Posted: October 13, 2007
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Despite a valiant defensive effort that kept a potent Yale offense well below its average in points scored, Lehigh fell by a score of 23-7 on Saturday afternoon in front of 14,052 in attendance at the Yale Bowl. Yale junior running back Mike McCleod rushed for a school-record 276 yards on the day as the No. 16 Bulldogs remain undefeated at 5-0 and Lehigh falls to 3-3 in 2007.
"I thought we fought hard today, but just had one too many mistakes." Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "Give Yale credit, they are a terrific football team with an outstanding running back in (Mike) McCleod, and when you're playing a team as good as they are you can't afford to have as many mistakes as we had today." Coen concluded, "I still think we are a good football team, I think the kids fought hard to the end today and there were certainly some positives to take away from this game."
Yale got the ball first and was marching down the field with its eyes set on the end zone, but McCleod coughed the ball up and sophomore linebacker Matt Cohen pounced on it, setting up the Lehigh offense deep in its own territory. McCleod had gone 353 straight carries without a fumble before that play. The Mountain Hawk offense was unable to capitalize however and was forced to punt the ball back to the Bulldogs.
Lehigh got the ball back on a Yale punt and put together a solid drive that spanned 58 yards on eight plays and ended on a one-yard keeper by senior quarterback Sedale Threatt to put the Mountain Hawks up 7-0 with 3:40 left on the first quarter clock. That score marked the first time this entire season that a Yale opponent was able to put any points on the board in the first quarter.
"We were feeling good after that score," senior captain John Reese said in the post-game press conference, "but we knew it was a 60-minute game and that there was a lot of football left to be played." He added, "Just like Coach (Coen) said, we can't afford to have those untimely mistakes when you're playing a football team as good as Yale."
As the second quarter began, Yale had the ball deep in Lehigh territory and it appeared as though the Bulldogs tied the game at seven on a rush from quarterback Matt Polhemus, but a holding penalty brought the ball back and Yale had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Alan Kimball, which made the score 7-3 with 13:30 left in the opening half.
Yale took its first lead of the game on a 16-yard touchdown run by McCleod at the 6:33 mark of the second quarter, which is how the score remained when the teams retired for halftime. The Mountain Hawks had a chance to put more points on the board late in the half, but a Threatt pass went off Mike Fitzgerald’s fingertips and was intercepted by Yale. The Lehigh “D” stood tall however, keeping Yale off the scoreboard in the final minute of first half action.
Yale gained 280yards of offense in the first half and held the ball for over 20 minutes, while Lehigh totaled 152 yards, including 117 through the air and just 35 on the ground. Threatt was 11-of-15 with junior Sekou Yansane serving as his favorite receiver as the Maryland native hauled in four first-half passes for a total of 33 yards. Freshmen Jaren Walker and Kwesi Kankam gained 23 and 20 yards, respectively, while junior linebacker Tim Diamond continued his outstanding defensive play for Lehigh with ten first-half stops.
McCleod rushed for 124 yards and the one score on 25 first half carries, while Polhemus was 9-of-17 through the air for 77 yards. John Sheffield was the Bulldogs leading receiver with four catches for 42 yards. Steve Santoro registered a team-high four tackles, as did teammate Casey Gerald.
On Yale’s first possession of the second half, McCleod showed why he is one of the country’s top running backs, as he ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run that put the Elis ahead 17-7 with 11:46 remaining in the third. The 55-yard run by McCleod was his season-long. Yale tacked on three more points when Kimball knocked through a 26-yard field goal to make it a 20-7 ballgame with 7:19 remaining on the third quarter clock.
The Mountain Hawks began the final quarter with the ball on the Yale 32-yard line, but a Threatt interception -- his third -- gave the ball back to the home team. The Bulldogs capitalized on the Lehigh turnover as Kimball booted his third field goal of the afternoon, this one coming from 38-yards out to make the score 23-7 with 7:39 left in the game.
Threatt finished 18-for-34 through the air, throwing for 183 yards and rushing for another 30. Walker led Lehigh on the ground, rushing for 32 yards.
Polhemus was 12-of-22 for 98 yards, while rushing for 57. The Bulldogs dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 40:42 on the day. As a team, Yale rushed for 421 yards – the most by a Lehigh opponent since Colgate ran for 484 in 1997.
Lehigh returns to action next Saturday when the Mountain Hawks take on the Holy Cross Crusaders at Goodman Stadium in the first of five straight Patriot League contests to close out the 2007 regular season. Kick-off is scheduled for just after 1:00 on Alumni Day and tickets can be purchased in one of three ways: by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by stopping by the Lehigh Athletics Ticket Office, located in Grace Hall, or by logging onto Lehighsports.com at anytime.
EXTRA POINTS … for the second consecutive season, the Yank Townsend Trophy was presented to the winner of the Lehigh – Yale game. Townsend was the only student from Connecticut to enter the Lehigh class of 1895, earning the nickname Yank. He operated his own firm, Norton & Townsend from 1911-1960, and designed a number of bank buildings and colonial residences … temperatures on Saturday were in the upper 50’s with blue skies and very little wind … Yale’s No. 16 national ranking in The Sports Network poll is the first time a Bulldog squad has been ranked in that poll … Saturday’s loss marks the first time since 1997 that Lehigh has lost back-to-back road games.