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Patriot League Champs! Lafayette Clinches Berth in Division I-AA Playoffs with 24-10 Win Over Lehigh

Nov. 20, 2004

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EASTON, Pa. ( - Lafayette used a punishing ground attack and a stout defensive effort to grind out a 24-10 win over No. 8 Lehigh in the 140th edition of college football's most-played rivalry. The win secures Lafayette (8-3 overall, 5-1 Patriot League) a share of the Patriot League championship and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

Sophomore quarterback Brad Maurer was named the game's most valuable player, completing 11-of-21 passes for 108 yards and running 20 times for 124 yards and a touchdown.

He paced an offense that rolled up 387 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, linebackers Maurice Bennett (11 tackles) and Justin Stovall (six tackles, two forced fumbles) were the key cogs in a defense that limited Lehigh to 200 yards of offense.

The win gives Lafayette its first eight-win season since 1992 and first league championship since 1994. Both Lafayette and Lehigh will learn their postseason fates on Sunday. The 16-team Division I-AA playoff bracket will be announced on ESPNews at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The Mountain Hawks (9-2, 5-1) took the early lead, covering 70 yards on 14 plays with the opening kickoff. Eric Rath capped the drive, which erased 7:50 off the first-quarter clock, with an eight-yard touchdown run.

Larry Johnson returned the kickoff to the Lehigh 47, but the Leopards' initial drive stalled when a fourth-down completion from Maurer to Justin Lauver was spotted short of the first down.

Lehigh appeared to be headed for its second score early in the second quarter, but Stovall forced a Rath fumble at the Lafayette 10 that Trey Martell recovered. The Leopard offense then embarked on a 20-play, 80-yard drive that drained 9:53 off the clock, but ultimately ended with a tipped Maurer pass being picked off by Courtney Elder on the back line of the end zone.



The Leopards scored three times in the third quarter to take control.

Maurer hit Joe Ort for 29 yards on the first play of the second half, then two plays later rolled to his left, tucked the ball and sprinted 26 yards for his ninth rushing score of the season.

Following a Lehigh punt, Lafayette put together a 15-play, 66-yard drive that consumed 7:41 and culminated in a 25-yard Rick Ziska field goal. The key play of the drive was a 14-yard run on a fake punt by Stovall on fourth-and-three from the Lehigh 40.

Stovall forced another Rath fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and four plays later Brandon Stanford took a reverse 13 yards for a score. Ziska's point-after made it 17-7 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.

The defense forced another punt, and Lafayette salted the game away with an 18-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7:15. A two-yard McCourt touchdown run ended the drive and set off the victory celebration at Fisher Field.

Matt McNelis added a 27-yard field goal for the Mountain Hawks with 3:16 left.

McCourt finished with 80 yards on 23 carries, while Jonathan Hurt tacked on 43 yards on seven attempts.

Mark Borda completed 14-of-20 passes for 117 yards. His favorite target was tight end Adam Bergen, who caught five passes for 65 yards.

After marching 70 yards with the game's opening possession, Lehigh was held to just 130 yards of offense the rest of the way, including just 76 yards in the second half.

The win was Lafayette's first over a ranked opponent since a 14-7 win over Lehigh in 2002.