Posted: September 13, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Lehigh’s defense hung tough with No. 21 Villanova, but the full-scholarship Wildcats wore the Mountain Hawks down and pulled away for a 33-14 win at Villanova Stadium on a hot, humid Saturday afternoon. Villanova (1-1) ran 82 plays on the day – 16 more than Lehigh (1-1), and scored 20 points in the second quarter, which proved to be too much to overcome for the Mountain Hawks.
"We talked a lot about overcoming adversity and dealing with challenges, and I think our defense epitomized that today," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "The defense was out there for 82 snaps, on a hot day, and I think they competed tremendously and kept us in this football game."
He went onto say, "I think our kids competed well today, and that's a great start. We played a great football team and certainly made our share of mistakes, but now we'll go forward from here."
Both teams showed the strength of their defense in the opening quarter as neither offense could muster any points in the first 15 minutes. Villanova received the opening kick-off and was moving the ball down the field with relative ease before the Mountain Hawks “D” stiffened and stuffed the Wildcats on a fourth down play by way of a diving tackle by junior linebacker Matt Cohen. An interception by senior captain Tim Diamond gave Lehigh the ball late in the quarter, but on the very next play Clark threw a pass that the Wildcats’ Mark Carrocce picked off just before the end of the first.
Villanova began the second quarter with good field position, but again the Mountain Hawks stiffened and forced the Wildcats into a fourth-down scenario. A 44-yard field goal by Joe Marcoux with 14:12 remaining in the opening half gave ‘Nova a 3-0 lead. Lehigh appeared to have taken the lead on a long pass from Clark to senior Mike Fitzgerald, but a holding penalty negated the touchdown. On the very next play Osayi Osunde showed great hands, picking off a short, quick pass from Clark and sprinted to pay dirt, putting the home team in front 10-0 at the 11:38 mark of the quarter.
A second field goal from Marcoux with 6:07 left in the half put Lehigh in a 13-0 hole, but on the Wildcats next possession, Diamond forced a fumble, scooped the ball and ran 32 yards to set the Mountain Hawks up with a first-and-goal at the three-yard line. McGowan then scored his first touchdown of the season on the very next play and Lehigh was within six with 4:24 on the clock. Villanova responded with a touchdown however, as Aaron Ball scored from a yard out to put the home team up by a score of 20-7 which is how the score remained as the teams retired for halftime.
Lehigh gained only 91 yards in the first 30 minutes, 25 of which came on the ground by McGowan. Clark completed 6-of-15 passes for 72 yards, with senior Nick Johnson hauling in two of those attempts for 54 yards. Diamond finished the opening half with nine tackles to go with an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The Wildcats totaled 172 yards on 46 plays in the first half including 82 on the ground and 90 yards through the air by Young, who finished 8-of-17. Greg Miller and Marquis Kirkland totaled three tackles apiece for the home team.
After ten third quarter points put Villanova ahead 30-7, Lehigh was able to cut into its deficit as Clark found senior Sekou Yansane from six yards out for a Mountain Hawks touchdown that made it a 16-point game with 12:28 left in the contest. Villanova answered once again however as Marcoux knocked through his career-high fourth field goal of the afternoon to give the Wildcats a 33-14 lead with 5:38 left on the clock.
Clark finished 20-of-43 through the air for 200 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. McGowan carried 12 times for 29 yards and a score, and the Mountain Hawks were limited to just 38 rushing yards on the day. Diamond showed why he was named a preseason All-American as the New Jersey native finished with 14 total tackles, including 1.5 for loss, to go along with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
Young was 22-for-35 for 231 yards in the win for the Wildcats, and Aaron Ball carried 17 times for 66 yards.
Following its bye week, Lehigh returns to action on Saturday, September 27 when the Mountain Hawks head to New Jersey to take on the Princeton Tigers at Princeton Stadium. Kick-off is set for 6:00 and the game will be televised live on WFMZ-TV as well as FSN Pittsburgh and Fox College Sports Atlantic with Steve Degler and Marty Horn ’86 providing the commentary. The game will also be carried live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM with Matt Kerr and Mike Yadush ’93. Live video of the contest will be shown at Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS … Saturday was Villanova’s Parents Weekend and 11,101 fans packed the stands, including many Lehigh faithful … Villanova Stadium’s playing surface is Astro Play, marking one of five games that Lehigh will play this season on an artificial surface (Villanova, Princeton, Harvard, Georgetown, Lafayette) … Saturday was one of only two Lehigh games that will not be televised in 2008 (Georgetown) … due to Lehigh’s bye week the next media luncheon will be held on Wednesday, September 24 at the Copperhead Grille on Airport Road in Allentown.