Crimson Hopes To Avoid Letdown at Lehigh
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks have yet to win a football game this season; they have suffered losses to Connecticut State, No. 2 Villanova, and Princeton. But their record may not be a clear indicator of their talent, and the Crimson (1-1) should expect to see a physical team in its matchup on Saturday.
“It seems like it could be a trap game,” captain Carl Ehrlich said, “but that’s not how our team’s looking at it at all. We’re going into it as if it’s the biggest game of the year. We’re treating them just like they’re 3-0.”
“Lehigh might be the best 0-3 I’ve ever seen,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy added. “They don’t lack for good players; they’re very big, very strong, very physical, [and] very fast on both sides of the ball.”
Although winless, the Mountain Hawks have made positive adjustments to their run defense in the first three weeks of the season. In its first two games, Lehigh gave up an average of 269 rush yards. In their third game, against Princeton, the Mountain Hawks controlled the Tigers’ offense, allowing only 163 total yards and just 47 through the air.
Lehigh’s defense may prove vexing for junior quarterback Collier Winters and a Crimson offense that has averaged 210 passing yards per game. Winters is coming off of a strong performance versus Brown last week when he went 18 for 27 for 223 yards, threw two touchdowns, and added another touchdown on the ground. The game earned him the New England Writer’s Gold Helmet Award and recognition as the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of the Week.
“Coming out of a huge win against Brown,” said senior running back Cheng Ho, “we have to be aware that there’s no such thing as a letdown. They’re very hungry for a win. They’ll claw, they’ll scratch, [they will] do whatever it takes. We’re expecting great intensity from them.”
Without a doubt, the Mountain Hawks have a ferocious defense and Harvard’s offense may have its hands full. The Lehigh line has racked up 23 tackles for losses—six of which were sacks—accounting for 101 lost yards.
“When we saw them just completely dismantle Princeton’s offense, we were impressed,” Murphy said. “We’re going to have to go down there with no thought of what their record is.”
“We’re not concerned [with] whether they force us to pass or force us to run,” junior receiver Marco Iannuzzi said. “If they force us to run, we’ve got Cheng Ho and Treavor Scales. If they force us to pass, we’ve got hands-down one of the best receiving corps in the league. So whatever they give us, we’re going to take it either way.”
The Lehigh-Harvard matchup has traditionally been a high-scoring one. In the last nine meetings between the two teams, there has been a combined scoring average of 60 points.
“They have a pretty good running game,” Ehrlich said, “but they’ve had trouble with quarterbacks. One of the biggest things for us will be making them one-dimensional.”
The Mountain Hawks’ sophomore quarterback Chris Lum replaced junior JB Clark in the fourth quarter during Lehigh’s game versus Princeton after Clark threw some costly interceptions early in the game. Lum will have to face the Crimson’s veteran defense in his first collegiate-level start, going head-to-head against Harvard’s pre-season All-American cornerbacks senior Derrick Barker and sophomore Matthew Hanson, as well as All-Ivy junior defensive back Collin Zych, who recorded eight tackles and a sack against Brown last week.
As reliable as the Crimson defensive backfield has been in breaking up passes, it still needs to cut down on its number of penalties. Harvard, as a team, has amassed 21 penalties for a total of 212 yards through the first two games, and the Crimson’s defense notched five costly errors last week against the Bears.
“We made way too many penalties against Brown,” Ho acknowledged. “We have great players at every position. We just need to execute and do what we came to do.”
If the Crimson can keep the penalties to a minimum this weekend, then Harvard should be able to contain the Mountain Hawks. But if not, the Crimson could afford Lehigh its first win of the 2009 campaign.