The 2017 Patriot League football season concluded with two schools, Colgate and Lehigh, staking claim to the championship. The Raiders were able to overcome a sluggish start against Georgetown by scoring 35 straight points to earn a share of their 9th title. Lehigh also finished their game strong to sneak past rival Lafayette in the 153rd edition of “The Rivalry”. The win earned the Mountain Hawks a bid into the FCS playoffs for the second straight year. Fordham outlasted Bucknell in the other game over the weekend. Chase Edmonds went out in style in his final college start. The Patriot League’s all-time leading rusher finished his college career with a 185 yard and 2 TD performance against the Bison.
Colgate 35 Georgetown 10
Despite an auspicious start, Colgate (7-4, 5-1) was able to easily take care of Georgetown (1-10, 0-6) to capture a share of their 9th Patriot League Championship. With the dominating win, the Raiders ended up out scoring their final 5 Patriot League opponents 185-32. Grant Breneman (1,594 yards 18 TDs 5 INTs, 401 yards rushing 6 TDs) led a well balanced offense and the defense smothered teams during Colgate’s dominant finish. A slow start to the season is what ultimately cost the Raiders the outright Patriot League Title and/or a chance at an at-large bid in the playoffs. As it is, Colgate will return a wealth of talent and experience in 2018 from a 7-4 team, league co-championship squad.
Georgetown on the other hand will enter next year’s campaign riding a 15 game conference losing streak and a 10 game overall losing skid. The Hoya offense that averaged an anemic 12.5 points this season (5th worst average in FCS) is the main culprit for the team’s struggles. Georgetown managed just 6 first downs and 140 yards of total offense against Colgate. Even the return of veteran quarterback Tim Barnes (8-20 72 yards) on Senior Day could not spark the “O”. The longest drive Georgetown put together during the course of the game, 5 plays 39 yards, was the last one of the game. Five out of the Hoyas 11 drives during the game ended with a 3 and out. As a result of so many short possessions their defense eventually wilts over the course of 60 minutes.
Prior to running out of gas against the Raiders, the Georgetown defense was able to make their presence felt immediately. On Colgate’s first play from scrimmage Kristian Tate pick sixed Grant Breneman (16-23 137 yards 3 TDs 1 INT) to give the Hoyas a 7-0 lead less than 10 seconds into the game. Georgetown extended their lead to 10-0 on their first offensive possession thanks to Brad Hurst’s 36 yard FG. Colgate’s offense would answer with a methodical 13 play 68 yard TD drive that took nearly 8 minutes off the game clock. James Holland (13 carries 57 yards 1 TD) finished the drive with a 5 yard run to pay dirt.
The Raiders would take their first lead of the game the next time they touched the ball. This time it was Breneman connecting with Thomas Ives for a short 2 yard TD toss to give Colgate a 14-10 lead with 11:10 left in the 2nd quarter. Just before half, Breneman would find Ives (5 rec 45 yards 3 TDs) for another score to give Colgate a 21-10 lead. Ives added a spectacular one handed catch in the corner of the end zone late in the second half for his 3rd TD of the game! The play earned the junior WR a spot in ESPN’s Top 10 list and the Colgate record books (3 TD receptions ties school record).
Fordham 20 Bucknell 9
Fordham’s (4-7, 3-3) win over Bucknell (5-6, 2-4) had to be a bit bittersweet for the Rams on Senior Day in Bronx. The win is certainly a nice capper to the year but watching Chase Edmonds run for 185 yards and 2 TDs for one final time reminded fans of what could have been for Fordham this year. Edmonds entered the season within shouting distance of Adrian Peterson’s (Georgia Southern) career FCS rushing mark and was the preseason favorite to win the Payton Award as the subdivision’s best player. As things played out, injuries would derail Edmonds march towards history and greatly handicap Fordham’s overall performance. The Ram’s run of 5 straight winning seasons (4 with at least 8 wins) came to a crashing halt but there’s no doubt Edmonds and his teammates provided the home crowd one last great memory.
Bucknell was not able to the spoil Edmonds going away party due to their offense’s inability to score touchdowns. John Burdick’s three field goals were enough to keep the Bison ahead for the first 50 minutes of play but in the end the Rams three trips to the end zone won the game. It was the 4th time out of 6 league games the Bison failed to score a touchdown. The most points Bucknell posted in a Patriot League contest was 21 in a three touchdown loss to Lehigh. As has been the case for much of the year, DeFloria and Freshnock failed to combine for a 100 yards and the quarterback play lack efficiency. Bison quarterback John Chiarolanzio (17-43 162 yards) also struggled to gain traction in the loss. Until the offense can complement Bison’s usually stout defense, Bucknell’s Patriot League Title drought (1996) will continue.
