“I can still remember the play that beat us,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy.
Coming off an undefeated 2001 campaign and an Ivy League championship, the Crimson faced the Mountain Hawks in the unfriendly confines of Goodman Stadium. Harvard came in ranked No. 24, and pushed No. 12 Lehigh to the limit in a game coach Murphy called “a measuring stick” for the football program.
Leading by 14 at the half and carrying an identical lead into the fourth quarter, Harvard surrendered 15 unanswered points in the final frame to lose 36-35, snapping the Crimson’s 11-game winning streak.
This Saturday, a No. 14 Lehigh (2-1) squad will come to Harvard Stadium to face the No. 15 Crimson, with Harvard (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) once again coming off an undefeated season and Ivy League championship.
“There’s definitely an irony to it,” said Mountain Hawks coach Pete Lembo.
The 2002 win was obviously a key one for Lehigh, but that season the Mountain Hawks were snubbed by the I-AA selection committee, as their 8-4 record wasn’t deemed worthy of one of the eight at-large bids. The same fate befell Lehigh the following season as it missed out on the postseason despite recording eight wins.
Last season, it totaled nine victories and earned an at-large berth.
A win this week over a highly-ranked Harvard squad would certainly bolster the case for an at-large bid this season. The potential playoff implications for the Mountain Hawks are not lost on Lembo.
“There’s no question that games like this one play an impact on your ability to get an at-large berth should you not win your conference,” Lembo said. “We’re playing the Atlantic-10 champion, the Ivy League champ, and the Northeast Conference champ (Monmouth) from last season.”
Lehigh fell in overtime to No. 5 Delaware, the defending A-10 champion, two weeks ago. None of the other teams on the Mountain Hawks schedule are currently ranked, so the Harvard contest is likely the last statement game this unit will have.
The expected throngs at Harvard Stadium will also be joined by a national television audience on CSTV, the Crimson’s first appearance on the fledgling network.
The national coverage will provide a unique opportunity for junior running back Clifton Dawson to make a statement