Monday, June 22, 2020

2020 Scheduling: Subject To Change

While not unexpected given the turbulence of the last thee months, the announcement of scheduling restrictions by the Patriot League hierarchy is going to scramble a lot of schedules out there, and not jsut on the Hilltop. 

"In recognition of the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, the Patriot League Council of Presidents announces the following principles, which will guide the development of a Patriot League Fall 2020 Athletics Plan that makes the health and safety of our communities its highest priority," it reads. What does it mean for Georgetown...and other teams?

1. The release notes that "student-athletes will return to campus at the same time as other students." This would preclude August training camp for PL schools. While Georgetown has not yet announced a start date for the fall semester, it would put pressure on the staff to get the team ready to play in any suitable manner with its first scheduled game on September 5, just two weeks after the arrival of freshmen to campus (the usual arrival of freshmen is the third week on August.) 

In the past, Georgetown teams have completed four weeks of training before the first game; were it to follow a similar cadence, the Hoyas may not be ready to open the season until as late as September 26 versus Columbia, negating games scheduled at Marist (September 5), home versus Dayton (September 12) and at Harvard (September 19). If the Ivy league adopted a similar "no early arrival" calendar, the non-conference season would be wiped out altogether and would not begin until October 3, at Colgate.

2. The release announced that "non-league competition will not begin prior to Friday, Sept. 4." Not a problem at GU, but two PL schools have major early season openings; namely, Stony Brook at Fordham on August 29, and Lehigh at Villanova on September 3. Both could theoretically move to September 5 but unless Lehigh and Fordham open early in August, neither team will be in optimum physical shape to meet a CAA school.

3. "No Patriot League teams will fly to competitions and, with rare exceptions, regular-season competition will exclude overnight travel.". Let's examine each of these.

The PL is nominally a bus league but a handful of games this year demand air travel, two of which are so-called "guarantee games" where PL schools are (or were) expected to pick up a six figure check to play a Division I-A opponent: A September 4 trip from Colgate to meet Western Michigan, and a first -ever game that Fordham would travel to Hawaii a week later. Fordham has already cancelled alumni travel packages to the game, and a cancellation of that game will hit the Rams in the wallet. 

Overnight travel isn't an issue from Lehigh to Lafayette, but Georgetown's Oct. 3 game at Colgate is a seven hour bud trip. Do you leave at 2:00 am to arrive in time for a 12 noon game? Will Holy Cross do the same to travel to Washington for a 12 noon start on Nov. 14? perhaps there's a waiver for these kind of games, but it adds uncertainty, something that coaches (and their universities) don't need any more of these days.

Speaking of airplanes and overnight travel, Georgetown was scheduled to fly to San Diego on the Nov. 21 season finale, only the second time Georgetown has flown to an opponent in over a decade. If the PL rules are to be followed, it is likely to be dropped as a result. Does Georgetown find a replacement opponent, and whom, and where?

The scheduling temblors have a domino effect. One team starts to cancel games, other teams scramble. FA number of  neutral site "classics" in the SWAC have been scuttled, leading Southern University to start its season three weeks late, picking up Division II Florida Memorial University to get up to a nine game schedule. Its crowning game, the annual meeting with Grambling State at the Superdome, is at risk. A press release announced, well, that it's not guaranteed.

"While statements have been made about the future of [the] Bayou Classic and its location of play in 2020 and 2021, those statements were unofficial," it read. "Decisions about the Bayou Classic will not be made until after The Southwestern Athletics Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors have a late June meeting where matters related to Fall sports will be discussed."

Last season's game between the two schools drew 68,341 and was nationally televised on NBC, two factors that is vital to the the two HBCU programs. No Bayou Classic isn't just a lost weekend, it's a financial knockdown to a pair of schools with a combined endowment of just $17 million, or 1% of the Georgetown endowment. 

We're in uncharted waters here, but it's not the first time. The 1918 Georgetown Hoyas played during the "second wave" of the Spanish flu pandemic at the close of World War I. Its season opened Nov. 9 and ended November 28. Just five opponents ended up on the calendar, four of which were military teams. Very little was ever printed in newspapers about the pandemic so as not to encite panic, even the Georgetown recap in the College yearbook cited "the unsettled condition of the country" but mentioned "influenza" only three times in the entire book, one in an obituary of a fallen classmate. 

