Archive For The “Game Recap” Category
(Photo Credits: Mike Geer/Lehigh Athletics)
“We went right at ’em.”
That was head coach Andy Coen talking to Lehigh Sports’ Steve Lomangino after the Mountain Hawks’ 42-21 win over Bucknell.
With their Patriot League title hopes on the line, and the No. 1 defense in the Patriot League the opposition, it seemed like the Mountain Hawks might enter into the type of defensive struggle that defined last year’s game against Bucknell.
But after junior LB Mark Walker forced and and grabbed a Bison fumble and returned it to the Bucknell 9 yard line, junior QB Brad Mayes didn’t mess around.
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The 2017 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are known for having a great offense, a high-octane group that features stars like junior QB Brad Mayes and junior RB Dominick Bragalone.
But senior WR Troy Pelletier would trade it all for conference wins.
On an afternoon where he broke a bunch of school and Patriot League records – some of them unanticipated – his focus, as ever, was about getting the league victories that count towards the main goal of this team – to defend their Patriot League Championship.
“I didn’t know what the records are,” Troy said afterwards about his record-busting, 16 catch, 197 receiving yard, 4 touchdown performance. “I just knew I was close. I knew it was going to come if I bought in every day, do what I need to do every day to get better, and I knew it would come.”
Fortunately for Lehigh fans, his banner day came to allow Lehigh to resoundingly beat Georgetown 54-35 and go to 2-0 in Patriot League play.
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It was a very different time for Lehigh football, but in 1966, the Engineers started out the season 0-5, and had to travel up to Hamilton, New York to take on the Colgate Red Raiders.
“Lehigh faces its toughest opponent of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Red Raiders of Colgate, at Kerr Memorial Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y,” the 1966 Brown and White preview read.
After their 21-15 loss to Colgate in 1966, the Engineers would fall to 0-6 and eventually finish 0-9 on the season, the last time Lehigh started a season 0-6 and the last time Lehigh would go winless in a season as well.
It was that sort of historic elephant that the 2017 Mountain Hawks had on their backs this Saturday, whether they realized it or not.
Had they lost to their Chenango Valley rival, they would have been the first Lehigh football team to go 0-6 in more than fifty years. 0-5 entering this game, ironically their sixth shot at a football victory would involve going to the same venue to play the same opponent they played fifty-one years ago trying to avoid a 0-6 start.
Turning around an 0-5 start could be one of the hardest jobs in football, especially against a hated conference rival, and especially in a place that has always been a difficult place for Lehigh to play.
And it wasn’t easy. The 2017 Mountain Hawks had help, both from some tough calls against Colgate and from some boneheaded penalties against the Raiders that were justified.
But this group of athletes achieved that goal that eluded the same goal of the Lehigh Engineers of 1966. The football team playing this Saturday won a hard-fought 41-38 contest that maybe, just maybe, might have turned things around just in time.
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Stop me if you’ve read this before.
“Lehigh gives up a couple of early touchdowns. The Mountain Hawks rally, but mistakes doom them – they turn over the ball on offense, give up some big plays on defense, and special teams miscues make it harder to come back, and they get blown away in the second half.”
It describes the Villanova game, it describes the Monmouth game, and now, unfortunately, it also now describes the Yale game this weekend.
On Saturday, the Mountain Hawks gave up a couple of early touchdowns. Undeterred, Lehigh would get a couple stops and take advantage of good special teams play, and rally to make it a one point game. Then, a pass interference call would resurrect a Yale touchdown drive, then a Yale sack and fumble recovery would set up another Yale score at the end of the half for a 28-13 edge at halftime.
At the beginning of the second half, Lehigh would score a quick-strike touchdown, but would give up a touchdown in response, getting outscored 28-14 in the second half en route to the defeat.
It’s the script that Lehigh has found themselves following the last three weeks, and until Lehigh deviates from that script, the Mountain Hawks will find themselves winless.
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When Lehigh players, coaches and fans went to bed on Friday night, they probably had visions of the Mountain Hawks’ powerful offense attacking, and overwhelming, Bucknell to coast to a share of a Patriot League Championship and the conference’s FCS Playoff bid.
About ten minutes into the game, the 7,049 fans in attendance had probably figured out that if Lehigh was going to win a championship, it wasn’t going to be won like that.
It was going to have to be earned. It was going to have to be grabbed from Bucknell, smashing them in the mouth the same way they were smashing us.
It cannot be emphasized enough how Lehigh had to earn every single inch of this Patriot League victory, how not easy this win really was.
How the Mountain Hawks fell behind, clawed and scratched back to get the lead. How they had to stop the Bison stampede at key spots, get crucial turnovers, and fire up critical, difficult field goals by sophomore PK Ed Mish. Even extra points, normally considered automatic, took on new dramatic tension.
The offense got punished on every single play up until the final couple of victory formations. But in the end, it was not only a victory, but a victory of the most beautiful, rare sort – the type of win that officially buries the past.
