Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Ships

For years, Georgetown football fans have yearned for an old-fashioned rivalry, something that evokes the tales of great rivalries across college football. Turns out they had one all least for now.

On November 20, 1890, St. John's College of Fordham, NY welcomed a college football team from Georgetown University to compete in the new game, ending in a 6-6 tie. It would be another 17 years before Georgetown would make the return trip to the school, renamed Fordham University, but it began a 53 game rivalry which has paralleled each school's rises and falls in college football.

The Rams boast a football tradition every bit as deep as the Hoyas. It looks back proudly upon its teams of the 1920's and 1930's, the "Seven Blocks of Granite", and consecutive appearances in the 1941 Cotton and 1942 Sugar Bowls. It was said that when Homer Marsham founded the NFL's Cleveland (now St. Louis) Rams in 1936, he named the team in honor of the Fordham eleven. (For what it's worth, Marsham ended up selling the team in 1941 to Dan Reeves (C'32), a Georgetown grad and NFL Hall of Fame member.)

In collegiate games from 1925 through 1928, Georgetown teams outscored Fordham by a combined 131-7, so perhaps that was why during the golden age for both schools in the 1930's and early 1940's, the teams kept their distance. With the exception of Notre Dame (and perhaps St. Mary's of California during the days of Slip Madigan), Fordham and Georgetown were among the most prominent Catholic college teams in the nation.

The rivalry resumed after World War II, albeit briefly. Georgetown lost to Fordham 14-13 on Nov. 11, 1950 before 13,130 at the Polo Grounds, and dropped football three months later. The Rams hung on through the 1954 season, finishing 1-7-1. In a moment of supreme bad timing, the school dropped football just as one of its football alumni, an assistant coach at Army, was approached about returning to campus to coach the team. Instead, 40 year old Vince Lombardi took a job in the NFL with the New York Giants.

Ten years later, the two schools would come together again, with football in mind.

When students at Georgetown were planning the revival of intercollegiate football in 1964, they soon realized it would not prove popular unless there were like-minded rivals from which to play. An outreach was made to the student councils at NYU and Fordham, each of which had dropped football within the last 15 years. As Georgetown returned to football in 1964 against NYU, Fordham joined as well, and the Nov. 20, 1965 Homecoming game at Kehoe Field between the Rams and Hoyas drew 9,002 fans, an on-campus record which remains to this day. Five years later, some 13,500 filled Jack Coffey Field for a Fordham Homecoming versus Georgetown, a road record for a GU game only passed last season at Old Dominion.

As club football waned, Georgetown and Fordham moved up to NCAA play as a tandem. From 1970 to 1984, the teams played 12 times, Fordham taking nine. After a 56-0 drubbing of the Hoyas at its 1984 Homecoming game, the series went on hiatus. A few years later, Fordham announced plans to leave Division III for the Patriot League, while Georgetown remained in Division III through the 1992 season.

Fordham's arrival in the Patriot League was a bitter one. In its first five seasons, the Rams were a combined 5-47 (.096), 2-23 in the conference, in ten seasons, 20-85-1 (.188) and 11-42 in league play. Unfortunately, one can compare that ten year mark, in progress, to Georgetown's ten year mark of 27-85 (.241) and 8-48 PL mark in recent years. But unlike GU, Fordham looked to do something about it.

The Rams leveraged one of its most powerful resources, alumni support, into becoming a competitive PL team inthe last decade, increasing its spending on financial aid to the point that, by 2008, Fordham was among the five largest budgets in I-AA and third only to Delaware and James Madison in Eastern football--a budget of $4.8 million that has grown by 47% in the last five years. At Georgetown? A $1.5 million budget that actually decreased slightly from 2005 to 2008.

Alumni rebuilt Jack Coffey Field from old wooden bleachers to a permanent 7,000 seat structure. When the Rams needed a weight room, alumni gifts got one built under the bleachers. This past season, alumni raised $2 million to turn a former swimming pool into dedicated football locker rooms. And when Fordham won two PL titles this decade, taking advantage of its Academic Index for recruits, alumni asked for more.

More, as in something missing at Fordham for 46 years: scholarship football.

As many Georgetown fans know, Fordham has now put the Patriot league into a institutional game of chicken, daring the league not to approve full scholarships. If Fordham gets to keep its 60 scholarships, they stay. Anything less, they're gone, putting the PL autobid at moderate risk, with only six schools remaining and a six team minumum required.

"Fordham strives to compete at the highest level in the FCS division, and we are convinced that the provision of athletic scholarships in football is an important component in advancing this goal," reads a school release. "We also wish to renew rivalries with past opponents, including Army and Villanova, while enhancing our schedule with other high profile opponents, such as Navy and the University of Connecticut."

