Patriot League: Week 9 Preview

As the Patriot League football season enters its second half, the stakes continue to rise. The most compelling league game this weekend is Lehigh at Fordham. Both teams are seeking 2-0 starts in PL play after each experienced a shaky September. Georgetown will look to put last week’s final second loss to the Rams in rear view mirror when they play host to Lafayette. This will be the Leopards first league game after going winless in out of conference play. The non-league games this week are highlighted by two rivalries; Harvard at Holy Cross and Colgate at Cornell. Those four teams have played a combined 171 times. The third non-league game features an improving Bucknell team traveling to Maryland to take on #21 Towson.

Lafayette (0-6, 0-0) at Georgetown (4-2, 0-1) 12 P.M. Cooper Field; Washington D.C.

Live Stream: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: Lafayette starts the Patriot League portion of their schedule Saturday when they travel to Washington D.C. Saturday to face Georgetown. The Hoyas enter this contest off a heartbreaking 30-27 loss to Fordham at Cooper Field. Tim DeMorat’s 17 yard TD pass with 16 second left was a major dagger in Georgetown’s Patriot League Title hopes. If Coach Sgarlata’s team wants to bounce against the Leopards the defense (13 ppg allowed) must tighten things up (405 yards allowed). Many of the issues that cost Georgetown in their season opening loss to Davidson popped up against the Rams. Offensively, Georgetown had their most productive game ever (525 Total Yards) against a Patriot League foe. Quarterback Gunther Johnson arguably had his best game of his career (13-17 280 yards, 81 yards rushing 2 TD). The “O” should be able to keep the positive mojo going against a Lafayette defense (445 ypg allowed) that has struggled to slow teams down.

Mercifully for Lafayette the out of conference portion of their schedule is over. Thanks to a winless start to 2019 and an ugly conclusion to 2018 the Leopards are riding a 9 game losing streak to D.C. Last week’s 28-3 loss to #19 Princeton almost certainly assured Lafayette a 10th straight non-winning season. Coach Garrett’s team now has to win out and capture a victory in the FCS playoffs to post the program’s first winning  record since 2009. In order to get win number one, Keegan Shoemaker must rebound from a tough outing (17-35 129 yards 2 INT) against the talented Tiger’s “D”. Despite being on the field for more than half the game (35 minutes), the Lafayette defense hung tough for most of the night against a Top 25 opponent. If there’s one thing to build off of heading into a key league game it’s that.

The key to this game might be emotion. Whoever is engaged and ready to play from the opening kickoff will come out on top. Georgetown is coming off arguably their most devastating loss since they joined the Patriot League nearly 20 years ago.  Lafayette is in the midst of another ugly season even though it’s felt like they are making legitimate progress at times. Until the Leopards prove they can win it’s extremely hard to envision them emerging victorious on the road against one of the top teams in the league.

Prediction: Georgetown 27 Lafayette 17

Harvard (3-1) at Holy Cross (3-3, 1-0) 1 P.M. Fitton Field; Worcester, MA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The battle for “Bay State” supremacy (sorry UMass, you stink) between Harvard and Holy Cross is easily the most nationally relevant game this week. This will be the 71st (Harvard leads 43-25-2) meeting between the two tradition rich programs. This game will be a great measuring stick for each team as they both figure to contend for their respective conference’s title. The Crimson have won three straight games in dominating fashion (139-46) since losing their season opener to non-scholarship powerhouse San Diego. The offense has been well balanced (252 pass/172 rush) under the direction of quarterback Jake Smith (238 ypg 11 TD 4 INT). The defense has done an excellent job shutting down the opponents rushing attack (65 ypg allowed) and their 252 passing yards per game allowed would be a lot lower if opponents weren’t trying to play catch up. This is a very good team that will challenge Dartmouth and Princeton for the Ivy League crown.

Holy Cross returns home for the first time since their thrilling win over #20 New Hampshire. Needless to say the Crusaders have lived up to their namesake the last six weeks. The last two of which have seen Holy Cross’s offense emerge from their early season slumber. Connor Degenhardt (210 ypg 6 TD 2 INT) has started October by capturing two straight Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performances against Bucknell and Brown. Degenhardt and the rest of the Crusader “O” will see a significantly better defense this Saturday than they faced against Bucknell and especially Brown. Offensive Coordinator Pat Murphy will need to keep a good Crimson defense on its heels if Holy Cross has ideas of getting their third straight win. Holy Cross’s defense must tighten things up after a shaky outing against Brown last week (31 points allowed).

This game might not count in the league standings for either team but its importance can’t be understated. Harvard has been a consistent force in the Ivy League since Head Coach Tim Murphy took over in 1994. Bob Chesney is trying to establish a similar culture of winning in Worcester. Heading into Saturday Murphy’s team appears to be a half step, maybe a full step, ahead of the Crusaders at this point.

