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Mountain Hawks beat archrival Lafayette, but miss out on playoffs

Despite an 8-3 overall record and a 6-1 mark in the highly competitive Patriot League, the Lehigh football team was not selected as one of the eight at-large bids to the NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs.

The voting committee – made up of eight I-AA Athletics Directors – made their announcement Sunday afternoon.

The decision brought a disappointing close to what had been a great weekend for the Mountain Hawks. On Saturday, senior Jermaine Pugh gained 265 total yards of offense and was named the game's MVP as Lehigh defeated Lafayette 30-10 in the 139th meeting of college football’s most played rivalry.

The game was played on a gorgeous afternoon in front of a sell-out crowd of 16,000 at Goodman Stadium.

With the win, Lehigh recorded its sixth straight season of eight wins or more--a first in the program’s storied history. Lehigh’s three losses came at the hands of two top-10, undefeated I-AA teams – Colgate and Penn, and Division I-A UConn, which may be bowl-bound with a 9-3 overall record. Lehigh also defeated then-No. 9 Fordham in the second week of the season.

Lehigh’s seniors were a career 21-2 inside picturesque Goodman Stadium, including a playoff victory over Hofstra in 2001. The Class of 2004 leaves Lehigh with a career record of 39-9, good for a career winning percentage of .813.

Saturday afternoon, Lehigh took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards down the field with ease. The drive was capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass from senior Kyle Keating to sophomore Gerran Walker. Walker displayed his outstanding speed and athleticism by making some shifty moves and then accelerating to the end zone for the score.

The rest of the first quarter was a defensive stalemate, although the Mountain Hawks did manage to out-gain the Leopards 116 yards to 41.

Lehigh began the second quarter with the ball and finished off an 84-yard drive when senior David Wilson plunged in to the end zone from three yards out. The extra point was blocked, however, and the Mountain Hawks were ahead 13-0 with 12:30 to go in the half.

After the ball changed hands several times, Pugh electrified the crowd with a 53-yard punt return down the sideline to the two-yard line, but Lehigh was stuffed on four straight plays and Lafayette took over deep in its own territory.

With just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Lafayette offense awoke and drove 80 yards down the field for a touchdown to cut the Lehigh lead from 13 down to six at 13-7.

The Leopard scoring play was a 13-yard pass from senior Marko Glavic to Archie Fisher, and sent the game into halftime. The Mountain Hawk defense, as it has done all season, played extremely well, continually stuffing the Lafayette rushing attack. Lehigh held the Leopards to negative one yard on the ground for the half.

Lehigh took the opening kickoff and chewed up three minutes with a 35-yard drive that ended with a 45-yard field goal from senior Matt Douglas to put the Mountain Hawks up 16-7 early in the second half. Lafayette got a Mike Beatrice 33-yard field goal of its own with just over two minutes to go in the quarter and the Lehigh lead was again down to six, at 16-10.

Lafayette (5-6, 2-5) began the fourth quarter deep in its own territory and after a failed third-down conversion, Pugh again ignited the sell-out crowd with a dazzling 36-yard punt return inside the five. But the Leopard defense held strong once again, and coupled with a Douglas missed field goal, Lehigh was still only ahead by six points.

On Lafayette’s first play, Glavic dropped back and hit sophomore Brandon Stanford for 30 yards up to the 50-yard line and the Leopards were threatening to pull ahead. But Glavic overthrew his receiver on third down and the Leopards were forced to punt.

On Lehigh’s third play of the next possession, Walker took a Keating pass and galloped 53 yards to set up a Wilson touchdown from eight yards out, which put Lehigh ahead 23-10. Pugh then put the icing on the cake by taking a screen pass from Keating and darting 79 yards for a touchdown and a 30-10 Lehigh lead.

Pugh finished with 110 return yards, 68 yards rushing and caught two passes for 87 yards. Keating, meanwhile, established a new personal best with the 79-yard touchdown strike. Wilson carried 28 times for 101 yards on the afternoon, while Keating threw for 294 yards as he completed 15 of 23 passes. For Lafayette, Glavic completed 28 of 44 passes for 287 yards in his final collegiate game.

Posted on Monday, November 24, 2003

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