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Lehigh wins defensive struggle over Holy Cross, 14-7
Bethlehem, PA- The No. 6/7 Lehigh Mountain Hawks overcame a tough Holy Cross defense that held them to their lowest total point and yardage output of the season with tough defensive play of their own to hold the Crusaders
(4-5,3-2) in check after spotting them a 7-0 lead in the second period. Matt Fitz's two TDs late in the second half and stalwart defense by the Hawks the entire game earned them a hard-fought 14-7 victory. The win by Lehigh (8-1, 3-0) sets up next week's game against Georgetown (7-2, 3-1) for the Patriot League Championship and an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Collegefootballfan.com enjoyed tailgating before and after the game with Guest Game Analyst Charlie Roberts and the family and friends of Lehigh MLB Mike Groome who had a great day for the Mountain Hawks.
The first period ended 0-0, only the third scoreless period played all season by the Hawks. The Crusaders broke the stalemate in the second finishing off an 83-yard drive capped by a five-yard TD pass from David Taggart to WR Kyle Tolouse. John Macomber put up the extra point for the Holy Cross 7-0 lead. GGA Charlie Roberts lamented that he'd like to see his alma mater put something up on the board now, but things didn't go his way. Holy Cross came in with the league's top rated pass defense and applied good coverage to an offense that leads the FCS nationally in total offense averaging 491 yards per game and in the top five in passing and scoring. The Crusaders held the Hawks in check until a late drive in the first half resulted in Tim Divers 37-yard FG attempt bouncing off the right upright to send both teams into intermission with HC ahead, 7-0.
It was a beautiful Saturday for football in the Lehigh Valley one weekend after record October snows fell in the northeast. The weather and Lehigh's success drew 9,217 in attendance evident by the long lines leading to the concession stands at the half. Lehigh's Marching 97 performed and I held up the words of the alma mater in the game program for Charlie to sing as they finished their performance playing the music of his beloved alma mater. He'll be ready for the Lafayette rivalry in two weeks!
The teams exchanged punts three times before HC picked off a Chris Lum (24 of 37 for 251 yards and 2 INT) pass for the second time to set up at Lehigh's 45. The Crusaders looked to extend their lead with a 41-yard field goal, but like the Lehigh attempt, the ball fell to the ground after hitting some goal post hardware. Charlie finally got his wish from the first half. Lum started the drive completing four of five passes to get to the Crusader 18. From there, RB Zach Barket (24 rushes for 102 yards) carried four consecutive times to get the three. From there, Matt Fitz took it in and Divers' PAT evened the score at 7-7. The Hawk D thwarted any retaliation from HC on its next possession, and LU took over from their own 22 heading into the final period.
Lum led the drive into the period completing six of eight passes to get the Hawks down to the Holy Cross four, but a key play occurred when center Jim Liebler recovered a fumble by Zach Barket after a reception at the four to maintain possession of the ball on a key drive. Three plays later, Fitz took it in from the one with 8:57 left on the clock for the 14-7 Lehigh lead. Ben Caffaro's 33-yard return on the kickoff put HC in good field position at LU's 48. The Crusaders got to the Hawk 35, but on a fourth and two at the Lehigh 26, Taggart was stopped for a one-yard gain to turn the ball back over to the Hawks. The subsequent three and out resulted with HC taking over at their own 34 and driving to the Lehigh 41. On a fourth seven, Taggart threw down field and the pass was intercepted. Now as I've stated in previous reviews, I don't understand why defensive players don't understand that a knockdown is a good as an interception on a fourth down pass attempt. Well in this case, I'll make an exception. It was Mike Groome (14 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 INT) who weaved and dodged tacklers for a 59-yard return to the Crusader 15! The offense could not move and Divers came in for a chip-shot, but his kick went wide left. The pressure was back on the Hawk defense, but it was up to the task once again as HC took over on the 20. It had held Taggart to 14 of 33 passes for 160 yards and Holy Cross's running game to 70 yards on 25 carries. It held the Crusaders once again as Taggart's pass on fourth and seven from the 23 fell incomplete. With no time-outs remaining for the Crusaders, Lehigh ran out the clock. The Hawks proved they could win despite their offense not running as effectively as they had in games past. Their young defense has gotten better while the season has progressed.
The Hawks host Georgetown next week for the aforementioned championship bid. The Cross hosts Lafayette one week before the 147th meeting between Lafayette and Lehigh the following week. GGA Charlie Roberts will definitely be there as I await the results of next week's Lenape Valley HS playoff game. In the meantime, CFF.com will attend this Wednesday's MAC East game between Miami (O.) and Temple at The Linc in Philly and Friday night's Big East clash for respectability between South Florida and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. On Saturday, we'll be attending the NJ Section 2, Group 2 game between Lenape Valley and Pascack Hills in Stanhope, NJ. Go Patriots!