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Defense Lifts Lehigh to Win over Bucknell
Turnovers: LB Matt Cohen recovers fumble, interception.
Lehigh’s football team has been searching all season for that one game in which everything comes together; a signature win that says ‘’this is what the 2008 Mountain Hawks are capable of doing.'’
They’re still searching.
Oh, they took a 31-15 Patriot League win over Bucknell on a windswept Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium, sending the seniors out with a win in their final home game.
But while no win should be taken for granted this season, this was a flawed performance that didn’t provide the bounce the team was seeking entering what is simply known as ‘’Lafayette Week.'’
Bucknell (4-6, 1-4) had the ball longer, outgained Lehigh (4-6, 3-2) 284-204 and might have been in position to pull a surprise were it not for two turnovers that wound up in the hands of linebacker Matt Cohen, a junior from Central Catholic.
The first takeaway – a fumble – resulted in Cohen’s 38-yard return for a TD in the first quarter.
The second was a Cohen pick that turned the ball over to Lehigh at the Bucknell 11 and set up an early third-quarter touchdown.
The Mountain Hawks were able to put points on the board off three other drives – all of less than 50 yards – thanks to a 60-yard kickoff return by Craig Zurn and a 35-yarder by John Kennedy.
But the offense seemed to go into a lull after Lehigh opened a 14-0 lead just six minutes into it.
‘’We played well enough to win,'’ coach Andy Coen said. ‘’I don’t think it was our best game offensively; in fact I know it wasn’t.
‘’Our defense played well and was opportunistic. It wasn’t a perfect game, without a doubt, but we didn’t have too many mistakes that hurt ourselves.'’
There was a blocked punt that resulted in a safety, an interception, two sacks and 40 yards of penalties, several for holding.
Lehigh plodded through a general feeling of malaise created by a small crowd of 4,659 and the fact that this game always falls in between two highly anticipated contests on the schedule – Colgate and Lafayette.
There were other issues.
Lehigh was again without starting tailback Matt McGowan and left guard Chris Tiefenthal, injuries that contributed to just 72 rushing yards.
And gusty winds and wet grass impacted the passing attack. After throwing for 338 yards against Colgate, sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark had just 132 passing yards – 37 of them on a pass to Sekou Yansane that set up Lehigh’s last touchdown.
‘’We started off slow because they did a good job with coverage and the field was slick and it kept the routes more dull,'’ said senior Mike Fitzgerald, who caught five passes for 29 yards and snared his 10th TD reception of the season.
‘’It was one of those games when it just wasn’t going to happen. We did make a couple of big plays in the second half, but we struggled with consistency. It still turned out pretty good and we’re happy with where we’re at.'’
Cohen was happy to be back in the end zone.
He was the Lehigh Valley Conference rushing leader as a CCHS senior in 2005, gaining nearly 1,500 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns.
‘’I was looking back a couple of times to make sure I didn’t get caught,'’ Cohen said. ‘’It felt good.'’
There’s no more looking back for Lehigh, which always has the Lafayette game in the back of its mind, especially since the Mountain Hawks haven’t beaten the Leopards since 2003 anywhere and haven’t won in Easton since 2000.
‘’I'm excited to play next week,'’ Fitzgerald said. ‘’I actually started thinking about that game this week.'’
Defense lifts Lehigh to win
By Keith Groller Of The Morning Call