NEW YORK - The No. 14/17 Lehigh football team fell down early before responding with a 14-point second quarter which proved to be the difference in a 24-10 win at Columbia on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks outgained the Lions 440-223, but Columbia hung around until a 14-yard touchdown reception from senior Lee Kurfis helped Lehigh regain a two touchdown lead, which stood as the final. Lehigh improves to 5-1 on the season, while Columbia falls to 0-4.
Kurfis eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the sixth time in as many weeks and the seventh straight week dating back to last season. He finished with a school record-tying 14 catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Brandon Bialkowski eclipsed the 300 yard passing mark for the sixth time in as many weeks, finishing 33-of-50 for 320 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Junior tight end Tyler Coyle had a big day with six catches for 53 yards and a touchdown while classmate Josh Parris had four receptions for 46 yards.
Senior Sean Farrell led the ground attack with 11 carries for 67 yards, highlighted by a 39-yard run. Senior Keith Sherman finished with 40 yards on 10 carries.
Junior Tim Newton paced Lehigh’s defensive effort with ten tackles and two sacks, while freshman Colton Caslow finished with seven tackles and pass breakup.
Lehigh held a pair of Columbia quarterbacks to a combined 9-of-21 passing for just 71 yards. Marcorus Garrett led the Lions offense with 150 rush yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
“It’s good to be back in the winner’s seat coming off a loss last week,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “The defense really played very well today but the offense was not clicking the way it had been in prior weeks. The defense was stressed a couple times during the game and really did a great job. They did a much better job on third downs; a couple key third down stops in the third and fourth quarter that were very important in this game.”
The Lions received the opening kickoff and put together an impressive drive, moving the ball 69 yards in 14 plays before the Lehigh defense tightened inside its own ten yard line. A 23 yard field goal by Luke Eddy gave Columbia an early 3-0 lead.
Lehigh answered with a 13 play drive of its own. An 18 yard pass from Bialkowski to Parris on 3rd-and-12 kept the drive alive, but a Columbia sack forced the Mountain Hawks to settle for a field goal. Freshman Ryan Pandy connected from 22 yards out to tie the game at three with 1:50 left in the opening quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Lehigh defense the Mountain Hawks moved the ball deep into Columbia penalty. A holding penalty backed Lehigh up and the Lions created the game’s first turnover as JD Hurt grabbed a deflected Bialkowski screen pass attempt. A 29 yard run by Garrett moved the ball into Lehigh territory but after the drive stalled, Eddy missed a 46 yard field goal to keep the score knotted at three.
The Mountain Hawks capitalized on the missed field goal to take their first lead. Bialkowski capped a nine play drive by rolling left and throwing back to Coyle on the right for a six yard touchdown that put Lehigh up 10-3.
Columbia fumbled the ensuing kickoff and junior Derek Gaul recovered for Lehigh at the Lions’ 31. Five plays later, Bialkowski connected with Kurfis on a fade route in the end zone to give the Mountain Hawks a 17-7 lead, which Lehigh held into halftime.
Bialkowski was an impressive 20-for-24 for 189 yards in the first half, with Kurfis hauling in nine passes for 91 yards. Coyle added 42 yards on five catches. Farrell was the top ground gainer with 53 yards on five rushes.
Columbia opened the second half scoring late in the third quarter as Garrett squirted through the middle of the line for a 12 yard touchdown. The drive was kept alive by a 21 yard pass from Kelly Hilinski to Hamilton Garner on 4th-and-5.
Lehigh failed to move the ball on its next possession, but a 64 yard Tim Divers punt pinned Columbia at its one yard line. The Lions gained just two yards on their next two plays and punted back to Lehigh with Paul Delaney’s punt into the wind going out of bounds at the Columbia 29. The Mountain Hawks took advantage with a seven play, 29 yard drive. Bialkowski’s third touchdown pass of the day, an eight yarder to Kurfis reestablished a 14 point cushion early in the fourth quarter.
The Mountain Hawks’ defense went on to force two straight Columbia punts, giving its offense the ball back with 5:20 remaining. Four first downs later, Lehigh ran out the clock without the Lions getting the ball back. Included was a third-down conversion behind an 18-yard catch from sophomore Derek Knott, and a fourth-down conversion when Bialkowski found senior Sergio Fernandez-Soto for 15 yards down to the Columbia 29-yard line. That conversion allowed the Mountain Hawks to run out the clock.
Lehigh held a 440-223 edge in total yards, including a 320-71 advantage through the air. Columbia held a 152-120 edge on the ground. Time of possession favored the Mountain Hawks, 32:45-27:15. Lehigh was 46 percent on third down (6-of-13) to Columbia’s 29 percent (4-of-14).
“We overcame our own inadequacies today but still came away with a win,” Coen said. “When you don’t play your best and you still win, there’s a lot to be said for that. I was hoping we would play a cleaner game today but the bottom line is we won the game and we’re 5-1.”
The Mountain Hawks return home next Saturday to host the Georgetown Hoyas on Family Day at Goodman Stadium. Kickoff is set for just after 12:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME or online at LehighTickets.com.
EXTRA POINTS… The Mountain Hawks defeated Columbia for the fifth straight time … Lehigh improved to 2-0 against the Ivy League this season and 50-22-1 against Ivy League members since the formation of the Patriot League in 1986 … the Brown and White have won eight straight games against Ivy League foes… The Mountain Hawks have won all five of their non-league regular season games for the second straight season… Lehigh was 2-for-2 in fourth down conversions, improving to a FCS-best 8-for-8 on the season… Kurfis is the fifth Lehigh player to catch 14 passes in a game, joining Rob Varano (Northeastern, 1989), Rennie Benn (twice), Adam Bergen (Georgetown, 2003) and Ryan Spadola (Harvard, 2010)… Lehigh finished with three sacks with Newton recording two and sophomore Matt Laub netting the other.