Patriot League: Week 7 Preview

Week 7 of the Patriot League football season sees conference battles commence. Colgate’s title defense begins against nemesis Lehigh in Hamilton and Holy Cross makes the long bus ride to Central Pennsylvania to battle Bucknell. Most would agree the start of league play is very much welcomed after what was a dreadful opening month of non-conference performances. There are two intriguing non-conference games set for Saturday. Fordham (vs Yale) and Georgetown (vs Cornell) each take on Ivy League opponents to start the month of October. The Hoyas and Rams are both coming off of quality wins last week. 0-5 Lafayette is on a much needed bye.

Fordham (2-3, 0-0) at Yale (2-0) 1 P.M. Yale Bowl; New Haven, CT

Live Streaming: ESPN+

The Need to Know: Fordham makes the 90 minute journey to the historic Yale Bowl to battle the Eli in an intriguing non-conference battle. The Rams are coming off a hard fought 23-16 win over Richmond. It was Fordham’s first win over a team from the vaunted CAA since they crushed Rhode Island 54-7 in 2014. The Rams offense was led by the strong running of Zach Davis (102.2 ypg) and the efficient passing of Tim DeMorat (185 ypg 8 TD 4 INT) in the win over the Spiders. Defensively, Fordham yielded 298 yards through the air but stuffed the Richmond ground game (65 yards). Sophomore LB Ryan Greenhagen (37 solo tackles, 10.5 TFL) is having a monster year so far for the Ram defense.

The preseason Ivy League favorite Eli are off to an expected 2-0 start with workmanlike wins over Holy Cross (23-10) and Cornell (27-16). Despite returning a plethora of talented skill players the Yale offense has yet to explode. The Kurt Rawling-Reed Klubnick (64 ypg receiving) connection has produced but not to the extent many expected. There should be ample opportunities to get things rolling against a Ram secondary that yields 13.4 yards per catch. Yale won the last meeting 41-10 in 2017. Current Fordham head coach Joe Conlin was the Eli’s offensive coordinator (’12-’17) at that time.

This game will tell a lot about both teams. Fordham is a field goal away from being 3-1 against FCS competition. The Eli are 2-0 as expected but have yet to play their best football. Yale has the talent edge, although it’s not as significant as some might think, and home field which should carry them to the win.

Prediction: Yale 30 Fordham 27

Lehigh (1-3, 0-0) at Colgate (0-5, 0-0) 1 P.M. Andy Kerr Stadium; Hamilton, NY

Live Stream: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: For the second time in the last three seasons (2017) Colgate and Lehigh will enter their annual grudge match with losing records. This has traditionally been a showcase game between the Patriot League’s two most successful programs (Colgate 10 Titles, Lehigh 11 Titles). However, the stakes are much different in 2019. Unless the Mountain Hawks and/or Raiders experiences a drastic turn around it’s quite possible Saturday’s battle in Central New York will determine who stays out of the league basement.

Colgate’s fate might come down to who starts at quarterback. There’s a sense that Grant Breneman will give it a go and see how his lower leg injury holds up. If he’s able to contribute for 4 quarters the Raiders odds of getting their first win of 2019 drastically go up. Their struggling defense (38.6 ppg allowed) should be able to get back on track against a Mountain Hawk “O” that has been among the worst in FCS. Now that league play is underway Colgate’s core of talented, experienced players (Breneman, Wheeler, Daramy-Swaray, Ioanellli etc.) need to have more of an impact if there’s going to be a season saving turnaround.

Like Colgate, Lehigh has a serious question mark at quarterback. Tyler Monaco (182 ypg, 2 TD 4 INT in ‘19) really struggled against Merrimack in the first half. Head Coach Tom Gilmore’s decision to insert junior Andrew Shoup in the second quarter (173 passing yards, 36 yard TD run) gave the offense just enough of a spark to allow Lehigh to escape with a 10-3 win. It’s likely that Monaco and Shoup will both see time against the Raiders. The improved Mountain Hawk defense (24 ppg allowed) will need another strong outing to offset the offense’s struggles.

