The Lehigh football team defeated Colgate 36-33 in dramatic fashion on Nov. 12 at Goodman Stadium. Lehigh trailed 14-0 early and multiple times in the fourth quarter before rallying for the victory.
Junior quarterback Dante Perri and junior wide receiver Eric Johnson both had career days in the win. Perri completed 25/33 passes for 424 yards and four total touchdowns. Johnson caught 10 passes for 194 yards including, an 11-yard touchdown that put Lehigh ahead for good with 22 seconds remaining.
The Mountain Hawks improved to 2-3 in the Patriot League and 2-8 overall with the win.
Last season’s matchup resulted in a dominant 30-3 Colgate win, but this season’s contest went down to the final minute.
“There was this feeling like, ‘Hey, we got this,’” coach Tom Gilmore said. “We’re gonna figure out a way to pull out these plays at the end. It was a neat feeling on the sideline.”
Colgate wasted no time in striking first. Sophomore quarterback Michael Brescia completed five passes for 66 yards on the opening drive before sophomore running back Brendan Cassamajor plunged into the endzone from two yards out to give the Raiders an early 7-0 lead.
After a Lehigh punt, Colgate freshman wide receiver Treyvhon Saunders hauled in a 51-yard touchdown from Brescia to extend the lead to 14-0.
Lehigh desperately needed a response, and the offense provided it. Perri found Johnson deep over the middle of the field for a gain of 43 yards.
The drive commenced with Perri plowing into the endzone from the one yard line for his first rushing touchdown of the season to make the score 14-7.
Later, Perri added another touchdown on the ground at the 8:55 mark of the second quarter, but it was his outstanding performance passing the football that led the Lehigh comeback.
“I just think we kept trusting,” Perri said. “It wasn’t pretty the whole time. We hit a couple skids of adversity, but we didn’t really panic. We kept trusting each other. We kept trusting the system.”
Lehigh’s run defense was pivotal in halting Colgate’s offense that was third in the Patriot League in rushing prior to the game. Colgate was forced to settle for a pair of field goals to make the score 20-14 going into halftime.
The Mountain Hawks were stymied on the opening drive of the third quarter due to a intentional grounding penalty on Perri that forced a punt from their own endzone.
Colgate capitalized on the short field as Brescia rolled right outside of the pocket and found senior wide receiver Garrett Oakey for a three-yard touchdown. Oakey’s catch was Brescia’s second touchdown pass of the day.
Lehigh continued to claw back thanks to Perri’s efforts through the air. Perri hit both Johnson and senior wide receiver Jalen Burbage on the following drive. With 6:19 left to go in the third quarter, Burbage made a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone to bring the Mountain Hawks back within striking distance.
With the score 26-21, both teams traded punts until the fourth quarter.
The scoring stalled until the 3:58 mark of the fourth quarter when junior running back Jack DiPietro broke multiple tackles en route to a 17 yard touchdown, giving Lehigh its first lead of the game.
Colgate had an answer with 1:15 left on the clock as Brescia scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season.
With 1:04 left in the game to throw one final punch, Perri found Johnson, Burbage and freshman wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel for 62 yards total yards to reach the Colgate 11 yard line.
Colgate called a timeout with 22 seconds remaining. In a one on one situation, Perri gave Johnson the chance to make a game-winning play, and he did just that to put Lehigh in front 36-33.
“Just make a play,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking about it since camp. We have to be playmakers and always want to be the one to make that play. My number was called. Dante gave me a ball. I made a play.”
Sixth year linebacker Nate Norris intercepted Brescia with only four seconds remaining to seal a Mountain Hawk victory.
With Lehigh’s home schedule complete, its focus now shifts to the Rivalry match next Saturday.
Gilmore commended his team’s resiliency and thinks they can carry some momentum into next week.
“It just changes the atmosphere,” Gilmore said. “Our guys have never stopped working. Despite the string of losses we had, our guys were coming back week in and week out working, trying to stay focused on improvement. I think we’ve shown those signs in different ways. It gives you some momentum, it gives you some confidence that all that work was worth it.”
This year’s installation of The Rivalry will be the 125th straight game and 158th game all time between Lehigh and Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks won last year’s matchup 17-10 in Bethlehem.