October 3, 2008

Tough 'D' Awaits Red at Lehigh

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Before next weekend’s showdown with co-Ivy League favorite Harvard, the football squad will head to Bethlehem, Pa., tomorrow to take on Lehigh in what can be termed as a set-up game. Coming off a 17-14 win against the other Ivy League favorite Yale and with such a big conference game looming, head coach Jim Knowles ’87 is trying to keep his players focusing on one game at a time.
“This year especially, we have the mentality of one game at a time,” said senior safety Gus Krimm. “We were really happy after the Yale win and we enjoyed it, but by Tuesday, it was time to work. As for the Harvard game, we haven’t even addressed that yet.”
[img_assist|nid=32375|title=Who wants this?|desc=Senior quarterback Nathan Ford (with ball) looks to give the handoff in the Red’s 17-14 win last weekend over Yale.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The offense will be challenged as the team goes for its first 3-0 start since the 1999 season. The Red will have to beat a tough defense to do that — the Mountain Hawks have only given up 14.0 points per game.
Last weekend, the Red brought out a special running formation, utilizing the direct snap to senior running back Luke Siwula and sophomore wide receiver Stephen Liuzza when the passing game stalled under senior quarterback Nathan Ford. The tactic helped the Red move the ball down the field and control possession.
“Every game is different,” Liuzza said. “Every game though, we want to stir up the run first and then pass off of that. If it works, we stay with it, but our offense is based off getting the run established.”
2008 so far has been a year of erasing trends for the Red. The team has yet to fumble the ball and the defense has been stout against the run — all thinigs that plagued the Red’s 2007 campaign. The next challenge for Knowles is to help the Red win multiple games on the road. The team hasn’t won more than a single road game in a season since the 2005 campaign, and holds an overall record of 5-15 since playing under Knowles’ lead.
“Every game in college football is tough because of the atmosphere,” Liuzza said. “But this year we have a better attitude. We have all been there before and so now we are more comfortable on the road. It’s not a problem anymore, we all know we have the potential to win on the road.”
The Mountain Hawks hold one of the better home-field advantages in the Patriot league, having led the conference in attendance for the last 15 years.
“I hope it’s an advantage,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen in an interview with the Lehigh athletic communications department. “I think the one thing that can really affect games is the crowd and the support you have. I think one of the things that always made Goodman [Stadium] a tough place to play in is that we’ve always had good crowds.”
Lehigh comes into the contest at 1-2 overall after losing, 10-7, on a last-second field goal by Princeton last week. Unlike the Red’s first two opponents, the Mountain Hawks have an offense that doesn’t rely mainly on the run. Sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark paces the Lehigh offense averaging 197.7 yards through the air per game with a 52.4 completion rate. Keeping the balance is senior running back Matt McGowan who averages 86.3 yards on the floor.
“We have focused a lot on coverage and our zones,” Krimm said. “Our No. 1 priority is to still stop the run and force teams to throw it into our coverage. We want them to play into our blitzes, but as far as game planning, nothing has really changed. It’s all about us and what we want to do on the field and not them.”