Lafayette will battle Lehigh on Saturday at Fisher Stadium in the 144th meeting of college football's most played rivalry.
Nov. 19, 2008
THE MATCH-UP: Lafayette (7-3, 3-2) looks to be an ungracious host to Lehigh (4-6, 3-2) on Saturday in the 144th meeting of College Football's Most Played Rivalry. Lafayette has won four straight over the Mountain Hawks, and the 2008 Lafayette installment looks to be the first to make it five in a row since winning nine straight from 1943-49 (the teams played twice in 1943 and 1944). More recently, Lehigh won seven straight from 1995-2001, prompting some in the Brown and White to assert that teams such as Delaware and Colgate had surpassed Lafayette in terms of the biggest game of the year. No player on either team has suggested that recently.
KICK-OFF: 1:08 p.m.
WEATHER: Rain or Snow Showers expected with a 30 percent chance of precipitation, high of 39 degrees, winds from WNW at 6 m.p.h.
RADIO: WGPA-AM 1100
- Dick Hammer, play-by-play (42nd season)
- Joe Craig, color analyst (2nd season)
TV: Lafayette Sports Network (RCN-4, WBPH-60)
Also live on MASN on DIRECTV 640 and Dish 432
Gary Laubach, play-by-play (12th season)
John Leone, color analyst (11th season)
Dan Mowdy, sideline reporter (8th season)
INTERNET: Live audio and video webcast on www.GoLeopards.com
WHAT TO WEAR: Lafayette fans attending Saturday's 144th meeting of college football's most-played rivalry against Lehigh are encouraged take part in "Blackout 2008" and wear black to the game. Official "BlackOut 2008" merchandise, as well as other official Lafayette gear, can be purchased at the GoLeopards.com Official Online store.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR: Anything Brown (black is the new brown)
THE SERIES: College football's most-played rivalry dates back to 1884 when Lafayette shut out Lehigh 50-0 in Easton. The two teams met twice a year from 1884-1901 (three times in 1891) and once a year (for the most part) since then with the exception of 1896 when a player eligibility dispute between the schools cancelled the game. The Leopards lead the series 76-62-5. Home field advantage plays a big role in this rivalry: Lafayette leads 41-22-5 when playing in Easton and Lehigh has a 39-36-0 edge over Leopards in Bethlehem.
LAST TIME OUT: The Leopards are coming off a last-second loss to Holy Cross (27-26), a decision that knocked them from the Patriot League title race. Lehigh had an easier time of it last week, beating Bucknell 31-15, but has lost four games by three points or fewer in 2008. Both teams hold a 3-2 conference mark and the winner will finish third.
THE SERIES MVP: Members of the media will vote on the game's most valuable player on Saturday, marking a tradition that began in 1960. Last season, QB Rob Curley claimed the honor after leading the game-winning drive in a 21-17 victory. In his fourth start of the season, Curley went 15-for-25 for 257 yards with one TD and one interception. In 2006, QB Brad Maurer '07 and TB Jonathan Hurt '07 shared MVP honors, becoming the sixth and seventh players to win the award twice. It was also just the second time in the award's history two players shared the honor (1976 Mark Jones-Lafayette; Rod Gardner-Lehigh). Maurer won in 2004 as a sophomore while Hurt won in 2005. They joined Tom Costello (1988, 89) and Erik Marsh (1992, 94) from Lafayette and Kim McQuilken (1972, 73), Marty Horn (1983, 85) and Ron Jean (1998, 99) from Lehigh as two-time winners. ABOUT THE SENIORS: The Class of 2009 has racked up a 28-17 overall record and a 17-6 mark in conference play that includes Patriot League titles and NCAA Playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006.
RECENT D IN THE BIG GAME: In the last four meetings with Lehigh, Lafayette has allowed just over 18.3 points and 101 yards per game on the ground.
ABOUT THE KICKER (with thanks to Paul Reinhard): Sophomore PK Davis Rodriguez missed a PAT vs. Holy Cross, and when the Crusaders' offense marched down the field against the Leopards' top ranked defense, the play took on inflated significance. To put things in perspective, Rodriguez made 17 in a row to finish the 2007 season and added 31 straight this season to run his total to 48 in a row before missing the kick vs. Holy Cross. He is 62-of-65 for his career (95 percent). One year ago against Holy Cross, Rodriguez hit a career-long 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to boost the Leopards' lead to 10 in their 31-21 victory. He also went 4-for-4 on PATs and was named Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in 2007.
