Lafayette Football Starts 2006 with Trip to Sacred Heart
Aug. 29, 2006
THE MATCH-UP: Lafayette opens its 125th season of football as the defending back-to-back Patriot League champions. The Leopards begin the campaign with their first-ever meeting with Sacred Heart, which returns 15 starters from a team which posted a 4-6 record in 2005.
SEASON OPENING SUCCESS: Lafayette has won four straight season openers for the first time since stringing together nine straight victories to start the year from 1985-1993. The Leopards began their most recent run with a 30-29 win over Monmouth in 2002, then defeated Marist in the opener in each of the last three seasons, including a 40-21 win a year ago.
EARLY OPENER: The season opener on Sept. 2 marks the third straight season that Lafayette will begin the year on the earliest date in program history. The Leopards opened in early October until the turn of the 20th century, in late September until 1970, and traditionally began the season on the second Saturday in September until 2002.
THE HEAD COACHES: Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani (Lebanon Valley `75) is in his seventh season at the helm of the Leopards' football program, and his 20th year overall as a member of the coaching staff. Lafayette is 28-19 under Tavani in the last four seasons, the best record over a similar stretch since 1923-26. Tavani was the Patriot League Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award in 2004 after leading Lafayette to the Patriot League championship. He was running backs coach at Lafayette for the previous 13 seasons prior to being named head coach in December 1999, and enters with a career record of 32-36.
Paul Gorham (New Hampshire `84) has a 10-10 record in two seasons at Sacred Heart, his first assignment as a collegiate head coach, and doubles as the Pioneers' offensive coordinator. He coached wide receivers and the offensive line at Massachusetts from 1999-2003, and also made coaching stops at Brown, New Haven and New Hampshire.
FOOL ME ONCE . . : Lafayette has won each of its last nine games following a loss, the longest such streak in the history of the program. A victory over Sacred Heart would give the Leopards 10 straight wins after suffering a setback their last time out. Moreover, the Leopards have won those nine games by an average of 21.1 points per game, with all but one contest (21-16 win at Richmond, 9/25/04) decided by more than 10 points. The previous best was seven straight wins following a loss, from 1885-88, and again from 1898-1902.
The Leopards' "turn of the century" teams went 46 games without consecutive losses. The other streaks are 1920-24 (38), 1885-88 (34), 1904-07 (34) and 1908-11 (30), until hitting the current streak of 27 games which began Nov. 8, 2003 with a 35-17 win over Bucknell.
THE CAPTAINS: The Leopards elected quarterback Brad Maurer, defensive lineman Marvin Snipes and linebacker Justin Stovall as their senior tri-captains for the 2006 season following spring practice in April. Maurer and Snipes were both starters on the 2004 and 2005 Patriot League championship teams and were All-Patriot League selections a year ago, while Stovall is in his first season as a starter after playing his first three years as a top backup linebacker and an integral member of the special teams.
BACK-TO-BACK PATRIOT LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: Lafayette has won a share of two straight Patriot League championships, in 2004 and 2005, and is 10-2 in the league in that time. In both seasons, the Leopards started 3-0 before falling by three points to Colgate, then rebounded to beat Holy Cross before facing Lehigh in the nation's most-played college football rivalry. In 2004, Lafayette beat the Mountain Hawks 24-10 at Fisher Field, while last season, the Leopards came back from a 19-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win 23-19 at Lehigh's Goodman Stadium. Pat Davis '06 led a pair of scoring drives in the final 10 minutes, including an 88-yard march with 2:04 to go that ended with a 37-yard touchdown pass to tailback Jonathan Hurt on fourth-and-10 with 38 seconds remaining.
LAFAYETTE IN THE I-AA PLAYOFFS: Lafayette is one of eight Division I-AA schools to appear in the 16-team playoff field in each of the last two seasons, joining Furman, Georgia Southern, Eastern Washington, Montana, Hampton, New Hampshire and Southern Illinois.
Last season, the Leopards battled eventual national champion Appalachian State in the first round in Boone, N.C. and entered the fourth quarter tied at 20-all after leading 17-10 at halftime. The Mountaineers pulled out a 34-23 victory and went on to win the I-AA championship, 21-16 over Northern Iowa. In 2004, Lafayette led defending national champion Delaware 14-13 in the final quarter before a Blue Hen touchdown, then drove inside the 20 looking for the tying score when a fumble return for a touchdown produced the final 28-14 margin.
