It still is hard to comprehend that the football season is finally, truly, over. In case you're like me, you'll want to go over the final game recaps of Lehigh's fall in the second round of the playoffs.
It was a year to remember on a whole lot of fronts.
Lehigh's first Ivy league sweep since 2005. The Patriot League's first win in the FCS playoffs since 2003. The Mountain Hawks' first outright Patriot League title since 2001 - and their first playoff victory since that time, too. To top it off, the three teams they lost to - Villanova, New Hampshire, and Delaware of the CAA - are all still alive in the playoffs today, implying that they are three of the top eight (or nine) FCS programs in the nation.
But today is a day to recap Lehigh's season-ending loss to Delaware this past Saturday, and below the flip are the recaps of the Mountain Hawks' final game in 2010. (more)
Official Release: Lehigh's season ends with 42-20 playoff loss to Delaware
“Obviously today didn’t work out the way we would have liked it to,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “We knew we were playing an outstanding football team. We knew we were going to have to take advantage of the opportunities that were out there for us. They were a better football team. They were able to break some tackles. Their offense was outstanding, especially QB Pat Devlin, and they were able to get some big plays on us which we hadn’t been giving up since early in the season.”
“Our kids battled the whole game,” Coen said. “Their effort never waned. We’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about. We had a great season. We won the Patriot League, won ten games and went out and beat the champions of the Missouri Valley Conference. I think we’ll have a good football team coming back next year than can build off this experience.”
Morning Call: Mountain Hawks Grounded
Express-Times: Lehigh's 's season ends with 42-20 loss to Delaware in FCS playoffs
University of Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler wasn't just being kind to the people back home when he talked all week about Lehigh being "an improved, good football team."
But the Emmaus native also knew that he had Pat Devlin, someone he calls "the best quarterback in the country."
So, while Keeler wasn't surprised Lehigh hung around for close to a half Saturday afternoon in their FCS second-round playoff game, he also wasn't worried.
"I kind of thought it would be a game like this," Keeler said. "That's a good football team. But I thought if we could protect Pat, we'd be fine."
"We stood toe-to-toe with them for awhile and were there with them at halftime, but in some respects, it's the same old song," Coen said. "You run into a team that's more physical than you, faster than you, stronger than you, more talented than you, and it kind of wears you down.
"When it came down to it, you can't sugarcoat it. They were a better football team -- bigger, stronger, faster at times. Their offense was really outstanding."
"As a defense, we knew what type of players they had on their team," said senior LB Al Pierce, one of Lehigh's several standout linebackers. "At times, we missed tackles and just didn't make plays. At other times, they just made them. That's a real good offense."
"We know we can play with any team in this country," senior OL Will Rackley said. "I'll go to war with these guys any time. Even today, we fought every single down. Even though we were down 20 points on the last series and knew we weren't going to win, we went out there and fought hard anyway. That's what I will take away from this team.
"Other than going undefeated I couldn't have asked for a better senior year," Rackley said. "I knew these guys never gave up no matter what the score was. We went out and fought every single down."
Brown & White: After great season, streak ends as Hens hassle Hawks
"This year has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding in my football career," Rackley said. "I think that the results from the last few years have not only motivated the guys on the team to change this year, but also, it lets us enjoy this recent success even more."
"We came out strong. I'm sure people didn't expect us to come out like that and compete with Delaware, but we did," junior DE Andrew Knapp said. "The first half, we showed as a team that we're a good football team - on a national scale."
"Coach Coen is, and has been, a great role model for myself personally, and the team," senior OL Jim Liebler said. "The last two years I've been here, I've seen potential in this team-but it just didn't come together. Coen made changes this year and kept us focused on our goal - the results speak for themselves. We trust in him and our other coaches to put us in the right position."
Morning Call: Loss hits home with Lehigh QB
"It's kind of hard to look them in the eye right now," junior QB Chris Lum said after he and his Lehigh teammates were eliminated from the FCS postseason playoffs Saturday by third-seeded Delaware 42-20.
"You almost feel like you let them down, but I just gave it my best shot. I'm lucky I get to come back next year."
"All good quarterbacks are hard on themselves; they are their own biggest critics," Coen, the Lehigh head coach, said. "Chris is very much that way. His comment about leaving the team down couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of what he did today was keeping us in the thing."
"One of the reasons we went with Chris is he was the one who continued to develop," Coen said. "He'd make a mistake early in practice; he'd be in the same situation later and he'd correct it. He did that throughout the course of the season. He is light years from where he was last year when he played a couple of games for us."
Lum is already looking ahead.
"I want to become a good leader in the off-season, the guy people look to and have confidence in," he said. "Hopefully, I gained some credibility in my teammates' eyes and they know that I'm the guy they want to have in the game. I want to be able to build on the strong foundation [set this year] and lead this team even deeper into the playoffs. I think we can keep going."
