Lehigh hasn’t had a winning football season since 2016.
Lafayette hasn’t had a winning season since 2009.
No matter what happens over the next two weeks, these seasonal losing streaks will continue.
But with the 158th edition of college football’s most played rivalry in a week, there’s a sense of optimism mixed with the reality of a combined 4-14 record for both Division I football programs in Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh hosts Colgate and Lafayette travels to Fordham on Saturday to try to build momentum by entering next week’s show at the Leopards’ Fisher Stadium.
For the Mountain Hawks, generating positive vibes is a bigger challenge as they are on a seven-game losing streak. At best, Lehigh can match last year’s 3-8 record.
It’s a little easier to feel good in College Hill because under first-year coach John Troxell, the Leopards have already matched last year’s 3-game winning total and still have a chance to winning five games in a season for the first time since 2014. Additionally, a Patriot League winning record is also possible.
Both programs are disappointed with this year’s results and are nowhere near where they want to be, but both teams are also optimistic about the future and believe a turnaround is just around the corner.
“You always wonder where we are as a program and I know where we were a year ago and where we are today and I also know where we’re going to be in a year and two years from now,” said Troxell. “That’s why every game we play at the moment is important because it builds the culture and expectations within the program.”
Troxell said his seniors have done a good job of understanding the importance of each game.
“They’re going to go out and play as hard as they can, not looking at the scoreboard,” Troxell said. “They know we’re going to improve as a team and they want to lay the groundwork.”
Troxell had spent the past 16 years at Franklin & Marshall and one of the things he loves about Lafayette upon his return to College Hill is leadership.
“One of the best parts of this place right now is the leadership of the president. [Nicole] Hurd and Sherryta Freeman, our athletic director,” Troxell said. “Their vision is to build a championship culture. We say it every day. We climb the hill. We may not be at the top yet, but we will get there. »
Lehigh is also trying to gain a foothold on her ascent of the mountain.
The current streak of five consecutive losing seasons is the program’s longest slippage since a 9-year streak of non-winning seasons from 1962 to 1970.
While displeasure was expressed by alumni and fans, the players themselves did not give up. Many factors have contributed to the current decline, some beyond their control, but they are determined to stop the slide.
“We missed a lot and it was frustrating here and there,” first-year defensive lineman TJ Burke said. “But we’ve stayed really close and have a really good brotherhood here. We’ve all supported each other through the ups and downs and we’re going to keep trying to get those two wins over the next two weeks. We just have to keep going. to work.
Sophomore running back Gaige Garcia, who hails from South Colombia’s famed PIAA high school program, echoed Burke’s comments.
“Once we start winning, it will become human nature to keep going and do whatever you can to win,” Garcia said. “We are doing everything we can here to win, but it is about overcoming this difficulty. Once we do that and get in the win column, it will make a big difference.
Garcia said the team goes into a locker room after a game and wonders, “How did we lose this game when we’re the better team? We know we have the talent. It’s just a question of consistency and if we do that against Colgate and Lafayette, two very big rivals, it will be huge for us in the future.
Here’s a look at this week’s Lafayette and Lehigh matchups:
When or: 1 p.m. Saturday at Coffey Field, New York, New York.
Scenarios: The Rams are ranked No. 18 in one national poll and No. 23 in another and still have a chance of making the FCS playoffs. They averaged 49.8 points and 404.8 passing yards per game and their only losses were to Ohio University 59-52 and Holy Cross 53-52. After winning at Colgate last week, the Leopards are looking for their first two-game winning streak since winning three in a row at the end of the 2019 season. Lafayette will rely on a defense that occupies first in the Patriot League in yards allowed (312.2) and rushing (111.7).
Players to watch: Fordham has the best passing offense in FCS football thanks to senior QB Tim DeMorat. He leads the nation with 3,635 passing yards. Senior WR Fostis Kokosioulis is second in the nation in receiving yards (993) and is among the nation’s leaders with 10 TD catches. Graduate student Ryan Greenhagen, former Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, has 7 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks. Lafayette was trailed at Colgate by senior RB Jaden Sutton and rookie Jamar Curtis, who ran for 83 and 77 yards, respectively. Sophomore QB Ah-Shaun Davis was 13-for-20 passing for 140 yards and a TD.
What to expect: Lafayette’s defense slowed a powerful Holy Cross attack in a 24-21 loss on Oct. 22 and is able to do the same against high-flying Fordham. However, quality special teams and an offense that controls time will be essential for the Leopards to have a chance to surprise.
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Keith Groller’s prediction: Fordham 31-20
When or: Noon at Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem
TV/Radio/Broadcast: ESPN+, Fox Sports Radio 94.7 FM, 1230 AM and LVFoxSports.com.
Scenarios: Lehigh is desperately trying to break a 7-game losing streak and build momentum ahead of his trip to Lafayette next week. Colgate, which stars Marian Catholic graduate Stan Dakosty, is making his first visit to Lehigh since 2018. A 2005 Colgate graduate and son of Marian coaching legend of the same name, Dakosty is in his second season at the helm. of the raiders. Parkland grads Andrew Khalife and Ja-Lon Perkins are among the many Pennsylvania players on Colgate’s roster. Colgate had won two in a row before losing to Lafayette 21-16 last week.
Players to watch: Colgate’s Michael Brescia rushed for 622 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed for 1,077 yards and three scores. Lehigh junior linebacker Mike DeNucci ranks in the FCS top 10 in total tackles (5.7 per game) and tackles for loss (1.7). Freshman wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel leads Lehigh with 42 receptions for 479 yards. LU quarterback Dante Perri threw for 1,446 yards and 9 touchdowns, but has 8 interceptions.
What to expect: A much more competitive game than Colgate’s 30-3 win in Hamilton, New York last year. Lehigh’s defense will keep him in the game and it’s all about the offense capitalizing on opportunities in the red zone. It’s Lehigh’s last chance for a home win and the seniors want to have one last fond memory of Goodman Stadium.
Keith Groller’s prediction: Lehigh 24-21