Sophomore quarterback Nick Shafinsky carries the ball during the Monmouth game on Sept. 27. Shafinsky leads a talented offense that is looking to hit its stride. (Andrew Garrison/B&W photo)

Lehigh football faces 0-4 Cornell, looks to grab first season win

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Players and coaches of the Lehigh football team are determined to finally right the ship and get their first victory of the season, and this weekend’s game presents just the opportunity for the team to accomplish that goal.

The 0-5 Mountain Hawks will be traveling to Ithaca, New York, for a Saturday game against 0-4 Cornell University, where both teams will battle for their first win.

Although Cornell has struggled, Lehigh is not taking the game lightly. This week’s game can be seen as a way to get the team back on the right track before playing five straight games against Patriot League opponents, all of which will be crucial.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” said senior wide receiver and team captain Josh Parris. “One thing that we are focusing on now is the process that gets you to the win instead of the win itself. We are taking it game by game, and we still do have hopes of winning the Patriot League.”

Cornell represents the second Ivy League opponent that Lehigh faces this year. Cornell and Lehigh have had two opponents in common so far: Bucknell University of the Patriot League and Yale University of the Ivy League. Like Lehigh, Cornell struggled in both games.

Many mistakes, including eight turnovers in two games, have been made by Lehigh’s offense in the first few games. However, part of practice this week involved building on some of the positives. Mixed in with the mistakes have been moments of an offense with great potential.

“Last week in the game against Bucknell, we were moving the ball at a fast pace,” said junior wide receiver Stefan Sansone. “We saw that that as working for us. So I know this week, we will be trying to move the ball a lot, trying to go at a fast tempo. Still a mixture of running the ball and throwing the ball, but as an offense we will be trying to move the ball down the field, doing more of a no-huddle.”

Defensively, the team is making progress. The amount of yards per game given up by the unit has been steadily decreasing after being at over 600 for the first three games. However, the defense still has some work to do, as it has allowed opposing offenses to convert many big plays. Players like junior outside linebacker Matt Laub will work on making the unit more effective in practices this week.

“Recently in the past games we’ve been making better strides in points given up and yards given up,” Laub said. “I think for us to get better, it will be us working together as a complete unit from the defensive line all the way to the safeties, where we are a total defense, working together to get better.”

Additionally, given the youth on both sides of the ball, experienced seniors are taking on big roles in practice in acting like additional coaches. Players like Parris, who had two years of experience as a starter going into this season, are leaders on the team.

“I take pride in teaching the younger guys on the team the little intricacies that might help them out on the field,” Parris said. “I teach them the subtle things that most people don’t know about playing the position that they are going to need to understand in order to be successful.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 3 p.m.

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