The only scoring in the first half came via a 65 yard Edmond’s touchdown run midway through the 2nd quarter. After both defenses controlled play during the first 30 minutes of play, things would finally open up after halftime. Burdick’s 27 yard FG finally got Bucknell on the board with 3:41 left in the 3rd quarter following a Fordham fumble deep in their own territory. Burdick would tack on two more field goals early in the 4th quarter to give Bucknell a 9-7 lead. The Bison would hold onto the lead until Austin Longi broke their back with 90 yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the final quarter. Following a 4th down stop by the Ram “D”, Edmonds broke loose for another long touchdown (55 yards) with just over 3 minutes left in regulation to put the game on ice.
Lehigh 38 Lafayette 31
Lehigh’s (5-6, 5-1) 7 point win over their arch rival Lafayette (3-8, 3-3) was basically a microcosm of the Mountain Hawks season that ended with a share of the Patriot League Championship and a spot in the FCS Playoffs. Lehigh’s performance was not always pretty, (turnovers and a porous rush D reared their ugly head again) but in the end it was just good enough to get the job done. The most impressive aspect of the win might be how the defense played in the second half. Mayes, Bragalone, Pelletier were once again great on “O” but it was the Lehigh “D” that held Lafayette to 23 total yards over the final 30 minutes. Offense won Lehigh 5 games this year but the second half proved that defense does indeed win championships.
Speaking of defense, Lafayette’s league leading unit was shredded (495 yards allowed) for much of the game. The Leopard’s “D” struggled to get pressure on Mayes for much of the game which allowed the junior quarterback to carve up the secondary. The much anticipated battle between Leopard CB Phillip Parham and the Lehigh wide receivers went in favor of the Brown and White. Lafayette’s defense also failed to keep Dominic Bragalone from racking up another 100+ yard rushing game.
Surprisingly, it was the much malinged Leopard offense that gave Lafayette a 10 point lead at half. John Garrett came out with a creative gameplan in first half that worked with great success. Lafayette used several different formations to keep the Lehigh defense off balance. Leopard WR Nick Pearson (6 rushed 95 yards 1 TD) came out of nowhere to steal the show during the first 30 minutes of play with several big runs around the edge. For whatever reason, Garrett and his staff opted for a much more conservative approach on offense in the second half.
Lafayette’s aggressive play calling in the first half paid dividends right away. Pearson’s 1 yard touchdown run on a jet sweep capped a very impressive 10 play 73 yard drive on the Leopard’s opening possession of the game. It wouldn’t take Lehigh long to respond however. After a Gatlin Casey fumble inside the Lafayette 10 yard line was overturned by replay, Dom Bragalone (29 carries 113 yards 2 TDs) powered into the end zone from 5 yards out to tie the game at 7 with 6:30 remaining in the 1st quarter. Lehigh would take a 14-7 lead on their next possession thanks to a 5 yard Troy Pelletier (9 rec 109 yards 2 TDs) TD reception.
Following a Lehigh muffed punt, Lafayette would tie the game at 14 early in the 2nd quarter. Selwyn Simpson bulldozed his was passed the goal line from 5 yards away for the score. Lehigh’s Marc Raye-Redmon would then fumble the ensuing kickoff to once against set up the Leopard offense deep in Mountain Hawk territory. That would lead to a 33 yard Jeff Kordenbrock FG and 17-14 Lafayette lead. C.J. Amil’s 6 yard TD run on Lafayette’s next possession would give Lafayette a 24-14 halftime lead.
Lehigh would close the gap to 24-21 with 7:12 left in the 3rd quarter on Bragalone’s second TD run of the game. That setup C.J Amil’s 94 yard kickoff return touchdown that pushed the Leopard lead back to 10 points. That would be the last impact pay for Lafayette. Following Amil’s return, Lehigh dominated the rest of the game. The Mountain Hawks would score the game’s final 17 points to escape with the win and the championship.
Up Next: Lehigh heads to Long Island to play Stony Brook (9-2) in the 1st Round of the FCS Playoffs.
- Colgate – The Raiders finish the season with a share of the Patriot League Title and the conference’s only winning record. Expectations will be high in Hamilton in 2018 given how much Colgate returns on both sides of the ball.
- Lehigh – The 2017 season didn’t go to script but the Mountain Hawks managed to capture a share of their 12th Patriot League Title and a chance for some playoff redemption.
- Fordham – With a healthy Chase Edmonds this would have been much different team and season. As it is, Coach Breiner faces a pretty hefty rebuilding job for 2018.
- Lafayette – With a championship in sight and fate in their hands, the season ended with 2 disappointing losses. Coach Garrett must find a way to put an end to the Leopard’s streak of 8 straight losing seasons in 2018.
- Holy Cross – Peter Pujals’s career certainly did not end the way he wanted but that doesn’t take away from his stellar individual career. It will be a new era of Holy Cross football in 2018 with a new head coach and quarterback.
- Bucknell – Bucknell could not carry the early season momentum they built up into league play. The offense completely fell apart down stretch which is why the Bison finished under .500 in the Patriot League and overall.
- Georgetown – 15 straight Patriot League, 10 consecutive losses overall; those are the only two stats that matter as Coach Sgarlatta turns the page to 2018. The Hoyas desperately need to improve the offense if those ugly streaks are going to end.