Patriot League: Week 4 Preview

The fourth week of the Patriot League football season sees six of the seven members in action. The league desperately needs a good Saturday in order to improve upon its dreadful 2-12 overall record. Georgetown and Holy Cross are the only teams to notch wins so far in 2019. The Crusaders are off this week after notching a quality win over New Hampshire last Saturday.

Catholic (0-1) at Georgetown (1-1, 0-0) 12 P.M. Cooper Field; Washington D.C.

Live Stream: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The Hoyas welcome crosstown Catholic University to the friendly confines of Cooper Field for a high noon showdown. The Cardinals are a Division III program which makes this a rather unusual matchup. While it’s not uncommon for FCS programs to schedule games against Division II opponents, dipping  into the Division III and NAIA ranks is often frowned upon. To be fair to Georgetown, their current facility is inadequate for FCS football which means scheduling non-conference home games is extremely difficult.

Catholic was picked to finish 7th in the 8 team New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Preseason Poll after posting a disappointing 1-9 record in 2018. The Cardinals are led by quarterback Brady Berger. The junior led the NEWMAC in passing ypg, completions and completion % last season. Catholic started their 2019 season last week with a heartbreaking  2 OT loss (32-31) to Kenyon.

Georgetown enters this game fresh off a 43-3 demolition of Marist last Saturday. The Hoyas should have no trouble duplicating a similar result against Divsion III Catholic. This is the type of game coaches simply want to get out of injury free and make sure the backups get valuable playing time.

The Pick: Georgetown 51 Catholic 17

Sacred Heart (1-1) at Lafayette (0-2, 0-0) 12:30 PM Fisher Field; Easton, PA

Live Stream: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: After taking to the road the first two weeks of the season, Lafayette gets their first chance to defend their home turf as they square off against Sacred Heart on College Hill. The Pioneers head to Lafayette fresh off a dominating 30-10 win over fellow Patriot Leaguer Bucknell. Sacred Heart’s offense has been led by a strong starts by quarterback Logan Marchi (210 ypg 3 TD 0 INR) and running back Julius Chestnut (113.5 ypg 1 TD). The defense struggled to stop a Top 10 Maine team to open the season but bounced back last week against the Bison (221 total yards, 75 in first half). The Pioneers have beaten the Leopards each of the last two seasons; 38-24 in ’17 and 35-6 in ’18.

Lafayette’s second half comeback bid against Monmouth last week fell just short in a well fought 24-21 loss. The Leopards defense once again struggled to stop the run (223 yards allowed) in the narrow defeat. The move to quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (PL Freshman of the Week) sparked the woeful Lafayette passing attack (256 yards) against the Hawks. Shoemaker and the rest of the offense need to build off of last week’s second half effort.

The Leopards need to put together a full 60 minutes if they’re going to have a chance to take down a solid Sacred Heart squad. The Pioneers appear to be the slightly more balanced team which should be the difference in this one. Julius Chestnut could be a line for a big game.

The Pick: Sacred Heart 27 Lafayette 21

Fordham (0-2, 0-0) at Bryant (0-2) 1 P.M. Beirne Stadium; Providence, RI

Live Stream:

The Need to Know: Fordham heads to the “Ocean State” to battle the Bryant Bulldogs. Both teams are still searching their first win after starting the 2019 season with two disappointing “L’s”. Bryant has really struggled to get their offense rolling (6.5 ppg). The passing attack (171 ypg) and ground game (79 ypg) have equally led to the offense’s inability to move the ball and score. Last season the Bulldogs averaged 32.5 ppg so this drastic dip in output has to be frustrating for first year Head Coach Chris Merritt and his Offensive Coordinator Darrius Smith. The defense hasn’t been much better (40 ppg allowed). To be fair, they’ve been on the field way too much due to the offense’s inability to put together drives.

The Rams played hard against FBS Ball State last weekend but ultimately took one on the chin to the tune of 57-29. Fordham’s secondary was lit up for 439 yards by the Cardinal’s quarterback Drew Plitt. Thankfully for the Rams, Bryant does not possess nearly the same arsenal on offense. As long as Fordham limits their mistakes they should get their first win rather comfortably.

