BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- On the strength of two Chris Lum touchdown passes, the Lehigh football team earned a victory in its Patriot League opener, 21-17 over Fordham at Goodman Stadium on Saturday. Lum completed 14-of-23 passes for 146 yards and senior tail back Jay Campbell carried 22 times for 93 yards as the Mountain Hawks won their second straight home game and improved to 3-2 on the season.
Junior Jake Drwal led the Brown and White with 31 receiving yards, while junior linebacker Mike Groome recorded 11 total tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble. Fordham quarterback Blake Wayne completed 24-of-41 throws for 343 yards and a touchdown as four Rams’ receivers surpassed the 70-yard receiving mark.
"I’ve sat in here after a lot of games like this where we didn’t come out on the right end, so I’m obviously very happy that we found a way to win the football game," said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. "It was a hard-fought game. Give the Fordham kids a lot of credit. Our defense got hurt by some big plays, but our kids stepped up.
Coen continued, "In the fourth quarter, we played great defense. We didn’t really give up any yards until that last drive and then we came up big to shut them down. Offensively, we did some good things, but we were inconsistent, I was hoping to see a more crisp operation."
Lehigh struck first when Lum completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Ryan Spadola 6:06 into the opening quarter. Spadola appeared to go down at the Rams’ six yard line, but was able to roll over the tackler and regain his balance, before charging into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Fordham (2-4) threatened to tie the score on its ensuing possession when Wayne floated a 42-yard pass into the arms of Jason Caldwell. The drive stalled, however, after Groome sacked Wayne on third down to force a field goal try. Patrick Murray converted from 32 yards out to cut Lehigh’s lead to 7-3 with just over two minutes to play in the quarter.
Groome came up big once again on Fordham’s opening drive of the second quarter. On a 4th and goal from the Lehigh 1, Groome chased Wayne out of the pocket and brought the quarterback down for a four-yard loss to force a turnover on downs.
The teams promptly traded scores to end the first half, as Fordham went ahead 10-7 on a 39-yard reception by David Moore, before Lehigh responded with a six-yard run to paydirt by sophomore quarterback Michael Colvin. The Mountain Hawks carried a 14-10 lead into the break, despite being outgained, 235-156 overall.
Lehigh turned defense into offense to open the second half as Groome forced a Justin Yancey fumble at midfield after Yancey had gained first-down yardage on a fake punt. Senior John Veniero scooped up the loose ball. Seven plays later, Lum gunned a pass into the end zone to sophomore Zach Barket, who was able to keep his toes in bounds to give Lehigh its largest lead of the game at 21-10. The score was Barket’s first career receiving touchdown on his first reception of the 2010 season.
Again Fordham responded on its next possession with a lengthy 13-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard touchdown scamper by Darryl Whiting. Wayne accounted for 40 yards on the drive with 29 yards through the air and 11 on the ground. The score cut Lehigh’s advantage to 21-17 with one minute showing on the third-quarter clock.
Campbell did his part to chew up the clock in the fourth quarter, rushing for 40 yards on the Mountain Hawks’ first possession of the frame. The drive eventually stalled at the Fordham 19 yard line and brought up a 36-yard field goal attempt from sophomore Jake Peery. Kicking straight into 16 mph wind, the ball fell inches short of the crossbar to give Fordham the ball on its own 20 with 7:14 to play.
The drive came to nothing, however, as Lehigh’s defense stopped the Rams on 4th down at midfield and handed the ball to the offense with 3:48 remaining. Fordham forced a quick punt, and drove the ball to the Lehigh 27 in the final two minutes, but again the Lehigh defensive unit held as Fordham turned it over on downs for the sixth time in the game.
Spadola caught a team-high three passes for 30 yards for Lehigh, while Stephen Skelton led the Rams with seven receptions and 89 yards. Colvin carried seven times for the Mountain Hawks for 36 yards and Xavier Martin led the way for Fordham on the ground with 39 yards on 14 carries.
"The kids were great," Coen said. "The attitude was great the whole time and we kept fighting the whole game. Sometimes you can look back on games like this and feel really good about it. The kids understand that it’s a 60-minute event. We talked to them earlier this week about being confident every play and playing well every play. Don’t even worry about the game, just worry about the play. You could see proof of that today, certain plays were great. I’m very happy to be 3-2 and I’m looking forward to go play Harvard."
The Mountain Hawks will return to action next Saturday at Harvard with the opening kickoff scheduled for 12:00 p.m. The game can be heard on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM as well as online at Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS…Lehigh snapped a three-game losing streak in games following an in-season bye week…Lehigh’s win percentage against Fordham is the second-highest in school history (21-2, 91.3%)…at halftime, Lehigh celebrated the 60th anniversary of the 1950 football team that posted the only undefeated record in program history…under the direction of head coach Bill Leckonby, the 1950 team registered a 9-0 record, including a 38-0 win over Lafayette…the announced attendance was 5,176 as Lehigh’s students began pacing break on Friday… Due to the fact that Fordham has begun awarding athletic scholarships for football, Saturday’s game does not count in the league standings for either team.
Inside photo © 2010 Jens Vadelund. Used with permission.