Caught in the middle of this mess is Georgetown. Most Patriot League schools, both those pro and con on scholarships, still have the wherewithall to convert their existing aid to scholarships if push came to shove (read=shove). Obviously, Georgetown does not. A football program that can't get a stadium built, that has no game day locker rooms, and has almost few equivalencies for dedicated aid doesn't have the $6.1 million annually needed to float 60 full scholarships for football and the accompanying aid for women's sports required under Title IX. (Fact: Per public documetns, Georgetown's entire athletic scholarship budget in FY 2009 for all sports, basketball included, totaled just $6.4 million.)

Basketball forms a curious contrast between the schools. There was a time when Georgetown and Fordham, were basketball rivals, too. Excepting World War II, the schools played every season from 1941 through 1979. Fans of a certain age can still remember Fordham's 1971 win over Georgetown en route to a 26-3 season and a NCAA Sweet 16 appearance under rookie head coach Richard (Digger) Phelps. Unfortunately, Phelps left for Notre Dame after one season and so did the good times. In the intervening years, the Rams have made just one NCAA tournament since, in 1992, and hasn't seen a post-season game since. As Georgetown's star was ascendant in the Big East, it eventually dropped the Fordham series, as the Rams muddled their way through the ECAC, the MAAC, the Patriot League and now the A-10, finishing 2-26 and winless in the conference last season.

As Georgetown put its eggs in the hoop basket (no pun intended), Fordham has been relucantant to follow. The Rams play at Rose Hill Gym, the oldest basketball facility in Division I (25 years older than aging McDonough Gym) and spend about $2.5 million on men's basketball, eighth among the A-10 schools and comparable to the hoop budget of Liberty University. With its move to scholarships, Fordham is positioning itself as a football-first school.

Which brings us back to the rivalry. The sad outcome of the PL scholarship debate/drama is that, for this rivalry, it may well become the academic equivalent of a "loser leaves town" match. If the league presidents vote down schoalrships, Fordham will make a hasty retreat from the league, and with an expectation of 60 scholarships by 2012, is unlikely to pursue long-term arrangements with a nonscholarship team like Georgetown. If the scholarships pass, Georgetown becomes the odd-man out in a league now dedicated to fully funded football, and GU may well have to look at the more modest Northeast Conference as a safe harbor. As the Hoyas dropped three opponents this past season, all scholarship programs with considerably more resources and lesser academic standards for recruiting, it would seem less likely that this rivalry would continue under that disparity.

Over 120 years, through Division I, no football, club, Division II, Division III, and now Division I-AA, these two schools have built, rebuilt, and maintained college football through challenging circumstances among a dwindling number of Jesuit schools that are committed to the sport. Each has built a ship of football that has weathered the storms and carries a considerable legacy in its wake. Over the next few months, we will all learn whether these ships continue to sail together, or pass in the night.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 8 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Sacred Heart (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Alondzo Turner...)

Which Song Is It? Somehow, I've got two Tom Petty songs in my head after watching the Sacred Heart game and taking time to look ahead to Fordham on Saturday. Is it "I Won't Back Down", or "Free Fallin'"?

(Brief aside: it makes you feel a little older realizing that Petty hasn't charted a song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 16 years.)

What makes the outcome so discouraging is why Sacred Heart was on the schedule to begin with. Though neither school will say as much, this was supposed to be the week of a home game with Old Dominion, whereupon Old Dominion decided it would rather play Norfolk State than travel  to Washington, and/or Georgetown would rather get a win on the schedule than see itself beaten down by the Monarchs at its home field. Instead, Fordham swapped places on the schedule, the Monarchs got the game it wanted, and Georgetown seemingly got what it wanted, an opponent that had lost 14 of its last 17 (and six straight) coming into the game. A winning combination, right?

But were it not for a number of defensive stops, that opponent would have simply run the Hoyas off the field. Or maybe the Hoyas would have run themselves off, because this was another example of a sputtering offensive game plan that gets exposed in games and must expect the defense to carry them. Here are the total yards gained in the ten possessions after leading 10-0:
  • 18 yards, one first down (fumble)
  • 7 yards, no first down (threw inteception)
  • -3 yards, no first down (punted)
  • 32 yards, two first downs (field goal)
  • 17 yards, one first down (punted)
  • 8 yards, no first downs (punted)
  • 4 yards, no first downs (punted, nearly blocked)
  • 0 yards, fumbled kickoff return
  • 13 yards, one first down (punt blocked for touchdown)
  • 2 yards, no first down (punted)
In that sequence the Pioneers outscored the Hoyas 33-3. If this was week one, learning a new offense, well, maybe this makes sense. If this was week eight against Old Dominion or even North Dakota State, it's plausible. But against a team rated near the bottom of its conference in everything but pass offense, it doesn't make sense; but only if you come to a troubling conclusion: the team is reverting to 2009 all over again. Is this the result of the strategy, the play calls, the execution, or the fact that Georgetown offensive sets are an easier read to opposing coaches (i.e., when Keerome Lawrence is in the wildcat, he runs the ball)?

