The reigning king of Patriot League isn’t dead yet. With the football team’s hopes of third consecutive Patriot League crown on life support on Saturday, Senior quarterback Chris Brown and his receiving corps served as the deliberators, putting on an aerial show to lead the Raiders to a three-point comeback win over Lafayette on Saturday.Brown lit up the Lafayette defense for a career-high 318 yards and two touchdowns through the air as the Raiders pulled out a 22-19 victory at Andy Kerr Stadium.
“We passed extremely well,” said head coach Dick Biddle. “Chris threw the ball nicely all day and our receivers made big plays.”
At the other end of Brown’s passes were senior wide receivers DeWayne Long, Luke Graham and Mike Chrystie. Graham and Chrystie each racked up over 100 receiving yards, exposing the weak secondary of the Leopards, who were previously undefeated in Patriot League play. Chrystie, who is best known as the Raiders’ explosive kick returner, had five catches for a career-high 111 yards. Graham, arguably the Raiders’ most consistent player, had six catches for 120 yards on the day and Long added 66 yards on five catches.
The two teams traded touchdowns on their respective opening possessions. Lafayette took advantage of good field position and ran all over the Raiders to start the game, amassing 63 rushing yards on its way to an early 7-0 lead.
The Raiders quickly fired back, as Brown found senior Tyrone Gould for a 21-yard scoring strike to tie the game. Neither team would score again until 1:11 remained in the first half, when Brown connected with Long to give Colgate a seven-point advantage. Lafayette kicker Rick Ziska kicked a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the half to cut the Raider lead to 14-10 at halftime.
Ziska kicked another field goal in the third quarter while the Leopards held the Raider offense in check. With 7:51 left in the game, Lafayette struck again, as Joe McCourt capped a 79-yard Leopard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge. A two-point conversion attempt failed and the Raiders got the ball back trailing by five.
That’s when Brown and the rest of the Bomb Squad went to work, taking back the lead for the Raiders in under a minute and a half.Chrystie got things going by returning the ensuing kickoff 27 yards to the Raider 30-yard line. On the next two plays, Brown hit Long for 29 yards over the middle and found Graham for a 31-yard strike to the Lafayette 16-yard line. Another completion to Graham set up senior Jamaal Branch’s 4-yard run. Branch, who ran for 88 yards on 25 carries in the game, whipped the Colgate faithful into a frenzy with his go-ahead touchdown.
Brown threw to Long for a successful two-point conversion, giving Colgate a 22-19 edge with 6:22 left in the game.
Lafayette again drove the ball down the field, setting up a 26-yard field goal attempt for Ziska to potentially tie the game. But junior Jeff Galletly had other ideas. Galletly busted through the line and blocked the kick, sealing the Raiders’ 17th consecutive win at home and their ninth in a row over Lafayette.
“Jeff made one of the biggest plays of the year,” Biddle said of his defensive lineman’s huge blocked field goal. “He’s a hard worker who always believes he can make the next play.
The Raider defense, led by Jared Nepa’s 11 tackles and one sack, help the Leopards seven points under their season average. Nepa, whose 74 tackles on the season lead the team, was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week.
On the other side of the ball, Brown was awarded Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors.
With the win, the Raiders put themselves into position for a possible tie atop the Patriot League at season’s end. Assuming Colgate, Lehigh, and Lafayette each win tomorrow, a Lafayette win over Lehigh on the last weekend of the season would give all three teams a 5-1 league record and a 1-1 against the other two.
In such a scenario, the team given the Patriot League’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs would be determined by the vote of the league’s other four Athletic Directors.
But the Raiders are not about to look ahead. The team must win its final two contests to have a shot at another league title. It travels to Bucknell tomorrow to face the Bison, a team the Raiders beat 50-6 a year ago.