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Defense shines early, offense shines late in Lehigh spring game

Published On: Apr 19 2014 08:00:20 PM CDT
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – With its spring practice segment winding down, the Lehigh football team held its annual Brown and White game on a sunny Saturday inside Goodman Stadium. A late touchdown pass from sophomore Nick Shafnisky to senior Derek Gaul gave the offense (White) a come-from-behind 37-35 win over the defense (Brown) in the game, which featured a modified scoring system.

Both sides had their moments as the Lehigh offense scored three touchdowns in 11-on-11 situations, while the defense came up with two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.

“The defense was pretty dominant throughout the course of the day,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “I tried to level the field a little bit by giving some better field position to the offensive guys. I was impressed by the pressure the defense put on the offense which is more than we’ve seen during camp. Getting to the quarterback is something we didn’t do well last year but we’ve done well in previous years, so it was good to see some of that return today.”

Shafnisky and senior A.J. Visconti were the only two quarterbacks to participate in the 11-on-11 scrimmage, while senior Gerard Poutier threw two touchdown passes, to seniors Josh Parris and Alex Buford, in 7-on-7 drills. Shafnisky finished 15-of-26 for 113 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Visconti was 13-of-28 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Gaul led Lehigh’s skill players with seven receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense held the upper hand early, stopping the offense on its first five drives. The opening drive of the game ended when Shafnisky’s pass was tipped and intercepted by sophomore Colton Caslow. The defense also stopped sophomore running back Brandon Yosha on a 4th-and-short and recovered a fumble on the play as well.

After a break for some red zone 7-on-7 work, the offense bounced back with its first score of the day. Visconti led the offense on a six-play, 35-yard drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Gaul.

The next two drives ended in punts by junior Austin Devine. The defense then went back to work creating turnovers on back-to-back drives. First, sophomore Brandon Leaks picked off Shafnisky and then junior D.J. Bourgeois recorded a strip-sack on Visconti, with the defense recovering.

Two series later, Shafnisky engineered his first scoring drive of the game, leading the offense 25 yards in five plays. Shafnisky hit junior Stefan Sansone for a ten yard catch-and-run to reach the end zone.

The final series of the day began at midfield and resulted in the go-ahead touchdown for the offense. Shafnisky lost two yards on pressure by juniors Mat Verdon and Greg Palma but moved the Mountain Hawks 52 yards in eight plays. He was 5-for-7 on the drive hitting junior tight end Chris Ruhl twice and Gaul twice, the second of which was a 15 yard strike for a touchdown.

Sansone was Lehigh’s No. 2 receiver, with 38 yards on five receptions. Sophomore Mike Anderson caught four passes for 21 yards.

Three Lehigh running backs: Yosha and juniors DJ Kee and Dan Brown, combined for 29 yards on 17 carries as the Mountain Hawks tried to work more on the passing game on Saturday.

“We had a pretty solid rushing game in the spring,” Coen said. “Today I wanted to concentrate more on throwing the ball and see how things turned out. We had some inaccurate throws and some drops but it was good to see us drive the ball like we did in that last drive. Nick made some good throws. Kids made some good catches when the throws that weren’t that great and we finished well.”

Prior to the start of Saturday's game, four rising senior Mountain Hawks: Parris, offensive lineman Ned Daryoush, defensive lineman Tim Newton and outside linebacker Isaiah Campbell, were named captains for the 2014 season.

Parris was also honored with the Jim Gum Scholarship Award, which is presented in memory of former Lehigh football player James S. Gum '84.

The Mountain Hawks will hold their 15th and final practice of their spring segment on Monday.

Lehigh will open preseason camp in early August with the 2014 season opener slated for Saturday, September 6 versus James Madison at Goodman Stadium.