The Ram-Crusader Cup at Yankee Stadium is the featured game this Saturday as we reach the penultimate week of Patriot League football. The historical meeting between Fordham and Holy Cross will be the second time in three years that two Patriot League institutions have played at the world famous baseball stadium. Lafayette and Lehigh held their 150th game there to close out the 2014 season. Fordham needs a win to keep their FCS playoff hopes alive. The Rams can also earn a split of the league title with two wins to close out the year and a Lafayette victory over Lehigh next week. This is Holy Cross’s last game of the year.
In other league action this weekend, Lafayette makes the 4 hour trek north to Hamilton, NY to take on Colgate. The Leopard and Raiders need to finish the year strong to help make up for what has been an otherwise disappointing 2016 campaign. The final game of the weekend, Bucknell at Georgetown, also sees a couple of squads whose season has seen its fair share of letdowns. The Bison had a chance to stake their claim at the Patriot League title but came up just short. Meanwhile, Georgetown hasn’t won in nearly two months. The Hoyas have been close recently but can’t put it all together. 2016 Patriot League champion Lehigh gets to enjoy a late season bye before heading to Easton to for their annual showdown with Lafayette next week.
Lafayette at Colgate – 12 Nov. 1:00 P.M. Andy Kerr Stadium Hamilton, NY
(Patriot League Network)
Colgate (3-5, 2-2) will try to keep their hopes of .500 season alive this weekend when they welcome Lafayette (2-7, 1-3) to what should be a chilly Andy Kerr Stadium. Both teams have suffered a disappointing season relative to preseason expectations. Colgate entered the year as the odds-on favorite to repeat as Patriot League champions while Lafayette hoped better health and 4 years of scholarships would be enough to improve upon last year’s dismal 1-10 record. Colgate has been hurt by a difficult schedule that resulted in several early season road games. It’s the 11th week of the season yet this will be only their 3rd home game. The Leopards have been hurt by poor offensive line play which has derailed the running game and a defense that gives up the most points per game (33.7) in the league.
A big reason for the number of points Lafayette gives up is their rush defense (256 ypg allowed). Unless the Leopards were able to make some adjustments during their bye week to tighten things up Colgate should find plenty of success for their ground attack. It’s fair to say that a weak run “D” is usually not a prerequisite to beat Colgate and their zone-read offense. The Raider QB (Jake Melville) and RB (Kenyon Washington) duo had it rolling last week against Fordham when they both went over 100 yards in the 24-20 loss. A similar type of performance on Saturday is certainly not out of the question given the Leopard’s leaky run “D”.
If Lafayette can muster up a defensive game plan to limit the rush and force Melville to throw more than he’d like the Leopards might have a chance to pull the upset. The senior QB has not thrown a touchdown pass or completed at least 50% of his passes since the Bucknell game in mid-October. Lafayette does possess the Patriot League’s top pass defense (160 ypg allowed) so there is reason to believe they can add to Melville’s recent misery through the air. The Leopard secondary is led by defensive back Jerry Powe (41 solo tackles, 9 TFL) who has emerged as arguably the top player in the Patriot League at his position. The sensational sophomore will likely be assigned to talented Colgate WR John Maddaluna (41 rec 719 yards).
The Leopards ability to move the ball will likely come down to Drew Reed and the passing game. The senior QB has had an up and down season statistically (203 ypg 9 TDs 9 INTs) but has been able to carry the ‘Pards offense on his back in the past. A big game from Reed will likely be needed on Saturday given the fact that Lafayette’s anemic rushing attack (71 ypg, 7th in the PL) will be trying to penetrate Colgate’s top ranked run defense (4th in FCS at 76 ypg allowed). The Raider run defense limited the leading rusher in the country, Chase Edmonds, to 73 yards last week. The Raiders held Fordham as a team to nearly 150 yards under their per-game average (244 ypg, 9th in FCS).
The rumors continue to circulate about Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani’s job status as the season nears a conclusion. The Leopards are destined to finish with their 7th straight losing season and will be a heavy underdog in the season finale against rival Lehigh next week. If the long tenured coach decides to step down on his own terms an announcement could be coming within the next few days.
Of Note: Colgate possesses a commanding 42-13-4 series lead. The Raiders have won 16 out of the last 20 meetings against the Leopards including 8 out of the last 10 in Hamilton. Colgate won last year’s matchup in Easton 28-19.
Fordham at Holy Cross – 12 Nov. 3:00 P.M. Yankee Stadium Bronx, NY
(Patriot League Network)
For the second time in the 30 year history of the Patriot League two members will play a football game at Yankee Stadium. Two years ago Lafayette and Lehigh played their historical 150th meeting in front of a sold out crowd at the stadium. Like that event 24 months ago, the 31st Ram-Crusader Cup at the baseball mecca in the Bronx will be a tremendous event for the Fordham and Holy Cross players, alums and fans.
While the Crusader and Ram faithful won’t pack the place, the two schools are anticipating an excellent turnout for the event. Fordham and Holy Cross had to guarantee they would sell out (which they did) their respective allotment of 7,500 tickets. With the weather forecast looking good and Fordham still in the playoff chase the attendance figure will probably be in the low 20,000 range. Another strong turnout might open the door for the Patriot League to host another event at Yankee Stadium. Being able to host college football games in the Big Apple at such an iconic stadium has been a tremendous boost for the league.
What would make the event even better is a classic game on the field. With the return of Holy Cross’s Geoff Wade (17-28 308 1 TD 1 INT) against Georgetown last week, the prospect of such a contest definitely increased. The Crusader offense wallowed in despair the previous two weeks against Lehigh and Colgate without the talented sophomore QB under center. Backups Blaise Bell and Emmett Clifford were unable to put forth the type of performance that was needed to beat two of the top teams in the Patriot League.
