In the battle of two winless teams, Lehigh came out on top, defeating Cornell by the score of 31-14.
From the beginning, Lehigh’s defense set the tone. They started off the afternoon very strong, forcing a three and out on Cornell’s first drive. The unit looked significantly improved as they did not let Cornell get the ball past midfield at any point in the first quarter.
Lehigh was also able to move the ball pretty well early on against Cornell’s defense. After having to settle for a field goal and getting off to a 3-0 lead, Lehigh got the spark that they needed when senior running back Rich Sodeke had a 59 yard rush to the Cornell 1 yard line, setting up an easy touchdown. On the two scoring drives, Lehigh was able to move the ball pretty easily, with sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky once again showing his ability as a dual rushing and passing threat.
On the kickoff following the touchdown, the defense shined once again, when junior defensive back Randall Lawson forced a fumble. Senior defensive back Jason Suggs recovered it and ran for 10 yards, leading to another touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
The second quarter went scoreless for both teams. The defense continued to dominate for Lehigh however. Two interceptions by defense backs, sophomore Brandon Leaks and junior LaQuan Lambert, prevented Cornell from getting back into the game and halted their progress on two decent drives.
The score remained at 17-0, until Cornell’s offense got the best of Lehigh’s defense on one play. A 58 yard touchdown pass from Cornell quarterback Jake Jattis to receiver Collin Shaw with 3:42 to go in the third quarter made it 17-7.
After another strong start, the game took an ugly turn for the Hawks when a couple of unsuccessful offensive drives gave Cornell an opportunity to get back into the game. They did just that when another long completion to Shaw, this time from a pass by Kyle Gallagher for 40 yards, set up an easy touchdown. Suddenly, the Hawks only led by a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Luckily for Lehigh, the offense woke up on the next drive, and the strong running game returned. The game gained 54 yards from the ground on that drive alone, with Sodeke and freshman running back Chris Leigh moving the ball well. Shafnisky’s performance, including a 19 yard completion to senior wide receiver Josh Parris and a two yard touchdown run, also contributed.
After that, the defense once again came up big. This time, there was a 15 yard sack by junior outside linebacker Matt Laub and senior defensive lineman Timmy Newton on a Cornell fourth down, giving Lehigh another first and goal and setting for a 7 yard Sodeke touchdown run, making it 31-14.
It was a solid win for Lehigh, as well as for their offensive seniors. Sodeke finished with a career high 147 rushing yards, while Parris had 84 receiving yards. Another player who performed well was junior punter Austin Devine, with five punts inside the 20 and over 43 yards average per punt.
Next up for Lehigh is a Saturday home game against the Patriot League favorite Fordham (6-1) at 12:30 p.m.