Saturday, October 01, 2011
Lehigh 37, Yale 7, Final
He returned the ball four yards, where Yale sophomore TE Kyle Wittenauer made a pro-style tackle from behind, popping the ball out of Johnson's hands and into the belly of Yale's center.
It was that sort of turnover-filled dogfight that typefied the first half of this game, before Lehigh's offense and defensive units would take over the game in the second half and pull away for an extremely comfortable 37-7 win over the Eli. (more)
Including the play where there was two turnovers in one possession, both Yale and Lehigh combined for a whopping nine turnovers in the first half, with both Witt and senior QB Chris Lum combining for two picks apiece.
But in the case of turnovers, it's what you do with them that counts, and despite Lehigh's four giveaways, Yale did not score a single point off any of them.
And it wasn't for lack of opportunities.
Twice, Mountain Hawk turnovers handed the ball to the Bulldogs deep in Lehigh territory, including once at the 16 yard line.
But the Lehigh defense would respond, pushing Yale backwards, until junior DT Sajjad Chagani would explode through the line at a suprised Yale quarterback, popping the ball loose and cradling the ball with both hands with a huge play.
Lehigh's offense would respond to that gift from Yale - aided immensely by a roughing-the-kicker call on sophomore P/K Tim Divers - and score on the very next possession.
Lum found his tight ends on the drive - senior TE Mark WIckware, who was upended not once, but twice, and sophomore TE Max Anderson, on a critical 3rd-and-1 - before junior QB Michael Colvin would surge by his right tackle to give Lehigh a 10-0 lead.
After Yale would only score their only touchdown of the game on a run up the middle from sophomore WR Deon Randall off an extended drive to cut the lead to 7, a Lum interception deep in Lehigh territory threatened to give Yale a chance to take the lead.
But on 3rd-and-5, senior LB Colin Newton would pressure Witt from the outside on a 4 yard sack - and the ensuing 46 yard FG attempt went wide.
“I’m very pleased with how our defense played over the course of the game,” coach Andy Coen said after the game. “The first half was frenetic and marred by penalties and turnovers, but our defense did a great job creating those turnovers and did a nice job controlling Yale’s offense.”
After the missed field goal, Lehigh's offense started getting in gear.
Junior WR Ryan Spadola kickstarted the drive taking a quick receiver screen and bursting through the line, getting a 45 yard gain down the left side.
And, in a sign that things were starting to click offensively, a Lum pass would go off the helmet of a Yale lineman and float into the air in a strange arc - and into the hands of a streaking Spadola, who made the play in stride into a 12 yard gain and a first down, as if the play was designed to play out exactly like that.
To end the drive, senior WR Jake Drwal would take a Lum pass at the two yard line, and elevate in-between two defenders to score an impressive - and, in retrospect, back-breaking - touchdown.
Spadola and Drwal would continue to torment the Yale secondary the rest of the afternoon, both combining for an amazing 260 yards receiving, with Jake nabbing all three receiving TDs on the afternoon, including a 5 yard grab in the corner of the end zone on one drive, and a soft, 12 yard grab, dragging his foot in the end zone on the other.
"How do you guys get so wide open?" asked a reporter in the post-game press conference, which squeezed an unforced smile from the normally-stoic pair.
"I think it's our offensive coordinator, Dave Cecchini," Spadola said. "He's one heck of a coach. He just designs plays where the defense to double-cover one of us. He knows how to pick apart defenses and find the openings."
"We're competitors," Drwal said. "We try to feed off one another and try to make the most of each other on the other side."
On the other side of the ball, Witt would be tormented by a defensive effort that saw him get sacked four times, go 12-for-31 passing, and earn only 120 yards passing on the afternoon. Adding to the dominating defensive effort, Yale would only get 10 first downs, get 203 yards of total offense, and wouldn't get anywhere close to the Lehigh red zone in the second half.
Nine passes were also broken up by Lehigh defenders, including two by junior LB Fred Mihal, and one by junior LB Sam Loughery, who added 8 tackles and a sack as well to his total.
Overall, it indeed is vengance for the "low point of the program," the 7-0 loss to yale two years ago that coach Coen referred to after the game. And for that alone it's a terrific win.
But it's also easy to look back at a rough, dogfight of a first half that could have had a very different outcome had Yale executed better and taken better advantage of those opportunities. Against Bucknell, a sloppy half like that could lead to a much less happier ending.