James Madison University defeated Lehigh University 31-28 in the Hawks’ first football game of the season on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Goodman Stadium.
It was a game that featured over 1,100 yards of total offense, four missed field goals and a lightning delay at halftime. Lehigh had a chance to tie the game at 31 with about a minute left, but its field goal attempt was blocked, giving the ball back to James Madison.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the outcome,” said head coach Andy Coen. “We left too many plays on the field, so to speak. I thought we played well enough to win a football game.”
Lehigh kicked a field goal, but James Madison called a timeout to try to ice the kicker. When the Hawks went to kick it again, the field goal was blocked, essentially ending the game. Coen said that he thought they got the kick off before anything was called.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky was the leader of the offense in the game, entering his first official season as the starting quarterback. He went 19/32 for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed 19 times for 121 yards, leading the team in both passing and rushing yards.
Lehigh focused on running the ball for most of the game; three different players had double-digit carries. In addition to Shafnisky’s performance on the ground, senior running back Rich Sodeke had 14 carries for 98 yards and sophomore running back Brandon Yosha, who was a transfer from the University of Miami this year, had 16 carries for 70 yards. Both Sodeke and Yosha had a rushing touchdown as well.
Coen was relatively happy with the offense’s performance.
“Nick played well for it being his first time starting from the beginning of the year,” Coen said. “The offensive line did well, the tailbacks did a nice job and I always say there’s something special about the Lehigh seniors, and Rich Sodeke had his biggest day.”
The Mountain Hawks passed the ball 11 times in the first half, but focused more on passing in the second half with 34 total passing attempts. Sodeke led the team in receiving with 4 catches for 48 yards. Senior wide receivers Derek Gaul and Josh Parris each had a touchdown, totaling 46 and 34 yards respectively.
Senior offensive lineman Ned Daryoush was positive about Lehigh’s offensive performance.
“We came out there and we knew we could play with this team, and we knew we had to play physical, and that’s what we went out there and did,” he said. “I think we were pretty up-tempo with our offense which helped a lot, and that starts from playing physical and knowing your assignments.”
Lehigh’s defense allowed James Madison to rack up an astounding 606 total yards of offense, including 322 rushing yards and 286 passing yards. Of JMU’s four touchdowns, one went for a long 76 yards on a touchdown pass from quarterback Vad Lee to wide receiver Rashard Davis.
The punting game was great for Lehigh, pinning the opponent down twice within their own five yard line led by junior punter Austin Devine. Missed field goals, however, had a negative impact on Lehigh’s ability to rack up points. Sophomore kicker Ryan Pandy really struggled in the game, missing all three of his field goals, including the potential game-tying one with just over a minute left in the game.
Shafnisky admitted to making some mistakes himself, but he took full ownership.
“Mentally, without a doubt, I wasn’t there,” Shafnisky said. “But we’ll learn from it, and we’ll come back better and strong every week.”
Lehigh will go on the road for the first time next weekend, as they take on University of New Hampshire at 3:30 p.m.