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Knott taking advantage of any, all opportunities with Lehigh
On any given Saturday, Derek Knott can be seen on the sideline for the Lehigh University football team. The sophomore wide receiver, though, isn’t just standing around waiting for his number to be called.
“I’m clapping and jumping up and down and screaming for my teammates,” Knott said. “I focus on what play is called and what down it is. I’m running around on the sideline to keep my legs a little fresh.”
Knott, like many of his teammates, is trying to take full advantage of any action they can get.
On just his second offensive snap of the game last Saturday, the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder hauled in the go-ahead 15-yard touchdown with 12:19 left as Lehigh rallied — yet again — to beat New Hampshire 34-27 in a battle of nationally ranked teams at Goodman Stadium.
“It meant a lot since it was only my second snap of the game,” said Knott, who has three receptions for 17 yards. “It makes me see if I stay in the game and stay ready, good things will come my way. I’m ready whenever I get my chance to contribute.”
“He’s an awesome kid. I was so happy for him,” Mountain Hawks coach Andy Coen said. “He just needs confidence, and he got a lot of confidence with that catch Saturday. He’s going to be a very, very good player and play a lot of football for us.
“It’s good to see him having success because there are going to be points throughout the rest of the season he’s going to have to play significant snaps. To have confidence is real important.”
Knott is the epitome of what Lehigh football is about, especially this season. With many young and inexperienced players being called on, the Mountain Hawks are battling through any growing pains and in-game deficits and have come out with a perfect record.
Tenth-ranked Lehigh (4-0) looks to continue its winning ways with a tough battle against No. 12 Fordham (5-0) at noon Saturday at Jack Coffey Field in Bronx, N.Y.
The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network.
“We’ve talked about it already through four weeks; our kids have stepped up and done a nice job when called upon,” Coen said. “Their expectation is when they’ll be called upon that they’ll do a good job.”
Senior quarterback Brandon Bialkowski is a prime example.
After have to bide his time in the system behind Chris Lum and Mike Colvin, the left-hander was called on to lead the offense. Bialkowski has thrown for 1,530 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in his first four varsity games. He ranks third in the Football Championship Subdivision with 389 yards per game of total offense.
“He was just waiting for his moment,” Knott said. “Now that he’s the top guy, I’m really happy with all of his success and the way he’s been able to stay composed. He’s surprised a lot of people, but for us we all knew what he could do and what he was capable of.”
While Knott’s opportunities don’t compare to those of Bialkowski or some other teammates, he has valuable experienced gained from his freshman season to build on.
Knott appeared in eight games as a slot receiver/kick returner last fall, recording 45 yards and a TD on eight receptions. He also had nine kick returns for 126 yards (14 yard average).
“I went into every game pretty nervous,” Knott admitted. “I couldn’t really focus but that helped me really prepare for this year. I’m not nervous anymore. I’m ready. I’m more comfortable with the offense going out there. It helped me a lot.”
The Rams, who aren’t eligible for the Patriot League title and the accompanying automatic berth into the FCS playoffs, have been impressive this season.
Fordham has wins over then-No. 8 Villanova, the 2012 CAA co-champion, and FBS program Temple.
The Rams, who boast the Patriot League’s top scoring offense (39.6 ppg), are headlined by Walter Payton Award Watch List senior running back Carlton Koonce (113 carries, 625 yards, 5 TDs) and senior quarterback Mike Nebrich (1,377 passing yards, 12 TDs, 1 INT, 286 rushing yards, 3 TDs).
“On paper it should be a real high scoring game,” Coen said. “Statistically, they’re very good on defense (league-best 21.2 ppg). If you just look at statistics you’d certainly give these guys the advantage.
“… We have another tough opponent, without a doubt.”
By Michael LoRe, The Express-Times