When the Lehigh football team hosted University of Pennsylvania at Goodman Stadium last year, it was coming off of a road loss and still trying to figure things out entering its third game of the season. For Penn, it was its season opener.
In that game, Lehigh won 42-21.
“At one point, we were really putting it on them, we came over to the sideline and coach said ‘don’t let up and just keep the foot on the pedal,’” junior Troy Pelletier said. Pelletier had 10 receptions in the game for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
This Saturday at 5 p.m., when the Mountain Hawks take on the reigning Ivy League-champion Quakers at Franklin Field, they enter play with almost identical circumstances. They’ll hope to create an identical result as well.
This year, the Mountain Hawks have started the season 0-2 after two close losses to Monmouth and Villanova. Despite the tough start to the season, quarterback Nick Shafnisky said the team isn’t taking the losses too hard. Instead, they’re taking the losses and criticism and learning from it.
“I think everyone’s mentality and mindset is in a good spot right now for being 0-2, to be honest,” Shafnisky said.
Shafnisky said the team is focusing on putting together a complete game, with no letdowns and guys being able to play all the way through the game. Coach Andy Coen agreed with his quarterback, saying in the previous weeks the team really struggled with finishing the game.
“Obviously the most important thing for our football team right now, any way we can do it, is to find a way to win,” Coen said. “We are coming off of two tough losses, particularly the one last Saturday (against Villanova) because that was a game we really had opportunities to win and just didn’t finish the job.”
Pelletier said the first two games were games of inches with little mistakes, resulting in losses. If the team can clean those up, he knows they will get more wins. He said the team is focusing on improving itself this week.
Lehigh should have an advantage coming into the game, having already played two games, while this weekend will be Penn’s first.
“We have the experience of two games, we have the athleticism of two games, and we have the conditioning of two games,” Shafnisky said. He said during the first game players will always cramp and get tired, so the Mountain Hawks plan to use that conditioning to keep the tempo up on offense and tire out Penn on Saturday.
But because this is the first game for Penn this season, the Mountain Hawks have no recent film to study in preparation for the game, while Penn has film from Lehigh’s first two games. Coen said this is always scary because they don’t know what Penn changed from last year, and the team is basing its preparation on video from last season.
Film study is huge for preparation, Coen said. But he thinks Penn has made changes, and the team doesn’t know what those changes might be. He said the key is to be able to think on your feet and make changes in the middle of the game, which is a big part of Lehigh’s plan heading into the weekend.
Pelletier said not having film on Penn, while they have film on Lehigh, is a strategic disadvantage, but it’s not one he is worried about. Because there is nothing to do about the discrepancy in ability to prepare, the Mountain Hawks will have to focus on themselves.
“We know it is going to be a competitive game, we know they are talented,” Pelletier said. “We just have to put our best foot forward and be ready to compete.”
The last time the teams played, Shafnisky had a career game going 24 for 34 with 250 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, leading Lehigh to a win over the Quakers.
The Mountain Hawks will face Penn on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Philadelphia.