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Offense Sputters, But Lehigh Defense Leads Way to 31-15 win over Bucknell
BETHLEHEM - The game wasn’t pretty but the outcome was still a significant win for Lehigh University’s football team.
Lehigh managed a 31-15 victory over Bucknell in its Goodman Stadium finale on Saturday in front of a crowd less than 5,000 with many fans skipping out in fear of the severe weather threats.
“We played well enough to win,” coach Andy Coen said. “I don’t think it was our best game offensively throughout the year. Our defense played well – they were opportunistic.”
The defense was led by junior linebacker Matt Cohen who had a 38-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception.
“I was (covering) the quarterback on the option and saw the reverse,” the Central Catholic High School graduate said. “Just being opportunistic, I picked up the ball and ran with it. I looked back a couple times to make sure I wasn’t going to get caught.”
A week ago, the Mountain Hawks (4-6, 3-2 Patriot League) faced a hard-nosed Colgate rush offense while on Saturday, Bucknell (4-6, 1-4) brought a triple-option attack.
“You have to play responsibility football,” Cohen said. “It is tough, one week going from power football to the option the next.”
The Mountain Hawks capitalized on the Bison youth on its offensive line, stifling the offense to 133 rushing yards. Freedom High School graduate Anthony Carter is one of two starting freshmen on the Bucknell offensive line.
“It really is a brand new offensive line,” Bucknell coach Tim Landis said of freshmen. “They’ve played every snap of every game. They just fight. They’re going to be tremendous football players.
“It is taking us some time offensive line-wise to line up against some of the tougher defensive lines in our conference.”
Carter said it was good to be back home playing in front of familiar faces.
“It was good to see a few people in the stands,” he said. “It was nice to see some familiar things around town.”
Lehigh’s offense sputtered, totaling 204 yards – being outgained by 80. Coming off a career day last week, sophomore quarterback J.B. Clark went 14-for-22 for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Senior wide receiver Mike Fitzgerald said the conditions affected the offense but he’s not making any excuses.
“The field was slick so it kept a lot of routes dull,” the Warren Hills product said. “It’s just one of those games. We really couldn’t get any consistency.”
Despite not putting together a performance Coen would have liked to see, the win does give Lehigh some momentum headed into next week’s 144th meeting against Lafayette.
“We’re in the best place at this point in time we can be in headed into this game,” he said. “This is the best week of the year. This is a lot of fun. Obviously, it’s heightened now. Last year, it was obviously a sickening feeling – losing like we did and having those guys graduate without beating them.”
Fitzgerald, who became the first Mountain Hawk to record double-digit touchdown receptions (10) since Josh Snyder’s 12 in 2001, said he wants to end his career beating the Leopards.
“I’m just so excited to play next week,” he said. “Even with coach sitting here, I won’t lie, I have been thinking about it since this week.”
Lehigh’s offense sputters but defense leads way to 31-15 victory against Bucknell in home finale
By Michael Lore, The Easton Express-Times