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Lehigh Does the Little Things In Order To Survive Georgetown Rally, 33-28

Head coach Andy Coen admitted that an onsides kick caught him a bit off guard.

It was not a situation that Lehigh Mountain Hawks folks were very familiar with, to be honest.  Since joining the Patriot League back in 2001, the Hoyas had lost every single time they made the trip to Murray Goodman Stadium by a margin of more than 20 points.

Having cut the margin to 27-21, on the brink of possibly beating Lehigh in Bethlehem for the first time in the modern era, Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata rolled the dice, and attempted an onsides kick with 14:55 to play in the game.

But junior LB Evan Harvey saw the onsides kick the whole way, and expertly grabbed the ball with both hands and fell down on the ball.

It was plays like that that won the game.

You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman QB Brad Mayes, who looked fantastic in spots throwing 18-of-24 for and 214 yards in his first-ever collegiate start.  You can, and should, say a lot of good things about freshman RB Dominick Bragalone, who racked up 169 net yards on the ground and was difficult for the Georgetown defense to contain.  But alone, that's not won the game for Lehigh on Saturday.  It was a lot of little things done right, like fielding that onsides kick, that won it, and in so doing kept Lehigh's Patriot League title hopes alive.



"We were very fortunate to come out with a win," Coen said in the post-game press conference.  "I said all week to the media that I thought it was the best Georgetown team we'd faced in the ten years I'd faced them, and that bore out today."

It was easy to imagine a similar game script to years past when Lehigh jumped out to a 27-7 lead, partially thanks to a pair of beautiful touchdown catches by sophomore WR Troy Pelletier.  One of those touchdowns, which came after Mayes hiked the ball quickly before Georgetown set up on defense, looked like it was being executed by fifth-year seniors instead of underclassmen.

Bragalone, who racked up more than 100 yards of his 169 on the game, was part of the engine that made Lehigh go.

"I have to give all the credit to the whole offensive line," he said. "Any running back needs an offensive line, and some of those runs, I was untouched for 10 yards. This whole week and whole year, I feel like the offensive line has been getting stronger and stronger."

Bragalone has also found it easier as the season has gone along, too.

"The past couple of weeks I've been feeling more comfortable with the offense," he said.  "I've been knowing my assignment better, and I don't have to ask the quarterback as much.  As the offensive line has been better each week, I've been getting better each week."

In the first half especially, too, Lehigh's defense did a great job keeping Georgetown's offense in check, mostly thanks to tremendous pressure on the quarterback.

"It helped a lot," senior LB Randall Lawson said. "In the beginning, it seemed like the quarterback couldn't keep his eyes down the field because the pressure was on him so quickly."

Lehigh would have 5 sacks on the afternoon and and 11 tackles for loss, with Lawson notching 1 1/2 TFLs.

But the Hoyas, to their immense credit, proved in the second half that these were not the same old Hoyas.

These Hoyas would battle and battle, and get back in the game, first by dominating possession in the 3rd quarter, and getting touchdowns on two key drives.

Second-half touchdown passes from QB Kyle Nolan to WR Harry Glor and WR Luke Morris would make it a six point game, as the Hoyas did a fantastic job carving up Lehigh's pass defense.  239 of Georgetown's 355 yards passing came in the second half, setting up the onsides kick try.

"I probably wasn't thinking it because they got back in the game and they had all their timeouts," Coen said.  "But I don't think it was a crazy thing to do."

Once Lehigh recovered the kick, Mayes deftly found Pelletier early, and often, and pushed downfield quickly.

"We gameplanned all week to establish the run, and to take some shots deep," Mayes said.  "Coaches did a really good job getting us prepared, and executing what they prepared us with."

One of the things that the coaches did, Mayes said, was plan for both Mayes and junior QB Nick Shafnisky to be available during the game.

And when the Lehigh offense got down to a 4th and goal at the 1 needing a big touchdown, Shaf, who was only in the game up until that point to hold on extra points and field goals, lined up at quarterback.

On the box score, it reads "Shafnisky 1 yard run," but the way that little play was expertly executed, as Shaf took the read option and took it in himself, was a huge difference-maker.

It made such a difference because Georgetown, like a zombie on Halloween, wouldn't die, with Nolan completing a huge 3rd down and 23 pass to WR Jake DeCicco and then finding him one play later for a 17 yard touchdown pass that would help cut the deficit to five.

Then came the second onsides kick try by Georgetown, with the hands team out there.  With the ball bouncing dangerously around after the kick, sophomore CB Brandon Leaks, made what might be considered a "little play" - reaching up with one hand and hauling the ball to his chest - and recovered for Lehigh.

"I tell you what, you talk about bang-bang plays, that was about as bang-bang as they come," Coen said. "That was really heads-up. It was great to see Leaks have the instincts to get it and recover it."

And once recovered, Shafnisky came in with the task of getting a first down in four downs.

The box score doesn't really reflect the emotion and the groundswell in the stands as the 7,950 fans on hand helped push Shaf with what might be considered "little" plays.  Shafnisky, rush for 4 yards.  Shafnisky, rush for 5 yards.  Shafnisky, rush for 2 yards.  First down, Lehigh.

"We were going to use him in short-yardage type of deals and he made a great play on the goal line for the touchdown," Coen said. "And then obviously, he finished it out with another big run. I am sure he was losing his mind being on the sideline the whole game, but he's such a different person now than when he first got here.  He's a real good leader and the type of person others follow. We're looking forward to getting [him] back out there full time, but he's the type who says 'Whatever you need coach.  Whatever you need me to do.'"

There were spectacular end zone grabs, terrific individual performances, and 33 points put on the board.  But what won the game were a bunch of little things, the little things that win football games.

And as a result, Lehigh's hopes for a share of the Patriot League championship remain alive.

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