Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Holy Cross' 20-7 win over Georgetown to open the 2009 season.

The transitive property does not apply to college football. Some people will tell you that since Georgetown usually gets throttled by Holy Cross, but only lost by 13, Georgetown must be better than expected, right? Well, that's a logical fallacy. A basketball analogy: if Chris Wright shoots 2 for 8, Greg Monroe is in foul trouble and the basketball Hoyas defeat American University by eight points instead of 28, are the Eagles suddenly a Big East-caliber team?

Georgetown's defensive sets and its ability to close off the long ball was an early roadblock to HC, but the low score was more a matter of Crusader mistakes than anything else. In three quarters, four HC drives ended inside the Georgetown four yard line, with only six points to show for it. Yes, Georgetown's defense gave them a great effort, but a veteran HC team probably could have converted a fumble at the one and a missed field goal to touchdowns--all of a sudden, a 34-7 outcome doesn't look as promising. Bottom line, seven points doesn't win a lot of games no matter how good the defense.

Eddie, not Charlie. The Cross stumbled early because, in part, they had not yet identified a legitimate rushing option when Randolph's passing was held in check. Well, they found it in freshman Eddie Houghton. It used to be that signing brothers was a common practice at Georgetown, be they names like Paulus, Craft, or Barbiasz, among others. Instead, he's the player HC, not Georgetown, can build around in the years to come. Only the coaches know if the younger Houghton was a legitimate target for the Hoyas or had already decided otherwise, but in either case he'll be a name to watch in the post-Dominic Randolph era in Worcester.

A Big Number. Georgetown may be better than some of the woeful predictions out there, but allowing 519 yards is bad under any circumstance. It's the first 500+ yard game surrendered since the 2007 season and the tenth since 2001, nine of which were on the road. To no surprise, GU is 0-10 when giving up this kind of yardage.

Same old offense? Well, not quite. A Holy Cross radio announcer commented that Georgetown seems to change its strategy every year, as Georgetown is now a pass-intensive operation, despite the fact that the receiver corps is perhaps the thinnest it's been in over a decade.

What is a cause for some concern is that the offense remains very transparent, and this should be a concern as game films begin to be dissected by opposing teams. Last year, Keerome Lawrence could be counted upon to run (119 carries) as much as he threw (103 pass attempts), while James Brady (37 carries, 142 pass attempts) and Scott Darby (8 carries, 35 attempts) quite the opposite. Teams began to key their defense based on who was under center.

In Saturday's game, Georgetown quarterbacks combined for four rushes and 40 pass attempts, and teams will adjust to this. Georgetown's QB doesn't need to be a running back but in the absence of running, he needs options downfield, and game one relied on line-of-scrimmage and short passes to GU's ulitimate detriment. Only three passes on first, second, or third down were completed for more than eight yards. Georgetown was 3-13 on third down passing and that leads to punts...11 of them.

Of course, I'm waiting for Tucker Stafford to get this offense going, but that's just fan talk.

If Georgetown has speed in the receiver corps, it's likely still on the bench. Kenneth Furlough and Brandon Floyd may have that speed, but with a tight end and two converted QB's as primary receivers, a conservative game plan will play into the hands of defenses that can crowd the line and give Georgetown all the four yard yard pass plays they want.

Three home games. If history is any indication, Georgetown needs to win two of the next three games at home or this season could run aground by October. For a team with only three wins in three seasons to schools not named "Marist College", that would seem a daunting task. Maybe, but the time is now.

After the homecoming game with Howard, Georgetown has only one home game over a six week period: a Colgate team it has never beaten in PL play (0-6). It becomes hard to envision a strategy where a beaten down Georgetown team catches a second wind in October. The Hoyas need early wins.

The next three opponents in September are difficult but not unbeatable: Lafayette will be shaking the off-season rust away in their first game of the season, Yale begins the season Sep. 19 at GU with a lot of new names in the lineup, and Howard is a program that, like Georgetown, can get overmatched in games when they fall behind.

A Georgetown program that has lost 28 of its last 33 games needs a run of confidence and this may, I repeat, may be the opportunity. Two of three wins takes the Hoyas to 2-2 heading into October and that's cause for some hope, even with a rough stretch on the road. A 1-3 mark isn't much better than last year, and, well, 0-4 starts another slippery slope where seniors fall off the two-deep, the siren call of the "youth movement" begins anew and students start counting the days until basketball season. This team can do better, and it frankly has to start doing so.