LAFAYETTE IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Leopards begin the 2006 season unranked in both major polls despite their consecutive appearances in the I-AA Playoffs. Lafayette finished 2005 ranked 20th by ESPN/USA Today and 21st by The Sports Network, and was 19th in both polls following the 2004 campaign. Lafayette is 30th in The Sports Network's preseason poll when counting through the "Others Receiving Votes" category.
PATRIOT PRESEASON POLL: For the second straight year, Lafayette has been slotted second in the Patriot League Football Preseason Poll, as voted by the league's coaches and sports information directors. And for the second straight year, the Leopards received three first place votes and 61 points and finished seven points behind the team they shared the Patriot League championship with the previous season. Colgate was the first choice, receiving eight first place votes and 68 points. Lehigh gathered the final three first place votes and had 57 points. Holy Cross was predicted to repeat its fourth-place finish from last year with Fordham following in fifth. Bucknell and Georgetown round out the list.
RETURNING ALL-LEAGUERS: Lafayette returns four All-Patriot League selections from last season, including Preseason All-Americans Mike Saint Germain (offensive tackle) and Marvin Snipes (defensive end). Senior quarterback Brad Maurer and senior free safety Torian Johnson were both named to the second team and give the Leopards the second-most returning All-PL players behind co-champion Colgate.
EVERYBODY'S ALL-AMERICAN: Senior offensive tackle Mike Saint Germain has earned Preseason All-America mention from three national organizations. Saint Germain was named to the first team by Lindy's Preseason College Football Magazine, the second team by Don Hansen's Football Gazette, and the honorable mention team by The Sports Network, which also listed him as the No. 8 offensive tackle in I-AA football. A first team All-Patriot League selection a year ago, Saint Germain was the only Lafayette offensive lineman to start all 12 games at the same position, lining up at left tackle.
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS: Senior quarterback Brad Maurer has been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District II team as a sophomore and junior, and is a strong candidate to earn Academic All-District honors for three straight seasons. A Neuroscience major and Spanish minor with a 3.55 cumulative GPA, Maurer will also have the opportunity to become the fourth Lafayette student-athlete in the last six seasons to be named Patriot League Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Stephen Bono '05 is the last Lafayette player to earn mention on the Academic All-District list three times and was the 2004 PL Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, joining Stewart Kupfer '02 in 2001 and Maurice Bennett '06 in 2005. Lafayette has 22 Academic All-District selections in Frank Tavani's six seasons as head coach.
LAFAYETTE vs. THE NEC: The Leopards have played five games all-time against the eight current members of the Northeast Conference, and are 4-1 (.800) in those contests: Lafayette's last result against an NEC school was a 30-29 victory over Monmouth in the 2002 season opener. The previous four meetings came in 1976 and 1979 against Wagner, and 1980 and 1981 against Central Conn. State.
LAFAYETTE vs. THE PATRIOT LEAGUE: The Leopards have played 326 games all-time against the six fellow members of the Patriot League, and are 164-146-16 (.528) in those contests. Since the Patriot League began play in 1986, Lafayette is 60-48-1 (.555) vs. member schools and has won league titles in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004 and 2005. Lafayette vs. the Patriot League:
A MODEL OF EFFICIENCY: Quarterback Brad Maurer enters his senior year as Lafayette's all-time leader and second in Patriot League history in both single-season (67.0, 2004) and career (62.0) completion percentage. Maurer was second in the Patriot League with a 125.5 pass efficiency rating last season and led the league with a 141.6 rating in league games on his way to second team All-PL honors. He also ranks in the top 10 in school history in completions (sixth, 253), passing yards (seventh, 2,875) and passing touchdowns (ninth, 15).
Maurer has started 23 career games and Lafayette is 11-3 when he goes the distance under center. He started all 11 regular season contests last season and was 6-1 when playing the entire game while missing parts of games against Princeton, Harvard and Bucknell and all but three plays in the victory at Lehigh. Maurer started all 12 games a sophomore in 2004, sharing time in the first five contests before taking over as the full-time quarterback in a 35-14 win at Columbia.
LAYING THE HURT: Senior tailback Jonathan Hurt ran for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry a year ago. He went over the 100-yard mark in each of the final three games of the regular season, with 125 yards against both Holy Cross and Lehigh, and 115 yards at Appalachian State. He also scored six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving) over the final three games. Hurt had a pair of three-touchdown games as a junior, against Marist and Fordham, and ran for a career-high 149 yards and the Leopards' only two touchdowns in a 14-7 win over Columbia.
