Patriot League: Week 1 Recap and Power Rankings

All things considered, the opening week went quite well for the Patriot League. It started August 26th when Colgate traveled to California to take on the 21st ranked Cal Poly Mustangs. The Raiders withstood a furious Cal Poly comeback attempt to notch a quality win for their program and the Patriot League. Bucknell was also impressive in their season opener. The Bison stampeded Marist to start 2017 in fine fashion. Holy Cross and Lehigh both put forth very good efforts but ultimately came up just short against favored opponents. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the John Garrett era got off to a rough start as Lafayette took one on the chin against Monmouth. The only head turning outcome of opening week came Friday night when Fordham was run out of West Point by Army to the tune of 64-6.

Colgate 20 #21 Cal Poly 14

The Raiders needed a 4th down stop with 37 seconds left to thwart Cal Poly’s comeback attempt and escape back to Hamilton with a win. The Mustangs made it to the Raider 22 yard line as time was ticking away when Colgate came up with the huge defensive stand. The Raiders defense did an excellent job containing the Cal Poly option attack until the 4th quarter. That’s when the Mustangs were able to start enforcing their will on the ‘Gate front 7. Payton Award candidate Joe Protheroe finished with 139 yards and 1 TD on 39 carries for the Mustangs. As a team, Cal Poly was held 100 yards below their 2016 rushing average by the Colgate defense.

Cal Poly was playing from behind the entire game. After receiving the opening kickoff Colgate went on an 11 play 75 yard drive that resulted in a Chris Puzzi 27 yard field goal. The Raiders tacked onto their lead with under a minute left in the opening quarter when James Holland (25 carries 91 yards 1 TD) raced into the end zone from 17 yards out. The touchdown gave the Raiders a 10-0 lead. On Colgate’s first possession of the second quarter Alex Mathews (7 carries 78 yards 1 TD) broke free for a 57 yard TD to extend the Raider league to 17-0. Chris Puzzi closed out the Colgate scoring with 4:48 left in the 3rd quarter when he split the uprights from 38 yards out.

With the win Colgate starts the season 1-0 for the first time since 2011.

Up Next: After enjoying an early season bye following the trip to Cal Poly,  Colgate welcomes Top 15 Richmond to Andy Kerr Stadium for another key out of conference game. The Spiders defeated Colgate 38-31 last season in Virginia.

UConn 27 Holy Cross 20

Holy Cross put forth an excellent performance in defeat against FBS UConn last Thursday night. This was the Crusaders first opponent (Army) from college football’s highest level in 15 years. That day Holy Cross was able to escape West Point with a thrilling 30-21 win. This time around Holy Cross couldn’t withstand a second half surge by the Huskies in Randy Edsall’s return debut as head coach of UConn. The best decision Edsall made in his return was to insert former starting QB Bryan Shirreffs late in the 3rd quarter. Once that happened, the Huskies offense took off. Prior to Shirreffs entering the game the Huskie offense was struggling mightily with David Pindell under center.

The Crusaders scored 17 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter to take a 20-7 lead into the locker room. Holy Cross QB Peter Pujals (33-56 358 yards 1 TD) looked in midseason form in his return as Crusader quarterback. The 5th year senior consistently made plays for the Holy Cross offense despite facing heavy pressure from the UConn defense. Ironically, his first TD pass back was a 19 yarder to former QB Blaise Bell. Bell had an excellent performance in his debut at WR (10 rec 129 yards 1 TD). Unfortunately for Pujals and Co. the Holy Cross defense could not come up with key stops once Shirreffs and RB Nate Hopkins (20 carries 130 yards 3 TDs) found their rhythm. Hopkins 3rd and final touchdown midway through the 4th quarter proved to be the winning points.

Up Next: Holy Cross jumps right into league play as they travel to Pennsylvania to take on Bucknell. The Crusaders lost to the Bison 21-20 last season.

Army 64 #23 Fordham 6

Fordham could not duplicate their Michie Magic of two years ago as Army exacted some serious revenge on the Rams Friday night. The Black Knights ran for 513 yards and did not complete a single pass on their way to a 58 point stomping of the Rams. Fordham entered the season with questions along the defensive line and left the banks of the Hudson with none of those answered. It’s highly unlikely Fordham sees another rushing attack that comes close to Army’s but such a poor performance in the season opener can’t be sitting well with Coach Breiner and his staff.

Army scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and only a fumble deep in Ram territory prevented the Black Knights from making it three straight. As it was, Army scored points on 10 of their 11 possessions during the course of the game while holding Fordham to a single TD. Chase Edmonds (15 carries 42 yards 1 TD) got Fordham on the scoreboard late in the second quarter to prevent the Maroon and White from being shutout. 5th year senior QB Kevin Anderson (26-38 233 yards 1 INT) never got comfortable in the pocket due to being under constant duress. The Fordham offensive line really struggled to match the physicality that Army brought. The unit will need to improve considerably if the Rams offense wants to live up its preseason billing.

Up Next: Fordham travels to New Britain, CT to square off with NEC member Central Connecticut State Saturday afternoon.

