Posted: September 27, 2008
PRINCETON, N.J. – Lehigh’s defense did all it could to give the Mountain Hawks a chance to win on Saturday evening, but a 32-yard field goal by Connor Louden as time expired lifted Princeton to a 10-7 win at Princeton Stadium in front of 8,836 in attendance. Lehigh was stopped short on a fourth-and-one play with 55 seconds remaining, giving the ball to the Tigers on their own 33. Princeton then completed a 46-yard pass up the right side, which led to the eventual game-winning kick. With the loss Lehigh falls to 1-2 on the season, while Princeton improves to 1-1.
“I’m pleased with the way our defense performed inside the red zone, those kids fought hard all night long” Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. “But the bottom line is we didn’t win the game. This one hurts; it’s a tough loss to swallow and one that we had our chances to win.”
Princeton received the ball first and methodically drove down the field, eventually setting itself up with a first-and-goal from inside Lehigh’s five-yard line. The Lehigh defense was more than up to the challenge however, as the Mountain Hawks stuffed the Tigers on four straight plays and got the ball for the first time on their own one. Lehigh put together a solid drive that was keyed by two third-down catches by senior wide receiver Mike Fitzgerald, but classmate Jason Leo came up just short on a 47-yard field goal attempt and the game remained scoreless.
Following a 46-yard run by Jordan Culbreath, Princeton found itself again inside the Lehigh five-yard line, but the Mountain Hawks defense held strong once again and forced the Tigers into a field goal attempt. Junior Heath Brickner broke through the line however, blocked the attempt and classmate Al Pierce picked the ball up and rumbled down to the Princeton seven-yard line. Two plays later sophomore J.B. Clark found Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and the Mountain Hawks went up 7-0 with 7:18 remaining in the opening half.
The Tigers tied the game at seven on a one-yard run by Culbreath with 4:57 to go in the half, which capped a five-play, 68-yard drive. Both teams had one final possession but neither could muster any points and so they retired for halftime knotted at seven.
Lehigh gained 113 total yards in the first 30 minutes, including 101 through the air by Clark who completed 7-of-11 passes, including four to Fitzgerald for 57 yards. McGowan gained 23 yards on seven carries, while senior fullback Adam Watson was the only other Mountain Hawk to carry the ball in the opening half. A quartet of Lehigh players registered six tackles apiece, including Quadir Carter, Matt Cohen, Brendan Van Ackeren and Tim Diamond.
Princeton totaled 238 yards in the first half, including 117 on the ground and 121 through the air. Clubreath finished with 89 yards on nine rushes, while Brian Anderson completed 11-of-15 passes for Princeton for 121 yards. Steven Cody led the home team with five tackles, including one for loss.
Neither team scored in the third quarter as both defenses were on display. Lehigh was able to push the ball into Tiger territory on several occasions in the second half, but could not muster any points.
Lehigh finished the game with 238 total yards compared to Princeton’s 392. The Mountain Hawks totaled 108 yards on the ground led by McGowan’s 83 yards, which came on 22 carries. Clark finished the game 14-of-27 through the air for 169 yards, with Fitzgerald hauling in five passes for 70 yards. Carter and sophomore John Kennedy led the Brown and White with 11 tackles apiece, while Van Ackeren finished with double digits (10) as well.
For Princeton Anderson completed 20-of-29 passes for 244 yards, while Culbreath totaled 126 yards on the ground on 20 carries. Cody registered double digit stops with ten tackles, including 1.5 for loss, while a pair of Tigers, Jeff Jackson and Scott Britton posted nine tackles apiece.
“These games hurt the most,” Brickner said afterwards. “It’s completely different if you get blown out, but in a game like this, when you’re this close, one big play here, one big play there, that’s all they needed.” He continued, “I’m happy with the way things went on the defensive side. We need to clean a few things up, but overall you can’t be happy with everything if you don’t get the win.”
Lehigh is back in action next weekend when the Mountain Hawks return to Goodman Stadium for the first time since September 6 as they welcome the Big Red of Cornell to town. Kick-off is set for 12:30 and tickets can be purchased in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Athletic Ticket Office, located in Grace Hall between the hours of 10 and 4, or by logging onto Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS … Saturday’s game will be re-broadcast on Sunday afternoon, on Service Electric 2 Sports, beginning at 12:30 PM … Princeton was the third straight Lehigh opponent playing its second game of the 2008 season … Brickner’s blocked field goal attempt was the second of his career. He also blocked a potential game-winning field goal in Lehigh’s win over Harvard at Goodman Stadium in 2007 … with Saturday’s loss, Lehigh sees its five-game winning streak against Princeton in New Jersey come to an end.