Patriot League: Week 7 Review and Power Rankings

Week 7 of the Patriot League season was unquestionably the most interesting one. Holy Cross deciding to fire head coach Tom Gilmore mid-season following Holy Cross’s ugly 32-0 loss to Yale opened a lot of eyes around the league. Gilmore’s time was likely coming to an end either way given his overall body of work (losing record, 1 PL title in 14 years) and the Crusader’s recent collapse but to be let go with the league title still within reach blindsided a lot of people.

As for the games, Lehigh dominated Georgetown to move to 2-0 in league play. Colgate easily defeated Fordham to stay in the thick of the title race after their brutal loss to Lehigh the previous week. Bucknell continued their solid play with a quality, workman-like win over Ivy League rival Cornell. Lafayette came up woefully short in their bid for 3 “Ws” in a row as Harvard put a hurting on the Leopards in Cambridge.

Harvard 38 Lafayette 10

Lafayette (2-5, 2-0) was not able to make it 3 wins in a row as Harvard (3-2) dominated in all phases to continue their mastery of the Leopards. Lafayette was able to defeat Patriot League foes Holy Cross and Fordham by using dominating defensive efforts to offset their struggles on offense.  Harvard was able to rack up 296 yards on the ground against Lafayette which greatly contributed to their 15 minute time of possession advantage.  Also factoring into the Leopard’s demise was their 161 total yards of offense and the 2 kick returns for touchdowns they allowed. The inability to run the ball (12 yards against Harvard, ranked 122nd in FCS overall) continues to a huge issue on offense. The Leopards simply aren’t good enough at quarterback to overcome such a once dimensional offense on a consistent basis against the better teams on their schedule.

It did not take long for Harvard to grab an early 7-0 lead. Justice Shelton-Mosely’s 85 yard punt return touchdown came just over 2 minutes into the game. The Leopards fought back with a game tying touchdown drive on their second possession of the game. Sean O’Malley (20-36 149 yards 1 TD) hit Rocco Palumbo for a short 2 yard TD toss. When they finally had a chance to take the field the Crimson offense rose to challenge with a 7 play 78 yard TD drive. Shelton-Mosely found the endzone for the second time of the day to cap the drive and put Harvard back up by 7 points. After an early flourish of points the game would remain 14-7 until there was 38 seconds left before half. That’s when Charlie Booker III found paydirt from 1 yard out to give Harvard a 21-7 halftime lead. The game would effectively be over when Adam Scott returned the 2nd half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give Harvard a 28-7 lead.

Up Next: Lafayette hosts Bucknell in a huge Patriot League contest. The win will take a significant step forward in their quest for the league title.

Colgate 38 Fordham 12

Colgate (3-4, 1-1) piled onto Fordham’s (1-6, 0-2) season of misery with a dominant 26 point win over the Rams. The Raiders piled up a season best 263 yards (James Hollond Jr 166 yards) and freshman quarterback Grant Breneman (14-25 159 yards 3 TD) played well in the win as the offense continues to trend in the right direction as November closes in. Granted, Colgate has played the 105th (Fordham) and 123rd (dead last Lehigh) the last two weeks so the improvement on “O” was bound to happen. Meanwhile, Fordham’s offense continued to struggle as the Rams lost for the 5th straight time.  To be fair, they were without the services of starting quarterback Kevin Anderson who had to sit out the game with an injury. Backup Luke Medlock (16-32 1 TD 1 INT) put up a reasonable fight but without an effective Chase Edmonds (18 carries 53 yards) the offense faced an uphill climb (279 total yards).

The Colgate offense and defense set the tone early in the game. Edmonds got stuffed for a 2 yard loss on 4th and 1 and the Raider offense took advantage of it. Breneman hit Tre Caine for a 2 yard TD toss that gave the Raiders a 7-0 advantage with 6:40 left in the 1st quarter. On Colgate’s next possession the freshman quarterback notched his second touchdown pass of the day to finish of a lightning quick 2 play 39 yard scoring drive that extended the lead to 14-0. Chris Puzzi’s booming 40 yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave Colgate a commanding 17-0 lead. Breneman’s 14 yard touchdown pass to Tre Caince midway through the 3rd put the game out of reach at 24-0.

Up Next: Colgate heads 3.5 hours east on I-90 to tangle with Holy Cross. Fordham is off to our nation’s capital to take on Georgetown.

Lehigh 54 Georgetown 35

Lehigh (2-5, 2-0) easily dispatched of Georgetown (1-5, 0-1) to notch their 17th consecutive win over the Hoyas. The Mountain Hawks used a dominant offensive performance (628 total yards) to continue their mastery of Georgetown. Lehigh was led by star wide receiver Troy Pelletier’s record breaking day. The senior broke the Patriot League for receptions in a game, 16, on his way to racking up 196 yards and 4 touchdowns in the “W”. The Mountain Hawk defense had their best game of the year statistically but still left a lot to be desired against a Georgetown team that has struggled on offense. If Lehigh wants to pull off the 0-5 start to Patriot League Championshions they much tighten things up on that side of the ball. One major bright spot for the Hoyas in the loss was the play of Gunther Johnson at quarterback (18-33 290 yards 2 TDs, 71 yards 3 TDs rushing). The Arizona transfer has played great the last two weeks after Cole Norris struggled filling in for the injured Tim Barnes.

