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Lehigh 32, Bucknell 10, Final

(Photo Credit: Denise Sanchez/The Morning Call)

On the opening drive of this game, sophomore WR Ryan Spadola finished a crisp offensive drive - which lasted less than three minutes - with a pretty fingertip catch in the end zone to give Lehigh's first score on a picture-perfect October afternoon.

But shortly after that fantastic grab that would give Lehigh the lead, as it turned out, for good - Bucknell's special teams "simply got penetration", as head coach Andy Coen said in the postgame press conference, as the extra point was blocked to give Lehigh a 6-0 lead.

It summed up a day that ended up being a comfortable win for Lehigh - with an offensive performance that many Mountain Hawk watchers have been yearning for since QB Phil Stambaugh - but still had enough uncomfortable moments to prevent it from being the sort of statement game that would establish this Lehigh team as top dogs in the Patriot League. (more)

You'd think Spadola would be hard-pressed to top his breakout game against Harvard, but he somehow managed with a six reception, 111 yad effort against Bucknell - three of which went for touchdowns, and all of them things of beauty. His second, off a bubble screen where he juked the defensive back out of his shorts, and his third, an over-the-shoulder grab on a straight streak to the end zone, weren't as thrilling as his first, but they were still sights to behold. The third pass, with a defensive back hanging off of him while he caught the ball one-handed with his left hand, really shows how strong a receiver Spadola has become, too.

"When my number is called, I just want do as much as I can to help out the offense and help the team out as a whole," Spadola said after the game.

Junior QB Chris Lum - who had a 19-of-33 day for 269 yards and those 3 TDs to Spadola - led an offense that did a lot of things right, which led to statistics on the score sheet that hadn't always been in Lehigh's favor the past few weeks. Time of possession: Lehigh, 34 minutes to 26. First downs: Lehigh, 29 to 12. Total offensive plays: Lehigh, 77 to 52. Turnovers: Lehigh 0 to 2.

"Overall, I thought it was a pretty complete game," Coen said. "We accomplished what we wanted to do. We got to 5-2, used some of that momentum we had last weeek up in Cambridge, and I thought the kids came out well. We weren't going to fall in any sort of trap here.

"It was nice to see the offense executing. And the defense shut people down. We just need to keep getting better. We’re down to a month season, four weeks left in this football season, and we need to keep getting better. I think the offense is, and you look at the yardage given up the last couple weeks, the defense is too. That’s a positive sign."

The defense did a great job shutting down athletic Bucknell QB Bradon Wesley, nabbing the mobile freshman to the tune of 3 sacks. One was a beautiful acceleration off the left side by junior LB Tanner Rivas, resulting in a 2 yard sack, and Rivas - who also forced a key early fumble and was part of an effort which saw Wesley running for his life a lot more than making plays.

"Coach Kotulski runs the crap out of us every week," Rivas said with his thick North Carolina accent. "He just tells us to get out there and keep working. Even if you use one of your best moves off your first move, it's your second move [that applies the pressure]. We just kept getting after it, sometimes [Wesley] would scramble and get away, but we just kept on."

Yet one thing that will probably not escape the attention of defensive coordinator Dick Kotulski or coach Coen were some key penalties and special teams issues - miscues that didn't affect the outcome of this game, but could easily be difference-makers in bigger games down the road.

Of Bucknell's 12 first downs, three were a direct result of penalties - including some late hits and facemask penalties that kept drives alive unnecessarily. The Bison's sole TD came off a 53 yard return from KR Marlon Woods, aided on the ensuing drive by a senseless personal foul call on the defense.

And while special teams had a flash or two, of great plays - downing the ball at the 1 foot line after a 44 yard punt by junior P Alex Smith leaps out - there were a lot of other "teaching moments", as coach Coen says: the blocked extra point, a kickoff going out of bounds, great returns by Bucknell that led to great field position.

Ultimately, there was a lot more good to come out of this win than bad. For the first time this year since the Drake game, Lehigh scored more than 21 points in a single half, while smothering Bucknell's offense in a way that this team has not done to anyone else so far this year.

