Patriot League: Week 5 Preview

The fifth week of the season signals the start of league play. That’s a welcome relief for Holy Cross and Lafayette who enter their game each having lost three straight to out of conference foes. Meanwhile, Colgate and Lehigh face their final Ivy League opponents of the year before their showdown in Bethlehem next week. Georgetown puts their 3-0 record on the line Friday night against a ranked Harvard squad in Cambridge. Finally, Fordham takes a 90 minute drive to Monmouth University for an intriguing battle with the Hawks. Bucknell will be enjoying a much needed bye.

 Georgetown at #24 Harvard – 30 Sept. 7:00 P.M Harvard Stadium Cambridge, MA


The Hoyas put their 3-0 to the test on Friday night against Ivy League favorite Harvard (2-0). The Hoyas have gotten off to their best start in 17 years by using a stout defense (15 ppg) and a fairly soft schedule (Davidson, Marist, Columbia). The 24th ranked Crimson will certainly be a jump up in weight class. Especially in Harvard Stadium where they’ve lost three games this decade. If Georgetown wants to be in position to steal a win they’ll have to rely on the on the recipe (15 ppg, +5 turnovers) that has propelled them so far this season.

Harvard enters the game having swept the state of Rhode Island (Rhode Island & Brown) to start the year. Georgetown’s defense will be put to the test by a Harvard offense that has been tough to contain. Senior QB Joe Viviano (3 TDs 0 INT) is averaging 247 ypg passing and another 64 ypg game on the ground. Not bad for a guy who did not start a game until this year’s opener against Rhode Island. WRs Justin Shelton-Mosley (15 rec. 88 ypg) and Anthony Firkser (11 rec. 96 ypg) have combined to be a force in the passing game. The Hoya’s will also have to contend with junior RB Semar Smith (98 ypg 3 TDs). Georgetown’s rush defense (103 ypg) has excelled in September. How they handle Harvard’s balance will go a long way in determining their fate.

Georgetown’s offense has been pedestrian at best through three games. QB Tim Barnes has done a good protecting the ball and making some key plays with his arm (6 TDs) when needed. He’ll need to have his best game of the year in order for the Hoya’s to escape Cambridge with a win. Their already so-so rushing attack doesn’t figure to have much success against a stout Harvard front that features 3 of top DL (Doug Webb, Miles McCollum, James Duberg) in the Ivy League. They’ve been a major reason why opponents are rushing for a mere 88 ypg.

A Georgetown win would be a game changer for a program that is always searching for something positive to grasp on to. The 3-0 start is nice but it hasn’t caused the Hoya’s to be noticed because of the level of competition. Taking down the Crimson on their home field would turn plenty of heads around the nation.

Of Note: This will be the third straight year the teams have met. Harvard has won the two previous meetings rather easily (34-3 ’14, 45-0 ’15). Those are the only two times Georgetown and Harvard have met.

Fordham at Monmouth – 1 Oct. 1:05 P.M. Monmouth Stadium West Long Branch, NJ


Fordham (2-1) takes the 70 mile bus ride to East Central New Jersey to take on the Monmouth Hawks (2-2) for an intriguing match-up between Patriot League and Big South conference members. Monmouth notched a 23-21 win over Lehigh to open the year. They backed that up with a win over Delaware State but it’s been a bumpy road since then having lost their last two. Their most recent loss (35-7) came at home against Big South favorite Charleston Southern. The Hawks offense was stymied by the Bus stout defense all game. It will need to be much better Saturday against the high scoring Fordham Rams.

Fordham seems to be picking up steam as out of conference play wraps up. The Rams jumped on Penn early last week then used several key defensive stops to preserve a 31-17 win. Chase Edmonds (152 yards 3 TDs) once again keyed the Rams attack. The super talented junior RB will be the best individual player Monmouth has faced so far this year. That is not good news for a Hawk rush defense that is giving up 190 ypg.

Surprisingly, the Hawks were able to hold Edmonds under 100 yards rushing last year. It was their pass defense that let them down. Ram QB Kevin Anderson torched them for 340 yards and 5 TDs in the 54-31 Fordham win. Through 4 games Monmouth’s pass defense (123 ypg) has been among the best on the country. The unit is led by safety Mike Basile who might be the best player at his position in the country.

Monmouth will need QB Cody William to be at his best this week if Monmouth hopes to keep up with Fordham. The sophomore was knocked out of the game against Kent State two weeks ago and completed less than 50% of his passes against CSU. He’s had a running back by comity behind him that’s provided the ground game. Lavon Chaney and Zach Welch have basically split the carries down the middle. The Monmouth Hawk offense should be a good test for a Fordham defense that really doesn’t know what they have yet given their schedule (only 1 FCS opponent). In general, the unit played well in last week’s win over Penn.

This will be the third meeting all-time between the schools. Monmouth won 23-9 in 2006 while Fordham evened the series 54-31 last year. Given the two school’s proximity to one another they should play far more often.

Of Note: Since the start of the 2012 season Fordham is undefeated against FCS out of conference teams not named Villanova. The Wildcats are 3-1 against Fordham in that time while the rest of FCS is 0-15.

Cornell at Colgate – 1 Oct. 1:05 P.M. Andy Kerr Stadium Hamilton, NY

(Patriot League Network)

The two Central New York academic powers meet for the 98th time on Saturday afternoon in a now enticing football matchup. Cornell has been the surprise team in the Ivy League so far with their 2-0 start (1-9 previous two years). The Big Red enter their game with Colgate (1-2) off an impressive 27-13 win over Yale. It was Cornell’s first win over Yale since 2012. That was also the last time they won their Ivy League opener. If Cornell wants to beat Colgate for the first time since 2007 they need to have every facet rolling. Colgate will want to get the bad taste of last week’s 38-31 gut wrenching loss to Richmond out of their mouth. It will also be Raiders first home game of 2016.

