Folks might concentrate on a rough half offensively. Junior QB Chris Lum struggling mightily in the first half - 3 for 11 - despite a foot injury that would force him out of the second half. A blown coverage that led to a picture perfect pass from Princeton QB Tommy Wornham to WR Trey Peacock made what could have been a dominating defensive Mountain Hawk first half into, instead a slender 1 point lead at halftime. There was fierce punishment from both Princeton's and Lehigh's defenses: which led to not a few players getting sidelined.
But with sophomore QB Michael Colvin at the helm and the quintessential bend-but-don't-break defense, Lehigh slowly, surely extinguished the Tiger threat. Banged up, in front of a Princeton team that wouldn't go away, the Mountain Hawks would prevail. (more)
"I think Princeton’s a good football team," head coach Andy Coen said in the post game press conference. "They are going to win some games. I think this is a really nice, quality win for our guys, certainly not perfect by any stretch, but we did what we needed to do."
What was striking about this game was any number of "here we go again" moments that, in other games, would have been momentum killers. The 80 yard pass to Peacock. A fumble by senior RB Jay Campbell inside the Lehigh 20. An ill-advised pass by Colvin into a sea of black and orange by Colvin to close the first half. Any number of Princeton drives, with the Tigers newly-installed hurry-up offense, which seemed to be doing a good job advancing the ball.
But Lehigh really stuck together, kept picking themselves up and making one big play after another. Two interceptions by senior CB Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs, which led to 10 huge Lehigh points. While Princeton's fast-break offense was settling for field goals - five of them - in the red zone, Lehigh made it a perfect 6-for-6 in the red zone, with four of the scores being touchdowns. It would be the most points Lehigh has scored against Princeton since 1986, the Brown & White's 48-28 win in the final game against the Tigers in Taylor Stadium.
"Our motto for the season is to finish," Cribbs told Keith Groller of the Morning Call in the post-game press conference. "We're in so many close games and our 4-7 team last year definitely would have gave this game up. We would have handed it over to them and they would have walked out of here with a win. But everybody stepped up and said 'we really need this one.' Everybody had to believe in each other, do the right technique, and [good] things would be done."
Cribbs was so happy about finishing, he gave coach Coen a chest bump after the victory. "I told him I would do it after the game. Last year, when I tried it I fell down, so now that I lost the weight, I was actually able to stay up this time," coach Coen said.
"We wanted to see how far he could get up there," Colvin added.
No play was bigger than senior RB Jay Campbell's left-handed heave, however - that settled softly in the hands of senior TE Alex Wojdowski for a 18 yard strike where Woj stretched to hit the pylon. While Princeton was not technichally out of the game after Lehigh's 27-18 lead - the Tigers would lated cut it to a 27-22 deficit after the last of PK Patrick Jacob's field goals - after Campbell's perfectly-executed fake, the momentum was Lehigh's, and they weren't going to let it go.
"Michael Colvin came in and made some nice throws, but none were as nice as Jay's," kidded coach Coen. "Jay has an awesome quarterback rating for his career now. He's 2-for-2 with two touchdowns," coach said of the Lehigh running back with the 581.2 quarterback rating.
"I was happy to get my first touchdown pass, and it couldn't have happened to a better receiver than Woj," Colvin said in the post-game interview. "Woj's been our most solid player on our team for three years now, so I was just happy to do it."
Colvin, with an effecient 10-for-14, 128 yard game passing, with no turnovers after the first half interception, did a fine job pitching in relief. Campbell, with 79 yards and the TD pass, came up huge. Woj, wth 4 catches, 79 yards, 2 TDs and a 2-point conversion for good measure, had a field day receiving and played huge to cement the Lehigh win. Junior LB Mike Groome (11 tackles), junior LB Colin Newton (11 tackles), and senior LB Al Pierce (11 tackles) led a tremendous defensive effort as well.
"The first game with [LB Troy Taylor] going down and me stepping up, it was a big game for me personally," Groome told Michael Lore of the Express-Times. "Now it’s on my shoulders because I have to make plays and lead the defense."
And what was striking about the win was that it was done with a ton of dings to Lehigh players: senior OL Will Rackley, senior CB/KR John "Prez" Kennedy, senior OL Troy McKenna, senior DE Billy Dokouslis, and junior LB Tanner Rivas all were sidelined at some point by injury. This win was done against a tough Princeton team with players going down all afternoon, without the quaterback that won an intense three-way preseason battle, with a potential NFL draftee not at 100%, with a huge part of the defense and special teams not totally himself. This game was a war - really - and Lehigh came out on top.
But most importantly, it seemed like Lehigh learned how to score some points when it counted, to clamp up and not make mistakes, and win the damn game. More than anything else about this game, it's that fact that might be the most important takeaway for Lehigh and the many games in the season left to come.