Thursday, September 21, 2017

Week 2 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Marist's 14-12 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. A Bad Loss. No sugarcoating necessary, this was a bad loss to one of few winnable opponents on the 2017 schedule. Where Georgetown was able to compensate for a weak offensive showing by Campbell with a strong defensive showing and a pair of critical turnovers, the Hoyas could do neither with Marist.

Giving credit where due: Marist is a good defensive team, but this is the Pioneer League and Georgetown should have better offensive weaponry than it does. But it does not.  Despite a senior-heavy lineup, Georgetown is a slow, reactive offense whose play calling in recent years is predictable and often under performing. It's why teams like Harvard and Fordham seemed to key off the Hoyas in early game series last year.

Georgetown has scored just three points in the first half over two games this season, which is a big red flag given the caliber of competition. It was 12 points at the half in 2015 and just over 10 in 2016--that's putting the defense in a position of weakness all day.  Granted, this is not new.

From 2001 to 2016, the Hoyas have placed just two selections to the first team all-Patriot league team, but Luke McArdle was a MAAC era recruit and Jeremy Moore was a return specialist.  Put another way, not a single back, lineman, or receiver recruited since 2000 has made a list that Colgate, Fordham, and Lehigh have a combined 141 selections during that same period.

Either Georgetown has to recruit better or play better to avoid the kind of slide it faced last season (dropping its last eight) or what may befall them beginning Saturday against Columbia. The Lions collapsed in the second half of a game last year at Cooper Field that they should have won, but it was the last win for the Hoyas. This is a markedly better Lion team this year and year three of the Al Bagnoli era at Morningside Heights  is set to produce results.

Even if we concede Georgetown  is not going to win seven or eight games this season, and we do, the offense has to put the team in position to contend. It wasn't there against Campbell and it sure wasn't there against Marist, even with last minute hopes. Georgetown needs a much better game plan, and much better execution in the next three weeks to keep the 2017 season from sliding off the page altogether. History doesn't suggest this (GU is 6-30-1 all time vs. Ivy schools) but that's why they play the game.

Bottom line: this is not the same Columbia team of the past two seasons. Is this the same Georgetown offense?

2. The Little Things. Coaches dread film sessions like this, because one or two plays may have made the difference. OK, I'll discuss three:

--Brad Hurst's blocked PAT. Never underestimate the power of special teams. The Georgetown game plan changed from 14-7 to 14-6, and whereas the Hoyas might have been able to tie the score and drive for the game winning points at the end of the game, they were playing from behind all afternoon thereafter.
--Third and 1 at the Marist 49:  With 2:53 to play, a stop here leaves the Hoyas one time out and roughly two minutes to drive down the field. Failing on this stop eats up the remaining timeout and nearly two minutes of the clock.  The net difference was a mere two yards for the remainder of the series, but the loss of time proved fatal.
--The final drive: With 15 seconds to go, no timeouts, and the clock stopped, Georgetown needed a big play to make a difference. Instead, a three yard dump-off set up the Hoyas to clock the next down and have one chance for the end zone.

3. The Only Game In Town. Unlikely as it may sound, ESPN College Gameday is broadcasting this week from New York

That's received a lot of grief from the chattering class, given that such events seem best suited to places like Tuscaloosa or State College or Chapel Hill. ESPN hasn't exactly said why this is the case (it may be a cost cutting move even with the costs of Times Square)  but in any event, they won't be in front of a stadium this week. In fact, there is only one football game in the city that day.

Georgetown at Columbia.

So, no, ESPN is not going to bring out headgear for Lee Corso to pick the winner of the game, although Jack the Bulldog would look great on him as opposed to, say, Roar-ee the Lion. But it would offer an opportunity, however brief, for the sports information folks at both schools to get in a reference (or two) that these two schools are playing this week amidst all the other talk of a three hour show.

In short, give them something to talk about. And about that headgear....

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 16-10 win at Campbell to open the 2017 season:

1. More Of the Same (Part 1): Year four of the Michael Neuberger offense was underway Saturday and, well, it wasn't much that we haven't seen before.