That's all we know...for now. The next five months are subject to change. In fact, you can count on it.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Scheduling Blues

The off-season is but one month old and six of the seven Patriot League schools already have their schedules all but set. Here are the out of conference schedules for Patriot League teams in 2020:

09/04 - at Army
09/12 - Villanova
09/26 - at Princeton
10/03 - Cornell
10/10 - TBD

09/05 - at Western Michigan
09/12 - at William & Mary
09/19 - at Syracuse
09/26 - New Hampshire
10/17 - Cornell

08/29 - Stony Brook
09/05 - Bryant
09/12 - at Hawaii
09/26 - at Monmouth
10/10 - at Wagner

Holy Cross:
09/05 - at Boston College
09/19 - Yale
09/26 - TBD
10/03 - at Harvard
10/10 - Brown

09/05 - at Sacred Heart
09/12 - at Navy
09/19 - William & Mary
09/26 - at Pennsylvania
10/17 - Harvard

09/05 - at Villanova
09/19 - Columbia
09/26 - LIU
10/03 - at Yale
10/24 - at St. Francis

And Georgetown? Just one announced game, a September 26 home game with Columbia that marks the last home game in the eight year series between the teams which ends after 2021. It's likely Georgetown will play none of the other 21 opponents Patriot League schools have secured for next season.

Yes, they will find opponents. No, they will not be of any interest by the casual Georgetown fan. The lack of scheduling foresight by Georgetown continues to be an impediment to program growth.

Earlier this season, we wrote about the logjam Georgetown faces in scheduling, a confluence of low budget, low aspirations, and bad timing. Georgetown is not willing to spend money on road games beyond a bus trip, it is reticent of games against scholarship opponents, and those remaining low-wattage Northeastern teams that are in the cohort are all scheduling up--that is, they don't need to play Georgetown in September.

The blinders of non-scholarship football at Georgetown cannot be ignored in scheduling. When once there were as many as 30 non-scholarship opponents in the Northeast to choose from, in 2020 there are just nine, of which eight do not play for the first three weeks of the season. Outside of the Ivies, there are just two non-scholarship Division I teams within 450 miles of the Hilltop, and GU already plays them both--Marist and Davidson. But there are five non-conference games a year, and therein lies a problem very much of Georgetown's own choosing.

How about some of the other non-conference foes already on PL schedules in 2020? Let's skip past the BC and Syracuse's of the world as a practical matter.

Example #1: Wagner (October 10 at Fordham). The Seahawks were on Georgetown's schedule from 2010 to 2014, a reasonably competitive series. Would they be a suitable opponent for Georgetown in Week 2 (Sept. 12), assuming Georgetown opens Cooper Field II with the likes of Davidson or Catholic?

No chance. Wagner is taking a payday to play the University of Miami, with a likely guarantee game in the $300,000 range. That's certainly not in the ethos and culture of Georgetown, but it's not like Miami called Georgetown, either.

Example #2: William & Mary (Sept. 19, hosting Lafayette). If there was ever a CAA team which looks good in the Georgetown football mirror, it would be W&M. The Tribe isn't too big, it's situated in a colonial village all its own, already plays PL teams, and is a two hour bus trip away.  Check, check, and check.

But since Georgetown got thumped by Richmond by a collective 97-10 in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, CAA teams haven't returned to the schedule and with two PL teams already on the 2020 W&M ledger, they certainly don't need another one.

Washington is not in their plans. Palo Alto is. W&M opens its season at September 5 at Stanford in a matchup of two teams that used to be called the Indians but have little else in common. No one in Williamsburg is arguing that it should be playing Georgetown instead of a recruiting visit to Northern California, a trip paid for by an opponent whose athletics endowment that pays out as much in a year in returns as is Georgetown's entire annual athletic budget.

Example #3: LIU (Sept. 26 at Lehigh). Remember C.W. Post, that Division II school just north of the Jericho Turnpike? Would they play Georgetown, much like Stony Brook once did and give New York fans a second local game for the Hoyas in 2020?

Post has since rebranded as Long Island University and jumped right into I-AA football last year, taking advantage of a loophole that LIU's Brooklyn campus was already in Division I. To no surprise, they finished 0-10, but are not scheduling from a position of weakness. Once known as the Pioneers, the newly rebranded Sharks (I was hoping for the "Railroaders") travel to Montana State, Delaware, and Lehigh in 2020.

On the future schedules for LIU? West Virginia, Toledo, Miami (OH)  and the University of Ohio - four losses with a check attached to each.

