Lehigh clobbers Georgetown in Patriot League opener
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh football team scored its most points in a half in 11 years to jump out to a 38-3 halftime lead on its way to a 45-24 victory over Georgetown for a key Patriot League win on Saturday in front of 9,866 on Family Day at Goodman Stadium. Senior Keith Sherman reached a career high in rush yards before the first quarter was even over to set the tone for a dominant offensive effort. With the win, Lehigh improves to 6-1 and 1-0 in the Patriot League standings.
Sherman finished with 157 yards on 19 carries along with two touchdowns while classmate Sean Farrell had a career-high three touchdowns on just four carries. Senior Brandon Bialkowski completed 26-of-36 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown. Junior Josh Parris had a career-high eight receptions for 69 yards while senior Lee Kurfis finished with seven catches for 77 yards and junior Tyler Coyle caught four for 71 yards. Junior Derek Gaul had 11 receiving yards, including a four-yard touchdown reception.
The Lehigh defense held Georgetown to just 140 passing yards, led by eight tackles apiece from junior Isaiah Campbell and senior Tyler Ward. Junior Arturo Gyles had a big first-half sack that nearly resulted in a safety.
“I’m very pleased with today’s performance,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “I’ve been talking for a while about playing a complete football game and we finally saw that today, especially in the first half.
Freshman Brandon Leaks took the opening kickoff out to the Lehigh 37-yard line, and it took the offense just three plays to punch the ball into the end zone. A 12-yard catch from Parris followed by a 48-yard run from Sherman led to Farrell’s three-yard touchdown scamper to make it 7-0 just 1:06 into the game.
Georgetown had one first down on its first drive before being forced to punt. After the touchback, Lehigh took over on the 20-yard line, advancing all the way to the Georgetown 38. However, three straight incomplete passes, including a long heave down the right side, was broken up to give the Hoyas the ball back.
Lehigh forced a three-and-out, and the Mountain Hawks’ offense made the most of it. At its own 17-yard line, Bialkowski found Kurfis for 12 yards on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive. The offense moved the ball into Georgetown territory, as a six-yard run by Farrell on fourth down then a 28-yard carry from Sherman, got Lehigh down to the Georgetown 11-yard line. Sherman followed with runs of five, then six yards to reach the end zone to give Lehigh a 14-0 advantage with 3:21 left in the first quarter.
The Mountain Hawks’ defense forced a three-and-out, capped off by a sack from Gyles back to the Georgetown one-yard line which forced a punt.
Parris made the most of it, as he returned the punt 16 yards to the Georgetown 32 to set the Mountain Hawks up with great field position. After a four-yard rush, Sherman made a catch and run for 27 yards to the Georgetown one. Two plays later, Farrell finished off a tough two-yard run at the start of the second quarter to make it 21-0.
Georgetown started its ensuing drive on its own 11, but marched all the way down to the Lehigh two. That’s where the Mountain Hawks’ defense stood tall, forcing a 23-yard field goal to make it 21-3 with 10:35 left in the second quarter.
Lehigh answered right back, beginning with a 31-yard catch over the middle from Coyle. Three plays later, Farrell made a 22-yard reception down to the one-yard line, and followed one play later with a one-yard TD run to make it 28-3 with 8:58 left in the second quarter. It marked his third touchdown in the game’s first 21:07.
The Hoyas converted one first down on the ensuing drive before being forced to punt. After starting the drive on its own 15, Lehigh used a fake punt to keep the drive alive. A 35-yard reception from Kurfis followed and led to a career-long 41-yard field goal from freshman Ryan Pandy with 3:16 left in the second quarter. Pandy’s first-career attempt over 40 yards had plenty of room to spare.
Lehigh forced a Georgetown punt with less than a minute remaining in the first half. Parris had his second big return of the afternoon, going 35 yards to the Georgetown 33 and giving the offense a golden opportunity for more points before halftime. Bialkowski and the Mountain Hawks capitalized, going 33 yards on five plays capped off by a four-yard touchdown reception from Gaul to make it 38-3, which stood as the halftime score.
Lehigh held a dominant 386-123 edge in first-half yards, including a 235-43 edge through the air and 151-80 advantage on the ground. Sherman had 133 rush yards and a touchdown, while Farrell had four carries for 12 yards and three touchdowns. Bialkowski finished 19-of-29 for 235 yards and a touchdown. Parris had a big half with a team-high six receptions for 51 yards. Kurfis added five receptions for 65 yards and Coyle had three for 53.
“One of our goals each week is to establish the run game and the line of scrimmage,” Coen said of the Mountain Hawks’ quick start on the ground. “I think we always put together a really good plan. We’ve been behind in so many games this season that we had to throw it around a little bit more. Today I thought we were really balanced. Right from the get-go Keith went right down the sideline on the second play of the game. That’s great to see. It kind of picks everybody up and deflates the opponent a little bit as well. The early success really allowed us to be successful all day running the football.”
The Hoyas marched 89 yards in 13 plays in the first drive of the second half, capped off by an eight-yard run by Nick Campanella to make it 38-10 with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
The Mountain Hawks answered with a deliberate 88-yard drive of their own. The biggest play was an 18-yard catch by Coyle to the Lehigh 48. Two plays later, Bialkowski found Kurfis for a three-yard gain which gave him 1,002 receiving yards for the season. The Mountain Hawks continued to march down field as the drive was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run from Sherman for his second score of the day, making it 45-10 with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter.
Lehigh brought in several backups following the score, including junior quarterback Matt McHale. Georgetown added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Campanella had a nine-yard touchdown run to pull within 45-17 with 11:29 left in the fourth quarter while he added a seven-yard touchdown catch from Kyle Nolan with 5:54 on the clock.
Total yards were 532-369 in favor of Lehigh, including a 234-229 edge on the ground and 298-140 through the air. The Mountain Hawks held the edge in time of possession, 31:42 to 28:18.
“From a coach’s perspective, this was exactly what we were looking for, and it happened at the right time as we start league play,” Coen said. “Now we just have to keep trying to do the same thing each week.”
Lehigh travels to Bucknell next week to face the Bison. Kickoff next Saturday is set for 1 p.m. from Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Following a bye week, the Mountain Hawks return home to host Holy Cross on Nov. 9 at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday marked the first time Lehigh scored first all season … The 38 first-half points were Lehigh’s most since September 7, 2002 against Georgetown when the Mountain Hawks scored 49 in the first half of a 69-0 win … The win was Lehigh’s 13th straight victory over Georgetown … The Mountain Hawks opened 1-0 in Patriot League play for the sixth straight season … For a second straight season, Lehigh has won its first three home games … Kurfis eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the season despite behind held under 100 yards on the day… his streak of consecutive 100 yard receiving games ends at seven… Bialkowski finished one yard short of his seventh straight 100 yard receiving game… Lehigh’s Patriot League Champion men’s and women’s golf teams were honored during the second quarter.
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