BRONX, N.Y. – In a back-and-forth affair that saw its share of sloppy play, Lehigh outlasted Fordham 35-28 on Saturday afternoon at Jack Coffey Field. The Mountain Hawks defense registered a season-best nine sacks on the day, led by sophomore Devin Greene’s two-and-a-half, while junior Jay Campbell rushed for a career-best 155 yards on 27 carries as the Brown and White improves to 3-2 in the Patriot League. Fordham’s John Skelton, who was under constant duress by the Lehigh defense, did manage to throw for 386 yards as the Rams fall to 4-6 overall and 1-4 in the league.
"It wasn’t the prettiest game I’ve ever been a part of, that’s for sure, but it feels a lot better than the last two weeks," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "The kids did a great job all day. We had our moments where we weren’t taking care of the ball or committing silly penalties but the defense rose up when it needed to and the offense made plays."
He continued, "Jay Campbell did a great job of running the ball for us on a wet field and JB (Clark) had several nice runs and some great passes. I can’t say enough about the character this team has shown all season long. I know it feels good for them to be rewarded for all of their hard work."
As a team Lehigh rushed for a season-best 235 yards, led by Campbell’s career day. The Mountain Hawks totaled 436 yards of offense, including 201 through the air by JB Clark. Clark tied his career-high with four touchdown passes, including three to sophomore De’Vaughn Gordon. Junior Craig Zurn led the Brown and White with seven receptions for 76 yards, while Gordon hauled in four for 75. The Lehigh defense saw senior Troy Taylor post a career-high 11 tackles, including one sack, while five other Mountain Hawks, including Casey Eldemire, Greene, Matt Cohen, BJ Benning and Andrew Knapp each registered at least one sack.
Skelton completed 28-of-45 passes for 386 yards and three scores with Jason Caldwell (128), David Moore (141) and Asa Lucas (105) all eclipsing the century mark. Darryl Whiting rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries and Isiejah Allen led the Rams "D" with ten stops, including one-half sack.
Like it had in the previous two games, Lehigh scored on its first possession Saturday as the Mountain Hawks received the opening kick-off and marched 66-yards in 11 plays and took a 7-0 lead on an eight-yard pass from Clark to Jake Drwal.
Fordham tied things at seven when Isaiah Leake fell on a muffed Lehigh punt in the end zone with 9:04 on the first quarter clock. The Rams got the ball back on another Mountain Hawks fumble and Skelton cashed in with a 19-yard scoring strike to David Moore, making the score 14-7 with 6:20 on the clock.
The Rams got into the fumbling act as they dropped a potential punt return that Lehigh junior John Veniero pounced on setting the Mountain Hawks up in Fordham territory. Lehigh took advantage of the turnover as Clark found sophomore De’Vaughn Gordon on a seven-yard pass and the Mountain Hawks pulled even at 14 with 1:15 in the quarter.
On Lehigh’s next possession the Mountain Hawks were driving into Fordham territory when Michael Martin stepped in front of a Clark shuffle pass to Campbell and returned it 29-yards to the Mountain Hawks’ 30-yard line. Skelton fired a perfect strike to Moore on the very next play and the home team went in front 21-14 with 11:46 left before intermission.
Lehigh pulled even when Clark hit Gordon on a 39-yard pass for the sophomore’s second TD reception of the afternoon, while Clark ran one in from 15-yards out with 3:09 to go before the half and the Mountain Hawks surged in front 28-21. Lehigh got the ball back and was set up with great field position on a 60-yard punt return by Jarard Cribbs, but Clark threw an interception and Fordham took over at its own 18. The Rams quickly capitalized on the turnover driving 82 yards in just 1:04 and closed the drive out when Skelton hit Moore for the third time in the end zone, this one covering 15-yards. That score sent the teams into halftime knotted at 28.
In a half that featured six turnovers Lehigh out gained its counterpart 280-240 and ran 15 more plays than the Rams. Clark completed 13-of-27 passes for 172 yards and three scores with Zurn catching seven of those passes for 76 yards. Campbell totaled 71 yards on the ground, averaging 5.9 yards on 12 carries while Clark rushed eight times for 17 yards. Jesse Sanchez led the defense with six tackles while Cribbs posted five first half stops.
Skelton threw for 221 first half yards including 112 to Moore while Jason Caldwell caught six passes for 86 more yards. Whiting carried 10 times for 34 yards and James Crockett totaled five tackles, including one sack. The Rams held the ball for 12:30 while Lehigh had it for 17:30 and converted four-of-nine third downs.
After a slow start by both teams to the third quarter Lehigh pulled in front when Clark hit Gordon for the pair’s third touchdown of the day, this one covering 22 yards and the Mountain Hawks were on top 35-28 with 3:34 left in the quarter.
Several minutes into the fourth Fordham drove deep into Lehigh territory and got the ball inside the ten following a pass interference call on the Mountain Hawks. The Lehigh "D" stood tall however, as senior Troy Taylor sacked Skelton on third down setting up a field goal attempt by the Rams. Lehigh’s Bryan Andrews blocked the ensuing kick attempt though and the Brown and White got the ball back on the FU ten.
The ball changed hands several times in the closing minutes with Fordham taking over with 1:50 on the clock. The Rams moved it to the Lehigh 17 but Eldemire sacked the signal caller on first down and Skelton threw three straight incomplete passes, including one on the final play that Andrews knocked down, sending the Mountain Hawks to victory.
Lehigh closes out its 2009 season next Saturday, November 21 when the Mountain Hawks play host to archrival Lafayette in the 145th meeting of college football’s most played rivalry. Kick-off from Goodman Stadium is set for 12:37. The game is sold out but will be shown live on WFMZ, FCS-Central as well as Lehighsports.com. It will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320.
EXTRA POINTS … Saturday was Fordham’s Senior Day … Matt Cohen’s nine sacks this season are the most by a Lehigh player since Tom Alfsen registered ten in 2004 … Lehigh’s nine team sacks on Saturday were the most the Mountain Hawks have registered during the Andy Coen regime and the most by any Lehigh team since registering nine in a win over Saint Mary’s on October 11, 2003 … the weather on Saturday was chilly with steady rain, including heavy downpours at times.