Sports | Football

Football takes on undefeated Lehigh on the road

After last week’s blowout loss at home in its Ivy opener, the football team (1-2, 0-1 Ivy) is packing up and hitting the road for the first time this season to take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (5-0).

In reviewing last week’s game, Light Blue head coach Pete Mangurian noticed many of the Lions’ problems came not from physical issues, but mental blunders.

“The kind of mistakes we made aren’t, ‘We need to practice more,’” Mangurian said. “They’re not things we hadn’t gone over. We go over them all the time.”

The head coach also said the team’s red-zone mistakes stemmed from mental lapses.

“We had some ridiculous missed assignments—a couple of them before the ball was even snapped—in the red zone,” Mangurian said. “Just things that—how do you miss that? Well, you miss it because your brain’s not there. You’re thinking about the wrong things.”

But the Lions will have to put all of that behind them when they play Lehigh on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks have been the class of the Patriot League for the last couple of years. The team has won 14 games in a row—the longest current winning streak in the nation. Mangurian knows facing an opponent with that many consecutive victories will be a tough test.

“You don’t win that many games in a row and have the kind of success they’ve had unless you’re a good football team,” Mangurian said. “They’re not lucky. They got down 14-0, their style of play never changed a bit. They just kept playing. They’re really good, really solid.”

The Mountain Hawks’ offense features a dual threat quarterback in Michael Colvin. The senior is currently first in the Patriot League in passing yards and fifth in the league in rushing. Colvin’s thrown for four touchdowns and has added another five with his legs.

“They’ve got great quarterback play going for them,” Mangurian said. “He can run, he can throw, he’s big, and he’s strong. They’ve got one sack out of 162 passes, but he’s had people with their hands on him a lot—they can’t get him on the ground.”

As a team, the Mountain Hawks don’t lead many categories in the Patriot League, but their chemistry helps set them apart.

“It’s a good football team. It’s good football,” Mangurian said. “You can take the pieces and say this person’s better on this team, or these may not be the best individual players that we’ve seen, or that we will see. But this is the best team we’ve seen.”

But one category in which Lehigh leads its league is defensive sacks. The team has brought down the opposing quarterback 14 times in its five games. The Lions’ offensive line will have to step up in order to protect senior quarterback Sean Brackett.

“They’re fundamentally really good,” Mangurian said of Lehigh’s front seven. “They’re explosive. They’re strong. They’re not the biggest group in the world, but they’re explosive when you watch them tackle. They don’t just grab guys and pull them down. They explode on them.”

Brackett himself has been inconsistent so far this season. The senior ranks sixth in the league in passing yards with 555, but is ninth among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage at just 48.4. Mangurian says that the quarterback has made some strides, but knows there is room for improvement.

“The best thing I can say about Sean is he’s tried to do everything we’ve asked him to do, and he’s hard on himself. He hasn’t made excuses for anything. And that’s what a leader does,” Mangurian said. “For the most part, I think he’s run the team well. He’s thrown the ball well at times, and there’s times he’s missed. His decision-making process for the most part has been strong.”

The Light Blue will need the entire team to be at its best on Saturday to beat the formidable Mountain Hawks. And despite Lehigh’s winning streak, Mangurian knows that if his team comes out and plays well, they’ll have a good chance to come back to Morningside Heights 2-2.

“Fourteen teams have gone in there before and thought they could and haven’t done it, but I’ve been around long enough to know that doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “We’re going in there thinking we’ve got a chance to win the game. And if you execute, you do. But you’ve got to execute.”

sports@columbiaspectator.com

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