Lafayette Dominates Lehigh to Win Third Straight Patriot League Championship
Nov. 18, 2006
EASTON, Pa. (www.lafayette.edu) - Brad Maurer was 20-of-24 for 243 yards and three touchdowns and Jonathan Hurt ran for 165 yards and two scores as the Leopards won a share of their third straight Patriot League championship with a 49-27 victory on Saturday afternoon at Fisher Field at Fisher Stadium.
The seniors were voted co-MVP's for just the second time since the award was given in 1960, and it is the first time that two teammates have shared it. Maurer was the MVP in 2004 and Hurt won the trophy last year, marking the third time that a pair of former MVP's were lined up in the same backfield. They become the third and fourth Lafayette players to be named MVP twice in their careers, joining Tom Costello (1988, 1989) and Erik Marsh (1992, 1994).
The victory in the 142nd meeting of college football's most played rivalry gives Lafayette its third straight appearance in the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs with the Patriot League's automatic bid. The Leopards and Mountain Hawks will share the championship with a 5-1 league record, with Lafayette advancing due to the head-to-head match-up, the same scenario that unfolded in 2004.
Lafayette scored touchdowns on its first four possessions to take a 28-7 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter after Lehigh marched 87 yards on 10 plays on its opening series, scoring on a two-yard run by quarterback Sedale Threatt.
The Leopards took over from there, with Hurt running five times for 41 yards on the first drive, hitting the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the process, and sophomore Maurice White scored on a 15-yard run. Rick Ziska made the first of his career-high seven extra points to tie the game at 7-all.
Maurer went to the air on the second possession after Lehigh went three-and-out, hitting Joe Ort for 18 yards on the second play and then sophomore Shaun Adair for 47 yards and the touchdown on the next snap to complete a three play, 69-yard drive.
Lafayette took advantage of field position inside the 20 on the next two possessions to build on the lead. First, junior Kyle Sprenkle had the first of his two first-half sacks and forced a fumble, which Mark Plumby recovered at the 14. Hurt ran twice and crossed the goal line from eight-yards out to make the score 21-7.
Marcel Quarterman intercepted a throw down the middle of the field on third-and-18 to set up the next score, as his 30-yard return placed the ball on the 10. Maurer found Ort along the back of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown on the second play.
From there, Lehigh completed two long drives to make the score 28-21 at the half. The Mountain Hawks went 91 yards on nine plays, with Threatt finding Landon Maggs from seven yards out for the score. A botched snap led to Lehigh's third touchdown of the half, as the Mountain Hawks took over on their own 39 with 1:49 remaining. Threatt moved the offense the distance in eight plays and scored on a three-yard run with 15 seconds left.
Lehigh opened the second half as it closed the first, forcing Lafayette's only punt of the day and then driving for the tying touchdown. Threatt hit Frank Trovato for a six-yard touchdown, but Jason Leo's extra point hit the left upright and was no good, keeping the score at 28-27 with 9:21 remaining in the third.
Lafayette took the momentum of the one point lead and ran with it, scoring on its final three possessions while holding the ball for more than five minutes on each drive, and the Mountain Hawks netted just 14 yards on its two possessions.
Maurer had the key play with a 24-yard run on third-and-seven that put the ball on the 20, then hit White for 15 yards on third-and-nine, and finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Joe Russo on the next play. Ziska's PAT pushed the lead to 35-27 with 3:47 on the clock in the third quarter.
The next possession began at the 26, with fifth-year senior Archie Fisher's first catch of the season sparking the drive. Fisher hauled in a six-yard completion on third-and-five at the 31, and Hurt later broke a 40-yard run to move the ball to the two. White ran for his second score of the day and extended the advantage to 15 points with just over 10 minutes left in the contest.
Lafayette sealed the championship after harassing Threatt into three straight incompletions. On fourth-and-four from the 29, Maurer connected with Adair for 18 yards, and Hurt plunged in from two yards out to create the final margin.
The Leopards rolled up 466 yards of total offense, averaging 7.2 yards per play, and had at least 200 yards rushing and receiving for the second straight week, and the third time this season.
Hurt set career-highs with 30 carries and 165 yards rushing, while Maurer ran five times for 33 yards and White scored on two of his three carries. Lafayette ran for 223 yards on 41 attempts in the game.
Adair and Ort caught five passes each, with the sophomore recording 98 yards and the senior coming up with 66 yards after setting Lafayette's single-game record with 274 yards last week against Georgetown.
Quarterman and tri-captain Justin Stovall made eight tackles each to lead a balanced defensive effort that smothered Lehigh for key stretches of the game. Torian Johnson and Andy Romans both had seven tackles, and Sprenkle had two sacks and the forced fumble among his six stops.
Head coach Frank Tavani and the Leopards will gather tomorrow to watch the I-AA Playoff selection show on ESPNews. The bracket will be unveiled between 1:30 and 2 p.m.
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