WHO WILL IT BE AT QB?: When junior QB Rob Curley went down with an injury at Colgate, sophomore Marc Quilling was forced to step into the fold. Curley missed most of the second half of that game and has not played since. He sat out the Bucknell game while recovering, but was available to play vs. Holy Cross. No one doubts the Cinnaminson, N.J. native's toughness. Curley earned Lafayette-Lehigh game MVP honors in 2007, despite playing much of the second half with a broken finger. In his absence, Quilling has made the most of his unexpected opportunity. In his first career start at Bucknell, the Allentown, Pa. native was 17-for-26 for 274 yards and three touchdowns, the top passing yardage performance for a Lafayette QB this season. He followed that with a 17-for-24 day for 184 yards and one touchdown. Coming into the Colgate game he had played sparingly in just two games. This week, head coach Frank Tavani will evaluate the two QBs in practice and make his decision prior to the 144th meeting. Curley is 9-3 in games that he has started while the younger Quilling is 1-1.
WHO WILL IT BE AT TB?: With both DeAndre' Morrow and Tyrell Coon healthy at the tailback position, the Leopards have options. Morrow is coming off a 15-carry, 111-yard, two-touchdown game vs. Holy Cross. His running mate, Coon, had a 30-carry, 169-yard afternoon at Bucknell, both career highs for Coon. The duo both missed several games due to injury, but have been healthy in final stretch. Junior TB Maurice White has missed the last five games due to injury, but was in the top spot on the depth chart entering the season.
ADAIR'S CAREER NUMB3RS: Senior WR Shaun Adair has cemented his position as one of the top receivers in Lafayette history. Adair, who is coming off a four-catch, 101-yard day vs. Holy Cross, ranks third in career receiving yards (2,152) and fourth in career receptions (144). Versus Lehigh, Adair made three catches for 52 yards in 2007, five for 98 and a TD in 2006 and five for 57 in 2006. See page 6 for a current list of all-time receiving records at Lafayette.
THE HEAD COACHES: Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani (Lebanon Valley '75) is in his ninth season as the fiery head man with the headsets and his 23rd year overall as a member of the Lafayette coaching staff. He is the 27th head coach in the program's 127-year history. Tavani was the running backs coach at Lafayette for 14 seasons prior to being named head coach in December of 1999. Tavani was the 2004 Patriot League Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award in that year. The native of Lebanon, Pa. guided Lafayette to three straight Patriot League titles (2004, 2005, 2006) and his career record stands at 52-49. Tavani is 22-7 in Patriot League games over the last five years, including 2008. Tavani knew a little bit about running the ball in his playing days, becoming the first player in Lebanon Valley College history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. In that senior campaign, he also garnered All-America honors and has since been named to four athletic halls of fame. Tavani signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles out of college in 1976 before jumping into coaching at Franklin and Marshall. His son, Daniel, was an all-conference selection at Wofford who graduated in 2007. Andy Coen (Gettysburg '86) is nearing the end of his third season as head coach at Lehigh. He is in his second stint at the school after spending six years as an offensive line coach (four as the offensive coordinator) from 1994-2000. Coen is 15-17 overall at Lehigh and 0-2 against Lafayette.
ABOUT LEHIGH: The Lehigh squad comes into the game with a deceiving 4-6 overall record and a 3-2 mark in Patriot League play. The Mountain Hawks have lost four games by three points or fewer, counting Drake, Fordham, Georgetown and Bucknell among their wins and Villanova, Princeton, Cornell, Harvard, Holy Cross and Colgate on the "L" side of the ledger.
Sophomore J.B. Clark is the Lehigh signal caller. He is 180-for-313 (58 percent) for 2,149 yards this season. Clark has 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and has guided an offense that is averaging 25 points per game. Senior wide receivers Mike Fitzgerald and Sekou Yansane are the main receiving threats, reeling in 46 and 45 catches, respectively. Ten of Fitzgerald's grabs have resulted in touchdowns.
Lehigh's running game is paced by senior TB Matt McGowan. The Hazleton, Pa. native has 158 carries for 768 yards and four touchdowns and is averaging 96 yards per game on the ground.
Defensively, the Mountain Hawks are allowing 21.6 points per game and are guided by senior OLB Tim Diamond who leads the team with 93 tackles. Junior LB Matt Cohen, from Allentown, Pa., leads the team with six sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.
THE PUNTER: Sophomore Tom Kondash has excelled in his role as the team's punter. Kondash has punted 51 times for an average of 37.9 yards. Twenty punts have ended up inside the 20 and seven punts have been 50 or more yards. Kondash boomed a career-long 79-yard punt vs. Holy Cross, using his patented roll after the initial landing. Kondash finished with four punts inside the 20 vs. Holy Cross. Against Harvard, Kondash punted five times for 175 yards and pinned Harvard's offense inside the 20 on four of the attempts. His best punt of the day was a 53-yard effort that was downed on the one-yard line. At Liberty, Kondash punted five times for 193 yards (38.6 yards per kick) and landed two punts inside the 20. He also managed a 59-yard punt. At Colgate, Kondash punted six times for 254 yards (42.3 ypk) with three kicks inside the 20 and a long of 53 yards.
