WASHINGTON – The Lehigh football team shook off a sluggish start to clinch its first NCAA playoff appearance since 2004 as the Mountain Hawks won the outright Patriot League championship with a 24-7 win over Georgetown at Multi-Sport Field. The Mountain Hawks trailed 7-6 at halftime, but sophomore Mike Colvin put Lehigh ahead with a three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter as Lehigh outscored Georgetown 18-0 in the second half.
The win is Lehigh’s sixth straight and moves the Mountain Hawks to 8-2 overall and 4-0 in the Patriot League. Lehigh wins its first outright Patriot League title since 2001.
"The first thing is, I’m happy for our players," said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. "When we recruit kids we talk about winning championships and we’ve had opportunities in the past that we haven’t been able to take advantage of, and I’ve said all along about how much I care about this senior group. What a great job they’ve done. Our seniors stepped up at the end today with (Alex) Wojdowski making some big plays and Jay Campbell making some big plays and our seniors on the offensive line doing a great job. There are so many guys I could mention."
Senior Jay Campbell rushed for a season-high 118 yards on 18 carries and added an insurance touchdown with 4:40 to play. Lehigh out-gained Georgetown 441-214 and had 22 first downs to the Hoyas 11. Junior Chris Lum completed just 24-of-47 passes for 297 yards and three interceptions.
The Hoyas received the opening kickoff and went three plays and out. On Lehigh’s first drive the Mountain Hawks moved into the red zone and after the drive stalled, senior Tom Randazza booted a 32-yard field goal to put the visitors up 3-0 five minutes into the game.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout the first 30 minutes. Lehigh did put together a 17-play, 80 yard drive late in the half, but again the Mountain Hawks were limited to a field goal attempt, which Randazza hit from 23-yards to put Lehigh up 6-0.
Despite being out-gained 204-109 in the first half, the Hoyas put together an eight-play, 58-yard drive in the final two minutes. Isaiah Kempf hit Max Waizenegger for 31 yards on fourth down and on the next play Dalen Claytor rushed nine yards up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point gave Georgetown a 7-6 lead at halftime.
Lum finished the first half 13-of-28 for 138 yards, but threw three costly interceptions. Senior Jay Campbell was the Mountain Hawks’ leading ground-gainer with 44 yards on 10 rushes, while sophomore Ryan Spadola led the receiving corps with three grabs for 52 yards. Lehigh also held an 11-4 advantage in first downs and a 138-67 yard advantage in passing yards through 30 minutes of play.
For Georgetown, Kempf replaced starter Scott Darby and was 5-of-14 for 56 yards in the first half.
Lehigh received to open the ball to open the second half, but was forced to punt. Georgetown put together a clock-eating drive, including a key fourth-and-one conversion, but on an ensuing fourth and short, the Hoyas opted for a 45-yard field goal which Brett Weiss missed to the left.
On its ensuing possession, Lehigh marched 71 yards in five plays. Lum hit Spadola for 27 yards down to the three yard line and on the next play, sophomore Michael Colvin ran the ball in to put Lehigh back in front 13-7.
"Our offensive execution was much better in the second half," Coen said. "We dropped some balls and Chris made some poor decisions in the first half. We blew some blocking schemes and had a lot of negative rushing plays. We didn’t change a lot. Georgetown is a much improved team and they played hard. We didn’t panic. We talked about concentration and focus for 60 minutes. We wasted 30 but we talked about doing what we needed to do for the last 30 minutes and the kids went out and did it."
Georgetown tried to regain momentum on the lead and attempted a fourth and inches at its own 40 yard line but junior Tanner Rivas stuffed Keerome Lawrence for a one-yard loss to give Lehigh the ball back. The Mountain Hawks failed to move the ball and turned it over on downs when Lum threw incomplete for Spadola on fourth and six.
Lehigh put the game away with a nine-play, 55-yard drive that took four and a half minutes off the clock. A penalty left Lehigh with a second down and 27, but Lum hit Spadola for 25 yards down to the Hoya 11. On the next play Campbell rushed 11 yards to paydirt and a two-point pass from Lum to Craig Zurn put the Mountain Hawks up 21-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, junior Jonathon Littlejohn forced Jeremy Moore to fumble and kicker Tom Randazza recovered for the Mountain Hawks. Six plays later, Randazza booted a 31-yard field goal, his third of the game to account for the final margin.
Spadola led Lehigh in receiving with 113 yards on six catches, while senior tight end Alex Wojdowski added 69 yards on five receptions, including a pair of key fourth quarter catches that resulted in first downs. Junior Mike Groome led the defense with eight tackles.
"Not playing our best today is going to help keep our attention for next week," Coen said. "We know we’re in the playoffs but the track record for teams that have done this is not good. You need to build momentum going into the playoffs. You can’t go out and lay an egg next week. We’ll be able to grab the kids’ attention after today."
The Mountain Hawks will return to action on Saturday November 20 when they travel to Lafayette for the 146th meeting of college football’s most-played rivalry. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. from Fisher Stadium. The game will be televised on WFMZ-TV, with Steve Degler and Mike Yadush ’93 on the call. The game can also be heard on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 with Matt Kerr, Kody Fedorcha ’00 and Matt Markus. Pregame coverage gets underway at 11 a.m.
EXTRA POINTS… Lehigh has now on ten straight games against Georgetown and 12 straight games the week prior to facing Lafayette… the Mountain Hawks are now 2-0 this season when losing the turnover battle… Lehigh was minus-2 in turnovers on Saturday… Sophomores Billy Boyko and Tanner Rivas combined for Lehigh’s only sack of the day… Lehigh converted two of three fourth down opportunities after entering Saturday 1-for-12 on the season… Saturday’s game was played under balmy conditions for mid-November with sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-60s… Playoff ticket information will be announced on Lehighsports.com following the NCAA selection show next Sunday.