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Last Look: Fordham vs. Lehigh

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call)

Lehigh's close 21-17 victory over Fordham was well attended by members of the Lehigh Valley press - even if reporters the student newspaper were not there, as they were on pacing break - though no press came, or covered the game, from the Media Capital of the World.

For a game that ended in victory, the coverage was surprisingly nuanced, which was partially a reflection of head coach Andy Coen's assessment that Lehigh's offense missed several opportunities to put the game away.

But that didn't totally take away from a crushing defensive performance, which stood up Fordham when it counted, over and over again. (more)



Official Release: Lehigh 21, Fordham 17

“I’ve sat in here after a lot of games like this where we didn’t come out on the right end, so I’m obviously very happy that we found a way to win the football game,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “It was a hard-fought game. Give the Fordham kids a lot of credit. Our defense got hurt by some big plays, but our kids stepped up.

Coen continued, “In the fourth quarter, we played great defense. We didn’t really give up any yards until that last drive and then we came up big to shut them down. Offensively, we did some good things, but we were inconsistent, I was hoping to see a more crisp operation.”

“The kids were great,” Coen said. “The attitude was great the whole time and we kept fighting the whole game. Sometimes you can look back on games like this and feel really good about it. The kids understand that it’s a 60-minute event. We talked to them earlier this week about being confident every play and playing well every play. Don’t even worry about the game, just worry about the play. You could see proof of that today, certain plays were great. I’m very happy to be 3-2 and I’m looking forward to go play Harvard.”

Morning Call: Defense Delivers for Lehigh
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"The attitude was great and the kids kept fighting the whole game," Coen said. "Sometimes you can look back on a game like this and feel good about it because our kids now understand that this is a 60-minute event."

The offense took advantage of the short field to get its third touchdown. The Mountain Hawks had an 11-point lead with 10:28 left in the third quarter and seemed on the verge of a blowout.

But it never came, even though Lehigh's next two possessions began on Fordham's half of the field. One drive ended when Lehigh got nothing on fourth-and-inches.

"That was as disappointing as anything that happened today," Coen said. "I was hoping to see a much more crisp operation. We had things there that could have been good plays. We missed [Alex] Wojdowski wide open in the end zone and had another ball dropped. We just didn't finish things."

"I'm not sure why it didn't click better," senior RB Jay Campbell said. "We just have to be more consistent and everybody has to be on the same page on every play. We can't have one man making a mental bust on any play. That would screw it up. If we can just stay consistent, we'll be fine."

Express-Times: Lehigh Beats Fordham, 21-17

Andy Coen took a huge blow when he chest-bumped senior NG David Brown.

But the biggest hit delivered by the stout Lehigh University defense on Saturday was compliments of senior LB Mike Groome when Fordham University RB Jamir Livingston went airborne, trying to leap over the pile on third-and-1 at the Lehigh 1 early in the second quarter.

"I saw it right away, the linemen cut everyone and I knew from the get-go he was going to dive over the line," said Groome, who a game-high 11 tackles and two sacks. "I met him up there and took him down."

While Groome and his teammates were making game-changing tackles on the field, it was his head coach who leapt into the chest of the 6-foot-1, 315-pound Brown after the game in celebration.

"I'm the chest bump maven," a smiling Coen said after the win. "Everybody wants a piece of me."

Thanks to a 21-yard completion from junior QB Chris Lum (14 of 23 for 146 yards) to junior WR Jake Drwal and steady running by senior Jay Campbell, the Mountain Hawks capped a seven-play drive with a 17-yard TD reception by sophomore RB Zach Barket.

Barket was able to keep both feet inbounds on the right side of the end zone, giving Lehigh, which travels to Harvard next Saturday, a 21-10 lead with 10:28 left in the quarter.

"We need to have the younger guys in there and need them to make plays," said Campbell, who had 92 rush yards. "It's always good to have playmakers come in and mix it up, throwing off the defense."

