This past Saturday once again was the renewal of college football’s most-played rivalry. It wasn’t between Harvard and Yale, Rutgers and Princeton, Army and Navy or USC and UCLA. It was game number 150 between Lafayette College from Easton and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, two schools from the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania whom are a mere 17 miles apart and play in the Patriot League. Going into the game Lafayette led in the series 77-67-5.
To commemorate the 150th game in the series, the Lafayette Leopards and the Mountain Hawks of Lehigh traveled to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to play on the big stage. The game was a complete sellout with a crowd of 48,256, with 30,000 tickets being sold in the first week of sales. It was the 2nd largest crowd out of the 8 college football games (4 regular season and 4 Pinstripe Bowls) that have been played at the new Yankee Stadium since opening in 2009. Previously, every game in the series had been played either in Bethlehem or Easton, with the exception of the 1891 game which was played in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Both teams had suffered through disappointing seasons this year with many key injuries occurring and with some close losses which could have been victories. A win over one’s hatred archrival would ease the pain of the past season. Lafayette entered the game with a 4-6 record and Lehigh with a 3-7 mark. Last years’ game decided the Patriot League Championship and an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. The Leopards won that game by a score of 50-28 over then ranked #15 Lehigh.
There was a lot of hoopla over the game not only in the Lehigh Valley but also nationwide. The game which was broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network was the focus of many sports media outlets throughout the past week.
Despite Lafayette starting its third-string quarterback due to injuries, who hadn’t taken a snap all season, the game was won easily by the Leopards 27-7. Shortly after the game started the outcome was never really in doubt as the Leopards opened up a 21-0 halftime lead outgaining the Mountain Hawks 363-57.
Lafayette was led by senior running back Ross Scheuerman, the game’s MVP, who gained 304 rushing yards on 45 carries and three touchdowns. The 304 rushing yards was a Lafayette school record and a Patriot League rushing record. The effort earned Scheuerman a helmet sticker on ESPN’s “College Football Final” show on Sunday morning. The helmet sticker is an award given weekly for a strong performance during games of that week.
College Football’s Most-Played Rivalry dates back to 1884 when Lafayette shut out Lehigh 50-0 in Easton. The two teams met twice a year from 1884-1901 (three times in 1891) and once a year (for the most part) since then with the exception of 1896 when a player eligibility dispute between the schools cancelled the game.
Of note: two primary elements of the game of football — the helmet and the huddle — were invented by former members of the Lafayette football program. George “Rose” Barclay from the Class of 1898, one of Lafayette’s all-time great running backs, invented the helmet when the “threat of cultivating cauliflower ears” led him to piece three thick leather straps around his head for the 1896 game against Penn. Former Lafayette coach Herb McCracken (1924-35; 59-40-6) devised the first huddle system during the 1924 season after learning the Pennsylvania football team had stolen Lafayette’s signals. Lafayette became the first team to huddle before each play and this system was immediately adopted by other teams.