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Press Mash-Up and Some Patriot League Love

With Jaren Walker (left) revitalizing the Lehigh rushing game (here converting a key 4th down in the second quarter) and the Patriot League standing tall all over the Northeast, the Patriot League is starting to show up in the national polls once again as the Sports Network Poll has Lafayette at #22 and Holy Cross and Lehigh are starting to show up in the "Others Receiving Votes" list.

Look for me to talk more at length at the game on College Sporting News in a special "Diary" (complete with photo album). In the meantime, here's a very quick "Press Mash-Up" since I'm extremely pressed for time.

Sports Network: Lehigh Surges Past Princeton
Morning Call: Young Backfield Leads Lehigh Over Princeton
Morning Call: Freshmen Give Lehigh Unexpected Lift
Groller: Late Night With Lehigh
Express-Times: Lehigh Cashes In On Five Turnovers
Trenton Times: Too Little Too Late for Princeton

"We're obviously pleased to get the win," Coen said. "We started out playing the way we wanted to defensively, creating a couple of turnovers, and our offense took advantage. And then we kind of sputtered offensively. I am not pleased with the overall execution, but I was pleased we were able to finish things off late when we had the chance."

But the time-chewing fourth-quarter drive, featuring the hard running of Kankam and Walker, finally sent most of the Tiger fans in the crowd of 8,640 to the exits.

Kankam converted a big 3rd-and-15 on the drive off an impressive run off a screen pass. "Screens, I like screens," Kankam said. "I saw the open field, and I just started going. I saw a good cutback lane, and I think some guy had me at first and tore me back. That drive was a huge motivational boost for our team, that drive."

Walker carried five straight times for 14 yards to finish off the drive and Princeton.

"It's just a lot of hard work," said Kankam, who finished with 73 rushing yards on 25 carries. "

"Coach told me all week to be ready and I was prepared mentally," Walker said. "I'm just happy that I was able to perform and help our team get a victory. I kept going over the plays. Being a freshman, it's hard to pick up the new schemes. So, I studied my playbook, tried to stay calm and avoid making mistakes."

"I definitely was not expecting to play as a freshman," Walker said. "In the back of my mind, I was ready if the opportunity came. But I didn't think I was going to play because Matt and Josh are very good running backs."

******

Saturday night's game at Princeton featured 161 total plays, 76 passes (47 of which were incomplete), five turnovers, 10 different scores and six lengthy officials meetings in which the guys in the stripes seemed to be in deep discussion over the controversial ending of The Sopranos rather than making up their minds up about a particular call.

"You look at the final stats and they ran 92 plays," said [Princeton head coach Roger] Hughes. "I don't want to make excuses for our defense, but we got worn out.

"We're going to start ribbing our other two tailbacks, telling them they'd better get back because Kwesi and Jaren are doing a great job," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. "We had a number of freshmen out there playing again tonight. I can't ever remember using as many young players as we are right now, but they're getting the job done."

One of the team's two turnovers was a Kankam fumble.

"That's something he can learn from," Coen said. "It's always better to make mistakes when you score 32 points and beat a good team."

***


"You can't expect to spot a team like Lehigh 23 points and expect to win," said Princeton head football coach Roger Hughes.

"We had a short field," Coen added. "Our defense did a great job and our special teams put us in good position."

"We were trying to stay disciplined, but also fly around to the ball and make big plays on defense," said Thomas, a fifth-year senior with a forced fumble and interception which led to Lehigh's first two touchdowns. "We definitely can play better than we did. We made some mistakes, but we played as a team and flew around to the ball."

***

"I love this team and what we have," Walker said. "It's just a big family. They're all my brothers. They accepted me and Kwesi and all of the freshmen right away."

"Kwesi is like my best friend, my right-hand man," Walker said. "I'm always waiting for an opportunity and so is Kwesi. Whenever the team calls on us and needs us, we'll be ready to go."

****

"As a coach, you're always looking for that 'finish it' mentality and that 13-play drive late was good to see,'' Coen said. "The offensive line did a very nice job for us. We ran the ball pretty effectively, more effectively than we did against Villanova. Probably the best thing they did was on the 13-play drive. The freshman on the line [Will Rackley] played very well, and we need the whole line to do the job like that every week."

''We talk about our team getting better every day and making improvements. We lost a game last week we had an opportunity to win because we came out flat. I'm glad we we reversed that tonight."

It was far from perfect and there was plenty of stuff on both sides of the ball for Lehigh fans and media to nit-pick, but it was a win, and Lehigh and the Patriot League needed one on Saturday night.

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