Example #4: Villanova (Sept. 12 at Bucknell): While the Wildcats haven't front-loaded on I-A opponents, they certainly can get them, with an upcoming visit to Penn State in 2021. But Villanova has still been able to schedule the entire PL save Holy Cross over the past decade, but can't find their way to dial the 202 area code. This past season, the Wildcats were 3-0 over Bucknell, Colgate, and Lehigh en route to the NCAA playoffs.

While Andy Talley has moved on, the same business model applies at it pertains to Georgetown: it's a no-win proposition for the Wildcats. Playing the Hoyas in football is the equivalent of Georgetown playing Holy Cross in basketball: wins, and it's expected, lose, and someone is going to be on the hot seat. A trip to and from Bucknell is 150 miles each way--beat the Bison and be home by dinner. Giving up a short trip in each of fans to play in Washington, even with the promise of Cooper Field II, is a non-starter for now.

If Georgetown and Villanova still aren't on speaking terms, how about the other Big East I-AA football team? Butler checks the boxes (no scholarship, not likely to overwhelm their opponents, no guarantee required). But they fail the bus test. Since 1980, Georgetown has traveled just once to an opponent west of Pittsburgh.

Not that it hasn't stopped the Bulldogs from going on the road themselves. They'll open the 2020 schedule at Target Field in Minneapolis versus perennial I-AA power North Dakota State. The remainder of their non-conference schedule features a first ever trip to Princeton and two home games against small Indiana colleges because, well, the Butler Bowl isn't exactly the Yale Bowl, and it's not even a bowl anymore.

In September, we wrote that "Ivy schools don't schedule any opponents in the first three weeks of the season and are themselves increasingly looking beyond the Patriot League for who they do play, though not at the same competitive levels as the PL and NEC.  But as PL and NEC schools fill their schedules, Georgetown either has to go further away from the Northeast to find opponents, something they have not shown they are willing to do, or load up on fan-agnostic opponents that are regularly among the 10 or 15 worst teams in the nation by statistical rankings."

That hasn't changed.

If I had to pick one Patriot League school to copy a non-conference schedule over in 2020, give me Bucknell. Show me the excitement of fans to see Georgetown travel to West Point, to host a game  with Villanova, and bookend the first month of the season with Princeton and Cornell. Instead, Davidson, Marist, Catholic and Columbia put the fan base to sleep and continues the soft bigotry of low expectations around a program which deserves much better.

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Week 10 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Bucknell's 20-17 win over Georgetown Saturday.

1. Hey, What Happened To...Yeah, we missed a few weeks. Too many in fact. I'll take some time in the off-season to retrofit some comments on those games, but they follow a trend that this article will hope to tell. 2019 hasn't been disappointing or discouraging, but, ah, missed opportunities.

Missed opportunities were all over this one. One could not have drawn up a better defensive stand in the first half for Georgetown--or any team for that matter. First five drives:
  • 3 plays, 3 yards
  • 3 plays, 2 yards
  • 3 plays, -5 yards
  • 3 plays, 4 yards
  • 3 plays, no yards

 And despite that, Georgetown was no better than 10-6 at the half.

Turnovers and penalties abounded, some more foolish than others. Personal fouls, late hits, the kind of things that make teams lose games... and they did. And yet, the defense stopped four drives inside the red zone that would have put the game well out of reach.

As is the case, the offense was late to the party. Georgetown managed one scoring drive, a field goal, that started in its end of the field. An depleted line made it unlikely that Gunther Johnson had enough time to find receivers against a Bucknell pass defense averaging 266 yards allowed per game. Georgetown only gained 199 in comparison. By quarter: 
  • 1st: 95
  • 2nd: 29
  • 3rd:  47
  • 4th: 28

Georgetown held the ball just 4:45 in the fourth quarter. That just isn't enough.

2.  Player of the Week. I had to think about this one for a moment.

Brad Hurst is a fine young man with a great career and family ahead of him. Saturday was not his finest hour. An onsides kick is great, but a horizontal field goal and yet another blocked punt illustrated the chronic flaw in Hurst's kicking motion that the Georgetown staff has not corrected after four years. But Hurst as player of the week was almost as head-scratching as the face that Isaaac Schley was named an all-PL running back.

The staff likes Hurt, I understand it. But like Oliver Hill before him, Davis Walker didn't add anything to the kicking calculus this year, and Georgetown will be starting back at square one next fall trying to get its kicking game in order.

