October 15, 2005

Elis Drop Overtime Heartbreaker at No. 20 Lehigh, 28-21

Oct. 15, 2005

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. - RB Eric Rath scored on a six-yard run on the first possession in overtime as Lehigh came from behind to beat Yale 28-21 before 10,413 at Murray H. Goodman Stadium. The Mountain Hawks trailed 21-6 after a Yale touchdown with 9:59 left in the third, but a Lehigh passing attack that racked up 350 yards on the day, and a game-tying two-point conversion with 4:42 to play, eventually prevailed over the Bulldogs.

Yale, with first and goal at the Lehigh five in overtime, had a chance to send it to a second possession for both teams but three straight incompletions ended the game.

Lehigh took the opening kickoff and went 68 yards in 10 plays. However, on the Mountain Hawks' third play, a pass to WR Kevin Zebluim, clearly shown on the TV replay as an incompletion, was ruled a first down that would have otherwise become a Lehigh punting situation.

Adding to Yale's frustration on the opening possession, QB Mark Borda's third-down pass from the six-yard line was nearly picked off by Bulldog senior DB Mike Holben. The ball bounced off his hand and went directly into Walker's waiting arms. The surprised receiver did not even break stride or attempt to reach for it. It was the only points of the first quarter because sophomore MG Brandt Hollander got his hand on the PAT kick and sent it wide left.

The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard with 2:26 left in the half. QB Jeff Mroz (34 for 52, 309 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) drove the visitors 91 yards in 14 plays (5:27), and was also helped by a pass-interference penalty that kept the series alive. On third-and-goal from the five, Mroz hit senior WR Todd Feiereisen in the flat and the 190-pound receiver carried a tackler across the goal line. Sophomore PK Alan Kimball split the uprights to give Yale the 7-6 lead.

But the Bulldogs were not done in the opening half thanks to a big defensive play. Junior DB Nick Solakian, who leads the team with three picks, stepped in front of a Lehigh wideout at midfield and intercepted a Borda pass with 1:15 left. Mroz and the Eli offense took over from the 37-yard line with plenty of time to operate. Eight plays later Mroz threw across the field to junior WR Ashley Wright at the five yard line and the 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver broke a tackle before falling into the end zone with 12 seconds left.

The visitors returned the favor on the opening kick of the second half with a score of their own to make it 21-6. Mroz, who ran for a first down and kept putting the ball in the hands of his receivers, put the finishing touches on a nine-play, 61-yard drive by lofting a perfect toss in the back of the end zone to Feiereisen (13 catches, 113 yards, two touchdowns). The converted QB tipped the ball with his right hand and pulled it into his body with his left while getting both feet in for his second score of the game.

Lehigh, ranked 21st in I-AA and rarely a loser at Bethlehem, moved to within a possession deficit late in the quarter. Borda (31 of 46, 333 yards, two touchdowns, 1 interception) who marched the Mountain Hawks 91 yards, split two Yale defenders with an over-the-middle strike to WR Lee Thomas (9 catches, 75 yards, 1 touchdown) from 12 yards out with 1:01 left in the third.

The Eli defense held off one Lehigh drive that ended deep in Yale territory early in the fourth quarter. A pass to Zebluim fell through his hands on fourth down to give the ball back to Yale. On the next Mountain Hawks possession, Borda ran for a big first down along the left sideline and was knocked out of the game after a Solakian tackle.

That did not prevent Lehigh from reaching the end zone. Backup QB Sedale Threatt, the son of the former NBA star with the same name, threw a three-yard TD pass to FB Greg Fay with 4:42 left in the fourth. Then Threatt, who completed his first pass of the year for a first down a few plays earlier, hit TE Pete Morelli in the same corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion to even the score at 21-21.

Yale, trying to march back and break the tie, ran into trouble on third down when Mroz escaped the pocket to his left and tried to throw a little further down field than he could reach. The ball intended for senior WR Will Blodgett was picked off by DB Julian Ahye and returned to the Lehigh 42 with a little over four minutes left.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the defense held and got the ball back on Yale's 20 with two minutes left. However, Mroz could only get the Bulldogs just over midfield before running out of time and having his desperation pass intercepted in the back of the end zone.

The Mountain Hawks drove 25 yards in five plays for the game-winner in overtime.

Bulldog Bites: Freshman MG Joe Hathaway made his first start as a collegian in place of sophomore Kirk Porter... Junior DB John Shumate, who was injured before the start of the season, saw his first action on special teams... DE Chris Wright and LB Stan Malyszka, who missed their first four games, were both in uniform ... The playing surface at Goodman Stadium was still recovering from a mud bath the week before, and it got no help during the week with rain every day. Other than putting some drying agents around the middle of the field, there was not much that could be done. Players struggled to get footing all game.

report by Steve Conn, Yale Assistant AD/Sports Publicity Director

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