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Football squads tourney run persists
In front of a crowd of almost 6,000 fans, the football team defeated the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on Saturday 14-7 and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs.
The Mountain Hawks move into the round of sixteen and will travel to play the No. 3 seeded University of Delaware Fighting Blue Hens on Saturday. The Hens are 9-2 on the season and will likely prove to be a more challenging opponent than the Panthers.
For the Hawks, this victory came down to solid defense and controlling the clock. Heading into the matchup, Head Coach Andy Coen intended to favor the strength of the Lehigh passing game.
“Our game plan, offensively, was to throw the ball and hand the ball off enough to keep UNI on their toes,” Coen said. “But we really didn’t have much success running so that made things difficult for us.”
Although the home team outgained the Hawks on the ground, netting 188 yards compared to Lehigh’s 88 yards on 25 attempts, the Lehigh offense amassed an impressive 336 total yards, versus the Panthers’ 251 total offensive yardage.
The Hawks also averaged 5.3 yards per snap while the Panthers managed an average of 3.7 yards per play.
After a 17-yard touchdown dash by junior quarterback Tirrell Rennie, Northern Iowa led 7-0. It would take until the third quarter for the Hawks to respond.
Although it took over 30 minutes, junior Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum ended the scoring drought in style with a 62-yard touchdown strike to junior reciever Jake Drwal.
Fellow receiver, sophomore Ryan Spadola commented on the play following the game.
“I think offensively, one of the biggest plays of the game came on Jake Drwal’s 62-yard touchdown,” Spadola said. “Suddenly momentum shifted in our favor and our offense began to control the game.”
After a interception by senior defensive back John Kennedy, the Hawks took advantage of good field position and struck again with a 28-yard touchdown strike to Spadola. With the score 14-7, this score would prove to be the difference maker in the game.
The the keys to the game were not lost on the Lehigh squad.
“We did a good job of not letting [their quarterback] get momentum and start scrambling all over the place,” senior linebacker Al Pierce said.
When asked about the win, Lum agreed with Pierce: “The key was keeping their quarterback contained and limit their big plays,” he said.
Similar to his teammates, senior defensive back John Kennedy reflected on the importance of defense during the game but hinted at a balance between both sides of the football.
“Along with a good defensive effort, out team needed [a] good offensive effort to put points on the scoreboard,” he said.
For senior wide receiver Craig Zurn, the key to beating Northern Iowa was more in the effort than in any strategy in particular.
“The key was to stay focused and play our game,” Zurn said. “The defense played [well] all day so the offense just hung in there and made plays when need to.”
To many Lehigh players who had never experienced a playoff matchup, this game was a rare treat.
“It is a great experience to show the nation what our team and our conference is all about,” junior wide receiver Drwal said.
Junior punter Alex Smith also expressed his excitement at the chance to play in a playoff game.
“The game atmosphere is like nothing [we] have seen this season.” Smith said.
Though the Hawks will be playing closer to home this weekend, Delaware will most likely present a bigger test than Northern Iowa did.
Football squads tourney run persists
By Ben Hulac, The Brown & White