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With Tremendous Confidence, Lehigh Pulls Away Big In Second Half To Beat Georgetown 35-3


(Photo Credit: Keith Groller/Morning Call)

It felt a lot closer than 14 to 3 at halftime.

Sure, Lehigh had outgained Georgetown 220-64 on offense up until that point.  Definitely, the Lehigh defense, which has been playing with a chip on its shoulder for most of the entire season, was playing, as they say, lights-out, and they had just come up with a big defensive stop in the red zone to keep Georgetown from cutting it from 14-7 rather than 14-3.

But a batted ball at the line of scrimmage, alertly grabbed by DE Hoya DE Hunter Kiselick, made it feel like the Mountain Hawks might rue the opportunities they had in the first hald to put away Georgetown.

After coming in for injured senior QB Nick Shafnisky, sophomore QB Brad Mayes jumped right into the fray and finished the scoring drive with a perfect pass over the middle to junior WR Troy Pelletier to make the score 14-3 Lehigh.

But after a drive that went backwards and that interception, it was Georgetown that had momentum going into halftime, and they were getting the ball back as well.

That's when the Mountain Hawks, who have defined this season so far as being a second half team, put the game away resoundingly.

"I'm pleased with how the kids responded at halftime," head coach Andy Coen said after the game.  "It wasn't very pretty on the offensive side on the offensive side of the ball in the first half.  The staff did a great job, got the kids rallied around, made a couple different turns of the wheel, so to speak, and really got the thing running again.

It started with the defense settling in on stopping Georgetown after the Hoyas drove into Lehigh territory to start the second half.

A pass interference call on Lehigh sophomore CB Donavon Harris and a 10 yard completion to Hoya WR Brandon Williams would help get Georgetown to the 25 yard line, setting up a long but makeable 42 yard field goal attempt by one of the best kickers in the Patriot League, Georgetown PK Henry Darmstadter.

It had enough leg, but went wide left, and soon thereafter, the Lehigh offense would really put this game away.

This Time, It's A Catch
After driving into Georgetown territory, Mayes appeared to have a touchdown or near-touchdown pass to Casey on 3rd and 8.  After a somewhat lengthy delay, however, involving a timeout-that-ended-up-not-being-a-timeout by Sgarlata, the officials correctly overturned the call, correctly discovering that the ball squirted out of Casey's arms as his momentum carried him into the end zone.

The easy call would have been to punt the ball away and pin Georgetown deep, but instead coach Coen decided to go for it.

The gutsy call paid off, as the offense called the exact same play, with the key difference being that Casey held onto the ball this time.  One play later, sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone punched it in for the 21-3 lead.
"We went for it there because our defense was playing really well and we were confident in the play we ran because it was the exact same play we ran on the previous play when we thought Gatlin had made the catch," Coen said. "He made another good catch and Brad made a good throw. We thought it was important to be aggressive and that's the way we feel we have to be if we're going to be a team that's going to accomplish its goals."
After that touchdown, it was Lehigh stop, Lehigh touchdown, Lehigh stop, Lehigh touchdown, as the Mountain Hawk defense seemed to gain strength as Georgetown was losing theirs.

A combination of penalties, constant harassment from senior LB Colton Caslow and senior LB Evan Harvey, and a tremendous sack by sophomore LB Mark Walker would give Georgetown negative yards on two straight drives, while the offense was responding with touchdowns.

"That was fantastic, to come out here and get a team win," Caslow said afterwards.  "We were able to shut them down defensively, and get points up on offense, which was great.  One of our best defensive efforts this year."

For the fifth straight week, Lehigh quarterbacks would find both Gatlin Casey and Troy Pelletier for touchdowns in the same game, and for the third straight week, both Casey and Pelletier would exceed 100 all-purpose yards in a game as well.  Casey's 164 yards receiving and 2 TDs topped all receivers, while Pelletier's 68 receiving yards and 46 punt return yards would net 114 all-purpose yards to go along with his touchdown grab.

"All week you try to prepare as if you are going to be starting because you know you're just one play from going in there and being the starter, so it doesn't matter if it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter … once you go in, you're the starter," Mayes said. "With the weapons I have and the coaches I have, I am truly blessed. This doesn't happen without them."

Mayes, who would end the day 19 of 26 passing for 247 yards and 2 TDs, did a great job coming in and putting away the Hoyas in the second half, for good measure converting a 3rd-and-11 play with his feet, tucking the ball away and running 14 yards after no receivers got themselves open.  And he used all his weapons effectively, including senior WR Derek Knott over the middle for big gains and senior WR Trevor Soccaras down the sidelines to keep the chains moving.

It was set up, though, by Lehigh's smothering defensive effort, who only yielded a grand total of 177 yards of offense on the entire afternoon - 103 through the air, and 74 on the ground.


"They did a great job," Coen said of the defense. "I'm becoming more and more impressed with how our defense is putting the plan together every week and were maybe a couple (return) yards away from having a shutout.  Some might have called it a classic trap game but we tried really hard not to fall into that. At halftime it sure looked that way, but we rallied them up at halftime and the guys really responded."


(Thanks to Keith Groller, The Morning Call and his Twitter feed for the postgame interview.  You can follow them at @mcall and @KeithGroller.)

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