Prediction: Harvard 34 Holy Cross 23

Lehigh (2-3, 1-0) at Fordham (3-4, 1-0) 1 P.M. Jack Coffey Stadium; Bronx, NY

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The 2019 Patriot League race will take further shape in the “Big Apple” when Fordham plays host to Lehigh. The Rams are fresh off their thrilling last second road win over Georgetown.  Quarterback Tim DeMorat might have been erratic for most of the afternoon but when it mattered most he made all the big throws including the game winner to Fotis Kokosioulis. Junior running back Zach Davis had a stellar afternoon (138 yards 2 TD) against an excellent Hoya front 7. Davis will face another strong run defense (74 ypg allowed) this week. The biggest concern for Coach Conlin’s team is the defense. They got torched (525 yards allowed) by an average at best Georgetown “O” last week. If Fordham wants to win the league outright the defense (455 ypg/33 ppg allowed) must get better. The unit continues to woefully underachieve relative to its talent level.

Lehigh heads to the Bronx well rested following their second bye of the season. The Mountain Hawks opted for two byes instead of a 12th game which in hindsight was the right call for a team trying to re-establish itself under new head coach Tom Gilmore. The extra week should have benefited the offense (13 ppg) the most considering the unit is dealing with significant injuries at wide receiver. Leading pass catcher Devon Bibbens (73 ypg 2 TD) still needs another week to recover from the huge hit he took against Colgate. Jalen Burbage tore is Achilles against the Raiders and is done for the season. Lehigh will need to rely on Jorge Portorreal and a patchwork receiver corps to do damage against Fordham’s leaky secondary. The Mountain Hawk defense (357 ypg/22 ppg allowed) will need to have their best game of the season in order to fly home happy.

Lehigh has dominated this series all-time 24-7 but the Rams have owned things (5/6) recently. While these might be the two most athletically gifted teams in the league they both have glaring flaws. Fordham enters this game on an emotional high in what has been a roller coaster of the season. Lehigh enters well rested following their win over Colgate two weeks ago. Can Fordham finally put together two straight well played games?

Predicition: Lehigh 27 Fordham 24

Colgate (0-7, 0-2) at Cornell (1-3) 1:30 P.M. Schoellkopf Field; Ithaca, NY

Live Streaming: ESPN+

The Need to Know: For the 101st time Central New York rivals Colgate and Cornell will battle it out on the gridiron. Despite suffering through one of the worst starts in school history, the Raiders can find a bit of a silver lining by tying up the all-time series 49-49-3 with a win. Colgate has won 9 out of the last 10 meetings against Cornell including last year’s 31-0 shutout win. Given the current state of each team it’s hard to imagine Saturday afternoon’s contest being a blowout either way. The Raiders continue to struggle on offense as Grant Breneman (139 ypg 2 TD 2 INT) remains hobbled by the ankle injury he suffered earlier in the season. Coach Hunt’s “O” is likely in for more tough sledding against a Big Red defense that is allowing 99 yards in the ground and tick over 200 through the air. The Raiders defense must bounce back from last week’s ugly performance (32 points allowed) against Bucknell.

The Big Red have their own quarterback concerns. Head Coach David Archer has rotated Richie Kenney (121 ypg 4 TD 6 INT) and Mike Cantenese (121 0 TD 1 INT) with the hopes that one of them would seize control of the position. Unfortunately for the “O”, neither Kenney or Cantenses has been able to establish themselves. Running back Harold Coles (91 ypg 3 TD) remains the offenses only consistent producer. The Cornell defense (20 ppg/302 ypg allowed) has done an admirable job since it’s often been put in tough situations.

This is an extremely difficult game to get a read on given both team’s limitations. The Raiders still possess excellent talent even if it’s 0-7 say otherwise. Cornell has put forth a more consistent effort to start the season despite being severely outmanned in all three of their losses. That’s why The Wedge is going to take the Big Red.

Prediction:  Cornell 20 Colgate 16

Bucknell (1-5, 1-1) at #21 Towson 4 P.M. Johnny Unitas Stadium; Towson, MD

Live Streaming:

The Need to Know: Bucknell will try to make it two wins in a row when the make the 2.5 hour trek south to take on former Patriot League member (’97-’03) Towson.  The Bison emphatically put an end to their school record 11 game losing streak with a convincing 32-14 win over Colgate last week in Hamilton. All three phases had significant contributions in the victory. The fake punt call in the third quarter really set the table for the rest of the game. Colgate scored a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to cut the Bison lead to 20-14. The gutsy call on 4th and 1 around midfield ultimately led to a touchdown and a two possession lead. Alex Pelchin earned Patriot League Special Teams Player of the week for his exploits in the win and LB Simeon Page (3 sacks, 2 Pass breakups, scoop and score TD) captured Defensive Player of the League honors for his stellar play. Quarterback Logan Bitikofer also pitched in with a very strong performance (18-29 250 yards 2 TD). The Bison will need everyone to be on top of their game again this week when they face one of the better teams from the CAA.

The Tigers remain ranked in the Top 25 despite losing their last 3 games (Villanova, Florida (FBS), Albany). The defense has yielded over 500 yards to both FCS opponents. Towson simply can’t get off the field as they are allowing teams to convert 54% of their third downs.  The Tiger’s all-everything Quarterback Tom Flacco (239 ypg passing/46 ypg rushing) and the talented offense hasn’t been playing to their potential either. Still, this remains a very dangerous team that has serious aspirations of playing well into December.

Bucknell should enter this game riding high following their win over Colgate. The Bison have played a very difficult non-conference schedule so nothing Towson throws at them will be a shock. The odds of a Bucknell win might be slim but that doesn’t mean the Bison will get run off the field.

Prediction: Towson 41 Bucknell 30

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