Leopards Open Season With Tough Test

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Ryan O'Neil gets the start under center when the Leopards open the season at No. 11 North Dakota State on Saturday.
Ryan O'Neil gets the start under center when the Leopards open the season at No. 11 North Dakota State on Saturday.

Aug. 30, 2011

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WJRH-FM 104.9
 Lafayette at No. 11 North Dakota State
 Date  Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. (ET)
 Location  Fargo, N.D. | Fargodome
 Tickets  Lafayette Athletics Ticket Office
 Radio  WJRH-FM 104.9 (Dick Hammer)
 Online  Live Webcast: GoLeopards.com
 Broadcast Talent  Gary Laubach, Mike Joseph '88

MATCH-UP: Nearly a month after arriving on campus, the Lafayette football team is finally ready to strap it up against another school, opening the 2011 season against No. 11 North Dakota State. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (6 Central) in the Fargodome. Lafayette is coming off a 2-9 campaign in 2010, its first losing season since 2003. North Dakota State enters with a national ranking in both polls, emerging from a 2010 ledger during which it finished 9-5 and ran deep into the FCS playoffs, before losing to eventual national champion Eastern Washington in overtime.

ROAD TRIP = FAR: After an earthquake and a hurricane struck the East coast, the Leopards are happy to board a plane for North Dakota. The airport code for the airport they will be flying into is "FAR" and is some indication of a historic trip for the Leopards. Before this trip to Fargo, N.D., the farthest west the team had ventured was Parkersburg, W.V. in 1896 when Lafayette faced off with West Virginia, playing three games in three days in three West Virginia locales.

UNIQUE VENUES: Lafayette's season opener at the Fargodome will put them inside for at least the second time in the program's history. In 1930, Lafayette and Washington and Jefferson played the first indoor, night college football game before a standing room only crowd of 17,000 at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Auditorium. Since 1896, the first season of football at Lafayette, Lafayette has played in historic venues such as Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.

LET'S OPEN THIS THING UP: Lafayette opens its 130th season with an opponent it has never faced in North Dakota State. Lafayettte had its streak of eight-straight season-opening wins snapped in 2010 with a 28-24 loss to conference foe Georgetown. All-time, the Leopards are 84-42-3 in openers.

AT IT A WHILE: Since fielding its first college football team in the fall of 1882 (the same year that coward Robert Ford shot Jesse James in the back and that Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture debuted), Lafayette has had a proud, colorful gridiron tradition on the way to a total of 650 victories (650-552-39). Lafayette ranks 36th among all college football teams in all-time wins entering the 2011 season, posting its first win in 1883 (25-0 vs. Rutgers). Lafayette accumulated 100 victories by 1900, 200 by 1915 and 300 by 1934.

THE TRI-CAPTAINS: Seniors Mitchell Bennett, Ben Eaton and Ryan O'Neil have been named as the Lafayette football team captains. The trio was selected in a vote of its peers. Bennett is the first Lafayette player since Wes Erbe '05 in 2003-04 to serve as captain in two straight seasons and the second during Tavani's tenure as head coach. Bennett, who is playing in his fifth year of eligibility after a medical redshirt, made 33 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns in 2010, despite battling through a foot injury that required offseason surgery. He is in his third season as a starting wide receiver. Eaton represents the defensive side of the ball. The starting middle linebacker made 70 tackles with a forced fumble and a blocked kick in 2010. He has played in 22 games in two seasons with 11 starts and will be eligible to return to the squad in 2012 due to a medical redshirt. The starting QB position is one that is looked to for leadership and O'Neil was an overwhelming choice by his fellow teammates and the coaching staff. In 2010, he completed 67 percent of his passes during his first season as a starter, throwing for 2,183 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

PATRIOT LEAGUE FOOTBALL: The Patriot League is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a football conference and is currently comprised of Bucknell, Colgate, Fordham, Georgetown, Holy Cross and Lehigh. Fordham and Georgetown are associate members in the eight-team all-sport conference which includes Army, Navy and American. • The league is known for its academic priorities, recently finishing in the top spot in the NCAAs Graduate Rate Report. • Redshirts are granted only for medical reasons. Thus, there are only a handful of fifth-year seniors on any given squad. • Most notably, football financial aid is given out on a need basis only at every school except Fordham which recently adopted football scholarships. Fordham is ineligible for the conference crown, the NCAA automatic playoff berth and team and individual awards.

