Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 11 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown’s 34-12 loss to Lehigh Saturday.

1. What Worked, What Didn’t. Georgetown came into the game as an underdog and was able to take advantage of many of its strengths—turnovers, red zone defense, special teams returns. To its credit, Lehigh scoured the films of the past three weeks and picked apart a pass defense that had been ineffective in the cover 2 scenarios. It helps to have a Drwal and a Spadola running the patterns, of course, but lacking a rush game, Lehigh turned to its demonstrated strengths in the passing game and it worked exceedingly well for them.

Not that Georgetown didn’t have its chances. I’m convinced that if Georgetown scores a touchdown on that opening turnover, holds Lehigh on its next series, and executes a capable drive on its next series, this was a different game. Not necessarily a different outcome, of course, because Lehigh had the firepower, but the 2011 Hoyas were a team that had much more confidence playing ahead rather than playing from behind. If the Hoyas could have opened the second half at 20-17 instead of 20-6, Waizenegger’s third quarter TD could have been a real game changed. Instead, the ensuing pick-six deep-sixed the Hoyas thereafter.

2. Fan support. Thanks in absentia to all the fans who made it to the game. I am sure it meant a lot to the parents and local fans to be there, and even to a few of those who passed on the men’s basketball opener to see this potentially historic game in person. I would have very much liked to have attended but the air fare was absolutely prohibitive, but it was encouraging to watch the game and hear so many cheering on the east end of the stadium and the announcers remark favorably about the turnout. Having been there at the low point of Georgetown football attendance (the 20 or so of us who sat through the game at Old Dominion in 2009), I hope those who attended can be encouraged to make it a return affair next year at Princeton and at other road games next fall.

3. Press coverage. Another measure of thanks to the local papers that rediscovered the Hoyas. A trailing horse doesn’t get race coverage, and it’s been that way for a decade or more of Georgetown coverage in the PL. John Feinstein’s column used the word “remarkable” when comparing the Hoyas to its 2009-era struggles, and I think it’s an appropriate term. Georgetown isn’t a Top 10 team, of course, but with many of the same members from that 2009 team, the Hoyas were able to do considerably better and do so with purpose and conviction.

4. Lessons Learned. There is a temptation to see a game like this as an accomplishment for a formerly 0-11 team, or as a source of frustration for reaching the precipice and not being up to the opponent at hand. Instead, I’d like to see a game like this serve as a lesson to the next generation of student-athletes to rededicate themselves to the season to come.

In 2010, Georgetown was 3-1 and finished 4-7; in part, because the talent had not matched up with the game plan, and mistakes were common. In 2010, Georgetown was 3-1 and finished 8-3 because the talent level rose and the mistakes diminished—a +17 in turnover margin is no accident. Yes, there is no shame in losing to Lehigh—plenty have done so this season, and plenty more in prior years—but it’s up to the team and the coaches to use the off-season to rededicate itself to doing the things necessary to be back in a position to compete at the highest level of the conference in 2012, and to develop the talent coming up through the ranks to maintain the standard that this year’s team set.

5. Goals for 2012. Here are ten:
1. Build on success. It’s not easy to recruit kids at 0-11, but look at the sophomores on this team which made a strong contribution, and the freshman which have followed. Every prospective recruit needs to hear the call—this is a program on the way up and you need to be a part of it.

2. Tell the story. Recruits need to know what 8-3 means. So do alumni. Early and often. For all those who have stood on the sidelines in the Kelly era and not supported the team, it’s time to remind them of just what this program is capable of doing with better support. Let’s not understate this point: the program with the smallest budget in the league ($1.6 million), half of the next closest team and a third of the others, not only can compete but can win games against these schools. If the Hoyas can compete on this level at $1.6 million, what more could they do at $2.1? Georgetown doesn’t need to spend Fordham money ($5.1 million) to be successful, but it has to be able to compete with decent financial aid to its recruits. This may be one off-season when that message gets out, or it better.

2A. Tell That Story, Too: Announce a plan to finish the MSF, or at least mow the weeds.

3. Develop the next quarterback. Isaiah Kempf is the senior incumbent, but Georgetown needs to look to Aaron Aiken, Stephen Skon, or an incoming freshman as both a strong challenger to Kempf and a capable substitute should the need arises next season.

