Football Fights, But Falls Short

Even in a hostile environment against a nationally-ranked opponent with their normally explosive running game rendered a non-factor by the Lehigh defense, the Raiders would not go away. It took the Mountain Hawks the full 60 minutes to put away the football team on Saturday.”We didn’t play particularly well in any facet of the game,” head coach Dick Biddle said. “But we still had a chance to win it at the end. We were just one play short.”One play short. Raider senior quarterback Chris Brown was intercepted in the end zone by Julian Austin in the game’s closing seconds, sealing a 21-14 victory for the Mountain Hawks. It was the Raiders’ first Patriot League loss since falling to Fordham in 2002 and their third loss this season, only a year removed from an undefeated 2003 regular season.Both offenses came out firing. Lehigh struck first, driving 80 yards for the game’s opening score on running back Marques Thompson’s five-yard touchdown catch. The Raiders answered with a 13-play, 78-yard drive, which was capped by Brown’s 13-yard toss to senior DeWayne Long. (A 13-play drive culminating in 13-yard touchdown seemed like a good omen for the Raiders).Brown and Long would each go on to put up career numbers in the game. Long finished with 12 catches for 126 yards while Brown threw for 276 yards on the afternoon. Senior Luke Graham caught seven passes for 89 yards and senior Mike Chystie tacked on 35 yards on three catches.”Our receivers came up huge for us and kept us in the game,” Biddle said. But the coach attributed the gaudy numbers of Colgate’s aerial attack to the inefficiency of the Raider running game. Senior Jamaal Branch, who rushed for 208 yards against Holy Cross last week, was held to 29 yards on 16 carries on Saturday. Mountain Hawk linebacker Anthony Graziani led the Lehigh defense with 18 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery on his way to being named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week.The two teams once again traded touchdowns in the second quarter. Thompson scored his second touchdown for Lehigh, this time on a 10-yard reception out of the backfield. Branch found the end zone on the ensuing drive on a one-yard run. The score was set up by Long’s acrobatic 26-yard reception in double coverage to give the Raiders the ball on the 1-yard line. After a first half in which neither team punted the ball, defense was the story of the second half. Led by junior Jared Nepa, who had 10 tackles in the game, the Raider defense kept Lehigh at bay for much of the third quarter. With its offense sputtering, it was Lehigh’s special teams and defense that would swing the momentum back towards the home team.First, the Mountain Hawks downed a punt inside the Raider five-yard line. Three plays later, Lehigh’s Karrie Ford intercepted a Brown bomb and brought it back to Colgate’s 30-yard line. With a short field in front of them, the Lehigh offense proceeded to march into the end zone, scoring on a two-yard option play to running back Eric Rath.Neither team scored in the fourth quarter. Brown brought the Raiders to the brink of tying the game, engineering a drive to the 13-yard line as the clock winded down. But his pass to Long was intercepted in the end zone with six seconds left in the game. There appeared to be miscommunication between Brown and Long, as the receiver broke to his left while the pass sailed to his right. “It was a case of one reading the coverage one way and one reading it the other,” Biddle said.Overall, the coach was impressed with the play of his quarterback, whose career-high in passing yards seemed to be offset by his three interceptions.”Chris did a good job,” Biddle said. “He was banged up pretty good, but he hung in there. Good things and bad things will happen when you pass as much as we did on Saturday.”Biddle was adamant about the necessity for the Raiders to move on from the tough loss to Lehigh. “We need to put this last game behind us,” he said. “There’s a lot of football to be played and we need to get a win [on Saturday against Lafayette]. We don’t want to let Lehigh beat us twice.”In fact, the Raiders will need to win each of their remaining three games to have a shot at a third consecutive Patriot League title. The team takes on Lafayette tomorrow in its final home game of the season, with kickoff at 1 p.m. at Andy Kerr Stadium