Nov. 26, 2013
THE OPENING KICK
MATCH-UP: Fresh off a 22-point win over its archrival, Lafayette begins postseason play at noon on Saturday, Nov. 30 at New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs. The Leopards forced their way into the postseason, claiming the Patriot League's automatic bid following the regular-season finale win over No. 15 Lehigh in the 149th meeting of college football's most played rivalry.
No. 15 New Hampshire comes into the playoffs with a 7-4 overall mark, last beating No. 4 Maine on Nov. 23. The Wildcats finished 6-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association and earned an at-large berth. The winner of Saturday's tilt will play at Maine on Dec. 7.
IN THE PLAYOFFS: Saturday marks Lafayette's fourth appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs and the first since 2006. The Leopard program made three straight appearances from 2004 to 2006 with two automatics berths (2004, 2006) and one at-large selection (2005). The Leopards' previous appearances resulted in three losses, 28-14 to defending national champion Delaware in 2004, 34-23 to eventual national champion Appalachian State in 2005 and 35-14 to Massachusetts in 2006.
LAST TIME OUT: Lafayette captured its seventh Patriot League title with a 50-28 domination of No. 15/17 Lehigh on Nov. 23. The Leopards were led by freshman Drew Reed's career day. The Patriot League Rookie of the Year candidate was 20-of-27 for 378 yards and three touchdowns on his way to MVP honors. Mark Ross and Demetrius Dixon had 100 yards receiving apiece while Ross Scheuerman churned out 106 yards on the ground. Defensively, James Coscia led the team with eight tackles and returned a fumble 40 yards for a TD.
DEJA VU?: For long-time followers of the Lafayette program, there are striking similarities between the 1994 and 2013 Patriot League championship seasons. In 1994, Lafayette started the season 0-6 before ripping off five straight for a P.L. title. The 2013 installment lost five of the first six, but won four of its last five en route to the outright Patriot League title. Both seasons included three losses to Ivy League foes. The 50 points that Lafayette scored against Lehigh in 2013 was the most since scoring 54 against the Mountain Hawks to cap the 1994 season.
1000 x 2?: The 2013 Lafayette offense boasts of a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in program history. Senior WR Mark Ross (1,047) and junior TB Ross Scheuerman (1,034) both crossed the 1000-yard threshold at Lehigh.
GRAND PERFORMANCE: Ross Scheuerman is the first back since Jonathan Hurt '07 in 2006 (1,165 yards) to rush for 1,000 yards. His rushing yardage has increased steadily each season (499 in 2011, 701 in 2012 and 1,034 in 2013). He recently moved into the top 10 in career rushing yards (2,234) and rushing touchdowns (19) (ranking eighth in both).
A WIN OVER NEW HAMPSHIRE WOULD...give Lafayette its first ever postseason victory in four tries...put Lafayette at .500 for the first time this season...give Lafayette six wins for the first time since 2009.
REED RECOGNIZED: Freshman QB Drew Reed has secured Patriot League Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week honors after leading Lafayette to the Patriot League title with a 50-28 victory at Lehigh. Reed also garnered national attention, named Sports Network Co-Freshmen of the Week while also being tagged as a finalist for the organization's Jerry Rice Award given to the top FCS freshman in the country. Reed completed 20-of-27 passes for a career-high 378 yards and three touchdowns and was named MVP of the 149th meeting of College Football's Most-Played Rivalry.
RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Under the direction of Special Teams Coordinator Doug McFadden, the Leopards' kick return game has been solid the entire season. Sophomore CB Matt Smalley has been the main reason. The Leopards are currently second in the nation, returning the ball an average of 26.6 yards per kick. Smalley is fifth individually, averaging 31 yards per kick return on 15 attempts.
He ran back the opening kick of the season 98 yards for a touchdown against Sacred Heart to set a school record and garner Patriot League Special Teams Player of the Week. At Georgetown, Smalley broke his own school record, traipsing 99 yards to become one of nine FCS players with a pair of kickoff return touchdowns this season. Smalley had three returns for 117 yards in the game and collected Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Ross Scheuerman (12-25.8) is 14th nationally, averaging 28.1 yards per return on 15 tries. He is coming off the Lehigh (11/23) game when he had three returns for 112 yards and a long of 59 yards that set up Lafayette's first score. Darrell Crawford (4-22.8) and Justin Adams (3-21.0) also have had opportunities in the return game.
2013 NON-LEAGUE OPPONENTS: Lafayette's 2013 non-conference opponents are a combined 48-17 (Sacred Heart 10-2, William & Mary 7-5, Penn 4-6, Princeton 8-2, Harvard 9-1 and Fordham 11-1) for a .738 winning percentage. In terms of overall strength of schedule, Lafayette has played the fourth toughest schedule in the nation with the cumulative opposition posting a 63-44 mark.
ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT: Seniors Mark Ross and Brad Bormann have been named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-District II Team, the second career selections for the offensive duo. Both have been placed on a ballot for possible selection to the Academic All-America Team.
GSR: Lafayette football boasted the fourth best Graduation Success Rate (GSR) in the NCAA, achieving a mark of 96. Overall, for the 18 sports measured at Lafayette, a total of 14 Lafayette programs registered a graduation rate of 100 percent, the fourth best mark in the NCAA. Lehigh had an overall mark of 90 and 81 in football.
ABOUT NEW HAMPSHIRE: New Hampshire finished the regular season 7-4 overall and 6-2 in CAA play. The Wildcats are ranked 15th in the FCS coaches' poll and 15th in The Sports Network poll and knocked off the No.4 Black Bears of Maine last week 24-3. UNH has been ranked in the Top 25 for 139 straight weeks.
• New Hampshire owns a wins over Colgate (53-23) losses to William and Mary (17-0) and Lehigh (34-27), all Lafayette opponents in 2013.
• Junior Andy Valias and sophomore Sean Goldrich have both handled the signal-calling position well this season. Valias has thrown for nearly 1,400 yards with nine touchdowns and five picks in eight games. In 10 games, Goldrich has amassed 1,125 yards and has also thrown nine TD passes and three intercepetions.
• Junior Nico Steriti leads the ground attack for the Wildcats, compiling 826 yards on 152 attempts with seven touchdowns.
• Wideouts, senior Justin Mello and junior R.J. Harris, as well as junior TE Harold Spears each average more than 13 yards per catch. Mello is first on the team with 58 grabs for 797 yards and eight scores. Harris, who has missed three games, has still racked up 603 yards and four TDS on 46 receptions. Spears has 378 yards on 29 catches and also has found the endzone four times.
• Junior LB Shane McNeely leads the defensive unit with 89 stops, nine tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. Sophomore Akil Anderson has 85 tackles, a team-leading 11 tackles for loss and is third on the team with five sacks. Freshman Casey DeAndrade is second in the nation in passes defended at 1.7 per game.
• Sean McDonnell (UNH '78) is in his 15th season as head coach. He has guided New Hampshire to 10 straight FCS Playoff appearances, the longest active streak in the nation.