Lehigh football sophomore wide receiver Connor Kennedy runs after catching a pass during the game against Cornell on Sep. 16, 2023, at Goodman Stadium. Lehigh scored a touchdown and extra point in the last minute of the first half. (Holly Fasching / B&W Staff)

Lehigh football drops close home game to Cornell


In front of a home crowd at Goodman Stadium, two second-half interceptions propelled Cornell over Lehigh 23-20 on Saturday afternoon.

This was Cornell’s first game of the season due to the Ivy League’s delayed start to their football season.

Last year, these teams played at Cornell — The Big Red won that game 19-15.

Lehigh (1-2) entered the game with the best third-down defense in the Football Championship Subdivision by completion percentage. Throughout the game, Cornell converted on six of their 16 third down attempts.

After both teams had empty first possessions, Cornell returned a punt 20 yards to their own 45-yard line with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter. 

The Big Red picked up 55 yards in only two plays, scoring their first touchdown of the game on a 37-yard pass from junior quarterback Jameson Wang to sophomore wide receiver Davon Kiser, which caught the center of the end zone.

On the next drive, Wang found Kiser again for a 68-yard reception to begin the drive. On the next play, Cornell scored another touchdown to extend their lead to 14.

After an additional field goal with four minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the half, Cornell took a 17-0 lead.

Lehigh quickly drove down the field as first-year running back Luke Yoder capped off a seven-play drive to score the team’s lone touchdown of the first half, making the score 17-7 at halftime. 

Sophomore quarterback Brayten Silbor said the touchdown was important to show the Cornell defense what the team could do.

“I thought we did a good job that drive,” Silbor said. “We set a tone to go into the second half.”

With seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Lehigh took possession of the ball and slowly drove down the field into Cornell territory. On a second down throw from Cornell’s 47, Silbor threw Lehigh’s first interception of the day to Cornell’s senior linebacker Holt Fletcher.

Wang took advantage of the turnover and ran 35 yards down the field to the Lehigh five.

The Mountain Hawks’ defense forced a fourth and goal at the one with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

In a large dogpile of nearly all 22 players on the field, Lehigh held Cornell to no points on the drive, inches away from the goal line on an attempted quarterback sneak. 

Sophomore linebacker Brycen Edwards led the Lehigh defense with nine tackles. He said the defense tried to focus more after the first quarter.

“We got to just read our keys and play fast,” Edwards said. “We locked in some more which results in better football for us.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Lehigh had the ball deep in their own territory. Silbor threw another interception to Fletcher on the opening play of the fourth quarter.

Lehigh’s defense was able to keep Cornell out of the end zone once again. After their second field goal of the day, Cornell took a 20-7 lead.

Sophomore wide receiver Martin Laham caught an 18-yard pass to open up the next Lehigh drive. After an 8-yard reception by sophomore wide receiver Geoffrey Jamiel on a third and 13, Lehigh successfully converted on fourth down on another pass to senior wide receiver Connor Kennedy.

Lehigh made it down to the 4-yard line. Silbor took the snap and ran out to his right to find the end zone, cutting the game down to a six-point deficit.

Cornell worked their way down the field on the next drive. With just under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and inside the Lehigh 20-yard line, Cornell ran the ball to set up for a 29-yard field goal to secure the win. 

After making their third field goal of the day with just over three minutes left in the game, Cornell took a 23-14 lead.

Lehigh completed the first two passes on the next series to move into Cornell territory. Continuing to slowly move down the field through the air, Silbor surpassed 20 completions on the day. Lehigh called a timeout with one minute and 18 seconds left on the clock. Silbor threw a touchdown to Jamiel on the very next play. After a blocked extra point, Lehigh still trailed  23-20.

The Mountain Hawks failed to recover the onside kick, allowing Cornell to win 23-20.

After the game, Lehigh head coach Kevin Cahill praised the way the team fought hard in the final three quarters but said the team should not have been in an onside kick situation in the first place.

“We fought hard, and we lost by three points — that’s a loser’s mentality,” Cahill said. “(Nobody) in that locker room has that mentality and not one guy in that locker room was excited about what just happened.”

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