BOOT CAMP: The first five days of Lafayette's training camp took them to Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard Training Center in Annville, Pa. While the base has state-of-the-art training facilities for the military and law enforcement, the Leopards chose more austere conditions. They were greeted by 5 a.m. wakeup calls in their World War II era barracks, lengthy walks to meals in the mess hall and were further challenged with using whatever was at their disposal for nightly strength training workouts.

GOOD BUT YOUNG: A look at the roster reveals that 61 of the 96 active players are freshmen or sophomores.

BIG GAMES: Lafayette has traditionally played a schedule comprised of Patriot League games and several (three or four) Ivy League foes to go along with a smattering of other conference opponents. Since Frank Tavani took over, the Leopards have looked to upgrade their schedule and test themselves against some top quality, nationally ranked scholarship opponents and the Leopards have acquitted themselves well. Lafayette split a home-and-home series with Liberty in 2008 and 2009 and took two from Richmond in a similar series in 2004 and 2005. The Leopards will square off with William and Mary in a home-and-home series in 2012 and 2013.

UNDER CENTER: From spring ball on through training camp, senior Ryan O'Neil cemented himself as the starting quarterback. The White Plains, N.Y. native is coming off a 2010 campaign during which he completed 67 percent (209-313) of his passes, the third-best single-season mark at Lafayette. O'Neil was 11th in the nation in completions per game (20.9), 23rd in passing efficiency (136.7) and 26th in passing yards per game (218.3). He also added 10-plus pounds of muscle in summer workouts. Not until midway through preseason camp did junior Andrew Shoop step to the forefront as the team's backup. Shoop played in three games as a sophomore. Freshman Zach Zweizig sits behind Shoop.

AT TAILBACK: Lafayette has plenty of options at tailback this season. Senior Jerome Rudolph finds himself at the top of the depth chart entering the season opener. Rudy missed the final eight games of last season after suffering recurring symptoms from a concussion. He did not compete in the spring game, as his contact was limited during the preparatory season. Instead, Rudolph joined the Lafayette track and field team during its outdoor season, running the anchor leg of the Patriot League champion 4x100 relay team while also placing third in the 100m. Sophomore Pat Mputu is the No. 2 back in what will likely be a three-or four-back rotation. Mputu, who as twice named P.L. Rookie of the Week, was second on the team in rushing in 2010 (87-387) behind junior Alan Elder (119-450). Also, figuring in the mix is freshman Ross Scheuerman whose play during training camp will force the coaching staff to give him some carries. Junior Vaughn Hebron is coming off an ACL injury and sophomore Marcellus Irving sustained a knee injury that has sidelined him for most of camp.

WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK: Lafayette has been picked fourth in the Patriot League Preseason Poll of conference head coaches and sports information directors. The Leopards (36 points) were picked behind Lehigh (58 points and eight first-place votes), Colgate (56 points and six first-place votes) and Holy Cross (38 points) and ahead of Georgetown (19) and Bucknell (16). Fordham is ineligible for the conference title. In 2010, Lafayette was selected second and finished in fifth place.

WELL-ROUNDED: Senior CB Brandon Ellis earned a place on the ESPN Academic All-District II Football Team and was selected to the All-Patriot League First Team in 2010. In that season, he made a career-high 16 tackles in a win over Stony Brook (10/16). Ellis enters his third season as a starter at cornerback. An Economics major, Ellis maintains a 3.34 overall grade-point average and serves as a peer mentor in the College's Academic Tutoring and Training Information Center and as a Gateway Ambassador for Career Services. In 2010, his learning experiences took him outside the classroom in a summer internship with Johnson and Johnson.

NICE CATCH, HAYES: Senior WR Kyle Hayes was the Leopards' most consistent pass catcher in 2010. Hayes was second on the team with 39 receptions for 547 yards and five touchdowns. Hayes had a breakout game at Princeton, catching five balls for 136 yards, including a career-long, 78-yard reception.

A PLAY HERE...A PLAY THERE: In 2010, five of Lafayette's losses came by seven points or fewer, for a total of 23 points: 28-24 to Georgetown, 19-14 at Penn, 36-33 in double overtime at Princeton, 14-10 at Fordham and 20-13 vs. Lehigh.

HALF WAY THERE: Lafayette held a halftime lead in six of its 11 games in 2010: 24-14 vs. Georgetown, 14-6 at Penn, 14-10 at Princeton, 10-7 vs. Stony Brook, 16-7 at Bucknell, 10-7 vs. Lehigh.