Whatever the cause, you don't turn offensive philosophies around in midstream. Sadly, it doesn't seem that this trend is going to change. If so, this week's opponent will look a lot more like Old Dominion than we'd all like to think.

Turnovers: A lot of time and talk will focus on the Hoyas' inability to hold on the ball Saturday, but I will say that not all of this is what it appears to be. Georgetown was using a backup snapper in the game and any punt team will tell you that such changes are fraught with peril. I'll even give you that even the best teams throw interceptions now and then and none of GU's passes went pick-six this week. But the fumbles...ugh. Fifteen in eight games, 10 lost, compared to just four lost for opponents. If the Hoyas can at least hold on to the ball and not fumble against Fordham, I'd have to call that a step in the right direction. But past signs don't look promising--in the game last year, GU fumbled it five times, losing two.

Team Unity: Nothing tears at a team like a prolonged losing streak. One of the most important things Georgetown can do is to maintain the team concept heading into the bye week. The Fordham game is, for purposes of the Patriot League, a non-conference game, so it's not a make or break game, streaks notwithstanding. But if players begin to bail over the bye week, that's trouble. Only one player has dropped off the roster this season, so that's a good sign to date, even as 14 of the 81 have not seen time in any games this season.

Unfortunately, it's possible that this team is staring at a weary 3-7 a few weeks from now--the Hoyas are 1-17 in the PL era against Fordham and Lehigh, 0-8 in the Kelly era. However, the operative word is "team". Players didn't beat Lafayette and Holy Cross, a team did.

Countdown To December: Does non-conference performance by teams play into the oft-discussed Patriot League vote on scholarship football this December? Probably not. Overall, the PL enters week nine with a 10-19 (.344) mark out of league, and just 1-4 against the once-inferior Northeast Conference (and one point removed from a NEC sweep). Of that league-wide number, three of the least funded programs (Lafayette, Bucknell and Georgetown) are a combined 2-12 (.142) outside the league. Will that play a role in their decision? No.

On the other side of the scholarship ledger, Fordham is on the PL sidelines this year and stands at just 3-5 this season, the same record as Georgetown. Will Fordham be around the Patriot League in three more seasons, or seek other conference affiliations? And what about Georgetown? I'm not fond of the idea that Sacred Heart and Wagner become its new rivals someday, but if five or six of your opponents are funding 60 full rides and you're floating none, that's not a fair fight either.

But it's not like Wagner and Sacred Heart are the MAAC revisited, either. Both are on their way to 40 scholarships in football, and 46 of Sacred Heart's players spent a redshirt season, something the PL is unwilling to do.

Never mind all that. This should have been a winnable game. It was.

And it was lost.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 7 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts from Saturday's loss to Bucknell (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Barney O'Donnell....)

Scatter-what? The "scattershooting" reference pays homage to a legendary Dallas sports columnist who would begin his weekly column asking about the whereabouts of some forgotten player of the recent past. And as for this week's name, well, Google is a great researcher.

Barney O'Donnell, a four sport high school star who was recruited in 2007, left Georgetown after one season and spent a year at a junior college. And he's turned up in the NAIA.

"Georgetown was a great experience for me, and I had a hard time leaving there, but football was not the most important thing there, and I needed a change," O'Donnell said.

Read more about it at

Hoyas: What Ails Them? There are a lot of clues in Saturday's loss, but these can be summed up in one word: focus.

Maybe it was the warm weather. Maybe it was a long night after Midnight Madness. Maybe it was those road jerseys, I don't know. Teams in week 7 of the college football season shouldn't be making the mistakes  made in this game--penalties, dropped passes, missed assignments on kick returns, or calling a throw to the end zone when you only needed seven yards. Getting picked off for a touchdown is the most visible symptom, but that wasn't the only misstep in this game.

This team, at last in the last two weeks and perhaps since the Holy Cross game, is losing the focus that teams absolutely require down the stretch. Coaches, too. Yes, the officiating was poor, but there are no "make-up" calls in college football like there are in college basketball--arguing at the line judge isn't going to change the outcome and he's not more or less likely to throw the flag the next time around. Sideline penalties reflect poorly on Georgetown and they should be avoided. Then again, the call itself was unnecessary and the officiating crew was overmatched in this game.

Rotating Quarterbacks: I wish it didn't come to this. The staff made the call at the beginning of the season to go with Scott Darby, and barring injury, Darby should get the call. Introducing Keerome Lawrence (who only runs) and Isaiah Kempf (who almost always passes) into the lineups is a sign of distress to opposing coaches. Darby could be a successful passer (and has been)...if he gets the time to do so, and he's not getting that. Kempf showed a bit of running and passing Saturday but that was due to an unfamiliaity Bucknell had on Kempf in recent game films. If Fordham or Lehigh start focusing on Kempf in film work, his effectiveness diminishes, much as it did last season...when Scott Darby played the role of the last season quarterback option. Short of adding Tucker Stafford and Aaron Aiken to the late season rotation, quarterback changes will be less effective as the season progresses.

