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Brown Defense Starts Strong, But White Offense Wins The Day, 37-35

(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)

At the University of Alabama they call it "A-day," and hold it in from of more than 76,000 fans.

Head coach Andy Coen didn't brand Lehigh's spring scrimmage "L-day", and, well, there weren't exactly 76,000 fans who came to Murray Goodman Stadium on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, either.

Instead, though, the fans that came were treated to a pass-happy scrimmage that featured no tackling contact after the third series, thanks in part to the fact that Lehigh only suited eight linemen on the morning.

It was a scrimmage that featured a whole lot of energy - and a whole lot of newness.

On a dry field with some sandlot-type dirt patches, thanks to the overall lack of rain in the past few weeks in the Lehigh Valley, the newness not only came from the players, but the coaching staff.

With new offensive coordinator Drew Folmar and newly-promoted defensive coordinator Joe Bottiglieri, there was lots for the kids, and coaching staff, to prove in this weekend's scrimmage.

Head coach Andy Coen was impressed with the play of the defensive line.

"The defense was in control most of the time," he said, "I really like that the defense got after the quarterback, which I liked since we weren't where we needed to be last year in terms of sacks, and I think we have some guys that can really do that."

While no unofficial stats for sacks or pressures were recorded, players like senior DE Tim Newton, junior DE Greg Palma, and junior LB Mat Verdon got plenty of pressure on the White offense, causing the defense to pull to a sizeable lead in the spring's modified scoring system.

"The defense as a whole is coming together," Newton said, "A lot of the same guys are playing this year.  I think it's coming along a lot better than last year.  We'll definitely have an identity by the time the fall rolls around."

Helping the cause was sophomore CB Brandon Leaks and sophomore LB Colton Caslow, who nabbed interceptions early for the defense.

As the practice went along, though, sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky and senior QB A.J. Visconti started to settle in and caught up to the defense.

What could have been the most impressive drive of the morning was Shaf's final drive, earning 52 yards through the air and connecting with senior WR Derek Gaul for what would be the go-ahead score.

"We had a pretty solid rushing game in the spring," Coen said. "Today I wanted to concentrate more on throwing the ball and see how things turned out. We had some inaccurate throws and some drops but it was good to see us drive the ball like we did in that last drive. Nick made some good throws. Kids made some good catches when the throws that weren't that great and we finished well."

Shafnisky's day ended with 15 of 26 passing for 113 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 interceptions.  Visconti went 13-for-28 for 107 yards and 1 TD, and was strip- sacked once by junior LB D.J. Bourgeois.

Leading the way on the receiving end was senior WR Derek Gaul (7 catches, 72 yards, 2 TDs), and junior WR Steven Sansone (5 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD).

"Toward the end we started clicking more as a team," Shafnisky said afterwards.  "Overall in the spring, the defense 'won', but the offense was there every time.  We're coming together.  We're young.  We're stepping up."

There was a lot to like in a lot of different areas of Lehigh's game this spring, including the rushing game, where University of Miami transfer sophomore RB Brandon Yosha and junior RB D.J. Kee looked good in limited action, combining for 32 yards on the ground.

Before the game, senior DE Tim Newton, senior WR Josh Parris, senior OL Ned Daryoush and senior LB Isaiah Campbell were honored as Lehigh's 2014 team captains.

Also, Josh was awarded the honorary Jim Gum Scholarship Award by the Gum family, which is given to the player that exemplifies the outstanding qualities of former Lehigh football player Jim Gum, who died after a battle with ALS.







(Photo credits Self and Lehigh Athletics)

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