Patriot League: Week 12 Preview

The stakes continue to rise as the Patriot League season hits its 12th week. First place Holy Cross welcomes 2-1 Lafayette to Worcester in a game that will go a long way in deciding the league race. Both teams control their own destiny when it comes to automatic bid into the playoffs. That’s a wonderful thing to control this time of year. In other action, Lehigh tries to keep their league title hopes alive against Bucknell. Bison head coach Dave Cecchini’s first meeting with his alma mater adds to this game’s intrigue. To round out this week’s slate of games, Colgate welcomes Fordham to what will be a frigid Andy Kerr Stadium.

Lafayette (2-7, 2-1) at Holy Cross (5-4, 3-0) 12 P.M. Fitton Field; Worcester, MA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The marquee Patriot League game this weekend takes place on Mount Saint James where Lafayette and Holy Cross clash for first place. The winner will have an inside track to at least a share of the league title and coveted automatic bid into the FCS playoffs.

The Crusader’s remain undefeated in league play following their 24-17 escape against Lehigh last Saturday. Holy Cross’s interception at goal line with just under a minute left in regulation sealed the win. The Crusader’s ground attack tallied a season high 266 yards in the victory. Preseason All Patriot League running back Dominic Cozier accounted for 190 of those yards on 22 carries. The defense did their part by limiting the Mountain Hawks to a mere 37 rushing yards. The Crusader defense did struggle to slow down Lehigh’s passing attack (282 yards) which has to concern head coach Bob Chensey. Limiting the Leopard’s talented freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (243 ypg 12 TD 12 INT, leading rusher w/248 yards 3 TD) has to be Holy Cross’s number one priority on defense. Pressuring Shoemaker and keeping him the pocket will go a long way in slowing the ‘Pard “O” down.

Lafayette is playing meaningful football in November thanks to last week’s thrilling 38-34 win over Fordham. The Leopards held a 31-10 lead in the third quarter before surrendering 24 unanswered points to the Rams. Selwyn Simpson’s 10 yard touchdown run with a little less than two minutes left gave Lafayette the lead back one last time thus preventing the collapse. Head Coach John Garrett has to be happy with where his offense is at (248 ypg passing/118 ypg rushing) heading into this weekend’s big game. The key for Lafayette will be protecting the ball on offense and getting off the field on defense (allow 44% conversion rate on 3rd down).

Holy Cross is the better, more complete team but their margin for error remains quite small due to an inconsistent offense (19 ppg). Given the Crusader’s up and down “O”, Lafayette’s Keegan Shoemaker is type of wildcard talent that should make this game extremely entertaining.

Prediction: Holy Cross 31 Lafayette 28

Fordham (3-6, 1-2) at Colgate (2-8, 2-2) 1 P.M. Andy Kerr Stadium; Hamilton, NY

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: Two teams heading in opposite directions, Colgate up/Fordham down, square off on what figures to be a near frozen artificial tundra in Central New York. The battle for Empire State supremacy within the Patriot League is going to take place with temps hovering around the freezing mark. Handling the cold temps and maintaining focus will be keys in this game.

Colgate has historically thrived late in the year when the weather turns for the worst. The ability to run the ball (112 ypg) and play stout defense (31 ppg allowed) has been the Raiders recipe for success. As the 2019 stats show the recipe has been missing a few key ingredients which has resulted in Colgate’s disappointing 2-8 record. However, quarterback Grant Breneman and company got the ground attack rolling (219 yards) in last week’s 24-14 win over Georgetown. Up next is a Ram’s defense that surrenders 173 rushing ypg so Colgate has a great opportunity to keep the momentum going.

Fordham’s issues this season have largely been self-inflicted mistakes and simple execution failures. Last week against Lafayette the Rams started the game as if they were on an extended bye. As a result Fordham fell behind 31-10 before mounting a furious rally that gave them a 34-31 lead with less than 5 minutes left in the game. Unfortunately for Coach Conlin’s squad the defense (33 ppg allowed) failed to get one last stop and Lafayette scored the game winning touchdown with 1:48 left. The Fordham “D” has two of the best linebackers (Cunningham and Greenhagen) in FCS, an experienced secondary, a beefed up line yet it continues to yield yards and points in bunches. Colgate will go right at the unit for 60 minutes and see if they’re willing to compete in the ugly elements. Fordham’s ability to hold up will likely determine their fate. The Ram offense (25 ppg) figures to have success against the Raider’s leaky defense. Tim DeMorat (213 ypg 16 TD 8 INT) should be in-line for another big game.

If this game was played a couple of weeks ago Fordham would have been the easy pick. However, Colgate has won 2 out of their last 3 games and the weather on Saturday couldn’t be more perfect for their style of play. Fordham better be ready for 60 minutes of cold, physical football.

Prediction: Colgate 30 Fordham 17

Lehigh (4-4, 3-1) at Bucknell (1-8, 1-2) 1 P.M. Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium; Lewisburg, PA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: For the 83rd time Pennsylvania foes Lehigh and Bucknell will meet on the gridiron. The Mountain Hawks have dominated the series the last two decades (won 19 out of the last 21 meetings) but the Bison feel they finally have their Lehigh kryptonite; former Brown and White wide receiver and offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini. The second Cecchini was named Bucknell’s head coach this game took on an elevated level of intrigue.

As expected, the Cecchini era has gotten off to a rough start. The lone highlight so far this season, and it’s a good one, is Bucknell’s dominating 32-14 win over Colgate in Hamilton. Despite the lack of wins, the Bison have shown improvement in 2019; most notably on offense. Junior quarterback Logan Bitikofer (143 ypg 7 TD 3 INT) has displayed legitimate potential that bodes well for 2020. Along with Bitikofer, sophomores Brandon Sanders (WR) and Jared Cooper (RB) form a growing three-headed monster on “O”. If Bucknell’s offensive line can open up holes against Lehigh’s rather weak defensive front Cooper (42 ypg) and senior running mate Chad Freshnock will have solid days. Defensively, the Bison (280 ypg passing allowed) must find a way to slow down Lehigh’s explosive air attack (249 ypg). Simeon Page (6 sack) and Rick Mottram (3 sacks) need to continue their disruptive ways. Bucknell was on their bye last week so they had extra time prepare for the Mountain Hawks.

Lehigh must regroup after last week’s painful 24-17 loss to Holy Cross. The Mountain Hawks still have a realistic shot at a share of the Patriot League Title and a 7 win season so there should be plenty of motivation in the tank. In order to keep those two goals alive the defense must be able to slow down the Bison ground stampede. The Crusaders ran over, around and through (266 yards) the Mountain Hawk front seven last week. Lehigh defensive coordinator Mike Kashurba knows Dave Cecchini will go after Lehigh’s glaring weakness. Offensively, the Mountain Hawks need to protect quarterback Tyler Monaco (221 ypg 6 TD 6 INT). The senior signal caller’s mobility has been compromised since he suffered a leg injury against Fordham.

This game will come down to who makes the big plays in the second half. That’s one area where Lehigh has thrived for much of the year.

Prediction: Lehigh 27 Bucknell 20

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