Category Archives: Game Recap

Earning A Championship Is Hard, But Lehigh Does So In 20-13 War Against Bucknell

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."

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Chase Who? Shafnisky, Bragalone Combine for 6 Rushing TDs, Beat Fordham, 58-37

(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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Mountain Hawks Find Their Reagent, Combine Perfectly For Huge 45-31 Win Over Colgate

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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Awesome Ridiculousness In A Record-Setting Day At Yale Bowl

(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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QUICK RECAP: Record-Smashing Day At the Yale Bowl As Lehigh Beats Bulldogs 63-35

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.


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In Offensive Showcase, Shaf Throws For 461 Yards As Lehigh Defeats Princeton, 42-28

(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.

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With 0.3 Left In First Half, Lehigh Ties Game, Then Never Looks Back, Beats Penn 49-28

(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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Villanova Wins A Game of Inches, Defeats Lehigh, 26-21

"It's a game of inches," head coach Andy Coen said after the Mountain Hawks had just fallen to nationally-ranked Villanova on a hot, humid, thick September evening.  "I just told these two guys walking across the field here (senior LB Colton Caslow and junior WR Troy Pelletier), it really is a game of inches. We were this close to beating a very good football team."

Indeed they were, even if, after a disappointing loss last week to Monmouth, many across the nation had written off Lehigh's chances of an upset of the team ranked No. 19 in the FCS Coaches' Poll.

Stung from a first half against Monmouth when they failed to score a single point, Lehigh battled hard in the first half and played "outstanding" Coen said, as the Mountain Hawks jumped to a 14-6 lead.  After missing a field goal falling behind 20-14, Lehigh rallied to retake the lead, and after falling behind one last time, the defense forced a stop and handed the ball back to the offense, with a chance to win.

But it came down to one play - converting a challenging 4th and 10, and a big pitch-and-catch that ended up just short of the yardage necessary to keep the drive going.

Last week, it seemed to many fans for it to be nearly impossible for the Mountain Hawks to be able to compete with the No. 19 team in the nation.  Instead, here was Lehigh, inches away, just short of sending the home fans to bed without victory cigars.

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Like A Boa Constrictor, Monmouth Squeezes Life out of Lehigh In 23-21 Win

Death by boa constrictor does not come quickly.  It comes when the snake puts light pressure on the circulatory system of its prey, seriously disrupting the blood flow and causing the bloodflow system to go haywire, eventually causing cardiac arrest.

That's a fairly accurate description of how the game flow went in Lehigh's asphyxiating opening-day loss to Monmouth, 23-21.

With visions of Lehigh's potent offense in their heads, most of the 4,828 fans in attendance thought they might see the type of offensive show they enjoyed the last time Lehigh played a football game at Murray Goodman stadium, something like the 49-35 win over their bitter Rivals Lafayette, for example.

Instead they saw the Monmouth boa constrictor slowly wrap itself around the Mountain Hawks and squeeze the life away, possession by possession.

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Lehigh Rewrites Recent History And Throws Aside Lafayette In #Rivalry151, 49-35

All the Rivalry games are memorable in their own way for everyone in attendance, from the seniors playing in their last game to the kids playing on the grass embankment.

The there will be four plays that will be remembered the most, the four plays that defined this game for Lehigh and really demonstrated how tough this team was in 2015, and how tough they might be in 2016.

Most importantly, though, was the fact that Lehigh finally was able to chuck aside any doubts about winning a big game.

Wins against Lafayette are always important for the many Lehigh fans in the near-16,000 people who attend these games.  But winning this particular game was doubly important for this Lehigh squad that seemed to almost desperately need the win in order to demonstrate to the fans in the Valley who they are, who they were, and where they're headed.
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