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Preview: Colgate again class of the Patriot League

After opening the season at home against Villanova on August 24, Colgate travels to Colorado Springs a week later to take on Air Force.

(Russell Hons / Colgate Athletics)

Defensive-minded Colgate (10-2), which allowed just 9.3 points per game last season while shutting out five opponents, should easily prevail in the Patriot League despite vast improvements by Holy Cross and surprising Georgetown.

Impressively, Colgate’s only losses last year came against nationally-ranked FBS opponent Army 28-14 at West Point in its regular season finale and three weeks later in Fargo, N.D., against eventual national champion North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

Aside from a narrow 24-17 victory over Holy Cross in the season opener, the Red Raiders were never seriously challenged in conference play last year, outscoring their five remaining Patriot League opponents by a staggering 199 to 9.

Quarterback Grant Breneman, a 6-1, 200-pound junior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who threw for 1,605 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for an additional 307 yards and scoring another seven touchdowns on the ground, will be back as signal caller.




The loss of running back James Holland, who rushed for 1,239 yards and scored a dozen touchdowns, will undoubtedly be felt, but Colgate’s defense should be strong enough once again to make any offensive shortcomings relatively moot.

The stubborn Raiders, who make their opponents fight for every yard and caught the nation’s attention by stunning James Madison 23-20 in the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs, could be a potential sleeper nationally.

After opening the season at home against Villanova on August 24, Colgate travels to Colorado Springs a week later to take on Air Force — one of five contests featuring a Patriot League member and an FBS opponent in 2019.

Holy Cross (5-6), which returns seven starters on offense, including 5-9 senior tailback Domenic Cozier, will be playing with a new quarterback for departed all-league quarterback Geoff Wade when it opens the season against Navy on Aug. 31, one of two FBS opponents on the Crusaders schedule this season. They also play at Syracuse on Sept. 28.

Safeties Alex Johnson and Joe Lang should shore up a defense that returns only four starters from last year’s team, so second-year coach Bob Chesney and defensive coordinator Scott James will have some work to do in that area.




Relying heavily on its defense, particularly the outstanding defensive play of 280-pound junior Khristian Tate, who led the Hoyas with ten sacks and 16.5 tackles for losses, Georgetown (5-6) made great strides last season and should again finish in the top tier of the Patriot League.

Lehigh (3-8), which captured at least a share of the conference title in 2016 and 2017, might bounce back under new head coach Tom Gilmore, the former longtime head coach at Holy Cross who spent last season as an assistant at Wake Forest.

During his fourteen years at Holy Cross, Gilmore was twice named the Patriot League Coach of the Year and led the Crusaders to a Patriot League Championship and FCS Playoff appearance in 2009, so he knows this conference inside-out — and he knows how to win.

Gilmore’s biggest challenge will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Mountain Hawks gave up 35.1 points and a staggering 446 yards per game in 2018.

If new head coach Dave Cecchini, the team’s former offensive coordinator and one of the greatest wide receivers in Patriot League history, can improve the Bison’s offense that averaged an anemic 227 yards per game last season, Bucknell (1-10) should be able to triple or even quadruple its conference wins in 2019 and climb out of the Patriot League cellar.

A brutal nonconference schedule, however, which includes a season opener in Philadelphia against FBS opponent Temple on August 31, a road game at NEC contender Sacred Heart, home games against Villanova and Princeton, and an October 19 game at nationally-ranked Towson, could make Cecchini’s first year at the helm a fairly difficult one, even if the Bison do manage to improve in conference play.




Lafayette (3-8) returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense, including 6-3, 250-pound sophomore defensive end Malik Hamm — the Patriot League Rookie of the Year in 2018 — but were last in the conference in points scored and next-to-last in points allowed last season.

Fordham (2-9) returns junior linebacker Glenn Cunningham, who led the league in tackles for loss with 21.5, but serious problems persist on offense, particularly in its rushing game.

The Rams play at Ball State, its only FBS foe, on September 7.

Prediction

  1. Colgate (10-2, 6-0 Patriot)
  2. Holy Cross (5-6, 4-2 Patriot)
  3. Georgetown (5-6, 4-2 Patriot)
  4. Lehigh (3-8, 2-4 Patriot)
  5. Bucknell (1-10, 1-5 Patriot)
  6. Lafayette (3-8, 2-4 Patriot)
  7. Fordham (2-9, 2-4 Patriot)

Darcy G. Richardson is a historian and the author of more than a dozen books. His latest is Loyola's Improbable Ramblers: 55 Years in the Making, available now on Amazon.

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