In the locker room - which had music blasting, thanks to a team rule that has been in place for years to celebrate victories - the mood was festive, even if it sounded at times like it was 1989 rather than 2010. (Overheard: "Ice Ice Baby", by Vanilla Ice.) But it's clear that there's still a lot more work to do before the year is out.

"There's always stuff to improve upon. I think at one time Bucknell had more total yardage in penalties than they did in offense," Coen said. "Colgate will pose a huge challenge - the physicality of their offense, their blitz-from-all-over-the place defense. If the kids come out hard this week, and come with the right attitude, though, they'll be fine.

"Hopefully we can continue to improve. We tell the kids, Saturday is your showtime, but you're going to make yourself better Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday every week. We've got to continue to work in that way. These kids, they love football, they've got a lot to manage here academically and athletically, but this group of guys are doing a great job of it right now. They've got to keep it up.


ngineer said…
This was a nice win that could easily have been by a more lopsided score. I liked the effort in keeping after the ground game even when it didn't work well at the beginning. We're going to need to control possession the next two weeks. The only thing that is still troubling is the nonsensical late hits out of bounds. No reason for that stuff and it has to stop. We cannot be adding 15 yards onto plays by Colgate and Holy Cross and expect to win. Play smart. But it is very nice being 5-2. The guys control their destiny.
van said…
Personally I don't have a big issue with the late hit, it was right in front of me and I thought it was questionable.

The big kick off return was probably the biggest "error" in my opinion. Doubt that Bucknell scores a TD without that 53 yard return.

Was good to see CBs looking back for the ball on the long corner throws, 1 int and 1 that could have been an int and now long completions.
Anonymous said…
Again, superior coaching. I know it's easy to knock Andy down, but I'll say it. Two stellar weeks in a row. Right now, great hire and with the addition of Dave, I think it's time for the turnaround. I know what I am thinking but not going to jinx this very good football team. Go Mountain Hawks!
Anonymous said…
No comments from all the crabby, miserable "fans" who love to complain. I think I was correct in the past....some people won't be happy if Lehigh does well because they have nothing to complain about. GO LEHIGH!!!!
Anonymous said…
What a moronic comment. Yeah, those of us that dare critique the team when they underachieve actually hate football and everything about Lehigh. Genius, it's because we care that we get upset. We are thrilled to see what looks like an upswing in the program. The next two weeks will tell us just where we stand. Maybe the stadium will return to half capacity in the near future.
Anonymous said…
I can't believe that the stadium won't see 12,000 next weekend. If it's a nice day it would be a damn shame not to. Let's go Hawks! The comment about the naysayers is actually very true. There are some idiots that won't post here unless the team is getting beat. Just because you aren't one of them doesn't make the statement moronic. You know the kind, the ones that can't stand themselves, that's who he is talking about so lighten up with the name calling dufus ha!
ngineer said…
It would be fantastic to see 12000 at Goodman, but in light of recent attendance with tremendous weather is disheartening. It is not just Lehigh, check attendance at a lot of college games and it is down. There has been a 'cultural shift' in the past few years: a lot of students who could care less about sports (no one shows for a championship basketball team either), people with a ton of childrens' activities i.e. soccer games that conflict on Saturday afternoons. I would be thrilled if 10,000 showed up--the guys deserve a good turnout, they've worked hard at getting better and have put on some entertaining games of late. Let's go Hawks!
Anonymous said…
It may be somewhat true about the cultural shift but 7-0 would pretty much guarantee 12,000 plus. I do believe it is a success driven phenomenon regardless of your cultural shift assertion. I think that the belief in this team is weak. Win out, secure a home game for the playoffs, which shouldn't happen, but somehow does when we get there and I think the stands will be overflowing.
Anonymous said…
Common..... we just beat a above average high school team. Why aren't the stands full?
Anonymous said…
I knew Lafayette posters were lurking. Come on! your spelling is below a 2nd grade level. Your knowledge of football right around kindergarten! Duh! Doi!wousy wepperd stay away!
Anonymous said…
That's right! Go fill up Lafayette's stands. They're 1-6. We're 5-2 - show up and cheer the Hawks on instead of making more negative comments.

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