Lehigh head football coach John Whitehead knew Colgate head football coach Fred Dunlap well.
Very well, in fact.
Whitehead, the offensive coordinator for the 1973 Lambert Cup-winning Lehigh squad, was the architect of Lehigh's "Wing-T" offense, under Dunlap, that had driven the Engineers to new heights.
Under both Dunlap and Whitehead, Lehigh struggled mightily in the late 1960s. But the Engineers had a major resurgence in the 1970s when Lehhigh went from doormat to Lambert Cup champions. By the end of Dunlap's time at Lehigh, he guided the Engineers to their final "Middle Three" championships and for good measure put Lehigh in the Division II playoffs, their first postseason berth of any kind.
In September of 1979, Whitehead would, for the first time, coach against the same man who taught him how to be a head coach. For Dunlap had taken the opportunity to coach at Colgate, his alma mater, where he'd go to become head football coach and athletic director for twelve seasons after his time at Lehigh.
"Former Lehigh head-mentor Fred Dunlap's Colgate team was simply so unpredictable last season," the B&W reported, "anything could happen this weekend against Lehigh. "The Engineers are coming off an impressive home opener against Slippery Rock, but must expect stiffer opposition against the Red Raiders in their familiar confines of Andy Kerr Stadium."
In the B&W's writeup of the game, you could sense that the students expected offensive fireworks. After all, if there was one thing Dunlap's and Whitehead's teams shared it was the ability to score points. During the Lambert Cup 1973 season, Lehigh hung 56 points on Colgate with QB Kim McQuilken, the future Washington Redskin, throwing the ball. And in 1975, they scored 38 points on the Red Raiders, behind the expert passing of QB Joe Sterrett.
There was the Division II National Championship, too, won by Lehigh in 1977, with Whitehead as the head coach and QB Mike Reiker as the signalcaller.
"Coach Whitehead was a perfectionist," Rieker said of Whitehead at around the time of his death in 2002. "In single word descriptions he was fair, tough, hard, compassionate if you did right, and ruled with the fist if you did it wrong. All of those things made him as likable as a coach for any player that played under him, because they knew that whether he was hard on you or patting you on the back, we all had the same intention, to win ball games and ultimately win the National Championship. He molded and handled everybody individually but ultimately he was the dictator and it was his way or the highway. In the end, his way was the best way because it led us to our goal. I wouldn't have what I have today if it wasn't for Coach Whitehead."
So what happened when two offensive masterminds, Whitehead and Dunlap, faced off against each other for the first time?
A defensive struggle, of course.
"Anyone who watched last Saturday's contest at Andy Kerr Stadium came away with new thoughts about what an Engineer-Red Raider gridiron battle signifies," the B&W reported. "In defeating Lehigh 10-3, Colgate's defense performed splendidly, stunting linebackers and defensive backs with reckless but successful pursuit and generally coming up with key tackles just when the Engineers had their offense moving."
Calling it a "key setback in pursuit of a postseason I-AA spot" - Lehigh joined the I-AA designation in athletics when it became an official subdivision in 1978 - their take on the game detailed a defensive struggle where both Lehigh QB Rich Andres and Colgate QB John Marzo both struggled.
Only one offensive drive resulted in a touchdown, when Red Raider CB John Kraemer nabbed Andres' pass and Marzo engaged an 18-play, 58 yard drive which ended with Marzo's "three yard jaunt around right end."
"Andres was officially sacked five times," the B&W continued, "but in reality was decked 10 or 15 times by Red Raider defenders just after hastily releasing a pass."
Both Marzo and Andres didn't make it through the game, either, both suffering injuries.
Whitehead's 1979 team would recover that season. Excepting a loss to hated rival Delaware 21-14, coached by hall-of-famer Tubby Raymond, Lehigh would win the rest of their regular season games, which was good enough, at 9-2, to win one of the four regional spots in the I-AA playoffs that season.
They'd even get past the southern representative in the playoffs, Murray State, before getting stopped in the finals 30-7 by another hall of fame coach, Roy Kidd of Eastern Kentucky.
No head coach likes to lose football games. But you wonder how it ate at coach Whitehead - and how much it must have delighted coach Dunlap - about that first loss of the year for the Engineers, the blowout that never was, and the teacher teaching the student a thing or two about winning a football game.