Posted: November 20, 2004
Easton, PA – In the 140th meeting of college football’s most-played rivalry, host Lafayette put up 17 third quarter points and dominated time of possession, as the Leopards rallied for a 24-10 victory over Lehigh in front of a crowd of 14,000 on a gloomy Saturday afternoon at Fisher Field.
With the win, Lafayette
(8-3 overall, 5-1 Patriot League) ties Lehigh (9-2, 5-1) for a share of the Patriot League title.
By virtue of Saturday’s victory, the Leopards advance to the Division I-AA tournament for the first time. Meanwhile, No. 8 Lehigh will pin its hopes on at-large bid to the field of 16.
After Lehigh junior Gerran Walker returned the opening kickoff 21 yards, the Mountain Hawks methodically drove up the field. Lehigh mounted a 14 play, 70-yard drive that took 7:50 off the clock and culminated on an eight yard Eric Rath touchdown for the game’s opening score. Lehigh clearly intended to establish its ground game early, as Rath carried ten times on the drive, rushing for 44 yards.
The two teams traded possessions in the second stanza, and the Leopards drove down the field and tried to earn a late score. Lafayette QB Brade Maurer, the game’s most valuable player, rushed 76 yards to the Lehigh ten yard line to set up first-and-goal in the final minute of the half. On third and ten, Maurer rolled out and his pass over the middle was batted in the air by Anthony Graziani and picked off in the back of the end zone by sophomore d-back Courtney Elder for a touchback. Lehigh took a knee and went into the locker room with a 7-0 advantage.
In the third quarter, Lafayette mounted a four-play, 66-yard drive to start the period, and Maurer scored on a 26-yard run to tie the score at 7-7 with still 13:14 to go in the period. Later in the quarter, the Leopards executed a fake punt with a direct snap to tailback Jonathan Hurt, who ran up the middle for a first down to prolong the drive. The Leopards took their first lead of the game with 4:02 to go in the third, as Rick Ziska connected on a 25-yard field goal to give Lafayette a 10-7 advantage. That kick capped a 15 play, 66-yard drive that chewed 7:41 off the clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, Eric Rath had the ball jarred loose and the Leopards’ Dion Witherspoon recovered the fumble giving Lafayette the ball back on the Lehigh 34 yard line. The Leopards drove down the field and found pay dirt on a 13-yard reverse by Brandon Stanford to give the Leopards a 17-7 lead with 2:32 to go in the third.
Lafayette increased its lead with another time consuming drive. The Leopards moved 80 yards on 18 plays, taking 7:15 off the clock. Lafayette went up by a 24-7 score thanks to a two yard Joe McCourt run with 7:54 to go in the game.
Rath finished the game with 74 yards rushing, while senior tight end Adam Bergen caught five passes for 65 yards to lead the Mountain Hawks on offense. Maurer finished the game with 124 yards rushing and one touchdown and 108 yards passing on 11 completions.
The Mountain Hawks and Leopards will both have their eyes glued to the television on Sunday afternoon for the NCAA Division I-AA playoff selection show. The announcement will be made beginning at 1:00 pm ET on ESPNEWS (Service Electric dial position 100). Lehigh will hope to make its first postseason appearance since 2001, while the Leopards will find out their fate in Lafayette’s first-ever postseason game.