Leopards Close Out 2012 Season vs. No. 12 Lehigh
Nov. 17, 2012
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EASTON, Pa.- In the 148th meeting of College Football's Most-Played Rivalry, Lehigh beat Lafayette 38-21 on Saturday afternoon at Fisher Stadium. The 12th-ranked Mountain Hawks scored 21 unanswered in the second half to close out Lafayette's 2012 season.
Junior wide receiver Mark Ross had another career day, snagging nine balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns, his seventh 100-plus yard receiving day of the season. Senior Andrew Shoop took most of the snaps at quarterback, going 14-for-23 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Sophomore Zach Zweizig also saw some time under center, completing all four of his passes for 56 yards and a touchdown just days after the untimely passing of his father.
Lehigh's Michael Colvin was a unanimous selection as the game's MVP after throwing for four touchdowns and 362 yards. He also ran for 85 yards on 11 carries and scored once on the ground. The Lafayette defense picked him off twice, but managed only seven points off those turnovers.
Just 47 seconds into the game, senior captain Rick Lyster came up with his first career interception in his final game as a Leopard. Colvin never saw Lyster drop back off the defensive line and cut in front of a Mountain Hawk receiver for the turnover. After two running plays from the Leopard offense, Shoop found Ross in the corner of the endzone for the nine-yard touchdown, putting Lafayette up 7-0, less than two minutes into the contest.
Lehigh (10-1, 4-1) settled in on its next series, putting together a 13-play, 56-yard drive. The Leopards came up with a goal-line stand at the end of it, though, to force a 23-yard field goal. The Mountain Hawks had the ball 1st-and-goal at the Lafayette two-yard line, but lost four yards on their next three plays and settled for three points.
On the ensuing drive, Shoop converted third-down throws to junior tight end Brandon Hall and Ross to set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jamel Smith. The touchdown was Smith's second of his career to put the Leopards up 14-3. Smith finished the day with five catches for 58 yards
The 11-point lead did not last long, however, as Colvin connected with junior wide receiver Lee Kurfis on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the next drive to pull within four at 14-10. The pass was the longest play from scrimmage for the Mountain Hawks this season and Colvin's longest throw of his career.
Zweizig subbed in for Shoop at quarterback in the next series and was equally as productive. He led Lafayette on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, ending in a 27-yard pass to Ross to extend the Leopards lead to 11 at 21-10. Ross' hovered over a defender and stole the ball in the corner of the endzone for his second score of the day and 19th receiving touchdown of his career.
Lehigh answered. Colvin engineered a nine-play, 68-yard drive in 3:30, culminating in a 16-yard touchdown pass on a screen to senior Ryan Spadola. The score cut the Leopards' lead to four at 21-17.
The Leopards finally slowed Lehigh's defense with five minutes left in the first half, forcing the first punt of the game. Smith ripped off a 46-yard punt return to set up the offense at the Lehigh 31-yard line. Freshman kicker Ryan Gralish's 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked, as Lehigh took over from its own 20 with 2:52 left in the half.
With Lehigh attempting to put points on the board before halftime, freshman Kyle Sakowski picked off Colvin on a deep throw toward the endzone with 28 seconds remaining. Lafayette took a knee, content with going into the break with the lead 21-17.
After stalling on its opening drive, Lafayette allowed Colvin and the Lehigh offense to drive 80 yards on 11 plays to take the lead, 24-21 on a touchdown pass to Keith Sherman. Sakowski was fingertips away from breaking up Colvin's touchdown throw, missing the ball and Sherman, allowing him to run right through the defense for the score. Sakowski, who played much of the game after sophomore safety Jared Roberts went down with an injury, finished with a game-high 13 tackles.
An Ethan Swerdlow punt pinned Lehigh at its own 11-yard line, but the Mountain Hawks' offense tore through the Leopard defense on its way to an 11-yard touchdown run from Colvin to extend its lead to 10, 31-21.
With 13:08 remaining in the game, Lafayette forced the first Lehigh punt of the second half. When it looked like Lafayette was gathering momentum after a third-down conversion to Ross and a long run by Shoop, the senior quarterback was intercepted by Lehigh's Sam Loughery.
The Mountain Hawks took over on their own 44 with 10:20 to play and were able to parlay the turnover into seven points and put away the game. Colvin's five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Coyle closed out the game.
Lafayette finishes the 2012 season at 5-6 overall, 2-3 in the Patriot League. The Lafayette-Lehigh series will return to Bethlehem in 2013 before being played at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
NOTES: Ross is now tied for first in career receiving touchdowns with 19 (tied with Phil Ng). Ross has 124 career catches, good enough for eighth all-time. Ross has racked up 1733 career receiving yards, placing him seventh. In terms of single-season numbers, Ross finished the 2012 season with 1030 yards, the third-best single-season performance at Lafayette and his 10 touchdowns were fourth.
Individually, Shoop finished his career seventh in career touchdown passes (30), eighth in career completions (293) and receiving yards (3705), 10th in attempts (500) and fifth in career completion percentage (58.6). His 14 touchdowns passes tie him for 10th (with Shawn McHale and Tom Kirchhoff) in a single and his 61.2 completion percentage is seventh in a season.
The Leopards lead the all-time series, 76-67-5.