BETHLEHEM, Pa. - In a wild, back-and-forth affair, the 14th-ranked Lehigh football team fell into an 18-point second half hole before responding with 21 straight points to take a lead, before No. 13 New Hampshire rallied to score the final ten points of the game to win 48-41 Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium. Senior Chris Lum had a career day, tying a school record with six touchdowns passes while throwing for a career-high 401 yards for the Mountain Hawks, who fall to 1-1 on the season.
“It was a tough loss obviously,” head coach Andy Coen said in the postgame press conference. “First thing though, I want to talk about how our team came back. We got ourselves behind coming out in the second half but never once wavered. Our coaches and the players on the sidelines were into the game. They fought their tails off. We got right back in there and took the lead, and went into overtime.
Coen continued, “You would have to look back pretty far into the annals to see the last time New Hampshire gave up an 18-point lead and then got taken into overtime. We came to win the game. There are no moral victories here. I thought we had a chance to win going in. We talked last night to the kids about having confidence in everything we’re doing and believing in yourselves and they did that to the letter. We’ll learn from this and come back and be better from it next week.”
Senior Jake Drwal had a stellar game with 11 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Zach Barket had 10 receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while also running for 58 yards on the ground. Junior Ryan Spadola added five catches for 70 yards and a score.
Down by only four at the half, the Mountain Hawks gave up 14 points in a 38-second span in the third to fall behind, 38-20, but Lehigh mounted a spirited comeback, culminating in its third unanswered touchdown to go up, 41-38. However, New Hampshire marched down the field to kick a game-tying field goal before scoring on its first, and only, play of the extra session.
The Wildcats (1-1) took a quick lead on the game’s first possession, going 65 yards on nine plays capped off by a two-yard run from quarterback Kevin Decker to make it 7-0 with 12:17 on the clock. The key play came from receiver Joey Orlando, who had a 38-yard catch to the two yard line.
Just like in its season-opener, the Lehigh responded on its first drive of the game, going 64 yards in seven plays to quickly even the score at seven. Barket capped it off by taking a screen pass on fourth down and going 26 yards to through the New Hampshire defense.
Junior Bryan Andrews picked off Decker on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, giving Lehigh prime field position at the New Hampshire 44. Barket went on to make it two touchdowns in a row, running down a Lum lob into the corner of the end zone, to the delight of the Lehigh faithful. The ensuing extra point was blocked, giving Lehigh a 13-7 lead with 4:06 remaining in the first.
Decker came back with his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, scampering two yards early in the fourth to give New Hampshire a 14-13 advantage with 14:05 to go in the second. That capped off a long 14-play, 75-yard drive which saw the Wildcats convert three third-down opportunities.
Lehigh made it three touchdowns in three possessions with a long seven-play, 78-yard drive capped off by a quick 12-yard slant from Lum to Spadola. Barket helped set up the score with a game-high 24-yard scamper on third-and-one, to the New Hampshire 45-yard line.
The back and forth play continued as the Wildcats retook a 21-20 lead with 7:16 still to go in the second. The 70-yard drive was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown reception from Orlando.
Following the Mountain Hawks’ first empty possession, New Hampshire converted with a 10-play, 80-yard drive which ended in a 25-yard field goal from Mike McArthur to make it 24-20, which stood at the half.
After a three-and-out in its first drive of the second half, the Mountain Hawks punted away to Orlando, who returned it 56 yards for the touchdown and a 31-20 Wildcats’ lead with 12:29 remaining in the third quarter.
Lum’s first pass attempt on the ensuing drive was picked off by Manny Asam, giving New Hampshire the ball at the Lehigh 26-yard line. Things turned from bad to worse as two plays later, Decker found R.J. Harris for a 12-yard pitch and catch to make it 38-20 with 11:51 to go in the third.
The Mountain Hawks went on to a pair of empty possessions, but came up with a big turnover off a punt to put them at the New Hampshire 11 yard line. A booming punt from sophomore Tim Divers sent Orlando backwards. Trying to fight up field, junior Sam Loughery forced a fumble which sophomore Tyler Ward recovered, giving Lehigh new life. Three plays later, Lum found Drwal for on a 10-yard slant to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 38-27 with 2:10 left in the third.
After another stop, Lehigh made it to two straight touchdowns, going 80 yards on nine plays to pull within 38-33 after a missed extra point. Following a sack, Lum found Spadola for a crucial 16-yard gain to help keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Lum found sophomore Keith Sherman for a four-yard touchdown pass to pull within five with 11:03 still to go in the fourth.
The Mountain Hawks forced another three-and-out, and then put together perhaps their most impressive drive of the afternoon, going 79 yards on 12 plays in 4:58, including two fourth-down conversions. On fourth-and-three, Lum was pressured, but still found Drwal for the 11-yard touchdown connection. A two-point conversion pass put Lehigh up 41-38.
“It’s a game of momentum,” Coen explained. “We have a good defense. They have a good offense and have had one for many years. I’m really proud that our team came back. Down 38-20 we could have hung our heads and got run out of there but that’s not what these guys are all about. They’re about working together and chipping away. Our offense got scores and our defense got stops. We have good players on defense and they stepped up enough times to get us back in the game and our offense took advantage by getting the ball in the end zone.”
However, the Wildcats came right back with a 47-yard drive which ended with a 35-yard field goal from Mike MacArthur to even the score at 41. Lehigh got into UNH territory with time winding down, but had to punt it away with just over a minute remaining.
New Hampshire got the first possession in overtime, only needing one play to find the end zone as an Orlando 25-yard touchdown reception along the left sideline gave the Wildcats a 48-41 advantage. Lehigh didn’t get a first down with its opportunity, as one final desperation attempt was picked off by Kyle Flemings to end the game.
Lehigh finished with 506 total yards (401 passing) to New Hampshire’s 447 (330). The Wildcats held the edge on the ground, 117-105. Decker threw for 330 yards and three scores and added 44 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Orlando was his favorite target with ten catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Evans led the defensive effort with 24 total tackles.
The Mountain Hawks hit the road next weekend when they travel to New Jersey to face the Princeton Tigers. Kickoff is set for just after 6 p.m. and the game will be televised live on WFMZ-TV as well as Fox College Sports Atlantic. Streaming audio of the contest will also be available at Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS… The Lehigh Athletic Department honored 40 years of undergraduate women at Lehigh. More than 250 former female student and their families were in attendance and were recognized … It was also community day … This game will be replayed on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on Service Electric 2 Sports … It marks Lum’s third straight game of over 300 yards going back to last season and second straight game in which he’s set a career-high in touchdowns … This was Lehigh’s first overtime game since defeating Lafayette, 27-21, in the 2009 season finale … The Mountain Hawks are now 5-4 all-time in overtime… Lum delivered Lehigh’s first 400-yard passing day since Phil Stambaugh threw for 410 at Delaware in 1999.