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Lehigh Gets Chase-d Out Of the Bronx, 59-42

Say Doc Brown had shown up at your house October 21st, 2015, and told you something about the upcoming Lehigh/Fordham game.

Suppose he lets slip that senior QB Nick Shafnisky would go out with an injury before halftime, and that Fordham RB Chase Edmonds would set a Patriot League record for rushing yards in a game while getting over 400 all-purpose yards.

Would you have gone to the game?

Would you have bothered to be one of the 5,000 fans in attendance who watched the No. 11-ranked Rams face off against a game Mountain Hawk squad?

The truth is, even though the loss was certainly frustrating and a teeth-gnashing reminder of what could have been, with two minutes to play in the game freshman PK Ed Mish lined up at the 27 yard line with a chance to make it a one-score game.

At what was effectively the "two-minute warning" in the game, Lehigh had battled all the way back from Shaf's injury, their own penalties and mistakes, and put the Mountain Hawks in a position to steal the game away.

"The first thing I told the guys was that I was pleased with their effort and how they competed," head coach Andy Coen said. "That part of the game was awesome."

Few folks knew what to expect from the 3-3 Mountain Hawks, who had put up 42 points on Penn yet given up more than 50 to the only other Top 25 team they'd faced, James Madison.

Yet predicting what would happen in the future at any point in this game in the Bronx was nearly impossible.

At halftime, the score read Lehigh 21, Fordham 17, with the Mountain Hawks stuffing the Rams' last drive of the half with an inspiring stop at 1st and goal at the 9.  Junior LB Colton Caslow, junior LB Pierce Ripanti and senior NG Greg Palma came up with big tackles for loss and a couple of sacks.

On offense, Shafnisky had been expertly guiding the offense down the field.  With a beautifully-executed play at the goal line, a leaping touchdown grab by sophomore WR Gatlin Casey, and a steady diet of freshman RB Dominick Bragalone, the Mountain Hawks were out-dueling the Rams in the first half.

But that didn't tell the whole story.

"Unfortunately, we're still our own worst enemy," Coen said.  "Whether its penalties or turnovers, you can't beat a good team with those. They're trying to learn that lesson. If you're going to keep turning the ball over more than everybody else, it's hard to win games."

All 17 of Fordham's points were set up by turnovers.

Two came by interceptions by Fordham CB Caleb Ham, and the third came on a questionable ruling on a fumble attempt by Bragalone where it seemed like he was down before the ball was stripped.

"If anyone had said before the game that Lehigh would turn over the ball three times before halftime but Lehigh would have the lead," The Morning Call's Keith Groller told me, "I'd have called them crazy."

Yet that's where Lehigh stood, even though Fordham RB Chase Edmonds had over 100 yards rushing in the first half.  Most of those yards came on one 32 yard run.

Edmonds came out of the locker room like a man on fire, and played like it.

Two 14 yard runs set up Fordham's go-ahead score, a great 30 yard pass from QB Kevin Anderson to TE Phazahn Odom in the end zone.

He would rush for 100 yards in the 3rd quarter, ripping off a 60 yard touchdown run to give Fordham a 38-21 lead and capping off three straight touchdowns for the Rams.

Things looked bleak for Lehigh, but they weren't done making it interesting.

After a jittery start with a couple of interceptions, freshman QB Brad Mayes settled down in the 4th quarter found sophomore WR Sasha Kelsey twice for touchdowns, flashing some of the potential the Florida native has.

It set up the try with 2 minutes to play, and 2 time outs, to attempt to make a last-second comeback.

Yet it wasn't meant to be.  Mish's 37 yard kick hit the left goalpost straight on, and bounced back towards the players, yet another agonizing twist in a game that Lehigh had a chance to win, despite the lopsided score sheet.

"Fordham's an outstanding program with a lot of talent and a great coach and they do a great job, but they were a beatable football team today and we just didn't get it done," Coen said.


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