Lehigh Fights Hard, But Can’t Overcome Early Deficit in 23-20 Loss to Cornell

BETHLEHEM, PA – It was not how head coach Kevin Cahill would have drawn up the script in the first half.

With Cornell in their first game of the season, and Lehigh playing its third, Cahill’s desired game script for his Mountain Hawks probably would have involved establishing some long drives on offense, jumping on the Big Red early before they could get acclimated to game speed, securing a multiple score lead, and forcing Cornell to play catch up.

Instead, the opposite happened.

Cornell (1-0, 0-0 Ivy League) instead would be the team to jump up by three scores to a 17-0 lead on Lehigh (1-2, 0-0 Patriot League), and would be efficient enough to hold onto a 23-20 victory in front of 4,087 fans at Murray Goodman Stadium.

Cornell QB Jamieson Wang orchestrated two big play drives in the first half, one ending in a perfect 37 yard pass over the middle to WR Davon Kiser, and a second drive ending in a diving 20 yard grab by WR Parker Woodring.

And the Cornell defense stuffed the Lehigh offense repeatedly in the first half.

Lehigh’s offense was held without a first down until the final two minutes of the first half, when QB Brayten Silbor and the offense came alive, going 65 yards in 7 plays, ending in a 2 yard touchdown run by freshman RB Luke Yoder, his first collegiate touchdown.

Nobody in the post game press conference made excuses.

“We’ve got to do a better job getting them ready to come out and play in first quarter,” Cahill said in his opening statement. “If we continue to battle all the way through, better outcomes will come, but we got to do it all the way through.”

Wang ended the day with 293 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and 85 yards rushing, with zero turnovers.

“We’ve got to fix that so we’re not in a position so we’re not in those situations and having to hurry up,” Silbor said. “We have to do that in the first quarter so that we’re not in that situation again.”

Silbor went 21-of-42 passing with 192 yards passing, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. WR Geoffrey Jamiel (5 catches, 28 yards, 1 TD), WR Connor Kennedy (5 catches, 55 yards) and WR Mason Humphrey (6 catches for 66 yards) paced the passing attack.

“We have to come out faster in the first quarter as well,” DL Brycen Edwards also added. “We had a couple of errors, we just can’t have it. We have to just come out ready to fight in the first quarter.”

In the second half, there were signs of life as Lehigh slowly crawled its way back in the game.

After a 27 yard field goal by Cornell, Silbor went on a 13 play, 65 yard drive ending with him taking a touchdown on a 4 yard run to make it a one score game.

“We all knew we weren’t doing what we were supposed to the first quarter and a half,” Silbor said, “but we really wanted to get out there and just show them what we actually are. I think we did a good job later, but obviously things happened. But I think we set a good example of what we can do.”

And Edwards and the rest of the defense kept things close with two fourth down stops, one at the goal line that prevented a score that might have put things well out of reach.

“That was the defense, it was not one of us that made the play, we all made that play,” Edwards said. “It was big for all of us. We got the energy up. I’m just proud of everyone, the way we stopped them there.”

Edwards and LB Mike DeNucci had nine tackles apiece and were on the field for almost 40 minutes, making plenty of big stops. Cornell for the game was only 6 for 16 on 3rd down conversions, some of which were of the Jalen Hurts QB sneak variety.

“It was his first opportunity to get in there,” Cahill said of Brycen’s contribution on the day. “It was next man up mentality, and he responded to it. He played a little bit last week, and he’s been on special teams, but it was his turn to get in there and was really proud of the way he played and his effort was contagious. A lot of those guys, that’s how they the defense plays. They play with a great attitude and looking forward to the next guy making the play.”

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.

“Offensively, we’ve had some sparks, but we’ve got to play better as a team. Offense has to support the defense, and you can’t do it in sports at the end of the first half and end of the second half. You’ve got to do it consistently. Imagine how the defense would play if they were fresh all the time, and we’ve got to get to that point.

“We had a chance. We were down 17-0 at one point, and if it comes down to an onsides kick in the fourth quarter, you gave good effort and you fought back to get into it and it was an offense, defense, everybody contributed to that. That’s the positive you take out of this, is that you came back and we fought and we made it a game in the fourth quarter.

“The negative is we’re in that situation and we’ve got to do a better job getting out of those situations. We’ve got to find ways to win these games. Thinking ‘okay, great, we fought hard and we lost by three, that’s awesome,’ in my opinion, is a loser’s mentality. Not anybody in the locker room has that mentality. There’s not one guy in the locker room that’s excited about what just happened.

“I commend them. They’re not worried about it. They just want to play football. That’s the mindset those kids have.”

Cornell takes on Yale next week in New Haven, Connecticut, while Lehigh travels to Hanover, New Hampshire to take on Dartmouth.

Box Score

QtrTimeScoring PlayCORLEH
1st09:42COR – Kiser,Davon 37 yd pass from Wang,Jameson (Kennedy,Jackson kick) 2 plays, 55 yards, TOP 00:4670
1st03:21COR – Woodring,Parker 20 yd pass from Wang,Jameson (Kennedy,Jackson kick) 3 plays, 85 yards, TOP 01:31140
2nd01:25COR – Kennedy,Jackson 32 yd field goal 8 plays, 47 yards, TOP 04:20170
2nd00:31LEH – Yoder,Luke 2 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 7 plays, 65 yards, TOP 00:54177
4th12:02COR – Kennedy,Jackson 27 yd field goal 6 plays, 17 yards, TOP 02:51207
4th08:00LEH – Silbor,Brayten 4 yd run (Garrido,Nick kick), 13 plays, 65 yards, TOP 04:022014
4th03:07COR – Kennedy,Jackson 29 yd field goal 12 plays, 56 yards, TOP 04:452314
4th01:13LEH – Jamiel,Geoffrey 8 yd pass from Silbor,Brayten ( ) 10 plays, 63 yards, TOP 01:482320