No. 21 Penn Faces No. 19 Lehigh in Battle of Undefeated Top 25 Teams

Penn is coming off a 51-10 decision over Duquesne in its season opener.

Sept. 24, 2003

#21 PENN QUAKERS (1-0/0-0 IVY)
VS
#19 LEHIGH MOUNTAIN HAWKS (3-0/2-0 PATRIOT)

Series Record: Penn leads 43-13
Last Meeting: Penn 24-21 (9.28.2002, Franklin Fd)
Last Lehigh Win: 17-10 (9.16.2000, Goodman)
Last 10 Games: Lehigh 8-2 (1977-2002)
at Franklin Field: First Meeting
Al Bagnoli vs. Lehigh: 1-3

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

The last two times Penn has met Lehigh, the Mountain Hawks were the only team of the pair ranked in the I-AA polls. That all changes Saturday as No. 21 Penn travels to No. 19 Lehigh in a contest that features two undefeated Top 25 teams.

An unranked-Quakers squad knocked off No. 4 Lehigh in week two last season at Franklin Field, 24-21. Two years earlier, it was the No. 21 Mountain Hawks posting a 17-10 decision over the Red and Blue in Penn's 2000 opener.

The Quakers enter their first road contest of 2003 with a 1-0 record after dispatching Duquesne, 51-10, in their season opener at Franklin Field on Sept. 20. Lehigh improved to 3-0 after a 28-13 win at Princeton last week.

Although Penn had the second to last kickoff in the nation this season, it wasted little time in returning to familiar territory as the Quakers enter play this week with I-AA's third-ranked defense and fourth-ranked offense.

The Red and Blue split in action last season against ranked opponents as they defeated No. 4 Lehigh and fell to No. 6 Villanova (and I-AA semifinalist), 17-3, in a monsoon at Villanova Stadium on Oct. 10.

Penn has won its last two road openers (and four of its last five) and enters the contest with 22 wins in its last 24 contests.

PENN'S LAST TIME OUT

Penn opened a season with a win for the 92nd time in program history as the No. 23 Quakers built a 20-0 lead en route to a 51-10 victory over visiting-Duquesne at Franklin Field on Sept. 20. The Red and Blue used a 28-point third-quarter explosion to put the game out of reach. The victory also improved Penn's record in home openers to 84-15-1.

50 AND LOVING IT

For the second-straight season, Penn opened the year with a 50-spot on the scoreboard. The Red and Blue scored 51 points in their season-opening win over Duquesne on Sept. 20, which came on the heels of their 2002 season opener at Lafayette on Sept. 21, which the Quakers' won 52-21. The 50-point output marked just the second time since 1998 that the Red and Blue scored 50 points on an opponent and just the 13th time in program history that Penn opened the season with such an offensive display. The Quakers', who were involved in the highest scoring game in Ivy League history on Oct. 24, 1998 with Brown - 109 points), program record for points in a game is 96 back on Nov. 15, 1886 against Vineland. Their modern mark is 59 points in a win against Holy Cross on Oct. 8, 1994.

SMOOTH TRANSITION

Some of the names may have changed but the results are the same as the Penn defense put on another clinic against the Dukes. The Red and Blue defense played at such a ferocious level to start the game against Duquesne that it forced Dukes' Head Coach Greg Gattuso to abandon I-AA's top passing attack to protect his signal caller for the remainder of the season.

"We were very concerned about protection," Gattuso stated in the press conference after the contest. "Our quarterback (Niel Loebig) took some hellacious shots at the beginning of the game. I was not going to expose him to the types of hits he was getting. We kind of got swarmed in the first quarter."

FOUR SCORE AND 200 YARDS AGO

For the third time in his collegiate career, Penn signal caller Mike Mitchell threw four touchdown passes in a game. His latest victim was Duquesne, whom he lit up for a touchdown pass on the game's first possession and then three more in a 28-0 Red and Blue third-quarter run that blew the contest wide open.

Mitchell's two other four-touchdown passing performances also came at Franklin Field - on Oct. 5, 2002 in a 49-14 Penn win over Dartmouth that saw him also throw for a career-high 428 yards and on Nov. 16, 2002 in the Quakers' 44-9 Ivy League title clinching win over Harvard.

NO LOCK, NO LOAD

Penn's defense recorded three picks on what was I-AA's top passing attack as Steve Lhotak, Bryan Arguello and Doug Middleton all intercepted Duquesne's Niel Loebig pass attempts in the Red and Blue's season opener. Middleton's 24-yard return set up the Quakers' third score of the first quarter, while Lhotak's pick on the Penn 4 stopped a 10-0 Dukes run.

Entering the contest, Loebig had thrown only three interceptions over 85 pass attempts. Against Penn, he threw for three over 18 attempts.

RETAKING THEIR PLACE

Penn has possessed one of I-AA's most lethal defenses over the past two seasons, and does not appear to be relinquishing that title any time soon. The Red and Blue led the nation in rush defense (58.4 yards allowed per game) and was third in scoring defense (11.4 ppg) in 2000. Last year Penn once again held I-AA's top rush defense (55.8) and sixth-ranked scoring defense (13.2), And after one game this season, the Quakers' defense is second in passing efficiency (59.7 rating), eighth in scoring defense (10.0) and ninth in pass defense (116.0).

TURN BACK THE CLOCK

This season's meeting between Penn and Lehigh could be billed as a grudge match after the Red and Blue snapped the Mountain Hawks' 26-game regular season winning streak last season at Franklin Field on Sept. 20.

Freezing two pivotal moments in the contest, Penn went into halftime with a 17-7 lead after Stephen Faulk scored on a 22-yard touchdown with no time remaining. Faulk took a lateral at the Lehigh 22 from Joe Phillips who pulled down a 12-yard Mike Mitchell pass. Faulk had only one man to beat after Phillips' toss, and was sprung by the program's all-time leading receiver Rob Milanese, who timed a perfect block to allow Faulk an easy path into the end zone. That touchdown would be key as Lehigh scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull back within three points. The Mountain Hawks appeared prime to deadlock the contest at 24 when Matt Douglas' 29-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.

CONNECTIONS

Red and Blue Offensive Coordinator Andy Coen served in the same capacity at Lehigh from 1996 to 1999 (and as offensive line coach from 1994 to 1995), where he helped lead the Mountain Hawks to the 1998 Patriot League crown. Lehigh Defensive Coordinator Tom Gilmore was the 1985 Ivy League Player of the Year after helping Penn to its fourth-straight Ancient Eight crown.

Gilmore lettered on three-straight Red and Blue Ivy championship teams (1983-1985) and began his coaching career at Penn, where he served as a member of the Quakers' staff in 1986 and from 1990 to 1992.