LEWISBURG, PA – After the game, DB Nick Petelkian cradled the game ball in his arm, but as RB Luke Yoder approached for post game interviews, he said he thought the ball should be split in half.
He wasn’t wrong.
Yoder notched 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns. while Petelkian’s punt return for touchdown and the Mountain Hawk defense held Bucknell to 80 yards rushing as Lehigh (2-6, 1-1) outlasted Bucknell (2-5, 0-3) 27-19 at Christy Matthewson Stadium.
The Mountain Hawks never trailed and held onto the football for 35 minutes, scoring on three of their first four possessions and surging to a 20-0 lead right before halftime.
After a blocked 51 yard field goal attempt by LB Mike DeNucci, Yoder’s first touchdown came after a 12 play, 62 yard drive on a 1 yard push up the middle. Lehigh’s next two drives would end in PK Nick Garrido field goals of 31 and 35 yards, extending Lehigh’s lead to 13-0.
A spectacular weaving punt 57 yard punt return by Petelkian extended Lehigh’s lead.
“The punt return touchdown was huge for us,” head coach Kevin Cahill said. “We kept moving the ball offensively, but we stopped ourselves in the red zone. Going 2-for-3 in field goals in the first half is not ideal. Those need to be touchdowns. If we want to be a winning team and go to where we want to go, they have to be touchdowns.”
As the game went along, the defense kept getting stop after stop, forcing two different Bucknell quarterbacks to combine for 18-for-41 passing and only 172 yards. While a brisk, chill wind was a factor as was the fact that regular starter QB Ralph Rucker was unable to go, Lehigh defensive backs combined for nine pass break-ups and forced nine punts, and of the Bison’s 252 overall offensive yards, 87 of them came on Bucknell’s final drive to cut the deficit to single digits.
“Before every team meeting, [Coach Cahill] had a player tell another player why they’re confident. A lot of people, especially in the DB room, we’re trying to preach that. We’ve got a lot of young guys, so there’s a lot of talent, but one thing we were lacking was confidence. It carried throughout the whole room, and when I see a cornerback playing with that confidence, it just gives me an extra bit of confidence. When the scoreboard gets in your favor, that’s where it builds and, when we just keep making stops, it just gets better and better.”
“The energy and the confidence our defense played with today was contagious, and the defense played really well,” Cahill said after the game. “I’m really happy with the way the kids competed. I don’t think we competed like that last week and that was the challenge all week. Compete, and compete with confidence.”
It built all the way to Yoder’s second touchdown, which came in the 4th quarter after DL Jadin Nelson pounced on a loose ball after a fumble. A 7 play 18 yard drive made the score 27-3 with 4:05 left in the game.
“Technically, this is my first win that I’ve been a part of, Yoder said, “so I’m just happy to get that one under my belt and hopefully it’ll keep rolling these next few weeks. The workload was way more than I was expecting. I haven’t had that since a few years since in high school. It’s just surprising to me, too, I feel like.”
Yoder ended the afternoon with 38 carries for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 38 carries were the most for a Lehigh running back since RB Dom Bragalone rushed 32 times at Lafayette in 2018.
Bucknell made a rally, however to make the game close.
An 88 yard kickoff return by WR Josh Gary cut the deficit to 27-10, and a late touchdown pass from QB Nick Semphimphelter to WR Derrick Anderson, Jr. made it a 27-18 game.
“I thought we had a letdown. I was really disappointed in that,” Cahill said about the late rally. “We had a big lead. We don’t know how to close games out. I thought that’ll be a growing moment in the future.”
But a late onsides kick was returned by WR Eric Johnson that ultimately sealed the deal on Kevin Cahill’s first Patriot League football win. The onsides kicks were nervy affairs because last year Lehigh lost after Bucknell recovered an onsides kick, drove the length of the field, and booted the game-winning field goal in the final minute.
It allowed the Lehigh Marching 97, who made the trip to Bucknell, to play “Mountain Music” to the team after a win.
“Hats off to Tekkie, hats off to DiNucci, hats off to DE Dean Colton,” Cahill said. “Those guys have played a lot of football for us and they just came up and played well. We’ll take Sunday off. I’m just happy for the win. If you came to one of our practices, you wouldn’t know if we had one win or one loss. I’m proud of the way the kids have gone to work.”
Lehigh has a bye week this week, while Bucknell travels to Colgate next week.
LEH: Silbor,Brayten (127), Yoder,Luke (138), Humphrey,Mason (37)
BUC: Semptimphelter,Nick (91), Semptimphelter,Nick (22), Bennett,Coleman (51)
|1st||02:43||LEH – Yoder,Luke 1 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 12 plays, 62 yards, TOP 04:55||7||0|
|2nd||10:19||LEH – Garrido,Nick 31 yd field goal 12 plays, 67 yards, TOP 04:48||10||0|
|2nd||05:48||LEH – Garrido,Nick 35 yd field goal 7 plays, 13 yards, TOP 02:30||13||0|
|2nd||04:03||LEH – Peltekian,Nick 57 yd punt return (Garrido,Nick kick)||20||0|
|2nd||00:00||BUC – Schearer,Matt 35 yd field goal 1 plays, yards, TOP 00:04||20||3|
|4th||04:17||LEH – Yoder,Luke 2 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 7 plays, 18 yards, TOP 03:31||27||3|
|4th||04:05||BUC – Gary,Josh 88 yd kickoff return (Schearer,Matt kick)||27||10|
|4th||00:37||BUC – Anderson Jr.,Derrick 3 yd pass from Semptimphelter,Nick (Weatherly,Eric rush) 9 plays, 87 yards, TOP 01:47||27||18|
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
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