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In the FCS Huddle: Lehigh, Colvin keep finding ways to win

By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant

Bethlehem, PA (Sports Network) - It's no surprise Lehigh has taken care of business in its first three games versus manageable opponents: Monmouth, Central Connecticut State and now Princeton.

Instead, the biggest surprise has been the way in which the Mountain Hawks have won and how they have handled their success with a new leader under center and an improved defense.

"Obviously the most important thing is that we got a win," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said after his team's 17-14 victory over Princeton on Saturday. "Looking at the positives, I thought the first half was a very good half for us, but I've been saying this is a process here for this group of guys ... In the end, it was huge that the defense hung tough and didn't give up any big plays and we made them work for it."

Lehigh improved to 3-0, but certainly had to earn the win at home. Princeton, which is coming off back-to-back 1-9 seasons, was playing its season opener. Despite a late second-half rally, the Tigers gave up a 27-yard pass from Colvin to tight end Dylan Colgate with two minutes left, sealing the deal for the Mountain Hawks.

Senior Mike Colvin won't put up flashy stats, he won't wow you with his arm, or with his accuracy, but the senior knows how to win. As a backup behind star signal-caller Chris Lum the last couple of years, he gained the experience and understanding of leading the Mountain Hawks offense.

"We're really excited about it. To be 3-0 going into Liberty is where we wanted to be, and it's encouraging knowing that we left some plays on the field in all three of those games," Colvin said. "We still haven't reached our potential, I think it's a good thing. I think if we keep taking that mentality, that we left plays out there, it makes us more hungry during the week."

Colvin arguably had one of his best games as a starter, completing 21-of-34 passes for 276 yards and rushed for 57 yards.

"I'm sure you were all surprised he made that play at the end of the game," Coen said.

"For him to come and do that after struggling, to step up and make that play, the most critical play of the game, he did a great job. He is probably the microcosm of our team right now in terms of going through the process to get to where we can really be good."

Unlike year's past for Lehigh, where its offense paved the way almost every contest, the story of the game took place on the other side of the ball.

Lehigh's defense was solid through three quarters of play, allowing only 125 total yards - 56 passing and 69 rushing. However, just as the game entered the fourth quarter, the momentum shifted in Princeton's favor.

Running back Akil Sharp scored seconds into the last quarter and for the first time all game, Princeton forced Lehigh into multiple three-and-outs. A Jason Suggs muffed punt gave the Tigers ideal field position inside the Mountain Hawks' 20-yard line and led to another Sharp touchdown as they pulled within 17-14.

However, this time, the Mountain Hawks' defense came through in the clutch. It bent, but didn't break, hanging in for the victory and Lehigh's first 3-0 start since 2003.

"This offense isn't where we know it could be right now and it's kind of disappointing walking off field knowing that the defense did the majority of the work in second half to keep us in this game," Lehigh receiver Ryan Spadola said. "The main thing is, we were able to pull out the 'W' and make adjustments so next week this doesn't happen again."

Spadola had his biggest game of the year versus Princeton, catching seven passes for 102 yards. The senior recorded his 14th career 100-yard receiving game and went over 3,000 career yards.

The consensus All-America receiver has been relatively quiet this year, but his presence alone has allowed other players like running backs Zach Barket and Keith Sherman and freshman receiver Lee Kurfis to become bigger factors in Lehigh's offensive game plan.

"Going into each of these games, I'm going to get a cloud look with a man over the top, but I know that's going to open up other areas for other guys to make plays," Spadola said. "So far this season, we've had guys do that and going forward we have enough talent where guys will continue to do that as well."

One thing Colvin, Coen and Spadola could all agree on is the fact that despite playing poorly, there is much more room for improvement.

"We are still looking for that perfect game," Spadola said. "We have spurts where our offense and defense will be clicking together, but we've yet to do that throughout entire game. So, going into these next couple of games, that's what we are most looking forward to."

The quarterback, who was bruised and banged up after the win, might not have the statistics to match Lum, or the typical signal-caller attributes. But, one thing is for sure: in three starts he has led the Mountain Hawks to three wins, and they will try to make it four next week in a road game at Liberty.

"That feeling of not really feeling like we've arrived yet is a great thing for our offense because we have younger guys," Colvin said. "And finding ways to win when it counts is most important. You know I'm proud of this team, I really am. I'm really proud of our defense."

09/15 18:02:02 ET