BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The No. 7/9 Lehigh football team opened a 21-6 lead then erased any doubt with 21 unanswered points to close the game as the Mountain Hawks remained undefeated with a 42-19 win over Bucknell Saturday on Homecoming at Goodman Stadium. Senior Mike Colvin finished 20-of-32 with 298 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) while the defense stood tall in forcing 11 Bison punts.
Wide receivers Lee Kurfis and Josh Parris each had career games, each eclipsing 100 yards. Kurfis, a junior, posted eight catches for 129 yards and a career-high two touchdowns while Parris, a sophomore, had five for a career-high 114. Sophomore Tyler Coyle also had three receptions for 31 yards and his first-career touchdown.
Lehigh (8-0, 2-0 Patriot League) struggled running the football against one of the nation’s top run defenses, finishing with only 26 yards on the ground. But it didn’t matter as Lehigh outgained Bucknell (1-6, 0-3 Patriot League) through the air 298-164 to take control late in the third quarter.
A strong defensive effort included a team-high eight tackles for junior Nigel Muhammad, along with a half sack. Senior Sajjad Chagani also impressed with a game-high one and a half sacks, and three tackles (including one and a half for loss). Senior Anthony Verderame blocked an extra point, while adding a sack as well.
The Mountain Hawks also came up big on special teams with four blocked kicks, including two blocked punts by freshman Laquan Lambert.
“We’re thrilled to be 8-0,” explained Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “We knew Bucknell was going to be a real challenge today, particularly with how they play the run. Special teams were the key of the day. Can’t say enough about how our guys were able to come out and get those blocked kicks.”
Each offense went three-and-out on their opening drives. After Lehigh’s first possession, Bucknell got a piece of Tim Divers’ punt to give the Bison great field position at the Lehigh 44-yard line. Bucknell converted the game’s initial first down, but Muhammad and Chagani combined to sack Bucknell quarterback Brandon Wesley, forcing a punt. Lambert blocked the ensuing punt and returned it 60 yards himself for the touchdown, making it 7-0 Lehigh with 8:09 to go in the first quarter.
“It was great to see Laquan block one and pick it up for his first college touchdown,” Coen said. “That really set the tone for us.”
Bucknell answered with a 69-yard drive on seven plays capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Young. The extra point was blocked by Verderame to keep Lehigh on top 7-6 with 4:36 left in the first.
Both sides punted on their ensuing drives, leading into Lehigh’s second touchdown of the game. Starting with great field position at the Bucknell 41-yard line, it only took four plays and 1:33, capped off by a 22-yard connection from Colvin to Kurfis to make it 14-6 with 14:19 left in the second quarter.
The Mountain Hawks’ defense stood tall, forcing another Bucknell punt and again, Lehigh blocked it to give the offense the ball just 15 yards from pay dirt. Two plays later, Colvin found Kurfis for the second time in 2:39. This time, it was for 14 yards to make it 21-6 with 11:40 on the clock.
After successive punts, the half ended with the Mountain Hawks’ fourth block of the first half (third punt block) when sophomore Tashan Mitchell got a piece of the Ryan Gutowski punt as time expired.
Colvin finished the first half 8-of-11 for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Kurfis had a monster first half with five catches for 57 yards and both offensive scores. Parris also added two receptions for 30 yards. The Mountain Hawks were held to 11 rushing yards in the first.
After three empty possessions (two from Lehigh, one from Bucknell), the Bison converted a short field for their second touchdown. The five-play, 47-yard drive was capped off by a five-yard rush by Young to make it 21-12 with 7:39 left in the third quarter. A play prior, Wesley found Victor Walker for 17 yards to set up the five-yard scamper. Bucknell went for the two-point conversion, but the pass fell incomplete to keep Lehigh up by two scores.
A Bison interception set up the Bucknell offense near midfield for a second straight drive. This time, it took only four plays to go 52 yards as Young went in from six yards for his third touchdown of the game. That made it 21-19 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
“Bucknell did a nice job in the third quarter,” Coen said. “We were giving them short fields in the punt exchanges. What I’m most pleased with is there was never any panic. These kids know what they’re capable of. They stayed focused and went back out and executed.”
Bucknell came up with another stop, giving its offense the ball back at its 45, but a big stand by the Lehigh defense was capped off by a Verderame sack to force a punt and give the ball back to the offense at the Lehigh 24. That gave the offense momentum as Colvin found Parris on the first play for 29 yards, then Kurfis for 45 on a flea flicker down to the Bucknell two-yard line. Colvin did the rest, running it in to make it 28-19 with 2:24 to go in the third quarter.
The Lehigh defense forced another punt and the offense made it count, driving 61 yards for its second straight touchdown. Successive 14 and 16 yard catches by Coyle and Parris got Lehigh to the Bucknell 30. Colvin later found freshman Derek Knott for 14 yards, then four plays later, the senior quarterback rushed in from four yards out to make it 35-19 with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.
The Mountain Hawks added their sixth touchdown with 2:42 on the clock as a six-play, 48-yard drive was capped off by a four-yard touchdown reception from Coyle to make it 42-19, which stood as the final.
“The offense came back and responded in the fourth quarter and really seized momentum in the game,” Coen said. “The flea flicker was incredibly well executed between Zach and Mike. That play really took the wind out of Bucknell’s sails.
Coen concluded, “I’m pleased with the win. It was a sound win at the end of the day, something that is really important as we go into the bye.”
Lehigh held the edge in total yards (324-281) and pass yards (298-164) while Bucknell held a 117-26 advantage on the ground. First downs were 16-15 in favor of the Mountain Hawks while the Bison held the edge in time of possession, 33:18 to 26:42.
The Mountain Hawks will enjoy their bye week before returning to action in two weeks on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Holy Cross. Lehigh will return home on Nov. 11 to host Colgate, in a nationally-televised CBS Sports Network game. Kickoff is set for 12:30 and tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Ticket Office located in Stabler Arena or by logging on to Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS: Saturday marked Lehigh’s annual homecoming football game … Lambert’s blocked punt return for a touchdown was Lehigh’s first since its win at Lafayette in 2010 when Jonathan Littlejohn returned a Shane Ryan blocked punt … The win marked Lehigh’s 15th straight over Bucknell … The Mountain Hawks won their 18th straight game against Patriot League foes … Lehigh extended the nation’s longest regular season winning streak to 17 games … Lehigh recognized its eight Lambert Cup Champions at halftime, from 1957, 1961, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 2011… the Mountain Hawks also captured the Lambert Cup in 2001… Lehigh’s Patriot League champion softball team was honored during the second quarter… Saturday’s announced attendance was 7,188.