Hurt also emerged as a top pass catching threat in the second half of the season, with 15 receptions for 168 yards and three scores in the last five games, that includes the game-winning 37-yard touchdown catch in Lafayette's 23-19 win at Lehigh. Hurt averaged 133.2 all-purpose yards per game in the stretch run.
THE TOUCHDOWN MAKER: Fifth-year senior wide receiver Archie Fisher enters 2006 with eight touchdowns on 31 career receptions, but will not make his season debut until at least mid-October after suffering a broken collarbone in Lafayette's scrimmage on Aug. 23. He rejoins the team for a medical redshirt year after missing all but two games of the 2004 season with a foot injury.
MORE ORT: Fifth-year wide receiver Joe Ort joins Fisher as a medical redshirt recipient after missing his freshman season with a knee injury. Ort was sixth in the Patriot League with 51.3 yards receiving per game last season, making 28 catches for 462 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. He enters his final season averaging 16.0 yards per catch on 46 receptions (737 yards), and will qualify for Lafayette's career top 10 list with four more catches.
TRACK STARS: Wide receivers Travis Hutson, a senior, and Shaun Adair, a sophomore, double as All-Patriot League performers for the Lafayette track team. Hutson won the 100 meters in 10.86 seconds at the PL outdoor championships last May and was third in the 55 meters in 6.60 seconds at the indoor championships. Adair placed second in the long jump (23-6 3/4) and fourth in the triple jump (46-2 3/4) at the outdoor championships and was fourth in the indoor long jump.
THERE'S THAT MAN AGAIN: Wide receiver Shaun Adair made quite an impression on opposing secondaries as a freshman, averaging 22.0 yards on 13 catches through the first 10 games. He had seven plays of 20 yards or more during the season, including a 65-yard touchdown catch against Fordham, a 46-yard reception against Princeton and a 36-yard scoring play at Holy Cross. Adair finished the year with a career-high five catches for 57 yards at Lehigh and caught four passes for 49 yards at Appalachian State. He averaged 17.8 yards per reception for the season.
FEELING SOPHOMORIC: Adair is one of as many as five sophomores who have the opportunity to start on the Lafayette offense this season, after the graduation of five senior starters from last year's team. Joe Russo is the projected starter at fullback, Michael Conte is penciled in at tight end, and Leo Plenski is the starting right guard. Sophomore Will Orozco is in contention for the starting assignment at left guard.
IN THE FRONT ROW: Entering week one, it appears that all five positions are set along the offensive line, led by Preseason All-American Mike Saint Germain at left tackle. Fellow senior Ryan Nase will move from right guard, where he started 10 games last season, to center. The three remaining spots will be filled by players with no starting experience - sophomore Leo Plenski at right guard, junior Jesse Padilla at right tackle, and junior Greg Lippert at left guard.
Sophomore Joe Moore was the projected starter at left guard entering preseason camp but was moved to the backup spot at left tackle. The move was made after junior Jack Thomson, a starter in six games at right tackle last season, suffered an ankle injury in the final week of the summer before reporting to camp. Fellow sophomores D.J. Brown, Andrew Oppenheimer and Will Orozco, along with freshman Michael Wojcik, will fill backup roles.
CODE RED: The Lafayette defense, assembled by coordinator John Loose, has allowed just 10 touchdowns in 32 red zone opportunities by Patriot League opponents over the last two seasons (31.3 percent), and 33 in 72 chances overall (45.8 percent). The Leopards are the only team in the league to hold opponents below a 50 percent touchdown success rate inside the 20-yard line over the last two years.
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER: The Leopards' exceptional red zone defense concides with their performance in the scoring defense category. In 2005, Lafayette was ninth in the nation, allowing an average of 17.0 points per game, and was sixth at 15.5 points per game in the regular season. The Leopards have allowed more than 21 points only five times in their last 19 games, and only twice in the regular season last year. The Patriot League's top three scoring defenses over the last two seasons:
1. Lafayette (18.0 ppg), 2. Lehigh (18.3), 3. Colgate (20.4)
Lafayette also ranks in the top three in the PL in total defense (second, 316.4 ypg), rushing defense (second, 134.4 ypg), passing defense (third, 180.5 ypg) and third down defense (third, 36.4 percent) in the last two years.
