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Lehigh 21, Harvard 19, Final

It looked, for all practical purposes, like another Mountain Hawk egg that was about to be laid against an elite opponent.

It seemed like Lehigh could not do much right in their first half against Harvard. Two turnovers led directly to Crimson touchdowns. Only two offensive drives in the half yielded and first downs. And - in a chilling similarity to the New Hampshire game - Lehigh's defense and special teams handed the Lehigh offense two golden opportunities to score points, and both times Lehigh came away with nothing.

But head coach Andy Coen must have channeled his inner Knute Rockne at halftime, for the team that came out in the second half was transformed.

Against an elite team of the Ivy League, Lehigh came back from a three-score deficit and sent notice to the rest of the Patriot League that Lehigh is back. (more)

Coen was asked multiple times about what he told his team at halftime, and he responded that it "probably wasn't for network viewing. We challenged the kids, and I'm so proud of how they responded."

That second half started with a crucial 3-and-out by the Lehigh defense, with last week's defensive star, junior LB Mike Groome, stuffing Harvard RB Gino Gordon on third down short of the sticks.

Harvard's punter, who was stuggling mightily all day in comparison to junior P Alex Smith's punting style, getting 30 and 40 yard punts into the wind, booted a 28 yard punt to set Lehigh's offense with yet another opportunity in good field position.

But this time, junior QB Chris Lum, sophomore QB Michael Colvin and sophomore WR Ryan Spadola responded.

Lum's precision passing to Spadola resulted in two critical third-down conversions, including a great play fake by Lum and a 27 yard throw down the right side that was right on the money to Spadola at the Harvard 5.

Then the guy the Harvard announcers were calling the "wildcat man" did something that the Crimson weren't expecting - instead of running off tackle, Colvin faked the run and instead threaded the pass to a wide-open Spadola for a 4 yard TD.

Spadola was responsible for 47 of the 51 yards of the drive.  Little did everyone know he was just getting warmed up.

After another impressive Lehigh defensive stop and a weak 28 yard punt into a powerful, swirling gusty 30 mile per hour wind by Harvard, on the ensuing drive Spadola pulled in four more receptions for 60 yards, including two plays that went more than 20 yards.

Adding to Spadola's heroics were Lum's darts to junior WR Jake Drwal, and Lehigh found themselves with 3rd and goal at the Harvard 1 - where Lum found junior TE Mark Wickware, who shook off an earlier injury, for the touchdown to make this a ball game.

"Coach talked to us, put a little steam under us, and we just took advantage of every opportunity," Spadola said after the game. "I knew coming out in the second half I had to work my butt off. I came out there, when my number was called, I just wanted to do everything possible to to get the ball and to make plays."

As great as Lehigh had played in the 3rd quarter, the Mountain Hawks didn't seem at first poised to score again as the quarter was coming to a close. Wind direction loomed large in the game, as gusts were making it very difficult to move offensively when driving into the wind, and with two minutes to play in the quarter, a fourth quarter still seemed pretty daunting without the wind at their backs. The strong gusts were even blowing the football off the line of scrimmage between plays.

But the defense came up huge once again with junior LB Mike Groome once again coming up with two gigantic stops of RB Gino Gordon on 2nd and 3rd down at the 49 yard line. Harvard's punt went almost straight up, came down maybe 15 yards away from the line of scrimmage - and bounced straight up, and landed right about where the ball was snapped.

There were 18 seconds left to go in the quarter - which ended up being plenty of time from Lum and Spadola to connect for another score.

You can hear the Lehigh coaches whooping in the press box as Spadola caught an easy post pattern and just accelerated past the Harvard secondary for the go-ahead touchdown that seemed so improbable after the first half. All of a sudden, Lehigh had the lead - and the first time that an Andy Coen-coached team came back after being down three scores.

“The wind was a big factor in this football game,” Coen said. “I wanted to take the wind in the third quarter to try to get back into the ballgame. That fact worked pretty well to the fact that we scored on a big play to the post with four seconds left in the third quarter with the wind with us. I know we’re capable of performing the way we did, we just need to find the consistency if we want to be as good as we’re capable of being.”

That wind, though, would be at Harvard's back in the fourth quarter, and just like last week, it would be up to the defense to make this victory happen in the end.

While Lehigh didn't register a sack on big Harvard QB Colton Chapple, the Hawk defense did put pressure on the sophomore signalcaller, forcing him into frequent throw-aways and incompletions. He would only go 12-for-27 passing on the afternoon, including an impressive 4-for-14 in the final quarter.

Junior LB Mike Groome seemed to be in on every big stop and ever big QB hurry, as he'd end the game with 15 tackles and two hurries.  But more importantly, he always seemed to be around the ball carrier every play.  If he wasn't making the tackle, he was maybe two steps away.  With him, senior LB Al Pierce (6 tackles, 1 QB hurry), junior LB Tanner Rivas (6 tackles, 1 1/2 tackles for loss) adn the rest of a staout front seven, they formed a punishing unit underneath that wore down Harvard's offense slowly, but surely.
Fittingly, Harvard's final sustained drive would end with an interception in the end zone by senior CB/PR Jarard "Main Man" Cribbs, who would end the day with four tackles, two passses defended, and one big interception.

