FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Going into this game, Lehigh’s defense had a serious challenge on their hands – to stop, or a least slow down, the leading rusher in FCS, Sacred Heart RB Julius Chestnut. For three quarters, they did just that, but in the fourth quarter Chestnut would score a pair of rushing touchdowns to lifted Sacred Heart to a 13-6 victory.
Sophomore Alec Beesmer made his first career start at quarterback, completing 8-of-29 passes for 107 yards. Running back Rashawn Allen had his best game of the season, rushing 27 times for 113 yards, but the Mountain Hawks failed to put the ball in the end zone as they fall to 4-6 on the season.
Defense carried the day for both sides as both offenses were kept under 300 total yards. Senior Keith Woetzel led the Mountain Hawk defensive charge with 15 tackles, but Lehigh’s offense was held to 259 yards and was held out of the end zone after getting the ball with a 1st and goal at the 1. PK Austin Henning was responsible for all of Lehigh’s points on the afternoon with field goals of 19 and 35 yards.
Chestnut scored on a nine-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Pioneers a 7-6 lead, and then added a 40-yard scamper on a third down with 1:48 to play. He finished with 130 yards on 25 carries for Sacred Heart (7-4).
“We did a really good job defensively until right at the end of the third quarter there, giving up the touchdown,” said Lehigh head coach Tom Gilmore. “We actually instructed our guys on the last one, believe it or not, that if he was past first down yardage, to let him score. That’s what the analytics say; it gives you the best chance because then they could just run the clock out. We did a good job for the majority of the game. We just gave up some plays on the one long drive and they got the points on the board. They were ahead by a point, so we had to take some chances.”
Beesmer “did some good things” at quarterback, Gilmore said, though a lot of those good things didn’t necessarily show up in the box score, like throwing the ball away to avoid getting sacked and moving out of the pocket to make good things happen. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but he did fumble after Sacred Heart’s fourth of five sacks on the afternoon, Lehigh’s only turnover. Only a tough effort by WR Austin Dambach to punch the ball away from the defender at the 5 yard like prevented a Pioneer scoop-and-score.
“We actually protected a lot better this week as compared to last,” Gilmore said. “There were times when we didn’t and he had pressure on Alec, but they bottlenecked our receivers up on some occasions and he didn’t have anyone to throw to. He had to tuck the ball and run, which he did a couple times real well. Other times, he took the sack or threw it away.”
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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