Morning Call: Lehigh's Win over Fordham Wasn't Eye Candy, But Still Sweet
Groller's Corner: Defense Bails Out Offense

It wasn't what Andy Coen, or probably what most of the 5,176 fans at Goodman Stadium, wanted.

The Lehigh football coach and the Mountain Hawks were hoping for an offensive spectacular against Fordham on Saturday.

Instead, what they got was a taut, defensive struggle — a second half that featured just two total touchdowns and no scoring in the fourth quarter.

"If you watch any of the games, either on a Saturday or Sunday, most of them come down to the end," he said. "I would be surprised if we're not in more of these over the next six weeks where we could be driving to win the game at the end, or someone could be driving against us.

"Don't get me wrong, I would have loved this to be a nice, clean 40-15 type of deal. But that's not a reality at our level of football right now. In these next six weeks everybody's got the same type of kids and every game is going to be a battle. So, the challenge is to keep your kids motivated to make the plays and staying healthy is going to be a key as well."

"It's a game of mistakes," Coen said. "If it wasn't a game of mistakes, every game would either 0-0 or 100-100. In our three wins we've made fewer mistakes than our opponent and our kids have to understand that.

"We told the kids earlier this week that the toughest team mentally and physically, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes, is going to be the team that's happy the next day. Hopefully, that can be us."

"We were inconsistent on offense and I was hoping to see a much more crisp operation," Coen said. "We had drops and missed some open receivers, but we just have to keep working. Our kids had a great attitude the whole time. They kept fighting the whole game and sometimes you can look back on games like this and feel really good about it."

*****

Coen was delighted to see former Lehigh (and Northwestern High) standout Brett Snyder after the game.

Snyder has been battling ALS for several years and Lehigh's football family has been involved with his TackleALS organization.

"It was awesome to see him," Coen said. "I may have said this before, but of all the kids I've coached here in my career, he may be my favorite. … how he conducted himself as a student-athlete and how hard he worked. He was a 1,500-yard rusher in high school, but never complained about his role as primarily a blocker here."

Brown & White: Rackley Shines On and Off the Football Field

As the offensive captain of Lehigh's team, Rackley is a leader on and off the field. Brett Sawyer, the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, described Rackley as "relentless" on the field, a quality he feels is a requirement for the position. Sawyer added that Rackley is determined to succeed.

"He wants to do things the right way and he does them the right way," Sawyer said.

Teammate and close friend junior wide receiver Jake Drwal agreed that Rackley is motivated.

"[Rackley is] one of, if not the hardest working [player] on the team," Drwal said. "We know that no matter what is happening, we can always count on him."

Rackley's biggest inspiration is one of his older brothers. Working in the music industry on the record label for rapper T.I., his brother is very passionate about his own career. Rackley's success is inspired by his brother's strong work ethic.

"Just to see his drive motivates me a lot," Rackley said.

[LFN Note: This new link to rapper T.I. means that Mr. Rackley now has a new nickname: senior OL Will "Got Your Back" Rackley. Use it well, Will.]

Fordham Athletics: Football Downed at Lehigh, 21-17

For the fifth straight game, the Fordham University football squad played a game that was decided by fewer than seven points. Unfortunately for the Rams, for the third consecutive game they found themselves on the short end of a close game, falling to Lehigh University, 21-17, in Goodman Stadium.

With the loss, Fordham falls to 2-4 on the year while Lehigh improves to 3-2.

The Rams dominated the game on the stat sheet, running 81 plays and gaining more than 400 yards of offense while holding Lehigh to 270 yards of offense, but Fordham couldn't produce the big play, coming up short on a fourth and goal play from the two and then turning the ball over at midfield which the Mountain Hawks turned into what proved to be the winning score.

"It was a great football game but we came up short," said Fordham head coach Tom Masella. "The guys played hard today but we just didn't make enough plays."

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