Backfield By Proxy: What does Philip Oladeji, Wilburn Logan and Dalen Claytor share in common with the Dallas Cowboys' Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice? Both groups have talent on the field but their respective staffs seems ill at ease with committing to a running game.

Dallas cannot win games expecting Tony Romo to throw for 450 yards a game. And Georgetown can't win if its runners are averaging 106 yards a game (and just 73 yards in the last three). There has to be a balance, a balance that went out the window in the second half vs. Bucknell--remember, Georgetownb only ntrailed by seven but the calls were from a team down three touchdowns.

MSF Mess: Can someone take a serious look at the fan experience at the MSF? If it's not the canned music making the band inaudible, the lack of any seating pattern for a full game, or the ongoing clock problems which have still not been fixed, the environment at these games is not winning converts.

One suggestion: Enforce reserved seating on the home side, general admission on the visitors side. Yes, someone will actually have to  mark row and seat numbers, and tickets will have to be enforced. But for the parents and visitors who really want to see the game, they should not have to get bumped from seats when they come back from the concession stand and seats are gone.

If it means moving students east, let's consider it. There is zero enthusiasm with students getting what are essentially 10 yard line seats, leading more and more to simply watch the game outside the fence. With declining road crowds, let the students build their own atmosphere across the field and leave the home crowd to people who will pay for the right to have a seat when they get there.

Video Board? Did I hear this right? McDonough Gym gets two video boards installed, presumably for the volleyball and women's basketball games? Well, good for them, but when is the 1995-era Harbin soccer scoreboard going to get retired? 

I really, really hope that there is some clarity on what Georgetown wants out of the unnamed MSF for 2011 and 2012. The well of hope that the construction cranes are coming has been bled dry by years of false hopes and unclear expectations, and if the project gets pushed out again, what can be done in he interim to make it a better fan experience? The Field With No Name hasn't had any serious upkeep (outside the lights) since construction was halted five years ago, and fans can see this. So do recruits.

“I think what it does more than anything else, it sends a message that we take our athletics, and the interest we have in our student-athletes and their well-being, seriously. Those factors will send a clear message to the prospective students’ families.” That's a quote from the athletic director at Sacred Heart, whose eponymous Campus Field welcomes the Hoyas next week.

Worth Repeating: The NextStep fundraiser was held this weekend in Washington.  If you're anywhere near the Chicago area, a second fundraiser follows on October 28. Information follows at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Underrated Rivalry

Ok, so no one sings about their fight song.

Every Georgetown worth his saxa knows the Boola-Boola from those "loyal fellows up at Yale", the Navy Yell, the "Cornell", etc. We even can give a "chu chu, rah rah" with the best of the Holy Cross rooters. But somehow, somewhere, "Ray Bucknell" never made it into the nomenclature of Georgetown rivals and their songs. But after 10 years, these two schools now share a lot more on the football field than they do in the fight song business, not for losing records but for the promise of a better decade ahead.

And after 22 prior meetings dating back to 1904, perhaps this has finally become a rivalry, if an underrated one.

The two schools first met on the gridiron on what is now Copley Lawn, the erstwhile "Georgetown Field", on November 12, 1904, a 12-0 Georgetown shutout behind two touchdowns from GU Hall of Famer James (Hub) Hart (D'1904). The Bucknellians returned the favor a year later at Georgetown, with an 18-0 shutout of its own.

Three games are among the most notable of the series. It took a game at Georgetown on Nov. 25, 1916 to set records that endure even to this day, thanks to Georgetown's first All-America selection, RB Johnny Gilroy.

"Whatever hope the Bucknell football eleven had of holding Georgetown to a close score today was confined strictly to the first period," wrote the New York Times. "At the end of the opening quarter the Blue and Gray led by only six points, but when the battle ceased Georgetown had a margin of 78, and the Lewisburg (Penn.) team had been unable to get within striking distance of their opponent's goal."

"Bucknell never got farther than the 30 yard line," wriote Morris Bealle in his 1947 history of the program on Georgetown's 78-0 win, still in the 10 largest margins of victory in school history. Gilroy scored on five touchdowns (three of them kickoff returns, two on interception returns) and kicked extra points on six of the the Hilltoppers' 12 touchdown scores in a wet and rainy game. The offensive output by Gilroy put him at the top of rushers nationwide and he finished the season in 1916 as the leading rusher in America. No, not the East, or the small colleges. Everywhere.

Weather factored heavily in the second of three great games between the schools, a muddy and rainy 3-2 Bucknell win at Griffith Stadium that cost the 1925 Hilltoppers an undefeated season.