INT'S AS OF LATE: Lafayette has picked off at least one pass in each of its last three games. FS Eric McGovern and LB Mark Leggiero each picked off passes against Holy Cross. CB Carlos Lowe managed interceptions against Bucknell and Colgate. The Leopards have nine interceptions on the season, with LB Neil Goldsmith leading the way with three.
GOING FORWARD: It isn't like recent Lafayette teams to get mired in lengthy conference losing streaks. Over the last four seasons, Lafayette is 12-1 in regular-season games after suffering its first conference loss. The Leopards went 2-0 in 2004, 2-0 in 2005, 4-0 in 2006, 3-0 in 2007 and 1-1 thus far in 2008. HAS THE LAFAYETTE OFFENSE HIT ITS STRIDE?: Lafayette has averaged 32 points per game over its last five contests. Lafayette scored 35 at Liberty, 48 at Fordham, 13 at Colgate, 38 at Bucknell and 26 vs. Holy Cross. In the Colgate game, Lafayette turned the ball over inside the 10 on one occasion and played without its starting quarterback for all of the second half.
DEFENSE IS EIGHTH IN THE NATION: Lafayette dropped to eighth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 16.2 points per game through 10 contests. The Leopards are also ranked 24th in the FCS in total defense (312.1 ypg) and have been ranked as high as first. The team is 19th in rushing defense (111.2 ypg) and 26th in pass efficiency defense (112.84 ypg). Check the chart below to see where they stack up within the league.
IN THE RED ZONE: Lafayette is seventh in the nation in red zone defense. The Leopards' opponents have scored on 18 of 28 attempts in the red zone (64%).
CONTE SETS CAREER-HIGHS THROUGH THE AIR: Senior TE Michael Conte, who has been playing for several weeks with a broken bone in his back, put up big numbers at Bucknell. He reeled in four catches for 118 yards. His career-long 51-yard catch in the third quarter went for a touchdown and his other catches of 47 yards, 10 yards and 10 yards all netted first downs.
PUT THE BAGS AWAY: Lafayette finished its five-game road swing with a 4-1 record. Lafayette traveled to Columbia (13-3 W), No. 14 Liberty (35-21 W), Fordham (48-13 W), Colgate (21-13 L) and Bucknell (38-21 W). It was the longest road stretch since 1996. In that season, Lafayette played Harvard, Columbia, Colgate and Army while a game with Fordham scheduled between the Harvard and Columbia games was canceled due to the untimely death of a Fordham player in warm-ups for the game. The last and only time Lafayette actually played five in a row on the road was 1986 in a season that included trips to Davidson, Bucknell, Colgate, Penn and Army. The Leopards were 2-3 in that span.
SCORPIO SUCCESS: Lafayette has enjoyed plenty of success in the month of November. Excluding postseason games, Lafayette is 11-4 over the past five seasons (including 2008). Colgate represents all but one of the losses in November. 2004: 2-1 2005: 2-1 2006: 3-0 2007: 3-0 2008: 1-2
ROMANS MAKING HIS CASE FOR PATRIOT LEAGUE POSTSEASON HONORS: Senior LB Andy Romans has been named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week three times this season (10/6, 10/13, 10/20) and is making his case to repeat as the Defensive Player of the Year. He managed to match his last weekly award by also earning the conference's Special Teams Player of the Week. Romans merited both honors at No. 14 Liberty. He blocked a punt that he returned 15 yards for a touchdown, recorded a 21-yard run on a fake punt for a first down late in the fourth quarter and tallied 12 tackles and one tackle for a loss to lead the Leopards to a win over a ranked opponent for the first time since the end of the 2005 season. For the week of the Oct. 6, Romans made a career-high 18 tackles against Harvard to claim his first award of the season. The Oct. 13 naming followed 15 tackles at Columbia when Lafayette held the Lions to three points despite missing four offensive starters. The Allendale, N.J. native boasts 85 tackles this season, which is tied for 42nd in the nation.
ROMANS CAN PLAY A LITTLE BIT: Senior linebacker Andy Romans is the Leopards' most highly-decorated returner. Romans was the 2007 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and is the conference's pick to repeat. He has also secured preseason All-America honors from The Sports Network and College Sporting News. He has been named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week three times in 2008.
PEOPLE ARE WATCHING: Andy Romans, a senior History major, has been named to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List. The award is given out to the top defensive player in the nation at the FCS level. The list will be revised several times throughout the season. Currently there are 14 linebackers on the list. Lafayette's Maurice Bennett '06 finished eighth in the voting for the national award in 2005.
THE OTHER LB: Coming into the season, it was easy to see how junior linebacker Mark Leggiero could be overlooked despite an All-Patriot League Second-Team selection in 2007. He lines up a couple of steps away from Andy Romans, the 2007 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. This year, it has been pretty hard for team's to look past his production. He is second on the team in tackles (behind Romans) with 85 and 12 tackles for loss, has forced a fumble and picked off a pass. In 2007, Leggiero started all 11 games and finished second on the team in tackles (77) and tackles for loss (6.5), trailing Romans in both categories. Leggiero finished fifth in the Patriot League in total tackles last season. In 2006, he was the program's rookie of the year, playing in all 12 games on special teams and as the top backup at linebacker.
