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Lehigh Offense Listless in 28-21 Defeat to Central Connecticut State
Central Connecticut State, coached by a Lehigh Valley native, dominates play.
Saturday ended much better than it started for Jeff McInerney.
The Central Connecticut State football coach torn a quadriceps muscle in the morning when he slipped in his hotel shower.
It forced him to get around on crutches the rest of the day.
That was about the only thing preventing him from jumping for joy as he watched his Blue Devils dominate on the ground and in other areas in posting a stunning 28-21 win over Lehigh before 6,140 mostly disappointed fans at Goodman Stadium.
About the only portion of the 6,140 not disappointed by the opening day result was McInerney’s family and friends, who were there to see his return to the area where he was born and grew up a Lehigh fan.
‘’It was real emotional for me,'’ said McInerney, fighting back tears. ‘’I visited my grandfather’s grave, just a couple of miles from the hotel, last night. My love of the game started here. The people who made me what I am are here in the Lehigh Valley.
‘’Those people who go to the Liberty and Easton games on Friday nights are my friends. That’s who I am.'’
McInerney talked about his grandfather having worked for years at Bethlehem Steel, and that’s the kind of blue-collar, workmanlike effort his Blue Devils delivered.
CCSU’s option attack was precise and overwhelming, and only several turnovers in a sloppy first quarter that had five turnovers in nine minutes prevented the Northeast Conference rep from going up big.
Just as impressive was the CCSU defense, which intercepted three J.B. Clark passes and used press coverage to prevent LU receivers from gaining separation.
Clark, his timing and accuracy way off, scuffled through a dreadful 7-for-29 passing day for 122 yards, and 58 of those came on a touchdown pass to a wide-open Jake Drwal in the third quarter.
John Kennedy had a 92-yard kickoff return for another Lehigh touchdown and Clark found tight end Alex Wojdowski for a 7-yard TD toss to cap an eight-play, 66-yard drive in the second quarter.
But with the exception of that drive, Lehigh couldn’t sustain anything on offense.
CCSU’s 87-47 advantage in offensive plays and 271/2-minute cushion (43:44 to 16:16) in time of possession says it all about the Blue Devils’ dominance.
‘’We just couldn’t get anything going,'’ Clark said. ‘’They had really good defensive backs and really pressed us and gave us problems. We just didn’t execute and were very inconsistent.'’
Clark’s first pass was intercepted and he ended the first quarter just 1-for-9 with two interceptions.
Thanks to those interceptions and a blocked punt, CCSU began three of its four drives at the Lehigh 37 or closer, and only two fumbles kept the game as close as it was.
‘’It was a good thing they made the mistakes they made or it would have gotten real ugly,'’ said Mountain Hawks coach Andy Coen. ‘’Things really didn’t get much better.
‘’We got beat on offense, defense.Â…maybe special teams was a draw. I’m very disappointed, to say the least. Our offensive execution was poor. Our defense was on the field way too long. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror as coaches and players.'’
After CCSU got its fourth and final go-ahead score on Josue Paul’s 40-yard TD reception from Hunter Wanket with 1:26 left in the third quarter, Lehigh’s defense got three stops in the fourth period to keep the game within range.
But the Mountain Hawks offense didn’t gain a yard on its first two fourth-quarter possessions and gained only 14 yards on a last-gasp effort before turning the ball over to CCSU on downs with 29 seconds left.
Lehigh offense listless in 28-21 defeat
By Keith Groller Of The Morning Call