Posted: September 10, 2005
NEWARK, Del. – No. 14 Lehigh and No. 10 Delaware engaged in a classic matchup on Saturday evening, battling to the very end, but a missed extra point wound up to be the difference as the Fightin Blue Hens came away with a 34-33 victory in overtime in front of a raucous crowd of 22,537 at Delaware Stadium.
The loss drops the Mountain Hawks to 1-1 on the season, while the Fightin’ Blue Hens begin their 2005 campaign with a 1-0 mark.
It marked the first time Lehigh played an overtime game since defeating Fordham 26-23 on a Matt Douglas field goal in 2002 in the Bronx
Lehigh won the coin toss in the extra session and deferred to the Blue Hens, who promptly scored on their second play, a 15-yard pass from quarterback Sonny Riccio to running back Omar Cuff. Lehigh then got the ball, and after converting on a huge fourth down play, senior running back Eric Rath dove across the goal line for a touchdown, but the extra point was no good and Lehigh fell to Delaware. For the second straight game, senior quarterback Mark Borda threw for over 270 yards, finishing with 272 and one touchdown, while Lee Thomas, Gerran Walker and Kevin Zebluim combined for 19 catches and 180 yards receiving.
“I’m proud of the effort our guys gave,” said Lehigh head coach Pete Lembo following the contest. “Our coaches put together a great game plan and had our team ready to play in this environment. We showed we could compete with one of the best teams in the country and in one of the toughest places to play. I haven’t been to Montana, I haven’t been to Georgia Southern, but I can’t imagine those fans are any more into [the game] than they are here.”
Delaware took the game’s opening kickoff, but the Blue Hens were forced to punt. On Lehigh’s second possession of the game, the Mountain Hawks drove 49 yards on ten plays and got on the scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal from Justin Musiek. On the ensuing kickoff, Delaware fumbled the ball, and Lehigh recovered on the 26 yard line. The Mountain quickly Hawks drove 26 yards to the end zone on just four plays, scoring on a five yard scamper from Mark Borda. Lehigh led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens responded on their opening drive of the second quarter. Riccio capped the 11-play, 54-yard drive with a 15-yard strike to Cuff to make the score 10-6 with 10:23 remaining in the opening half. Zach Hobby’s extra point attempt was no good, and the Mountain Hawks maintained a four point halftime edge.
Lehigh received the kickoff to start the second half. The Mountain Hawks methodically drove down the field, eating nearly four minutes off the clock. However, the Delaware defense stepped up and forced a Lehigh field goal attempt on the ten yard line. Justin Musiek’s 27 yard attempt was blocked, and the Blue Hens took over. After UD moved the ball near midfield, the drive stalled, giving the Mountain Hawks possession at their own 37 with 9:43 to play in the third.
Lehigh was forced to punt, and a high, arcing kick from freshman Jason Leo placed Delaware on its own 24. On the first play of the drive, the ball was snapped over the head of new UD quarterback Ryan Carty. Carty fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety, putting the Brown and White up 12-6 with 6:14 remaining in the third.
The Mountain Hawks drove to the UD 18 yard line, but a Lehigh fumble after a catch gave possession back to the Blue Hens. Once again, the Mountain Hawks’ defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out. Lehigh senior Greg Petrosky returned the punt 43 yard, giving the Mountain Hawks possession at the UD 33 late in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Lehigh faced a third-and-goal from the 15 yard line. With the Mountain Hawks heading towards the hostile Delaware student section in the north end zone, Borda connected with senior Gerran Walker in the back of the end zone. Walker made a spectacular catch for six points, capping a nine play, 33 yard drive. After a delay of game penalty, Borda ran in the two-point conversion virtually unscathed to give the Mountain Hawks a 20-6 lead with 14:01 remaining.
Delaware refused to give in, as the Fightin’ Blue Hens drove down the field and scored a touchdown on a six yard rush from Omar Cuff. That score wrapped up a five play, 72 yard drive, cutting the Lehigh advantage to 20-13 with 12:26 to play.
The Mountain Hawks responded with a lengthy 61 yard drive of their own. Lehigh put a six-spot on the board on the sixth play of the drive when Eric Rath broke free on a second down and eight play, scampering 20 yards for a Lehigh TD. The Justin Musiek extra point gave Lehigh a 27-13 lead with 9:54 showing on the clock.
With 7:36 left, UD’s Omar Cuff rushed one yard for his third touchdown of the night, and the extra point cut Lehigh’s lead back to seven, at 27-20. Delaware then got the ball back and got itself in position to score, but the Mountain Hawk defense refused to go away easily. The Blue Hens were stuffed on the goal line on successive plays, before Cuff blasted his way through the line to tie the game at 27. Lehigh got the ball back, but ran the clock out and the two teams headed for overtime.
Riccio threw for 206 yards on the evening, while Cuff rushed 23 times for 103 yards and three scores. Rath finished with 77 yards on the ground for the Brown and White, and senior Greg Petrosky returned five kicks (punts and kick offs) for 60 yards. Senior captain Anthony Graziani recorded ten tackles for the game and fellow senior Royce Morgan seemed to be all over the field with five tackles and one sack.
Lehigh is off next week with a bye, and will return to action on September 24 when the Mountain Hawks travel south to take on Virginia Military Institute. Kick off is scheduled for 1:00 with all of the action broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM, as well as lehighsports.com.
Photos copyright 2005, Chris Christian.
EXTRA POINTS … Saturday’s sellout crowd was the largest crowd to watch a Lehigh football game since 35,322 saw the Mountain Hawks take on UConn in 2003 … The Lehigh-Delaware clash was named the I-AA Game of the Week earlier in the week by The Sports Network … There will be no media luncheon this week, due to the bye on September 17. The luncheon will resume on Wednesday, September 21 at Starters. Beginning with the luncheon prior to the Delaware game (September 7), each week the luncheon will be streamed on-line at lehighsports.com in conjunction with the Yahoo! Sports College Broadcast pack.