ON THE D LINE: Senior defensive end Marvin Snipes, a first team All-Patriot League choice last season, is one of three returning starters that make the line the strength of the defensive unit in 2006. Defensive tackles Dan Liseno, a senior, and Kyle Sprenkle, a junior, combined for 76 tackles and 9.0 tackles for a loss a year ago. They will be joined by senior Keith Bloom, who had 29 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss as a sophomore before missing last year with an eye injury. Snipes has started 27 straight games at end and Liseno has started all 24 games over the last two seasons at tackle for the Leopards.
THE LINEBACKERS: Just how good were Lafayette's linebackers in 2005? Maurice Bennett led the Patriot League in tackles for the second straight season, earned All-America honors and was eighth in the voting for the Buchanan Award. Blake Costanzo joined Bennett as an All-Patriot League selection in 2004 and 2005, chalked up 18 career sacks, and is currently battling for a roster spot with the New York Jets. And neither of those players led the team in tackles for a loss, an honor that went to Dion Witherspoon, who made 15 of his 110 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to rank second in the league. All three were named All-Patriot League, only the third time in league history that a trio of linebackers from the same team earned all-league honors. Those qualifications led Matt Dougherty of The Sports Network to call Bennett, Costanzo and Witherspoon the best set of linebackers in I-AA football.
Senior Justin Stovall steps in to solidify the linebacking corps in 2006 after waiting three years to earn a starting role. The vocal tri-captain will fill the middle linebacker spot and will be flanked by junior Mark Plumby and sophomore Andy Romans on either side. Plumby has added 20 pounds since last fall and will man the strong side position vacated by Costanzo, while Romans came to Lafayette as an All-State player in New Jersey and will take over responsibilities on the weak side.
SAFETY FIRST: Lafayette returns 52 games of starting experience at safety, as seniors Torian Johnson, Bryan Kazimierowski and Trey Martell have started all but one game at the two safety spots over the last two seasons. Johnson, a second team All-Patriot League selection last year, has 29 consecutive starts dating to the final five games of his freshman season. He played strong safety as a sophomore before moving to free safety as a junior. Martell started 11 games at strong safety in 2005 and is Lafayette's leading returning tackler with 64 stops, while Kazimierowski made eight starts at free safety in 2004 before missing all of four games and parts of several others with a hamstring injury last season.
DOWN ON THE CORNER: While the Leopards are well-stocked at safety, they lose 58 starts at cornerback in the departed duo of Larry Johnson and Tye Murphy. Senior Chad Hunter, who has the only two starts by a Lafayette corner under his belt entering the season, and junior Ryan Williams are listed as the starters on the two-deep for week one. Junior Adrian Lawson, a projected starter at the start of the preseason, underwent shoulder surgery in the spring and was held out of contact drills throughout camp.
THE SUNSHINE STATE: The 2006 Lafayette roster has 17 players from Florida, the third-most of any state, and nowhere is that more evident than the defensive secondary. Six of the eight players on the preseason two-deep came to College Hill from Florida - So. FS Nigel Bryant (Dade City/Wesley Chapel), So. CB Marvin Clecidor (Lakeland/Lake Gibson), Sr. CB Jeriah Cohen (Ocala/Belleview), Sr. CB Chad Hunter (Winter Springs), Sr. FS Torian Johnson (Largo) and Sr. SS Trey Martell (Sarasota). So. LB Chris Bacon (Jacksonville/Ed White), Fr. LB Spencer Brown (Newport Richey/Mitchell), Fr. DB Carlos Lowe (Sarasota/Riverview), Sr. LB Justin Stovall (Melbourne/Palm Bay) and Fr. DL Allan Whitesell (Tequesta/South Fork) are the other members of the defense from the Sunshine State.
IN THE KICKING GAME: Senior Rick Ziska and junior David Yankovich both return to handle the kicking duties for the Leopards in 2006. Ziska led the Patriot League with 1.0 field goals per game last season, making 11 of his 21 attempts, and 6-of-12 from beyond 40 yards. He closed the season making six of his last eight attempts over the final three games, including a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half at Holy Cross, the longest field goal in the modern era at Lafayette. Ziska has made the longest field goal in the Patriot League in each of the last two seasons after hitting a 48-yard kick just before the end of the first half at Georgetown in 2004. Yankovich ranked third in the Patriot League in punting average last season, with 36.0 yards on 33 punts. Ziska handled most of the short field situations and dropped eight of his 28 punts inside the 20-yard line.
