There were 49 points scored in Yale’s game at Lehigh Saturday. The Mountain Hawks had the last 22 of them en route to a 28-21 overtime win.
It was a typical day statistically for the Lehigh (4-2) defense, the Patriot League’s best unit against the run and worst against the pass. The Mountain Hawks held the Elis (2-3, 2-0 Ivy) to 84 yards rushing but yielded 309 through the air.
It was a typical sequence of events for Yale, a historically abhorrent second-half team, which had also ceded a two-score second-half lead to Lehigh last year at the Yale Bowl.
And it was a typical debriefing by Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki.
“We made all the plays in the first half and the first drive of the third quarter, and then we didn’t make another one the rest of the game,” Siedlecki said. “We didn’t run the ball at all, which eventually allowed them to really come after us, and we had to pass it virtually every play. We weren’t able to do what we did the first 40 minutes of the game.”
Lehigh opened the scoring on the first drive of the game on a six-yard pass from Mark Borda to Winfred Porter, a play set up earlier in the drive by a 43-yard completion to Gerran Walker on third and 14. Justin Musiek’s extra point was blocked.
The Mountain Hawks would not be heard from again until the second half.
The Yale passing attack, seeming to improve each week, accounted for touchdowns on three drives in a row at the end of the first and beginning of the second half. Midway through the second quarter, quarterback and captain Jeff Mroz ’06 led the Elis on a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, earning six first downs along the way. A sterling 18-yard catch and run by Ashley Wright ’07 carried Yale to the Lehigh 25, with Todd Feiereisen ’06 finding the end zone five plays later.
On the ensuing possession, safety Nick Solakian ’07 intercepted a Borda pass and returned it to the Lehigh 37. With 1:15 remaining in the half, Mroz adroitly managed the clock while driving the offense for its second score. After reaching the 15-yard line, and using two timeouts, Mroz completed a third-and-nine pass to Wright for a first down, then promptly spiked the ball to stop the clock. Operating out of a four-wide shotgun formation, in which he has seemed most comfortable this season, Mroz called an audible before the next play and found Wright in the flat for a touchdown, just 12 seconds before halftime.
On the first drive of the second half, Mroz was even sharper. That possession he completed all five of his passes for 49 yards for Yale’s third and final touchdown. He would finish with 309 yards and three touchdowns on 34-52 passing.
Nevertheless, it was Feiereisen’s drive. In the back left corner of the Lehigh end zone, the game’s leading receiver (13 catches, 113 yards, two touchdowns) secured an 11-yarder with one hand, knocking the pylon over after planting his feet in bounds.
The sparkling catch was the last good thing Yale did Saturday afternoon. The offense never again crossed Lehigh’s 40; Mroz and the passing game never recaptured their early touch; and wunderkind tailback Mike McLeod ’09 never got out of first gear.
Borda threw a touchdown strike to Lee Thomas for Lehigh’s second score, then, after he was carted off the field with a severe injury to his right leg, backup quarterback Sedale Threatt found Greg Fay for a touchdown and Pete Morelli for a two-point conversion to even the score.
On Yale’s next possession, Mroz was intercepted by Julian Ahye, who stepped in front of a pass for Wright.
“I knew [Wright] was their big-time receiver, so I had to step up and be the big-time corner,” Ahye said.
The Elis got the ball back a minute later, but their last-second Hail Mary try was picked in the end zone by Kaloma Cardwell.
In overtime, Lehigh running back Eric Rath gave the Mountain Hawks the lead for good when he bowled into the end zone from six yards away.
Yale countered with two completions to Feiereisen, netting 17 yards, and setting up a first and goal from the four. But McLeod was stuffed in the backfield on first down and Mroz could not connect with his receivers on his three final tries.
After the game, Feiereisen looked for a silver lining.
“The good thing about this loss is they’re ranked 20th in the nation [in Division I-AA] and we fought them to the wire,” he said.
But talk of moral victories and an undefeated Ivy record rings hollow for a team now under .500, especially with the non-league portion of Yale’s schedule now complete.
Mroz summed it up more succinctly.
“This is a game we definitely should have won,” he said.