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.