Posted: November 15, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks have had their fair share of narrow losses in 2008, losing four games by three points or less this season. So the Brown and White decided not to leave Saturday’s game against Bucknell to chance, jumping out to an early lead and pulling away for a 31-15 victory in the home finale at Goodman Stadium.
With the win, the Mountain Hawks improve to 4-6 on the season, with a 3-2 mark in Patriot League play. The Bison, meanwhile, drop to 4-6 with a 1-4 record in league contests.
"I'm especially happy for our seniors for all of the hard work they've put in this season," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said during the post game press conference. "That group (of seniors) has been put through a very emotional season, so to see them walk off this field for the last time as winners makes me happy and I know they're a happy bunch."
Coen continued, "It wasn't our best game, particularly on offense, but our defense played great again and we made enough plays on offense to get the win. Now we move into the most exciting week of the season. It will be a challenge to keep our guys focused and it will be a challenge because Lafayette has a great football team, but we're certainly very excited for the opportunity."
The defense set the tone for the Mountain Hawks on Saturday, holding the Bison to just 151 yards through the air and 284 yards overall. Junior linebacker Matt Cohen made many of the big plays for the defense, setting the offense up in great field position off an interception in the third quarter and generating some offense of his own with a fumble return for a touchdown on the second drive of the game.
Sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark managed the offense in the win, going 14-for-22 for 132 yards and one touchdown. With senior running back Matt McGowan out for the second-straight game, Lehigh again looked to multiple players to shoulder the load, with five different ball carriers in the game. Jay Campbell had the most success for the Mountain Hawks, picking up 30 yards on nine carries and adding a touchdown.
Quarterback C.J. Hopson led the attack for the Bison, throwing for 151 yards on 17-for-32 passing and one touchdown through the air. The signal caller also broke free for a team-high 96 yards on the ground, including an 11-yard score with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
Just before the start of the game, the rain lingering over the Lehigh Valley cleared up and the Mountain Hawks took advantage of the suddenly-pleasant weather with a quick and efficient scoring drive. Craig Zurn put Lehigh in great field position with a 60-yard kickoff return that gave the Mountain Hawks the ball on the Bucknell 40-yard line. Six plays later, after one fourth down conversion, the Mountain Hawks hit pay dirt on a 16-yard run by Campbell to take the early lead with 11:38 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bison helped Lehigh’s cause with a key turnover on the very next possession. Trying to execute a wide receiver sweep to Marlon Woods, the Bison botched the exchange and the ball fell to the Goodman Stadium grass. Cohen scooped up the fumble and returned it 38 yards for the score, and Lehigh had seized a 14-0 lead just more than six minutes into the game.
The Mountain Hawks would return the favor to the Bison later in the quarter. With Lehigh facing fourth down from its own 20, Jason Leo’s punt was blocked by Woods and skidded back into the Brown and White end zone. Leo had no choice but to kick the ball out of bounds for the safety, making the score 14-2.
Both offenses stalled for the rest of the first half, as the score remained the same until the Lehigh defense set up the offense with another scoring opportunity in the third quarter. Back at his own 26-yard line, C.J. Hopson looked for a receiver down field, but the Bison quarterback found Cohen instead, who returned the interception 20 yards to the Bucknell 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Lehigh earned a comfortable 19-point lead on a seven-yard pass from J.B. Clark to Mike Fitzgerald. Clark dropped back and held in the pocket as it started to collapse as he looked for an open receiver. The sophomore signal caller started to run down field looking for a lane before he looked up and found Fitzgerald in the end zone. The score gave Fitzgerald his 10th score through the air this year, the first time a Lehigh receiver had brought in double-digit touchdowns since 2001 when Josh Snyder hauled in 12 touchdowns.
The Bison made one last effort to keep the score close in the third quarter when they executed an 11-play scoring drive that went for 72 yards. Hopson found Shaun Pasternak in the end zone for the seven-yard score. Pasternak’s 11th touchdown set a new Bucknell record for receiving touchdowns.
But the Mountain Hawks answered quickly to take back the momentum and end all hopes of a Bucknell comeback. John Kennedy set Lehigh up again with a 35-yard kick return that got the drive started on the Bucknell 49. On the next play from scrimmage Clark found Sekou Yansane streaking up the seam for a 37-yard gain. Three plays later, Clark bulled his way across the goal line on a quarterback sneak from one yard out to give the Mountain Hawks the 28-9 advantage.
The Mountain Hawks return to action next Saturday when they travel to Easton for the 144th matchup against archrival Lafayette.
Extra points: The Lehigh captains were accompanied by representatives of the Wounded Warrior Project during the coin toss on Saturday. U.S. Army staff sergeant Jonathan Barcelli of Pittsburgh and U.S. Army specialist Manny Pina of Mifflinburg served as honorary captains for the game after each was wounded serving in the Middle East…Mountain Hawks fans observed a moment of silence prior to the game in honor of Wayne Grube. The former assistant coach at Lehigh and long-time high school coaching legend in the Lehigh Valley passed away last week…Lehigh punter/kicker Jason Leo connected on a career-long punt of 75 yards at the end of the third quarter, breaking his previous best of 66 yards…After missing six extra points so far this season, Leo was perfect on Saturday, making all four of his point after attempts and his only field goal attempt from 30 yards out…The attendance at Saturday’s game was 4,659.
Service Electric 2 Sports' Post-Game Show