LAFAYETTE vs. THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: The Leopards have played 341 games all-time against the six fellow members of the Patriot League, and are 176-150-16 (.540) in those contests. Since the Patriot League began play in 1986, Lafayette is 71-52-1 (.583) vs. member schools and has won league titles in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Lafayette vs. the Patriot League: Bucknell: 48-32-6 Fordham: 19-7-1 Holy Cross: 14-9-0 Colgate: 10-38-4 Georgetown: 9-3-0 Lehigh: 76-62-5
SCHMIDLEIN STEPS IN: Sophomore Michael Schmidlein has successfully stepped into a linebacker spot when Andy Romans has been out with injury. Schmidlein made seven tackles at Colgate and recorded his first career sack. Against Fordham, he made six tackles in Romans' absence.
ELECTION DAY COVERAGE FOR THE LEOPARDS: Sophomore DE Jeff Katz and junior FB Jeff Cumming participated in a student-run live election broadcast on election day. Katz served as an anchor to the program, which was produced as part of a Policy Studies class taught by Mark Crain. The event itself took place from 9-11 p.m. at various sets located throughout Farinon Student Center. Outside on the Quad, a tent was set up to host an election night party. Read this week's game program for more on the story.
THROWING IT TO OUR GUYS: Junior QB Rob Curley has not thrown an interception in 97 passes, which covers all of his attempts in the Leopards' last four games. His last interception was his final pass attempt of the Harvard game on Oct. 4.
IN THE AIR: Until his injury at Colgate, junior QB Rob Curley had been the starting quarterback since day one of training camp. For the season, he is 111-of-193 for 1,302 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Curley has been named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week once this season, going 14-for-24 for 175 yards with two rushing TDs vs. Penn (9/15). He had one of his best performances of the season at Liberty where he was 18-for-32 for 176 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was especially crisp in the first half when he was 17-for-26 for 167 yards. He followed that with an 11-for-16 day at Fordham when he threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Curley was the team's starting QB for the final four games of 2007. He completed 62 percent of his passes (77-124), threw seven touchdowns, ran for two scores and was picked off twice. He was named the MVP of the 143rd meeting of Lafayette-Lehigh after leading the game-winning drive.
Curley Game By Game Opponent Att-Comp. Passing Yds. Passing TD Rushing TD INT at Marist 8-11 125 1 1 0 GEORGETOWN 14-24 175 0 2 0 PENN 12-22 163 3 0 1 HARVARD 23-39 220 1 0 2 at Columbia 13-26 150 0 0 0 at 14 Liberty 18-32 176 1 0 0 at Fordham 11-16 162 2 0 0 at Colgate 12-23 144 1 0 0 TOTALS 111-193 1302 9 3 3
LEOPARDS SLIP OUT OF THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: Lafayette dropped out of the national Top 25 polls following the eight-point road loss to Colgate which is now ranked No. 23. Lafayette is receiving votes in both The Sports Network and the FCS Coaches Poll. The Leopards were ranked as high as 21st following a 35-point win at Fordham on Oct. 25. Lafayette broke into the top 25 on Oct. 20 by virtue of its 35-21 win at then-No. 14 Liberty on Oct. 18. Lafayette has now been ranked in the top 25 for five straight years (2004-08). The Leopards' highest ranking came in 2004 when they finished No. 19 in both polls. Last season, Lafayette's top ranking was No. 22 in The Sports Network poll, a position it held for two weeks. The team occupied the same No. 22 spot for one week in 2006 and finished the 2005 campaign ranked 20th by ESPN/USA Today and 21st by The Sports Network.
RUN, RUN RUDOLPH...: TB Jerome Rudolph was a less-than-familiar face in the backfield at Fordham, as the freshman had carried the ball just six times coming into the weekend. Injuries to the Leopards' top three tailbacks, including to Tyrell Coon on the first play from scrimmage, opened the door for the Lithonia, Ga. native. He carried the ball 16 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns and added three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in his second action of the season. (Rudolph also had six carries in the win at Liberty). At Colgate, Rudolph carried the ball 11 times for 25 yards. He carried just twice at Bucknell.
FRESHMAN FOR 100: The last time a Lafayette freshman rushed for 100+ yards in a game was Nov. 13, 1999 vs. Duquesne. Bill Stocker carried 35 times for 146 yards. Prior to that, Leonard Moore was last freshman to do so (1995).
STRIPE COLLECTS PATRIOT LEAGUE HONOR: Freshman WR Greg Stripe was named the Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week (10/27). He recorded an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Lafayette's 48-13 victory at Fordham. The kick return for a touchdown was the first for Lafayette since 2006 (Shaun Adair, 90 yards vs. Georgetown on 11/11/06). Stripe also had five carries for 43 yards and finished with 136 all-purpose yards. The Economics and Business major balances four classes including Intro to Psychology and Intro to U.S. Politics.