4. Recruit another power back. A reflection of Georgetown’s competitive imbalance in PL recruiting, it has long relied on smaller RB’s in the absence of larger power backs and, with a banged-up offensive line, have paid the price for it. Nick Campanella’s play this year was a welcome addition, and if there is a power runner out there that can join the backfield, it’s going to make things better not only for the offense, but for the sets that Dalen Claytor, Brandon Durham, et al. are running as well.

5. Recruit a placekicker. Brett Weiss’ results against Lehigh should not obscure a fine two years as kicker for the Hoyas; remember, Weiss walked on the team from Maryland , following another walk on in Jose-Pablo Buerba from 2007-09. Weiss missed only two kicks inside the 40 all season and only four since the second week of the season. With Weiss and David Conway graduating, developing a strong replacement is a priority.

6. Keep fighting for the belt. For my two cents, the development of the offensive line has been the story of the 2011 season. The work in the weight room, er, weight area, and the commitment to be the very best they can be paid off this year and can be even more effective in 2012, especially as the Hoyas have the wide receivers necessary to open up the passing game in ways they were unable in prior years.

7. Jordan Richardson. All the tools to become a great player. Keep up the hard work.

8. Rebuild the secondary. Three seniors leave behind a lot of experience and some battle scars in the Georgetown secondary over the years, and this is the only part of the lineup that suffers significant losses from 2011. There’s a lot of good talent among the upperclassmen and now is their time to step up.

9. Stay together. This is not a time for attrition. The rising class of 2013 numbers just 14 juniors, a victim of students giving up or giving in, following the rough endings in 2009 and 2010. Georgetown needs all its freshmen and sophomores to recommit to 2012 and bring the experience and dedication for next year that returning players can bring. There is no substitute for experience in college football.

10. Remember, but don’t forget. Yes, it’s OK to call this season a success, but the players and coaches should remember that Lehigh clinched consecutive PL titles with wins over Georgetown, and for Lehigh to capture a third consecutive title in 2012, they will have to go through Georgetown to do it. The next 41 weeks, the next 293 days, the next 7000 hours of the off-season should be all about what it will take—in recruiting, in weight training, in plain hard work, to get Georgetown to lift that trophy on Nov. 17, 2012. And for the first time in its PL tenure, the pieces are in place for Georgetown to be a credible option to do just that.

The late Scotty Glacken once said that it’s the 40 weeks of the off-season that builds winners. Let’s win that day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week 10 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts following Georgetown's 30-13 win over Fordham:

First and foremost, well done. The home fans may not all appreciate the level of commitment and hard work of this team over the last two seasons, but Saturday's effort should remind even the most fervent doubters out there that when it sets its mind to it, Georgetown can be a competitive football team no matter how steep the climb.

And without looking into too much of a rear view mirror (after all, this post is a few days late), on to Lehigh. Most of my thoughts on the game are found in the Pre-Game Report, and if you didn't have a chance to read it, I've reposted it below. Needless to say, Lehigh is the favorite in this game and for good reason, and no one is going to set couches ablaze if Georgetown falls short in this one. Yet, they're one game, one game from something quite remarkable.

Do your best, and don't leave anything behind. The seniors know this all too well. Here's the preview:

Saturday's unexpected but eagerly anticipated Patriot League final is not an accident.

Statistically speaking, Lehigh and Georgetown enter the game among the 2011 league leaders across the board, with significant national statistical rankings to back it up. The Engineers are one overtime possession short of an undefeated season, while the Hoyas have leveraged a steadier offense with a ferocious run defense to put together a run unlike seen by a Georgetown team since the MAAC days. Talent and home field advantage may favor Lehigh, but the Hoyas shouldn't be counted out.

The fans of the Lehigh Valley have never quite figured out the Hoyas, who are 3-18 against the home town teams (Lafayette, Lehigh) and 0-10 versus Lehigh. Georgetown might be viewed the same way DePaul is seen in the Big East--a geographic outlier with a small budget and unfulfilled potential. Georgetown's task is not to make believers out of the Murray Goodman Stadium crowds, but instead to believe in what got them to this point in the schedule and execute upon it.

The Engineers have maintained a wide open passing attack with a veteran defense to pick up big leads in many of its games this season. Last week's 14-7 win against Holy Cross could be seen as an anomaly, but may have also provided Georgetown with some leads as how to solve the Lehigh game plan.

