Posted: November 27, 2004
Bethlehem, PA – Lehigh’s 2004 season came to an end on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA I-AA Playoffs, as the Mountain Hawks dropped a tough 14-13 decision to James Madison in front of 6,116 in attendance at Goodman Stadium.
With the loss the Brown and White ends its season at 9-3 overall, while the Dukes improve to 10-2 and will continue their season next weekend in the I-AA playoffs.
After Lehigh was forced to punt on its first possession, the Dukes took over and marched 80-yards down the field to the Mountain Hawks nine-yard line before quarterback Justin Rascati raced all over the field on a third and long play, eventually finding his way into the end zone to put James Madison in front 7-0 with just over eight minutes remaining in the first. Rascati scrambled from the right side of the field all the way over to the left side, before finding a seam in the middle of the Lehigh defense enabling him to find pay dirt.
The ball switched hands several times for the remainder of the quarter, but the Mountain Hawks had possession deep in James Madison territory and were driving when the period came to an end. As the second quarter began, Lehigh’s drive stalled, but the Brown and White received a 43-yard field goal from freshman Matt McNellis to cap off the 43-yard drive, making the score 7-3 in favor of the Dukes with 13:40 remaining in the half.
Following a Dukes punt, Lehigh took the ball and marched 53-yards down the field for a six-yard touchdown run by junior running back Eric Rath, putting the Mountain Hawks in front 10-7 with 7:40 to go in the half. Lehigh received some big help on the drive in the form of two James Madison penalties, with the first coming on the punt coverage team when Rondell Bradley ran into Lehigh return man Greg Petrosky, pushing the Brown and White up the field 15 yards.
James Madison head coach Mickey Matthews was then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct following a big gain on a screen pass to sophomore running back Marques Thompson, which Matthews thought should have been called back. That set up what was one of the crazier plays of the season for Lehigh in which junior quarterback Mark Borda was being dragged to the ground, but managed to flip the ball to Rath, who rumbled his way inside the ten-yard line setting up his touchdown run.
James Madison came right back however, taking the ensuing kickoff and driving 64-yards down the field to the Mountain Hawk one, where it took the Dukes seven tries to score the go-ahead points, which was a one-yard scamper by Raymond Hines. James Madison was stuffed on the first set of downs and it appeared as though Lehigh had come away unharmed, but a personal foul versus the Mountain Hawks gave James Madison a fresh set of downs, and following another set of stops allowed Hines to find his way into the end zone making the score 14-10, which is how it would remain heading into halftime.
Borda connected on 13 of 17 passes for 110 yards in the half, hitting Thompson four times for 31 of those yards, while on the ground, Thompson picked up 18 yards and Rath added 13. Hines finished the half with 109 yards rushing for the Dukes, while Rascati completed 9 of 12 passes for 80 yards. The Mountain Hawks gained 123 total yards to the Dukes 201 and there were nine combined penalties called on the two teams for 88 yards.
James Madison received the ball first in the second half, but turned it over right away when sophomore Frank Trovato picked off a Rascati pass setting up Lehigh in Duke territory. After being faced with a fourth down conversion attempt, Borda hit junior Kevin Zeblium and then hit the junior wide receiver again on the next play, putting the Mountain Hawks inside the JMU 15, which set up a 28-yard field goal by McNellis to pull Lehigh within one, 14-13 with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter, which is how the score would stay heading into the final quarter.
The two teams battled feverishly throughout the final quarter with Lehigh having its best chance to put some points on the board when it drove inside of the Dukes 30-yard line, but the drive stalled, forcing the Mountain Hawks to punt to James Madison. The Dukes took over and tried to secure the victory by gaining first downs, but the Lehigh defense was more than up to the challenge, stuffing the Dukes at the Mountain Hawk 49-yard line on fourth down giving the ball back to the Brown and White with just 2:44 remaining in the contest.
The Mountain Hawks were unable to score, giving the ball back to the Dukes and after Hines raced his way for a first down, James Madison downed the ball and secured the victory. Borda finished his day with 215 yards through the air, while Rath rushed for a team high 43 yards. Rascati threw for 122 yards through the air and Hines gained 191 yards on the ground for James Madison. JMU outgained the Mountain Hawks 329 to 237 on the afternoon, including 207 net rushing yards to the Mountain Hawks 22.
Lehigh’s 2004 season comes to an end following a successful year in which Lehigh won 9 games, placed 15 players on the all-league team and made its fourth appearance in the I-AA playoffs in the last seven years. The Dukes move on to play Furman next weekend in South Carolina in the quarterfinal round of the Division I-AA playoffs.