Posted: September 2, 2006
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh battled a tough Albany team and adverse weather conditions in Saturday’s season opener at Goodman Stadium, but a pair of Lehigh punting miscues led to nine Albany points as the Great Danes held off the Mountain Hawks 17-16, and spoiled Andy Coen’s debut as Lehigh head coach. The Brown and White battled back late and had a shot at a game-winning field goal, but sophomore Jason Leo’s kick fell short and Lehigh dropped its season opener for the first time since 1997.
"Obviously you never want to lose," explained Coen. "But these kids played hard and I know they will bounce back. They worked hard in preparing for this game, but we just had to make a few more plays." He added, "The conditions were definitely not ideal, but Albany had to play in them too, so give them credit."
The wet weather – a steady rain with gusts of wind – made an immediate impact on play. A bad snap on a Lehigh’s first punt attempt forced the Mountain Hawks to take an early safety. Lehigh’s deficit would be short-lived though, as on Albany’s first play after the free kick, Great Danes’ quarterback Daniel Bocanegra fumbled the snap and Lehigh senior linebacker Micah Greene pounced on the loose ball and ran 52 yards to give Lehigh a 7-2 lead.
The Great Danes took an 11-7 lead late in the second quarter following three field goals by Jason Fralicker. Lehigh’s two minute offense however, propelled the Mountain Hawks to late touchdown as junior quarterback Sedale Threatt connected with junior wide receiver Lee Thomas on an 11 yard scoring pass, after the two connected on a 42 yard pass earlier in the drive. The extra point attempt failed and the Mountain Hawks led 13-11 at the break.
Threatt experienced success throwing the ball in the wet conditions, connecting on seven of nine passes for 94 yards in the opening 30 minutes.
Lehigh maintained its lead through the third quarter, but a second bad snap on a punt gave Albany the ball on the Mountain Hawks’ one yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter Omar Johnson scored on a one yard plunge, and after a failed two-point conversion Albany led 17-13.
Leo pulled Lehigh within one with a 28 yard field goal with just under 10 minutes to play. Lehigh would get the ball back twice more, with the first possession resulting in a punt and the second, a drive that featured two big third-down conversions, resulting in a missed field goal.
Threatt finished the day 14 of 26 for 140 yards passing. Sophomore tailback Matt McGowan rushed 16 times for 72 yards to lead the ground attack, while Thomas caught four passes for 87 yards.
"The footing was much better than I thought it would be," McGowan said after the game. "I thought it would be more like the Holy Cross game from last year when you could not even stand up."
The Mountain Hawks will return to the gridiron on Saturday, September 9 when they travel to Villanova. Kick-off is set for 6:00 pm with audio coverage on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320, as well as online at lehighsports.com. Pregame coverage gets underway at 5:00 pm.
EXTRA POINTS: Heavy rains forced the postponement of Kids Day activities outside the stadium prior to kickoff… twenty tarps were used, including those from Lehigh’s baseball and softball fields, to protect the field from rain on Friday afternoon… 1,812 fans braved the rain and wind to watch Lehigh open its 123rd season of football… the teams combined for 12 fumbles, but only two were lost... The last time Lehigh lost a season opener was 1997, when Fordham defeated the Mountain Hawks 42-35 in overtime.
Photos Copyright (2006), Specialty Photographic