Here's a review of the major matchups of the game:

Lehigh rush offense versus Georgetown rush defense: The Engineers have ben efficient on the ground all season, with junior RB Zach Barket now leading the way. Barket rushed for 102 of the Engineers' 143 yards against Holy Cross, and has been on a roll of late, with 111 against Colgate and 185 versus Colgate. Barket (and to a lesser extent, RB Keith Sherman) help open up the Lehigh offense so that it does not depend exclusively on the pass. Lehigh was held below 120 yards a game in five of its first six, with a season low of 43 versus Bucknell, but has largely been untouched down the stretch. The Georgetown rush defense has been especially strong on single-back sets and stopping Barket remains a high priority. Advantage: Georgetown.

Lehigh pass offense versus Georgetown pass defense: Lehigh QB Chris Lum is an outstanding dual-threat passer, and his numbers reflect it. Lum's 12.1 yards per catch among four top receivers will put pressure on Georgetown's pass defense to play a little tighter than they did in the past two games, which led to easier gains in yardage before the red zone. WR Ryan Spadola (71-1215-10 TD) is the obvious point of defense, but two other receivers will be options as well, including Jake Drwal (64-732-9), and RB Zach Barket (30-309-5). If Lum gets the time, he will find his receivers, but Georgetown needs to take advantage of a smaller Lehigh offensive line (average weight=289) and put pressure on Lum with its 3-4. That may prove to be a tough task. Advantage: Lehigh.

Georgetown rush offense versus Georgetown rush defense: Both teams don't allow much in the way of rushing; in fact, the schools are less than a yard apart in average rushing yards allowed per game. DE Andrew Knapp will be counted upon to work the Georgetown offensive line (average weight=311) and force the Hoyas to outside running tp pick up yards. Smaller backs like Wilburn Logan and Dalen Claytor may struggle early as a result, but if Nick Campanella can get some traction and more 4-6 yard gains, the Hoyas will benefit greatly. No team in the last six weeks has rushed for more than 107 yards, and if Georgetown is to win, that has to change. Advantage: Lehigh.

Georgetown pass offense versus Lehigh pass defense: Like Georgetown, Lehigh has been a bit more liberal on pass defense but tends to lock down opponents in the red zone (only 13 TD's in 29 opponent possessions). The Hoyas have not relied on a heavy passing game due to the success on the ground, but Isaiah Kempf will need big games from Jamal Davis, Patrick Ryan, and either Jeff Burke or Max Waizenegger to pick up yards after the catch to extend the Lehigh defenses. Kempf must be careful with sacks, as Lehigh enters the game with 25 on the season. Advantage: Even.

Lehigh kicking game versus Georgetown return game: Lehigh punter Tim Divers is averaging 37.5 yards a kick, with 10 inside the 20 and only one touchback all season. Lehigh stands to gain on field position if Divers is at the top of his game, and Jeremy Moore will be tracked very closely. Advantage: Lehigh.

Georgetown kicking game versus Lehigh return game: The Hoyas have been, for the most part, capable of containing kick and punt returns, but the advantage isn't overwhelming. The efforts of the return teams really need to be heightened, and avoid post-possession penalties. Advantage: Even.

Intangibles: This is Georgetown's first trip to Goodman Stadium for nearly two thirds of the team, and while the pressure is on Lehigh to win the title in front of the home crowd, the younger Hoyas need to settle down and not get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the nature of a title game. Lehigh has been there, done that, not so for Georgetown. Advantage: Lehigh.

Some keys to the game:

1. Get Ahead Early: Georgetown is 8-0 this season when leading at halftime, and are not considered a comeback team when trailing by 10 or more points. Lehigh may strike early to put the Hoyas in a deep hole early, something they were unable to do against Holy Cross. For its part, Lehigh is 7-0 when leading at halftime.

2. Linebacker Penetration: Watch to see how eager either defensive coordinator will be to commit linebackers to the run or to drop a linebacker into midfield protection. Establishing a ground game early for Georgetown may force all-PL candidate Mike Groome (78 tackles, 4.5 TFL) to stay closer to scrimmage.

3. Playing The Fourth Quarter Like any boxing match, the favorite is hoping for an early knockdown and a decision before things get late. Georgetown must play to be in contention by the fourth quarter, and when it has a lead to play with the same intensity as it would in a comeback. This balance was best seen in the Colgate game and will be crucial as Georgetown tries to manage the clock as well as the scoreboard.

