Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better. Other times, things just keep spiraling downward. Despite junior running back Nate Eachus continued ground dominance, rushing for 124 yards on 25 carries, the Colgate football team faltered for the second game in a row, losing to Lehigh 44-14 last Saturday.
The result marked the first victory for the Mountain Hawks over the Raiders since 2006. For Colgate, the loss dropped its record to 1-2 in the Patriot League for the first time since 1994. The Raiders are now 4-4 overall, while Lehigh moved up to 2-2 in the Patriot League and 6-2 overall.
With senior quarterback Greg Sullivan out with an injured ankle, junior quarterback Steve Rizzo made his first ever start for ‘Gate, hitting 11 of 25 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Sullivan’s replacement added 76 yards on the ground as the Raiders rushed for 215 yards. Rizzo had most of the week to prepare.
“I found out on Monday that Greg had a bad ankle sprain, but Wednesday I knew for sure that I was going to start because he still had pain in his leg,” Rizzo said. “I prepared by watching film every night with Greg and Coach Hunt to make sure I knew everything Lehigh could throw at me and prepare for it.”
On game day, Rizzo also helped Colgate control the clock, giving the Raiders an 11-minute edge in possession, but the Mountain Hawks were able to take full advantage of the time they did have.
Lehigh opened the game with a dominating eight-play, 72-yard drive that took a total of four minutes. Mountain Hawk quarterback Chris Lum hit Sean Farrell from 16 yards out to put Lehigh up 7-0. From that point forward, the Mountain Hawks were running circles around the ‘Gate defense.
Colgate had a solid chance to put three points on the board with a big opening drive of its own, but sophomore Evan Colborne’s attempt was blocked. The margin stayed at seven going into the second quarter and, though no points had been put up on the scoreboard, the Raiders were still very much in the game.
The second quarter, however, ended any thoughts of a potential comeback. Lehigh capitalized on all four of its possessions before the half, building a small lead into a commanding 31-0.
To start the quarter, Lehigh’s quarterback Michael Colvin found Alex Wojdowski for a seven-yard score to make it 14-0. Six minutes later, kicker Tom Randazza knocked the ball through the uprights from 19 yards away to push the Mountain Hawk lead to 17.
In response, the Raiders started to move down the field, but their hopes were dashed when Lehigh’s Jarard Cribbs intercepted a Rizzo pass and returned it 48 yards for the score.
Another failed offensive possession for ‘Gate led to one more score as Lum threw for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, this time to Jake Drwal from nine yards out. He finished with 310 yards and two touchdowns, missing on only five attempts throughout the entire game.
Colgate finally got on the board as the first half wound to an end. Rizzo found sophomore Chris Looney open in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown to make it 31-7. During the game, Looney had a career high of four receptions for 25 yards, and the touchdown was the first for both the quarterback and the receiver.
“On the play, I was one of the secondary reads,” Looney said. “Rizzo had to deal with a lot of pressure and did a great job of not only avoiding it but also being able to get out of the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and make a perfect throw.”
The fact that it was his first touchdown catch did not really sink in at the time.
“We were more focused on making a couple more adjustments and hopefully getting back into the game by scoring on our next drive, so the fact that it was my first didn’t really register at the time,” Looney said.
Even though they were trailing going into halftime, the touchdown should have given the Raiders a little momentum to jumpstart the team. After all, ‘Gate did come back from 17 points down to tie the score against Holy Cross only a week prior. The critical intensity was not there, however, so there would be no magic this time around.
During the third quarter, nothing changed as the Mountain Hawks put up another two scores on back-to-back possessions to push the game fully out of Colgate’s reach.
With 11:57 left, Colvin ran it in from eight yards out to push the Lehigh lead to 30 points. The extra point attempt failed but Lehigh marched right back down the field on its next drive, scoring on a one-yard run from the starter, Lum.
Down 44-7 entering the fourth quarter, Colgate knew the game was lost but Rizzo maintained enough composure to find junior running back Noah Jackson wide open for a 17-yard touchdown pass with about 13 minutes left.
The Raider touchdown was the final score, and the game ended 44-14.
“It was obviously a very tough loss for our team, but there were a few positives to take from it to build on for the future,” Rizzo said.
“Throwing my first touchdown was definitely exciting, and hopefully there are a lot more to come next year too,” Looney agreed.
“In my opinion, Rizzo did a great job filling in for Greg,” Looney said. “First of all, it’s not an easy job filling in for the best quarterback in the league, but throughout the week of practice we all knew that Steve would play well. As in any other game, we needed to make plays around him, and I don’t think we did that. However, Rizzo played great…he’s very talented and would probably be starting for most other teams in the league.”
After three solid performances early on, the ‘Gate defense has looked shaky recently against Patriot League opponents Holy Cross and Lehigh. In this game, senior safety Mike Barry led the team with nine tackles and sophomore linebacker Patrick Friel added six, including two for a loss. Unfortunately, the unit struggled as a whole.
Hopefully, the eye of the storm has passed so the Raiders can right the ship and return to winning form this weekend.
Colgate will host Lafayette for its final home game of the season this coming Saturday. The two teams will meet in the gridiron at 1 p.m.