Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Might Have Been

Men's basketball, a Friday opener at Old Dominion and a home opener Monday versus Tulane. Women's basketball, a home opener on Saturday afternoon. And over at unnamed Multi-Sport Field, a battle for the Patriot League championship. Talk about a Georgetown-centric sports weekend.

Instead, you're likely to see something else.

Like, for example, visitor's stands full of Lehigh people wondering where everyone is on the home side. A Georgetown band that packs up after halftime to go to the women's basketball game. A message from the officials that the game clock will be kept on the field because the scoreboard isn't responding. At least one comment from the parents group asking "where are all the students today"?

And an ever-patient Chuck Timanus trying to make sense of it all online.

Such is the game-time atmosphere that awaits the Georgetown Hoyas as the Lehigh Engineers arrive for what conventional wisdom holds as their PL championship coronation. Six weeks ago, with the Hoyas flying high at 3-1 and Lehigh struggling at 2-2, maybe things looked to be different in November for a decidedly one-way series between the schools. Since then, Lehigh has won five straight and Georgetown has lost five straight.

The Colgate game was lost because, frankly, Colgate was the better team. The Wagner game, however,  was lost on turnovers. The Bucknell game was lost on turnovers. The Sacred Heart game was lost on turnovers. The Fordham game was lost on special teams mistakes. Win four of those games, a 7-2 or even 6-3 record entering November would have been grounds for a parade along O Street; instead, 3-6 and the specter of a 3-8 season is a call for another round of "same old Georgetown" among the Patriot League press and the GU student body at large. Coverage has fallen by the wayside, with one Hoya football blog's latest post reading "Hoyas Set To Tank Against Fordham."

That was two weeks ago.

What might have been Kevin Kelly's biggest moment on the Georgetown sidelines is likely to be pushed off the front page at as quickly as you can say, "Say, did you see the basketball game?"

Over at the Allentown Morning Call (one of the last remaining papers to regularly cover PL football), columnsit Keith Groller argues that parity has taken over the league...obvious parties excepted.

"Right now, Bucknell and Georgetown are the only ones who haven't been able to get into the good times," he writes. "The Bison have not won a league crown since 1996, and have gone just 9-24 in the league in the last six seasons. The Hoyas have scuffled even more since joining the league in 2001, going just 9-51 in Patriot play and 26-81 overall in the past 10 seasons.

"It's obvious that some schools are more concerned about football success than others, but in this league, there's a fine line between being a championship contender and a cellar dweller."

A fine line for some, perhaps. A giant leap for others, manifested in a 2010 Georgetown season whose schedule was more than tailor-made for non-conference wins. Georgetown dropped Howard, Old Dominion and Richmond for welterweights like Davidson, Wagner, and Sacred Heart, and has one win to show for it. Kelly enters November 0-8 all-time to schools not named Marist College, and this week's opponent bears no resemblance to same.

Georgetown knows it. So does Lehigh, and for a sixth straight week the Engineer defense will focus on putting pressure on the opponent running game and watching the field position follow. Last year at lehigh, Georgetown rushed 20 times for a net of -26 yards.

A good coach will tell you it's never too late to turn things around, but a wise coach will tell you that sometimes, it is. The Dallas Cowboys are not going to win eight straight and get into the NFL playoffs, and the 3-6 Georgetown Hoyas are not going to solve a season's worth of offensive inconsistency in one week.

"Right now, there's not a wide gap between the league's best and worst," Groller suggests, but if it was, Lehigh would be taking this game much more seriously than it is. And, the Georgetown community would be, too.  But crazy as it sounds in retrospect, Georgetown was probably 10 minutes removed from this week being a chance for a PL title and a I-AA playoff bid. Let's go back to the fourth quarter, Oct. 15, 2010, leading then winless Bucknell 21-17:

"Having the lead into the fourth quarter, all the [Georgetown] offense needed to do was to get out of its own end zone on the ground and control the clock.

Instead, the play from the sidelines was a flare pass that Bucknell LB Sean Rafferty picked off untouched at the 12 [yard line] and went in for the stunning touchdown. The one play not to call, and Georgetown called it.

The shell-shocked MSF crowd saw the pass-only Hoyas go three and out with 10:34 to play, but the defense forced a stop and GU took over with 6:09 to play. Much as it did last week with 14 straight rushing plays against Wagner to ill effect, Kempf was now on a run of 16 consecutive pass attempts, a measure of predictability that was astounding. With a second and three at the BU 27, Kempf was stuffed in the backfield, and on third down, failed to connect with Keerome Lawrence with a sure first down.

With 3:08 to play, down three, PK Brett Weiss was available for a 48 yard attempt with no appreciable wind. Weiss was 5-6 on field goals this season, but the staff opted to go for it. Fourth and seven... but instead of reaching out for the first down with time on its side, the call went for the goal line, with Kempf throwing a 40 yarder past Kenneth Furlough in coverage. Bucknell ran out the clock thereafter."
Optimism for this team began to set as the sun did that day and it hasn't come back up. Which is why Lehigh is making plans for the playoffs and Georgetown is making plans for the men's basketball opener versus Tulane on Monday night.

What might have been.