NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Lehigh rallied from an eleven-point deficit to force overtime, but a Mike McLeod one-yard run in the extra session proved to be the difference as host Yale out-lasted the Mountain Hawks by a 26-20 score in front of 13,236 inside Yale Bowl on Saturday afternoon. The win – the fourth straight for the Bulldogs – improves Yale’s record to 4-1 on the season. Lehigh returns to Bethlehem with a 2-4 overall mark.
“I’m getting tired of having to tell the guys the same thing after these tough games,” said a frustrated Lehigh head coach Andy Coen on the field following the game. “We’ve just got to keep fighting hard and playing tough from start to finish. We’re not going to give up; there’s a lot of football still to be played.”
Junior Sedale Threatt was 13-for-25 for 189 yards through the air. He added ten carries for 34 yards on the ground. Senior Marques Thompson led Lehigh with 43 yards rushing on 16 carries, while classmate Frank Trovato’s four catches for 73 yards led the Mountain Hawks through the air.
Threatt added his thoughts after the game. “We keep saying it, and we keep saying it, but we have to do it. We have to finish, we have to play more consistently.”
McLeod finished the day with 204 yards on 40 carries, including two touchdowns. Yale quarterback Matt Polhemus was 18-for-26 for 236 yards in pacing the Bulldogs air attack.
The Bulldogs dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for almost 37 minutes of play in regulation.
Lehigh received the opening kickoff, but the Mountain Hawks drive stalled, giving the ball to the Bulldogs. The Lehigh defense stood strong, forcing Yale into a field goal attempt, which senior Matt Mohler blocked, and junior Julian Ahye returned 22 yards to the Yale 49. The Brown and White then drove down the field and took a 3-0 lead on a 19-yard field goal by sophomore Jason Leo, which is how the score would stay after the first.
Yale, who had the ball as the first quarter expired, quickly took the lead back just one minute into the second on a 17-yard run by Polhemus, which made the score 7-3 Bulldogs with 13:52 remaining in the half. A blocked punt by Jordan Farrell then gave Yale the ball back deep in Lehigh territory, but the Mountain Hawk defense held steady, forcing the Bulldogs into a 25-yard field goal by Alan Kimball, making the score 10-3 with 10:07 left in the opening half.
Another field goal by Leo, this one from 41-yards out, would pull Lehigh to within four at 10-6 at the 6:17 mark. The Mountain Hawk defense again stood tall at the end of the half, forcing a late Bulldog turnover, and Lehigh went into halftime trailing by just four.
Thompson rushed for 40 yards on 14 carries in the opening half, while Threatt threw for 61 yards on six completions. Senior Lee Thomas caught a team-high three receptions for 32 yards and Trovato added one catch in the half. Yale was led by sophomore Mike McLeod with 96 yards on just 14 carries, while Polhemus was six-of-ten through the air for 71 yards.
Yale took the ball first in the second half and pieced together a nine-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by McLeod on fourth down, putting the home team in front 17-6 with 10:25 remaining in the third. The Mountain Hawks answered right back however, as sophomore Josh Pastore set Lehigh up in great field position with an outstanding kick-off return. Threatt then hit senior Brannan Thomas on a long pass play, and sophomore Matt McGowan punched it in from the one-yard line for his second touchdown of the season. The Mountain Hawks failed on the ensuing two-point conversion, making the score 17-12 with 9:05 left in the quarter.
Lehigh would get the ball back on a Yale punt, but the Mountain Hawks fumbled it right back to their opponent, and the Bulldogs capitalized with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard field goal by Kimball to make the score 20-12 in favor of the home team with 17 ticks left in the quarter.
The Mountain Hawks would tie the score with 8:58 to go, when they put together a seven-play 91-yard drive that featured a plethora of no-huddle offense which ended on a one-yard run by Thompson. Threatt then hit senior Landon Maggs on the two-point conversion and the score was knotted at 20 as the teams headed down the stretch.
Yale had a chance to win it late, but a 36 yard field goal attempt from Alan Kimball went wide as time expired, sending the game to overtime.
The Mountain Hawks won the coin toss, and elected to go on offense to start the extra session. On second down, Threatt connected with Frank Trovato on a 15-yard strike, setting up a first-and-goal for the visitors on the six yard line. But the Yale defense clamped down, forcing the Mountain Hawks to try a 30 yard field goal. Jason Leo’s attempt sailed wide, putting the Bulldogs on offense with a chance to win it.
On first down, Polhemus connected with Chandler Henley on a 15-yard pass, putting Yale in prime scoring position. The very next play, McLeod ran four yards, setting up a second-and-goal on the one. McLeod then dove over the pile for the game-winning score.
Lehigh will return to action next Saturday when the Mountain Hawks host the Bison of Bucknell on Alumni Day at Goodman Stadium. Kick off is set for just after 1:00 as Lehigh opens its 2006 Patriot League home schedule. Tickets are available for purchase in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME; stopping by the Lehigh Athletics Ticket office located in Grace Hall; or by logging onto Lehighsports.com at anytime.
EXTRA POINTS … This season marked the first that the Yank Townsend 1895 trophy was awarded to the winner of the Lehigh-Yale contest. Townsend graduated from Lehigh in 1895 and operated his own architecture firm from 1911-60 … Saturday’s crowd was the largest Lehigh has played in front of since the 16,007 at the Lafayette game at Goodman Stadium in 2005 … Saturday’s contest was the first overtime game played by the Mountain Hawks since a dramatic come-from-behind Lehigh win over Yale at Goodman Stadium last season.