Georgetown would do well to follow the road map of the past three games: shut down the run, control the passing lanes and lock down Lehigh in the red zone, and pick up turnovers in the secondary. The task is a steeper climb against Lehigh, but so is the reward. Underdogs thought they may be, Saturday's game is both an opportunity and an affirmation of a remarkable turnaround, and opportunity that doesn't come along every year...or decade. Make the most of it, and while the Lehigh fans may still not understand the Hoyas, it's time for them to respect them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Week 9 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts following Georgetown's 19-6 win over Holy Cross:

This was the first (and likely only) game this season I wasn't able to catch a radio or TV feed, owing that I was at the Georgetown campaign kickoff events. As a result, it would be improper to relay game day thoughts and impressions. But one cannot help but be impressed by the effort and the result.

In its last 24 games where its opponents were held under 20 points, Holy Cross was 23-1. Now it's 23-2.

Holy Cross had its opportunities, a given. But Georgetown had its opportunities to stop the Crusaders on fiurth down, to force a fumble and to make their own history, and they stepped up to do it. After a decade of grumbling by various Patriot League fans (and a few Georgetown ones) that the Hoyas were not up to to the task of being a competitive Patriot League program, you don't hear as much of that anymore.

So, as we near the Senior Day game with Fordham and a memorable finale with Lehigh, it bears repeating how much Georgetown needs to express its thanks to these seniors, the ones that lost 18 of its first 20 games, and 11 straight in 2009, when nothing was going right. These are the men that didn't quit, that didn't transfer, that found a way to keep working and keep training and keep looking forward and not back. The ones that lost six of its last seven games last season and didn't quit. The ones that took a hard loss to Bucknell a month ago and didn't give up.

Many years ago,a Prairie View A&M running back was asked what he though of that's school's monumental losing streak in the 1980's. "Nobody gets used to losing." And while Georgetown has never faced the struggles of a Prairie View, a Northwestern,  a Columbia or schools tagged with long and bleak losing streaks, the past ten years of Patriot League football have been a dark cloud around the program, that the budget and the unfinished field and the losing ways were all endemic of a program which could never succeed.

In 2009, these then-sophomores faced another challenge, one which was never proven to be more than a hoax or a sad prank. On the night of the season finale, with the 0-10 Hoyas about to face Forham on Senior Day, a phony e-mail was sent to players claiming that the University would close the program in 2010. There was nothing of the sort, but as those players trudged off Multi-Sport Field after losing 40-14, the sophomores had to be asking themselves what they had gotten themselves into. The next week, a parent responded on the football message board.

"My name is Pat Matheny. My son Daniel was a four year starter at center and two year captain. Unfortunately he missed 7 games due to injury. He played his last game against Fordham [on] 11/21. This ends 14 years of football. I am not a football coach, I am a supportive parent. We are not unique. There are a hundred other players and parents with the same story.

"This season was extremely difficult for all of us. Believe me when I say that ALL persons involved worked very hard to make this program successful from a win loss perspective. Over fours years things happen within the team you never hear of. Death in someone's family, loss of close friends, cancer, serious player injuries, the list goes on. Then add to this year an anonymous previous player/parent sending e-mails directly to the players the night before the Marist game that Georgetown is dropping football after the 2010 season and you have a recipe for disaster. Believe me no one on this blog wanted success more than me and my son. It just did not come in the form of victories.

That having been said, think about this:

There are multiple factions that occur when a team goes 0-11. Everyone involved carries some blame. That does not mean players/coaches are not GOOD. The worst player on the 2008-09 Detroit Lions was a superstar in Div-I football.

"These players are basically volunteers. There are need based grants,. Yes they are admitted to an outstanding university, but I basically pay tuition. It's very difficult for any coach to get players into this system...

"I know some of you played here. The perception of this program is very negative. The university does not offer any viable support for the team and coaches. No matter what anyone thinks the fact that recruits come to campus and see unfinished Multi Sport Field with its temporary stands and porta potties is a turn off...The athletic department told the parents that there are no plans to drop football. they are close to finishing the field. I have heard that story multiple times over the past 4-5 yrs. I talked with Daniel about that. I said it doesn't do anything for you. He responded "Yes I know, but it helps our program improve."