Both teams struggled on offense to start the game but when they found traction they did so in a big way. Lehigh running back Dominic Bragalone (24 carries 122 yards 2 TDs) got things started with 4:54 left in the 1st quarter when his 5 yard TD run capped an 8 play, 63 yard drive. The Mountain Hawks made it 14-0 on their next drive when Mayes (31-40 384 yards 4 TD 1 INT) and Pelletier hooking up for the first time. Georgetown closed the gap to 14-7 early on the 2nd quarter on Michael Dereus’s (3 rec 98 yards 2 TD) 80 yard touchdown catch. Pelletier’s second TD catch of the day with 8:35 left in the 2nd quarter pushed the Lehigh lead back to 14. However, as has been the case all year, the Lehigh defense would allow a response. Johnson’s 8 yard TD scramble brought the Hoyas back to within 7 points. That would prove to be the closest Georgetown would get the rest of the game. The Mountain Hawks added 2 touchdowns before half to take a commanding 34-14 lead into the locker room. Georgetown would get no closer than 16 points the rest of the game.

Up Next: Georgetown returns home to take on Fordham in what could be a battle for last place in the Patriot League. Lehigh is on a much needed bye as they prepare for the stretch run of the season.

Yale 32 Holy Cross 0

Yale’s (4-1) dominant win over a lifeless Holy Cross (2-5, 1-1) team not only handed the Crusaders their 4th straight loss, it led to the firing of head coach Tom Gilmore Sunday morning. Just 4 weeks ago Holy Cross knocked off a Top 10 New Hampshire in what seemed like a program changing win long tenured was sent packing by AD Nate Pine. Since the win over UNH, there’s been several questionable coaching decisions that directly led to losses to Dartmouth and Lafayette.  While it’s shocking to see a Patriot League coach get fired during the season, Gilmore’s ultimate termination is not surprising. There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding the fiery coach’s future for the last year or two given the Crusader’s inability to rise to the upper echelon of the Patriot League and beyond. Outside of the Dominic Randolph years that culminated in the 2009 Patriot League title, the Crusaders could never get the stars aligned under Gilmore.  The bottom line is he struggled to put a consistent winner on the field during his 14 years in Worcester (72-81 overall, 41-40 in PL play). Barring a league title he seemed destined to be let go after this season given the Crusader’s recent collapse. Offensive coordinator Brian Rock was named interim head coach for the rest of the season. Holy Cross announced that a national search for a new coach is already under way.

As for the game itself, Yale took a 3-0 lead a little less than 5 minutes into the game. The Eli wouldn’t assert their will until the 2nd quarter. That’s when they would score 3 touchdowns and a safety. Matthew Oplinger sacked Pujals in the endzone for the 2 points. When the dust settled on the first half Yale had a commanding 25-0 lead. Holy Cross had 7 punts and 31 total yards during the first 30 minutes of play. The Crusaders looked both unprepared and uninterested from the opening kickoff. Had Yale head coach Tony Reno not called off the dogs in the second half things would have gotten out of hand in a hurry. It was clear the Eli’s focus after halftime was to run clock, secure the win and move onto next week.

The Crusaders managed just 8 first downs and 143 total yards against the Eli. Peter Pujals had his worst game (10-22 89 yards) of his college career in the loss.

Up Next: Holy Cross looks to pick of the pieces and get back into the league race at home against Colgate.

Bucknell 26 Cornell 18

Bucknell (3-3, 0-1) played a smart, efficient game to score a non-conference road victory over Cornell (2-3) in Ithaca, NY. In addition to the usual stingy Bucknell defense, Bison field goal kicker John Burdick came up clutch in the victory. The senior tied a school record with 4 field goals (19, 38, 33 & 28 yards). John Chiarolanzio (11-16 176 yards 2 TDs) had an extremely effective game passing while Joey DeFloria (20 carries 99 yards) enjoyed his best day of the year running the ball to the lead the Bucknell offense. With the win Bucknell concludes the out of conference portion of their schedule 3-2.

The Bison struck first with 8:20 left in the 1st quarter. Chiarolanzio found a streaking Jack Horan (1 rec 64 yards 1 TD) down the middle of the field for a 64 yard touchdown to give Bucknell an early 7-0 lead.  The Blue and Orange would push their lead to 10-0 late in 2nd quarter on Burdick’s first FG of the day. Cornell would finally get on the scoreboard on the ensuring drive when Zach Mayes booted a 35 yard field goal 38 seconds before half time. The Big Red then tied the game up on their first possession of the 2nd half. Bucknell would tack on fields on consecutive drives to take a 16-10 lead with 6:33 left in the 3rd quarter. Chiarolanzio’s second touchdown pass of the day gave Bucknell a two possession lead, 23-10 , with a 35 seconds left in the 3rd. From there the Bucknell rushing attack grounded the clock down and their defense limited Cornell the rest of the way to preserve the win.

Up Next: Bucknell heads to Easton, PA to take on Lafayette in a key game in the Patriot League race. The Bison have not on the league since 1996 and have never reached the FCS playoffs.

Power Rankings

  1. Colgate – The Raiders appear to be the most complete team in league but the loss against Lehigh might be impossible to overcome.
  2. Bucknell – They’re the only team in the Patriot League with a .500 record. They’re not getting the respect they deserve.
  3. Lehigh – At this point the only record that matters is 2-0. They still have the inside track to the league title.
  4. Lafayette – The Leopards have a huge home game with Bucknell next. The offense could be in for a long day.
  5. Holy Cross – The Gilmore era is over but Pujals remains. The Patriot League title is still a possibility if the coaching change makes a positive impact.
  6. Georgetown – The Hoyas might have found their QB of the future in Gunther Johnson. They play hard despite being outgunned.
  7. Fordham – It’s getting close to wondering if the Rams have quit on the season. The Bronx Cheers are growing louder.

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