If Cornell wants to pull the upset they need to figure out a way to slow down the Raider offense. Colgate has had no trouble putting up points (55 pts vs Yale, 31 pts vs Richmond) the last two weeks. They were able to overcome a poor passing performance last week by Jake Mellville ( 5-22 57 yards 3 INTs) with timely special teams and a steady ground game. Mellville made up for his struggles in the passing game by leading the Raiders ground attack with 97 yards a TD. James Holland chipped in with 74 yards on 16 carries.

The Big Red defense has provided plenty of resistance (14 ppg) through two games but they haven’t faced a team with as many weapons as Colgate. OLB Jackson Weber has been the defensive leader so far. The senior LB is going off an exceptional game against Yale (9 solo tackles, 1 INT, 1 TFL).

Cornell QB Dalton Banks will look to build off his excellent game against Yale (23-32 306 yards passing 2 TD, 52 yards rushing). Banks was named Ivy League offensive player of the week for his performance against the Eli. He did an excellent job spreading the ball around. Twelve different Cornell players caught a pass in the win. That’s not good news for a Colgate defense that was chewed up by Richmond’s quarterback last Saturday. That game was just a continuation of the Raider’s trouble stopping teams through the air (306 ypg) early in the year.

Of Note: Colgate did not host Cornell until the 34th meeting. Thirty-two meetings were held in Ithaca with Syracuse and Richfield Springs hosting the other two. To this day, Cornell still hosts the rivalry more often than Colgate.

Lehigh at Yale – 1 Oct. 1:30 P.M. Yale Bowl New Haven, CT

(Ivy League Digital Network)

The second Patriot League vs Ivy League battle of the day features two teams heading in opposite directions. Lehigh (2-2) is coming off of two consecutive impressive performances against the Ancient Eight (Penn, Princeton). The Lehigh offense has put up 40+ points in both wins. Yale on the other hand enters the game reeling. The Eli are off to their first 0-2 start since 1997. They have no started 0-3 since 1993 when legendary coach Carmen Cozza was still on the sidelines. The Eli offense (253 ypg, 15 ppg) must have a breakout performance if they want right the ship against the Mountains Hawks. A still work in progress Lehigh defense might be the perfect remedy for the Yale’s woes on “O”.

Yale desperately needs junior QB Rafe Chapple to get things going. His play to start the year has been underwhelming to say the least. Through two games he’s averaging 98 yards a game passing and has a 5 INTs to just one passing touchdown. He might not be able to out-duel Lehigh’s Nick Shafnisky (3rd in the country in passing yards) but improved play is a must if Yale wants to have a chance to pull the upset on Saturday.

The same can be said for the running back Dale Harris and DeShawn Salter (rushed for 233 yards and 2 TDs against Lehigh last year). The rushing attack figured to be a strength heading into the year but through the first two games the two RBs are averaging less than 60 yards combined per game. The Mountain Hawk run defense (allowing 243 ypg) might again provide an opportunity for both backs to get going.

The Eli defense figures to have their work cut out against a Patriot League offense for the second time this year. After yielding 55 points to Colgate to open the year they must contend with another explosive unit. Lehigh averaging 584 yards a game in their last two wins. They’ve been able to do it via the air and the ground. Talented junior WR Troy Pelletier has really stepped up his play (156 ypg last two games) after starting the year slowly. The Yale defense has been led by secondary mates Hayden Carlson (22 TOT) and Jason Alessi (15 TOT) to start the year.

Of Note: Yale leads the all-time series 17-6. The Eli have won 5 out of the last 6 meetings against Lehigh. Prior to Yale’s recent run of success the Mountain Hawks won five straight.

 Holy Cross at Lafayette – 1 Oct. 3:30 P.M Fisher Field Easton, PA

(Patriot League Network)

Both teams begin Patriot League play on three game losing streaks. Holy Cross (1-3) heads to Easton off of a disappointing performance at home against Dartmouth. To make matters worse, the Crusaders enter Saturday’s game against Lafayette (1-3) unsure who their QB will be. Peter Pujals hurt his ankle in the second quarter against the Big Green and never returned. Backup QB Blaise Bell is also nursing an injury. If those two can’t go or aren’t effective Holy Cross might have to rely on sophomore Geoff Wade to lead the way.

Lafayette has also seen their fair of struggles. Their issues have primarily been turnovers and a lack of a running game (57 ypg). QB Drew Reed has been impressive at times this season but key interceptions (7 INTs) have kept him from really taking off. Part of the problem has been the anemic rushing attack putting most of the offensive load in his shoulders. That could change against a Holy Cross defense that’s allowing 237 ypg. If Lafayette could find some balance on offense they could a dangerous team as conference play heats up.

How the Crusaders attack Lafayette is anyone’s guess. If Pujals does play his mobility figures to be severely limited. The two other quarterbacks (Wade and Bell) are relative unknowns at this point. One thing Holy Cross has going for them is the return of Brandan Flaherty last week. The dynamic WR could be a huge difference maker for a team searching for playmakers on offense. The Crusaders could also use a RB to step up and provide some balance against a physical Lafayette defense. The Leopard D might not be overly impressive statistically due the offense’s struggles but it has the ability to make offenses really work.

There’s no doubt Lafayette will be looking for revenge for last year’s 42-0 embarrassment in Worcester. Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani openly stated this week that he and his players have carried that memory for 12 months.

Of Note: Lafayette owns the all-time series lead 16-14. Perhaps no victory was bigger than their 1988 win over the then nearly unbeatable Crusaders. It would be Holy Cross’s only Patriot League loss from the start of 1986 (when the league was formed) until November 7, 1992 when Lafayette got them again.

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