In retrospect, it's hard to understate how good the 1925 Georgetown team really was, having outscored opponents 281-19 and surrendering just two touchdowns all season. Georgetown posted seven shutouts in nine wins that season, but Bucknell would be the spoiler.

The teams played intermittently through 1938 but the schools were going in different directions--Bucknell was transitioning into a small college program, Georgetown a major college one. The importance of the Hoyas' Oct. 21, 1939 win by the Hoyas, 13-7 at Lewisburg's Memorial Stadium was not lost on the Georgetown head coach, who was the team captain during that fabled loss 14 years earlier: Jack Hagerty. It was the 11th straight game without a loss for the nationally ranked Hoyas, and 12 more were to follow through the 1940 season.

The two schools did not meet for over 60 years until Georgetown has committed to join the Patriot League, and Bucknell joined the line of PL schools that beat up the Hoyas pretty good in its opening two years in the league.

After dropping each of its first 10 Patriot games, none worse than a bitter 69-0 loss at Lehigh to open the 2002 season, Georgetown met Bucknell at Harbin Field on Oct. 26, 2002. Here's an excerpt from the game recap:

Senior David Paulus threw five second half touchdowns as Georgetown overcame a 17 point halftime deficit in a 32-31 win over Bucknell and its first conference win since joining the Patriot League in 2001. The win was improbable given the turns of the game, which was a study in contrasts between the struggles of recent performances and the promise of better tomorrows.

In prior league games, the Hoyas had consistently dug themselves in a hole in the first quarter, having been outscored 127-19, and things started off poorly on Saturday. The Bison (2-5) opened the game with a 43 yard pass and scored within the first two minutes of play, 7-0. Three series later, Bucknell drove 58 yards in 11 plays to the Georgetown 22, but were stopped on downs. The teams trade punts again until punt returner Luke McArdle fumbled at the Georgetown 24, setting up a Bucknell field goal to trail 10-0.

After Georgetown punted on its next series, Bucknell drove 70 yards in ten plays to increase the lead to 17-0 with 3:55 to play in the half. With under two minutes to play, the Hoyas had two net yards in total offense. But in a sign of the second half fireworks to come, Paulus led the Hoyas on a nine play, 59 yard drive in only 1:14, without a third down in the drive. The Hoyas advanced to the 11 yard line with :04 to play, but a 28 yard field goal was blocked at the end of the half.

To its credit, the team did not give up. Though the Hoyas were a combined 0-12 in games trailing at the half over the last two seasons, the next 30 minutes would make some new history.

Georgetown opened the second half with a six play, 64 yard drive, where Paulus was 4-4 for 60 yards, including a 34 yard pass to Walter Bowser for the TD, 17-7. The Bison answered with a drive deep into Georgetown territory at the Georgetown 26, but on a fourth and four, the Bison were stopped a yard short and turned the ball over on downs. Whatever momentum was short-lived--on its next series, Paulus fumbled at the Georgetown 20 and the Bison converted in four plays to lead 24-7.

Late in the quarter, the Hoyas forcing a Bucknell punt deep in its territory and returned the ball to the BU 46. Paulus found McArdle open on two passes in only 18 seconds, and the Hoyas had cut the lead to 24-14. After holding the Bison to one first down in its next series, Paulus started at mid field and found McArdle on two 20 yard passes, the last for his third TD. The extra point was missed, but the score was now 24-20.

Midway in the fourth, the Hoyas began a drive at its 15. On a fourth down and one at its own 24, Georgetown went for it and was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Bucknell took the gift and fired a 25 yard TD pass to lead 31-20 with eight minutes to play. Would the drive cost the Hoyas a chance to win?

Paulus did not quit. On the next series, he opened with a 34 yard play to McArdle, and rushed for another 14 to put the Hoyas in the red zone. Paulus' fourth TD pass was a 17 yard strike to William Huisking with 5:41 to play, and Georgetown closed to 31-26, failing on a two point conversion. After Bucknell was stopped at the Georgetown 38, Bison punter Billy Windle landed a 19 yard punt that gave GU another chance with 3:06 to play.

A 16 yard pass to Walter Bowser got the Hoyas to midfield, but time was fleeting. On 3rd and 1 with 1:50 to play, Paulus rushed for four yards to keep the drive alive. On the next series, the Hoyas faced 4th and 6, where Paulus found McArdle for seven. With under a minute remaining, Georgetown faced a third test at fourth down, where Paulus took it 10 yards and got out of bounds, saving the day yet again.

Georgetown faced third and two with 19 seconds to play and no timeouts. Paulus found Bowser in single coverage across the end zone and connected for a 19 yard TD, 32-31. Once again, a two point conversion failed.

Bucknell's last hope was a long kickoff return, but the Georgetown defense would hear nothing of it. Freshman Mehdi Hassan stopped Bucknell returner Antwan Kennedy at the Bucknell 11, and the Bison settled for a six yard pass to end the game.

