It was a perfect day for a lot of things on Saturday: mowing the lawn, sunning yourself outside or simply going to the park. It was also a perfect day for the annual rite of spring for Lehigh football fans: the Brown/White Spring game, the official end to the spring practice season.
In pristine 75 degree temperatures with a bit of a Spring wind blowing through Murray Goodman stadium, Lehigh's offense (the White) proved themselves up to the challenge of performing against the much-hyped defense (the Brown) with an impressive 53-20 showing.
Compared to last year - when there was an open audition for the role of starting quarterback, and the signalcallers combined for a multitude of turnovers and interceptions - junior QB J.B. Clark and sophomore QB Chris Lum seemed determined to put that performance behind them. And their numbers bear that out: Clark went 15 for 20 for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Lum went 12 of 16 for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns. Add to that the stats of junior QB Trace Cisneros - 9 for 11, 28 yards - for those scoring at home, that's a combined 36 for 47, 4 touchdowns, and boo interceptions. That's impressive by any yardstick.
There's more to that story than quarterback play, too: that meant the receivers were also bringing their "A" game as well. "Maybe there was one drop, and it was kind of a bang-bang play," coach Coen told me after the game. "The [quarterbacks] threw the ball pretty accurately, especially on the move. They got scrambled out a couple of times, and it's great to see that we have the ability to do that."
With Lehigh's top three receiving threats graduating from last year, the open audition this Spring was really at wideout - and a multitude of candidates stepped up in the Spring game. Sophomore WR Jake Drwal led all receivers with six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown (from Clark), including some crisp sideline routes. Of Drwal, Coen said "He's shown flashes over the course of the spring, but he got out there today. He can run, and his hands have gotten better and you can see he had a great day today. I'm happy for him."
Sophomore WR Travis Artim had an impressive leaping grab (from Lum) in the end zone over pretty good coverage, and he finished with 3 catches for 54 yards, while sophomore WR De'Vaughn Gordon hauled in 3 catches and a score and junior WR Craig Zurn got some tough yards and a touchdown as well. Coming away from this spring game, January's worries about the receiving game now feels like a potential strength - it was impressive.
The "O" Line also came to play for Lehigh on Saturday - junior OL Keith Schauder, junior OL Ricky Clerge, junior OL Will Rackley, sophomore OL Jim Liebler and senior OL Frank Giacalone. "They did a nice job today," Coen said. "They protected the quarterback well for the most part and got the ball running a little bit. That's always a work in progress, hopefully they continue, stay in the weight room, come back and have a great August."
At running back, the all-purpose yardage crown went to junior RB Jay Campbell, who led all backs with 33 yards rushing and 16 yards receiving. Hot on his heels was junior RB Jaren Walker with 35 yards rushing and 10 yards receiving, followed by sophomore RB Matt Fitz' 6 carries for 14 yards. Campbell had a great day - and you wonder if, with a great offseason and a great August, he might just start for this football team when all is said and done.
On defense, as expected the front seven shone with senior LB Matt Cohen (3 tackles, 1 sack), senior LB Heath Brickner (6 tackles), and senior LB Al Pierce (4 tackles). While senior DT B. J. Benning only appeared in the stat sheet with 2 tackles and 1 sack, he (along with junior DT David Brown) effectively stuffed the middle of the field, making it hard to get interior rushing yardage.
Also, sophomore LB Fred Mihal did a great job showing his potential, with 5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 1 interception. Mihal didn't only make a case for defensive coordinator David Kotulski to start him - he showed that this Lehigh team could potetially have some real depth at key positions.
Sophomore DB Colin Newton was another player that really showed the capability to push for a starting position as well - with 9 tackles and 2 tackles for loss, including his tackle to snuff out a reverse. "I'll tell you what - a couple were just great throws and catches against him, but he was bang-bang right there on coverage," coach Coen said. "He would have had the interception there at the end, too. Colin's going to be a good player for us. What he gives us is a physical presence."
If there was a raincloud to be seen, it would be on special teams. Whether missed blocks or low kicks, junior DB Jarard Cribbs blocked a pair of extra-point attempts (one he returned for a 2-point conversion). Sophomore P Alex Smith, however, earned praise from coach Coen on having a strong leg and good punt placement - not a single punt was returned on Saturday. Some positive signs - but also some clear things to work on, too.
Still, coach Coen had some real positive feelings after the game. "The kids are on board, and I think we have good leadership on this football team," coach Coen said, with energy and a little gleam in his eyes that hasn't been there in previous springs.
"I know we're going to have a great offseason."
Hawk Notes: Prior to the start of the game, Cohen and Benning were named captains for the 2009 season. "It’s an honor to be named a captain by your teammates and to be elected to carry on the tradition of the truly great captains before us,” Benning said. "I look forward to leading this team along with Matt on our quest for a Patriot League Championship this season."... "I'm very happy with what we have so far," Cohen said in the post-game interview with Matt Markus. "We have a lot of talent, and the experience we do have returning, all of them are leaders, not just myself and B.J. Everybody's teaching the guy behind them, and I think we'll be better for it."... At the Spring Game, the athletics department sold a schedule T-shirt which is now also available for ordering from the Lehighsports.com online store. If you missed your chance to buy it Saturday, you can order it today instead!