The Lehigh Mountain Hawks take on the Lafayette Leopards in an in-state rivalry on Saturday afternoon from Fisher Stadium in Easton, Pennsylvania. Both teams sit at 0-1 in the South Division, while Lafayette is 1-1 overall and Lehigh is 0-2 overall. Both teams dropped games to Bucknell as their common opponent and while they have nothing to play for besides pride, it should make for a great game on Saturday. According to The Analyst, these two rivals have met every year since 1884, besides 1896 and 2000, and Lafayette holds a 79-71-5 lead on the series. COVID stopped the 2020 meeting from happening but it won’t stop Saturday from happening in what should be a great game.
Lehigh Looking For First WinLehigh is 40th all-time in college football wins with 680 over their lengthy history, but hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017 after losing in the FCS First Round for the second straight year. The Mountain Hawks’ best finish came all the way back in 1979, losing in the National Championship Game. Tom Gilmore knows this won’t be the year they return to the playoffs since they are already eliminated in the division race, but a rivalry game always brings out the best in his team. Lehigh lost to Colgate 20-3 in the opener and then to Bucknell 6-0 last week, and the offense is a major concern as they head into the season finale. Lehigh will look to get a better idea of their team going forward into next season and continue to try to build their lead in the rivalry series.
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Across two games this spring, Lehigh has struggled on offense, especially trying to rush the ball. The Mountain Hawks don’t have a rush over eight yards, nor a rushing touchdown yet this spring, according to The Analyst. In fact, the Mountain hawks don’t even have a touchdown at all yet on the season. Cross Wilkinson, a Toledo transfer, started both games to start the year and will be expected to get the start on Saturday, but has only thrown for 223 yards across two games, and has an interception as well. In the backfield, Rashawn Allen has received the majority of the carries but doesn’t have a ton to show for it. Allen only has 61 yards across two games and will need to show fans next level running ability to help Lehigh control the clock in this one.
Lehigh’s offense is one of, if not the, worst in the country, which has been in full effect in their two games this spring. The Mountain Hawks only have one scoring drive thus far, but their defense has been great. In the opener against a Holy Cross team that put up 34 on Fordham, Lehigh only gave up 20 points, and then proceeded to only allow six points to a Bucknell team that has a shot at making the FCS Playoffs. If the defense can hold their ground, they should be able to stay in this game deposit the poor offense.
Lafayette Looking To Get Over .500Lafayette sits at 1-1 on the season, beating Colgate 24-10 in the opener and dropping their last game against division-lead Bucknell, 38-13. John Garrett is yet to get a conference title as head coach for the Leopards and as a program, they haven’t been in the FCS Playoffs since a first-round exit at the hands of New Hampshire in 2013. While behind in the all-time series with their rival, this is a perfect opportunity at home for Lafayette to get closer and grab a win to close the gap. It’s been a while since the successful days of the Frank Tavani era but anyway for Garrett to help the program gain experience and wins will be key at this point.
The Leopards are led at quarterback by senior Cole Northrup, who started both of the first two games and is averaging 172.5 passing yards per game. He also has two touchdowns, one each against Colgate and Bucknell, but threw three interceptions at Bucknell to get replaced by Sean O’Malley. O’Malley started as a freshman and starter before being replaced by Northrup last year but might get the nod in the finale or get time as the game progresses. The backfield has had the reps pretty well split between Jaden Sutton (48.50 yards/game) and Selwyn Simpson (36.5 yards/game), the All-Patriot League Second-Teamer from 2019. Unlike Lehigh, Lafayette does have a rushing touchdown from Sutton and will look to get work from both backs in the finale. The leader at receiver continues to be Quinn Revere, who has 128 yards on the season. Steven Stilianos only has seven catches on the season but leads the team with two touchdowns and is a dangerous target.
Lafayette’s offense is more productive than Lehigh’s, but the defense is set to be the key. According to The Analyst, Lafayette has one of the best defenders across all of FCS, who will make life miserable for Lehigh’s backfield. Defensive end Malik Hamm was last year’s conference defensive player of the year and has a tackle for loss in 19 of his 25 games. Up against a weak offensive line with limited playmakers, Hamm should be able to have a field day raking up sacks.
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Full-Game Side Bet
Not only is Lafayette the home team, but they have an offense capable of moving the ball by putting up 13 points against Bucknell, one of the nation’s top defenses, and scoring 24 on Colgate. Lehigh doesn’t even have an offensive touchdown yet on the season and it doesn’t look like Saturday will be the game for that to happen with the depth that Lafayette has on defense. Hamm has the opportunity to play at the next level and will be a handful for anyone to slow down. He has 29.5 career tackles for loss and will cause havoc all afternoon against a severely overmatched Lehigh offense.
Full-Game Total Pick
The game will be a struggle for both offenses, who have combined for only three touchdowns on the season, all three by Lafayette. Lehigh will be lucky to even score in general, and Lafayette doesn’t have enough offensive big playmakers to put up nearly 30 points of their own against Lehigh. Fans should expect an ugly game with both teams trying (and failing) to get the run game going early and the under is the play.