Cribbs ended the afternoon by arranging to have coach Coen get a cold ice bath on the windy Massachusetts afternoon after the victory just as he was doing his post game interview with Matt Markus of (I'm sure Matt Kerr and Kody Fedorcha were very happy to have their sideline reporting days behind them after seeing Matt get pelted with the ice.)

A safety, taken by Lehigh to make sure Harvard couldn't mount any sort of comeback, resulted in the final 21-19 score that, according to Spadola, puts the rest of the Patriot League on notice.

"To finally get that winning streak going, going into league play - I think we sent notice out to those league teams that we're coming, and we want that title," Spadola said.

Coach Coen was less focused on Patriot League play, though, and focused on how happy he was with this team.

“I want to start by saying how proud I am of our football team and how we responded to a big challenge at halftime,” said coach Andy Coen after the game. “Our first half of football was not very pretty. We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t execute the offense the way we’re capable of. We had to pick ourselves up at halftime. We came out in the third quarter and responded very well.

“It means a lot to me that we were able to beat Harvard because I have a lot of respect for their football program. It was the kids that did it. Right to the end they kept competing and had a great will to come out with a win. We were fortunate enough to get that done.”


Anonymous said…
Oct.30. Goodman will be rocking. Oh my, my. Its a tragedy I'm on the West Coast these days...

How does Spadola's performance yesterday rate all-time? Gotta be up there..
Anonymous said…
We got lucky yesterday that our passing game came alive and our defense continually finds a way to make big stops and keep the offense in the game...but until we can establish a running game to complement the passing game, this team will not win the Patriot league...our running game is is slow and outdated...the days of the counter trey are long gone with the Washington Redskins and the today's game, the good running games have quick hitters and zone blocking schemes...Andy Coen and that sorry running game, needs a facelift...secondly, the coaching staff needs to quit playing the latest Freshman running back to arrive on campus...Keith Sherman may eventually be a good running back by his senior year, but right now, he is not and should not be on the field...there are experienced and better running backs sitting on the sidelines that should be playing on not Keith...and we will need a good running attack down the stretch if this team wants to win a title.
Class of 98 said…
I was at the game, and based on the replay, it looked like Lehigh caught a break on the last Harvard drive. The catch in the endzone before the INT looked like he had his feet inbounds with possession, which would have given Harvard a 24-21 lead, but the pass was called incomplete.

Either way, great win, and now we get down to the real business of the PL schedule.
Anonymous said…
The PL is the weakest I've ever seen it. If we dont win the championship this year, there is no hope!

Nice to see coach C made some changes at the half. This would have never happened the last 4 years.
Anonymous said…
whoa...not only are we blessed to have all these "coaches" posting comments, we now have "refs" as well!!..Oh my
Anonymous said…
Why can't the "fans" just applaud the team for finding a way to win. Who are you to say who should play and who shouldn't? You aren't at practice with these guys every do you know the kids who were such big stars in high school are cutting it at the college level? These kids came out after the half and turned it around. They had to find a way without having some of the major offensive players who are out with injuries. They wanted to win. Kudos to the coaching staff for whatever they did at half time to motivate the team. They came out on fire and knew what had to be done. Let the coaches do their jobs and you go to work tomorrow and take care of your own.
Anonymous said…
The coaches can yell expletives in the locker room all day long...the PLAYERS were the ones that decided to find a way to win! With teammates out before and during the game they were able to pull it off for another Mountainhawk win! Way to go guys!
Anonymous said…
Yes, the players found a way to win and I guess they scrapped everything they learned at practice and ignored the play calling and did it all on their own! Congrats to the team and the staff for a great win!!
Anonymous said…
There are certain people consistently on this board who just bash Coach Cohen for the hell of it (or more likely a personal vendetta). I have no issue with critiques that are warranted, but not after a quality win over a good team like Harvard on the road.
Anonymous said…
You'd think supporters of this Coach of the Year candidate would actually know his last name.
Anonymous said…
Oh come on.....don't be ridiculous!
Anonymous said…
Wow I knew it, I wanted to come here to see the feelgood commentary but as I should have expected the usual dicks. What a bunch of a holes. That was an incredible job of coaching. The adjustments made at half time were a thing of beauty. The toughest game on the schedule is the gate. This team could be going to the playoffs. Thankfully with none of you sorry ass fans. The catch was not inbounds. I cannot for the life of me figure out why the former players, good fans and knowledgable people don't post. Instead you get this trash. Stupid stupid stupid. Congrats Mountain Hawks players and kudos to Coach Coen and staff for an absolutely brilliant coaching job and one that is career defining for Andy. You go coach! T. Caff #53
Anonymous said…
I am all with you !! how about just some folks say Great Job ! Great Game ! LETS GO HAWKS !
van said…
Now we all know we won that game because the Harvard announcers thought we were still the engineers! Suspect the Harvard players thought so too!

Had nothing to do with our coaches.
Anonymous said…
we caught a break cause it was a catch
Anonymous said…
The ref made a bad call. We've had bad calls, too. It shouldn't happen, but it does. We did win the game. I think some of you should go buy some Lafayette t-shirts and sign up for tickets in Easton. We don't need fans like you bringing the team down. I've said it before...some of you don't want us to do well because you'll have nothing to complain about.

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