Why Lafayette will win
By Rachel Robertson ‘18 | Sports Editor | The Lafayette
This is difficult. It’s difficult to make a case for a team that is 1-9 and averages just 11.5 points a game.
The Leopards have had a tough go at it in the 2015 season, often undermanned and overmatched. Injuries depleted an already young squad, and Lafayette couldn’t ever get steady offensive production. On paper, defense looks to be Lafayette’s weakness with a few extremely lopsided losses. But, in my mind, the defense has been the most consistent throughout the season.
To date, I could pull out every statistic in the book and not too many would point to Lafayette as a clear or even probable choice to win the 151st meeting of the Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry.
Lafayette’s last two games, however, have given me hope. With a much healthier lineup than in the first eight games of the season, Coach Tavani’s team jumped ahead early in their games against Bucknell and Colgate with increased emphasis on the rushing game and a defense that did it’s job by getting off the field. The progress the team made in weeks nine and 10, plus bye week rest, will hopefully be enough carry them against Lehigh.
I’m not going to prattle on with unrealistic optimism that the stats are lying to us all and Lafayette is set up for victory in the 151st meeting of The Rivalry. I’m going to be realistic. The Leopards have to execute a nearly perfect game plan to have a shot at taking down that other team from the Lehigh Valley.
For Lafayette to be in a position to win, they will need to be effective with the rush on both sides of the ball. Disrupting Lehigh’s rush game is the greatest contribution the Lafayette defense can make to keep points off the board. When the differential between passing and rushing yards is more than 100, the Hawks are 0-4. And when Lafayette has the ball, a commitment to the run is key. The rush has been a problem for Lehigh’s defense this season, and the Leopards need to capitalize. In their five losses, Lehigh has given up an average of 297 rushing yards.
A 1-9 season is not much to stand on, but records fail to tell the full story of the team that will show up to play Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium.
This team is resilient. More injuries than seemingly possible in one season is not the only adversity the Leopards have faced this season. Since preseason, the team has battled with the loss of Brian Keller. A beloved teammate and extremely talented tight end, Keller was killed in a car crash over the summer. A dismal losing season was not how the team envisioned honoring Keller, and they will be more motivated than ever to bring home a win for “Captain America,” as his teammates often called him.
It has turned into a one-game season for the Leopards. They are playing for pride and they are playing for Brian. And if anything, it will be the strength they’ve found through their trials that will make them victorious in this meeting of The Rivalry.
Why Lehigh will win
By Brendan Spillane ‘17 | Staff Writer | The Brown and White
After a heartbreaking loss to Colgate University, eliminating the chance for a Patriot League Championship, Lehigh football (5-5) will have a chance to win against a weak Lafayette College football team (1-9) on Nov. 21 at Goodman Stadium. In the 151st “Big Game,” Lehigh will be seen as heavy favorites, but as with many rivalry games, anything can happen.
In 2013, before the 149th rivalry game, Lehigh was 8-2 coming into a game against Lafayette (4-7). It should have been an easy win for Lehigh, yet they lost by a score of 50-28. This coming Saturday, Lehigh needs to train and focus on a game plan that will not allow them to be upset as in 2013.
Key #1: Lehigh’s offense needs to get going very early in the game
Lehigh will be a heavy favorite, and it will want to make sure that it gains an early lead. Putting away Lafayette early and not allowing for even a chance of an upset is crucial. Lehigh freshman running back Dom Bragalone will get an opportunity to face the worst rushing defense in the Patriot League. In 10 games, Lafayette has allowed an average of 206.8 yards per game.
Bragalone will be coming off five straight games with 100+ rushing yards and will look to carry the bulk of Lehigh’s running offense. Bragalone has been battling back from an injury sustained in the loss to Colgate, however, it’s expected he will be able to play.
Lehigh should be able to run the ball a great deal against a weak Lafayette run defense, limiting turnovers mainly from quarterback Nick Shafnisky, who has thrown nine interceptions in 10 games.
Key #2: Focus on executing sound football by keeping emotions in check
On the 150th “Big Game” played in Yankee Stadium, which had an attendance of 48,256, Lafayette beat Lehigh to cap off a 3-8 season. I assume there was some level of embarrassment and grief. More importantly, I expect there was an immediate urge of revenge against Lafayette for the next year. However, if Lehigh wants to come out with a victory, it needs to keep these emotions in check.
This doesn’t mean Lehigh shouldn’t play with emotion. But managing this emotion is very crucial for a Lehigh team that is so focused on revenge. Instead of focusing on emotion and feelings, Lehigh football just needs to execute. Lafayette has one win all season against Wagner (1-9), and it was ranked in the bottom two teams in every major statistical team category in the Patriot League (scoring offense and defense, and total offense and defense).
As long as Lehigh maintains mental focus on executing the football they know how to play, it will cruise to a win against a Lafayette.
Key Player: Colton Caslow
Junior linebacker Colton Caslow will be a key player to watch this Saturday. He has not only been extremely productive this year leading the team in tackles, but has emerged into a dominant role against Lafayette in the past. In 2013 as a freshman, he recorded eight tackles and two sacks against Lafayette. As a sophomore, playing against Lafayette at Yankee Stadium, Caslow captured a career-high 13 tackles.
Caslow should look to continue his stellar performances against Lafayette this Saturday, when he and the Lehigh defense will face the Lafayette run offense, which is ranked last in the Patriot League averaging only 58.6 yards per game.
Shutting down Lafayette’s run game will be vastly important for Lehigh because it forces Lafayette to throw the ball. Lafayette leads the Patriot League in interceptions and will give the Lehigh defense many opportunities to create turnovers.