Official Release: Blue Hens Knock Out Lehigh 42-20
Sports Network: Delaware cruises past Lehigh
Wilmington Press-Journal: No Need for Speed After Walters Picks
Wilmington News-Journal: Delaware Quick Hits
Wilmington Press-Journal: Photo Gallery: Lehigh vs. Delaware
“Lehigh gave us everything we thought they were going to give us,” said Keeler, who improved to 9-2 all-time in NCAA FCS playoff action and stayed unbeaten at home in six playoff games at Delaware Stadium. “We always say that the CAA prepares us for tournament play and I think that was certainly true today. I don’t think Lehigh saw a passing game like ours in the regular season this season. Pat is the best quarterback in the country and does such a great job reading the field. The offensive line did a great job protecting him today like they have all season.”
“I have confidence in all the wideouts and WR Mark Schenauer has such great hands,” said Devlin, who also reached milestones of 400 completions and 5,000 career passing yards at Delaware during the victory. “We had four touchdowns with four different guys today and that just shows you what kind of receiver core we have. Lehigh plays an unorthodox defense and that was a challenge for our offensive line but they were able to do a great job in protection and gave me and wide receivers the chance to do our jobs.”
"The play actually wasn't supposed to go to me," Schenauer said. "I was more of a decoy route to set up a different route for Tommy (Crosby). The safety actually rolled over and Pat saw me. It was a nice pass."
"I have confidence in all the wideouts," Devlin said. "It just shows that our wide receiver core, and now our fullback, can all catch the ball."
Lehigh was denied any points on Anthony Walters' first of two interceptions. Mountain Hawks quarterback Chris Lum had a huge first half, but his attempt for a 22-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half was snuffed out by the Blue Hens cornerback.
"A huge, huge play. If Walters has some speed, he would score," Keeler said, drawing a smile from Walters, who made it halfway there with a 50-yard return.
"I was just hoping they'd throw it so I could snag it," Walters said. "As far as return speed, I was looking to pitch it, but we didn't have anybody."
"If you want to see a special play, [watch] the second interception," UD coach K.C. Keeler said. "Anthony gets on his horse and makes a phenomenal play on the ball."
Then Keeler, who had already joked about Walters' speed on his interception return at the end of the first half, couldn't resist another jab at the senior.
"A better athlete would stay in bounds and take it down the sidelines," Keeler said with a laugh.
Then, turning serious, added: "Those were two huge plays. [The first] gave us a lot of wind heading into halftime. It was a pretty important play right before the half."
"As a defense, we don't panic," said Walters, who added another interception in the second half. "Some of the things they got points on, we just couldn't get ourselves off the field."
Lehigh's 391 yards of total offense were the second highest total compiled against Delaware this year, topped only by Massachusetts' 424 in a 45-27 Hen win Nov. 13.
"Throwing almost 60 passes helped," said Lehigh's All-American OL Will Rackley. "It's kind of bittersweet to put up 391 total yards but still lose by almost 20 points."
Morning Call: Lehigh hits the recruiting trail late, but happy
Morning Call: Lehigh loss gives PL presidents more to think about
It's a trade Andy Coen will make every year.
Coen, the Lehigh football coach, and his staff lost a week of recruiting time to prepare for two games in the FCS playoff tournament.
But the lost time could prove to be a gain.
"If you're recruiting the right people, this [being in the playoffs] helps," Coen said. "You want guys who want to be here. We had to call some kids this week and tell them 'Sorry, we couldn't get down to see you, but we're preparing to play Delaware.' That was received well. A lot of kids followed us and know we had a great season.
"It should be a lot easier for me to go recruit kids this year than it was last year, although we've always found a way to do it in the past."
The biggest hole on offense will be at left tackle where All-American and possible future NFL player Will Rackley graduates. Rackley drew rave reviews all season. Delaware coach K.C. Keeler called him "the best player we've played against."
"He may be the best offensive lineman to play in the Patriot League since the Patriot League began," Coen said. "You can't replace a guy like him."
Coen would never disrespect the talents of his own players when assessing what had happened on Tubby Raymond Field. He loves these kids, especially the seniors who stayed the course after struggling through seasons of 5-6, 5-6 and 4-7.
But he mentioned "the same old song" of an opponent that's bigger, faster, stronger and more talented his squad.
Why does it seem to happen every year to the Patriot rep in the postseason?
"It's the scholarships, but one other thing that doesn't get a lot of attention is that a lot of these teams we face redshirt people," Coen said. "If I could bring a [former All-American linebacker[ Matt Cohen back or a [All-American left tackle] Will Rackley back that would make a big difference.
"This year, due to some injuries, we had three freshmen on the field for us at times this year. So, that's just another challenge you face."
All media covering Patriot League football have talked about the scholarship issue at length while waiting for the presidents to decide something.
The latest grapevine whispers suggest that scholarships will be granted, at least in some form. We'll see.