’s senior tri-captains – offensive linemen Brad Bormann, Pat Crosby and defensive back Randall Logan – are charged with the responsibility of maintaining focus among their teammates.
“We need to keep players focused,” Bormann said. “Just approach this game like you would any other. We will start to turn it on Thursday night and Friday. When the time comes to get excited and untap that energy, we will do that.”
“Works for me,” Crosby said.