BOSTON – Down 17-0 at halftime, the Lehigh offense came to life with 21 third quarter points as the Mountain Hawks rallied past Harvard 21-19 in front of 12,252 on a windy afternoon at Harvard Stadium. Sophomore Ryan Spadola tied a school record with 14 receptions, for 206 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score on a 51-yard pass from junior Chris Lum in the third quarter that put Lehigh ahead for good.
With the win, the Mountain Hawks improve to 4-2 on the season, while Harvard falls to 3-2.
"I want to start by saying how proud I am of our football team and how we responded to a big challenge at halftime," said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. "Our first half of football was not very pretty. We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t execute the offense the way we’re capable of. We had to pick ourselves up at halftime. We came out in the third quarter and responded very well.
Coen Continued, "It means a lot to me that we were able to beat Harvard because I have a lot of respect for their football program. It was the kids that did it. Right to the end they kept competing and had a great will to come out with a win. We were fortunate enough to get that done."
The complexion of the game changed in the third quarter when Lehigh’s defense kept stopping Harvard and then the Mountain Hawks offense put together three consecutive scoring drives to go in front. The Mountain Hawks out-gained the Crimson 197-56 in the third quarter, as Lehigh took the lead with the wind at its back and never gave it back.
Lum passed for a career-high 299 yards, completing 21-of-38 attempts and pair of touchdowns.
The Mountain Hawks received the opening kickoff but were forced to punt after three running plays. Harvard then marched 49 yards on its first drive and David Mothander booted a 38-yard field goal to give the Crimson a 3-0 lead.
On its next possession Lehigh faced a third and two in its own territory. Senior tailback Jay Campbell was stripped and Josue Ortiz recovered for Harvard in Lehigh territory. Two plays later Gino Gordon extended the Crimson lead with a 17-yard touchdown run to make it 10-0 Harvard eight minutes into the contest.
In the second quarter Harvard capitalized on Lehigh’s second turnover of the day. After a Lum interception, the Crimson marched 75 yards in seven plays and extended its lead on a 17-yard pass from Colton Chapple to Kyle Juszczyk.
Lehigh had several chances to get on the board late in the first half, but sophomore Jake Peery missed a 25-yard field goal. The Mountain Hawks then blocked a Harvard punt in the waning seconds of the half, but after three unsuccessful plays, Lehigh’s field goal attempt was thwarted by a bad snap.
Harvard out-gained Lehigh 216-114 in the first half, including a 142-20 edge on the ground. Lum was 7-of-18 passing for 94 yards in the first half. Freshman Keith Sherman was Lehigh’s leading ground gainer with 17 yards on seven rushes. Senior Craig Zurn and sophomore Ryan Spadola caught three passes apiece while junior Mike Groome paced the defense with seven tackles.
Chapple was 7-of-11 passing for 74 yards in the first half. Gordon rushed 11 times for 75 yards while Juszczyk caught four balls for 51 yards.
Lehigh stopped Harvard on its first possession of the second half and after getting the ball back the Mountain Hawks drove 49 yards to score their first points of the game. Sophomore Mike Colvin threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Spadola to make it 17-7 Harvard early in the third quarter.
After the Mountain Hawks "D" came up with another stop, Lehigh got the ball back and marched 83 yards in 12 plays. Lum found tight end Mark Wickware for a one-yard touchdown to make it 17-14 Crimson late in the third quarter.
The third quarter renaissance continued for Lehigh as the Mountain Hawks capped the quarter with another score to take a 21-17 lead. The defense stopped Harvard on third-and-short and two plays after a short punt Lum and Spadola hooked up for a 51-yard catch-and-run to put the Brown and White in front.
"The wind was a big factor in this football game," Coen said. "I wanted to take the wind in the third quarter to try to get back into the ballgame. That fact worked pretty well to the fact that we scored on a big play to the post with four seconds left in the fourth quarter with the wind with us. I know we’re capable of performing the way we did, we just need to find the consistency if we want to be as good as we’re capable of being."
With the Mountain Hawks offense going into a stiff wind in the fourth quarter, Lehigh’s defense stepped up its game, stopping Harvard on its first four possessions of the fourth quarter. In an attempt to run out the lock, Lehigh took a safety to account for Harvard’s final two points but a desperation Crimson pass fell incomplete to end the game.
For the game, Harvard held a 358-328 advantage in total yards. The Crimson out-rushed Lehigh 215-25 but the Mountain Hawks dominated through the air with a 303-143 advantage.
Gordon finished with 118 rushing yards for Harvard, while Chapple was 12-for-27 for 143 yards a touchdown and an interception.
Groome led Lehigh’s defensive charge with a career-high 15 total tackles. Senior Al Pierce and junior Tanner Rivas added six stops apiece for the Mountain Hawks.
The Mountain Hawks will return to Goodman Stadium next Saturday to face the Bucknell Bison on Homecoming. Kick-off is set for just after 12:30 and tickets can be purchased in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office, located in Grace Hall, or by logging onto Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS… Saturday’s game was played under partly sunny skies but winds gusted from the northwest at 30-45 miles per hour…Lehigh is now two games over .500 for the first time since 2007… that’s also the last year that Lehigh beat two teams from the Ivy League in the same season… the other Lehigh receivers to catch 14 passes in a game were Rob Varano vs. Northeastern in 1989, Adam Bergen vs. Georgetown in 2003 and Rennie Benn, who did it on two occasions. Spadola’s 206 receiving yards were the most since Josh Snyder gained 209 yards versus Colgate in 2001… Jarard Cribbs picked off his team-leading fourth pass of the season… Lehigh won despite not recording a quarterback sack in the game… the Mountain Hawks entered the game first in the Patriot League and seventh nationally in sacks.