Category Archives: Zach Bednarczyk

The Missed Opportunity: Lehigh Falls to Villanova, 38-35, In A Winnable Game

(Photo Credit: Kyle Craig/Lehigh Valley Live)

Head coach Andy Coen would hear nothing of moral victories in the post game press conference.

"I thought we had every opportunity to win this football game," Lehigh's frustrated head coach said.

"When you go through this stuff," he said, flipping through the pages of the post-game statistics packet, "you're going to see a lot of mistakes.  You see it with some young guys, guys in their first game, but we had some guys that where it was just out of character."

It was a game where neither side looked like they were in mid-season form, though you could see the quality shine through offensively on both sides at different times.  So the outcome hinged on mistakes, and who made fewer of them - and that team was Villanova.

That shouldn't take away from the offensive fireworks on both sides.

There was the tremendous blocking up front that set up a great rushing day for Villanova RB Matt Gudzak, who ran for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and an effecient all-purpose yardage of a day for Wildcat QB Zach Bednarczyk, who went 17 for 23 passing and scored three touchdowns, two through the air and on the ground.

And there was the electricity of junior QB Brad Mayes repeatedly connecting with senior WR Troy Pelletier, senior WR Gatlin Casey, and the newest starter in the receiving corps, junior WR Luke Christiano.  Mayes went 33 for 49 passing for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, and some of them were a sight to behold.

Yet it would boil down to mistakes - a pass here with too much mustard, a dropped reception there, a missed assignment there - and Lehigh simply made too many of them to beat a quality Top 10 ranked team at home.

"After the game, and we all got in our circle," coach Coen said, "and I just told them all, you guys need to look into your mirror, and see how you feel about what you did or didn't do right.  They were a very good football team, and I give them a lot of credit - they were very fast, and very physical.  This was an opportunity for us to beat a very good Villanova team, and also an opportunity to beat someone from the CAA, which I thought would be very important for us.  We didn't get it done."

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Comes Close, But Can’t Get Final Stop, Lose 38-35 to Villanova

Lehigh fell behind 21-7 and 28-14 in the first half, and battled back in the second half to give themselves a shot to win, but for the second straight year the Mountain Hawks came close but couldn't close the deal, falling 38-35 to Villanova at Murray Goodman Stadium this afternoon.

In his first start of the 2017 season, junior QB Brad Mayes went 33 for 49 with 406 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, including two to senior WR Gatlin Casey that were of highlight-reel quality.

One was a 29 yard strike through a pass interference call, and the second was a 3 yard drill that was tipped but Casey adjusted and came down with the pass at the back of the end zone.

Junior WR Luke Cristiano also had a career day with 8 catches and 143 yards and an amazing touchdown catch that saw him beat Villanova S Rob Rolle and scamper for a 66 yard touchdown.

Villanova amassed 475 yards of offense on the afternoon, achieving good balance with QB Zach Bednarczyk's passing (209 yards, 2 touchdown passes) and a potent rushing attack (led by RB Matt Gudzak's 142 net rushing yard and 2 touchdowns).

This one will sting, because there were several spots during the game where Lehigh could have come away with points, and didn't, and they could have been the difference in the game.  Near the end of the first half in Villanova's red zone, junior RB Dominick Bragalone's fumble was recovered by Villanova and resulted in a score, a 14 point turnaround.  There were other opportunities missed as well.

Tune in later tonight for a more comprehensive recap.

Villanova at Lehigh Game Breakdown and Fearless Prediction: Who Will Be Pennsylvania’s FCS Champion?

One of my favorite stories of the early Lehigh football era was the idea that Lehigh, Lafayette and Penn in the late 1800s battled for the "Championship of Pennsylvania".

In 2017, it wouldn't be prudent to call a game versus Lehigh and Villanova the "Championship of Pennsylvania", thanks to the presence of Penn State, Pitt and Temple in the state.

In FCS though, Lehigh vs. Villanova, the only two STATS and Coach's Poll Top 25 teams that are based in Pennsylvania, it could certainly be spun in that way.

Villanova, at No. 9/10, travels to Lehigh, No. 17/17, to determine who is the FCS Champion of Pennsylvania.

I like it.
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Know Your 2017 Opponents: Villanova

(Photo Credit: Akira Suwa/Philly.com)

Writing a season preview about Villanova used to be the easiest job in the world.

Just grab your boilerplate biographical information about future hall-of-fame head coach Andy Talley, do a little Googling of the Wildcat's next up-and-coming NFL prospects, come up with a dozen synonyms for the words "tough" and "challenge", and the preview basically writes itself.

But this season's task of facing Villanova is simply different than all of those other years.  Talley, the only coach Villanova has ever known since restarting their football program in 1985 after a failed attempt to pull the plug on it in 1981 in the middle of spring practice, has finally retired from the head coaching ranks.  While the same familiar trappings of high preseason rankings and potential NFL prospects remain, their new head coach, longtime Talley assistant Mark Ferrante, is now running the Wildcats and will be seeking his first win as a collegiate head football coach.

The three things that are certain is that the Wildcats are ranked No. 10 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll to start the year, that they're ranked No. 9 in the FCS Coaches' Poll, and that when they come and visit Murray Goodman Stadium on September 2nd at 12:30 PM, they'll be playing Lehigh in a battle between Top 25 teams.
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Lehigh At Villanova Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction, 9/10/2016

Thanks to Villanova's game notes and Brian Ewart and the gang over at VUHoops.com, which is the source of most of this research (and, of course, my years of expertise following Lehigh football.)

One last plug of the Q&A Brian did over at VUHoops.com with me, and some other good content from their site.

Of note: VU Hoops: 3 Things To Know About Lehigh

"In the pre-season, Lehigh's offense was not only touted as high powered, but was generally considered the biggest strength of the team.  Last week they seemed to be sleep walking early on against the Monmouth.  In the first half, the offense was held to just 49 yards and no points.  Despite a decent showing by their defense, the Hawks went into halftime down 7-0.

"However, in the second half, senior QB Nick Shafnisky lead the team to 190 yards and 3 TD's.  It turned out to be too little too late, but they could easily ride that momentum into week 2.  Lehigh is a pass first team with lots of options at receiver and some talented tight ends, so Nova's secondary will need to be on top of their game Saturday.  They're no Pitt, but if the Mountain Hawks offense is clicking, Villanova's defense will have another tough test on their hands.


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