It has been a year in which nothing has come easy for the Mountain Hawks on the football field.
Lehigh entered Saturday’s Georgetown University game carrying an ugly 1-6 record, a far cry from where the team, a perennial Patriot League force, normally stands. Despite this, the team was able to repeat what it has done many times in past years: beat Georgetown.
The Hawks added a second win to their season by defeating the Hoyas 27-19 in Washington, D.C.
The Hawks have been playing the Hoyas annually since 2001, which was the Hoyas’ first year as associate members of the Patriot League for football. All of those matches have ended in Lehigh victories, including Saturday night’s game and a 45-24 shootout in 2013.
Both teams entered the game winless in the conference, so the win keeps Lehigh out of the Patriot League cellar. While hopes of winning the league evaporated with losses to top contenders Fordham and Bucknell universities, the victory puts the team on the right path in hopes of turning around its season.
“I really think the momentum will carry over,” coach Andy Coen said. “We really didn’t have a shot to carry over the Cornell momentum because of who the next opponent [Fordham] was, but I think this one will.”
The offense’s 27 points against the stout Georgetown defense exceeded the total put out by Lafayette and Bucknell when they faced the Hoyas earlier this season. Sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky had one of his best games of the season, completing 17 of 26 passes for 345 yards.
Freshman wide receiver Troy Pelletier also had a standout performance. With 187 receiving yards, he increased his season total by 62 percent in this game alone. A 69-yard completion from Shafnisky to Pelletier in the beginning of the fourth quarter was the key to an important Hawks touchdown drive, which put the team ahead 27-11. The drive and Pelletier’s play were opportune because they came at a came when Georgetown was gaining momentum after scoring eight unanswered points to crawl out of a deep 20-3 hole.
“It feels real good,” Pelletier said. “I think defense played a hell of a game all day. And our offense struggled at times, but they put us in a good position. We capitalized on the go-ahead touchdown, so it felt good.”
Senior wide receiver Josh Parris, the team’s top receiver in the last two games, contributed a solid 62 receiving yards. Meanwhile, senior running back Rich Sodeke continued to be strong running the ball, totaling 120 rushing yards.
Colton Caslow was another young Mountain Hawk to have a major impact on the game. The sophomore linebacker was making several plays on defense throughout the day and led the team with 12 tackles.
The defense turned in one of its better overall performances to date. It allowed 363 total yards on offense to Georgetown, which is the second lowest total of the season, with the exception of the Cornell game. It is no coincidence that in the two strongest defensive performances, the Hawks are 2-0. The pass defense in particular was sturdy, holding Georgetown quarterback Kyle Nolan to a 15-for-32 day with 135 passing yards.
The team will face three more Patriot League opponents before closing its season. The Hawks will start by facing the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts on Nov. 8. They will also play a home game against Colgate University before closing out their season by celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry.
The Hawks’ earlier schedule threw many challenges at the team, but the upcoming games should be more reasonable. Like the Hawks, Holy Cross and Lafayette both have just one Patriot League win, and each has six losses total.
The Georgetown victory showed that the Hawks have the ability to be competitive against their remaining opponents. The Hoyas have still not allowed any opponents to score more than 34 points, making Lehigh’s effort even more impressive.
“Georgetown’s a gutty team; that’s the way they’ve played all year,” Coen said. “We didn’t think anything would be easy, but I’m proud of our guys.”