That's not a knock on the coach but what he has to work with. Georgetown has historically struggled to recruit impact players on offense and its offensive output over the years reflects it. The Hoyas were 115th of 123 schools on the ground last season and we saw more of that Saturday. Maybe the Hoyas can attribute just eight first downs as a byproduct of one facing of the better I-AA defenses from 2016, last season, but Campbell had losses on the defensive line and Georgetown didn't get much through the trenches.

Absent a 33 yard run by Alex Valles, Georgetown combined for 26 rushes and just 71 yards. Valles doesn't have the speed to carry this team on rushing into the heat of the PL schedule, which is why it's important to see Jay Tolliver and perhaps Jackson Saffold to get some early carries this season. Georgetown won't win many games relying solely on the passing attack. And with marist holding its first two opponents to an average of 62 rushing yards per game, Saturday's game will be an interesting test to see what faith Georgetown holds in its rushing game, or lack thereof.

2. More Of the Same (Part 2): Another solid defensive effort from the Hoyas was the difference in this game. The defensive play, especially in the fourth quarter, not only earned a win, but built the confidence of a veteran team which will need every bit of this kind of effort.

"There wasn’t a rhythm to what we were doing and you have to credit Georgetown’s defense,” said Campbell coach Mike Minter.

With seven sacks up front and forcing three turnovers in the red zone, there was a lot to like about where the Hoyas were in this game. Marist had only one red zone penetration against Bucknell versus seven against Stetson in last weekend's game, and Marist's 337 yard passing effort against Stetson will be a point of effort in this week's defensive planning. The good thing is that Georgetown has the defensive mettle to meet the challenge.

3. A View From The Creek: I had planned to attend this game but reshuffled my air plans to make the September 30 game with Harvard (Promotion? Anyone??). The good news was the excellent broadcast on the Big South Network with Campbell's radio team.

Campbell clearly seems like a program on the way up. From a crowd of nearly 6,000 for an early season game to a healthy marching band with a neat nickname ("The Sound Of the Sandhills"), Campbell seems well prepared for its move to the Big South next year. The game announcers reported Campbell was scheduled to return this game in Washington in 2018, but new conference schedules and better offers can change plans. It's likely this will be a much better Campbell team in 2018 and much like Monmouth and Stony Brook before them, the program may soon outgrow a series like Georgetown.

The Campbell announcers had a pair of "oops" moments in the game, however. They referred to the first season of Hoya football as 1895 (?), then corrected that at halftime, only to note that GU had the smallest stadium in Division I "with 1600 students".  They did note that "renovations are coming on [Georgetown's]  field", but we've heard that before...

4. Home Opener: Saturday's game with Marist hasn't drawn well in the past. Let's make a better effort to support this team and get a good turnout. This will be the Hoyas' only on-campus game until October 21, so make plans to attend.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Story Worth Telling

So yes, the blog's been on an extended vacation. Not for distance, but for content.

After a while, there are just so many ways once can positively discuss a team in the midst of a eight game losing streak, and there are times where following the Hoyas is positively Sisyphean. Good news is often hard to come by, and there are only so many ways to say "better luck next year." when there is little to expect.

So in a day where not one, but two Georgetown press releases made it outside 37th and O (and you can read about basketball's retreat on another site), news that the football team will be playing "beyond the gates" for the first time since the Truman administration is a source for some old-fashioned enthusiasm.

On September 30, Georgetown hosts Harvard in the last game of that series at RFK Stadium. Not Cooper Field or Greene Stadium at Howard or even War Memorial Stadium in Arlington, but RFK, home of Jurgensen and Kilmer, the Smurfs and the
Hogs. You can still hear echoes of Tony Kornheiser's "bandwagon" in those days  when Jack Kent Cooke entertained the city's movers and shakers and the fans responded by moving and shaking the stadium in response. RFK brought a city together.
(Dan Snyder, not so much.)

Since the Nationals moved towards the Navy Yard a decade ago, RFK has aged none too gracefully, but still hosts DC United (for one more season) and the occasional concert or college game.  It hosted the Military Bowl for five years until even the bowl game looked elsewhere (in this case, Annapolis) in 2013. The Sep. 30 game with Harvard is one day removed from the 56th anniversary of the first game ever played at was then DC Stadium, when the Redskins lost to the New York Giants on October 1, 1961 before 36,767, more than double the 14,077 that showed up the year before to see the two teams at Griffith Stadium.