"My suggestion is to put pressure on the school administration to show STRONG signs of support that include facilities. Make our non Patriot games reasonable competition. Focus on the benefits of a Georgetown education. We ALL want success on the field. There are multiple problems. They can be worked out. Remember 900,000 young men play high school football. approx. 28000 play in all of Division 1. Our players have much potential.The glass is half full...Move ahead."
This is the circumstances to which the seniors endured, overcame, and in Senior Day this week, can stand above.

In 2010, the Georgetown Voice wrote: "There is no easy cure for Georgetown football’s ills. In the end, it comes down to unwavering commitment from everyone involved. The University has to back the program with its full financial and administrative support. The coaches have to always keep working, whether on the field, in the film room, or on the recruiting trail. Fans and alumni need to show up and pay up. The players need to go hard on every play in games and in practice. For those who have watched the Hoyas flounder in recent years, that may seem impossible."

There is nothing impossible when it comes to sports and if the 2011 Georgetown Hoyas have taught us anything, it's precisely that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 8 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown’s 40-17 victory over Colgate on Saturday:

All Three Phases: I’ve followed Georgetown football closely for 18 years and have seen games for a dozen more, and I will pay a compliment when it was due—Saturday’s effort against Colgate was among the top two or three games I’ve seen for the Blue and Gray. Yes, there were some well played games out there: Duquesne, 1997, Holy Cross, 1998, Cornell, 2003, but what was remarkable about Saturday’s effort was something coaches like to talk about: the "three phases" of the game: offense, defense, and special teams.

Every phase came up big Saturday.

Offensively, start with the line. For a decade, Georgetown has suffered with offensive lines that were too small, too slow or just injury-plagued, allowing defenses to flood the box and provide Georgetown’s running backs with little protection. Saturday, the line continued its growth this season and owned the line of scrimmage, allowing the running backs opportunities to get yardage, while protecting the quarterback and giving him time to find receivers. In Saturday’s game the offensive line, which have up five sacks in the 2010 loss to the Red Raiders, allowed one coverage sack this year, for no net yards lost.

The running backs also excelled. Wilburn Logan averaged 6.6 yards a carry, Brandon Durham seven. With line support, backs can get it done, and when the backs are getting yards, it opens up opportunities for receivers. Jamal Davis’ opening TD paved the way for Georgetown to dictate tempo and  maintain offensive consistency after Colgate had dominated time of possession in the first quarter.

Defensively, the game was a gem. Anytime a team holds the #7-ranked rushing game in the nation to 84 yards entering the final series of the game, it’s worth saluting. Nate Eachus was stopped in a way no one before (or maybe since) will do, and you saw inspired tackling and defensive focus from the line and the linebackers. Georgetown’s secondary continues to make big plays and its reads on Colgate QB’s Gavin McCarney and Ryan Smith shut down three second half drives that could have got Colgate back in contention. Robert McCabe’s 15 tackles was one of many outstanding individual efforts defensively.

Special teams, the third "phase", was efficient throughout. Matt MacZura’s punting has struggled this year but he got it done without incident Saturday, Brett Weiss was 4-4 on the field goals and the kick return game (Jeremy Moore and Kevin Macari at he forefront) gave Georgetown vital field position all day. One stat tells it all: between return yardage and turnovers, the average starting field position for the Hoyas was midfield, and that’s a great place to start for any team.

Well done to the team, well done to the coaches who really studied the film on Colgate despite the uncertainty on Eachus’ recent absence, and well done to all the preparation in spring and in August that has now completed what was once a lofty goal for the program: a winning season. Now, an even more impressive goal awaits, and it starts at Holy Cross Saturday. A win over the Crusaders would put Georgetown in line for a shot at the PL title in three weeks versus Lehigh, something once unthinkable in PL circles.

Time to put away the plaudits from Colgate, and now focus on the task (and the opportunity) at hand.

How Many More? Saturday’s attendance was 3,215, and so many people tried to get in the game that Georgetown students migrated over to the visitors seats to get a better view, and others were left watching the game from the Hariri (business school) steps. For the amount of people on campus that afternoon (well over 5,000, by some estimates), the MSF should have been accommodating to as many of these guests as possible.

Which raises at least three questions.

1. What is the plan to provide Homecoming seating for home fans? At some point, Georgetown needs to assign seating so it knows when it is oversold.