The Hoyas put up 307 yards in the second half with only one punt in its eight second half series. Paulus finished 31-48 for 350 yards and no interceptions, with his 31 completions setting a new team record. Luke McArdle's 14 receptions for 188 yards set a new single game record for receptions, while his 188 yards was 21 yards more than the entire GU offense contributed a year earlier against Bucknell. Defensively, Matt Fronczke and Andrew Clarke combined for 24 tackles and the Hoya defense held the Bison to 2 for 12 on third down conversions and 0 for 2 on fourth.

In the intervening years, close finishes have been regular occurrences: in 2005, a 19-16 overtime win for the Hoyas at Bucknell, matched two years later on the same field. For its part, the Bison have won each of the last three in Washington and none were easy, which is exactly what rivalry games should be.

Naturally, of course, these aren't true rival schools in an athletic sense--outside football, there aren't a lot of contacts and neither student body gets too worked up over the other. Outside of a 1987 first round game, the schools haven't played a series in  basketball since 1935. But in a Patriot League dominated by one (and only one) rivalry, the ability for these two schools to build a healthy series between the two bodes well for the future, a future that, scholarships notwithstanding, should expect each to be more competitive in the 2010's than they collectively displayed in the 2000's.

What each school does have with each other is mutual respect. You can't expect Lehigh or Colgate, a combined 17-0 against Georgetown since 2001, to show the Hoyas much if any respect. But this series, 6-3 to Bucknell in the decade and 12-9-1 to the Bison overall, has the ingredients of a good series: competitive play, close finishes, and a little history behind it. Saturday's game should be no different.

Plus, don't forget the Bucknell colors: orange and blue. If that can't start a rivalry, nothing can.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 6 Thoughts

Hey, why wait? Some very quick thoughts from Saturday's flatliner of a game to Wagner (or scattershooting as to whatever happened to Keion Wade....)

Where To Begin? I don't need to say much here. Seeing the game is not enough. Looking at the numbers of this game ought to make Hoya fans sick to their stomach. Not since Elliot Uzelac has the fan base seen such a mess in the stat sheet, and it bit the Hoyas right back. So let's look at the numbers:
  1. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Philip Oladeji? He had four carries for 27 yards in the First quarter. Second quarter: One carry. Third quarter: One carry. Fourth Quarter? One carry, totalling 12 yards. Averaging 5.5 yards a carry isn't too bad; unless, of course, you get the ball three times in the last 45 minutes of a game.
  2. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Chance Logan? First three carries of the game, 20 yards. Second quarter: One carry. Third quarter: One carry. Fourth Quarter? Two carries.
  3. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Dalen Claytor? Already being tabbed as the fastest player in the backfield, Claytor's first carry goes for 20 yards in the second quarter. Number of carries thereafter? One.
  4. Why did the offensive game plan bail on Patrick Ryan? Two passes, one caught for eight yards, and that's it.
  5. Why didn't the offense use Jeff Burke? Third leading receiver entering Saturday's game at 12.5 yards a reception. The result? One pass thrown, one catch.
  6. When has tight end Mike McIntyre suddenly become Erik Carter? For those who remember, Carter was the workhorse blocking fullback who saw six carries the entire 2005 season. McIntyre has played in six games and has one catch for three yards.
  7. How many passes did Keerome Lawrence drop or miss Saturday? He missed six and caught one for a net of two yards.
  8. How many rushes did the running backs get? 16 carries, 85 yards.
  9. How many QB/wilcdat keepers did Georgetown run? 25 carries, 55 yards.
  10. How many consecutive rushing plays does it take for an opposing defense to get wise to what Georgetown is running? The Hoyas began the third quarter running the ball and did not throw a pass until less than 10:00 minutes in the game. Fourteen straight carries! This isn't Nebraska circa 1971, either. And how much did those 14 consecutive runs net them? 31 yards, or the equivalent of two passes to Jeremiah Kayal and one to Tucker Stafford.
  11. How does a team punt once after halftime, with a 10 point lead, and still lose that lead? Three first downs and three turnovers in the final 30 minutes of a game, that's how.
  12. How many rushing plays in the second half? Seventeen. How many passes? Two.
  13. Third down conversions, first quarter: 1-4
  14. Third down conversions, second quarter: 3-5
  15. Third down conversions, third quarter: 0-2
  16. Third down conversions, fourth quarter? 0-1. That's right, only one series even made it to a third down.
  17. Did I mention 14 straight runs to open the second half? Any pattern here?
    1. Darby
    2. Darby
    3. Oladeji
    4. Darby
    5. Darby
    6. Logan
    7. Wildcat: Lawrence
    8. Wildcat: Lawrence
    9. Wildcat: Lawrence
    10. Wildcat: Lawrence
    11. Logan
    12. Logan
    13. Darby
    14. Claytor
  18. 32%. That was the rate Wagner was holding opponents on third down entering the game. Georgetown was 4-15 (26%). Connect on one other third down and Wagner likely never lines up for that kick to go into overtime, and Scott Darby doesn't drop his third turnover in as many games.
  19. Three. Georgetown conencted on 3-4 fourth down opportunities to put away the win against Holy Cross. Since then, only three attenmpts and none successful. (By the way, those three mised opportunities translated into ten points over two weeks.)
  20. Points off Turnovers: Wagner got 9 points. Georgetown, 3.
If you think I'm ignoring the defense, I'm not. But ask any random defensive coordinator if they would be satisfied holding the #30-ranked team in total offense to three points with 10:04 to go in a game and having picked off its opposing quarterback four times, and most would say yes. Now, ask them what they'd say if the defensive unit had to spend ten of the last 15 minutes of the game on the field.