SPARKLING START: Lafayette's 6-1 start was the best opening mark since 1981, rolling up wins over Marist, Georgetown, Penn, Columbia, No. 14 Liberty and Fordham. It marked the first time during head coach Frank Tavani's tenure that Lafayette reached the 6-1 mark. The Leopards started 5-1 twice under Coach T (2005 and 2008). The last time Lafayette started 6-1 was 1981 under Tavani's predecessor Bill Russo. That squad started the season 7-1. Prior to that, the last time Lafayette was 6-1 was 1944.
WIN OVER A TOP 25: Lafayette's triumph over No. 14 Liberty was the team's first win over a top-25 opponent since Lafayette beat No. 12 Lehigh 23-19 on Nov. 19, 2005. The victory also snapped the nation's longest winning streak (11) and was head coach Frank Tavani's 50th career coaching victory. PATRIOT GAMES: Lafayette is 3-2 in Patriot League play this season with a 24-6 win over Georgetown on Sept. 13, a 48-13 victory at Fordham on Oct. 25, a 21-13 loss at Colgate on Nov. 1, a 38-21 win at Bucknell on Nov. 8 and a 27-26 setback vs. Holy Cross last week. Lafayette trails Colgate and Holy Cross in the conference race, each undefeated in league play.
STANDING OUT IN THE CLASSROOM: Under head coach Frank Tavani, Lafayette football players have excelled as student-athletes. Twenty-three have earned CoSIDA Academic All-District selections. In 2007, Lafayette had 21 student-athletes qualify for the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll for which they must achieve a minimum of a 3.2 GPA and earn a varsity letter. In the spring semester, 51 members of the team achieved a 3.0 or better GPA, including seven who qualified for the Dean's List. Overall, the team sported a 2.99 GPA, the highest in the program's history since the Academic Resource Center began charting team GPA's in 1992.
JOE FULLBACK: Senior Joe Russo is easily the most experienced fullback in the Patriot League. The Utica, N.Y. native is in his third season as a starter at the position where his primary responsibilities are as a lead blocker and pass protector. Running the ball has also been a strength for Russo who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, running 40 times for 184 yards with two touchdowns. He also has nine catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns. In 2007, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry (26-126) with a touchdown while also catching 12 passes, including two scores. As a sophomore, Russo managed 5.0 yards per carry (27-134) with five touchdowns in 2006 and also caught 14 passes for 76 yards.
BOOM, COON, ZOOM: "Boom-Coon-Zoom" is how QB Rob Curley describes the Leopards' corps of tailbacks. "Boom" is Maurice White who blasted his way to 212 yards in the season opener at Marist and followed up with 106 yards vs. Georgetown, 77 vs. Penn and 27 at Columbia. He is currently sidelined with two dislocated toes that he injured in the Columbia game. "Coon" is Tyrell Coon, a junior who is now vying for the top spot on the depth chart. He started two games in 2007, including the Lehigh game when he carried 29 times for 95 yards. This season, Coon carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards and a touchdown vs. Georgetown. He left the Penn game with injury after carrying six times for 32 yards and missed the Harvard game with a leg bruise. He made his return at Columbia, running for 57 yards on 16 carries. He was injured again after his first carry of the day at Fordham. Coon had a career day at Bucknell with 30 carries for 169 yards. "Zoom" is junior DeAndre' Morrow, who ran for 245 yards last season and is also a receiving threat who managed 225 all-purpose yards vs. Columbia. Morrow ran for 82 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown in Lafayette's win at Columbia. At Liberty, he scored two more touchdowns and garnered 38 yards before leaving with injury. Morrow was recently out with injury, but made his return at Bucknell. He enjoyed a breakout day vs. Holy Cross, carrying 15 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Lafayette used all three members against Columbia, as White and Coon left with injuries. The Leopards employed six different tailbacks in the starting spot in 2007 with White starting four games, graduated seniors Anthony D'Urso and Brandon Mitchell each starting one, Morrow and Coon two apiece and Matt Ferber one.
THE GROUND GAME: The Lafayette running attack is ranked 29th in the nation, averaging 178.5 yards per game. On the flip side, the passing game is ranked 74th out of 118 teams, passing for 180 yards per game.
100-YARD CLUB IN 2008: Lafayette has had five 100+ rushing performances in 2008. Maurice White had 212 yards in the season opener at Marist and followed with 106 yards vs. Georgetown. Jerome Rudolph scampered for 140 at Fordham. Tyrell Coon pounded out 169 yards at Bucknell. In the Leopards' last outing, DeAndre' Morrow had 15 carries for 11 yards. In 2007, Lafayette had three ballcarriers (Matt Ferber, Maurice White and Anthony D'Urso) rush for 100+ yards.