YOU'RE THE BEST: Departed senior quarterback Pat Davis was named the top long snapper in the nation by I-AA.org last fall. Davis was a four-year starter at long snapper and also led the Leopards' fourth-quarter comeback at Lehigh, driving his team 88 yards to the game-winning touchdown. Sophomore Leo Plenski and sophomore Michael Conte are receiving top consideration to replace Davis at long snapper.
WHO'S RETURNING?: Larry Johnson and Brandon Stanford both finished their careers ranked third among active players in I-AA football kick and punt return yardage, respectively. Johnson had 2,225 career kick return yards and holds four of the top 10 spots on Lafayette's single season yardage list, including the record with 625 yards in 2004. Stanford set the Leopards' single season punt return yardage record with 438 yards last year and averaged 14.6 yards per return. He had 909 punt return yards in his career.
The Leopards' kick and punt return jobs are still open entering the season opener. Sophomore wide receiver Shaun Adair averaged 23.8 yards on six returns last season, including three returns for 76 yards at Appalachian State. Junior tailback Anthony D'Urso returned 10 kicks for 159 yards as an upman last year, while sophomore tailback Tim Watson led Pennsylvania in kick return yards as a high school senior and ran the 100 meters in 10.88 seconds. Adair and junior wide receiver Kyle Roeder are in contention for punt return duties.
Blake Costanzo UPDATE: Former Lafayette linebacker Blake Costanzo '06 is in contention for a roster spot with the New York Jets after signing a three-year undrafted rookie free agent contract following the 2006 NFL Draft. Costanzo has been moved to inside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 defense after playing the strong side linebacker position at Lafayette and has also received strong consideration for his play on the kick and punt return units on special teams. Costanzo was a two-time All-Patriot League performer for the Leopards and finished his career with 307 tackles, 30.5 tackles for a loss and 18 sacks.
HISTORIC FISHER FIELD: Fisher Field, where the College's home football games have been played since 1926, is undergoing a $23 million transformation that will give Lafayette one of the premier I-AA football venues in the nation. New spectator seating has been built throughout the venue, including chairback seating in select areas, and additional visitors seating has been added for a maximum capacity of 13,132 fans. A state-of-the-art in-fill synthetic surface, lights and a press box will be installed, and improved restroom and vending areas will also be included. The construction of a football varsity house, which will include a locker room, offices and team meeting rooms, as well as sports medicine and strength and conditioning areas, is expected to be completed by spring 2007.
Now entering its 80th season, Fisher Field has been host to 388 Lafayette football games with the Leopards enjoying an overall record of 232 wins, 143 losses, and 13 ties for a winning percentage of 61.5%. Of the previous 79 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 Field since 1970. During the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons, Lafayette won 10 straight home games--tying the Fisher Field school record for consecutive wins first set by the 1926 and 1927 squads in the first 10 games ever played in the stadium.
AND WE GO TO...OVERTIME: Lafayette has played five overtime games 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).
THE LAFAYETTE-LEHIGH RIVALRY: Lafayette and Lehigh will meet on the gridiron for the 142nd time on Nov. 18 at Fisher Field, continuing the most-played rivalry in all of college football. The Leopards won the first game 50-0 in 1884 and the schools met twice per season through 1901. They met three times in 1891 and did not play in 1896, the only disruption in the series. They also met twice in 1943 and 1944. Lafayette leads the all-time series 74-62-5 (.543) and is 39-22-5 (.629) when the game is played in Easton. The Leopards have won three of the last four meetings, including a 24-10 win in 2004 and a 23-19 win last season. Both victories gave Lafayette a share of the Patriot League championship.
LAFAYETTE FOOTBALL, 125 YEARS OF TRADITION: 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 620 victories. Lafayette ranks 33rd among all college football teams in all-time wins, posting its first win in 1883 (25-0 vs. Rutgers), and accumulated 100 victories by 1900, 200 by 1915 and 300 by 1934.
Lafayette ranks seventh among current NCAA Division I-AA institutions in all-time victories and will play each of the top five this season. Yale (830 wins) is second in all-time wins among all college football programs, with Penn (781), Harvard (774), Princeton (763) and Fordham (722) completing the I-AA top five.
A HISTORY OF CHAMPIONS: 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 five Patriot League championships -- 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004 and 2005 -- and made their first two postseason appearances in the NCAA Division I-AA 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.
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