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Villanova victorious versus lethargic Lehigh, 35-0
Bethlehem, PA - No. 4 FCS Villanova (1-1) scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and never looked back at a lethargic Lehigh team as the Wildcats scored one TD in the three remaining quarters for a 35-0 win over Lehigh (1-1). It was an effort in futility for the Mountain Hawk offense as Villanova held them to only 29 rushing yards and eight first downs. After three down to the wire games attended the weekend before to start our season, this game turned out to be a significant letdown. On a beautiful, sun-drenched afternoon in our first-ever Lehigh Valley double-header, we expected 'Nova to be little lethargic playing in front of 8,168 a week after an emotional loss in front of 32,000 plus at Lincoln Financial Field against Temple. However, it was Lehigh who showed little emotion or heart in their home opener against the defending national champs.
Villanova QB Chris Whitney (8 of 13 for 129 yards, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) tossed a 30-yard pass in Q1 to Norman White at the 11, and Aaron Ball (20 carries for 102 yards, 1 TD) took it in for the Wildcats first score. The visitors had a big day on the ground picking up 330 yards. Matt Szczur carried 12 times for 95 and Angelo Babbaro finished with 68 on 11. Later in the period, Lehigh turned the ball over on downs at VU's 35. Whitney connected to Dorian Wells (3 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD) for a 39-yard TD before the period expired. We watched Lehigh Defensive Line Coach Donnie Roberts from our seat eight seats up from the 20 rip into his defense seated on the bench between quarters. He was livid. He emphatically challenged his team to play harder; to take it to the Wildcats; to be more physical! They needed a tongue lashing. The Mountain Hawks lacked motivation in a game against the best team on their schedule. In the meantime, the offense went nowhere. At least Jarard Cribbs and John Kennedy each picked off a Whitney pass in the first half on defense. FS John Verniero even picked up a fumble and returned it 42 yards to the VU 47, but the offense turned the ball over on downs or went three and punted on each possession. Before the end of the half, VU drove 80 yards for a score. Whitney fired to Wells for a 36 yard play to the eight before Angelo Babbaro took it over the right side for a TD to extend the lead, 21-0.
Lehigh's Marching 99 played and marched the best we've ever seen during their halftime performance. WE overheard a conversation that Villanova is now considering an invitation from the Big East to join the football conference. With all the temptations of other schools to leave to join other expanding conferences, it's probably wise for the Big East to have some kind of plan to cut any losses. Focusing on one of its mot established basketball members is probably the best place to start. Can VU support big-time football? They have the coaching staff and recruit some talented players. The question is can they attract the fans and media attention to finance more scholarships. Can the school offer more scholarships for more women's sports as well? The administration has a lot to take into consideration. We'd have to be sure to see them play again as an FBS team if they make the move to keep our record intact to "see 'em all."
The second half could not have started worse for Lehigh. DE Rakim Cox picked off Chris Lum's pass (18 for 31, 172 yards, 3 INTs) at midfield and returned it 30 yards to the Lehigh 20. 'Nova faked play action to the left and Whitney wheeled and fired right for a 7-yard TD strike to TE Chris Farmer. Lehigh showed signs that it could get down field through the air several times as Jake Drwal caught nine passes for 72 yards and Ryan Spadola gathered in eight for 88, but the deepest penetration the Mountain Hawks could make was to the 'Nova 25 where Lum was intercepted late in the fourth as he threw it right to VU's Kelvin Johnson. With Freshman Dustin Thomas stepping in for Whitney, the Cats put together a drive starting from their own 16 finishing up with a one-yard TD run buy Aaron Conaway from the one with 1:20 left in the game. It was a dull, one-sided affair offset only by the spark of hope on Lehigh's three first-half takeaways. As the end drew near, another LU fan nearby described how we felt. He said, " I expected Lehigh to put up a better fight than this." They put up no fight at all. Hopefully we'll see spirit revived next week when we come back to see them host the Princeton Tigers at our Big Tailgate.
We had a few beers and checked out some scores on the radio back in the parking lot before driving about 12 miles to Easton to see Lehigh's archrival Lafayette play at six o'clock. We could only hope that the Hoyas and Leopards would both show more spirit than Lehigh. That's all we could ask for. What a letdown for us after last week.
Extra points: Every year Goodman Stadium at Lehigh seems to get nicer. It's a beautiful setting. $12 gets you general admission to sit just about anywhere in a seat without a back on it. Netting was put in front of the scoreboard to protect it against field goals and extra point, but the addition also helped cut down on the glare. The scoreboard electronics shut down with a little over two minutes in the first half, but it was functioning again in the second.
The win for Villanova was the 208th in the career of HC Andy Talley.
A lively tailgate atmosphere in the parking lot before the game featured Lehigh students dressed up in costumes. After the game, few students were seen anywhere in the parking lots. The was no joy in Bethlehem on such a beautiful Saturday afternoon..
A TV time-out was taken in the first period with a corresponding announcement that the game was being televised locally "live" and that it would be shown again later in the week. The announcer stated that such media time-outs would be taken every quarter for the benefit of the television audience ( how many viewers could they have?) and that they apologized for the "inconvenience for those of us in attendance". We can't imagine ESPN doing that, but they should as they enter the fourth quarter of any Thursday night football game. They must run a commercial every three plays in the fourth period.
Lehigh can throw the ball and it's effective from the no-huddle. Next Saturday's game with Princeton should be more competitive.
The Game Day program describes Lehigh HC Andy Coen as " a fiery and passionate leader". We certainly didn't see any evidence of that during the game.