Posted: September 6, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks got off to a fast start at Goodman Stadium on Saturday, and it paid off as the rain from former Tropical Storm Hanna forced both teams into a defensive battle. Lehigh jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back in a 19-0 win against the Drake Bulldogs in front of 4,706 fans on opening day in Bethlehem.
Sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark threw two touchdowns on 9-12 passing for 146 yards. Senior running back Matt McGowan controlled the ball for Lehigh once it had the lead and kept the clock rolling with 173 yards on 39 carries to put the game away.
“We had some weather issues today, but we knew anticipated them, so we wanted to try to get off to a fast start,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen, who earned his first opening day win for the Brown and White. “It was good that we got off to a good start and were able to manage the game in the second half as the weather got bad. Overall it was a solid performance. The kids played hard, played with good effort. The defense was very solid, especially in the red zone which was something we emphasized all week.”
Lehigh wasted no time seizing the momentum in the first quarter. On Drake’s third play from scrimmage, Jarard Cribbs intercepted Cole Ingle’s pass along the sideline at the Bulldogs’ 47.
Trying to get Clark going early, the Mountain Hawks called for a quick screen to Mike Fitzgerald on the left sideline. Fitzgerald made the rest happen with his feet, breaking tackles and hurdling defenders before cutting back all the way to the right side and taking the ball to the Drake 13-yard line. Five plays later, Clark threw his first touchdown pass of the season, a two-yard strike to Troy Healion in the back right corner of the end zone.
Clark proved on the next drive that he could do more than just throw the ball short. Starting on Lehigh’s 15-yard line, Clark dropped back and found a wide-open Sekou Yansane streaking down the right sideline for an 85-yard touchdown. The score was the sixth longest touchdown pass in school history, and the second longest all-time at Goodman Stadium.
“I was so excited coming off after both touchdown passes,” said Clark. “Especially in weather like this; coming from Florida I thought I was getting away from this. But you just go out there and do what you need to do.”
Shortly after the second touchdown, Hanna rolled in and slowed both offenses down to a halt. Clark still finished the first half with 146 yards and two touchdowns on 9-11 passing, but it was senior running back Matt McGowan who made the offense tick after the scoring drives. Lehigh head coach Andy Coen handed the reigns over to McGowan, who led the charge with 75 yards on 17 carries in the half.
The third quarter was more of the same, with both teams abandoning the passing game completely as a steady rain turned into a downpour. Clark did not attempt a pass in the period, and Ingle was 1-2 for nine yards. McGowan continued to dominate on the ground, racking up 56 more yards on 14 carries in the third.
Lehigh padded its lead with a Jason Leo field goal with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter. Brandon Wubs mishandled the snap on a punt for the Bulldogs and was chased to his left before getting off what would result in a six-yard punt. The Mountain Hawks ran three plays from inside the five-yard line, but could not move the Bulldogs line on the wet field, and the Brown and White settled for the field goal.
Leo would add a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give Lehigh a 19-0 lead and put the game away for good.
The Lehigh defense played steadily throughout, limiting Drake to 125 yards and just seven first downs. Ingle was only able to complete seven passes for just 70 yards and the Bulldogs’ rushing attack was held to seven yards on the ground.
With 1:41 remaining in the game, Matt Cohen intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve the shutout for Lehigh. The 19-0 victory was Lehigh’s first shutout since October 27, 2007 against Georgetown, when the Mountain Hawks rolled to a 45-0 win.
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday, September 13, when the Mountain Hawks travel to Villanova to take on the No. 20 Wildcats. The game will start at 1 p.m. and can be heard live on ESPN Radio and Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS … Saturday morning before the game, two Lehigh Athletics venues received their names. The Mulvihill Golf Learning Center was dedicated thanks to a gift from Gene Mulvihill Sr. ’56…The Rust Family Football Pavilion will now serve as a gathering place for Lehigh football alumni prior to and after each home football game… the pavilion is named in honor of former Lehigh football player C. Keith Rust ‘57 and his sons, Chip ’82 and Craig ’88, and his daughter-in-law Shannon ’90.…Despite the heavy rains, the new grass at Goodman Stadium held up throughout the game, and the new drainage system kept the grass from being torn up.