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Lehigh 17, Georgetown 14, Final

The old saying goes that there's no such thing as a bad win.  "A win's a win", they say.  And it's true.  Lehigh goes to 7-0 on the year after defeating Georgetown 17-14 at Multi-Sport Field in Washington, DC.

But Lehigh's offense did their best to test that saying this Saturday.

The Mountain Hawks - astoundingly - overcame seven turnovers, including four interceptions from senior QB Michael Colvin, and then hung on to win on after the Hoyas final 37 yard field goal attempt was partially blocked by senior DE Tom Bianchi in the closing seconds.

Like so many of Lehigh's wins this season, it wasn't for the faint of heart.  Of the Mountain Hawks' seven wins this year, five have been determined in the last three minutes of regulation.  And including this Saturday's game, three have been determined in the last ten seconds of the game.

In many Lehigh games this season, the Mountain Hawks have jumped out to 14-0 leads, thanks to crisp offensive plays on their first possession of the game.

You knew this would be a different sort of contest, though, when Lehigh's second offensive play of the game, a bad snap would be mishandled by Colvin and Georgetown CB Jeremy Moore would leap on the ball.

Four plays later, Hoya RB Nick Campanella would burst into the end zone to give the Hoyas a 7-0 lead, and give Lehigh a clear message that their first Patriot League game on the season would be no picnic.

What ensued was a defensive struggle, with most Georgetown drives ending in third-down stops by senior LB Jerard Gordon or senior CB Gabe Johnson, and most Lehigh drives ending in interceptions, one of which was a 80 yard pick six after Colvin missed sophomore RB Rich Sodeke on a screen and Moore grabbed the ball and brought it back for the touchdown.

"Obviously, I can't sugarcoat seven turnovers," coach Andy Coen said after the game.  "But you know," a chuckle escaping, "we walked off of here at halftime, and I was disappointed, but I wasn't going to lose my mind.  I think the team that should have been really upset was Georgetown.  We turned over the ball five times, and they were only ahead by seven points."

One reason was because the one turnover that Lehigh did force, a fumble forced by a crushing sack by junior LB Nigel Muhammad and  recovered by senior DE Anthony Verderame.

It  was converted into a 1 yard touchdown run by senior RB Zach Barket.  (On the drive, a beautiful pass to senior TE Jamel Haggins saw the Philadelphia, PA native upended head over heels, but still with the ball in his possession.)

Also, looking back on the game, it's striking that Georgetown couldn't convert three of the other gifts into any points.

One turnover resulted in a Hoya drive that stalled at their 48, and the other two interceptions - both coming within a three-minute span at the end of the half - ended with missed field goal attempts.

One, a 22 yard chip shot, was blocked through a strong rush off the right side, and Verderame's hand found the football as the ball sailed harmlessly to the right.

"The biggest stop of the game was the blocked field goal," Coen said afterwards.  "These kids, they play hard.  That's always the sign of a good team.  They hang in there.  They play for each other."

"As bad as it was, there was never a moment in the game where we felt like we weren't confident that we were going to find a way to win this football game," Colvin said. "It was a very, very stressful football game, and I've disappointed in my personal performance, but I'm so proud of this team.  I knew we were going to get our shot, and when we did we were going to go right at it.

That time was the first drive of the second half, where Colvin would find sophomore WR Josh Parris on a slant route over the middle for a huge 40 yard reception.  On a near-perfect 9 play, 76 yard drive, the 1 yard plunge by junior RB Keith Sherman would tie the game at 14.

Using a steady diet of Barket runs, and a precision pass to junior WR Lee Kurfis, who would lead all receivers with his yeoman, 11 catch, 132 yard receiving day, the offense would do what they needed to do.

Parris, playing in the place of senior WR Ryan Spadola, who is out with mono, knew he might hear his name called more on Saturday, and even more so once Haggins went out with a leg injury during the action.

"We knew Ryan was down this week and we'd have to pick it up in practice," Josh said afterwards, "Coach told us he wasn't going to play, but he said 'I don't want to see anyone's heads hanging.  You need to go out and practice even harder.'  And that's what we did."

With the offense struggling, it was up to the defense to keep the game close until the Mountain Hawk offense could figure things out - and they came through in a big way, a fact that Coen and the rest of the offense happily acknowledged after the game.

"It's really exciting to see our defense play as great as it did," Colvin said.  "I'm really proud of this football team, the coaches, everybody.  It's just a great win."

"Can't say enough about how the defense played all day," Coen said

In the second half, led by senior LB Billy Boyko, the Mountain Hawk defense would keep coming up with stop after stop. 

Twice, the Georgetown offense would bend the Lehigh defense, driving to Mountain Hawk territory, but twice they'd deliver big 4th down sacks.

The first, a crushing seven yard sack of QB Stephen Skon by Muhammad, came after a fumble by sophomore RB Rich Sodeke that led to a short field.

The second, a six yard sack on a bull rush by senior DT Sajjad Chagani, stopped an extended drive for the Hoyas after Barket was adjudged to have fumbled the football after a run yet the play was ruled dead.

After Chagani's sack, Colvin would strike quickly, with a beautiful pump-fake and deep pass to, Sherman which he would turn into a 42 yard gain.  It would set up senior PK Jake Peery's 29 yard field goal that would end up being the game winner.

It would be Peery's second game-winning field goal of the season.

Add to that some big batted-down passes by senior LB Sam Loughery, a big pick by junior FS Rickie Hill, and a bunch of indivdual plays, the defense's awesome performance deserves a lot of the credit for this victory.

Looking back, too, it's amazing how much the overall team managed to make up for the turnovers and sundry mistakes - never getting down, never thinking it was too much to overcome.  As they've done so many other times this season, they made enough plays to find a way to win - a sack here, a deflected kick there.

In the end, while you can criticize the mistakes, you can't criticize the 7-0 record - or the ultimate result, an ugly win that took playmakers in all phases to create.

"We’d like for it to be cleaned up and winning by 40 points, but that's not Patriot League football and it’s not FCS football," Colvin told Michael LoRe of the Express-Times after the game.

It is undefeated football, however - and Lehigh now counts itself as one of only four undefeated squads in all of FCS.


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