In the FCS Huddle: Lum, Lehigh flying high

Consistently putting up more than 300 yards a game through the air, Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum has grabbed national attention and is on pace to complete the best passing performance in Patriot League history.

But even with the gaudy numbers, Lum's biggest concern hasn't been in the passing category, but rather in the standings.

"The season's gone very well so far and I've been doing well statistically, but the most important statistic is our wins and losses," Lum said. "We're really starting to mesh together really well."

The eighth-ranked Mountain Hawks continued to mesh Saturday, defeating Fordham, 34-12, to improve their record to 6-1 on the season.

And while he won't take any credit for it, Lum was again the star, passing for a career-high 413 yards and three touchdowns.

Big performances have been the norm for Lum. Having passed for at least 300 yards in all seven games this season (the FCS record is 10), Lum is on pace for 4,440 yards and 45 touchdowns - both of which would be Patriot League records.

"That would be awesome," Lum said. "That would be a great feeling, but I don't want to get caught up in that."

After passing for an adequate, but nowhere near record-breaking 2,881 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior, what's changed for the senior from Lake Orion, Mich.?

"Compared to last year and the year before, I'm recognizing defenses a lot more and studying tape and getting to know the opponents more," Lum said. "Also, I'm a lot more comfortable with our plays, so I think it's a combination of my comfort and knowing the defense."

Lum's comfort level in the Mountain Hawks' offense has been evident this season, as he has shown the patience to run an offense that relies heavily on completing simple passes over the middle and to open receivers in the flats.

Just because most of his throws are shorter routes, it doesn't mean Lum can't make the big play, as he did once again in the win against Fordham.

Known more as a pocket passer, Lum displayed some elusive ability on Lehigh's first touchdown. Spinning out of what looked like sure sack at the Fordham 30- yard line, Lum escaped and rolled to his left before finding Jake Drwal for the 17-yard touchdown.

In the third quarter, Lum once again displayed the brilliance that had him recently named to the Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) Watch List, completing a pair of long passes to turn a one-score game into a blowout.

On the first long completion, Lum showed patience in the pocket and got the Rams' defense to bite on a pump fake, opening up a hole to connect with Ryan Spadola for a 50-yard completion. The catch set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Matt Fitz.

Spadola, who has gone for more than 100 yards in all but one game this season, was again the recipient on Lum's next long completion, a 62-yard touchdown that beat the safeties over the middle.

"The chipping away on the small throws, those are always nice to get the offense in a good rhythm," Lum said. "But to get the deep ball like that, that always feels really good and the offensive line always feels really happy about that deep play."

Not only did the mid-range passing game open deep options, but it also created a running game for the Mountain Hawks.

"It's give-and-take on offense, pass here, a run there," running back Zach Barket said. "They work together really well - that's just the play calling putting us in a position to succeed. And Chris, he's a great quarterback who makes all those throws, so the defense has no chance to but defend the pass and it opens it up for us to run the ball."

Lehigh ran the ball for 182 total yards, helping the Mountain Hawks to 598 yards of total offense, a dangerous unit that is looking more and more deserving of its Top 10 ranking.

"I thought we had a chance to be a very, very good football team," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said. "I thought we could be this good and I don't think we've played our best game yet."

In the best start in Coen's six years at Lehigh, the nationally ranked offense hasn't been the only successful unit as the defense has buckled down since a 48-41 loss to New Hampshire in Week 2.

After the loss to the Wildcats, Lehigh has yet to concede more than 24 points in the past five weeks - all victories.

And while the defense has grown from the beginning of the season, Lum has been a constant force since Week 1. If he continues on pace, he could be a finalist for the Walter Payton Award in January.

"I don't really remember how I heard it (about the Payton Watch List), that's great recognition to be put on that list," Lum said. "I try not to get involved in the stats too much and be modest and keep the team as the top priority. I'd sacrifice some stats to get a win anyway."

It appears the sacrifice isn't necessary, as winning and Lum's numbers seem to rely on each other.