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Before Looking Ahead, A Peek At Lehigh's "Achievements"

(Photo Credit: Bob Cornell/Colgate Sports Information via the Morning Call)

There will be an entire week to get ready for the 149th meeting between Lehigh and a certain school from Easton.

But it's worth taking a tiny peek back at this weekend's game - just a tiny one - to see how far this team has come.

This Lehigh team has gone through a multitude of challenges this season, on the field and off.

And it's a true "achievement", no matter what happens this Saturday, that this team is in a position to win the Patriot League the final weekend of the year.


If somebody had told you in July that against Colgate, Lehigh would have their starting quarterback out for the year, they'd be starting a freshman at the position in his first-ever start, that the team would survive through an off-the-field issue that would affect the first 1/3 of the season, and also have a 37 point loss to Bucknell on the docket, would you have said that this game in Hamilton was going to be a resounding win?

I didn't think so.

Sure, you can call it a revenge game.

True, you could call it the game that the football student-athletes at Lehigh circled on their calendars back in April.

But think about how remarkable it is that with a freshman quarterback, freshman QB Nick "Shaf" Shafnisky, that Lehigh was able to go up to Hamilton in November in his first collegiate start and get the victory.

It was a start, too, that was notable in the fact that he led the offense well, and didn't make mistakes.

Aside from one interception that happened as he was hit as he threw, there was a lot to like with "Shaf''s "achievements" on Saturday, including a beautiful touchdown throw to senior WR Lee Kurfis that was simply perfectly placed.

It's true that he didn't have to go to battle in Andy Kerr stadium alone, but it's worth contemplating how huge an achievement that was just to start - and not only to start, start in a must-win game to achieve all your goals on the season.

I mean, which freshman QB gets the opportunity to do that?

You also didn't have to tell senior RB Keith "Tank" Sherman that he was going to have to bring his "A" game up to the frozen tundra of central New York in order for Lehigh to win.

But the dominating sort of game he had - 185 yards rushing!  225 all-purpose yards! - was something that was out of this world.

Forget, a second, the highlight reel of the game, where you can see his near-perfect execution on a 23 yard screen pass, or his awesome burst through the line where he knocked a 45 yard run.

And by all means credit Lehigh's "hogs", senior OL Matt Lippincott, junior OL Ned Daryoush, senior OL A.J. Hood, senior Shane Rugg, and junior OL Matt Douglas, for grinding their way through Colgate's front seven to set up the huge game this weekend.  There ought to be five more game balls for these guys along with Keith's.  (Oh yeah, and LFN fave senior FB Zach Hayden, too - don't forget him, along with junior TE Tyler Coyle and junior TE Dylan Colgate.)

But think about this: who would have thought - for a second - in August that Keith, as good as he has been, would outgain the entire Colgate team on the ground in this game?

Think about this a second - he outgained a player up for the Walter Payton award, QB Gavin McCarney.   Not only that, he outrushed  McCarney, RB Jimmy DeCicco, and RB Demetrius Russell combined.

I don't have the stats as to when a single Lehigh player outgained Colgate's entire team on the ground.  It's a distinct possibility it's never happened.

Until this weekend.

That also didn't take into account the Lehigh defense.

They forced three takeaways - something that had been lacking all season, including a lightning strike of momentum when sophomore LB Noah Robb tackled McCarney from behind and the ball popped into the hands of junior DE Tim Newton.

More importantly, though, they shut down an opponent defensively since the Columbia game.

They made two big interceptions - one by junior CB Damien Brown, and the other by senior SS Rickie Hill, and they held Colgate to under 300 yards of total offense, and very nearly held them under Keith Sherman's total offense number.

Granted this wasn't the same potent offense that hung more than 60 points on a certain school in Easton last season, but it still had an all-American at quarterback, and a team that had just as much to play for as Lehigh.

I could go on - the punt block by sophomore DB Olivier Rigaud that set up a short scoring drive.  A big FG by freshman PK Ryan Pandy to make it a three score game.  And on, and on, and on.

It's worth remembering how young and inexperienced this entire team was going into the season - how their preseason Top 25 ranking was largely based on their history from the last three seasons.

That they only had two players on the preseason all-Patriot League team.

That all three quarterbacks on their depth chart had yet to attempt a collegiate pass as they started the season.

That they had big games against the impending Ivy League Champions, Princeton, and a perennial FCS playoff team, New Hampshire, that is trying to make a furious rally in order to make it again this season.

That they had disarray, and they found themselves again.

That they lost their starting QB, and found another.

These are all guys that have grown an awful lot since August, and it showed last weekend in their "achievements" up in Hamilton.

By all means, celebrate Rivalry week - it's a hell of a week, for sure.  But don't forget to take a look at the "achievements" of this remarkable team before focusing on the prize on Saturday.

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