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Defense's Intensity Brings Sacks, Victory in Brown/White Game, 33-19

You might have thought that Lehigh's Brown defense, fresh off a strong performance in the spring game, might have let themselves let up a little once it was deemed that the morning practice was complete.

Instead, in front of a swarm of fans who watched Saturday's scrimmage on a picture-perfect April day at Murray Goodman stadium, the defense were doing running drills.

As junior DE Tyler Cavenas explained, this was no accident.

"That's our new thing now," an out-of-breath Cavenas told the assembled media.  "If we're not running to the ball after every single play, it counts as a lack of effort and we need to run after practice."

The surprise of the running drills aside, the defensive effort that resulted in eight sacks while only yielding one late touchdown, could have been the most striking aspect of the Brown and White game on Saturday,


It was probably good for the offense that the Brown/White game was deemed a no-tackling scrimmage, the way that the defense came out the way they did.

From the first play, when Cavenas broke through the offense line with October-like speed to touch senior QB Nick Shafnisky for the "sack", the defense set the tone.

Especially when, two plays later, he'd do it again.

"We came out really hot, fired up," Cavenas said.  "It sparks the defense.  You get a sack here, a sack there, and it gets a little energy flowing.  And it carries through the entire spring game."

That's also something echoed by senior LB Evan Kauffman, who also had two sacks unofficially credited to him.

S Marc Raye-Redmond and the Lehigh D (LehighSports.Com)
Evan was a fullback last season, tasked primarily with blocking to allow the offense to execute their gameplan.  This spring, though, he was back in the position he played most of high school and his freshman year, linebacker, and he was clearly having a lot of fun.

"I haven't played on defense since last year in spring ball," he said.  "I just wanted to come out here and give it my best effort.  I'm rolling with it and having a lot of fun out here flying around.  Even just from the start of spring ball, I could not wait. I had so much energy. It's been so long."

Shafnisky, one the receiving end on at least three of the defense's sacks on the morning, praised the play of the defense as well, even if one of the guys harassing him was a former teammate.

"In a game, I'll be cheering like heck for him," Shafnisky said. "Today, I was like, 'Hold off a little bit.'"

Shaf had plenty of good things to say about the defensive play overall.

"The defense obviously won," he said.  "They were flying around and getting to the quarterback which is their mentality. They want to create turnovers and get sacks and they did a really good job of that this spring."

After the game, defensive line coach Donnie Roberts liked some of what he saw on defense, but also saw areas to improve.

"Defensively, we know we had to make some improvements," he said.  "We have a lot of guys that are returning, so it was good to see them flying around.  I was happy to see that the defense played with emotion, they played with emotion all day.  We had a couple lulls there, though - we need to pick up that intensity."

Still, after being asked about the defensive line specifically, he couldn't help but crack a smile.

"It's always good to see," he said.  "With our offensive line being young, our defensive guys need to work on technique more.  They can't just feel like they can overpower them in September.  That said, we also had two young guys out there, sophomore DL Harrison Kauffman and sophomore DL Julian Lynn.  We knew Lynn could be a player, he just needed to be the player, while Kauffman is just a pleasant surprise.  I love the kid."

As the defense forced pressure from everywhere, the secondary also did their job all practice very well, not allowing a passing touchdown.

While junior CB Quentin Jones and senior CB Brandon Leaks had the strong days one might expect, sophomore S Sam McCloskey and junior S Marc Raye-Redmond also had solid Brown/White games, with Raye-Redmond having several nice pass break-ups over the middle of the field.

On offense too, with sophomore QB Brad Mayes and Shafnisky splitting time, there were lots of flashes of what each player can do.

On the lone touchdown on the day, Shaf took off running through the middle, and weaved his way to a 32 yard run where even two-hand touch couldn't take him down.  He showed the escapability he's so known for, and didn't throw a single pick.

Mayes, under pressure, also made some really good decisions to throw it away when necessary, and also found junior WR Troy Pelletier and sophomore WR Connor Bianchini at other times for small gainers.


 Nick Thevanayagam (23) finds running room up the middle
(CHRIS SHIPLEY / THE MORNING CALL)
With sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone and sophomore RB Micco Brisker out nursing injuries, sophomore RB Nick Theveganayam made the most of his time and was the lead rusher on the day with 7 rushes for 24 yards, officially.  Nick also caught the ball out of the backfield a fair amount, which could be a sneak peek as to how he could be used on Saturdays.

Junior PK Ed Mish also drilled all of his scoring opportunities, even though they occurred without pressure.  There were no punting drills at the Brown/White game.

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