Patriot League: Week 14 Preview

Sadly, the end of the Patriot League regular season is upon us. While it certainly hasn’t been a banner year for the league, it has provided its fans with an intriguing title chase and some excellent individual performances.

Holy Cross will look to wear the crown all alone with a win over Georgetown. The Crusaders are seeking just their second Patriot League Title since 1991 (2009). Bucknell heads to the “Big Apple” to square off against Fordham with hopes of a co-championship still alive. The last time the Bison raised the trophy (1996) the Patriot League still implemented a playoff ban. To close out the final weekend of the 2019 season, Lafayette makes the 12 mile bus trip to Goodman Stadium to battle Lehigh for the 155th time. Like Bucknell, both Lafayette and Lehigh will be rooting for Georgetown Saturday afternoon. 2018 Patriot League Champion Colgate concluded their regular season last weekend with a 16-0 win over Lafayette.

Georgetown (5-5, 1-4) at Holy Cross (6-5, 4-1) 12 P.M. Fitton Field: Worcester, MA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: Holy Cross will try and nail down their first Patriot League Title and FCS playoff since 2009 with a win over road weary Georgetown. The Crusaders reclaimed their destiny in the league race thanks to Colgate’s win over Lafayette last Saturday.

The Lafayette result combined with Holy Cross’s 49-27 (trailed 14-0 at half) conquering of Fordham have the Purple on the cusp of breaking their decade long title and playoff drought in Head Coach Bob Chesney’s second season. The Rams scored 35 fourth quarter points against the Rams on their way to the 22 point victory. The Crusader ground attack (132 ypg) got things rolling (212 yards) in the Bronx after struggling to gain traction in the loss to Lafayette the week prior. Holy Cross will need a solid performance from quarterback Connor Degenhardt (201 ypg 14 TD 6 INT) against the stingy Hoya “D” (15.9 ppg allowed). The Crusaders in general have moved the ball well the last month of the season. However, turnovers, mental errors and inconsistent quarterback play have allowed opponents to hang around. Those issues have also prevented Holy Cross from notching a signature win.

The Hoyas have gone from what many considered to be a preseason league favorite to needing a win to avoid finishing with a losing record for an eighth straight year. After posting a 4-1 out of conference mark (including nice wins over Columbia & Cornell) the Hoyas have struggled mightily in league play. Injuries have certainly been a factor (been without Khristian Tate since mid-October) but every team is dealing with that bug this time of the year. Inconsistencies on offense and poorly timed breakdowns on defense are two big reason’s the Hoyas have not reached their preseason potential in 2019. Georgetown’s offense amassed 23 first downs and 362 total yards (199 passing/163 rushing) in the 20-17 loss to the Bison. The difference in the game were the 4 turnovers (3 fumbles/1 INT) Bucknell forced. Quarterback Gunther Johnson (142 ypg 12 TD 2 INT, 6 rushing TD) needs to take advantage of the leaky Holy Cros secondary while the defense must slow down the Crusader’s rushing attack and force Degenhardt to win the game from the pocket.

Georgetown would love nothing more than to get ultimate pack-back for last year’s 31-5 halftime lead gone wrong (lost 32-31). That motivation will make this game interesting for 60 minutes but at the end of the day it’s Holy Cross’s year to get back over the hump.

Prediction: Holy Cross 24 Georgetown 14

Lafayette (3-8, 3-2) at Lehigh (4-6, 3-2) 12:30 P.M. Goodman Stadium: Bethlehem, PA

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: The 155th edition of college football’s most played rivalry features two teams, Lafayette and Lehigh, desperately trying to write a positive final chapter in their respective 2019 stories. Despite both team’s records there is still an opportunity should Holy Cross fall to the Hoyas for the winner of this game to capture a share of the Patriot League Title. If that were to happen Lafayette also earns the auto-bid into the playoffs. A Lehigh win and the automatic bid get a little messy.

