For every big win the Mountain Hawks have boasted this season, a blowout has followed. Saturday’s 52-26 loss to Princeton University was a microcosm of the Hawks season thus far, according to coach Andy Coen.
“Every time we did something good, something bad happened. Last week we overcame all that stuff — we were good on the mental toughness side of things,” Coen said in his post-game interview. “Kids didn’t bring it today the way they needed to.”
The good was 561 yards of total offense — more than Princeton’s 479 yards gained.
The bad was two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky said that was the difference in the contest.
“If we don’t have four turnovers, that’s four less opportunities and maybe four less touchdowns that Princeton will have,” Shafnisky said. “That’s a 28-point a swing right there. We’ve just got to stop giving the ball away.”
The Whitehall, Pennsylvania, native threw for 348 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The junior also added 49 yards on the ground. As the dual-threat quarterback moved the chains against the Tigers, the frustration set in when the mistakes tallied up for the Hawk offense.
“The worst is obviously the yards we got,” Shafnisky said. “We were driving on them, we played a solid game. We just shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and obviously the turnovers. That’s what we need to eliminate.”
Playing a pivotal role in moving the chains for the Hawks on Saturday was sophomore wide receiver Troy Pelletier. The Deerfield, New Hampshire, native hauled in 15 passes for 158 yards. The 15 catches were high enough for a Lehigh single-game record.
Lehigh trailed just 24-13 at the half, with freshman running back Dom Bragalone continuing his breakout rookie campaign. The South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, native rushed for 129 yards on 21 carries, this time without the support of fellow freshman running back Micco Brisker, who was sidelined due to a hand injury.
Bragalone believes his career day’s praise should be deflected to his offensive line.
“The offensive line did a great job yesterday which is why I did well — I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “It’s a good feeling, I went four games without a touchdown and it was a little frustrating. Now that I finally got one, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Coen shared similar praise despite the loss.
“Dom (Bragalone) did a great job,” he said. “I think our offensive line and the run game were pretty stout. We were moving people and getting yards.”
Despite Bragalone’s dismantling of the Princeton defense, Lehigh’s own defensive 11 was not given any favors by their offense. Adding extra time on the field in result of the four turnovers, the Hawks’ defense surrendered more than 50 points for the second time this season.
Sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Cavenas noted the team’s grip on the flow of the game could have improved, as the Tigers won the second half 28-13.
“We were on the field a lot, but I feel like we could have handled it a little bit better,” Cavenas said. “It wasn’t as much fresh legs, but it was missed tackles and letting up big plays that really killed us on the defensive side of the ball.”
As for the in-game adjustments the Hawks needed to heed to temper the Tiger’s offensive, it had everything to do with pressure.
“We talked about bringing more heat, more blitzes on second down and getting a little more pressure on the QB,” Cavenas said. “That’s what killed us the whole game, we didn’t stop series.”
Although Princeton was able to convert on six-of-11 third down conversions, Lehigh did come up with one marquee defensive effort courtesy of senior defensive back Olivier Rigaud. Trailing 31-13 in the third quarter, Rigaud forced a fumble and returned in 72 yards to the house for Lehigh.
For Cavenas, Rigaud and the rest of the Hawks’ defense, next Saturday is slated as a revenge game. The Yale University Bulldogs will travel from New Haven, Connecticut to Goodman Campus for a 12:30 p.m. matchup. After squandering a 28-point lead last year at the Yale Bowl, the Hawks will look to close out non-conference play with a win against its third straight Ivy League opponent.