(Photo Credits: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Athletics)
Penn QB Alek Torgerson
and the Penn offense had torn through the Lehigh defense like a hot knife through butter. Again.
Nearing the end of the first half, the Huntington Beach, CA native lined up on a 4th and 1 play in the Lehigh red zone. Faking the handoff to RB Tre Solomon, he instead took it himself, running through an enormous hole on the left side of the line for a 8 yard touchdown run.
The touchdown and extra point put Penn back ahead, 28-21, but with 1:14 left, and three timeouts, it wasn't a question whether Lehigh was going to try to drive the length of the field to tie up the game, or at least try to cut the deficit a little. Head coach Andy Coen was going to try. Definitely.
So the experienced senior QB Nick Shafnisky took the field, knowing what needed to be done - the same thing that Lehigh's offense had already done three times in the same half - drive the length of the field and make something happen.
But that was just it; the fans were in the stands, doubting. They had seen this Lehigh team twice this year already, on the brink of turning things around, but coming up short. All this Lehigh team needed was a stop against Monmouth, they said. Nope. All the Mountain Hawks needed was to convert that 4th down and 10 against Villanova, they said. They got eight and a half yards.
They had seen this last season, too. Lehigh had the ball first and goal against Colgate, ready to tie the game near the end of a game that would have given them a chance at a Patriot League championship. On 4th down, a few yards from the goalline, the pass would be batted down. The Raiders won, clinching at least a share of the Patriot League championship.
Why should this critical drive be any different? Why wouldn't it also be a dollar short, like we had seen before?
The funny thing is, it wouldn't be a dollar short, a stop short, a yard short, a second short. It would get exactly the right number of yards and, with 0.3 seconds left, either a touchdown or nothing the result, the Lehigh offense did not end up getting stopped short, and in so doing seemed to do a lot more than simply tie the game.
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