The Pick: Fordham 34 Bryant 16

#17 Villanova (2-0) at Bucknell (0-2) 6 P.M. Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium; Lewisburg, PA

Live Stream: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: Bucknell is the third straight Patriot League opponent Villanova has faced to start the 2019 season. The Wildcats easily dispatched of Colgate and Lehigh by a combined score of 72-24. Villanova has unleashed a powerful running attack (233 ypg) led by Justin Covington (9.0 ypc) to start 2019. Quarterback Daniel Smith’s efficient, smart passing (188 ypg, 6 TD 0 INT) has been the perfect complement to Convington’s rushing. Last year Villanova jumped out a 42-0 halftime lead against Bucknell before coasting to a 49-7 victory. The Bison have started poorly in their first two games of the season. Coach Cecchini must get that fixed if his team wants to compete with the nationally ranked Wildcats.

Perhaps in a couple of years the Bucknell program will be capable of ending the Wildcat’s dominance over the Patriot League (34-4 overall, 9 straight wins). As of right now the Bison are severely outmanned. The goal for Cecchini’s team should be competing like they did against Temple by avoiding turnovers and crucial mistakes. There is still a revolving door at quarterback so the offense remains extremely inconsistent. Bitikofer and Chiarolanzio have gotten the bulk of the action to start the season. Sophomore Tarrin Earle seems to have slipped to third string. Getting RB Chad Freshnock back in the fold should help the “O” moving forward.

This week is about survival for the Bison.

The Pick: Villanova 45 Bucknell 13

Colgate (0-2, 0-0) at William & Mary (1-1) 6 P.M. Zable Stadium; Williamsburg, VA

Live Stream:

The Need to Know: Preseason Patriot League favorite Colgate makes the 10 hour trek to Williamsburg, VA to face William and Mary. The Raiders are coming off a much needed bye week after two lopsided losses to start the season. William & Mary enters their third game reeling a bit as well. The Tribe used a dominant second half to dispatch of Lafayette 30-17 in their season opener then got blown out 52-17 by a good Virginia team last Saturday. First year head coach Mike London is still looking for stability at quarterback (0 passing TDs). Senior Kilton Anderon and Freshman Hollis Mathis are both expected to see time against Colgate. Mathis currently leads the team in rushing with 137 yards so far this season. Colgate came into Zable and shutout the Tribe last season 23-0.

Like the Tribe, the Raiders too have concerns on offense. The usually stout ground attack is averaging a paltry 76 ypg. and junior quarterback Grant Breneman has been inconsistent (52% completion) behind a line that has not played to its potential. The defense hasn’t fared much better but to they’ve also been put in some tough spots by the “O”.

Colgate needs a win coming off their bye given the hurdles they’ll face during the final two weeks of  September (Top 10 Maine, Dartmouth). Colgate has the veteran leadership needed to go on the road against a solid team and get a much needed victory. This game likely will come down to the wire.

Prediction: Colgate 23 William & Mary 20

Lehigh (0-2, 0-0) at #6 UC-Davis (1-1) 10 P.M. UC Davis Health Stadium; Davis, CA

Live Stream: Pluto TV

The Need to Know: For the first time in 42 years Lehigh and UC-Davis will clash on the gridiron. The last time the Aggies and the then Engineers met a birth in the 1977 Division II (no 1-AA/FCS at the time) National Championship Game was on the line. Lehigh won that game 39-30 and then proceeded to capture the school’s first and only national title by defeating Jacksonville State in Wichita Falls, TX. While the stakes are nowhere near the same in 2019, this is an important game for both teams. Lehigh has started a disappointing 0-2 under first year head coach Tom Gilmore while the Aggies are looking to bounce back from a very shaky 38-35 win over non-scholarship San Diego.  UC-Davis was picked to finish 2nd in the Preseason Big Sky Poll.

The Aggies offense is led by STATS Preseason 1st Team All-American QB Jake Maier (266 ypg 2 TDs 2 INTs). Running back Ulonzo Gilliam (112 ypg 3 TD) provides UC-Davis a consistent presence in the backfield which makes the Aggie “O” extremely difficult to stop. Defensively, UC-Davis has struggled to stop the run (203 ypg allowed) to start the season. The good news for the Aggie “D” is the fact that Lehigh has displayed an anemic ground attack (50 ypg) to start 2019.

Lehigh has the athletes and overall team speed to be competitive in this game so long as they limit their mistakes and get points inside the red zone. The Mountain Hawks offensive line must give Monaco time to find his talented pass catchers in order for the Lehigh “O” to have a breakout game against a UC-Davis defense that can be had. The issue facing Lehigh is trying to contain a very balanced and explosive Aggie offense.

Prediction: UC Davis 42 Lehigh 27

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