The RFK site is one of the great vistas in Washington, with a line of sight to the Capitol. Some see it as the future home of a retractable roof dome to welcome back the Redskins; others, as future parkland. If RFK's future is cloudy, at least Georgetown is taking advantage of it now.

Make no mistake, this is a great move. MSF/Cooper Field, good intentions notwithstanding, is still a dump that remains frozen in some sort of administrative amber and is, frankly, a problem to attracting road opponents. Yale, Penn, and Princeton have all ended series with Georgetown, and the idea of those 800 wooden bleachers doesn't win favor from its well heeled alumni. Harvard, whose four year series ends this year, may feel the same.

But the news even made the front of Harvard's sports website, and  the Boston Globe. While no one will confuse RFK with Yankee Stadium, it sends a positive message that maybe, just maybe, Georgetown can turn this football thing around.

The elephant in the room, or in this case, in the building, is seats. Lots of them. Georgetown drew all of 2,502 when the Cantabs made their only other visit to Washington, in 2014. It's one of the smallest crowds to see the Crimson in a generation, due, we hope, to the meager surroundings and landlocked access offered by Georgetown's miniature version of the Baker Bowl. (Thankfully for GU, there is no billboard which reads "The Hoyas Use Lifebuoy")

Under no such seating restrictions, any fan of either school has free reign to get on the Metro, Uber, or just drive through the gentrified neighborhoods of Northeast and park at the stadium to see the two teams meet. But there better be more than 2,500 people there on September 30.

How do you do that from a fan base that hasn't seen a crowd show up at a Georgetown football game in 50 years? Work, work, and work the audience. Here are 10 suggestions:

1. "B.I.S." In airline lingo, that's "butts in seats". Given that Georgetown isn't getting rich  off this game, the more people regardless of price that will attend, the more "successful' the outcome. To that end, consider:
1. Offer two complimentary seats to every former football player. Give them a pass to get on the field before the game, too.
2. Offer two complimentary seats to every donor to Georgetown athletics. Whether you give to the Gridiron Club, Hoya Hoop Club, or the Rowing Association, they're part of it too.
3. Market the heck out of this at the local alumni club level. Everyone should know why 9/30 is not the 9:30 Club or the end of the quarter.
4. Reduced seats to every Catholic high school in the area. High school kids love to see a real college game and most don't get to see it.
5. Reduced or free seats to District high school students. Georgetown must not only defend the district, it must invest in it.

2. Tailgate. RFK has plenty of parking and, yes, it'll have plenty that day.  Sell parking passes and allow students and alumni to set up and get a taste of what college football is like outside the patriot/Ivy bubble.

3. Bands. OK, the Georgetown band isn't very good and hasn't been for a long time. But Harvard has a good musical outfit for the oft-derided "scramble" band and they should be invited to attend. Better yet, there are some high-wattage high school bands that would love to march on the big stage on a Saturday afternoon. bands bring atmosphere and they bring, well, B.I.S.

4. Students. Yes, students are indispensable to the college football experience but most Georgetown students quickly tied of Cooper Field's shoddy surroundings and gravitate away. This needs to be marketed as a one-time experience that students can rally to.

5. Metro. Over 200,000 people ride the Metro daily and not all care about football. But some do, or some might, with an offer or two. Maybe they get in for half price with their SmartCard or are eligible for some prizes at the game site.

6. Local coverage. It's interesting to read the coverage of the 1964 game with NYU that drew 8,000 to Kehoe Field in freezing temperatures --there was coverage in the Post and Evening Star literally every day leading up to the game. And that was no accident. Nor should Georgetown's ability to get Rob Sgarlata, David Akere, the local kids, etc., in close proximity to local TV, to the Post, to sports-talk radio, and to any other outlets so this is not something forgotten in the swirl of Redskins coverage or the latest Trump nonsense, but a real event in the District. For that matter, can someone slip in "Geogetown-Harvard at RFK Stadium" on the College Gameday picks of the week? It's OK if Lee Corso goes with the Crimson.

7.  Alumni. There are 38,000 alumni in  the Washington DC area. Don't be afraid to contact them again and again to get their attention. We may be surprised of their turnout, if only we ask.

