Patriot League: Week 4 Preview

For the first time since week 1 all seven Patriot League teams are in action. This weekends  slate features four traditional Patriot League vs Ivy Leagues games. All of which will be played on the Patriot League team’s home turf. There’s also two intriguing games featuring #10 Richmond and #20 Villanova from the CAA. The league will be hoping Lafayette and/or Colgate can notch a win to prevent the Patriot League from putting up an “O’fer” against the CAA in out of conference play. After two straight losses Bucknell will be looking to get back on track against Southern Conference member VMI.

Princeton @ Lehigh – 24 Sept. 12:30 P.M. Goodman Stadium Bethlehem, PA

(Patriot League Network)

Lehigh (1-2) and Princeton (1-0) will do battle for the 59th time this weekend. The Tigers currently own a 40-16-2 series record but Lehigh has won 11 out of the last 15 meetings. Princeton won last year’s game 52-26 by taking advantage of numerous Lehigh mistakes. The Mountain Hawks turned the ball over 4 times and committed 10 penalties in the loss. As a result of those numerous self-inflicted wounds Lehigh managed only 26 points on their 561 yards of total offense.

There’s the potential for a lot of yards and points to be posted again this year. Both teams are coming off very good offensive performances. Lehigh racked up 548 yards and 49 points against Penn while Princeton put up 35 points by using a balanced attacked (178 passing/182 rushing) versus Lafayette. Leading the charge for the Tigers and Mountain Hawks are two talented and experienced quarterbacks. Nick Shafnisky and Chad Kanoff (2nd team All-Ivy League preseason) have proven their ability to light up defenses for quite some time.

Kanoff’s ability to attack every level of the defense allows Princeton to score from anywhere on the field. Kanoff will look to fellow senior Joe Rhattigan to lead the ground attack. The senior running back is coming off an excellent season opening performance (136 yards, 3 TDs) against Lafayette. The Tiger’s 2015 leading WR Isaiah Barnes also started the year with a bang. The 6’3 210 pound second year starter torched the Leopards for 5 receptions and 102 yards.

Lehigh’s defense will also have to contend with Princeton’s fast paced and diversified attack. The Tigers will go anywhere from hurry up to NASCAR fast at times in an attempt to apply added stress an opposing defense. The Tigers offensive coordinator James Perry will often turn a trick play when he feels a defense is on its heels. Lehigh’s defense will look to carry over the momentum from their second half performance against Penn last week when they shutout the Quakers.

Of Note: It took Lehigh 33 attempts to finally notch their first win over Princeton in 1930. Lehigh did manage to salvage two ties in that span (1911, 1924). The then Engineers never scored more than 6 points against Princeton until their 13-9 win in 1930.

Penn @ Fordham – 24 Sept. 1 P.M. Jack Coffey Field Bronx, NY

(Patriot League Network)

Fordham (1-1) hosts their first FCS opponent of 2016, the Penn Quakers (0-1), on Home Coming in the Bronx. The Rams have been on both ends of blowouts to start the year. They took it on the chin against Navy in the season opener then proceeded to rout Division 2 Elizabeth City College 83-21 in historic fashion two weeks ago. Penn opened their 2016 campaign last weekend with a 49-28 loss to Lehigh. Fordham used a late field goal to sneak by Penn 48-45 last year in Philadelphia. Penn QB Alek Torgersen missed that game with an injury.

The Rams will look for an improved defensive performance this time around. However, that might be easier said than done given the amount of injuries the unit is dealing with. Defensive tackles Emmanual Adeyeye and Tony Fox will both miss the Penn game leaving a large void in the middle of the defensive line. Fordham will hope the added time off to prepare will allow the new faces to step-up and fill the void without too many hiccups. If the Rams aren’t able to successfully get the defensive up to speed it might be a long day for the unit given the weapons the Quakers possess on offense.

The Penn QB and WR duo of Alek Torgersen and Justin Watson form a deadly passing duo. It will be imperative for Fordham to get pressure on Torgersen early and often in order to keep the passing attack out of sync. Lehigh was able to get after Torgersen in the second half which was a major reason their defense was able to hold the Quaker offense scoreless in the second half.

Should the Rams defense struggle, the offense seems more than capable of keeping up. Like Fordham, Penn is also trying to sort things out on defense after surrendering 561 yards to Lehigh last weekend. Having uncertainty on defense is never a good thing when facing an offense led by arguably the best running back in FCS, Chase Edmonds. The Quakers will hope the improvement made from game one to game two is enough to slow down Edmonds and Co.

Of Note: Fordham is currently on a 19 game home winning streak dating back to the final contest of the 2012 season when they lost to Patriot League Champions Colgate 41-39. Penn is part of the streak due to their 60-22 loss to Fordham the last time they visited the Bronx on October 11, 2014.

