It’s no shock to say that both Lehigh and Lafayette have had disappointing seasons. At 2-8 and 3-7 respectively, neither team has performed at the caliber in which they are capable.
In Patriot League play, it’s been another dismal story with the Mountain Hawks entering the game at 1-4 and the Leopards not much better at 2-3.
Let’s be real — this game is not going to be pretty. It’s probably an advantage to be the away team, to be perfectly honest. Frustrations from the home crowd are going to make it a difficult atmosphere.
The home crowd hasn’t been too kind to the Leopards this season, both of their conference wins this season came on the road.
With that being said, The Rivalry is anyone’s game.
Numbers-wise, the two teams are pretty evenly matched on attack, with Lehigh scoring 149 points this season to Lafayette’s 140. Those numbers are nowhere near what each team has allowed defensively (we won’t speak about the Mountain Hawk’s defense), which means this game will likely be pretty low-scoring.
Lehigh’s offense needs to be fully in sync, much like it was in its win over Bucknell in which the Mountain Hawks scored a season-high 45 points. Lehigh quarterback Brad Mayes has all of the pieces to put on a show on Saturday and will look to sophomore wide receiver Jorge Portorreal, senior running back Dom Bragalone and freshman running back Rashawn Allen to secure a win for the Mountain Hawks.
In last year’s meeting of The Rivalry, three out of the five Lehigh touchdowns were scored by now-graduated standouts Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey, so the Lehigh offensive leaders in Mayes and Bragalone will have to make up for lost talent.
We know there’s a memory, somewhere deep inside Mayes, of his superb junior season. And when he steps on the field against Lafayette, he just might kick back into vintage form.
On the defensive side for Lehigh, Lafayette quarterback Sean O’Malley and the Leopards shouldn’t give the Mountain Hawks too much trouble in the passing game. They’ve been shut out twice this season and O’Malley only has four TD passes in 10 games. Even in an abysmal season, Lehigh has nearly three times as many passing touchdowns as the Leopards.
Lehigh’s biggest defensive test was in its double-overtime game at Georgetown, in which the Mountain Hawks earned three sacks in the loss.
Yes, the Mountain Hawks have struggled with defending the ground game, allowing 33 rushing touchdowns so far this season. If the Mountain Hawks have any hopes of slowing the Lafayette run, they’ll need to see huge performances by senior defensive back Donovon Harris, junior defensive back Jon Seighman, junior linebacker Keith Woetzel and senior defensive lineman Harrison Kaufman.
The Rivalry matchup is unlike any other game of the season, and there’s no telling what each of the teams will bring to Fisher Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
But there’s one last reason why Lehigh may have the edge here.
Let’s talk recent history. With the exception of fifth-years with special circumstances in eligibility, no players in the game have a memory of a Lafayette win in The Rivalry. Since 2007, the Leopards have only 2 wins, one in Yankee Stadium for the 150th matchup, and one in Bethlehem.
The last time Lafayette won in Easton, you might have had trouble navigating to the game because GPS features hadn’t hit smartphones yet. And forget blasting some game day tunes because Spotify wasn’t invented yet either.
If the Leopards do win, at least they’ll be able to put a home Rivalry win on their Snapchat Story for the first time ever. But it’s not likely to happen.
Score prediction: Lehigh 21, Lafayette 17