It's a difficult thing to say, but if this weekend is any indication of Georgetown's intended play calling down the stretch, the Hoyas will not see a fourth win this season.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Place Of Honor

Over the past week, some fans may have missed the Georgetown Athletics blog noting the induction of Al Blozis (C'42) into the New York Giants' new Ring of Honor at the second Meadowlands Stadium. Blozis was one of 30 former Giants saluted at halftime last week, but perhaps among the least remembered, having his #32 jersey number retired 65 years ago.

Every Georgetown fan, however, should know the Al Blozis story. A nationally prominent recruit who chose Georgetown over Notre Dame for its math and science programs, Blozis was a two-sport all American who was named as one of three men for United Press International's Athlete of the Year for 1941 (the other two were Ben Hogan and Joe Louis). Blozis' yearbook entry noted three years of track and three of football, but also notes his membership in the Philodemic Society, one of many pursuits in his young life that led Blozis to be called a scholar-athlete-hero.

Blozis death in the Vosges Mountains in January 1945 was a loss for the University and for the Giants. Blozis had earned All-Pro recognition in only his second year in the league, and returned to help the Giants secure the NFL championship in 1944 before shipping out to Europe. His height (6-6) and pro football celebrity status would otherwise made him eligible for a deferment stateside, but Blozis would hear none of it, and wanted to serve the country which his family had emigrated to a generation earlier from Lithuania.

But beyond a portrait in McDonough Gym or a trophy at the football and track banquets, it would be easy for students and fans to lose sight of Blozis or any of the greats that walked the Hilltop as football stars. Perhaps it's time to give it some more thought.

Of course, a list of the greats can be found at the Hall of Fame Room at the Leavey Center, one of the underrated gems on the campus. In 1994, a corner of the building was transformed into a place of honor for some 200 alumni so honored by the Athletic Hall of Fame awards, dating to 1953 and among the oldest such halls of fame at the college level in the nation. But along the fields, or what passes for them at GU, no such recognition exists.

This past weekend, Holy Cross took a step to honor the many great men who have worn the Purple and White over its storied foorball tradition. Six former players saw their names attached across the west side of Fitton Field, a list so exclusive that a seven time AFC All-Pro selection missed the cut. (That player, Jon Morris '64, played  high school football at Gonzaga in Washington but left for Worcester in an era where Georgetown did not field a varsity team.)

Fitton Field is eminently suitable to honor players from its past; Multi-Sport Field, less so. But the long and winding road of MSF funding should not dissuade Georgetown from honoring those that deserve it, and for the living, to honor them while it is appropriate to do so. Maybe it's as simple as replacing the weathered banners on the north and south side of the field with photos and names of Georgetown's gridiron giants. Maybe the banner across the north wall of the field could note the great teams of Georgetown, the undefeated 1938 and 1939 squads, two bowl appearances, or the school's National College Football Hall of Fame members. And for those All-Americans from major college to club, Division II, Division III, and Division I-AA, we should find a place to honor their contributions.

This weekend, without the fanfare of the New York Giants or even Holy Cross, Georgetown will welcome back many of the over 500 alumni who played in the 23 year tenure of Scott Glacken (1970-92). The youngest of the Glacken era men is now 36, the oldest 62. The release reads, in part, as follows: "This weekend is the Glacken Football Weekend on the Hilltop, as the Gridiron Club and Glacken era players will honor former coaches Harry Jenkins, Tom Folliard and Joe Cardaci, first on Friday night at the Hoyas Grill in the Leavey Center and then during a halftime ceremony during the Wagner game. Dave Goracy ('71) and the Gridiron Club will also host a pre-game tailgate beginning at 11 a.m. at the McDonough Esplanade."

Next year's recruiting class will be the Class of 2015, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the modern era of Georgetown Football in the autumn of 2014. (The schedule has not been announced, but here's hoping an Ivy is on the schedule, or at least Fordham, to celebrate it.) In the intervening years, it's incumbent upon Georgetown to find a means to remember these alumni at the home field, both those among us and those who have passed on, as builders of an important if sometimes forgotten football tradition.

