Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky picked a good day to set a career-high in touchdowns.
The local product passed for three touchdowns and had two more scores on the ground to spoil University of Pennsylvania’s season opener. Lehigh won the game 42-21 Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium.
Shafnisky passed for 250 yards and ran for another 95 in the win. It was the most rushing yards in a game for him this season despite it also being his fewest amount of carries (16).
“This is what I envisioned with this group of kids,” coach Andy Coen said. “We have a really good group of wide receivers and a quarterback that’s continuing to mature, and we have some young running backs. Everything came pretty close to the way you’d like to draw it up today.”
Freshman running back Micco Brisker had a breakout game as well, totaling 114 yards on 22 carries, both of which were career highs. It was Lehigh’s first 100-yard rusher since last season.
Brisker was given the role of feature back for the entire second half after fellow freshman running back Dominick Bragalone left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury, according to Coen. Bragalone finished with 46 total yards.
Sophomore wide receiver Troy Pelletier was Shafnisky’s favorite target Saturday, sending flashbacks to last year’s dominance that the duo had. Pelletier finished with 10 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, junior defensive back Brian Githens stepped up in the win, totaling 11 tackles and an interception early in the fourth quarter that swung momentum back towards the Mountain Hawks.
“On that interception, they kept hitting that screen into the boundary, and we were waiting for them to throw something off of it,” Githens said. “When they did, I saw it and I just jumped it.
It took a little while for Lehigh to break open the game, but in the end its offense was just too powerful for Penn to handle. Sophomore wide receiver Gatlin Casey ran in a touchdown on the first drive of the game to give Lehigh a quick 7-0 lead, but Penn eventually tied it up early in the second quarter.
A pair of Shafnisky-to-Pelletier touchdowns that were fewer than five minutes apart gave Lehigh the lead again going into the half.
“We were just clicking on all cylinders on offense,” Pelletier said. “We got our run game going early, and I was able to compliment our pass game. It was able to free us up on the outside, and we made some plays.”
Shafnisky continued to score at will, rushing for a touchdown halfway through the third quarter and lobbing another touchdown to senior wide receiver Stefan Sansone a few minutes later.
Shafnisky followed it up with another rushing touchdown to give the Mountain Hawks a 42-14 lead with less than a quarter left, effectively ending the Quakers’ chance of making a comeback. Shafnisky said the trust he had with the offensive line allowed him to scramble and make some plays on the ground.
“I always give credit to the line, they help me so much,” Shafnisky said. “And not only that, but coach (Drew) Folmar is a great coach. He’s made me a heck of a quarterback.”
Lehigh will head back on the road to take on Princeton University on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m.