‘Spillane on Sports’ Column: Football finishes strong


Brendan Spillane

The Lehigh football team (6-5) came away with an explosive 49-35 win over Lafayette College to finish the football season strongly. After going 2-3 in the first five games, and possibly having the chance to go under .500 for the second year in a row, Lehigh turned its season around by winning three out of its last four games.

The win against Lafayette (1-10) to cap off the season was extraordinarily important for many reasons.

First, it allowed Lehigh to achieve a record of over .500 on the year. Second, it helped ease the pain, and maybe help some forget, that Lehigh has a combined record of 8-14 in the last two seasons. Third, the Lafayette game gave a platform for junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky to step up, lead his team to victory and end the season with a strong performance.

Capping off a season with a record over .500 was important for Lehigh as it prevented a repeat of consecutive years going under .500. The last time Lehigh went under .500 two years straight was in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

By going over .500, this year’s team managed to prevent the team from gaining the label of a losing football program. Historically, Lehigh has been strong for a period of time, and then mediocre for a period of time.

For example, in 2006 to 2009, Lehigh went 20-24 and in 2002 to 2005, Lehigh had a record of 33-13. It is clear that the Lehigh football program is streaky in terms of both multiple winning and losing seasons.

The Lehigh football team has had a combined record of eight wins and 14 losses the past two years. However, thanks to a win in a highly-watched rivalry game, no one really seems to remember the Lehigh football team’s combined record and performance the last two years.

After the Lafayette game and at the end of the season, coach Andy Coen mentioned the short memory that his players would have following the Colgate game.

“I told the guys, ‘You know it’s tough to lose the opportunity for the league, but we’re blessed to have this game next week, and if you win that game, you won’t even remember what happened at Colgate,’” Coen said. “And I’m pretty sure all the seniors would corroborate that today.”

In my previous column, which was a preview on the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry game, there were mixed reviews of quarterback Nick Shafnisky. He was called out for throwing nine interceptions in 10 games played. I also predicted that Shafnisky would let freshman running back Dom Bragalone take most of the workload for the game to limit the amount of times he threw the ball.

However, he simply proved those claims wrong. Shafnisky threw for 283 yards, completing 21-of-27 passes, and scored four touchdowns. He did throw one interception. However, it did not matter as he lead his team to victory and was named the game’s MVP.

“I loved just kicking Lafayette’s butt in front of them and showing them what Lehigh’s about,” Shafnisky said.

Next football season will be Shafnisky’s last, as he’ll be a senior, and the quarterback should really look to build off his strong performance in his game against Lafayette. The quarterback position must be filled with someone who can lead and also put up big numbers in order to help his team win. If Shafnisky can come out next year with strong performances, he will help his team to a solid season in 2016.

If Lehigh’s performance against Lafayette in the final game of 2015 is any indication of the way the football team will come out to start its 2016 season, fans should look forward to next year.

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