Graphic by Reine Pavlik ‘15
The Rivalry: The Case for Lafayette
Dating back to 1884, Lafayette has faced Lehigh 149 times — more than any other football rivalry in the country. Now, for the 150th meeting, the Lafayette and Lehigh football teams will be playing on the biggest stages in the rivalry’s history at Yankee Stadium. Last season, the Leopards handed Lehigh a 50-28 loss, snapping Lehigh’s five-year win streak. This year, Lafayette will look to continue a streak of their own, while Lehigh will look to avenge last year’s loss.
At the end of a roller coaster season, plagued by injuries and close games, the Leopards find themselves at 4-6. But, with the team coming off of a bye week and a come from behind victory at Colgate two weeks ago, the players are rested and ready to go against the Mountain Hawks. The defense has looked sharp as of late, limiting opponents to just 24 points or less in four of their last five games. The Lafayette secondary has been efficient, allowing just 178 yards passing per game. The defense has struggled stopping the run, however, allowing opponents to average 181 yards per game. But the team’s third down defense ranks tenth best in the FCS, limiting opponents to converting just 29.5 percent of third down opportunities. The Lafayette punt and kickoff return squads have also been effective ranking first and second, respectively, in return average in the Patriot League.
The combination of the third down defense and special teams play have given the team many opportunities on offense to score. The offense, however, has seemed to struggle with passing the football. They have been plagued by injuries, most notably that of quarterback Drew Reed, dubbed a freshman phenom a year ago. Because Reed has sat out for half the season, he paved way for sophomore Blake Searfoss. Seafoss has led Lafayette to three of its four victories this season. The running game looked stellar in the beginning of the season, but has slowed as of recently. Opposing defenses have shifted their main focus to stopping senior tailback Ross Scheuerman. The team will look to rebound the ground game against Lehigh, a team that allows 198 rushing yards per game.
The Mountain Hawks find themselves at 3-7 headed into Saturday’s game, winning five games less than last season. This season, Lehigh has looked to replace their offensive firepower from last season, since they lost quarterback Brandon Bialkowski, tailback Keith Sherman, and wide receiver Lee Kurfis to graduation. The team seems to have been making up for the losses, averaging 405 yards of offense per game. Sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky has been a leader for the team, passing for 230 yards a game and adding fourteen touchdowns on the year.
The team’s weakness is their defense, allowing on average 472 yards of offense per game. The defense is also allowing 34 points per game. The nonexistence of a defense may be the cause of their below .500 mark. But the team does have momentum, coming off of a 30-27 victory against Colgate last week. The Mountain Hawks will look to avenge their loss against Lafayette last year by continuing what they started against the Red Raiders.
Lafayette will win this Saturday, because they have what Lehigh lacks – defense. The Mountain Hawks will give up too many points to an offense led by Ross Scheuerman on the ground. The Lafayette defense will also find a way to stop Shafnisky and the Lehigh passing attack. Lafayette still must concentrate its focus on stopping the run game. But if they continue to control the game with their third down defense, they should give the offense plenty of opportunities to score. Lafayette will end the 150th meeting in a winning fashion by a score of 28-20.