There comes a point every season--maybe once, maybe more, where a kicker is the outcome of a game. Losing by three following a blocked punt converted into a touchdown is one such instance. Last season's collapse versus Holy Cross came down to the same kicker. Hurst is more than overdue to win a game and I'd love to see it versus the Crusaders Saturday, but it's not likely.

3. Patriot League Tiebreakers. Yet another deflating season of PL football ends this weekend, with the sole consolation that a 4-8 win team will not represent the league in the playoffs. Here's the tiebreakers entering the final week of the regular season:

  • Holy Cross (6-5, 4-1 PL) is currently the only team above .500 this season. HC wins the playoff bid with a win over Georgetown OR a Lehigh win over Lafayette.
  • Lafayette (3-8, 3-2) wins the playoff bid with a win over Lehigh AND a Georgetown win over Holy Cross.
  • A Lehigh win over Lafayette AND a Georgetown win over Holy Cross AND a Bucknell win over Fordham creates a three way tie, to which Holy Cross wins the tiebreaker.

 If there was any year where the Hoyas could have snuck into the conversation, this was it. Three of its four losses were by a field goal each.  Such a returning opportunity is not likely anytime soon.

4. Since Last We Met:  The front page likes to recall the  most recent meeting between the teams, but I'd like to take a look back at Georgetown's last win at Holy Cross, six years ago to the day. With 439 yards total offense, including 212 on the ground, and no turnovers, Georgetown got the win.  Here's the recap--is past prologue?

Kyle Nolan's 82 yard quarterback run with 1:57 to play earned Georgetown its most important win of the season, rallying from an early deficit and dominating the second half in a 28-21 upset of Holy Cross at Fitton Field in Worcester, MA. The win ended an eight game losing streak for the Hoyas and earned Georgetown a season ending win for only the second time since the 2002 season.

 The Hoyas stumbled at the start, with a fumble by senior RB Nick Campanella on the second play of the game. HC took over in Georgetown territory, driving 42 yards in six plays for the 7-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Hoyas punted the ball back but a Holy Cross returned fumbled the wind-adjusted punt, setting up the Hoyas at the Crusader 26. The offense stalled over the next three downs, but with nothing to lose, Georgetown opted to go on 4th and six at the 22, with sophomore QB Kyle Nolan finding senior TE Dan Sprotte for the first down. Three plays later, sophomore RB Joel Kimpela went six yards for the score, 7-7.

Holy Cross reasserted itself over its next series: a nine play, 71 yard touchdown drive late in the first quarter, aided by a late hit by junior LB Patrick Boyle into the Georgetown bench that extended the Crusaders' drive. GU ended the first quarter on a three and out, and following a defensive interception to stall a Holy Cross drive at the Georgetown 35, the G-men turned in a second three and out. On its next series, however, Nolan took advantage of the wind, with passes to Zack Wilke and Brandon Durham to advance inside the HC 20. A Following a penalty, Nolan found WR Justin Hill with a 29 yard pass to the one yard line, and took it over on the following play, 14-14, with 5:20 to halftime.

The Hoyas held Holy Cross in check over the next three Crusader series, forcing three straight punts. The Hoyas looked to be taking advantage of the wind at its back in its final series of the half, with Nolan completing passes to Wilke and Elliott Owusu to close inside the HC 25, but three offensive penalties pushed the Hoyas back and forced an unwieldy 52 yard attempt from PK Matt MacZura which fell short at the end of the first half.

Georgetown maintained the wind direction entering the third quarter and took early advantage, with Nolan found Wilke in stride with a 49 yard pass to the HC 25. The Hoyas advanced to the Crusader 10, and cashed in for a 29 yard MacZura field goal, 17-14, its first lead in a third quarter since mid-September.

Holy Cross simply could not move against the Hoyas and against the wind, failing to post a first down in its fifth straight series since the second quarter. Georgetown marched 10 plays to the HC 23, and on the 39 yard field goal attempt appeared to be faked and Georgetown lost three yards in the process.

The third quarter Crusaders continued to be generous to the Hoyas, but the touchdowns did not materialize. On the third play of the next drive, QB Peter Pujals threw a pass that was picked off by DB Cameron Gamble at the HC 44. Seven plays later, the drive stalled at the HC 22, with a 39-yard MacZura field goal extending the count to 20-14.

