Five injured as Hawks blow lead, remain winless against Yale


The Mountain Hawks remain winless on the season after dropping a 54-43 decision to the Yale University Bulldogs on Saturday.

For Coach Andy Coen’s team, however, the loss might be the least of their concerns as five Hawks went down with injuries in New Haven. Sophomore running back Brandon Yosha, sophomore lineman Brandon Short, sophomore linebacker Colton Caslow, senior lineman Shane Rugg and freshman running back Christopher Leigh all were hurt during the contest.

The Hawks jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead that was propelled by Yosha’s 59-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, marking the University of Miami transfer’s third score in three games. Yet missed opportunities and penalties let the Bulldogs climb back into the game. Coen lamented after the game that the Hawks didn’t just lose the physical game, but the mental game as well.

“They made some big plays, we left too many plays out there,” Coen said. “Ultimately that’s the ball game.”

One of those big plays happened early in the third quarter, when sophomore defensive back Brandon Leaks picked off a pass by Yale’s sophomore quarterback Morgan Roberts. What would have been Lehigh’s possession at their own 37, quickly reverted possession back to Yale after Lehigh junior linebacker Matt Laub was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Yale drive ended in a touchdown as they capitalized on one of eight Lehigh penalties.

For Coen, the mental mistakes are the reason why the Hawks are still winless.

“When you’re self-inflicting wounds on mental things, those are things that get you beat,” Coen said. “Some of the penalties I saw today I’ve never seen in 29 years of coaching.”

The Hawks were, however, able to put some offensive drives together that clicked over the course of the game. Led by sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky, the Hawks put up a season-high 43 points. Despite Shafnisky’s three second-half interceptions, the Lehigh Valley native had three touchdowns through the air and one on the ground for 357 total yards of offense.

The offense held their weight, but the Hawks defense couldn’t reciprocate that production. Letting up 31 points in the Sept. 6 loss to James Madison University and 45 points in the Sept. 13 loss to the University of New Hampshire, the 54-point onslaught the defense endured Saturday leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Sophomore linebacker Pierce Ripanti, a Wilmington, Delaware native, simply said, “We really let our offense down these past three weeks.”

Despite the slow start, team co-captain senior wideout Josh Parris remains optimistic despite the frustration.

“We can’t waste any more plays, any more practice time,” Parris said. “We just need to continue to love this game.”

The Hawks will return to Bethlehem this week where they will evaluate their five injured players and prepare for Monmouth University. The Hawks will host Monmouth at Goodman Stadium Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in their last game before conference competition begins Oct. 11 versus Bucknell University.

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