8. Harvard Alumni. There are 20,000 Harvard alumni in  the Washington DC area. We may be surprised of their turnout, too.

9. Parents.  Players' parents and families are often unsung heroes in the ebbs and flows of the season. Let's encourage them all to attend and make it an event worth remembering.

10. Atmosphere. Where possible, let's see RFK with some blue and gray around there that Saturday. John Madden famously said a big game in football needs "bunting", like the red, white and blue on Opening day . Marist College notwithstanding, this is Opening day to a new generation of Georgetown fans and GU would be foolish to ignore the opportunity and settle for 4,189 rattling around up in a 45,000 seat stadium.

A wise man once wrote that "It's here and if we blow it, it will never come again," and it applies in 2017. This could be a test if Georgetown can support a larger venue to play opponents that either can't or won't consider Cooper Field in the future--that could be Howard at RFK, Villanova at the new Audi Field, or someone we wouldn't even think about.

Maybe it opens some eyes among other opponents who see that maybe this Georgetown team has a fan base after all. Maybe it opens some eyes among some high school recruits who see that maybe this Georgetown team has a program after all. Better yet, maybe it opens some eyes within this University who see that maybe this Georgetown team has a brighter future after all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Week 8 Thoughts

Week 8 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lafayette's 17-3 win over Georgetown:

1. The More Things Change...Yes, the column missed a couple of weeks, but frankly, there wasn't much to say that wasn't said before: the defense was superb, the special teams  promising, too many penalties, and the offense is just not there. Repeating that every week doesn't solve very much.

Yet, Saturday's loss was troubling not in its sameness but in its contrast. This was not Georgetown fighting uphill versus Harvard or Princeton, nor to a Lehigh team headed to the I-AA playoffs or even a Fordham team that will host a game at Yankee Stadium next week. This was a loss, and a convincing one at that, to a Lafayette team that had lost 17 of its past 19 games, was giving up 54 points a game over its last three weeks, and hadn't won a home game against a Patriot League opponent in two years. This was the Lafayette team that the Hoyas beat 38-7 last fall for its largest margin of victory in its 15 year PL history.

And this year? One yard rushing at halftime. One possession inside the opponent 20, made possible from special teams. A run of four consecutive second half possessions that garnered a total of six yards....all this against the worst defense, statistically speaking, in the conference.

So what gives? It is strictly the lack of scholarships?  It plays a factor, but non-scholarship football hasn't stopped Georgetown from a defense that earns respect among its opponents. And I can't lay this at the feet of three quarterbacks with little or no prior college experience. Injuries don't help, either.

yes, Georgetown was dealt a short hand on offense in 2016, but we've been saying this for far too long. Excepting the two years of Dave Patenaude as offensive coordinator (and to some future historian in the PL, the 2011 season must not have actually happened, with Georgetown at 8-3 and Fordham at 1-10), the offense at Georgetown has been a bellwether of the program.  Elliot Uzelac didn't change that momentum. Neither did Jim Miceli. Vinny Marino certainly didn't turn the ship around, and now Mike Neuberger faces a stat sheet that, at any other school, would be cause for shopping resumes:

  • Passing Yardage: 107th of 122 schools
  • Passing Efficiency: 115th of 122
  • Rushing Yardage: 115th of 122
  • Total Offense: 120th of 122
  • First Downs: 120th of 122
  • Third Down Conversions: 120th of 122
  • Yards Per Completion: 122nd of 122

Unless Georgetown is playing the two teams consistently below them on those lists, which they do not  (Robert Morris, Savannah State) they're in a position of real trouble on offense. The team has scored 20 points combined in three weeks, and hasn't scored more than 20 points in any game to teams not named Davidson. 

Do the math.

At some point Georgetown has to invest in an OC. That doesn't mean Coach Neuberger can't or shouldn't do the job, but defense and special teams can't win games on its own. Lacking scholarships, the road to a winning season is as narrow for Georgetown as for any team in Division I-AA. 

"This place should have a good football program,” Coach Sgarlata told the Georgetown Voice in 2015. "We’re excellent at everything that we do. This whole place is built on being the best you can be at what you’re doing. There’s no reason why this football program shouldn’t be the same thing.”

The offense is essential to getting there, and 120th place isn't a winning number.

2. Meet the Crusaders: Up at Holy Cross, the web site is all about promoting Holy Cross' game at Fordham in two weeks--it's a big deal playing at Yankee Stadium, sure, but it's also a reflection that there's nothing big about Georgetown that you can sell to the home towners .

The Crusaders lost its starting quarterback midway through the season and have struggled through the toughest part of the schedule, a 46-14 loss to Lehigh and a 26-8 loss last week at Lehigh. Much like Lafayette, HC fans are not happy with the performance of head coach Tom Gilmore, whose record through 13 seasons stands at 69-75. The Crusaders at 3-6, Gilmore's fourth losing season in his last five years at Mt. St. James. A loss to Georgetown (a team they beat 45-7 last season) would not go well entering the Fordham game, which is expected to be the largest turnout of HC fans outside Worcester since its I-A football days.

Despite an offensive line that averages over 300 pounds, HC has not been able to get a consistent run game, relying instead on a passing game ranked third in the PL at just under 240 yards a game. Its defense ranks only 6th but Georgetown's offense of late can do wonders for a team's statistics.

"Like us, Georgetown has had injuries at some key spots, but they have shown the ability move the ball well and play great defense,” said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore at its midweek release. “We need to get back on track in practice and execute much better this week in order to earn a victory.”

Neither team can afford to finish 3-8 this season. Georgetown is trending in that direction, while a loss Saturday could lead HC in the same direction. It might be as simple as the first team to 21 points wins, which doesn't give Georgetown fans a rally cry.

3. Whatever Happened To... While reviewing Mike Neuberger's bio on, I came across this note:  "In 2012 with the Hoyas, Neuberger’s wide receivers averaged 12.11 yards per catch and accounted for seven touchdowns, while helping develop Kevin Macari into a Second Team All-Patriot League selection."

Remember Kevin Macari? A promising  recruit from New Canaan, Connecticut that didn't get a scholarship offer, he turned down a preferred walk-on at Miami to play at Georgetown.

 "I just felt comfortable [at GU]," Macari told the Connecticut Post in 2012. "It is some place I want to be for the next four years." Instead, he transferred to Delaware.

Macari's football dreams ended abruptly at Delaware. His junior year was lost to injury. As a senior, he played in two games, and did not catch a pass in either. A major in Community Leadership at UD, Macari returned home to New Canaan for a job as an assistant football coach in 2015, but did not return to the staff following a June 2016 stop for drug possession.

A college football career is fleeting, but life after football can't be ignored.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lehigh's 35-3 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. Unexpected? No fan, no coach, no player wants to lose, that's a given. But no one wants to lose each and every year to the same opponent. For the last 10 years, that's Harvard over Yale. For the last 14, it's been navy over Army. And for the 16th straight game, it's Lehigh over Georgetown. Can we be surprised? No.

Lehigh plays a game especially unsuited to a team like Georgetown--depth wins out every time.  The Engineers have been solid over the years on the lines, something where recruiting and injuries have taken its toll on Georgetown for two decades.  A solid o-line opens up holes for running backs, gives quarterbacks time to find receivers, and extends the ability to adapt to defensive sets. When a QB is running for his life, that doesn't apply. Line play has been strong for Lehigh for years and when they play a team like Georgetown which can't control the line of scrimmage, they can wear opponents out. When you go from 14-3 at halftime and drop touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half, that's a function of talent and depth.

How does this change? There's no one secret formula, as Yale and Army can attest.  Harvard and Navy are beating up on a lot of people, not just one or two. If Georgetown can get better (and that's an open question given the constraints imposed by PL recruiting) it has to come in the lines. The defense has earned its reputation in league circles as a strong-willed bunch. The offense needs that same approach.

Georgetown's run versus Lehigh is not the longest in current terms. Pennsylvania's 35-10 win over Columbia was the 20th consecutive win in that series; in fact, Penn has won 28 of the last 32. But you can tell that's going to change. Columbia gets better every week under Al Bagnoli (this was only a 7-0 game at the half) and Penn has seven seniors to replace on offense next season. Watch out for this rematch at Baker Field next season.

And Georgetown's rematch at Lehigh next year?  Probably more of the same.

2. Quarterback #3.  The introduction of Brock Johnson into the lineup at the end of the Lehigh wasn't just to give Clay Norris a breather. There's a chance for some competition  at QB, and Johnson has all the tools to make a go at it. It's likely this was an issue the coaches would have preferred to deal with in spring practice next year after Tim Barnes had graduated, but the future is now and both figure to get some time the remainder of this season.

I'm reminded of a pair of  (now) older Hoyas who competed at QB in the mid-90's: Bill Ring and Bill Ward. Clay Norris is the Bill Ring type--tall, consistent, methodical. Johnson has a little of Ward in him-- someone not afraid to air the ball out to move the dial. Georgetown has some of its best receivers in a decade right now but they aren't getting the ball downfield under either Barnes or Norris. Johnson has the skills to be a really, really good quarterback.

Fordham will make it difficult for either QB this week. I'd stay with Norris against the Rams, then use the final four games to set the course for 2017.

3. Fan-Friendly.  It's no secret that visiting PL writers do not like Cooper (nee multi-Sport) Field. There's a nice spread for the writers at places like Fisher, at Goodman, or even at Jack Coffey. When free lance writer Keith Groller writes this about the place, it's not a compliment:

And yet, Georgetown seem unwilling to improve the fan experience until this still-mysterious Cooper Field redo takes place. There's some chatter that the visitors seating may go away entirely (which won't be well received around the league) but the current experience is lacking.  Has been for years, and it isn't likely to change.

Do our fans vote with their wallets? Check the average attendance figures from around the league:

Holy Cross: 9,501 (2 home games)
Colgate: 8,010 (1)
Lafayette: 7,134 (2)
Lehigh: 6,525 (2)
Fordham: 4,994 (4)
Bucknell: 4,800 (2)
Georgetown: 2,237 (4)

So what would Georgetown do if 9,500 people suddenly showed up to watch a game?  That would be a fun one.

4. From The Wayback Machine:   So when was the last time Georgetown won at Fordham? A long time ago. Here's the story from the Fordham Ram, November 6, 1974:

"Led by halfback John Burke's three touchdown runs and a stubborn defense, the Georgetown Hoyas trounced the Ram grid squad 35-7 last Saturday, disappointing a partisan Homecoming crowd of approximately 4,500 at Jack Coffey Field.

"Burke, who scored on runs of 71, 11 and 24 yards, gained 190 yards for the game on 18 carries, and earned the Madow Trophy, awarded to the. game's most valuable player. Previously, the trophy had been awarded in the Battles of the Bronx

"After the game the question on many minds was: Is Georgetown that good or is Fordham that bad? The answer you receive depends on who you talk to, of course. Nevertheless, the 4-1 Hoyas made believers out of Ram head coach Dean Loucks and his quarterback, Don Hommel.

"Make no mistake about it", said a dejected Loucks, "Georgetown is a very good football team and they deserve all the credit." As for his own team's deficiencies, the coach commented, "Sure, we can play better than that, but Georgetown is a better team than we are."

Read more about it at this link.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Harvard's 31-17 win over Georgetown this past weekend.

1. Yes, They're That Good.  Maybe it's the 31-2 record over the past three seasons. or that its starting QB, a fourth year rookie, was 15 of his first 20 passes, Or that a team had more first downs (25) than points (24) by halftime.  Harvard isn't Alabama, but for its place in the college football firmament it's as good as it gets.

That's a tribute and a testament to Tim Murphy, who has re-written the Crimson record books, but who is not beyond criticism from fans who accuse him of padding the record with soft opponents like...well, Georgetown.

"I battled rush hour traffic to get to Harvard Stadium, to sit in the rain and watch the Crimson only to find out that the best offensive weapon... wasn't playing," said a fan at a popular Ivy League message board, adding, " [He] wasn't dressed because we were playing [a JV team]...You get to see your new young players get their feet wet early but I just can't take another game vs JV Georgie like last night. Harvard used it like a scrimmage and if you can do that against any team then I don't want to be playing [them]."

There is a perception that Georgetown is a second class opponent across the Ivies, academically and athletically. Never mind that Georgetown has split its last eight games with six of the Ancient Eight, but it's a combined 0-9 versus Harvard and Yale and 0-10 is a fair conclusion a year from now when the Harvard series wraps up (the series will not extend past 2017). there are Harvard fans who ask why the crimson can't play a New Hampshire, a Delaware, or how about that team down Commonwealth Avenue it hasn't seen since 1944. Its record versus Boston College? 3-0-1.

