How fantastic senior DE Josh Eden was, how great senior DT Robert De La Rosa was, and how this Bucknell defense created a boatload of turnovers that could keep them in any game.
Lehigh's defensive took that as a challenge, and made a resounding statement at Christy Matthewson-Memorial Stadium in Lewisburg, PA this weekend.
On Bucknell's first offensive play from scrimmage, senior DE Ben Flizack would sack Bucknell sophomore QB Brandon Wesley for a big loss - one of twelve tackles for loss, and one of ten sacks, on the afternoon. It would be the start of a stifling performance that would lead to a comfortable 30-6 victory by Lehigh over the Bison. (more)
Most of the talk this week centered around how the Bucknell defense was the cornerstone of a surprising team that could, if everything broke just right, be competing for the Patriot League title.
There was the worry that Lehigh, who started slow versus Yale and had turned over the ball in key situations versus Liberty, might be vulnerable to a Bison stampede.
And, of course, there was Eden and De La Rosa, who were seen as a real dynamic duo on the Bison defensive line.
Eden and De La Rosa would finish the afternoon with a combined 7 tackles, and one sack.
Lehigh's defensive linemen, including Flizack, junior DT Sajjad Chagani, junior DE Anthony Verderame, senior NG Billy Dokuslis, junior DE Tom Bianchi, and senior DE Andrew Knapp would combine for 6 sacks alone.
That doesn't two sacks from senior LB Colin Newton, one sack from senior LB Fred Mihal, and one more sack from senior LB Shane Ryan to total 11 sacks of Wesley on the afternoon.
"We kind of got sick of hearing about how good they are, their defensive line," Flizack said after the game. "People don't hear about our defense as much. But the offense is doing a great job, so I can't complain. If we don't get as much credit, big whoop. I don't care. It might be a good thing for us."
Hard to picture Wesley saying "big whoop" after getting taken down behind the line of scrimage so many times, losing a grand total of 59 yards on all twelve tackles for loss.
"Everyone has to play their technique," Flizack said, explaining their success rushing the quarterback this weekend. "If one person has contain, they have to make sure they don't lose him. It's putting trust in the players."
As seems to have happened often in the last three games, Lehigh's defense needed to be stout after a first quearter without any sustained drives. A 25 yard field goal by sophomore PK Tim DIvers was the only first quarter scoring for Lehigh while the Mountain Hawk defense held the Bison offense to zero first downs and -1 total yards.
At the end of the first quarter, though, senior QB Chris Lum got started.
After three incompletions in the first few drives, he would have only four incompletions the rest of the game, going an eye-popping 30-for-37 with 368 yards and 4 touchdowns.
On the first touchdown drive, Lum would go 5-for-5, including a beautifully set-up screen to junior RB Zach Barket that took advantage of the blitzing Bison "D" line with a lofted, soft pass to the wide-open running back. Barket would rumble 41 yards, break two tackles, and get into scoring position.
Then, Lum would hit senior WR Jimmy Jefferson with his first career touchdown reception in the back of the end zone with amazing touch.
"It never gets old," Jefferson said of his touchdown grab. "I'm happy to be out here helping the team. It's fun being out here this year."
After Bucknell would get their first real drive of the game, resulting in a missed 41 yard FG by PK Drew Orth, Lum went to work again, hitting junior TE Jamel Haggins for a couple of first downs before senior WR Jake Drwal would nab a ball underneath, zip through some tacklers, and get the second score of the afternoon.
"We were taking what they were giving us," Lum said. "I've been blessed with some great receivers that are here the same time I am. They just keep making plays, and great catches. Some of the balls I throw aren't on the numbers every time. It's a unit, working together."
Junior WR Ryan Spadola, of course, was a key member of that unit as well - cathing 10 passes for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The first score came from a beautiful touch pass from Lum, where he'd zip through Bucknell's secondary for a 19 yard strike.
His second touchdown on the afternoon, a hitch route which he spun and accelerated for a 35 yard touchdown, was remarkable in that Matt Markus, alongside Matt Kerr for the radio play-by-play, mentioned that he made it look almost ordinary - as if any receiver could do it.
Soon thereafter, head coach Andy Coen let the rest of the travel team play the rest of the 4th quarter, where Bucknell would get the majority of their first downs and offensive yardage.
On offense and defense, it was a through domination of a young Bucknell team that will undoubtedly learn from their experience.
“The kids had good focus coming out,” Coen said. “Defensively, we did a great job all day. The offense did a super job throwing the football. We knew it’d be tough sledding running the ball, so we focused on passing against these guys.”
“Our strength right now is perimeter skill and quarterback,” Coen added. “A couple blitzes got to us today, but for most part, we did a good job of protecting [Lum]. We’re beating someone 30-3 and clearing the bench for the second week in a row, so it’s never a bad thing.”