The Mountain Hawks (0-2) will look for its first win when the team travels to Davis, California, to face No. 4/5 UC Davis (1-1) on Saturday, Sept. 14.
Despite its losses to both St. Francis (13-14) and No. 24 Villanova (10-38), freshman defensive back TyGee Leach said the team maintains a positive outlook on the rest of the season.
“We (have) a lot of optimism going forward, as every week is a fresh start and all the mistakes we’ve made are correctable,” Leach said. “We feel like we’ve been beating ourselves.”
Sophomore offensive tackle Jan Maciejewski said he is not concerned about the long road trip and the time difference in California. He said having the right mentality can alleviate any obstacles that come with long-distance away games.
Arriving late on Thursday night, Lehigh will have just one day to acclimate to the three-hour time difference.
“It definitely is a factor,” Maciejewski said. “We’re used to long bus rides, but this is a flight and a time zone difference. I’m sure we will be fine though. It’s about having the right mindset.”
UC Davis is a top 10 team and is the highest-ranking competitor the Mountain Hawks have on its schedule.
The Mountain Hawks’ focus is on its ability to slow down UC Davis sophomore running back Ulonzo Gilliam. Gilliam was named to the Hero Sports Freshman All-American Team last season and was the first Aggie in program history named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List, a national honor for the FCS’ freshman player of the year. In his first two starts of this season, he rushed for 224 yards on 39 carries.
Coach Tom Gilmore said he feels confident in his team’s capability to answer to UC Davis’ rushing attack.
“We will do our best to stop it in some base calls with some blitzes and other packages,” Gilmore said. “Keep them off-guard, keep them off-balance and keep them guessing what we’re doing so that they can’t just call plays, see how we’re aligned and try to attack us.”
Gilmore said the Aggies’s tight ends in the vertical passing game can be tough to cover. This makes it vital for the Mountain Hawks to keep the Aggies guessing on defense in order to confuse their offense.
Gilmore said Lehigh will look to start fast and attack the Aggies, something the team has been successful in doing this season. Against St. Francis, Lehigh held a 13-0 lead at halftime.
However, Gilmore said he is not concerned with how Lehigh starts, but with how it finishes.
“I think every coach would tell you they’d like to start fast,” Gilmore said. “Getting ahead is an advantage, but it’s how you finish the game that’s important. Now if you could build a larger lead, it would change things. But with a talented team like this, I don’t think a one or two score lead would change their game plan.”
The Mountain Hawks’ visit to UC Davis will be the first time the teams have met since the 1977 Division II semifinals. Kickoff is set for 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the UC Davis Health Stadium.