Lehigh keeps title in view
By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Bethlehem, PA (Sports Network) -
Jarard Cribbs moved around to six states while he grew up.
His explanation: "I think my mother must be a CIA agent or something, and hasn't told me."
Like mother, like son. As a All-Patriot League cornerback, Cribbs has become a spy.
His sixth interception of the season on Saturday against Colgate - and the 11th of his four-year career - was likely the most satisfying. He had never returned one before for a touchdown, and joked to teammate Jaren Walker before the game that he was going to score on a pick-six and bring the ball to him.
When Cribbs picked off a Steve Rizzo pass at the Colgate 48-yard line, he saw open field to the Raiders' end zone. He then went the distance to highlight Lehigh's surprisingly easy, 44-14 pasting of Colgate, a win which has put the finishing line in sight of the Patriot League leader - a possible first league title since 2006 and a first berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs since 2004.
OK, there was one downer to Cribbs' day. A game official did what the Raiders couldn't do against him.
"First thing I thought," after scoring, Cribbs remembered, "was go get a ball to Jaren. But the ref took it away from me. He did a pretty nice job of stripping me."
Jarard Cribbs had his sixth interception of the season on Saturday against Colgate.
Lehigh (6-2, 2-0), on its first four-game winning streak since head coach Andy Coen's first season in 2006, is one game ahead of Holy Cross (4-4, 1-1) and Lafayette (2-6, 1-1), which, like the Mountain Hawks, control their destiny if they win out over the season's final three games.
What Lehigh does with its lead will be decided on the road. The Mountain Hawks play their final three conference games at Holy Cross next Saturday, at Georgetown on Nov. 13 and at arch-rival Lafayette on Nov. 20.
"Starting tomorrow, it's all Holy Cross," junior quarterback Chris Lum said. "We feel good now. We're in a good spot right now, but the next game, that's got to be the mindset."
"Every time you go out, if you keep doing what you're supposed to do, you keep moving in the right direction," Coen said. "And that's what we had talked to the kids about. I think we're a football team that's getting better, and that's really what you want."
"Control your own destiny in our league is you keep winning."
That factor has brought Colgate's season to a surprising halt. The league's preseason favorite was rolling along at 4-2 before it was surprised at home by Holy Cross, 31-24, last Saturday, and then ran into a buzz saw at Lehigh.
In fact, the Raiders literally limped into their showdown at Goodman Stadium. Senior Greg Sullivan, who has rushed for more career yards than any Patriot League quarterback, and leading receiver Doug Rosnick were held out of the game because of the high ankle sprains they suffered in last Saturday's loss to Holy Cross.
Coen didn't even know Sullivan would not play until about 35 minutes before the game, when he didn't see Sullivan in Colgate's warmup and started asking his assistant coaches about the league's preseason offensive player of the year's whereabouts.
"I think it's a dribble-down effect," Colgate coach Dick Biddle said about his offensive injuries. "There's a play here or there that you think you can make, or that they (Sullivan and Rosnick) can make, that would help you. We've got no playmakers right now. I think Nate's (Eachus) a great running back, but we don't stretch anybody and we're playing with playing with young receivers. And throw in a (young) quarterback. It was a mismatch."
Eachus, a junior who entered the game leading the FCS in rushing, was held 43 yards below his season average with 124 on 25 carries. He also went without a touchdown for the first time this season.
As Colgate usually does as the national leader in time of possession, the Raiders held the ball for over 11 more minutes than Lehigh. But, strangely, it still translated into a huge deficit in yards, with the Mountain Hawks holding a 474-304 advantage.
The big difference was in the passing game. Lum was on target, passing for a career-high 310 yards on 17 completions.
Meanwhile, the prospect of not having to chase Sullivan in and out of the pocket - and instead getting Rizzo, the little-used backup, to feast upon - had Lehigh blitzers as eager as kids holding their filled Halloween bags.
The Mountain Hawks had four sacks and 11 tackles for losses. Middle linebacker Mike Groome led the way with 12 tackles.
Lehigh basically dominated from the start. Only the blank stares on the Colgate sideline outnumbered the first-half points of the Mountain Hawks, who built a 31-0 lead.
Lehigh took the lead for good on the game?s opening drive when Lum capped it with a 16-yard touchdown pass to fullback Sean Farrell.
The Mountain Hawks didn't take full control of the game, though, until late in the quarter after Colgate's gutsy play-calling backfired.
The Raiders converted a 4th-and-1 from their 30 when Eachus twisted his way for three yards. Four plays later, the Raiders again went for a first-down on 4th-and-1, but this time outside linebacker Tanner Rivas slammed Eachus for a 1-yard loss, giving the Mountain Hawks possession at the Raiders' 41.
It took only three plays for Lehigh to get back into the Colgate end zone, with Wildcat quarterback Michael Colvin throwing across the field to tight end Alex Wojdowski for a 7-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter.
"I was trying to get some momentum going and throw confidence into the kids, get them fired up," Biddle said of his fourth-down playcalling.
The floodgates then opened on the shell-shocked Raiders. Tom Randazza's 19- yard field goal made it 17-0. Lehigh linebacker Al Pierce then pressured Rizzo into the poor throw which turned into Cribbs' interception return for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead. Lum then connected with Jake Drwal for a 9-yard touchdown pass to make the score the stunning 31-0.
Rizzo's 5-yard touchdown pass to Chris Looney late in the first half hardly meant much when Lehigh scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the third quarter - Colvin scoring on a 9-yard run and Lum on a 1-yard sneak - to make it 44-7.
It's been a season of redemption for Coen, who coming in might have been on shaky ground with the Lehigh faithful which was used to successful seasons. Coen was only 20-24 in his first four seasons.
He then made a difficult decision in the preseason by naming Lum the starting quarterback even though two-year starter J.B. Clark was back for his senior season.
"Each week (Lum has) been getting better and better and better," Coen said. "That's why we named Chris the starter because he was the one who was making the improvements in spring ball and summer camp. Even some of the balls that weren't getting completed in the last couple weeks, he was making the right decisions."
Coen's decision seemed to emphasize to his senior class that it was now or never.
That thought was in Jarard Cribbs' view like the Colgate end zone.
"I think everybody has bought into what Coach talked about all these years," Cribbs said. "Controlling your own destiny, I think that's the biggest thing.
"We're taking care of business."