A PROUD TRADITION...OF KICKING?: Since the formation of the Patriot League, Lafayette has enjoyed a proud tradition of placekicking. The most recent addition to the Lafayette recordbook was Davis Rodriguez '10 who graduated in December and took with him 251 career points. He finished third in the Patriot League annals for career kick scoring leaders, trailing only Jason McLaughlin - (255) and Jim Hodson (254), both Lafayette graduates. He also ranked fifth in career points per game for kickers with 5.7 per game.

WHO'S NEXT?: With the departure of placekicker Davis Rodriguez and punter Tom Kondash, both multiple-year starters, both jobs are up for grabs. It appears that junior Ethan Swerdlow will handle the field goal, PAT and punting duties, while freshman Austin O'Brien is pressing him for reps. O'Brien is expected to handle kickoff duties. SPECIAL JET: Sophomore kick returner Jethro "Jet" Kollie is a frontrunner to handle kick and punt returns. Kollie returned 22 kicks for an average of 18.8 yards, splitting time with Greg Stripe. He also returned three punts. Kollie was selected as the Patriot League Football Special Teams Player of the Week in 2010, after returning five kickoffs for 114 yards at Columbia.

COSTANZO INKS NEW DEAL: Blake Costanzo '06 recently inked a new deal with the San Francisco 49ers, putting his name on a contract that could be worth as much as $800,000. Costanzo spent the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns playing under current 49ers assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who coached the Browns special teams at the time. During his career, Costanzo (6-1, 235) has played in 45 games, notching 54 tackles, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries on special teams. In 2009, Costanzo played in all 16 games, notching 14 tackles with three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble on special teams. He was selected to SI.com's All-Pro team on special teams that season. In 2010, he played in 10 games and recorded seven tackles and a fumble recovery on special teams before a groin injury that required surgery forced him to miss the final six games. After graduating from Lafayette in 2006, Costanzo signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent and later spent time with the Buffalo Bills from 2007-08, playing in 19 games and registering 33 special teams tackles, including a team-high 26 stops in 2008. He was claimed off waivers by Cleveland in June 2009. Costanzo, a 27-year old native of Franklin Lakes, N.J. and a 2002 Ramapo High School graduate, finished his Lafayette career with 307 tackles, 18 sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 12 passes defended. He was part of three Patriot League championships teams.

WINNING NUMBERS: Since 2002, a breakthrough year for head coach Frank Tavani is his third season, Lafayette is 58-45 overall and 34-21 in Patriot League play. Since 2000, Lafayette has been at least two games above .500 in six of nine seasons.

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE: A constant in John Loose's defenses is stellar linebacker play. Maurice Bennett '06, current NFL player Blake Constanzo '06, Andy Romans '09, Mark Leggiero '10 and Mike Schmidlein '11 (all of whom were All-Patriot League performers) have passed the mantle (or shoulder pads in this case) to senior Ben Eaton. The senior tri-captain made 70 tackles in 2010 and is the team's top returning linebacker.

THROW ME THE BALL: All but one player who caught a pass last season returns to the fold this season. Senior wideouts Kyle Hayes and Mitchell Bennett hold down the top two spots on the depth chart. Fellow senior Greg Stripe, who missed much of preseason with turf toe, will figure in the mix along with senior Nathan Padia. The Leopards employ a tight end in certain offensive formations, and senior Kevin Doty returns after reeling in 19 catches for 208 yards and a TD in 2010. Offensive coordinator Mickey Fein frequently uses his back as receivers, as tailbacks Alan Elder and Patrick Mputu each had 19 catches in 2010.

PATRIOT LEAGUE TITLES: Lafayette won three titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The Leopards begrudgingly shared the title with Lehigh in 2004 and 2006, and with Colgate in 2005. The championships also led to three straight NCAA Playoff appearances, making Lafayette one of six teams in the country to appear in the 16-team field in three straight years. The Leopards have won six PL championships in the 25-year history of the league (1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2006).

STANDING OUT IN THE CLASSROOM: Under head coach Frank Tavani, Lafayette football players have excelled as student-athletes. Twenty-five have earned CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and 41 have earned the distinction since 1995, including Brandon Ellis in 2010. Lafayette had 35 student-athletes qualify for the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll in 2010 for which they must achieve a minimum of a 3.2 GPA. Lafayette also has laid claim to four Patriot League Scholar Athletes of the Year.