Holy Cross got the wind into the fourth, and on its first play of the quarter picked up its original first down of the second half. The Crusaders picked up three more first downs before WR Kyle Tolouse fumbled a likely touchdown, recovered by DB Garrett Powers at the two. A big drive followed for Georgetown at the 11:15 mark of the 4th, where Nolan led the Hoyas on converting three consecutive third down possessions to keep the clock moving. Another third down followed at the 6:24 mark, where a 15 yard pass from Nolan to Sprotte was invalidated for an illegal receiver downfield. Georgetown punted it back at the 5:59 mark, with HC taking over at its 15. Five plays took the Crusaders across midfield, but a holding call on the Crusaders set the drive back to its 44 with 3:20 to play. With 2:56 to play, HC faced a 3rd and 20, whereupon DT Richard Shankle sacked Pujals at the 36 and forced a punt with 2:15 to play.
Georgetown took over at its 15. A first down run to Kimpela netted four, and when everyone expected Kimpela to get the carry on second down, Nolan took off untouched down the field for 82 yards, fooling the Patriot League Network cameras and sending the ever-stalwart Hoya fans across Fitton Field to its feet. A two point conversion passed muster, and GU took over, 28-14.

Holy Cross wasted no time to come back, with an eight play drive that advanced to the Georgetown 12 entering the final minute. Pujals threw a touchdown to freshman Jake Wieczorek with :47 left, 28-21, but Georgetown alertly recovered the onsides kick at midfield and ran out the clock.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Week 7 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 14-10 win over Lafayette Saturday:

1. What Might Have Been: Just a week ago, we were asking how five plays might have turned around the finish versus Fordham. This week, Lafayette fans can relate.

This was a very winnable game for the Leopards, in part because they were able to get distance in the secondary and largely contained Georgetown's offense (more on that later). But good teams find ways to win and Lafayette isn't a good team right now. The Leopards gave up an interception in the red zone early in the forth and advanced to the Georgetown eight and failed to score.  Down four, in a game where the teams had combined for two red zone possessions entering this drive, it's very hard to se where three points buys you momentum. Yes, in a different scenario, you get the field goal, hold Georgetown three and out, and march back to win 16-14, it's plausible, but a touchdown might have put the game out of reach. And there's the other scenario where Keegan Shoemaker actually gets out of bounds on that last play setting up a game winning field goal. All in all, however, to many what-ifs and that's why Lafayette heads home 0-7 to play Bucknell.

2. Peak Offense? Well, we knew this wasn't the offense that steamrolled Marist and Catholic by a combined 103-3, but in recent weeks the offense has begin to slow and opponents are about to take advantage.

Georgetown's run game is bearing the brunt of injuries and attrition along the offensive line, and an injury to Herman Moultrie won't help the situation heading into Lehigh. While Georgetown remains third in rushing after two PL games, it has to maintain a priority on running to open up opportunities for Gunther Johnson in the secondary. It is a little frustrating as fans to see how little production the Hoyas' talented receiver corps is getting in the current offense, but that's a reflection of the defensive commitment teams are putting on stopping Georgetown's wide-outs. They won't relent if it the run game is not getting traction.

The run game figures to be a point of emphasis for Lehigh this week. Net of a 94 yard run for a score, Lehigh managed only 40 yards on the ground and
surrendered 330 yards to Fordham last week and that's not going to win you many games going forward. The Engineers managed only four first downs on the ground last week.

3. PL Attendance: It's mid-October but home attendance is bearing the brunt of poor non-conference performances. Throwing out Georgetown's number, average PL attendance in 2019 versus 2009:

Bucknell: 3,339 per game in 2019  vs. 3,018 in 2009
Colgate: 4,087 per game in 2019 vs. 4,642 in 2009
Fordham: 3,777 per game in 2019 vs. 3,886 in 2019
Holy Cross: 9,376 per game in 2019 vs. 7,552 in 2009
Lafayette: 5,015 per game in 2019 vs. 7,623 in 2009
Lehigh: 4,336 per game in 2019 vs. 8,130 in 2009

4. Thanks For The Memories? Unless the west stands of Cooper Field are a clever mirage (and after 15 years, nothing is out of the question), the Nov. 2 game with Colgate will be the final game at the half-finished Cooper Field configuration, with the promise of a new era in 2020.

While the construction plans do not show seats on the east side, the camera angles have been outstanding on the PL network, and if maintained, would allow the video to show the home stands instead of a view into the Harbin parking lot. I fully understand that working in the east press box is hazard pay compared to facilities everywhere else, but having a visitors side makes good sense even if it does not fit the architectural plan originally proffered, and adds capacity to what will still be a very, very small facility.

