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Lehigh 31, Lafayette 15, final

You know, I've never blogged about a game where Lehigh actually beat Lafayette.

I've blogged on the last regular season game of the year after blowout losses, heartbreaking losses, losses that kept Lehigh from championships.

But never have I blogged about a win.

While the MVP of "The Rivalry" officially went to sophomore QB J.B. Clark - and he did have a great game (12/22 passing, 201 yards, 2 TDs) - to me there really wasn't any one MVP. This was a complete team effort, with a lot of those long-suffering seniors having one play here, one play there to bring victory to the Mountain Hawks.

Plays like:
  • Senior P/K Jason Leo nailing a 40 yard FG in the 1st quarter to start the scoring. He'd be perfect on his kicks in this game, and also boot 7 punts for an average of 42.9 yards, including a 59 yarder. One would be downed at the 1 yard line.
  • Junior LB Heath Brickner, who would stop Lafayette's opening drive by reaching up and grabbing an interception. Brickner would end the day with 3 tackles, a pass break-up, and that huge interception.
  • Senior WR Mike "Cris Carter" Fitzgerald catching a ball over the middle in the first quarter and doing what he's done all year: taking it in for a 29 yard TD. ("All he does is catch touchdowns!")
  • Junior NT B.J. Benning sacking Lafayette QB Marc Quilling on 3rd-and-14 to force a first-half punt - one of his 8 tackles on the day.
  • Senior LB Tim Diamond defending Shaun Adair on 3rd-and-9, forcing Lafayette to hold to a field goal to go up only 12-10 in the second quarter. It would be his only pass break-up, and his 11 tackles put him over 100 on the season, making him the first Mountain Hawk to do so in quite some time.
  • Senior DB Brendan VanAckeren combining on a 2nd down play to tackle RB DeAndre Morrow one yard short of the sticks. The next play, a hurried Quilling threw the ball incomplete. VanAckeren would end the day with 9 tackles.
  • An obviously not 100% senior RB Matt McGowan gutting out a first down after catching a short pass in the first half and rumbling 23 yards and getting pushed out of bounds. He wasn't all the way back, but he wouldn't miss this game for anything.
  • Senior WR Nick Johnson nabbing his only reception - a 14 yard TD pass in the second quarter over his left shoulder to give Lehigh a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
  • Senior DL Brian Jackson bursting through Lafayette's vaunted offensive line near the end of the first half - and sacking Quilling, giving the Leopards no momentum going into the locker room. Jackson would finish the game with 8 tackles - and a season-high 3 1/2 sacks in a single game.
  • Junior LB Al Pierce, who sacked Quilling's replacement, Rob Curley, on 1st-and-goal after he would lead the Leopards on a long, time-consuming third quarter drive. Pierce would end with 9 tackles, and 2 tackles for loss.
  • Junior LB Matt Cohen, who would team up at the 5 yard line to keep WR Mark Layton out of the end zone on the long 3rd-and-goal started by the Pierce sack. That tackle would hold the Leopards to a field goal. Cohen would end the day with 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
  • Senior WR Sekou "Stunt Man" Yansane, whose acrobatic catch of a Clark pass on 3rd-and-7 may have changed the course of the game. His 36 yard grab set up shop for Lehigh on Lafayette's doorstep, and the catch made it on SportsCenter as the No. 7 play of the day.
  • Senior RB/FB Adam Watson, who had only one carry, but squirted through a hole made by senior OL Chris Tiefenthal, senior OL Kevin Bayani, senior OL Alex Kuziel, sophomore C Keith Schauder, and sophomore OL William Rackley for the touchdown to make it a 9 point lead early in the fourth quarter. It was precisely the type of physical type of scoring that coach Coen was brought in here to be able to make happen - and this "O" line and this fullback made it happen.
  • Sophomore DB John "Fear Itself" Kennedy. Watching Curley's eyes, and stepping in front of FB Joe Russo and making a spectacular grab. 94 yards of Leopard-free space in front of him. Touchdown. Game Over. Losing streak to Lafayette over. Sideline explodes with years of frustration, finally consummated with a win over the Leopards. (Watch it again in the official release about the game from Lehigh Athletics.)
No, really, how many MVP trophies are there? Again, nothing against Clark, whose leadership under center was instrumental in the success today. He delivered some great balls - the TD pass to Johnson was particularly perfect - the big one to Yansane - the perfect pass over the middle to Fitzgerald for the first TD. But it's worth pointing out how every single one of these individual plays being made added up to the victory. (The players in the post-game press conference knew it, too. The defensive players went out of their way to heap praise on the offense and special teams - and sophomore QB J.B. Clark did the same for the defense.)

Personally, I was struck by how well both lines played: the "O" and "D" lines. Two years ago in Easton, our lines were out-muscled and out-physicaled by Lafayette. Going into the game, I thought for the first time the matchup looked more even - but Lehigh won that battle this Saturday. Coach Coen's focus on more physical lines - finally- seems to have paid off.

