Lehigh football can’t stop the run, loses to Yale 27-12

Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky scrambles past a defender in a game against Yale University on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 at Goodman Stadium. Lehigh will face Fordham University, the defending Patriot League Champions, this Saturday. (Austin Vitelli/B&W Staff)

It wasn’t the chilly, 50-degree, rainy, wet and windy weather that caused Lehigh football to fall to Yale University on Saturday. Instead, it was the lack of Lehigh’s offensive run game.

“It was the worst first half of football, as an offense, we’ve played this year,” junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky said about Saturday’s game. “Zero points (in the first half) is just unacceptable.”

Last year the Hawks were defeated by the Bulldogs, 54-43, at the Yale Bowl. This year the scoreboard read 27-12.

While Lehigh was able to get 317 yards of total offense, it just wasn’t comparable to Yale’s 529 yards. Yale also dominated with a 251 edge in passing yards and a rushing total of 278 yards. Lehigh had a rushing total of just 87 yards.

The game was much different than last year’s meeting, which featured over 1,200 yards of total offense between the teams. Yale finished with 683 yards that day, the most Lehigh allowed that season.

Coach Andy Coen made it clear that Yale handled the line of scrimmage and dominated by putting a lot of pressure on Shafnisky.

“They were not allowing us to get anything going in the run game at all,” Coen said. “Our offense — we have to have the balance, we have to be able to run the ball and have to be efficient throwing the football. We weren’t doing any of that until the end of the game.”

Coen also said how penalties, turnovers and interceptions throughout the game ended up hurting the overall outcome for the Hawks.

“Our inability to capitalize off turnovers hurt us,” senior tight end Chris Ruhl said. “Unfortunately, getting that turnover and not being able to produce from it on offense kills the momentum we just gained.”

Although Coen said he gives his team credit for competing against the Bulldogs, particularly in the second half, the team still needs to work on consistency.

“It’s a great group of guys,” he said. “But we have ways to go now, to be more consistent. When we play consistent football we’ve done well. It’s really one football game out of the five that was played right now. We are 2-3 going into league play this week, that’s what this is really all about.”

Although the Hawks will put this game behind them, they believed it was both a frustrating and upsetting game. Shafnisky said the blame should be on the offense, saying that the defense was able to create turnovers, but that the offense ultimately couldn’t capitalize on them.

Ruhl also said watching the defense fight against Yale was uplifting, but as an offensive player, it was difficult to constantly put the defensive team back on the field without any points to back it up.

Part of the problem for the Hawks was underestimating Yale’s physical play.

“I thought we’ve been pretty physical,” Coen said. “We were real physical against Princeton and Penn and Central Connecticut. Part of it is the opponent you’re playing and Yale was much more physical than prior teams we’ve played against.”

Coen said Yale is a good team and has earned its high ranking across the FCS. Although Yale was physical, this wasn’t the only problem that caused the Hawks to lose against the Bulldogs. He said Yale’s ability to run the football as well as it did was what hurt the Hawks.

Junior defensive back Brian Githens was named player of the game with a team high of 12 tackles and three pass breakups. Sophomore wide receiver Troy Pelletier has had three consecutive games with more than 10 receptions and 100 receiving yards.

“In our sport, just one guy can’t get better — everyone has got to get better,” Coen said. “It’s a team deal, it’s the ultimate team game. If we can’t collectively get better it’s not going to happen. So, we have to get a lot of guys better.”

The Mountain Hawks will kick off with Patriot League play at Bucknell University on Oct. 10 at 1 p.m.

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