“Sometimes the hardest ones are the ones you enjoy the most,” Coen said. “When you’re winning a championship, it should be hard. Bucknell made it hard on us today, but we’re the ones with the trophy and I can’t be more proud of a group of guys than I am of these guys.”
(Photo Credit: Amy Herzog/The Morning Call)
When people think Lehigh football, they rightfully think of a powerful air attack.
After all, the Mountain Hawks boast the top two receivers in all of FCS in regards to receiving yards, junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey.
What they don’t necessarily think of is a grinding rushing attack, something more out of a triple-option team or perhaps a run-heavy Wing-T team.
Yet in Lehigh’s 58-37 statement win over Fordham, the same Ram team with potential future NFL player RB Chase Edmonds, the main headline wasn’t the aerial show, though there were a few highlight-reel plays there, too.
Instead, the headline became Lehigh’s six rushing touchdowns, three from senior QB Nick Shafnisky and three more from sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone, and 349 yards on the ground.
I looked through the record books last night, and combed through recaps of a lot of football games, and the last time I found that Lehigh scored six rushing touchdowns in a game was in 1971, when FB John “Jack” Rizzo and RB Don Diorio combined for six rushing TDs in a 48-19 win over Lafayette.
That’s some pretty good company.
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At times it felt like the playing field was just the personal playground of WR Gatlin Casey, especially when he broke free for a 93 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But it was more than that.
At other times, it felt like the defense, with freshman FS Riley O’Neil pouncing on a loose ball after a sophomore SS Sam McCloskey forced fumble. was the critical piece to keeping Colgate from winning this game. But it was more than that.
And at other times, it felt like the offense, under the expert signalcalling of senior QB Nick Shafnisky, kept finding big plays, on many occasions to Casey, that kept the game out of reach for the Raiders.
In reality, it was all three phases of the game for Lehigh that finally formed the chemical reaction somewhere in the middle of the first half that erased a 17-7 deficit and transformed the different bits and pieces into an impressive 45-31 victory.
For in the first half, down 14-7, the game looked like it might just get away from the Mountain Hawks.
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(Photos and Graphic courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)
Suppose you put in a copy of NCAA Football ’14 into your dusty Playstation 3. You create a team, “Lehigh”, and put in the entire Lehigh roster, and make them 99s across the board.
You pick a team to play against – say, Yale – and you pick a place to play, of course, the Yale Bowl. You put it on the medium setting.
Would these stat lines seem out of place if you played that game on that system?
Sophomore QB Brad Mayes – 33 of 46 passing, 524 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Junior WR Troy Pelletier – 13 catches, 213 yards, 3 TDs.
Junior WR Gatlin Casey – 6 catches, 169 yards 2 TDs.
They look like something out of a video game – yet those are the real stats to come out of the Yale Bowl this weekend in an extraordinary, awesome, ridiculousness of an offensive performance. These numbers weren’t the only great numbers to come out of this record-setting game out of the Yale Bowl, but they stick out.
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It came as a big surprise to the press box, the fact that senior QB Nick Shafnisky would not be starting versus Yale.
Sophomore QB Brad Mayes, who had seen time on the field as a freshman, trotted onto the Yale Bowl’s grass field to start the game instead.
By the time he’d left the Yale Bowl’s playing field, he and the Mountain Hawks would have put their marks on a whole lot of Lehigh and Yale Bowl records.
Combined, Lehigh’s and Yale’s 70 points would be the most ever recorded in a half of football at the Yale Bowl. Lehigh QB Bob Aylsworth‘s record 454 passing yards in the Yale Bowl, broken. The all-time team and individual Lehigh records for passing yards in a game, broken. All-time touchdown pass record, tied. Most points scored by an Andy Coen-coached team, broken.
Number of extra points in a game? Tied. Number of passing touchdowns in a game? Tied. Most points allowed by Yale at the Yale Bowl? Tied.
It was a 63-35 win that, incredibly, was still in doubt at halftime when a second half 21-7 surge would allow Lehigh to pull away and the records started to pile up, one after the other.
(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)
Once upon a time, Lehigh’s offense had the nickname “Air Lehigh”, and players like QB Scott Semphiphelter, QB Phil Stambaugh and many other Mountain Hawk quarterbacks hucked the ball around Murray Goodman Stadium like kids in a sandlot, and posted some serious passing numbers that made the place a very fun spot to watch college football on Saturdays.
Today at Murray Goodman, senior QB Nick Shafnisky brought us back to those Air Lehigh days with a game with the same type of offensive firepower.
Pairing up with junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey for more than 100 yards receiving apiece, the Whitehall, PA native brought Lehigh fans back to the future with a 461 yard passing performance, coming oh-so-close to setting a Lehigh record in the process.
In the end, Lehigh fans left Murray Goodman stadium with a lot of pleasant memories about a beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon and a resounding 42-28 win over a Princeton team that hung 50 points on them last season. Not that winning football games at Murray Goodman stadium the past few seasons wasn’t fun, mind you – but few wins evoked the sandlot quality that this game did.