And I couldn't be happier for the entire team today - of current players of course, but the army of former players that watched the game from the sidelines, too. While folks like Sedale Threatt told me that they'd "give anything to be back on that field right now", they were undoubtedly a part of this - part of the emotion that carried into the team and the crowd.

I asked the Lehigh players in the post-game press conference how they feed off the emotion of the crowd in a big game like this. "Lehigh/Lafayette has a great environment, the crowd on both sides are pumped up. It's a great feeling knowing that that many people are supporting you - luckily we were able to get that win for them," senior LB Tim Diamond said.

"I think it's kind of a rollercoaster," senior DL Brian Jackson said. "Every time you make a play, the crowd screams. When your fans are going to be screaming during every little movement, there are a lot of highs and lows; you kind of have to keep yourself in check, and wait for the next play."

In the emotionally-charged environment of "The Rivalry", Lehigh re-learned how to win today just in time to beat "that school from Easton".

Celebration time - and it's the tastiest Yuengling I've had in about, oh, five years.

Comments

Anonymous said…
what a game! Lehigh gets it done... Future looks good.. What a surprise JB Clark was.. I was not a believer, now I am... Go brown
Mark Redmann - Class of '88 said…
It was my 24th L-L game and the Lehigh crowd, particularly the undergrads on the visiting side, was AWESOME. I watched most of the game from the home side, but walked over to the other side to start the second half. The energy by the undergrads was simply electric. I could easily tell the Lehigh football players were feeding off of this energy. It was such a great experience that I didn't want to go back to my seat on the "older, colder" home side. After the interception and yelling with my buddy, Jeff ("He could go all the way!...YES!), we had to experience the endgame from the visitor side. The fans did not disappoint. We felt 21 again as we rushed the field to celebrate a victory five years in the making. Kudos to the team and the fans for a great victory. Let’s hope we can ride the wave into next year and get back into the league title hunt
Anonymous said…
WOW!!! The entire team are players of the week.
Engineer 92 said…
AWESOME!

I was sitting in section 1 on the Home side, but 1 & 2 were all Lehigh. The first half of the game all we could hear were the "boom sticks" the Easton kids had. But in the fourth quarter, it got quiet. I looked over and the stands (on that side) were clearing out fast.

Lehigh did what they had to do, score early and keep harassing the 'tards.... I mean 'pards.

GO ENGINEERS!
ngineer said…
Agreed on the totality of a team effort in this victory. Redmann's comment about the energy provided by the students is interesting. Imagine similar support at home during the regular season. It would make Goodman the intimidating place it used to be. Perhaps the administration can get its act together so that students are encouraged to attend rather than harrassed day and night. We need that energy at all games.
A great win for so many people. It is nice to bask...
Anonymous said…
The Administration does not support Athletics. Sterrett can not get monetary or any other support. Most support comes from Partnership.
LU has lowest paid staff in PL. Aid is sub par. Recruiting budget super low. If people want to see improvement write Trustees.
Wrestling Club keeps program completive,supplies seats for students etc.
Alice Gast attends , but offers no support to AD. Uses attendance to solicit wealthy alums.
Lafayette victory was a tribute to team overcoming lack of support. Look at team locker rooms, state of Goodman compared to Fisher. Did you notice LU players had no hoods, LC fully outfitted.
Basketball warm ups are pathetic. Wrestling singlets not even all the same.
Keep your heads in the sand at LU's risk.
Anonymous said…
Gast is pathetic when it comes to the support of the football program
Anonymous said…
Great game. A very well-rounded effort

Just curious. In the Patriot League, does the unsportsmanlike conduct call on Lafayette for hitting QB JB Clark after the final gun when he already had a knee down get assessed at the begining of next years game? You can see the late hit and the ref's flags flying in the postgame video tape on the Lehigh Athletics site.

GCW Lehigh '72
Anonymous said…
Great question about the late hit as time runs out...first time I have thought about it since most players are classier than that. Someone?

Congratulations to the Seniors and Coach Coen. Its gotta be so sweet for those Seniors who endured so much heartbreak. I have never seen Coach with such an ear to ear grin, but his enthusiasm is contagious, and thats nice.

I feel for Pete Lembo right now. Great team, great season, what happened at Liberty?
Anonymous said…
Congrats to the victors. You guys had to choke on our victories the last 4 years in a row and 5 out of 6 prior to this year so drink it in.

I can understand why the undergrads were so into it.. they hadn't beat Lafayette... it is pretty hard to fathom that because, as an alumni, remember a time when we didn't beat Lehigh for my 4 years. Then, when we won in 2002, us young alumni that were there were enjoying it just as much.

For the record, none of us condone what happened on the last play.

Drink it in Lehigh and remember that the rivalry is back on.

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