THREE TABBED FOR 25th ANNIVERSARY TEAM: Three former members of the Lafayette football program have been named to the Patriot League Football 25th Anniversary Team. Defensive back B.J. Gallis '97, placekicker Jason McLaughlin '95 and linebacker Andy Romans '09 were voted to the silver anniversary squad by the seven current football member schools of the Patriot League. The 1996 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, Gallis also earned Associated Press and The Sports Network All-America status in his final campaign with the Leopards. He was a two-time All-Patriot League honoree and claimed team Most Valuable Player laurels in the 1996 season. Gallis, a member of Lafayette's 1994 Patriot League Championships team who was also named to the Patriot League Football 15th Anniversary Team in 2000, went on to play three seasons in the Canadian Football League with the BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. McLaughlin was the only Leopard to earn All-Patriot League honoree in all four of his seasons on College Hill, a run that included a pair of first-team distinctions. He currently holds the all-time Lafayette and Patriot League records with 255 career points as a kicker. McLaughlin, who was a member of two Patriot League Championship teams (1992 and 1994), was previously recognized on the Patriot League Football 15th Anniversary Team. A cornerstone of back-to-back Patriot League Championship squads in 2005 and 2006, Romans was a two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the Leopards. Romans, who led the Leopards in tackles in three consecutive All-Patriot League-caliber seasons, was invited to New York Giants' minicamp after graduation and later joined the coaching staff at Muhlenberg College.

100+ IN 2010: Lafayette had four games in which a running back ran for more than 100 yards in 2010.

9/11/10	   Jerome Rudolph  Georgetown	24-131	        L
9/25/10	   Alan Elder	   Princeton	28-103	        L OT
10/16/10   Pat Mputu	   Stony Brook	23-102	        W
10/30/10   Alan Elder	   Bucknell	27-104	        W
200+ RUSHING GAMES: Since 1990, there have been nine 200-yard rushing performances for the Leopards, six of which were the work of Maroon Club Hall of Fame honoree Erik Marsh '95.
09/09/08	Maurice White	at Marist	29-212	W
11/16/02	Joe McCourt	Holy Cross	38-203	W
11/19/94	Erik Marsh	Lehigh	        34-214	W
11/20/93	Erik Marsh	at Lehigh	25-249	L
11/06/93	Erik Marsh	at Holy Cross	36-221	W
11/21/92	Erik Marsh	Lehigh	        46-251	W
10/31/92	Erik Marsh	at Colgate	41-225	W
11/16/91	Erik Marsh	Colgate	        20-200	W
10/19/91	John Kahn	Columbia	41-224	W

ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE RETURNERS: Lafayette placed nine players on the All-Patriot League first and second teams in 2010, and five of them return in 2011: first-teamer senior CB Brandon Ellis and second teamers senior TE Kevin Doty, OL Scott Biel, OL Anthony Buffolino and fullback Pat Creahan.

TIME OF POSSESSION: In 2010, the Leopards held the ball an average of 32:10 to their opponents 27:50, a mark that placed them 19th in the nation.

Opponent	LC T.O.P.	Opponent T.O.P.	Differential
Georgetown	40:13	19:47	+20:13
at Penn	        22:16	37:44	-14:18
at Princeton	37:58	22:02	+15:56
Harvard	        32:14 	27:46	+4:28
at Columbia	25:10	34:50	-9:40
Stony Brook	32:14	27:46	+4:30
at Fordham	30:58	29:02	+1:56
at Bucknell	33:37	26:23	+7:14
at Colgate	24:31	35:29	-10:58
Holy Cross	40:28	19:32	+20:56
Lehigh	        34:07	25:53	+8:14
Average	        32:10	27:50	+4:20
AND WE GO TO...OVERTIME: Lafayette has played eight overtime games all-time and is 2-6 in those contests. The Leopards were 0-1 in 2010 overtime games.
11/11/95	Fordham	        24-21 W
11/18/95	at Lehigh	37-30 L
10/18/97	at Cornell	41-34 L
10/03/98	at Dartmouth	13-10 L
09/08/01	at Towson	16-13 L
09/26/09	Penn	        20-17 W
11/21/09	at Lehigh	27-21 L
09/25/10	at Princeton	36-33 L 2OT
HISTORIC FISHER STADIUM: Fisher Stadium has hosted the College's home football games since 1926. The facility underwent a $35 million transformation that gave Lafayette one of the premier FCS football venues in the nation. New spectator seating was built and additional visitors' seating was added for a maximum capacity of 13,132 fans. A state-of-the-art in-fill synthetic surface, lights, a press box and a 19-by-35 foot video board were installed, and improved restroom and vending areas were also included. The Bourger Varsity Football House includes a locker room, offices and team meeting rooms, as well as sports medicine and strength and conditioning areas. Now in its 85th season, Fisher Stadium has been host to 416 Lafayette football games with the Leopards enjoying an overall record of 246-157-13 for a winning percentage of .607. Of the previous 84 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 Stadium since 1970. During the 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons, Lafayette won 10 straight home games--tying the Fisher Stadium school record for consecutive wins first set in 1926 and 1927 in the first 10 games ever played in the stadium.