External communications on the construction have been all but nonexistent--I've said so publicly and privately. During the bye week, we'll discuss the considerable opportunity that a new Cooper Field could do to elevate the program.

Until then, it's on to Lehigh.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Fordham's 30-27 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. Georgetown In Five Plays. A winnable game, for sure. Georgetown ran 65 plays and these were five plays that may have settled the game.
  • Two point conversion, 14:21 1st. Georgetown had run an early two point conversion three times this season, why would Fordham sleep on a fourth? The Rams sniffed out that play before it started, costing Georgetown early momentum and forcing GU back to the well for two more conversions to make up the difference. They missed them all, a net loss of three points. The margin of defeat in this game? Three points.
  • Blocked punt, 5:28 2nd. In four years, no one has taught Brad Hurst to stop line-driving his punts. It caught him again Saturday, setting up the Rams for an 18 yard drive to the end zone.
  • Fumble, 3:36 3rd. Driving for the go-ahead score late in the third, Joshua Tomas coughs up the ball at the Fordham 3. Not only do the Hoyas miss the opportunity, but the Rams run off the next 6:05 into the fourth quarter, time that Georgetown needed down the stretch.
  • Interception, 2:57 4th. Georgetown's late incerception of FiordhM QB Tim DeMorat should have been the story of the game, much like last year where a late pick sealed the victory against Bucknell. Instead, Georgetown watches the clock more than the down marker, and gives up the ball 96 seconds later.
  • 4th and 10, 0:17 left. Fordham had to go to the end zone and Georgetown's defense got caught at the line, opening up a seam in the back of the end zone.
A change in fortune in any of these five probably changes the outcome of the game, but that's college football.  Cornell probably had five plays they'd like back against Georgetown and Columbia could say the same. Going forward, however, Georgetown can't give up five game-changing plays in a single game, period.

2. Midterm Grades. At the ahlfway point of the season, how would you rate the 2019 Hoyas? Obviously, it's been a great start, even if the schedule was more remedial than preparatory. The offense has been better than expected and the defense is as good as it has been on the Hilltop in two decades. Georgetown ranks #4 nationally in defense.

The grades would be as follows:

Offensive Line: B+. Giving quarterbacks time a plus, but backs are still not getting enough velocity out of the backfield. Given Georgetown's difficulty in recruiting O-linesman from the nonscholarship ranks, this a good place to be.

Quarterback: B+. Good things this season from Johnson and Brunell, avoiding mistakes and taking advantage of opportunities when they can. Georgetown ranks #15 in passing efficiency even though it is 77th nationally in passing offense. More downfield opportunities will be rewarded.

Running Backs: B. This has been a long term problem for the Hoyas but the backs have responded this year, albeit in games where the opponents did not have a strong rush defense. There are some warning signs, however, given that the remaining opponents are going to really challenge Georgetown on the ground. A 41 percent conversion on third down is a good number in any year.

Wide Receivers: B. Frankly, Georgetown has too much talent in the receiver corps not to use them more often. The Hoyas rank only 77th in passing offense this season.

Defensive Line: A. Simply put, they're good. A healthy Kristian Tate and Wes Bowers would help as well.

Linebackers:  A-. The Fordham game exposed some holes in the 3-3-5 but on the whole the linebackers have risen to the challenge.

Secondary: A. This is as strong a secondary  as Georgetown may have ever fielded in the modern era.

Special Teams: B. Despite the considerable talents of Joshua Tomas, the Hoyas have not dominated kick returns and the punting and kicking game is a continuing struggle. 

3. End of an Era? Saturday's Homecoming should be the last such game played in the current disconfiguration of Cooper Field. I said "should", because after nearly two decades, anything can happen, but a 2020 Homecoming opens a new door to the program and to the students who have, by accident or increasingly by sheer supply, avoided the game because there were no seats.

The final two games in the 1800 seat configuration are sold out. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Week 4-5 Thoughts

Yep, missed these weeks. Will repost soon.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 69-0 win over Catholic Saturday.

1. Stating The Obvious: Well, this is why Division I teams do not schedule Division III teams. The disparity in size and speed will eventually take its toll and such was the case in this game. From the first crack of the line in the blocked punt through nine straight possessions where the Catholic defense was a size too small and a step too slow, you see outcomes like this.

