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No. 13 Lehigh Hands Yale its First Loss, 37-7

Alex Thomas. (photo by Kevin McCarthy)
Alex Thomas. (photo by Kevin McCarthy)

Five Turnovers Prove Costly for Bulldogs

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After Yale closed to within 10-7 early in the second quarter, No. 13 Lehigh reeled off the final 27 points of the game to beat the Bulldogs 37-7 Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium. Yale was hurt by five turnovers, including three fumbles lost. Mountain Hawks quarterback Chris Lum threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bulldogs also hurt themselves with a holding call that wiped away a touchdown and a roughing the kicker penalty that gave Lehigh a first down on one of its early touchdown drives. And there were also numerous miscues that don't necessarily show up in the stats, including several dropped passes. Lehigh (4-1) took advantage of virtually every Yale mistake.

"We didn't play very well," said Tom Williams, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football, estimating that the Elis reached double digits in dropped passes. "When you're playing a good football team and make those mistakes, it comes back to haunt you."

An interception ended Yale's first drive, but only briefly. As the Lehigh defensive back was returning the pick, sophomore tight end Kyle Wittenauer stripped the ball from him and sophomore center John Oppenheimer fell on it at the Lehigh 42 to give the Bulldogs new life. But two plays later the Bulldogs fumbled, and this time the Mountain Hawks recovered.

Lehigh's offense took over at the Mountain Hawk 46. Lum completed three of four passes to get the ball to the Yale seven, but his attempt to loft the ball to receiver Ryan Spadola in the end zone was broken up by sophomore strong safety Nick Okano. The Mountain Hawks settled for a 26-yard field goal by Tim Divers.

Yale's next drive ended with a punt, but once again a turnover changed the complexion of the game. The Lehigh punt returner never could get a handle on the ball, and after a pile of players converged on it senior linebacker Jordan Haynes, Yale's captain, emerged with the ball.

Momentum swung back-and-forth quickly again when senior tailback Alex Thomas had a 13-yard touchdown run taken off the board due to a holding call. On the very next play Lehigh defensive lineman Sajjad Chagani broke through the line to disrupt senior quarterback Patrick Witt's attempted handoff on play action, and the Mountain Hawks recovered the fumble at their own 34.

The Yale defense got the three-and-out it needed on the ensuing drive, with senior defensive end Cliff Foreman breaking up a third-down pass. But a roughing the kicker call on the punt gave Lehigh a first down. Eight plays later, quarterback Michael Colvin took the ball into the end zone from three yards out for a 10-0 Mountain Hawks lead with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.

Sophomore wide receiver Deon Randall had two huge plays on Yale's next drive. His eight-yard touchdown grab on third-and-goal capped it, but his leaping nab of a deep pass -- including fighting off two defenders for the ball -- got the Bulldogs 38 yards on their way to end zone. Junior placekicker Philippe Panico pulled Yale within 10-7 with the extra point.

A tag team effort by the Yale defense generated the next turnover. Senior cornerback Drew Baldwin's leaping effort slowed down Lum's second-and-seven pass from the Lehigh 30. As the ball was falling to the ground, junior linebacker Will McHale lunged forward and grabbed it for the interception at the Mountain Hawk 29. But the Bulldogs missed a 46-yard field goal attempt and Lehigh's lead remained 10-7.

The Mountain Hawks increased their lead to 16-7 by driving 72 yards for a touchdown on a nine-yard pass from Lum to receiver Jake Drwal. The extra point was blocked.

Another Yale fumble ended the Bulldogs' next drive after just two plays. But senior defensive end Austin Pulsipher broke up Lum's first pass of the Mountain Hawks' drive, and junior cornerback Kurt Stottlemyer intercepted his third. That gave the Yale offense the ball at the Eli 38. Five plays later, however, Lehigh defensive back Mike Groome grabbed a Witt pass in Lehigh territory and returned it 17 yards to the Mountain Hawk 45. After a second-down sack by senior defensive end Matt Battaglia dropped Lehigh back from the nine-yard line to the 20, a penalty pushed the Mountain Hawks back even further and they wound up missing a 40-yard field goal attempt as time expired at the end of the first half.

The Yale defense denied Lehigh's first two drives of the second half, but the Eli offense got no further than its own 45 on its first two drives.

"We had a good start to the third quarter defensively, with a three-and-out on the first drive and getting them off the field after four plays on the next drive," Williams said. "But we weren't able to get a sustained drive offensively."

Lehigh expanded its lead to 23-7 with a 57-yard touchdown drive that ended with another Drwal touchdown reception, this one a five-yarder. Spadola had the big play, reeling in a 38-yarder that got the ball to the Eli six. He would finish the day with 11 receptions. Later in the quarter Drwal, who finished with 10 grabs, caught a 12-yard scoring pass that made it 30-7.

Mountain Hawks running back Keith Sherman added a four-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter after a pair of long pass plays, a 15-yarder to receiver Matt Fitz and a 17-yarder to Drwal, got the ball to Yale's doorstep.

Hurt by four sacks, Yale finished with 83 rushing yards. Thomas had 89 yards on 17 carries, but the Bulldogs lost 26 yards on those sacks.

Yale (2-1, 1-0 Ivy League) now quickly shifts its focus back to Ivy League play with a game vs. Dartmouth coming up next Saturday at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field.

"We've got to re-focus," Williams said. "Dartmouth will have our full attention this week. I know our guys will be hungry to atone for this loss."

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity