NEW YORK — Lafayette quarterback Zach Zweizig had not taken a hit in more than a year. A concussion cost him most of last season and put him in what he called a fog for nine months. He had pretty much decided he was done with football this past summer, and then changed his mind right before practice started.
Still, he had not taken a snap in a game until Saturday, when the senior started and helped Lafayette to a 27-7 victory against Lehigh at Yankee Stadium in the 150th edition of the most-played rivalry in college football.
Ross Scheuerman ran for a school-record 304 yards and scored three touchdowns for the Leopards (5-6, 3-3) and was voted game MVP. Zweizig, who was forced into action when both of the QBs ahead of were injured in the last two weeks, got a game ball and a story book ending to his career.
"It still doesn't feel real to me, honestly," Zweizig said.
For the first time in 123 years, the Patriot League rivals from Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley played at a neutral site, and the Leopards and Mountain Hawks (3-8, 2-4) turned out to be a huge hit in the Bronx. A sellout crowd of 48,256 was the second-largest for a college football game at the new Yankee Stadium, which has now hosted four regular-season games and four Pinstripe Bowls since it opened in 2009.
Zweizig finished 13 for 23 for 166 yards with no interceptions and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Matt Mrazek in the fourth quarter.
Lafayette leads the series 78-67-5.
Scheuerman (pronounced Sherman like the tank, appropriately) handled the heavy lifting for the Leopards with 45 carries and three catches for 53 yards. He broke a 79-yard TD run with 7:31 left in the second quarter to make it 21-0.
"If I had to give the ball 60 times to Ross Scheuerman I was going to do it," Lafayette coach Frank Tavani said. "When you've got a weapon like that you use it and that was the game plan. We had full confidence in Zach, so did the team. He went out there and played like he never missed a beat."
Lehigh broke out new pinstripe uniforms to honor their hosts, but that was the only thing that looked good for the Mountain Hawks in the first half. Lafayette outgained Lehigh 363-57 in the first half.
Freshman Chris Leigh gave Lehigh a temporary lift with a 70-yard touchdown run with 2:36 left in the third quarter to make it 21-7.
"It probably hurts a little bit more because it was on this stage," Lehigh coach Andy Coen said.
The teams have been playing since 1884, twice a year in the early days, and haven't missed a date since 1896. The only other time The Rivalry was played away from Lafayette's campus in Easton or Lehigh's in Bethlehem was 1891, when the second of three meetings was held in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
Lafayette athletic director Bruce McCutcheon and his Lehigh counterpart, Joe Sterrett, said they started talking about making the 150th edition of The Rivalry unique four and half years ago. With a lot of help from Mark Holtzman, the executive director of non-baseball events at Yankee Stadium and a Lafayette graduate, the game was moved from eastern Pennsylvania to the south Bronx.
"We wanted to do something different for 150. We could have had it in Easton and it would have been great, but it would have been the same as 148 and the same as 149," McCutcheon said at halftime Saturday. "This is different. This is something these kids will never forget."
The subways were packed with fans in brown (for Lehigh) and maroon (for Lafayette) on Saturday afternoon, though most retreated back to them before Lafayette got to celebrate in right-center field on a cold evening in New York.
Zweizig had seven career starts, but none since last year when he started the first three games and missed the rest of the season with a concussion. He also had a concussion as a sophomore. Drew Reed and Blake Searfoss had shared the quarterback job this season, but Reed injured his right foot in win over Colgate two weeks ago and Searfoss injured his left foot in practice on Tuesday.
Zweizig said he made the decision to return to the team this season a week before camp.
"For about two, three weeks I was set on not coming back and then something just triggered," Zweizig said. "I've never quit anything in my life and I can't start now. If I do quit I might regret something. I would have missed this opportunity to help my team win."
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