DES MOINES, Iowa – Lehigh rode a fast start to 21 early points and then had to hold off a second-half rally as the Mountain Hawks downed Drake 28-14 Saturday in the season opener for both teams in front of 3,628 at Drake Stadium. Senior tailback Jay Campbell rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mountain Hawks, while junior quarterback Chris Lum threw for a career-high 288 yards, completing 23 of 36 passes.
The Mountain Hawks out-gained the Bulldogs by a commanding 420-177 margin, but nine Lehigh penalties kept the home team in the game.
"It was a good win, but we have a lot to coach off of," explained Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. "It’s nice that we can coach off a win.
We have to be better going into next week. In the third quarter tonight we had great field position a few times but couldn’t score. You don’t want to see a lot of penalties in the first game but we had a lot. You don’t want to turn the ball over and we didn’t but we did put the ball on the ground."
The host Bulldogs received the opening kickoff but Lehigh’s defense forced a three-and-out on the first series of the season. The Mountain Hawks’ first offensive possession of the year resulted in a score as Lehigh drove 69 yards in ten plays. Senior Jay Campbell scored the first touchdown of the season on a two-yard run and sophomore Jake Peery’s extra point gave Lehigh a 7-0 lead five minutes into the contest. On the drive Lum was 3-for-3 for 49 yards, including a 20 yard strike to junior Jake Drwal that put the Mountain Hawks in the red zone.
Following another Drake punt, Lehigh moved down the field and extended their lead on Campbell’s second touchdown run of the day, this one a three-yarder off left tackle. The drive was kept alive by a key personal foul against the Bulldogs after Lehigh was stopped on third down, and then a 30 yard screen pass from Lum to sophomore Ryan Spadola. Lehigh out-gained Drake 144-17 in the first 15 minutes and led 14-0 after one quarter.
Lum and senior wideout Craig Zurn helped Lehigh extend its lead early in the second quarter. The duo hooked up for a pair of key third-down conversions, then after a 22-yard scamper by sophomore Zach Barket, Lum rolled right and threw back across the field to an open Zurn for a 23-yard touchdown to put the Brown and White up by three touchdowns.
Members of the Mountain Hawks deboard the team plane upon arrival in Des Moines
"Chris did a great job," said Coen. "He came out and did some really nice things, especially early in the game as we were able to move the ball and get in the end zone."
Lehigh had a chance to extend its lead late in the half until Peery had a 42-yard field goal blocked. Drake moved down the field, but the Mountain Hawks defense dug in, and after a missed 32-yard field goal by Billy Janssen, Lehigh took a 21-0 lead into the locker room.
The Mountain Hawks held a commanding 277-37 edge in total yards in the first 30 minutes including a 217-34 advantage through the air. Lum was 16-of-23 passing for 217 yards while Campbell was the leading ground gainer with 36 yards on 11 carries. Zurn and Spadola each caught four passes for a combined 139 yards.
In the third quarter the teams traded punts before Drake capitalized on two pass interference penalties against Lehigh to get on the scoreboard. Tom Kostek scored on a 12-yard dash up the middle to cut the Mountain Hawks’ lead to 21-7 with just under five minutes remaining in the quarter.
After Lehigh turned the ball over on downs, Drake appeared to have the momentum but senior John Veniero created the game’s first turnover when he picked off a Michael Piatkowski pass early in the fourth quarter. The Mountain Hawks were unable to capitalize however, and Drake came back down the field 89 yards in 12 plays and crept within a touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Piatkowski to Drew Blackmon.
The Mountain Hawks then mishandled the ensuing kickoff with Drake recovering on the Lehigh 22 yard line. Lehigh’s defense held its ground again, and stopped the Bulldogs on fourth down when senior David Brown sacked Piatkowski, the Mountain Hawks’ sixth sack of the game.
Campbell capped his career day with a 29-yard touchdown run which gave Lehigh a 28-14 lead with just over four minutes to play.
"That was huge for us," Coen added. "At that point in the game we needed guys to step up and Jay did just that."
Lehigh, which led the nation with 39 sacks a year ago, put the game away when senior Al Pierce sacked Piatkowski and forced a fumble which senior Andrew Knapp recovered to give the Mountain Hawks the ball back for good.
Spadola was Lehigh’s top receiver on the evening with six receptions for 99 yards, while Zurn added five catches for 76 yards.
Piatkowski finished 20-of-34 for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Drake. Blackmon was his top target with five catches for 41 yards, while Kostek rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries.
"At the end of the day, we’re 1-0 and that’s all that matters," Coen concluded. "We’ll have a long day tomorrow with the travel, but now we have to get ready for arguably the best team in the country."
The Mountain Hawks will return to action next Saturday when they open their home schedule against the defending FCS National Champion Villanova Wildcats. Kickoff is set for just after 12:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh ticket office, located in Grace Hall or by logging on to Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS… Saturday’s game marked the first time Lehigh traveled by plane to a game since its 2001 NCAA Playoff game at Furman… it is Lehigh’s first game in the central time zone since it’s win over Western Illinois the previous week in the 2001 playoffs… Lum completed passes to ten different receivers…Lehigh is now 2-3 in season openers under Andy Coen with both victories coming against Drake… The Mountain Hawks are now 9-4 in night games dating back to 1999… Lehigh’s seven sacks were recorded by Pierce (2), junior Tanner Rivas (2), junior Colin Newton, Brown and junior Cody Connare.