Lehigh Digs Two Touchdown Hole in Yankee Stadium, Can't Dig Out, Loses 27-7 In 150th Meeting With Lafayette
At some point I'll think of my time in the open air Yankee press box, two seats down from the New York Times, and smile.
Now is not one of those times.
Lehigh couldn't get the offense going in the first half, or the entire game, for that matter, but managed to allow Lafayette RB Ross Scheuerman to set a single-game record in rushing for the Leopards, a 60-carry, 313 yard performance.
The result was a dominating, humbling, frustrating, overwhelming 27-7 win by Lehigh's bitter Rival on Yankee soil.
When I analyze a game, I frequently look for the very first offensive play to set the tone, so when sophomore QB Nick Shafnisky connected with senior WR Josh Parris on a 30 yard gain past midfield, I was expecting a lot more of that connection on Parris' final game as a Lehigh Mountain Hawk.
In contrast, Scheuerman's five yard run to the left - a play that we would see over, and over, and over, and over, again - didn't seem all that inspiring.
As the first half went on, it proved that the Shafnisky-to-Parris connection that I had written into my script for a successful 150th meeting between the two ancient Rivals was just a mirage, while Scheuerman's repetition, run left, run left, run left, would ultimately be the story of the game.
"They were more physical than we were," head coach Andy Coen said. "They executed on offense and defense much more efficiently than we did. I'm very disappointed we lost today, but I told the guys at the end of the game you need to earn everything in life and you need to earn everything on the football field. We didn't go and earn it today. When you don't do that, you're going to come up feeling bad, and that's how I feel right now."
Many, including myself, thought it was gamesmanship when it was announced that senior QB Zach Zweizig, who hadn't attempted a pass all season, would be the starter in the biggest game that either team would ever play. But Zweizig went the entire game, even possibly suffering a bruised or injured playing hand midway through the 3rd quarter.
But it was it was his classmate Scheuerman, by far the best athlete on the Yankee Stadium soil, that put on the show of a lifetime.
He would rack up 200 yards of rushing and 3 touchdowns in the first half alone, including a 75 yard breakout through a linebacker gap on the right side that could have been a microcosm of Lehigh's season.
"You have to get off blocks and be in your gaps," Coen told Keith Groller of the Morning Call. "The long one he broke, we weren't really sound in that gap. He's a sprinter and as soon as he hits [a hole], you're not going to catch him.. That's obvious. You've got to get off blocks and you have to tackle him."
Even though they knew it was coming nearly every play, Scheuerman kept getting the ball and piled up the yards. Lehigh regrouped and tried to fight back with a 70 yard run by freshman RB Chris Leigh - the only play that prevented a shutout in the Bronx - but it wasn't enough as a multitude of sacks on key 3rd and 4th downs prevented the Mountain Hawks, in new helmets and pinstriped uniforms, from mounting any sort of comeback.
The final humiliation came on a 4th and 21 with the clock winding down. The senior Zweizig would find freshman WR Matt Mrazek in the right corner of the end zone with a touchdown pass on the final play of his collegiate career. That Lafayette missed the extra point was small comfort for Mountain Hawk fans.
"We've got such great, loyal fans," coach Coen dejectedly said after the game. "I know so many of them were in attendance today and we wanted nothing more than to play well and win this football game for all those people. I love Lehigh and the people make the experience for me. I don't like letting people down."
Parris, the senior with the one reception, put it simply, and put it best.
"Lafayette's defense played well," he said. "They executed and we did not. It was just an overall frustrating day."