League Play Opens on Homecoming Weekend
Sept. 20, 2016
| Lafayette vs. Holy Cross
|Gameday Info||GoLeopards.com Gameday|
|Date||Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at 3:40 p.m.|
|Location||Easton, Pa. | Fisher Stadium|
|Tickets||Lafayette Athletics Ticket Office|
|Game Notes||Lafayette | Holy Cross|
|TV|| Lafayette Sports Network (RCN 4/8, 1004/608 HD, WBPH-60)
Gary Laubach, Mike Joseph, John Leone
|Live Streaming|| GoLeopards.com
Gary Laubach, Mike Joseph, John Leone
|Social Media||Twitter & Facebook|
The Match-up: Lafayette and Holy Cross enter the Patriot League opener with identical 1-3 records, both looking to right the proverbial ship after three straight losses. Kick-off on homecoming weekend is set for 3:40 p.m. at Fisher Stadium.
Patriot League Openers: The Leopards and Crusaders play the only conference contest this weekend. Lafayette is 17-13 in Patriot League openers, with play beginning in 1988 as the Colonial League, and 15-11 since 1990 when the league took its current name. The Leopards have won eight of their last 12 league openers (Georgetown in '04, '07, '08, '09, Fordham in '05 and Bucknell in '06, '12 and '13) with the losses coming to Georgetown in '10 and '11 and Fordham in '14 and '15.
Brown's Back: After missing two games with a knee injury, DeSean Brown returned to the lineup vs. Villanova. Brown carried only 12 times for 30 yards in the season opener at Central Connecticut and managed 63 yards on 18 carries vs. Villanova. He was the team's leading rusher in 2015.
Nova Targets: Lafayette QB's Drew Reed and Blake Searfoss spread the ball to 11 different receivers (tying their single game high from 2015). Junior TE Dylan Wadsworth had the best receiving day of his career, making six catches for 97 yards.
At a Loss: Sophomore strike linebacker Jerry Powe turned in one of the best games of his career vs. Villanova. Powe made seven tackles, three of which were for a loss, and broke up a pass. Powe is averaging 7.5 tackles per game, good enough for third on the Lafayette defense.
Thomas' Touches: Freshman WR Yasir Thomas has been contributing early on in his Lafayette career. He opened the season with four catches for 28 yards at Central Connecticut State and is coming off a two-catch effort vs. Villanova when he made his first touchdown grab, a 14-yard pass from Drew Reed.
Thomas has also found himself in the spotlight in the return game, returning 14 kicks for an average of 17 yards per kickoff. His season-long return was a 30-yard effort vs. Delaware.
Reed In the Record Books: Drew Reed continues to ascend the career passing charts at Lafayette. His 536 career completions rank him third all-time and his 5,929 passing yards place him fifth. He is the school record holder for single-season completion percentage (72.5% in 2013) and is second in career completion percentage (66%).
The Tennessee native was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year runner up and a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award in his freshman season of 2013 when he threw for 1,887 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games. In his first career start, he completed 21-of-22 at Holy Cross for 283 yards and five touchdowns, setting a school single-game record for accuracy while completing his final 20 passes (a Patriot League record). He was the first ever player to win the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week in the same week (doing it twice).
Last Time Out: In the first meeting with Villanova in 96 years, the No. 15 Wildcats topped Lafayette, 31-14. The Leopards gave up two defensive touchdowns, including one of the first possession of the game, and a blocked punt set up another for the Wildcats (3-1).
Punting Plaudits: Senior Ryan Forrester has been the standout special teams performer this season. Forrester is averaging 41.8 yards per punt. He has had five punts of 50+ yards (with a long of 64 at Princeton) and has landed seven of 27 attempts inside the 20-yard line.
Against Villanova, he punted seven times for 274 yards (39.1) with three boots inside the 20. At Princeton, he averaged 47 yards per punt and landed one effort inside the 10-yard line. Against Delaware, he punted nine times, averaging 43.3 yards per punt with two punts of 50-plus yards and three punts inside the 20-yard line (including one at the 3-yard line).
More Pressure: The Lafayette defense has been able to apply more pressure up front this season in comparison to last. Lafayette has sacked opponents seven times through four games, but did not reach the seven-sack mark until game seven of 2015.
Limiting Penalties: Lafayette ranks fourth in the nation for fewest penalties per game (3.5) and eighth for fewest penalty yards per game (35.8). In the 2016 opener, Lafayette was whistled for four penalties for 59 yards and no pre-snap penalties. Against Delaware, Lafayette was charged with four penalties for 34 yards, and three for 25 vs. both Princeton and Villanova.
The Leopards limited penalties in 2015, ranking 11th in the nation in penalty yards (455) and total penalties (54), 12th in penalty yards per game (41.4) and 14th in the NCAA in penalties per game (4.91).
About Holy Cross:
Holy Cross begins week five with a 1-3 overall record. The Crusaders won their season opener at Morgan State, 51-24, but dropped the next three, to No. 24 New Hampshire (39-28), No. 25 Albany (45-28) and Dartmouth (35-10).
Holy Cross was 6-5 overall and 3-3 in Patriot League play last season, finishing in fourth place in the conference standings.
Lafayette leads the all-time series 16-14 with Holy Cross taking the last two meetings. The series is one of the more recent ones in terms of the first meeting. They first squared off in 1986, playing every season since.
The Crusaders return 10 starters on offense and six on defense while welcoming back 47 letterwinners. The team was picked third in the Patriot League preseason poll behind Colgate and Lehigh.
The quarterback situation is up in the air, as four-year starter Peter Pujals was knocked from the Dartmouth game with an ankle injury. If he plays, he is a dual threat. Pujals has completed 111 passes (third in the nation) with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the ground, he is the team's second-leading rusher, carrying 31 times for 112 yards and a score. His backup is sophomore Geoff Wade who played in relief of Pujals and Blaise Bell, who was also injured in the Dartmouth game.
Junior Diquan Walker leads the team in rushing, scurrying for 235 yards on 47 carries with two touchdowns.
Senior Jake Wieczorek and sophomore Richie DeNicola lead the team and rank ninth in the nation in receptions with nearly identical marks. Wieczorek has 31 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown while DeNicola has 31 grabs for 309 yards and three scores. Wieczorek also sees time as a punt and kick returner. Senior Brendan Flaherty was an All-League selection in 2015 and has 12 catches for 120 yards this season.
Defensively, junior LB Nick McBeath leads the team and is second in the Patriot League with 40 tackles. He started the first six games of 2015 before injury forced him to miss the rest of the season.
Holy Cross is coached by Tom Gilmore (Penn '86) who is in his 13th season at Holy Cross where he holds a 67-72 record.