"Each one of our forty two Division I varsity sports has a special story to tell, all in a special place in our history," Murphy said. "But the flagship sport at Harvard is Harvard football, and the biggest event on campus is the Harvard-Yale game."

Were that Georgetown could aspire thusly. It doesn't mean it can't be great at basketball, or track, or lacrosse. But football has a place on this campus that remains understated and somewhat underappreciated, and if a coach can get an a self-important campus in Cambridge to take football seriously, certainly it can happen in Washington.

2. Make or Break? There's an argument to be made that this week's game with Princeton is the most important game of the year. Not that Patriot league games aren't important, though given Georgetown's seat at that table, but they aren't make or break. Or not that a win versus Lehigh or Fordham wouldn't be big. But the Princeton game comes at a crucial time of the schedule where the offense has gone silent. Save for two long runs versus Harvard, the Hoyas have generated a total of 110 yards over the last six quarters of play. The running game is non-existent and there is a real likelihood that a sophomore makes his first start at QB if Tim Barnes's shoulder injury proves unworkable. The same Columbia team that came up short against the Hoyas was routed by Princeton, 48-13.

Win this game and the Hoyas move to 4-1. The following two games are admittedly prohibitive--Georgetown is 0-15 against Lehigh since joining the PL, and hasn't won at Fordham since 1974. A fourth win keeps hope to sneak a win over a Lafayette, a Holy Cross, a Bucknell after its October gauntlet. A bad loss Saturday sets the skids that a young team might not recover from.

Princeton is a really good team. But it's not Harvard. Georgetown can win this game but it needs a complete effort.

3. Future Schedules: As discussed above, the Harvard series ends in 2017. What is the status of Georgetown's non-conference schedule over the next few years?

As Ivy teams go, the Hoyas get three in 2017, a mirror of 2016: at Columbia, Harvard, and at Princeton. The list drops to two in 2018 (Columbia, at Dartmouth) and two in 2019 (at Columbia, at Cornell). The football office doesn't talk about who else is on the schedule, though it's likely full through 2021 of 2022. Sadly, it's likely to have its share of Davidsons and Marists.  Much like the aforementioned Harvard fan who would like to see the Crimson schedule up, Georgetown should, at the least, consider it.

My top five picks for a non-conference "play-up game" in any one year:

1. Villanova. A built-in rivalry, an opponent Georgetown alumni would recognize from the start...unlike, say, Butler.

2. Howard: Nothing like a locally promoted DC game, but Howard remains uninterested.

3. Pennsylvania: A series that would be great for both schools. The previous two game tour was one-sided (Quakers, 69-20) but it's worth pursuing.

4. Army: Not there yet, but they're playing other PL schools and the experience for the GU kids would be special.

5. Swing For The Fences: Wagner College, a team that is reasonably competitive with Georgetown in football, has played the following schools in the last four years: Florida Atlantic, Syracuse, Rice, and Brigham Young. This season; Boston College and UMass. To no surprise, they're 0-6 to date, losing 42-10 to the Eagles two weeks ago. Does Georgetown have to go that deep? No, but taking a step up every few years raises interest and expectations. It's doesn't have to be a big-time program, but one that opens some doors for recruits and for fans.

Sunken logs are not stepping stones.

4. Strike Up the Band: The Harvard band sounded great in the corners of Harvard Stadium, with the echoes coming down from the colonnades. On the field, less so. Scramble bands are self-indulgent and not very musical. Having an orator read a rambling essay as the band prepares for some 30 second song is silly.

Don't expect much more from Princeton if their band makes it to Washington. Here's last week's halftime show. (And no, I don't get it.)

Because orange never works in Washington.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 17-14 win over Columbia on Saturday:

1.  Hanging On: Fully realizing that I was likely the only fan at Cooper Field that would actually compare the Columbia game to a basketball game, but watching the second half of the  game reminded me of a game in Madison Square Garden a quarter century ago.

On March 8, 1991, the Georgetown Hoyas shot 25 percent for the game in their Big east quarterfinal against Connecticut. In any reasonable scenario, that's a ticket for an early exit; instead, the Hoyas won by 21. How? defense, in the name of one Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo, or Dikembe Mutombo for short. Mutombo scored 13 points and carried off 27 rebounds in the game, two short of the school record.  Georgetown would be bounced from the two tournament two days later shooting 33 percent, but the defense stood tall when no one else quite did.

Such was the case against Columbia. For a Georgetown team that mustered five first downs and 125 yards over the last 55 minutes of the clock and still won is a remarkable, if troubling, accomplishment. It's not secret that Georgetown has been, and continues to be, one of the Patriot League's most resolute defenses. But let's be clear: 125 yards isn't going to beat many more teams on the 2016 schedule, least of which Harvard.

2. See No Injury, Say No Injury. In the pros, injury reports are relayed to TV and radio audiences in the same series. Thanks to some litigious college administrators,  schools are more likely to tell you their WiFi password than if a player came out of the game with an injury.

Coaches have been carpet-bombed by compliance officers who have been told to say that  that speaking the obvious--that halfback that limped off the field sprained his ankle, for example--is a federal privacy violation.

" I heard the radio group announced something [about a player injury]," said TCU coach Gary Patterson after his team's win at SMU. "Whoever [on the staff] told them, I'll fire. Let me say that to you. Because it's not our job, it's illegal to be talking about injuries. So, bottom line to it is, whoever did it is in a lot of trouble when I find out who it is."

So don't expect Rob Sgarlata talk about the condition of Alex Valles, who limped off the field Saturday. He might be on the depth chart Friday, maybe not. If he's not, Georgetown  is dead in the water offensively. Isaac Ellsworth is too small and Christian Bermudez is to slow to get past a great Harvard defensive line.

And maybe it won't be in this game, but I'd like to see lineman (and former RB) Khristian Tate get a chance in the backfield. At 260, he's built like a tank, and his bio notes that he "rushed for 2,429 yards and 32 touchdowns on 216 carries in 22 games over his final two seasons, averaging 11.2 yards per carry." A 260 pound running back flies in the face of conventional wisdom that speed beats size, but if Georgetown's got a fourth and two, 260 into the line still beats 160.

3. Unsportsmanlike Conduct.  It's au courant this fall for players to channel their inner Colin Kaepernick to express some discontent with all things that they don't disagree with. Everyone is entitled to matters of conscience, but it makes you wonder if some of these kneel-down photos are more about "look at me" than discussing issues which deserve a more serious audience.

So I was disappointed for the Georgetown Voice to stir this up in a Twitter post:

Let's be clear. That photo was taken before the anthem....but they didn't say that, did they?. The Georgetown players were standing. So were the Columbia players, including the two that knelt down on the goal line while the Superfood singers were setting up.  I say that because I was watching it. The audience stood, and so did the players.

Apparently, another Voice photo confirms this,

If the Voice has an angle here, that's their business. Perspective, however, shouldn't be ignored.

4. A Model Program. If Georgetown wants to build a football program rooted in scholars-athletes that compete in the classroom, on the field, and offer its grads the opportunity to play at the next level, it need look no further than Friday's opponent.

Yes, Harvard has lots of advantage and lots of money, but this is not a team that outspends everyone to win. It's built on coaching, recruiting, and teams that are built to win.

"Since the 1990s, [coach Tim] Murphy has had the highest winning percentage of any Harvard football coach," said the Harvard Gazette. "For 22 seasons, he has picked bright and talented football players. The most recent and notable of his veterans include Kyle Juszczyk ’13 (Baltimore Ravens), Cameron Brate ’14 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Nick Easton ’14 (Minnesota Vikings), Zachary Hodges ’15-16 (Los Angeles Rams), and, most famously, Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 (New York Jets)."

"Those kids who have great character seem to exceed at whatever their athletic and academic potential is perceived to be," said Murphy.

Over the past ten years, with the highest scores in the Ivy's Academic Index, the Crimson is 102-20 (.836), in its last three years, 30-2 (.937). Harvard recruits nationally, and brings in students who excel in football without a detriment to their careers after football.

It's no surprise to see a Harvard football grad on Wall Street, and no shock to see them on a Sunday afternoon in the NFL either. Maybe someday Georgetown can say the same.