GOLDEN HANDS: Sophomore linebacker Neil Goldsmith opened the season with an interception in each of the first three games and was ranked in the top 10 early on during the season. Goldsmith missed the Columbia and Liberty games due to injury, but returned to play a key role at Fordham where he made eight solo tackles.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Seniors Marvin Clecidor and Nigel Bryant are the leaders of the defensive backfield. Clecidor is a returning All-Patriot League Second-Team selection at cornerback. Against Penn, Clecidor registered his first interception of the season. Clecidor led the team and was second in the Patriot League in passes defended in 2007 and also finished with two interceptions. Bryant started every game at strong safety and led the team with three interceptions in 2007. This season, Bryant recorded his first pick at Liberty. Juniors Carlos Lowe and Eric McGovern started the season at cornerback and free safety, respectively. McGovern led the team with 11 tackles against Penn and is third on the team with 48.
ON THE LINE: The Leopards return four linemen who started six or more games in 2007. Junior Ryan Hart-Predmore, who played right guard last season, is now at left tackle to anchor the offensive line. Junior Brian Wycinowski holds down the left guard spot. Junior Mike Wojcik is snapping the ball to Rob Curley after starting seven games last year. A pair of seniors with starting experience, Leo Plenski and D.J. Brown, start at right tackle and guard, respectively. The Leopards were forced to shuffle things against Penn when Wojcik went down with injury. Brown slid over to center and sophomore Michael Butler took Brown's spot. Wojcik has been back in the starting lineup ever since.
THE KICKER(S): Sophomore Davis Rodriguez is reprising his role as the team's placekicker. Rodriguez is 11-for-13 in field goals and has made 31-of-32 PATs. Rodriguez has made 4-of-5 kicks of 40 to 49 yards, hitting a 41-yarder vs. Harvard and 46- and 42-yard field goals vs. Columbia. At Colgate, Rodriguez nailed a 47-yarder at Colgate and added a 36-yarder. In 2007, Rodriguez was 8-for-13, including a career long of 41 yards. Rodriguez converted 31-of-33 PATs and was the team's leading scorer with 55 points. The St. Petersburg, Fla. native received Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week honors twice in 2007 and kicked the game-winning field goal at Penn (9/15). Junior Chris Cosgrove is handling the kickoff duties as he did for much of 2007. Cosgrove has kicked off 54 times for an average net kick of 39.5 yards with four touchbacks.
200+ RUSHING GAMES: When Maurice White ran for 212 yards in the season opener vs. Marist, it was the first time in nearly six seasons that a Lafayette ballcarrier eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark in a single game. For White, it was the first time in his career (high school or college) that he managed the feat and it placed him in some elite company. Since 1990, there have been nine 200-yard performances for the Leopards, six of which were the work of Maroon Club Hall of Fame honoree Erik Marsh '95.
DATE RUSHER OPPONENT CARRIES-YARDS W/L 09/09/08 Maurice White at Marist 29-212 W 11/16/02 Joe McCourt Holy Cross 38-203 W 11/19/94 Erik Marsh Lehigh 34-214 W 11/20/93 Erik Marsh at Lehigh 25-249 L 11/06/93 Erik Marsh at Holy Cross 36-221 W 11/21/92 Erik Marsh Lehigh 46-251 W 10/31/92 Erik Marsh at Colgate 41-225 W 11/16/91 Erik Marsh Colgate 20-200 W 10/19/91 John Kahn Columbia 41-224 W
IN THE NFL RANKS: Blake Costanzo '06 is currently on the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, having played in 10 games for the Bills. Costanzo, who now wears No. 54, played three games with the Bills last season and made seven tackles in return coverage assignments. The Franklin Lakes, N.J. native was released by the Bills on Aug. 30, 2008, but was re-signed on Sept. 5 and is playing primarily on special teams. Costanzo and Andy Romans worked out together during the summer.
PRESEASON POLL: Lafayette was picked fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll as selected by the conference's head coaches and sports information directors. In 2007, Lafayette was selected to finish first, but ended second. The last time the preseason pick won the title outright was 2001 (Lehigh).
ADAIR SET TO MAKE HIS RETURN: Senior Shaun Adair finished seventh in the nation in punt returns last season. He averaged 14.0 yards per punt return and was ranked first in the conference in that statistical category. Against Marist in 2007, Adair ran back a punt 78 yards for his first career punt return for touchdown (and the longest punt return of his career). This season, Adair ripped off a 63-yard return at Liberty. Adair also returns kicks for the Leopards, averaging 18.4 yards per return in 2007 down from the previous two seasons when he chugged away for 23.8 yards per kick as a freshman and a 25.5 as a sophomore. For his career, Adair averages 21.8 yards per return. He returned a 90-yard kick for touchdown vs. Georgetown in 2006. This season, he has returned 18 kicks for 286 yards for an average of 15.9 yards.
ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE RETURNERS: Lafayette placed 11 players on the All-Patriot League first and second teams in 2007. Six of them return in 2008 season led by 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, Andy Romans, junior LB Mark Leggiero and senior CB Marvin Clecidor. On the offense, there are also three returning All-Patriot League selections led by senior co-captain and fullback Joe Russo, senior TE Michael Conte and senior WR Shaun Adair.
BACK IN BLACK: The Leopards' perfect mark in black jerseys came to an end with a one-point loss to Holy Cross on Nov. 15. Lafayette is now 4-1 in the black jerseys. They wore black to beat Lehigh in 2004 and again in 2006 to win Patriot League titles. Fordham was also victim to the black jerseys in 2005. The only other time they've paired black jerseys with black pants was in what has been dubbed "the mud bowl" against Columbia in 2005, a 14-7 victory. The Leopards pulled out the black pants against Holy Cross in week 10 in 2007 and continued their winning streak by beating the Crusaders 31-21.
PATRIOT LEAGUE TITLES: Lafayette won three straight Patriot League titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Lafayette shared the title with Lehigh in 2004 and 2006, and with Colgate in 2005. The championships also led to three straight NCAA Playoff appearances, making Lafayette one of six teams in the country to appear in the 16-team field in three straight years. The Leopards have won six PL championships in the 23-year history of the league (1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2006).
ABOUT THE 2007 DEFENSE: Lafayette boasted the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation in 2007. The Leopards, under the direction of defensive coordinator John Loose, allowed just 260.1 yards of total offense per game (first in the nation), 84.9 yards on the ground (fourth in the nation), 16.9 points per game (eighth in the nation) and a pass efficiency rating of 108.3 (15th in the nation). Linebacker Andy Romans ranked 25th in the nation in tackles in 2007 with 10.3 per game.
LIGHT IT UP: Lafayette's season-opening win over Marist in 2007 marked the first home night game in 127 seasons of Lafayette football. The historic game was followed by fireworks. Making history at night is not a new feat for Leopard football as Lafayette and Washington and Jefferson played in the first indoor night college football game on Oct. 25, 1930. A crowd of 17,000 witnessed the game at the Atlantic City Auditorium.
THE CAPTAINS: The Leopards elected senior LB Andy Romans and senior FB Joe Russo as their captains for the 2008 season. Romans is a two-time All-Patriot League selection and the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year. Russo, too, is a twice-honored all-league player and is in his third year as a starter.
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS: Lafayette has won four of the last seven Patriot League Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Brad Maurer '07 won the award in 2006, following linebacker Maurice Bennett '05, Stephen Bono '04 and tight end Stewart Kupfer '02. Maurer was also a three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District II selection and was one of 23 Academic All-District selections in Frank Tavani's nine seasons as head coach.
AND WE GO TO...OVERTIME: Lafayette has played five overtime games all-time and is 1-4 in those contests. After winning the first overtime affair in 1995 over Fordham (24-21 on 11/11/95), the Leopards have lost their last four OT games (11/18/95 at Lehigh - 37-30; 10/18/97 at Cornell - 41-34; 10/3/98 at Dartmouth - 13-10; 9/8/01 at Towson - 16-13).
HISTORIC FISHER STADIUM: Fisher Stadium has hosted the College's home football games since 1926. The facility underwent a $23 million transformation that gave Lafayette one of the premier FCS football venues in the nation. New spectator seating was built, including chairback seating in select areas, and additional visitors' seating was added for a maximum capacity of 13,132 fans. A state-of-the-art in-fill synthetic surface, lights, a press box and a 19-by-35 foot video board were installed, and improved restroom and vending areas were also included. The Bourger Varsity Football House includes a locker room, offices and team meeting rooms, as well as sports medicine and strength and conditioning areas. Now in its 81st season, Fisher Stadium has been host to 402 Lafayette football games with the Leopards enjoying an overall record of 239-150-13 for a winning percentage of .612. Of the previous 81 seasons, Lafayette has produced 12 undefeated home seasons with the most recent being the 1992 Patriot League champion Leopards that went a perfect 5-0 - the first undefeated home season for Lafayette at Fisher Stadium since 1970. During the 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons, Lafayette won 10 straight home games--tying the Fisher Stadium school record for consecutive wins first set 1926 and 1927 in the first 10 games ever played in the stadium.
LAFAYETTE FOOTBALL IN ITS 127 SEASON: Since fielding its first college football team in the fall of 1882, Lafayette has had a proud, colorful gridiron tradition on the way to a total of 639 victories (639-539-39). Lafayette ranks 33rd among all college football teams in all-time wins entering the 2008 season, posting its first win in 1883 (25-0 vs. Rutgers). Lafayette accumulated 100 victories by 1900, 200 by 1915 and 300 by 1934.