LAFAYETTE ON THE RADIO: The Lafayette Sports Network radio broadcasts will be available on WJRH 104.9. The games can be streamed live through www.wjrh.org. Veteran broadcaster Dick Hammer is in his 45th season as the Leopards' play-by-play man.

SARTORIAL SCHEMES: The Leopards' perfect mark in black jerseys came to an end in 2008 with a one-point loss to Holy Cross on Nov. 15 and a setback vs. Lehigh (black pants and jerseys). Lafayette is now 4-3 in the black jerseys. They wore black to beat Lehigh in 2004 and again in 2006 to win Patriot League titles. Fordham was also victim to the black jerseys in 2005. The only other time they've paired black jerseys with black pants was in a driving rain storm with standing water on the old Fisher Field grass surface against Columbia in 2005, a 14-7 victory. The Leopards pulled out the black pants against Holy Cross in week 10 in 2007, beating the Crusaders 31-21. Lafayette did not wear its black jerseys or pants in 2009. In 2010, black jerseys made their debut against Harvard in a 35-10 loss. In other combinations, Lafayette donned the black pants with white jerseys at Columbia, maroon pants at Princeton, stayed with traditional white on white at Penn, Fordham, Bucknell and Colgate, and wore maroon jerseys and white pants vs. Georgetown and Holy Cross. Lafayette wore maroon jerseys and pants vs. Lehigh. A HISTORY OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 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 six Patriot League championships -- 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005 and 2006 -- and made their first three appearances in the NCAA FCS 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 University of 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.

LAFAYETTE SPORTS NETWORK: For the ninth straight year, the Lafayette Sports Network (LSN-TV) will provide live coverage of all 11 regular season games on the 2011 schedule. For the third straight season, LSN is partnering with ESPN on as many as eight broadcasts for possible distribution on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan. LSN's traditional live distribution to more than 10 million viewers on RCN-4, RCN-8 and WBPH-60 covering all of Eastern Pennsylvania will be enhanced again this season by live coverage on all of RCN's cable systems in major markets along the East Coast. RCN subscribers in Boston (226,000), New York City (250,000), Philadelphia (382,000) and Washington, D.C. (131,000) will be able to watch Lafayette games live on the RCN-TV networks. Nationally, LSN telecasts will be picked up for the 11th straight year by DIRECTV and DISH Network outlets, through WBPH-60 and the Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). All televised games will be available live on WBPH-60, located on channel 60 on DIRECTV and 8169 on DISH Network. MASN, which is available regionally and nationally on DIRECTV channel 640 and DISH Network channel 432, is the official television home of the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Ravens and reaches nearly six million homes in a seven-state region from Harrisburg, Pa. to Charlotte, N.C. Each LSN football telecast will air tape-delay on MASN. All 11 contests will be streamed live on GoLeopards.com and select games will air live on ESPN3.com, ESPN GamePlan or both as a part of LSN's partnership with ESPN. LSN's distribution on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan will be announced on a weekly basis throughout the season. The season-opener vs. North Dakota State will be available exclusively through GoLeopards.com, free of charge, featuring production by LSN and GoLeopards.com as well as LSN announcers at the call. The remainder of the schedule will be televised on LSN-TV, as well as streamed through GoLeopards.com and its subscription-based service fee. Gary Laubach will handle all of the Leopards' play-by-play duties for the 15th straight season and will be joined by analyst Mike Joseph `88 for his second year in the television booth. In his 14th year as a member of the broadcast team is John Leone, who will report on the Leopards from the sidelines. In all, more than 100 Lafayette athletic contests are scheduled to be broadcast through GoLeopards.com during the 2011-12 seasons at a rate of $9.95 per month or $79.95 for an annual subscription. The CBS College Sports XXL package, which includes content from all CBS College Sports Online member schools, is available for $119.95 annually or $14.95 per month.