Junior linebacker Mike DeNucci said the Mountain Hawks will go into this weekend with the mentality that they stand at a 0-0 record, seeing the Rivalry football game as their “own little Super Bowl.”
Before this past weekend, Lehigh had only one conference win against Georgetown, which beat Lafayette 30-20 earlier in the season.
Now, Lehigh will enter The Rivalry with its last minute 36-33 victory over Colgate under their belts, as well.
“The biggest takeaway was our resilience,” junior quarterback Dante Perri said. “Things were definitely in doubt to the viewer’s eye, but I don’t think there was ever a doubt on our sideline of what we were able to do.”
DeNucci said he didn’t think the game should’ve been as close as it was, but it showed the team is not going to crack under pressure moving forward.
He said this win instilled a new confidence in the team and served as a reminder that they can persevere through long, tough games. He said it showed the Mountain Hawks are able to keep their heads in the game for all four quarters, even going into a high-pressure weekend like Le-Laf.
“It’s huge, especially going into this weekend because it’s going to be a grind,” DeNucci said.
First-year wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel said, in addition to proving what the team was capable of, the win was a morale booster for the team.
“It was all around a really good team win,” Jamiel said. “It wasn’t just one guy, it wasn’t just the defense and it wasn’t just the offense. It was everyone on the team doing their job.”
After this win, the Mountain Hawks now hold a record of 2-3 in conference play and 2-8 overall.
However, Perri said one of the main focuses heading into the Rivalry is putting this record completely behind them.
“We talked about building a wall around every week, and you go 1-0 in that week,” Perri said. “So, last week’s over, it’s time to put everything into this week and do our jobs.”
Perri said even if the record doesn’t reflect their hopes for the season, they just have to focus on playing football and not worry about anything else.
“There’s only one way to go, you’re not just going to roll over and let somebody else beat you up in a football game,” Perri said. “You’re going to put your nose down, you’re going to go to work and you’re going to try and get a win this Saturday.”
Jamiel said despite the team’s mentality to leave the record behind, they will carry the lessons learned throughout this season into the Rivalry game.
“If we’re all kind of clicking, everyone’s locked in and just firing on all cylinders, we’re really the only people who can stop us,” Jamiel said.
DeNucci said an additional focus will be on playing physical and playing fast, ensuring both offense and defense make the plays when they’re there. He said even though Lafayette is a good team both offensively and defensively, both teams have “nothing to lose,” which makes preparing skills for the game a challenge because they don’t know what to expect.
DeNucci said he thinks it’s going to be a big game for Lehigh’s defense and has hopes for a strong performance from sixth-year linebacker Nate Norris.
Offensively, Perri said Lehigh’s young offensive line will be a unit to watch in this game. He also highlighted two wide receivers: junior Eric Johnson and senior Jalen Burbage as players to look out for.
“It’s an awesome opportunity — it’s a packed stadium, it’s the most played rivalry in college football and people really care about it no matter what the records are,” Perri said. “We’re definitely excited.”
The Mountain Hawks will face off against the Leopards in the 158th Rivalry game Saturday at Lafayette’s Fisher Stadium.