Monday, October 5, 2015

Week 5 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts following Harvard's 45-0 win over Georgetown Friday night:

1. Almost There. This was the game to which I had made some rather elaborate plans to get to Boston Friday night and back to Washington Saturday morning, but the weather led to a change in heart and in hindsight, it was the right move. Sitting on the concrete of  Harvard Stadium with the potential of a cold, driving rain for three hours wasn't a good use of common sense, and instead I watched it from a entirely vacant food court in the Leavey Center.

Not that it would have mattered, because the homestanding Crimson were more than the Hoyas could handle and that's not a knock on Georgetown. Playing a near penalty free game (one), Georgetown still couldn't hang with Harvard, as this was as deep an opponent across the board as Georgetown has faced since it lost 48-0 to a Richmond team en route to the 2008 I-AA national title. They're that good.

Of course, that's a matter of debate. A school like Harvard could probably play a lot of teams, and even to pick up a I-A opponent now and then--if Wagner can play Rice, surely Harvard could. But that's not the Harvard football "culture", so to speak, and instead the Cantabridgians play teams like Georgetown instead of Boston College, and go on to pound the Ivies another year. Over the last five years, Tim Murphy's men have made a case for the Crimson as the most powerful Ivy eleven, year over year, since Bob Blackman and Jake Crouthamel were leading the Dartmouth Indians to five straight Ivy titles through 1972. Harvard was #24 in the I-AA polls this year, while the Indians were 14th in the major college national poll in 1970, ahead of USC and right behind Georgia Tech.

This kind of talk isn't new.

"Yet a glance at future schedules and future squads makes it look as though this season...will be the pattern for several years to come. Someone is to blame, and it isn't the law of averages. It is the alumni," wrote the Harvard Crimson.

"These distinguished members of the company of educated men feel that their Harvard diplomas qualify them as expert football critics. Consequently they come with a flask on Saturday afternoons and spend two hours impressing their wives by second-guessing the quarterback. Then they go to a cocktail party and slander the coach. Then they go home and sleep it off. And that's all."

"The Administration also likes football for its money value. This one sport supports virtually all the others, varsity and intramurals alike, and keeps Harvard's fine "athletics for all" program alive. Without gate receipts at the Stadium, there would be no money to pay for shells or for squash and tennis courts. Therefore, the people who have to sign checks for upkeep and replacements on Harvard's colossal athletic plant want big names in the Stadium [that] draw more people than little schools which we can beat."

The commentary was written in 1949.

2. Patriots At The Break: Like all college seasons, it goes by too fast. The Hoyas are at or near the halfway point in the race, five down and six to go. By all competitive measures but Sisu, it won't be competitive for the rest of the season, Non-scholarship teams don't beat 45 and 60-grant teams as a matter of due course.

But all isn't seashells and balloons around the league, however,  Spending that money connoted a ticket to the good old days for schools to which the Patriot League has been a retirement home for the sport from way back when, Outside of Fordham, no one's very happy.

Fordham: There are good times at Rose Hill: The Rams lost a ton in 2014 and have reloaded in 2015 behind the running ways of Chase Edmonds, who seems a likely All-America selection as a sophomore.  A narrow loss to Villanova has been the only setback in a season which began on national TV with an upset over Army and three straight wins, including last week's 35-7 win over Lafayette. Edmonds rushed for more yards (234) than Lafayette put in the air (224).

After a game at Penn, three of the next four PL games will be at home before the Rams travel to DC for the season finale. That will be a tall order for anyone in this league to overcome.

Bucknell: While the Bison haven't won a PL title in two decades, there were many early signs that suggested Bucknell could give Fordham a fight to the finish. So far, it's not there. Following a underwhelming 17 points in a win over Marist, the Bison lost to Duquesne, needed a late touchdown to steer past Cornell, and was forced into overtime by VMI. The combined record of its first four opponents is 5-13 (.278). A key game with lehigh awaits this week followed by a game at Army before the Bison host Georgetown on Oct. 17 and three of its final four on the road. If the Bison are about to make a move, now is the time.

Holy Cross: There was some grumbling about the status of veteran coach Tom Gilmore , who remains below .500 in his 11 years in Worcester, following a 1-2 start. The Crusaders have hit a chance to pick up the wins, with a shutout of Albany last week and and a winnable home game with Brown this weekend. This could be a 5-5 HC team entering its season finale versus Georgetown, where they have dropped three of the last four in the series.

Colgate: The grumbling persists at Colgate, where the Red Raiders started 0-3 and have won two straight, the latest being its win over a winless Cornell team with a late defensive stand. The Red raiders lead the league in rushing, are last in passing, and in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories. The Bison also finish with three of its final four at home, including Fordham and Bucknell; still, this has the earmark of another frustrating season for a program which was once one of the nation's best.

Lafayette: The Leopards have settled into a consistent pattern over he years: struggling in the non-conference, finishing below .500 overall but a competitive entrant for the PL title. This finish reminds some Lafayette fans of ten days of former Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes, who always seemed to get his team to the finish line better than he found it, but never enough to win the hearts of the fans. At 1-4, Saturday's game against the Hoyas may be a must-win with Harvard lurking in two weeks. The Leopards don't want to be 1-6 entering the home stretch, but a win over Lehigh always makes a long season a little shorter.

Lehigh: The Engineers have dropped three of four, and face Bucknell and Fordham over the next two weeks in a gut-check for the 2015 season, before beginning three of its next four at home, including Georgetown on Oct. 31. Lehigh is last in the PL in defense, an unaccustomed place but one reflective of the changing tides of younger players in key roles.

Coming later this week: where is Georgetown at the halfway point?