Dartmouth @ Holy Cross – 24 Sept. 1:05 P.M. Fitton Field Worcester, MA

(Patriot League Network)

After opening the season with three consecutive road games, Holy Cross (1-2) gets an opportunity to defend their home turf against the Big Green of Dartmouth (1-0). The Crusaders are coming off of two straight disappointing road losses to CAA conference mates New Hampshire and Albany. Meanwhile, Dartmouth is coming off of a potential program defining win over of their in-state rival New Hampshire. It’s easily Buddy Teevens biggest out conference win over the course of his 12 seasons in Hanover. Dartmouth won the most recent meeting against Holy Cross 24-21 in 2014. The all-time series is tied up 37-37-4.

A major key for the Crusaders will be tightening up a rush defense that yielded 362 yards to New Hampshire and 220 yards against Albany. The inability to stop the run also allowed the opposing quarterbacks to make big plays in the passing game the last two weeks. Holy Cross will likely have their hands full again against Dartmouth. Juniors Ryder Stone (RB) and Jack Heneghan (QB) spearheaded a rushing attack that piled up 206 yards in the win over New Hampshire. Heneghan added 220 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

The Crusaders chances of victory will likely lie in the hands of Peter Pujals again. The senior quarterback continues to put up huge numbers in the passing game (leads nation in completions per game) despite being without stud WR Brendan Flaherty the last two games. If there’s one chink in Pujals’s armor so far this year it’s been turnovers. He has five interceptions and a fumble lost so far this year. A few of those turnovers have come at especially inopportune times.

Both teams’ defenses are led by exceptional talents at linebacker. Holy Cross’s junior Nick McBeath leads the team 29 total tackles, 3 of which being for losses. Dartmouth will look to Folarin Orimolade (First Team preseason All-Ivy League) to pick up where he left off against New Hampshire. The senior LB had 9 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a pass break-up in Dartmouth’s big win.

Orimolade’s teammate Joe Cascarano earned Ivy League Defensive POW honors for his key fumble recovery and game ending sack.

Of Note: Dartmouth is the Crusaders second most played out of conference opponent with 78 meetings. Boston College remains Holy Cross’s most played (82 meetings) non-conference opponent despite the two having not played since 1986. Holy Cross is scheduled to play Boston College in 2018.

Columbia @ Georgetown – 24 Sept. 2:00 P.M. Cooper Field Washington D.C

(Patriot League Network)

Georgetown (2-0) will be seeking their first 3-0 start since 1999 when they play host to the Columbia Lions (0-1) Saturday afternoon. The Hoyas were members of the MAAC in 1999 when they began the 5-0 season en route to a 9-2 final record and league championship. Columbia will also be seeking to build some early season momentum under second year head coach, and Ivy League Legend, Al Bagnoli. The Lions showed considerable progress in 2015 even though their record (2-8) did not reflect that. The defense kept them in nearly every game but a limited offense killed their chances at a .500 or better record. Columbia’s offensive woes appeared last week in a 13-9 loss to Saint Francis to begin the year.

Based on the first two games, Georgetown might not be the defense Columbia’s “O” wants to see. The Hoyas have limited their first two opponents to 15.5 ppg. Perhaps even more impressive has been their ability to shut down the run (69 ypg). Lion’s junior RB Chris Shroer was able to have some success last week against Saint Francis on the ground. As a team, Columbia did manage to post 154 rushing yards. The passing game continues to be the Lion’s biggest Achilles’ heel. Senior Skyler Mornhinweg’s 2015 struggles showed (15-32 112 yards 1 TD, 1 INT) up in the season opener. Mornhinweg will need to give Columbia balance if the Lions want leave our nation’s capital with a win.

Georgetown’s quarterback Tim Barnes has enjoyed a solid start to his 2016 season. If he can avoid costly mistakes and continue to get the ball in his talented wide receiver’s hands the Hoyas should have some success passing the ball. Junior Alex Valles will look to take advantage of a Lion defense that surrendered 273 rushing yards last week.

Of Note: This will be the second battle for the Lou Little Trophy between Georgetown and Columbia. Lou Little coached for both Georgetown (1924-1929) and Columbia (1930-1956) with great success. Georgetown won last year’s game 24-16.

VMI @ Bucknell – 24 Sept. 3:00 P.M. Christy Mathewson–Memorial Stadium Lewisburg, PA

(Patriot League Network)

After two straight losses, Bucknell (1-2) will try to get back on track this weekend when they welcome Southern Conference member VMI (1-1) to Central Pennsylvania. The Bison played without starting quarterback R.J. Nitti in last weekend’s game against Cornell. It’s uncertain if Nitti will be under center when the offense takes the field against VMI. If not, junior Matt Muh figures to get the start. The Bison beat VMI 28-26 last year in an OT thriller.

VMI opened 2016 with a tough 44-27 loss to FBS Akron but were able to bounce back with 17-13 win over non-scholarship Morehead State. The Keydets had last week off.

