'Resilient' Lehigh rallies in 2nd half, beats UNH
University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell warned any and all who'd listen that the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh were a persistent bunch.
The Mountain Hawks showed just how resilient they are once again on Saturday afternoon at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, Pa., and in the process knocked off the Wildcats, ranked No. 10 in one poll last week and No. 7 in another, 34-27.
UNH fell to 1-2 on the season and the road ahead gets even tougher.
The Wildcats open the Colonial Athletic Association portion of their schedule at Towson next Saturday. The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in one poll and No. 2 in the other, took a 4-0 record into a game at Stony Brook on Saturday night.
Lehigh, ranked No. 17 and 21 last week, improved to 4-0 and will be moving up in the polls.
The Mountain Hawks, who had lost nine straight games to New Hampshire, had trailed in the fourth period of each of their three previous wins this season.
"They're a very resilient football team," McDonnell said in his weekly press conference on Wednesday. "You keep watching the tape and every game there's some part of the game where they're struggling a little bit and they just hang in there, hang in there, hang in there."
They were down 27-13 in the second half and rallied to tie Saturday's game at 27-27 going into the fourth quarter.
Brandon Bialkowski connected with Derek Knott for a 15-yard scoring pass early in the fourth and it was 34-27 with 12:29 to play.
The Mountain Hawks got the ball back and were driving to put the game away. But UNH sophomore defensive back Keith Parkinson intercepted a Bialkowski pass on the UNH 23-yard line with 3:58 left to play.
The Wildcats drove back the other way and earned a first down at the Lehigh 13. Andy Vailas, the junior quarterback from Bedford, rushed for 1 yard. It was 2nd and 9 from the 12 with 1:10 left to play.
Junior running back Nico Steriti ran for another yard. Vailas threw a pair of incomplete passes and that was that.
Vailas was 18 for 29 passing for 152 yards and a touchdown. He had a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chris Setian in the first period and also threw one interception. Vailas ran for a 1-yard score.
Steriti carried 15 times for 116 yards.
UNH led 19-13 at halftime and pushed the lead to 27-13 with Setian's 4-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
It was all Lehigh after that.
Sean Farrell scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in less than three minutes to tie it.
Bialkowski completed 31 of his 52 passes for 359 yards and two scores. Lee Kurfs caught 11 passes for 157 yards and Sergio Fernandez-Soto had seven for 123 yards.
Lehigh had 465 yards of total offense and New Hampshire 441.
Mike MacArthur, UNH's senior kicker from North Hampton, kicked field goals of 31 and 35 yards in the first half.