LAFAYETTE ON THE RADIO: The Lafayette Sports Network entered into an agreement with WAEB-AM 790 and WSAN-AM 1470 of Clear Channel Communications and WGPA AM-1100 to broadcast 2008 Lafayette football. The deal places Lafayette on the top two rated AM stations in the Lehigh Valley. See a complete broadcast schedule on the following page. Veteran broadcaster Dick Hammer is in his 42nd season as the Leopards' play-by-play man and will be joined in the booth at home games by Joe Craig, long-time football analyst and former coach.
LAFAYETTE LEADS NATION IN TV GAMES IN FCS: The Lafayette Sports Network, a national leader in Division I FCS television coverage, will televise all 11 regular-season Lafayette football games live for the sixth straight year on RCN-4 and WBPH-60 in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. Now in its 12th year of existence, LSN has become a staple for Leopard fans in the Lehigh Valley and across the country. Nationally, LSN telecasts will be picked up for the ninth straight year by DIRECTV and DISH Network outlets, available to more than 60 million viewers. Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh (DIRECTV Channel 628, DISH Network Channel 428) carried two of the Leopards' games in September. The games aired at noon on the Monday following the game on the regional sports network which reaches 2.3 million cable and satellite homes in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. The Lehigh game will be carried live by MASN which is available regionally and nationally on DIRECTV channel 640 and DISH Network channel 432. The network is the official television home of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Ravens and reaches nearly 6 million homes in a seven-state region, from Harrisburg, Pa. to Charlotte, N.C. Gary Laubach will handle all of the Leopards' play-by-play duties for the 12th straight season. John Leone has provided color analysis for all but the first year on the air. In his eighth year as a member of the announcing crew is Dan Mowdy, who is fresh off a gymnastics public address announcing stint at the Beijing Olympics. He will report from the Fisher Stadium sidelines. Mowdy will also be joined by RCN's Scott Barr for select telecasts.
RADIO AND TV SCHEDULE
DATE OPPONENT KICKOFF RADIO TV 9/6 at Marist 6 p.m. WAEB 790* LSN/FSNP 9/13 GEORGETOWN 6 p.m. WAEB 790* LSN/MASN 9/20 OPEN 9/27 PENN 6 p.m. none LSN/FSNP 10/4 HARVARD 1 p.m. WGPA 1100 LSN/MASN 10/11 at Columbia 12:30 p.m. WAEB 790 LSN/MASN 10/18 at Liberty 3:30 p.m. WGPA 1100 LSN/MASN 10/25 at Fordham 1 p.m. WAEB 790 LSN/MASN 11/1 at Colgate 1 p.m. WAEB 790 LSN/MASN 11/8 at Bucknell 1 p.m. WGPA 1100 LSN/MASN 11/15 HOLY CROSS 1 p.m. WGPA 1100 LSN/MASN 11/22 LEHIGH 1 p.m. WGPA 1100 LSN/MASN
LSN RCN-4, WBPH 60 FSNP Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh (DIRECTV 628, DISH 428) MASN Mid Atlantic Sports Network (DIRECTV 626, DISH 432) * joined in progress at approximately 6:30 p.m.
A HISTORY OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Lafayette football program has claimed three national championships -- 1896, 1921 and 1926 -- and recorded five undefeated seasons -- 1896 (11-0-1), 1921 (9-0-0), 1926 (9-0-0), 1937 (8-0-0) and 1940 (9-0-0). Of recent note, the Leopards have won six Patriot League championships -- 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005 and 2006 -- and made their first three appearances in the NCAA FCS Playoffs.
LAFAYETTE'S FOOTBALL INVENTORS: Two primary elements of the game of football -- the helmet and the huddle -- were invented by former members of the Lafayette football program. George "Rose" Barclay from the Class of 1898, one of Lafayette's all-time great running backs, invented the helmet when the "threat of cultivating cauliflower ears" led him to piece three thick leather straps around his head for the 1896 game against Penn. Former Lafayette coach Herb McCracken (1924-35; 59-40-6) devised the first huddle system during the 1924 season after learning the Pennsylvania football team had stolen Lafayette's signals. Lafayette became the first team to huddle before each play and this system was immediately adopted by other teams.
INSIDE LAFAYETTE FOOTBALL: LSN-TV premiered Inside Lafayette Football on Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. and it can be seen every Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. throughout the season as well as 30 minutes prior to kickoff of all Lafayette contests. Laubach will sit down with head coach Frank Tavani, as well as select student-athletes to discuss the Lafayette football program.
LAFAYETTE SPORTS NETWORK ALL-ACCESS: Each LSN telecast will be available live through LSN All-Access, which streams the game worldwide to any high-speed internet connection. In all, more than 60 Lafayette athletic contests, as well as Inside Lafayette Football, are scheduled to be broadcasted through Lafayette All-Access this year for a rate of $6.95 per month and $49.95 for the entire year. The CBS College Sports Online XXL package, which includes content from all CBS College Sports Online member schools, is available for $119.95 annually.