Lehigh freshman running back Nate Hope drives during Lehigh's first Patriot League victory against Colgate on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, at Andy Kerr Stadium. Lehigh will play Fordham in New York on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Game Preview: Lehigh football vs. Fordham Rams


Game Info: The Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-3 overall, 1-0 PL) will continue Patriot League play against the Fordham Rams (2-2) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Jack Coffee Field in the Bronx, New York. 

Lehigh’s Previous Game: The Mountain Hawks defeated reigning Patriot League champions, the Colgate Raiders, 21-14 in its first Patriot League game of the season last Saturday, Oct. 5, at Andy Kerr Stadium. 

Offensive Highlights: Lehigh impressed on the offensive end, rushing for a season-high 97 yards. Senior quarterback Tyler Monaco completed 16 of 28 for 231 yards and a touchdown, and recorded his first career rushing touchdown. Freshman running backs Zaythan Hill and Nate Hope posted a combined 62 rushing yards, with Hope adding 79 receiving yards with two receptions and a touchdown.

Defensive Highlights: Lehigh showcased its second consecutive stellar defensive performance of the season, holding Colgate to 213 total yards with nine yards of rushing. The Mountain Hawks also recorded seven total sacks, following the six sacks they recorded against Merrimack the week before. A late pass interference penalty against Lehigh prompted a 1st-and-Goal opportunity for Colgate and the last scoring opportunity of the game for either side, but junior defensive back Divine Buckrham made a game-saving tackle to lock in the victory. 

Lehigh vs. Fordham History: In their last matchup on Oct. 13, 2018, Fordham beat Lehigh 43-14 in its Patriot League opener. Fordham quarterback Tim DeMorat threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns and the Rams added 189 yards of rushing. Then-junior wide receiver Devon Bibbens produced the second 100-yard game of his career with 112 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, while then-sophomore wide receiver Jorge Portorreal led the Mountain Hawks with seven receptions for 88 yards. 

The game marked Lehigh’s highest offensive output of the season, gaining 370 years, but six penalties and minus-2 turnovers prevented a winning result. Lehigh possesses a winning record historically, having won 11 of the 17 games played between the two teams. But the Rams finished on top in five of their last six meetings.

Key Factors: Lehigh: Entering its second Patriot League game after a bye week, the Mountain Hawks stand as one of the top defenses in the league. Lehigh has allowed only 22 points and 357.2 yards per game. In its two most recent games, Lehigh recorded 13 sacks after tallying 15 total during its 2018 campaign. Given its recent ferocity, the defense will be expected to step up and produce another lights-out performance against the Rams. The defense will likely depend on senior linebacker Keith Woetzel to lead the pack. Woetzel leads the league with 7.8 solo tackles per game, ranks fourth in total tackles (11.4) and is a major reason for the defense’s unprecedented success this season. 

Fordham: Fordham will enter the game as second in total offense and as the second leading team in the Patriot League for touchdowns scored (21) behind Georgetown (27). But touchdowns weren’t an issue as the Rams took down The Hoyas 30-27 with 17 seconds left on Oct. 12. The matchup marked the fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season for junior running back Zach Davis — the fifth of his career.

Like Lehigh, Fordham’s defense will show up hungry for sacks and turnovers. Against Georgetown, junior linebacker Glenn Cunningham led the Rams with nine tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two forced fumbles against Georgetown. Sophomore linebacker Ryan Greenhagen added eight tackles, six of which were solo. Woetzel and Greenhagen are first and second in the Patriot League and fourth and sixth among FCS players in tackles. 

Implications of the game: Three teams are tied for first in the Patriot League with 1-0 marks, including Lehigh and Fordham. Having each played only one Patriot League opponent so far this season, a victory for either side would bring its team to 2-0 in Patriot League play. But the Mountain Hawks haven’t defeated the Rams in the Bronx since 2011 and have lost five of the last six meetings overall — a triumph on Saturday would likely mean much more to the team than a second Patriot League victory. 

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