Defense De-Claws Mountain Hawks

Bill Stoklosa

One might think that Colgate would stand little chance of winning if junior running back Jordan Scott was held out of the endzone for an entire game. But Scott’s lack of touchdowns last Saturday didn’t hurt Colgate, as the Raiders soared past Lehigh, 21-7 in their final home game of the season. Junior quarterback Alex Relph, senior running back J.J. Bennett and sophomore wide receiver Pat Simonds scored touchdowns for Colgate, but the real stars of the game were on the defensive side of the ball. The Colgate defense stepped up to pick off three passes, recover two fumbles, thereby forcing four turnovers on the part of the Mountain Hawks.

Things didn’t look good early for the Raiders, as they were forced to punt on the opening drive of the game. After the punt, Lehigh took over at its own ten and marched 90 yards down the gridiron to punch the ball into the endzone. The Mountain Hawks hurt the Raiders with lots of medium range pass plays and a strong run attack on the drive, which was capped off by a four-yard Sedale Threatt run. The extra point was good, giving Lehigh the early 7-0 lead.

Colgate answered back just 2:39 later when Relph delivered a 34-yard bomb to Simonds, who made a fantastic grab in the endzone. The sophomore sensation has had a breakout year this season. He has caught 30 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns on the season. On Saturday, Simonds caught two passes for 45 yards and a score.

“He’s [Simonds] gotten better as the year has gone on,” Head Coach Dick Biddle said. “He’s very tall, and he’s got good speed. He really has a chance to become an outstanding receiver.”

After the PAT, the game was deadlocked at seven. It looked like Lehigh would take the lead right before halftime, but sophomore safety Uzi Idah came up with a huge interception just before halftime. Colgate ran out the clock and went into the locker room tied at seven.

Lehigh got the ball first in the second half and drove all the way down to the Colgate 25, but they botched a field goal attempt. Holder Justin Weaver was forced to intentionally ground the ball under pressure from sophomore linebacker Greg Hadley, giving the ball to the Raiders.

Colgate took advantage of the miscue on its next possession, driving all the way to the endzone by feeding the Lehigh defense a steady diet of runs by Scott. However, it was Relph who finished off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, giving Colgate a 14-7 lead. On the next possession, the defense forced a Lehigh punt. Early in the fourth quarter, the offense put the game away for good on an electrifying play. Both Scott and his backup, Bennett, started out in the backfield, but Scott went out wide. Lehigh was obviously looking pass because Bennett exploded and went untouched into the endzone from 26 yards out. It was his first career touchdown.

“It was good run that was very well blocked,” Coach Biddle said. “We caught them a little off balance on the play.”

For the rest of the fourth quarter, the Raiders defense kept Lehigh at bay. On its last four possessions of the game, Lehigh failed twice to convert on fourth down and turned the ball over twice. One of the fourth quarter turnovers was a fumble recovered by Hadley at the Lehigh 11. Classmate and safety Wayne Moten had the other big turnover, picking off a Chris Bokosky pass at the Colgate one, which ended the game. Colgate walked off the field as victors, racking up their third consecutive win and improving to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the Patriot League.

Scott had 37 carries for 114 yards on the day. On defense, first-year defensive back Mike Barry continued his strong play with nine tackles, while Hadley and senior linebacker Mike Gallihugh had eight tackles apiece. Both linebackers had a fumble recovery as well. The defense was stellar as a whole, especially against the run, allowing just 77 yards on the ground. Coach Biddle was also impressed with his pass defense.

“Our pass defense always seemed to be around the ball,” Biddle said. “They knocked down a lot of passes and stayed right with their receivers.”

Unfortunately, Colgate was eliminated from playoff contention because of Fordham’s victory at Holy Cross. However, Colgate assured itself a winning record with the triumph. Colgate’s next opponent will be the lowly Georgetown Hoyas. The game begins at 12:30 in our nation’s capital on Saturday.