Lehigh Game Story – Jay Greenberg
Lehigh Game Story By Jay Greenberg
BETHLEHEM, PA. — If it is any consolation, last week Penn, too, got overrun by Lehigh.
“I said in the middle of the week, that’s a playoff-caliber (FCS) team,” said Bob Surace. “It is a complete offense.”
That said, this Tiger defense needs a lot of work. After giving up 356 passing yards in outlasting Lafayette in Week One, Princeton was torched for another 464 and four touchdowns by Mountain Hawk quarterback Nick Shafnisky in Saturday’s 42-28 loss. The vast majority of his 30 completions in 37 attempts were unchallenged by the Princeton secondary and linebackers. They were chasing routes, particularly ones over the middle, all afternoon.
“It’s the rush,” said Surace. “That was as bad as we have rushed the passer. We were awful and have to fix that.
“Some of [the completions] were not having eyes right (by the defensive backs) and we have to fix that as well. But in a lot of those we are in a Cover Three and [Lehigh] was throwing over the middle. The quarterback had too much time. That’s not the corners’ fault.”
There was plenty of blame to go around as Princeton fell to 1-1. A week ago the Tigers held Lafayette to 88 rushing yards. This week Lehigh doubled that.
Long rolls off Tyler Roth punts forced the Mountain Hawks to start drives at the two and one-yard lines. They came off the goal line with ease, up the gut for nine yards the first time, for seven the next.
On the first occasion, they went the length of the field for a touchdown–Micco Brisker finishing off the drive with a three-yard run to put Lehigh up 21-7. The second drive, this one in the third quarter, Lehigh reached the Princeton six before the Tigers made a play–a Luke Catarius blitz that forced Shafnisky to hurry his throw. It fell incomplete and Ed Mish missed a chip shot field goal. Princeton, trailing only 21-14, had a chance, maybe, just maybe, to change the game.
Chad Kanoff started a drive with a 10-yard throw to James Frusciante. Charlie Volker ran for 14. The Tigers finally hit a big play when Kanoff nailed a pass to Jesper Horsted, until a lot of it was erased due to a block in the back. Still, Princeton had a first down at its Lehigh 47 when Kanoff didn’t see Colton Caslow sitting on an over-the-middle pass and threw his second interception of three in the game.
“You just kill your team when you do that,” said Kanoff.
At least the Tigers had made Lehigh start at midfield until, on second down from the Princeton 48, Princeton was called for an out of bounds hit on the their sideline. Surace objected demonstratively and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing the Tigers another 15 yards.
“I didn’t swear, call anybody any names, get personal,” said Surace.
Regardless, back-to-back 15-yard gifts had put Lehigh at the Princeton 17. A Lehigh false start gave the Tigers a ray of hope of making another stand but on third-and-seven Troy Pelletier was wide open on another slant for a 14-yard touchdown that made the score 28-14.
The Tigers took the kickoff and went three and out. Casey Gatlin made Sam Huffman and Rohan Hylton miss tackles on a 56-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and Lehigh was cruising 35-14.
“I have to do a better job of getting us to be more precise,” said Surace. “We did some good things but not enough.“
Johnny Lovett ran for 75 yards and keyed two Tiger second-half scoring drives. A Mason Darrow block spring Charlie Volker for an eight yard touchdown run to complete a 71-yard drive to tie the score, 7-7. Then, with Joe Rhattigan out in front on a sweep, Volker broke a 22-yard touchdown to pull Princeton within 21-14 at the half.
The Tigers had 422 total yards. But another interception by Kanoff when he failed to get enough loft on a four-yard lob for Scott Carpenter and threw it right to Tyler Cavenas, killed one first-half drive at the Lehigh 30. And five penalties didn’t help the cause.
Maybe, just maybe, without those mistakes, the Tigers would have had enough offense to find a way to win on the last possession. But not likely. The separation Lehigh receivers attained was significant and the front-four pressure, except for the Catarius hurry in the third quarter and Mike Wagner and Khalil Bryant sacks to stop one drive in the first quarter, was almost non-existent. It did not help to lose Tyler Desire early, but the D line probably is this team’s position of greatest depth. The Tigers did not force a turnover, a hard way to win.
Perhaps Lehigh, which avenged Princeton’s blowout win of a year ago and beat the Tigers for the sixth time in the last seven meetings, will turn out to be the best team they play all season.
“They just don’t make mistakes, that is a big time offense,” said Surace. “Our offense doesn’t see many blitzes because we spread it out, like Lehigh does. They are hard team to blitz, which is why you need pass rush and we didn’t get it.
“Not much went right. We had to fight through that and, for the most part, we didn’t.”