Saturday, December 04, 2010

Delaware crushes Lehigh in FCS Playoffs

NEWARK, Del. – Lehigh’s memorable season came to an end on Saturday with a 42-20 loss to No. 3 Delaware in front of 13,649 at Delaware Stadium. The Mountain Hawks hung tough with the Blue Hens through 30 minutes but Delaware scored 28 unanswered points in the middle two quarters to break open a one point game.
 
Junior quarterback Chris Lum threw for a career-high 362 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but Delaware’s Pat Devlin threw for four scores to lead the Blue Hens (10-2) into the quarterfinals where they will face New Hampshire. Lehigh’s most successful season since 2001 ends with a 10-3 mark.
 
“Obviously today didn’t work out the way we would have liked it to,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “We knew we were playing an outstanding football team. We knew we were going to have to take advantage of the opportunities that were out there for us. They were a better football team. They were able to break some tackles. Their offense was outstanding, especially Devlin, and they were able to get some big plays on us which we hadn’t been giving up since early in the season.”
 
Delaware received the opening kickoff and marched down the field 68 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Junior Colin Newton sacked Pat Devlin on third down, but the Blue Hens converted a fourth and ten to keep the drive alive. Andrew Pierce bounced off a tackle and raced around the right side for a five-yard touchdown run for the game’s opening score.
 
Lehigh answered the Delaware touchdown with a score of its own in similar fashion. The Mountain Hawks drove 70 yards in 11 plays helped by a 23-yard pass from Lum to junior Jake Drwal on fourth and 12. On third and goal, Lum hit sophomore Ryan Spadola for at 13-yard score to tie the game at seven.
 
The Mountain Hawks’ defense then came up with the game’s first turnover as senior Al Pierce stripped Tommy Crosby after a 17-yard reception and senior Casey Eldemire recovered for Lehigh at its 49. After a nine play drive, Tom Randazza booted a 28-yard FG to give Lehigh a 10-7 lead in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
 
The Blue Hens answered right back with an 8-play, 60-yard drive. Devlin found Mark Schenauer on a post pattern for a 29-yard touchdown that gave UD a 14-10 advantage.
 
The punt-less first half continued as Lehigh answered Delaware’s touchdown with Randazza’s second field goal. Senior John Kennedy gave Lehigh good field position with a 41-yard return and after an eight play drive, Randazza kicked a 25-yard field goal to cut the Blue Hens’ lead to one.
 
Delaware answered the Lehigh field goal with a 10-play 66 yard drive and the Blue Hens added to their lead on a one-yard touchdown pass from Devlin to Chris Campbell.
 
From there the teams traded punts for the first time before Lehigh put together a drive near the end of the half. The Mountain Hawks worked their way into field goal range, but Lum’s pass was intercepted at the goal line by Anthony Walters and Delaware took a 21-13 lead into the half.
 
Total yards were close to even through 30 minutes with UD holding s slight 211-205 advantage. Lum was 19-of-27 for 198 yards a touchdown and an interception. Drwal was Lehigh’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 66 yards. The Mountain Hawks rushed for just seven yards in the first half.
 
“Offensively we did some nice things throwing the ball,” Coen said. “But we weren’t able to finish some key drives. A lot of times we were down in or near the red zone and came away with no points.”
 
Devlin was 11-of-15 for 158 yards and two scores. Pierce gained 37 yards on seven rushes while Schenauer caught four passes for 97 yards.
 
The Blue hens were able to extend their lead on their first possession of the second half. After Lehigh went three-and-out, Devlin hit Crosby for a 38-yard touchdown to extend the Delaware lead to 28-13. The lead then grew to 35-13 on a 16-yard run by David Hayes.
 
Delaware scored its third touchdown of the third quarter when Devlin hit Nihja White over the middle for 20 yards. It was Devlin’s fourth touchdown pass of the game.
 
On the first drive of the fourth quarter Lehigh got a score back on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Lum to junior Matt Fitz but those would be the last points of the game for either side.
 
Lum completed a career-high 35-of-58 passes for those 362 yards. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions. Drwal was his top target with nine receptions for 84 yards, while Fitz added six grabs for 69 yards. The Lehigh ground game never got going with the team mustering just 29 yards on 20 attempts.
 
Defensively, Lehigh was led by senior Al Pierce who made 13 tackles and forced a fumble in his final game in the Brown and White.
 
For Delaware, Devlin was an efficient 19-of-26 for 256 yards. Schenauer finished with 113 yards on five receptions, while four other Blue Hens caught three balls each. Pierce rushed 18 times for 88 yards and Hayes added 74 yards on 12 carries. Lehigh held a 26-24 edge in first downs, but Delaware compiled 450 yards of total offense to 391 for the Mountain Hawks.
 
Lehigh concludes a season in which it won ten games, including its third straight win over rival Lafayette and a first round playoff win over Northern Iowa. The Mountain Hawks will say goodbye to 22 seniors.
 
“Our kids battled the whole game,” Coen said. “Their effort never waned. We’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about. We had a great season. We won the Patriot League, won ten games and went out and beat the champions of the Missouri Valley Conference. I think we’ll have a good football team coming back next year than can build off this experience.”
 
EXTRA POINTS… The loss snapped Lehigh’s eight-game win streak which was the longest among active FCS teams… Delaware is now 2-0 versus Lehigh in the NCAA playoffs… both meetings came in the second round after Lehigh defeated a Missouri Valley Conference opponent in the first round… Ryan Spadola capped his 1,000 yard receiving season with five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown… Fitz had six receptions on Saturday, but only five all season prior to the game… junior Mike Groome matched Pierce with 13 tackles… senior John Veniero recovered his fourth fumble of the season… Lehigh’s 42 points allowed were a season-high and the most since Holy Cross scored 59 in 2007… The 42 points were also the second most given up by Lehigh in a postseason game behind the 47 allowed to Delaware in 2000.
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