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Despite Limited Roster, Brown And White Game A Success with 31-20 Win by White Offense

The game among the members of the press at the Brown/White game on a gorgeous Sunday morning was counting players.

Everyone knew that the Mountain Hawks had a depleted roster over the spring, made even more depleted with injuries to junior QB Nick Shafnisky, whose arm was shut down, and entire units, with the offensive line and defensive backfield only having enough athletes to barely fill out a single team of 1's.

In the end, the size of the roster was the smallest anyone in the press box could recall in a Lehigh spring game - a shade under 50 athletes in pads.

Despite the challenges, though, the teams experienced a very productive scrimmage at Murray Goodman stadium, mixing live 11-on-11 full contact drives and 7-on-7 drills.

"You know what - I was pleased," head coach Andy Coen said on the field after the game.  "I didn't really know what to expect after 12 [limited] practices, how we would go out and compete.  I want to see offense have some success, and defense have some success, and that was good."

With most of the spring session being so limited, practices hadn't been of the full-contact, 70 play a practice variety for the most part.  Film study replaced repetition, and even drills were a challenge with only five healthy offensive linemen.

"[OL] coach Brett Sawyer does a great job, but he's sitting there without the numbers to even do the drills," Coen said.  "The offensive line needs a lot of repetitions."

That meant when a newly bulked-up senior LB Noah Robb finally got the opportunity to go out onto the field and go live with contact - only the second time they had done so all spring - he was chest-bumping his teammates on the defense and bringing a lot of energy.

"It was nice to get out here an hit some people for once," Robb said.  "Everyone was pumped up seeing a big hit on the defense."

Before going live, Robb won the Jimmy Gum award, a scholarship awarded in honor of the late Lehigh University graduate Jim Gum and three-year letterman at free safety, who passed away after a battle with ALS.

"Fabulous choice," head coach Andy Coen said. "All the things that Jim stood for and his family stands for, (Robb) is a great representative."

Then the athletes out there got to work.

Robb would end the day with one tackle to his name, but he also grabbed an interception and came very close to getting a couple more as well.

On the offensive side, it was the first time Lehigh Nation would be able to see extended time from sophomore QB Matt Timochenko and sophomore QB Brendan Craven, both guys who are trying to be right behind junior QB Nick Shafnisky on the depth chart on opening weekend.

Timochenko would finish 6-for-10 for 60 yards and a touchdown, while Craven's unofficial stats read 5-for-12 with 81 yards and a touchdown as well.

"I wanted to put these guys out in full in order to be able to evaluate them in full," Coen said.  "Unless you put a kid in that situation, you don't know what he can do.  Matt we have more of a baseline with, but I was pleasantly pleased to see how athletic [Brandon] was, escaping pressure - a gritty guy out there."

Craven showed that grittiness with a 15 yard run on a broken play, making him the leading rusher for a time before sophomore FB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh would get some bull rushes to surpass him.  The Silver Spring, Maryland native would lead all rushers with 32 yards, followed closely by senior RB D.J. Kee with 17 yards and a touchdown.

Another player that was very pleased with the progression of the quarterbacks was Shafnisky, who participated in exactly one play on Saturday because he hasn't been cleared to resume throwing yet.

(The extra point, where he was the holder, was booted through the uprights by senior P/PK Austin Devine.)

"Both of them progressed like crazy over the spring," Shafnisky said after the practice about the two sophomore QBs.  "And it helps me, too.  Watching them, you notice mistakes they do, and then you pick up that they're things that you do, too, and you fix them."

Probably the prettiest play on offense on the morning came when junior WR Michael Anderson adjusted to a nice ball threw from Craven to get the offense's first touchdown of the game.,

"He led it over my shoulder, I adjusted to it, and it was in the perfect spot," the Toledo, Ohio native said afterwards of that play.  "It was good for me to really come out here and prove myself."

On defense, there was plenty of energy brought by Robb, junior LB Colton Caslow, senior LB Cody Kondas, senior DE D.J. Bourgeois, senior CB Olivier Rigaud and sophomore NG Tyler Cavenas with a brand-new defensive system.

Coen said that it suited the athletes they had on defense very well.

"I think the strength of our defense is going to be our linebackers," he said.  "Caslow, Noah, Kondas played really well today."

"I like it a lot," Robb said.  "I think I fit into it pretty well, though everyone's still learning their roles. We've mixed things up a lot more, and we're moving around a lot more, and I feel we're throwing our quarterbacks off a little bit."

After a few weeks wondering if there was even going to be a spring game, Lehigh's Brown/White game yesterday morning seemed to give a little something for everyone - an unexpected success, considering the challenges.

"I'm pleased to see where we are based on the fact that we hadn't been playing at a physical tempo," Coen said.

 

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