#9 Villanova 38 #19 Lehigh 35

The Mountain Hawk defense could not get a key stop late in the 4th quarter to give their potent offense one last chance to complete the comeback against 9th ranked Villanova. Playing catchup the entire game, Lehigh had a chance to get the ball back one last time but the Wildcat offense was able to churn out two key first downs on their final possession of the game to seal the victory. With the win, Villanova continues their mastery of Lehigh now having won the last 6 meetings in the series. The loss also extended Lehigh’s winless draught against teams froms the CAA to 6 games.

Villanova briskly went 67 yards in 4 plays on their opening possession to take a quick 7-0 lead. Lehigh was able to tie it up on a short Bragalone (25 carries 82 yards 1 TD) plunge before the Wildcats scored two early second quarter touchdowns to extend their lead to 21-7. The two teams would trade touchdowns before half. The key sequence during that time was a Bragalone fumble deep in Villanova territory that was picked up by a Wildcat defender and returned for a TD. A block in the back penalty negated the touchdown. However, on the very first play on offense following the fumble Gudzak scampered around the end for a 33 yard TD. The score gave Villanova a 28-14 halftime lead. Lehigh would outscore the Wildcats 21-10 in the second half but the fumble at the end of the 2nd quarter proved too much to overcome. Brad Mayes (33-49 406 yards 4 TDs), Luke Christiano (8 rec 143 yards 1 TD) and Troy Pelletier (11 rec 141 yards 1 TD) had big games for Lehigh in the loss.

Up Next: Lehigh will make the 90 minute trek to Monmouth University to take on the Hawks. Monmouth won 23-21 last year in Bethlehem.

Monmouth 31 Lafayette 12

The Leopards needed more offense in John Garrett’s debut in order to give their new head coach his first career collegiate win. The Leopards put forth a strong defensive performance, especially in the 1st half, but were unable to get the offense going with any consistency. The biggest issue was a rushing attack that racked up -1 yard. The inability to move the ball on the ground was a serious problem for Lafayette last year and if the first game is any indication, it will be a major cause for concern in 2017. Despite having no running game to fall back on, true freshman Sean O’Malley (27-42 262 yards 2 TD 2 INT) showed some real potential in is his first start. O’Malley made the wise decision to connect with with talented WR Matt Mzarek (9 rec 80 yards 1 TD) early and often.

The game was scoreless until Monmouth RB Pete Gurriero found paydirt from 16 yards out 34 seconds before half time. Prior to that Hawk scoring drive the Leopard defense had 2 interceptions, forced 2 punts and stopped Monmouth on downs on a 4th and 1. Monmouth was able to carry the momentum generated from Gurriero’s TD over to the second half. The Hawks went on a 10 play 75 yard touchdown drive the first time they touched the ball in the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 13-0. Lafayette closed the gap to 13-6 when O’Malley connected with Mzarek for a 17 yard TD with 6:10 left in the 3rd quarter. The Leopards would get no closer as Monmouth would score the game’s next 17 points to win going away.

Up Next: Lafayette welcome the Sacred Heart to Fisher Stadium Saturday evening. The two last met in 2014 when the Pioneers spoiled the Leopard’s season opener 27-14.

Bucknell 45 Marist 6

Bucknell opened the 2017 season with their most dominating performance since 2001 when they beat former Patriot League member Towson 51-10.  The Bison got points from all three phases in the 39 point win over Marist Saturday night. The Bucknell defense played exceptionally well in the win. They scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and limited the Red Foxes to 8 first downs and 154 total yards. The only really negative that Bucknell should take away from the game is the fact the offense will continue to be a work in progress given the inexperience along the offensive line. As a result of the suspect O-line play, the two headed monster (DeFloria and Freshnock) never got traction (54 yards combined).

The Bison put the game away early with four 1st quarter touchdowns. Bucknell QB Matt Muh (16-24 205 yards 2 TD 1 INT) tossed two TD passes while the defense tacked on two scores of their own during the first 15 minutes of the season. Muh completed passes to seven different receivers during the game and generally played well despite having almost no ground game to lean on. Freshnock did manage to muscle his way for two short yardage touchdowns but was otherwise held in check. If Bucknell wants to make noise in the league race they must get the offensive line shored up so the ground game can get rolling. The Bison need to be a physical team.

Up Next: Bucknell hosts Holy Cross in an important early season league game. The Bison snuck past the Crusaders by 1 point, 21-20, last year.

Power Rankings

  1. Lehigh – The Mountain Hawks went toe-2-toe with a Top 10 team. Defense is still a big question mark but the offense is every bit as good as advertised.
  2. Fordham – That was an ugly performance against Army but it’s only 1 game against a FBS team coming off an 8-5 season. Need to make a statement against CCSU
  3. Colgate – The Raiders started 2017 with quality win 3,000 miles from home. Now they get an opportunity to notch another big “W” in their own backyard.
  4. Holy Cross – The Crusaders outplayed UConn for 45 minutes but couldn’t seal the deal against the Huskies. The offensive line needs to protect Pujals against the Bison.
  5. Bucknell – The Bison couldn’t have scripted a better start to the season. Now the competition level increases significantly as Holy Cross pays a visit to Lewisburg.
  6. Georgetown – Opening the season with a bye gives the Hoyas an extra week to prepare for a very winnable slate of September games.
  7. Lafayette – The defense showed why it might be one of the top 2 or 3 units in the league. Unfortunately, the offense is headed nowhere without an offensive line and running game.

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