As bad as Colgate has looked to start the year they still feel like solid favorites over a Lehigh team/program trying to find their way under first year head coach Tom Gilmore. If Breneman plays the Raiders should be able to grind out enough points to win by 2 or 3 possessions. Should the Preseason PL Offensive Player of the Year be unable to go this game could end up being a race to double-digits.

Prediction: Colgate 24 Lehigh 13

Holy Cross (1-3, 0-0) at Bucknell (0-4) 2 P.M. Christy Matthewson Memorial Stadium; Lewisburg, PA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The Crusaders travel to Lewisburg seeking revenge  against the Bison for last year’s surprising 19-16 loss at Fitton Field.  Bucknell’s 3 point victory would end up being the only thing that separated themselves from a winless 2018 campaign. The Bison have now lost 16 out of their last 17 games dating back to the end of the 2017 season. If they want to end their 10 game losing streak the offense must find some traction (13 ppg). The Bucknell “O” did some good things last week against Princeton (23 points) in their 56-23 blowout loss to the Tigers. Quarterback Logan Bitikofer had his best game ever (268 yards passing, 3 Total TD) as a Bison which has to make first year head coach Dave Cecchini somewhat optimistic heading into league play.

Holy Cross is still trying to find out who they are after the first month of the season. They’ve been blown out by two FBS opponents, beat a New Hampshire team in a tough spot and had a ho-hum outing against Yale in a loss. The Crusaders would appear to have a defense capable of leading the team to a Patriot League title. The offense however, continues to be a major concern (8.2 ppg ). Preseason All-PL selection Domenic Cozier is averaging less than 30 ypg and quarterback Connor Degenhardt is barely completing 50% of his passes has thrown for just 1 TD. Offensive Coordinator Patrick Murphy must find a way to get more production from a unit that has talented skill players.

Holy Cross is the better team but until their offense is able to consistently move the ball they’ll be in a lot of close games. Despite the lopsided result, Bucknell should have gained some confidence last week against an excellent Princeton team. The Bison will put up a spirited effort but the Crusaders get their payback.

Prediction: Holy Cross 24 Bucknell 20

Georgetown (3-1, 0-0) at Cornell (0-2) 2 P.M. Schoellkopf Field; Ithaca, NY

Live Streaming: ESPN+

The Need to Know: Georgetown will try to get their second straight victory in the Empire State when they tangle with the Big Red in gorgeous Ithaca, NY. This will be the first meeting between the two academic powerhouses since 2007; a 45-7 Cornell win. The Hoyas are seeking their fourth straight victory which would be their longest winning streak since 2011 (5 straight). Xavier Reddick (4 TFL) and Kristian Tate (2.5 TFL) have led a dominating defense (10 ppg, 1st in PL) so far this season. The Hoya offense is averaging 39 ppg but that is a bit deceiving since they put up 69 against Division 3 Catholic. They’ll be tested by a Cornell defense (17 ppg allowed) that returns 8 starters from a last year’s unit. Gunther Johnson will get the start at the quarterback but don’t be surprised if Joseph Brunell  gets a few opportunities to lead the offense.

Amazingly, Cornell has not posted a winning record since they went 6-4 in 2005. If things are going to turn around for Mike Archer’s team they must get better production from the quarterback position. Junior Richie Kenney has really struggled out of the gate (48% completion, 2 TD 5 INT) so there’s a good chance Mike Catanese gets his shot if the offense needs a boost. Running back Harold Coles (134 ypg) has literally and figuratively carried the offense through the first two games of the season. The Big Red were picked to finish 7th in the Ancient Eight preseason poll.

Georgetown has the defense to contain Coles and force the Big Red to pass the ball. If the Hoyas are able to protect the ball and don’t waste red zone opportunities they should be able to escape the Finger Lakes with a 4-1 record.

Prediction: Georgetown 27 Cornell 23

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