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Leopards Spotted in Colorado Springs
After a 2020 season that was anything but normal, Air Force is looking forward to getting to a more familiar routine their upcoming campaign. The Falcons will certainly enjoy playing in front of fans, a complete schedule along with their obligatory FCS season opener.
This years interaction of an FCS Kickoff Classic comes by way of the the Lafayette College Leopards, on September 4th. The Leopards hailing from Louisiana will be traveling West to meet the Air Force on their home turf. That is ground which has been particularly unwelcoming of most guests, but especially FCS competition.
Location: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs
*2020 Record (played in spring 2021): 2-1
Head Coach: John Garrett, 5th year (12-25)
If the coaching name sounds familiar, it should; John is the brother of former NFL head coach and current New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. The current Lafayette head coach inherited a rebuild when he accepted this assignment back in 2016, and there has been modest progress.
While the overall record by win percentage leaves much to be desired, the Leopards have been competitive in Patriot League play since his arrival going 11-10.
— Lafayette Football (@LafColFootball) April 13, 2021
The Leopards technically competed their 2020 season recently, in the spring of 2021. While they only completed a three game schedule, two of the contests were postponed and played outside of their originally scheduled dates.
The good news for Lafayette fans is, they saw their team go 2-1 this spring, all of which being Patriot League games, and an overall improvement to 6-3 in Conference play over the past two seasons. The overall record the last two seasons is a paltry 6-9, but take a closer look and maybe the Leopards are starting to figure things out.
Winners of seven of their last nine games played, Lafayette College is starting to see the trend they hoped for when they brought John Garrett on to rebuild the program. Albeit in a very shortened spring sample, but the recently concluded season appears to be the continuation of an upward trending squad.
Lafayette 2021 Outlook:
Momentum can be a fickle thing. Or in cases like Lafayette College, perhaps it looks a little different than the way their season opening foes in Air Force would describe “the big Mo”. But candidly speaking, when a program has spent multiple years grinding out three win campaigns, putting together a string of seven victories over nine games constitutes momentum. Even if that that run has come over multiple seasons.
That is where the Lafayette College Leopards find themselves presently. A program without much success to speak of in any recent history, starting to compete. There was a time when this program was the class of the Patriot League, reeling off three consecutive conference championships from 2004 and 2006. Their most recent conference title game back in 2013, seemingly a distant memory.
With plenty of returning production, experience wont be an issue in 2021. And while opening at Colorado Springs is no treat, the Leopards’ schedule relents significantly after that. Perhaps this is the year coach Garrett registers a winning season? More importantly, this is a team who has experienced some success in League play, so any significant improvement over the previous two seasons would put Lafayette in prime position to lay claim to the Conference Crown.
Final Thoughts and Prediction:
All of the aforementioned rhetoric around optimism, momentum and potential isn’t necessarily hyperbole as it relates to Lafayette. It’s important to keep it in context; this is an FCS Team.
Unless you are North Dakota State or James Madison, the likelihood of pushing an FBS opponent, much less winning is very slight. So while I fully expect the Leopards to get manhandled by Air Force, the scoreboard and resulting Loss does not damage their ultimate goal as a Patriot League program.
Expect Lafayette to use this game to try and find chemistry and refined execution of their pro-style offense which coach Garrett deploys. The defense is going to face a particularly difficult challenge because of the unconventional triple-option offense they encounter with Air Force.
At the end of the day, if there are such things as moral victories, they will be had in the details. All of the subtle nuances that can only be exposed and then refined in the course of live competition. That is really what should be reasonably expected of the Leopards in their maiden voyage to Falcon stadium.
It is worth noting though, Lafayette has beaten a Military Academy in the past. They have played Army 20 times in their history, and it is a history which archives a victory. They will need to channel the very fortitude demonstrated that fateful October night in 1940, which saw them victorious over the Unites States Military Academy (Army).
Final Score Prediction: Air Force Wins by ‘Name Your Score’