Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Rough Decade Remembered

How things change.

Ten years ago, Georgetown sat comfortably at the top of the still-fledgling metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, having defeted the final two opponents of the 1999 season by a combined 101-13. A 2000 schedule of eight MAAC opponents, Holy Cross, Davidson, anf Fordham followed.

Georgetown had other plans, however.

Three weeks into the new year of 2000, Georgetown announced an invitation to the Patriot League, beginning a new era on football at the Hilltop. Let's not kid anyone--the results weren't what we expected, but the alternative may have been even worse. Think about this: of the Hoyas' nine wins in 1999, seven were against teams which no longer exist. The collapse of the MAAC was imminent, and Georgetown had a lifeboat, even if it was way in the back.

As number go, the 2000s will go down as the poorest decade in Georgetown football: ten losing seasons, a combined 29-80 (.263), and a just awful 6-49 (.109) in league play. Kevin kelly ended his fourth season with a combined mark of 5-38, lowest of any fourth year coach in Division I.

Looking back on the decade, there are plenty of lowlights (yes, I actually got up at 1:00 am that Sunday to watch the tape delay of Lehigh's 49-0 halftime score to open the 2002 season, it finished 69-0), but there's one game this decade that stands out as a strange turning point for the decade.

On October 18, 2003, Georgetown faced an Ivy League opponent for the first time in 1937 at Cornell. Led with a great performance by senior WR Luke McArdle and a promising efort by freshman QB/RB Alondzo Turner, the Hoyas didn't just upset the Big Red, they beat them, 42-20. At that point, Georgetown was 11-17 over its two and one half years in the league. With a three game winning streak, it appeared to anyone who saw it that Georgetown had turned the corner. We were wrong.

One stat absolutely stuns me from that game. Following the Cornell game, Georgetown reentered PL play with a 3-8 league mark over the prior two seasons. In the intervening six years, the Hoyas are 3-36. Think about that.

However many the heartaches and plain old indigestion of the last ten seasons, there is an opportunity to review and recognize some of the best players of the past decade. For those students or young alumni who only know the last two years and haven't thought much of the talent on the field, know that there have been very good players that gave their all over the past ten years:

Glenn Castergine (TE, 2002,03,04,05): A two year starter at tight end, Castergine was efficient and effective in a position Georgetown has not always focused on.

Frank Terrazino (OL, 2001,02,03,04): A four year starter in a tough position. Got things donwe.

Liam Grubb (OL, 2003,04,05, 06): Maybe one of the best Georgetown linemen I've ever seen--hampered by injuries, Liam was an outstanding performer.

Dan Matheny (OL, 2006,07,08,09): A four year warrior.

Ryan Goethals (OL, 2001,02,03,04): A valuable four year starter that helped elevate the Georgetown running game when it needed it.

Ed Kuczma (OL, 1999,00,01,02): Along with Adam Rini, a consistent leader on the line in the years between the MAAC and PL.

Dave Paulus (QB/P, 2000,01,02,03); A nod ahead of Matt Bassuener (2004-07), Paulus was the best quarterback in a rough era for Georgetown QB's--he probably deserved more time from the coaches but when he was in the games, he made the most of it. Punting wise, he's probably the best punter of the modern era.

Gharun Hester (WR, 1997,98,99,00): An outstanding receiver who ended his career at the beginning of the decade, Hester is the school's all time leader in yards (3,089) and touchdowns (39).

Luke McArdle (WR, 2000,01,02,03): Maybe the best offensive performer of the decade, and the school's all-team leader in punt returns. Georgetown's first all-PL first team selection.

Kim Sarin (RB, 2002,03,04): Georgetown's first 1,000 yard rusher in a season since (maybe) John Gilroy in 1917, Sarin averaged 4.9 yards a carry over a three year career cut short by injury.

Charlie Houghton (RB, 2006,07,08,09): Largely a result of his rookie of the year season as a freshman, Houghton was a solid running back who injuries eventually overtook. Overall, though, the 2000's were not good years for a Georgetown rushing game that sank to the bottom of the subdivision.

Kyle Van Fleet (All-Purpose, 2004,05,06,07): Tight end, fullback, linebacker, whatever, Kyle would play anywhere the coaches asked and did all he could. His five touchdowns in 2007 led all teammates, and Van Fleet received the Duffey-Scholar Athlete Award for the season.

Kenny Mitchell (All-Purpose, 2005,06,07,08): My pick for the most underutilized talent of the decade--Mitchell could have been even better than Gharun Hester with his speed and agility, and was never a focal point of the Jim Miceli offense. His kick return numbers are in the record books but it could have been so much more.

To no surprise, the defensive picks are stronger across the board.

Michael Ononibaku (DL, 2002,03,04,05), Pound for pound, the best defender of the last 30 years. Georgetown's only All-America selection in the decade, this scholar-athlete and Duffey Award winner was a remarkable player in the Benson-era defensive sets.

Alex Buzbee (DL, 2003,04,05,06): Three inches taller and twenty pounds heavcier than Ononibaku, Buzbee leveraged a solid four career into a NFL roster spot in 2007, the first Hoya to do so since Jim Ricca in 1955. An All-PL selection as a senior, Buzbee finished third all time in sacks, one-half sack behind Ononibaku.

Ataefiok Etukeren (DL, 2005,06,07,08): A solid force on the defensive line with quickness and power, Etukeren made it to the last cut of the Buffalo Bills as a free agent signing in 2009.

Scott Pogorelec (DL, 1998,99,00,01): A four year mainstay on the early 2000's line, played nose guard with distinction despite being only 245 lbs.

Andrew Clarke (LB, 2000,01,02,03): Fourth all time in tackles, Clarke was a high school RB who became a defensive standout. His 119 tackles in 2002 is a single season record, with 23 tackles in a single game, also a record.

Jason Carter (LB, 2002,03,04,05); Despite weighing only 215, Carter was a strong tacker and defensive presence as a "rover" in the defensive sets. When there was a tackle to be made, he was there. Sixth all time in career tackles.

Matt Fronczke (DB, 2000,01,02,03): Third all time in tackles, one of GU's best secondary corps in a generation, a second team all-PL selection.

Maurice Banks (DB, 2002,03,04,05): A second team all-PL selection in 2004 and 2005, Banks was a solid secondary performer.

Travis Mack (DB, 2006,07,08,09): A strong three year leader on defense, placing third on the team in tackles with 66 in 2009 and 232 overall, fifth most in the modern era.

Derek Franks (DB, 2003,04,05,06): A three year starter, he finished with 75 tackles in his senior season.

Marc Samuel (PK, 2000,01): Kicking was very much a hit or miss (no pun intended) affair for the Hoyas in the decade, but the University of Kentucky transfer and GU Law student managed to finish in the top three for field goal and extra point accuracy over his two seasons.

As for the next decade, well, the losing must end. Either the coaches have to correct it, find someone who will, or Georgetown is going to be forced into reevaluating the commitment it puts into the Patriot League. This school's tradition and its program deserves a more competitive effort than what was seen in the 2000's, and that's not a knock on the players or the coaches who battled through it, but a call to action in the years to come.

Georgetown can do better, everyone knows that. It's time to start making it happen.