Junior wide receiver Gatlin Casey outruns Colgate sophomore defensive backs Tyler Castillo and Alec Wisniewski to score a touchdown in the third quarter Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, at Goodman Stadium. Lehigh defeated Colgate, 45-31. (Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

Lehigh football opens Patriot League play with win over Colgate

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Nearly 10,000 people packed into Goodman Stadium for Lehigh’s family weekend football game.

The team didn’t disappoint them.

Lehigh (4-2, 1-0 Patriot) secured its fourth straight victory Saturday, scoring 31 points in the second half on the way to a 45-31 victory over Colgate University.

“It’s awesome when you have that kind of support, whether it’s family or just anyone,” senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky said. “It gives you more of an incentive to want to be great.”

After sitting out last week because of an injury, Shafnisky returned to action in a big way. Setting records has become second-nature for the quarterback, as his career-high five passing touchdowns came just two weeks after he set a career high in passing yards.

He was helped out by huge performances from his receivers. Junior Gatlin Casey had a career game of his own with 196 yards and three receiving touchdowns, while junior Troy Pelletier contributed with his fifth straight 100-yard game.

Parents and students who arrived at the stadium even a little bit late missed the game’s opening touchdowns, with both teams putting points on the board before two minutes had elapsed.

Lehigh’s offense stalled the rest of the half, only scoring one more touchdown on its last drive.

The defense, as it has done recently, stepped up when the team needed it to.

Sophomore strong safety Sam McCloskey forced a fumble on Colgate’s first play of the second half, and freshman free safety Riley O’Neil picked it up for the Lehigh defense’s first recovered fumble of the year. O’Neil also had an interception earlier in the game, and stressed how important turnovers were to the team’s success.

“Any time we can get the ball back for our offense and give them a chance to do what they do, they’re going to put points on the board,” O’Neil said.

The Mountain Hawks tied the game up after that turnover with a field goal, and went on to score 14 more unanswered points.

After that, it was time for the special teams unit to step up.

Colgate cut the lead back to one touchdown with 37 seconds left in the third quarter, but Casey returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, his fourth of the day.

Casey had come close to returning the previous kickoff for a touchdown as well, and finished the day with five returns for 195 yards.

“This week they were giving us a lot of different looks,” Casey said. “They were crossing and mixing it around, and our guys blocked it really well. There was a hole on the one before that, and someone just tripped me up.”

Coach Andy Coen acknowledged the kickoff return as well, talking about how the team worked hard on special teams over the week. By the time of the last kickoff, Coen was confident of what the outcome would be.

“The last one, we said, ‘This one’s going to the house,’” Coen said. “93 yards later, (Casey) was in the end zone.”

In the end, Coen was pleased with the way the team performed. Specifically, he applauded the balance shown by each of the three units.

“What was really great to me was everybody got involved: offense, defense, special teams,” Coen said. “And if we didn’t have all of those, it would have been a different game.”

This was Lehigh’s first game in Patriot League competition, so to beat the team ranked No. 1 in the Patriot League preseason poll was a significant result. The team will play again next Saturday when it faces Georgetown University in Washington D.C.

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