Archive For The “Nick Shafnisky” Category
Senior QB Nick Shanfisky called them “motivation games”, and it’s clear during this four game winning streak motivation hasn’t been lacking for this Lehigh football team.
Start with Penn, where it was critical for the Mountain Hawks to avoid an 0-3 hole. Then proceed to Princeton, where the defense gave up 52 points last season in a loss; to the Yale Bowl, where two years ago no less than five players came down with injuries in another loss; and of course Colgate, where last season the Raiders’ stop at the goal line preserved their 49-42 victory and snatched a Patriot League title that was within the Mountain Hawks’ grasp.
At 4-2, and in the drivers’ seat, along comes a game for Lehigh at Georgetown, which by any measure doesn’t have the same types of motivation that fueled this four game winning streak.
Not that there’s no motivation, mind you. Conference games count for more than games against Yale, or Monmouth.
But you can’t blame folks for looking at this Georgetown and fearing a letdown, a quintessential “trap game”. In the last four games, they were all motivation games – games fueled by either a desperation to get the season on track, or a continuation of track with a side order of revenge. This one is different – and thus, oddly enough, more dangerous.
Admiral Ackbar might correctly identify this game as a classic trap.
It honestly felt like a day from another era out there on Saturday – in a good way.
In a world of bitter political debates, supposedly declining college football attendance, alleged tensions between the generations and the ongoing charges increasing collegian apathy, there it was: the official attendance total of the Colgate/Lehigh game of 9,255.
There were a multitude of reasons why people wanted to go see the game. Perhaps it was something good to do with the family on Family Weekend. Maybe it was a concerted effort to get students into the games, and keep them there, with new policies and new promotions. Maybe it was a thumb-your-nose effort at the fans who come for cocktails but don’t go enjoy the game. Maybe it was individuals, all as a unit, wanting to come out and see if this high-flying, record-setting Lehigh football team is for real.
Or maybe it was all of them; I have no idea, but I know it required a whole lot of planning and a huge amount of effort from a whole lot of people, and I’m glad they did.
Because it felt like something special was brewing in Bethlehem – and not just from the team making everyone pay attention to them on Saturday. It was the whole thing – the team, the fans, and the atmosphere. On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, it felt like “it” was back.
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At times it felt like the playing field was just the personal playground of WR Gatlin Casey, especially when he broke free for a 93 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But it was more than that.
At other times, it felt like the defense, with freshman FS Riley O’Neil pouncing on a loose ball after a sophomore SS Sam McCloskey forced fumble. was the critical piece to keeping Colgate from winning this game. But it was more than that.
And at other times, it felt like the offense, under the expert signalcalling of senior QB Nick Shafnisky, kept finding big plays, on many occasions to Casey, that kept the game out of reach for the Raiders.
In reality, it was all three phases of the game for Lehigh that finally formed the chemical reaction somewhere in the middle of the first half that erased a 17-7 deficit and transformed the different bits and pieces into an impressive 45-31 victory.
For in the first half, down 14-7, the game looked like it might just get away from the Mountain Hawks.
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In all the pregame talk about an offensive showcase, we all forgot about how defense might be critical for the winning team in this important Patriot League Lehigh and Colgate clash.
Many saw the previous box scores and just assumed that Colgate’s powerful offense, who put up more than 50 on Yale, would do something similar to the Mountain Hawks defense.
After a 75 yard touchdown run by Colgate QB Jake Melville to start the game, the Lehigh defense forced two enormous turnovers, including a forced fumble by sophomore SS Sam McCloskey that was recovered by freshman FS Riley O’Neil on Colgate’s first drive of the second half.
The play would allow Lehigh to tie it up with a 25 yard FG by sophomore PK Ed Mish, and it would fire off a string of 17 unanswered points that would give Lehigh a 31-17 lead that they would never relinquish.
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There’s no question that this weekend’s Colgate and Lehigh game is an enormous game for both sides. There’s also a bit of a quarterback “controversy” on the Lehigh side as to who will come out for the first series, award-winning sophomore QB Brad Mayes or award-winning senior QB Nick Shafnisky.
One thing that has gone a bit unnoticed is the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the game this weekend.
Not so much the impact of the southerly weatherly system on the weather at Murray Goodman, which is still on target for a mostly cloudy, 65 degree day, with a small chance of showers in the late afternoon, but the impact on the Lehigh and Colgate players, many of whom call Florida their home.
