It was another game and another series of struggles for Lehigh’s football team.
After four interceptions inside its own territory and five total, Lehigh allowed Bucknell University to convert on chance after chance and win the game, 45-24.
Lehigh dropped to 0-5 on the season after the loss, which was also its first loss in the Patriot League.
“This is the most disappointed I’ve been during the season,” said coach Andy Coen. “I really thought we matched up pretty well with this football team we played.”
Bucknell was seemingly at a disadvantage after playing the game without starting quarterback R.J. Nitti, but backup Trey Lauletta came in and led the Bison to an easy win.
The game seemed to be more of the same for the Mountain Hawks, who totaled just 289 yards of offense, including just 11 yards in the second quarter. They also continued to allow a lot of yards on defense, allowing 436 in this game.
“We turned the ball over five times, one was a fake punt, but you cannot have four interceptions in any football game and hope to win,” Coen said.
Shafnisky went 16/30 for 193 passing yards and carried the ball 12 times for 18 yards. He failed to record a passing touchdown for the first time all season.
Senior Rich Sodeke, who continued to be the starting running back in place of sophomore Brandon Yosha, ran the ball 14 times for 52 yards.
Lehigh’s lone first half touchdown came on a 19-yard pitch to freshman wide receiver Troy Pelletier in the first quarter. It was his fourth touchdown of the season, and he leads the team among his position.
Towards the beginning of the third quarter, the Mountain Hawks had an opportunity to score after recovering a fumble that put them less than 20 yards away from the end zone, but Shafnisky threw an interception to end the drive.
Freshman running back Chris Leigh scored on an eight-yard run in the beginning of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 14 points. It was Leigh’s first touchdown of his career.
“I don’t know if there was a particular point where the momentum went, it just kept rolling and kept accumulating play after play,” senior wide receiver Derek Gaul said. “We just need to come together as offense and defense and just keep executing, and that’s where the momentum comes from.”
Lehigh started to gain some momentum in the fourth quarter after Shafnisky ran it in for a nine-yard touchdown, cutting the Bucknell lead to just seven. The defense also had multiple stops, something they struggled with all game.
“I really lit into the guys at halftime, challenged them to come back from the deficit we were in…there was a pretty good stretch of really good football,” Coen said. “We’ve seen that week after week, it’s here and it’s there, and I’m frustrated as the head football coach that I haven’t been able to get them to execute that way play after play after play.”
But Bucknell bounced back and scored on a 77-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that essentially ended Lehigh’s run of momentum.
“It hurt the whole team, we definitely had momentum,” senior linebacker Isaiah Campbell said.
Lehigh had one last chance to come back, but Shafnisky threw his third interception of the game and put Bucknell in the red zone.
Bucknell continued to convert third downs at will, getting first downs on nine of 16 opportunities compared to Lehigh’s one conversion on eleven tries.
Defensively, the Mountain Hawks gave up the fewest yards in a game this season, but that was likely due to all their turnovers that gave Bucknell good field position.
Lehigh will try again to pick up its first win of the season when it travels to face Cornell University on Oct. 18 at 3 p.m.