VMI is led by preseason All-SoCon first team duo QB Al Cobb and WR Aaron Sanders. Cobb has the potential to break three career school records on Saturday. He needs 30 yards to become the career leader in passing yards, 1 passing TD to own the record for touchdown passes, and 21 completions to break that record. Needless to say, the usually stingy Bison defense will have their work cut out trying to slow down the Keydets passing attack. Bucknell will also have to deal with a rushing attack that utilizes several backs. Freshman Daz Palmer has led the way but Quan Myers and Brice Tucker have also contributed through the first two games.

Regardless of who starts at QB for Bucknell, VMI should expect to see a healthy dose of Bison RB Joey DeFloria. The junior RB has been the one true constant (132 ypg rushing) for an otherwise struggling Bucknell offense. Talented senior WR Will Carter is also a play-maker but the lack of production from the QB spot has hurt his ability to consistently produce.

Of Note: Amazingly, the Keydets will be looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since 2005. But that’s not the most shocking stat of the week. The Keydets have not won back-to-back road games since 1981!

#23 Colgate @ #10 Richmond – 24 Sept. 3:30 P.M. Robbins Stadium Richmond, VA

(Spider TV)

Colgate (1-1) heads into the showdown with #10 Richmond (2-1) brimming with confidence following their historic 55-13 rout of Yale last weekend. The three headed monster of QB Jake Melville, RB James Holland and WR Joe Maddaluna led the offensive explosion for the Raiders. Those three will once again need to bring their best if Colgate wants to leave Virginia victorious.

Richmond comes into this game a little wobbly after being knocked out by Stony Brook 42-14. The Spiders arrived on Long Island ranked second in the country but left battered, bruised and emphatically defeated. The Spiders struggled to run and stop the run. Stony Brook’s powerful running attack leaned on the Spider’s front seven most of the day while amassing over 200 yards. Star QB Kyle Lauletta had 411 yards passing but had 3 interceptions in the loss.

Colgate will try to employ a similar physical offensive game plan (run and stop the run) the Seawolves used with great success last week. The Raiders used that simple premise to perfection in their dominating win over Yale. If Colgate can get RB James Holland and co. going, the Raiders have to like their chances to control the clock and wear down the Spider’s front seven.

While the Eli are a talented team, their skill players are a notch or two below Richmond’s. The Spider’s have a lethal Quarterback Kyle Lauletta (321 ypg 6 TDs, 5 INTs) and WR Brian Brown (20 rec. 104 ypg 2 TDs). There might be added pressure on those two given the Spiders recent inconsistent play from the running back position. The Spiders will have to do much better than the 32 rushing yards they racked up against Stony Brook last week. A lack of balance against Colgate may very well lead to another Spider loss.

Of Note: Colgate won their first meeting against Richmond 43-14 in 1983. They’ve lost their lost three meetings (’84, ’96, ’97) to the Spiders by a combined score of 91-31.  

#20 Villanova @ Lafayette – 24 Sept. 6:00 P.M. Fisher Field Easton, PA

(Patriot League Network)

For the first time in 96 years Lafayette (1-2) and Villanova (2-1) will meet on the gridiron. Lafayette enters the game off a hard fought 35-31 road loss to Princeton. The Leopards nearly pulled off the upset thanks to another solid performance (28-36 356 yards 3 TDs 2 INTS) by senior quarterback Drew Reed. Villanova is coming off an impressive 40-21 win over former Patriot League member Towson. The Wildcats were propelled by Zach Bednarczyk’s 3 touchdown passes.

If the Leopards want to pull off the upset on Saturday they’ll need to take the pressure off of quarterback Drew Reed by finding some semblance of a ground attack. After 3 games the Leopards rank 118th out of 122 FCS teams in rushing with a 53.3 ypg average. A team of Villanova’s caliber will be able to tee off on Drew Reed if Lafayette becomes too one dimensional. All-American Wildcat DE Tanoh Kpassagnon would love nothing more than to rush the passer all night.

The Leopards defense will have to contend with an efficient (335 ypg) Villanova offense. The Wildcats have shown the ability to win with a dominating rushing attack (Lehigh) and with timely passing (Towson). Lafayette’s usually stout defense will need to clean up the mistakes they made against Princeton. The Wildcat’s offense is not as quirky as the Tiger’s but it is still equally difficult to defend given Bednarczyk’s ability to distribute the ball to his fellow skill players. Senior running back Jevon White leads the team with 6 TDs while Taurus Philips is the leading receiver (53 ypg 2 TDs).

Barring a playoff matchup, legendary Villanova coach Andy Talley will be facing a Patriot League opponent for the final time. Talley and Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani have spent a combined 60 years at their respective schools.

Of Note: Villanova is 27-4 all-time against current Patriot League teams under Andy Talley. The last loss came against Fordham in 2013. The Wilds have since won 3 straight games (Fordham 2x, Lehigh 1x) over Patriot League opponents.

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