Added to the already-challenging coaching twists centering around 4 O’Clock exams, something that head coach Andy Coen reminded me of last week, is the concern that the fourteen Lehigh football players from Florida, including Mayes, senior LB Colton Caslow, junior WR Gatlin Casey and a bunch of others, have for their families back at home.
Overall, seventeen Lehigh football players (14 from Florida, 3 from Georgia) and sixteen Colgate football players (15 from Florida, 1 from North Carolina) have family and possessions potentially impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
You can’t blame some of those athletes being a bit distracted if they have a bit more on their minds than just football.
Maybe it was the choice of senior OL Brandon Short as one of the student-athletes interviewed this Wednesday, or maybe it was the mention from junior DE Harrison Johnson that this game could be your last.
This Lehigh football team clearly remembers September 21st, 2014, the last time the Mountain Hawks went to the Yale Bowl.
It is true that it wasn’t the last time the Mountain Hawks played Yale. There’s last year, too, that 27-12 dud that Lehigh put up against the Bulldogs, too.
But the loss last year to Yale at Murray Goodman isn’t the reason why senior QB Nick Shafnisky is calling this another “motivational game”. It’s more about the 2014 game, and the lost season for Brandon Short.
(Photo Credit: Justin Lafleur/Lehigh Athletics)
Once upon a time, Lehigh’s offense had the nickname “Air Lehigh”, and players like QB Scott Semphiphelter, QB Phil Stambaugh and many other Mountain Hawk quarterbacks hucked the ball around Murray Goodman Stadium like kids in a sandlot, and posted some serious passing numbers that made the place a very fun spot to watch college football on Saturdays.
Today at Murray Goodman, senior QB Nick Shafnisky brought us back to those Air Lehigh days with a game with the same type of offensive firepower.
Pairing up with junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey for more than 100 yards receiving apiece, the Whitehall, PA native brought Lehigh fans back to the future with a 461 yard passing performance, coming oh-so-close to setting a Lehigh record in the process.
In the end, Lehigh fans left Murray Goodman stadium with a lot of pleasant memories about a beautiful, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon and a resounding 42-28 win over a Princeton team that hung 50 points on them last season. Not that winning football games at Murray Goodman stadium the past few seasons wasn’t fun, mind you – but few wins evoked the sandlot quality that this game did.
Penn QB Alek Torgerson and the Penn offense had torn through the Lehigh defense like a hot knife through butter. Again.
Death by boa constrictor does not come quickly. It comes when the snake puts light pressure on the circulatory system of its prey, seriously disrupting the blood flow and causing the bloodflow system to go haywire, eventually causing cardiac arrest.
That’s a fairly accurate description of how the game flow went in Lehigh’s asphyxiating opening-day loss to Monmouth, 23-21.
With visions of Lehigh’s potent offense in their heads, most of the 4,828 fans in attendance thought they might see the type of offensive show they enjoyed the last time Lehigh played a football game at Murray Goodman stadium, something like the 49-35 win over their bitter Rivals Lafayette, for example.
Instead they saw the Monmouth boa constrictor slowly wrap itself around the Mountain Hawks and squeeze the life away, possession by possession.
We break down Monnmoth after the flip.
Going into the first game of the season there are oodles of storylines on both teams.
One important storyline from Monmouth coming from Hawks coach Kevin Callahan is that Monmouth has a brutal eight road games in the 2016 season, thanks to construction being done on their home field, Monmouth Stadium.
With all the focus on defense in the run-up to this game, senior OL Zach Duffy also talked a bit about that the offense is raring to go as well.
“It’s the most productive camp I’ve been in the past four years I’ve been here,, he told Keith Groller of The Morning Call. “We were put in a position to get a lot of good [strength and conditioning] work in. We have a lot of experience with a lot of guys returning and that’s especially important up front where we have three guys returning including myself. And then we have junior WR Troy Pelletier, Shaf [senior QB Nick Shafnisky] and sophomore RB Dom Bragalone. I think we’re in a really good spot entering Week 1. A lot of that has to do with the work we put in during the offseason. We didn’t want to be happy with how last year ended and we didn’t want to get complacent. We put in a lot of hard work and stayed motivated and I think that says a lot about the leadership we have on this team.”