A bust of Al Blozis now sits in Meadowlands Stadium, aside the greats of a proud football tradition with names like Lombardi and Landry, Gifford and Tittle, Simms and Taylor. If Georgetown can't afford a statue of the 6-6, 250 lb. scholar-athlete to stand in front of the unnamed field, he (and many others) deserve the recognition that comes with their achievements on and off the field.

Blozis' high school alma mater, Dickinson High School, closed recently, but for many years played its basketball games in the gymnasium which bore his name. A plaque in the old gym noted his achievements, and perhaps Georgetown would do well to locate the plaque and give it a new home:

BLOZIS, Alfred C. (The Human Howitzer)
Born: January 5, 1919, in Garfield, NJ
Died: January 31, 1945, near Colmar, France
Hgt: 6-6 Wgt: 250 College: Georgetown U. (1939-1941)
College Honors: Played in College All-Star Game - 1942
Nat. FB Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame (1986)
High School: Dickinson H.S., Jersey City, NJ
Draft Choice: 3rd round, New York Giants - 1942
Pro Career: 3 years: 1942-44 New York Giants
1943 All-NFL (1st) A.P., U.P., N.Y. News, PF Illus.
Misc. Notes: Outstanding college shotputter

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 5 Thoughts

Some quick thoughts after Saturday's 34-3 loss at Colgate:

Disappointing, Not Surprising. OK, so a lot of us were part of the Era of Good Feeling around this team. Davidson? Good start. Lafayette? Great win! Yale? Seven seconds and a yard removed from a major upset. Holy Cross? A game GU clearly won. But if the Colgate game brought a few more of back to reality, perhaps that'll be a good thing when all is said and done. This team wasn't going to finish 10-1, and with the continuing gaps in the running game it was a matter of time before it would come back to bite them.

One need only look at the last three games in the series to understand that Georgetown hasn't quite figured out the Red Raiders, deceptively simple though their running attack may seem.

2007: Colgate outgained Georgetown 569-226, 321 of it on the ground
2009: Colgate outgained Georgetown 437-197, 313 of it on the ground
2010: Colgate outgained Georgetown 430-113, 304 of it on the ground
Colgate excels in the run game and when teams can't stop the run, bad things follow.

Clearly, Georgetown doesn't play a team as consistent with the run remaining this season but teams are certainly capable of it. Case in point: Wagner, who ground down Cornell with 325 rushing yards in a 41-7 win in week 2. The Seawhawks aren't consistent with numbers like that (only 175 yards this past weekend against Bryant) but they are certainly capable, which ought to be a concern for the GU defense.

Running Back Yardage: Georgetown running backs only carried the ball five times versus Colgate, all from RB Philip Oladeji.  In five games this season, the backs account for an average of only 14.5 carries a game, versus 13.5 carries a game for the QB's. The Hoyas need to get the ball back into the hands of the backs.

Time Of Possession:  Colgate held the ball for 40:39 Saturday. If you told me it was 50:39, I might have believed you.

Crunch Time: The next three weeks may not mean much in the PL title race, but for Georgetown, it is a major barometer on where the program is headed.

Non-conference games with Wagner (Oct. 9) and Sacred Heart (Oct.23) may not carry the name recognition of Richmond and Old Dominion, but they carry something perhaps more important right now: they are winnable. Add a home game with a Bucknell team (Oct. 16) that is 0-4 and facing Penn this weekend, and Georgetown has three strong opportunities to show that September was a sign of things to come and not an aberration....not just for fans, but for recruits and for a coaching staff that could use some good news heading into 2011.

Let's hope that students understand this and give the team all the support and then some. The momentum if this team were to get on a winning streak would be phenomenal. None of the opponents are pushovers, however, so let's keep that in mind, too.

An Unfortunate Anniversary: I posted this over at the Any Given Saturday message board this evening, and it bears repeating.

"The fifth anniversary of the unfinished Multi-Sport Field at Georgetown passed without notice in the last two weeks. Five years. The temporary seats are well, still temporary, the temporary scoreboard is still there, there are no permanent locker rooms or restrooms and the grounds remain non-existent. But left unsaid in the PL schoalrships debate is the simple fact that if GU can't get this built, how can it even begin to discuss affording scholarships? Both come down to money, or the lack of it."

A lot of good people are working on this, but it is a fact in business that a project without a timeline is just a plan.This project has to get back to the forefront of GU Athletics and to the University itself. Georgetown would never tolerate a library in modular buildings while funds were being raised for a new building, any more than it would tolerate students living in trailers while dorm construction was sidelined. For the sake of not only football athletes, but for students as a whole, it needs attention due it by a university of Georgetown's place and purpose. MSF must also stand for "Must Start Fundraising"....again.