Wade’s ability to consistently get the ball in the hands of his talented WRs hands makes Holy Cross’s offense much more difficult to defend. Preseason all-league WR Brandan Flaherty benefited from Wade’s return by posting a career high 196 yards (5th best single game in HC history) in last week’s win over Georgetown. Jake Wieczorek (54 rec 698 yards) should also see his opportunities increase with the increased stability at QB. The senior WRs impact has been for the most part limited to punt returns in recent weeks. With the Holy Cross offense having some renewed continuity, the Crusaders should be able to put up points again the shaky Ram defense (32.8 ppg allowed, 6th in PL)
There’s no secret what Fordham’s objective on offense will be; feed the ball to Chase Edmonds early and often. The leading rusher in FCS is coming off his lowest output (73 yards) of the year in the Rams win over Colgate last week. The sledding figures to be a little easier for the junior RB against Holy Cross’s rush defense (169 ypg allowed, 4th in PL). The Holy Cross defense will also have to deal with Ram QB Kevin Anderson whose coming off one of his best games (27-42 263 yard 3 TDs) of the year throwing the ball.
Fordham is the deeper, more talented team but given the atmosphere and emotion of the day Holy Cross figures to put up one heckuva fight. The Rams desperately need a win to keep their FCS playoff hopes alive. Fordham has made the tournament each of the last three years. The Crusaders would love nothing more than to end their Jesuit rivals postseason dream by notching their first signature win this season. It would also be a huge win for embattled Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore.
Of Note: The Cup is in memory of Major Frank W. Cavanaugh who had coaching stints at both Holy Cross and Fordham during the first half of the 20th century. This is the third time the rivalry has been held off-campus. The Ram-Crusader Cup was played in Ireland in 1991 (Holy Cross win) and Bermuda in 1995 (Fordham win). Holy Cross leads the all-time series by a narrow 27-24-2 margin. But, Fordham has won the last 4 meetings including a 47-41 shootout last year at Jack Coffey Field.
Georgetown at Bucknell – 12 Nov. 3:30 P.M. Cooper Field Washington D.C.
(Patriot League Network)
Bucknell (3-6, 2-2) will look to rebound from last week’s tough loss to Lehigh when they travel to Georgetown (3-6, 0-4) to take on the sinking Hoyas. The Bison had a chance to seize control of the Patriot League race with a win last week against the Mountain Hawks but their outstanding effort came up just short. Their defense put forth a spectacular performance in the loss. The Bison D limited the high flying Lehigh offense to 357 total yards and 20 points in the 20-13 setback. Junior DT Abdullah Anderson led the way on defense with a dominating performance in trenches. Bucknell had two 4th quarter opportunities to tie or win the game but a turnover at the goal line and a failed 4th down attempt ended their dreams of a league title. The Bison still have a chance to finish second in final standings by winning their last two games.
Georgetown enters Saturday’s tilt desperate to end their 6 game losing streak. The Hoyas have not won since a 17-14 triumph over Columbia on September 24th. Georgetown nearly broke through in the win column last week against Holy Cross but fell just short, 21-20. The Hoyas anemic offense once again reared its ugly head in crunch time. Trailing by only 1 point entering the 4th quarter, the Hoyas tallied a meager 29 yards and 2 interceptions during the final 15 minutes of play with the game on the line. It was the second game in three weeks (Fordham) where Georgetown had an opportunity to win a game late but couldn’t get over the hump.
The Hoyas offense will once again have their work cut out for themselves this week when they face the top defense in the Patriot League in terms of yards allowed (370 total ypg allowed). QB Clay Norris (54% comp 553 yards 1 TD 7 INTs) and RB Alex Valles (88 carries 405 yards 2 TDs) continue to sputter along for Georgetown. Without a consistent passing and rushing attack Georgetown has been forced to manufacture points all year via special teams and their defense. The Hoyas will need contributions from those two phases against Bucknell if they want to end their losing streak. A big key for the Georgetown offense will be making sure they don’t put their defense in bad spots with poor field positions and turnovers.
Like Georgetown, Bucknell’s offense figures to have a tough time moving the ball. Georgetown’s defense ranks 1st in the PL in points allowed (21.9 ppg allowed) and 3rd in yards allowed (390 ypg). The one thing the Bison offense does have that the Hoyas lack is two reliable threats at the skill positions. RB Joey DeFloria posted his fifth 100 yard rushing game of the year against Lehigh while senior WR Will Carter came through with a 4 catch 120 yard performance.
Senior QB R.J. Nitti’s play has been inconsistent since his return from injury two weeks ago. The veteran signal caller has made his share of nice plays but he’s also been plagued by costly interceptions. Georgetown will try to pounce on any mistake Nitti makes on Saturday. Given the Hoya’s reasonably strong rush defense (142 ypg allowed, 3rd in PL) Nitti will likely be forced to make some plays in the passing game. His ability to come through in the clutch could very well determine the Bison’s fate.
Georgetown has been extremely close to breaking through with a much needed victory 2 out of the last 3 weeks. They simply haven’t been able to make the clutch play on offense in crunch time. Given how good Bucknell’s and Georgetown’s defenses are and how equally “meh” their offenses are, this game will likely come down to a key 4th quarter play again for both teams.
Of Note: Bucknell owns a 16-11-1 all-time series win. Since the Hoyas joined the Patriot League in 2001 the Bison hold a 10-5 advantage. Georgetown did win last year’s game 17-9 in Lewisburg.