WASHINGTON – The tenth-ranked Lehigh football team overcame seven turnovers to earn their seventh consecutive victory to open the season as the Mountain Hawks held off Georgetown 17-14 Saturday at Multi-Sport field. After senior Jake Peery gave Lehigh the lead with a 29-yard field goal with 10:58 left, Matt MacZura missed a game-tying 37 yard attempt in the final seconds.
The win is Lehigh’s 16th straight regular season victory, as the Mountain Hawks improve to 7-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Patriot League. Georgetown is now 3-4 overall and 0-1 in the league.
“I can’t sugarcoat seven turnovers. It was a bad effort,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “At halftime, I was disappointed but it didn’t lose my mind. We turned it over five times but were only trailing by seven points. The kids came out and responded well in the second half. I can’t say enough about how the defense played all day.”
Lehigh outgained Georgetown by nearly 100 yards on the day, but were hampered by seven turnovers, including five in the first half. Senior quarterback Mike Colvin overcame four first half interceptions to finish 19-of-34 for 266 yards, including an 11-of-13 performance in the second half as he led the Mountain Hawks back from a 14-7 halftime deficit.
The Mountain Hawks were without All-America wide receiver Ryan Spadola, who missed the game due to illness, but junior Lee Kurfis and sophomore Josh Parris picked up the slack. Kurfis had a career day with 11 receptions for 132 yards while Parris caught four balls for 69 yards, including a big 40-yard catch-and-run on Lehigh’s tying touchdown drive in the third quarter.
Senior running back Zach Barket had his best day of the season with 123 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
The Lehigh defense put together another strong effort, yielding just seven offensive points and coming up with crucial stops when needed. Senior linebackers Sam Loughery and Billy Boyko tied with the team lead with 12 tackles. Junior Nigel Muhammad had two of Lehigh’s four sacks, while classmate Rickie Hill had Lehigh’s lone interception on the day.
Georgetown received the opening kickoff and picked up a first down on its opening drive before forcing a punt. Lehigh’s opening possession ended with its first of five turnovers in the half. Following a four-play, 31-yard drive, Nick Campanella scored on a two-yard run to give the Hoyas a 7-0 lead.
Lehigh capitalized on Georgetown’s only turnover of the half as senior Billy Boyko stripped Steve Skon on a sack and senior Anthony Verderame recovered at the Georgetown 31. Eight plays later, the Mountain Hawks pulled even as Barket scored from a yard out on an option play and Jake Peery’s extra point tied the game at seven.
Interceptions plagued the Mountain Hawks in the second quarter. Facing a third down in Georgetown territory, Colvin overthrew sophomore Rich Sodeke on a screen pass and Jeremy Moore picked up the first of his three first half interceptions and raced 80 yards down the sideline for the go-ahead score.
Lehigh’s next two drives ended on interceptions by Moore off tipped balls, but the Mountain Hawks were lucky to not give up any further points. Verderame blocked a 22-yard field goal and following another interception, Matt MacZura missed a 47-yard field goal wide left as the Mountain Hawks trailed 14-7 at halftime.
“The blocked field goal was probably the biggest play of the game,” Coen said. “Our kids always play hard and that’s the sign of a good team. They play together. They play for each other. A lot of teams could have packed it in after the first half but we didn’t. I’m pleased with the mindset of these kids and the tenacity that they have and how they play for each other.”
The Mountain Hawks outgained the Hoyas 185-166 in the opening 30 minutes but were hurt by five turnovers, including four interceptions. Colvin was 8-of-21 passing for 117 yards and four interceptions, while Kurfis caught five passes for 96 yards. Barket was the top ground-gainer with 45 yards in 12 rushes.
On the opening drive of the second half, Lehigh put together a nine-play, 76-yard drive to pull even. Keyed by a Parris’ 40-yard catch-and-run, the Mountain Hawks moved the ball into the red zone and tied the game on a one-yard run by junior Keith Sherman.
Two more fumbles hurt the Lehigh offense in the third quarter but the defense came up big highlighted by Muhammad’s second sack of the game, taking down Skon for a loss of seven on fourth down.
After a fumble by Barket late in the third quarter, Lehigh’s defense made another stand as senior Tom Bianchi batted down an Aaron Aiken swing pass attempt on third down and senior Sajjad Chagani pounced on Aiken after a bad snap on fourth down.
On Lehigh’s first play of the fourth quarter Colvin hit Sherman over the middle out of the backfield for a 42 yard gain into Georgetown territory. Four plays later Peery split the uprights to give Lehigh the lead.
“We just needed to refocus,” Coen said about the offense’s second-half turnaround. “It wasn’t as much what Georgetown was doing but our own errors. We were scrappy enough to find a way to get a ‘W'. We made a bigger commitment to the run game. Our offensive line did a nice job and Zach Barket looked a lot more like the old Zach Barket.”
Georgetown’s ensuing drive stopped on Hill’s interception at the Lehigh 16 yard line. From there the Mountain Hawks put together a six-minute drive that resulted in a punt, and after forcing a Georgetown punt worked the clock down to 1:22 before giving the Hoyas one final shot.
Despite being out of timeouts, Georgetown moved the ball down the field reaching the Lehigh 20 yard line, to set up MacZura’s tying attempt which sailed wide left.
Skon completed 16-of-27 passes for Georgetown, for 176 yards. Aiken went 2-of-6 with an interception, when Skon was temporarily sidelined with an injury.
The Mountain Hawks will return to action next Saturday when they host the Bucknell Bison on Homecoming at Goodman Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:30 and tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, by visiting the Lehigh Ticket Office located in Stabler Arena or by logging on to Lehighsports.com.
EXTRA POINTS… Lehigh is now 12-0 against Georgetown since the Hoyas joined the Patriot League in 2001… Colvin also rushed for 30 yards on 12 carries… Lehigh has won its last 16 games against Patriot League opponents… the Mountain Hawks opened league play at 1-0 for the fifth straight season… Chagani and sophomore Isaiah Campbell recorded Lehigh’s other two sacks… the Mountain Hawks were credited with six pass breakups… senior Gabe Johnson led the way with two… a crowd of 2,684 included a large Lehigh contingent and members of the Marching 97… Barket’s 100-yard rushing game was the first for a Lehigh runner this season.