Posted: October 11, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark led the Mountain Hawks to a 45-24 victory against defending Patriot League champion Fordham in what was by far the best statistical game of his career at Lehigh.
Clark threw for 296 yards on 18-of-27 passing in the win. The sophomore connected for four touchdowns through the air and added another on the ground while not throwing an interception for the second-consecutive week. With the win, the Mountain Hawks improve to 2-3 on the season and 1-0 in the Patriot League and run their record to a perfect 10-0 at Goodman Stadium versus Fordham. The Rams dropped their second-consecutive league game to fall to 2-3 (0-2).
"I'm obviously very proud of our kids for a lot of reasons," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said afterwards. "Through the adversity of the last two weeks, these kids came out, they worked hard, they didn't get down, they got angry." He continued, "We played well today. Well enough to win. We made some of the plays that we needed to make to get the win today. I thought the kids executed pretty well. They made their share of mistakes too, but it's easier to clean those things up after you come away with a win like we did today."
Clark’s five-yard touchdown pass to Craig Zurn with 6:57 to play capped off a career day, and gave the Mountain Hawks a 14-point lead, which they would not relinquish.
When Jarrard Cribbs picked off the John Skelton pass with 4:06 remaining, Lehigh was able to run the clock down to 1:53 remaining, and add a three-yard touchdown run by Matt McGowan to seal the deal. McGowan’s run also finished off a fine statistical day for the senior, as he rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.
Sekou Yansane became Clark’s main target in the game, catching six passes for 110 yards. But when Clark needed a score, the go-to-guy became Mike Fitzgerald, who scored two touchdowns on his four catches for 78 yards.
Skelton led the Rams passing attack with 265 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 22-32 passing. Xavier Martin’s 61 yards on 13 carries was the highest total on a Fordham rushing attack that was held to 48 yards on the game.
Lehigh jumped out to an early 9-0 lead in the first quarter, which gave the Mountain Hawks fans hope after consecutive last-second losses to Princeton and Cornell. After a 38-yard field goal from Jason Leo put Lehigh on the board, an 18-yard punt by Cameron Dean gave the Mountain Hawks tremendous field position on the 26-yard line. Clark took advantage of the opportunity three plays later, when he hit Fitzgerald in stride for a 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle to give the Brown and White a 9-0 lead to end the first quarter.
Minutes later, Lehigh returned the favor with a short punt that gave the Rams the ball on the 26 yard line. Six plays later, Martin took the handoff on third down, bounced to the left and beat the Lehigh defenders to the pylon for the touchdown, cutting the lead to 9-7.
The Mountain Hawks opened up the playbook in the second quarter against the Rams, throwing the ball 18 times for 203 yards in the half. The highlight play of the half came on fourth and one from the Fordham 42-yard line. McGowan took the handoff on what was shaping out to be a short loss, but he stopped a yard from the line and fired a pass to tight end Troy Healion for a 34-yard gain. The Mountain Hawks seized the momentum and scored on an eight-yard pass from Clark to Nick Johnson to take a 16-7 lead with 7:47 remaining in the second quarter.
Both defenses proved incapable of stopping the other offensive attack for much of the second quarter, as each team marched down the field at will. After the Johnson touchdown, Fordham and Lehigh exchanged touchdowns on a Quasand Lewis two-yard run for the Rams and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Clark to Fitzgerald for the Mountain Hawks.
After four-consecutive touchdown drives by the two teams combined, Lehigh finally forced a stop in its own end at the end of the second period. Adam Danko’s 35-yard field goal at the end of the half pulled the rams to within 23-17 heading into the locker room.
"We had a great game plan going into today," Mountain Hawks junior linebacker Matt Cohen said afterwards. "We had a couple of mental errors early in the game, but once we cut those out, we were able to stop their big plays. Once we stopped those big plays and we never felt like we were in trouble."
The Rams took their first lead of the game in the third quarter when Skelton found Asa Lucas in the back left corner of the end zone for the seven-yard score. However the lead was short lived, as the Mountain Hawks drove right back down the field, led by a 50 yard pass from Clark to Yansane to the Fordham seven. Clark ran up the middle on the next play on a designed quarterback draw for the touchdown.
Lehigh is back in action next weekend when the Mountain Hawks step out of conference to take on the defending Ivy League Champion Harvard Crimson in Massachusetts. Kick-off is set for 12:30 from Harvard Stadium and all of the action will be televised live on WFMZ-TV as well as Lehighsports.com. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM with Matt Kerr, Kody Fedorcha '00 and Matt Markus.
EXTRA POINTS: Clark became the first Lehigh quarterback to throw for 250 yards in back-to-back games since Mark Borda in 2005. Borda threw for 344 yards against Monmouth, and came back with 272 yards against Delaware…When Lehigh scored on a two-point conversion from Clark to Troy Healion, it marked the first time the Mountain Hawks were successful on a conversion since they traveled to Fordham in 2007…Sophomore BJ Benning's three sacks on Saturday were the most by any Lehigh player since Josh Cooney got to the quarterback three times at Fordham in 2005 ... Sekou Yansane went over 1,000 yards receiving for his career on Saturday ... The Lehigh University Alumni Association honored two volunteers for their dedicated service over long periods of time. Bill Donahue was awarded for his continued support of the Lehigh athletics department, where he filled roles as a coach and administrator for more than a decade. The Alumni Association awarded Gus Pecuch the Good Neighbor Award for his consistent and friendly interest in the university. This season marked Pecuch’s 40th year as a member of the media support staff for the football press box.
Watch the J.B. Clark-Mike Fitzgerald 39-yard TD catch
Watch the Service Electric 2 Sports Post-Game Show
Photography (c), 2008 Specialty Photographic