Lehigh will be counting on sophomore quarterback Alec Beesmer to lead the offense for a second straight week. Beesmer (8/29 107 yards) struggled mightily in the Mountain Hawks 13-6 loss to Sacred Heart last week. He’ll need to be much better against a Leopard defense that has yielded yards in bunches at times during the season. In order for the Brown and White to flourish the offensive line must perform. The inability to consistently win the line of scrimmage has been the offense’s biggest problem in 2019. The wide receiver duo of Devon Bibbens (769 yards 6 TD) and Jorge Portorreal (575 yards 1 TD) have remained the one positive constant on “O”. Defensively, the Mountain Hawks need to make Lafayette quarterback Keegan Shoemaker uncomfortable for 60 minutes. The Lehigh “D” should be able to limit the Leopard offense.

Lafayette enters the annual grudge match off an ugly 16-0 loss to Colgate that cost the Leopards control of the Patriot League Title race. The Leopards were able to amass just 242 (117 passing/125 rushing) total yards on offense. As has been the case all season, when freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (12/34 117 yards 1 INT) struggles the Leopard offense has no plan “B”. Lafayette’s offensive line should have success against the Lehigh front. As a result, head coach John Garrett needs to remain committed to the run. Lafayette’s defense has come on strong the last few weeks. It performed well again last Saturday in the loss to Colgate (11 first downs, 224 Total Yards). Defensive End Malik Hamm (7 sacks) should be in line for a disruptive afternoon.

This is a good season to throw the records out given Lafayette’s and Lehigh’s struggles in 2019. Despite the win to loss ratio there’s amazingly still hope of a Patriot League Title for both teams. That factor combined with over a century worth of rivalry bitterness give #155 some added intrigue. The Mountain Haws have won four straight in series which in a rivalry such as this seems due to end.

Prediction: Lafayette 20 Lehigh 13

Bucknell (3-7, 3-2) at Fordham (3-8, 1-4) 1 P.M. Jack Coffey Field: Bronx, NY

Live Streaming: Patriot League Network

The Need to Know: If Bucknell wants to capture a share of their first Patriot League Title since 1996 they need to take care of a stumbling Fordham team in the season finale. The Bison have shown nice improvement over the course of the season in Head Coach Dave Cecchini’s first year. Fordham enters their final game riding a four game losing streak.

The Rams regression as the season has gone on is alarming. Fordham has a roster filled with talented players that have simply underachieved in the won/loss department. Quarterback Tim DeMorat (222 ypg 19 TD 10 INT) has made a strong case for Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year despite his team’s struggles. The Ram offense (24.5 ppg) has been the league’s most consistent unit yet it hasn’t amounted to much in the win column. Defensively, Ryan Greenhagen (77 solo tackles, 16.5 TFL) should win the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year after having a monster season at linebacker. Greenhagen is joined by several other talented on “D” yet one would never know it by looking at the stats (34 ppg/462 ypg allowed). They’ll have their hands full with a Bison offense that is evolving into a steady threat. Fordham needs to stop the run and force Logan Bitikofer (145 ypg 10 TD 6 INT) to win the game with his arm.

Bucknell’s improvement on defense as the season has gone along is why they have stayed in the Patriot League Title race. The Bison have done an excellent job slowing down league foes (16 ppg allowed). Strong defense has generally been a Bucknell trademark dating back to the Tom Gadd era. They’ll have to contend with an explosive Ram offense littered with speedy skill players. If Defensive Coordinator Ryan Manaiac’s defense is able to hold Fordham under 20 the Bison “O” should be able to grind out enough points to win. Bucknell has an excellent kicking game which could prove to be a nice weapon in a game like this.

This game is all about carrying momentum into 2020. Fordham is still searching for consistency under second year Head Coach Joe Conlin. The former Yale assistant owns an ugly 5-17 record at Fordham. Bucknell meanwhile appears to be trending up. A win to close out 2019 would likely put the Bison at or near the top of the 2020 preseason rankings.

Prediction: Bucknell 31 Fordham 17

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