November 21, 2010

Leopards Lose a Heartbreaker to Lehigh

Lafayette’s fourth-quarter drive and comeback attempt stalled at the Lehigh 37-yard line as the heavily favored No. 22 Mountain Hawks escaped with a 20-13 win in the 146th meeting of college football’s most-played rivalry.

On a crisp, cool day on College Hill, defense was the name of the game, as both teams were held to fewer than 300 yards of total offense. In the opening quarter, neither team put any points on the board. Lehigh broke the drought midway through the second quarter.

The Lehigh scoring drive was a lengthy one that covered 92 yards on 16 plays over 7:33. Lehigh (9-2 overall, 5-0 in the Patriot League) converted five third downs and a fourth down, the final on 3rd-and-13, before the 16-yard completion from Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum to Ryan Spadola.

The Leopards (2-9, 1-4) evened the score just before the first half.  Quarterback Ryan O’Neil ’12 (24-43-2 for 223 yards) eluded the potent Lehigh rush, stepped up in the pocket and completed a 10-yard pass on third down to a wide open Mark Layton ’11. The game was tied 7-7 with 53 seconds remaining in the half.

The Lafayette defense came up with a potential game-changing play at the end of the half. Linebacker Mike Schmidlein ’11 intercepted a Lum pass and returned it to the Lehigh 49-yard line.

O’Neil completions, two to Mitchell Bennett ’11 and one to Kevin Doty ’12, moved Lafayette to the 27 with 22 seconds left. O’Neil was sacked and the Leopards were forced to try a 50-yard field goal. Davis Rodriguez ’11 nailed it to send the Leopards into halftime leading 10-7.

The second half opened with the Lehigh defense forcing a three-and-out before Lehigh’s Shane Ryan blocked a punt that Jon Littlejohn ran into the endzone. Lehigh missed the extra point and led 13-10.

On its second drive of the half, which started from the Lafayette 30, the Lafayette offense moved the ball. Lafayette picked up three third-down conversions on the six-minute, 11-play drive that ended with an interception by Jarard Cribbs.

The Mountain Hawks took advantage of the turnover, parlaying it into a 10-play, 98-yard scoring drive. Two runs of 11 yards by two different Lehigh quarterbacks and two 25-yard passes from Lum to Chris Zurn and Alex Wojdowski set up Lehigh with 1st-and-10 at the Lafayette 14. Lum (16-26-2 for 207 yards) found Wojdowski in the endzone for the 20-10 advantage.

The Leopards’ opening drive of the fourth quarter yielded a 19-yard Rodriguez field goal, but the Lafayette offense certainly had its chances for more. Lafayette had the ball 1st-and-goal at the five and then 1st-and-goal at the two, but was forced to settle for three points as two incompletions and three rushes couldn’t get the job done.

Trailing 20-13, Lafayette got the ball for the final time with just less than four minutes to play. The Leopards picked up two first downs to move to the Lehigh 37. Three incomplete passes put Lafayette at 4th-and-10, and an O’Neil pass to Alan Elder ’13 could muster only seven yards, sealing the outcome.

Lehigh linebacker Al Pierce was named the game’s MVP, ringing up 15 tackles with a sack. Lehigh’s defense had nine tackles for a loss on the afternoon, including four sacks. The Leopard defensive had four players with six or more tackles, led by Schmidlein with eight.

posted in News and Features, Students

tagged with ,