For a game that Lehigh football coach Andy Coen described to his players as a “second season,” the Mountain Hawks’ 152nd rivalry meeting against Lafayette was not too different from what the team has come to expect this year.
In short, the offense kept rolling.
In its 45-21 win against Lafayette (2-9, 1-5 Patriot), the Lehigh’s top three wide receivers – one of the most explosive trios in the FCS – juniors Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey along with fifth-year Derek Knott, combined for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Star quarterback Nick Shafnisky continued his final season in top form by throwing for three scores and running for another, garnering MVP honors for the second straight year. Sophomore back Dom Bragalone, who came into the game four yards shy of 1,000 on the season, earned 110 rushing yards and added a touchdown.
The Lehigh offense played with an up-tempo style for the majority of the game, mixing up its passing and running threats in a no-huddle offense. Jukes throughout the game by Knott, Bragalone and Shafnisky revealed the advantage in the athleticism the Mountain Hawks (9-2, 6-0 Patriot) had over their Lafayette defensive counterparts.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountain Hawks were led by linebackers Pierce Ripanti and Colton Caslow, who recorded six individual tackles each and squashed the Leopards’ attempt to establish a running game, limiting them to an average of 2.6 yards per carry. Defensive back LaQuan Lambert, who turned 23 on the day of the rivalry contest as well, made eight tackles including 1.5 sacks on Lafayette’s Drew Reed.
Lehigh remained in control of the game after a second quarter explosion that propelled the team into a 31-7 halftime lead. Before the third quarter was even over, the team’s offensive starters were removed from the game, yielding way to backup players.
Shafnisky, who had 268 passing yards and 27 rushing yards, was named the MVP of the game for the second year in a row. Though he played less than three quarters of the game, he became the ninth player to ever win two Lehigh-Lafayette MVP awards.
The win finishes the regular season for the Mountain Hawks, who will now head into the FCS playoffs. They will receive their position in the bracket Sunday at 11 a.m. and their first round game will be played on Nov. 26.