Georgetown's situation was not unique. Morehead State walloped Kentucky Christian 73-34, Delaware State beat Lincoln 58-12, UA-Pine Bluff overwhelmed Langston 53-15 and Florida A&M defeated Fort Valley State 57-20.

Unless you're Mount Union or Mary Hardin-Baylor, it is difficult if not prohibitive for Division III schools to recruit to the talent and the depth of even lower tier I-AA teams like a Georgetown or a Morehead State, not strictly on scholarship status (since neither GU nor MSU offers scholarships) but on training, conditioning and strength of schedule. A Division III club can have a great player or two each year, much as Georgetown did during the Scotty Glacken years, but depth will always be an issue.

What each school gained out of this game isn't altogether clear. Catholic will use it as an opportunity to play above its usual schedule (the NEWMAC is one of the weakest D-III leagues overall) and save some money on travel costs. Georgetown gets a win heading into the first bye week but not much else. The cynic will suggest that if Georgetown finishes 9-2 or 8-3, a win over a Division III opponent may cost them an NCAA at-large playoff bid; the realist would suggest the Patriot League has no business proferring an at-large candidate this year. If the Hoyas play .500 football the rest of the season, they've got their second winning season since 1999, which is as tepid a reason as any to play a game like this.

Meanwhile, the original opponent for this week, Howard, lost to Hampton, 41-20, before a smaller than expected crowd of 19,425 at the Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field. The 0-3 Bison aren't looking back asking "what if" with the Hoyas, having signed a new four year deal with Hampton, which for now is the "real" HU as far as that rivalry goes. Georgetown doesn't share future schedules but it's not likely we'll see Howard soon.

And then there's the question--is the Steven Dean trophy series back on? Named for the late Georgetown alumnus (1972) who served as sports information director at Catholic in the 1970's, it's not cited in any Georgetown wrap-up but mentioned in pre-game and post-game releases from the CUA sports relations team. Either way, the trophy still sits near Rob Sgarlata's office, where it has held residence at McDonough Gym for the last 26 years.

2. Grading The Hoyas: What can you say? Excepting a couple of missed kicks, everyone did largely as expected, which is to say, executed on what they should.

The offense was strong but not running it up, taking advantage of speed on the receivers and a lack of defensive sets that locked down pass plays. Gunther Johnson was solid if not overwhelming at quarterback, while Joe Brunell (8 for 9) continues to get better every week. By November, these names could well be reversed in the depth chart. Offensive line? Not challenged as they will be the rest of the season, but they held Catholic without a sack and allowed the Hoyas on offense to do as they saw fit.

The defense played to its expectations. The Hoyas had advantages across the line in every position, which it should. It held Catholic to a net 72 yards on 2 of 15 on third down conversions. The Cardinals had one first down after halftime.

Maybe to some, the 69 points was  a surprise. To the defense, the 0 was not.

3. Goals For The Bye Week: First, watch the game film, then put it away for good. Catholic has no relevance to any other opponent for the rest of the year. Players, coaches, and fans would do well not to use it in any relevant comparison to Columbia, Cornell, or the PL schedule.

Three goals: rest, recharge, and refocus. Columbia (Sep. 28 at Baker Field/Wien Stadium) returns 16 starters and as Hero Sports' pre-season review put it, "The Ivy League is going to be insanely competitive this year. There's no reason the Lions shouldn't be looked at as one of those teams battling at the top. Hitting eight wins again should be the goal for this team, with the ultimate goal of winning even more."

4. Time Flies? There were some comments on the Internet suggesting that with a 2:25 time of play, the third and fourth quarters may have been shortened.  It didn't happen.

NCAA rules allow a shortened game upon the consent of both head coaches, but the box score clearly shows a full 15 minutes in the two quarters of the second half. NCAA rules do not allow a running clock, and no such clock appeared to be in use.

5. Around The League: Another rough week for the PL, which is now 4-16 out of conference (2-15 excepting Georgetown.

No easy answers why, since the PL teams have not only lost to teams they expected to (Navy, Temple), but a fair number of losses to teams they should beat (Monmouth, Central Connecticut, and twice to Sacred Heart). Some point to three fewer scholarships, others to the PL's redshirt policy, or that the league isn't competing in recruiting. I'll go with an easier answer: of the 20 games to date, 12 have been on the road, where PL teams are 1-11.

Next week, three of the four PL games are on the road. Your guess is as good as mine.