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Another big night for Lehigh's Lum
QB throws four touchdown passes, three to Spadola, and amasses 384 yards.
Maybe Chris Lum and Ryan Spadola should take their high-flying act to Atlantic City.
So far, two games in New Jersey have produced big numbers for Lehigh University’s dynamic passing pair.
On Saturday night, the two hooked up nine times for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
Lum added a fourth TD toss as Lehigh overcame a sluggish start for a 34-22 victory over Princeton that spoiled the Tigers’ season opener before 6,704 fans.
In defeat, Nazareth High graduate Chuck Dibilio had an impressive debut for Princeton, rushing for 86 yards on 14 carries and taking a shovel pass 26 yards for his first collegiate touchdown.
Dibilio’s score came with 6:49 remaining and cut Lehigh’s lead to 27-22, but Lehigh’s offense finished things off with a 61-yard drive that culminated in Keith Sherman’s short TD run with 1:54 left.
Lehigh, ranked as high as No. 16 in one national FCS poll, overcame special teams errors and other miscues, but persevered on a night that began and ended with struggles.
Lehigh’s high-powered offense, which had racked up 90 points and averaged 517 yards per game in the first two weeks, was held to a pair of three-and-outs and held scoreless in the first quarter — the first time the Mountain Hawks had been shut out in a quarter this season.
But once they got going, the fun flowed again.
“We didn’t know what kind of defense Princeton was going to run and they ran a whole new scheme, so it took us awhile to get going,” Spadola said after hauling in TD receptions covering 39, 12 and 46 yards.
“We made adjustments and found their weaknesses. Then things opened up.”
Spadola opened the season two Saturdays earlier with six catches for 148 yards and two scores against Monmouth in a game played 15 minutes from his hometown of Howell, N.J.
This one was about 45 minutes from home and Spadola enjoyed playing again in front of family and friends.
However, as long as Lum is throwing him the ball, Spadola can feel at home anywhere.
“We’ve got a balanced offense,” Spadola said. “We have Jake Drwal and Jimmy Jefferson on the other side, and with Chris Lum as quarterback you can’t overload any side. Chris is so bright, he’s going to find the open spots and hurt you.”
Lum, who has won two Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week awards, may have secured a third with another spectacular effort.
He completed 28 of 38 passes for 384 yards and didn’t throw an interception.
Through three games, Lum has thrown for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns.
His biggest throw of the night came on Lehigh’s first play from scrimmage of the second half.
Clinging to a 13-6 halftime lead after Spadola caught a 12-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the first half, Lehigh’s defense got an immediate stop to start the third quarter.
Then Lum found Spadola in stride for a 46-yard strike that opened a two-touchdown gap.
“They were dropping eight guys into coverage and playing tight coverage on the guys on the outside in the first half, so Dave [Cecchini, Lehigh’s offensive coordinator] made some great adjustments at halftime and said we’re just going to air this thing out,” Lehigh coach Andy Coen said.
“The first play of the second half was a big play to Ryan and then we hit a couple to Jake. That softened them up for the run game.”
And it was the run game that put it way with Sherman, filling in for banged up Zach Barket in the second half, picking up all 52 of his rushing yards after intermission.
He was pivotal on the game-clinching drive.
“This was really my first game since coming back from my injury,” Sherman said. “I played at Lawrence High School, which is like five minutes away from here. It was great to come back and get back in the end zone.”
Those were the same sentiments of Dibilio, who didn’t anticipate getting as much action as he did.
“My goal all camp, all summer, was just to get in the game,” Dibilio said. “I didn’t think I would play this much. I knew coming I’d have a good chance of getting in [because of an injury]. Once I got in, I just wanted to keep playing.
“I’m excited and glad I performed well, but I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game,” Dibilio said. “It’s just great to be playing college football.”
Certainly, Lehigh feels the same way.
The Mountain Hawks are now 2-1 entering another difficult challenge against nationally ranked Liberty University on Saturday at Goodman Stadium.
At night’s end, however, Coen just wanted to enjoy winning at Princeton; something that hadn’t happened since 2007.
“There’s no such thing as a bad win,” he said.
By Keith Groller, The Morning Call