2. Why can’t Georgetown employ temporary seats in the end zones or along the thick brush along the 40 yards in the northwest corner not occupied by stands? If people knew there were seats to be had, maybe they’ll be more likely to attend.

3. Can there be some effort to provide suitable pre-game and halftime activity at the field and not just at the tent?

And, while we’re at it, THAT question:

Is Georgetown any closer to keeping the promise it made a decade ago about actually finishing the MSF, and not letting what purports to be a field degrade even further?

Myopia, Or HoyaVision? For out of towners such as myself, the video feed from is an essential means of following the team...when it works. Saturday’s game had no audio for the entire first half.
Audio and video overage is vital in the Internet age but still seems to be a point of confusion at the Hilltop.

Football needs more than a one camera setup on top of the press box, and hope that someone is picking up the transmission. By contrast, Verizon FiOS broadcasts home games with a full production setup, yet 99.99% of fans will never see it. There has to be a way whereby Chuck Timanus could have more resources to broadcast the game with the ability to reach more fans in a way that people will want to watch, and that any agreement to show the games on cable TV gets the opportunity for wider clearance (even if tape delayed) than the FiOS public access channel.

Yes, we know the campus can see the games. Let's take a longer view.

A Tree Falling In The Forest: Which is more surprising: a) no local reporter sent a reporter to cover the Georgetown game, b) that the Howard Homecoming game was equally shut out, c) Georgetown was oversold and no one covered it, or d) that Howard had 3,000 empty seats at its game?

If the papers don’t or won’t commit to regular coverage of local teams, it’s time to revisit an old practice in the print medium—the stringer. A stringer is a free lance writer paid per story to cover what the staff cannot. Certainly there are writers at The HOYA, the Voice or Howard’s Hilltop who would be thrilled to see their name in print in a major newspaper with a recap of the game and would do so for little or no remuneration (though, we hope, it is the former).

With coverage comes awareness. With awareness comes interest. With interest comes support. With support comes growth. It’s got to start somewhere.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 7 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 21-3 win over Howard:

How To Build A Rivalry:  In his post-game comments, coach Kevin Kelly was right on target that Georgetown-Howard can be a rivalry game to benefit both schools. But are the parties listening?

Saturday’s game drew a MAAC-like 1,891 to Greene Stadium. No Hoya Blue caravan, no Showtime Band halftime, nothing. Subtracting  Magruder and Gwynn Park, the two high school bands that played in Howard’s own absence, you might have had 1,500 people there. What gives?

First, Howard has to start caring about this rivalry. This week, the Bison play its Homecoming, a mix of activities and celebrity watching that would dwarf anything on the western side of the G2 bus line. YardFest, step shows, a Homecoming Parade, and wondering which rappers will find their way to fraternity row draw thousands to the weekend of events, though not always the game itself.

The game is very much a celebration of the HBCU experience, while the buildup to Saturday’s game with the Hoyas had all the enthusiasm of a women’s volleyball game. The Howard athletics web site didn’t even post a pre-game article, by contrast, its front page was a three minute video touting the Homecoming experience, with the words and music sounds of the late Notorious B.I.G.: "Ain't no tellin where I may be..May see me in DC at Howard Homecoming." (He was said to have made his professional debut at YardFest.)

But in 2011, would Howard promote a game with Georgetown? Why? Do Howard students even want to play a school like Georgetown?

Second, Georgetown has to start caring about this rivalry. For much of the last decade Georgetown ahs put all its promotional assets into basketball and students come to assume that since no other sports are promoted by the school, no other sports are worthy of their support. Two thousand showed up for Midnight Madness, but how many of them took the bus to Howard? How many of them were even aware of it? Was it mentioned at Midnight Madness? Was it promoted by Hoya Blue? Do Georgetown students even want to play a school like Howard?

Third, the DC community has to start caring abut this rivalry. Earlier this year, Howard signed a deal with AT&T to sponsor an annual game with Division II Morehouse at RFK stadium. AT&T provided promotional support and the game drew 18,403. How much excitement would be leveraged for Hoya football if it could play before 18,000 at RFK Stadium?

Nothing against the fine men of Morehouse, but there are probably 60,000 alumni of Georgetown and Howard in a one hour range of RFK Stadium, and with any, iota of coordinated publicity, both schools could gain a tremendous boost from a game of this magnitude and a sizeable walk-up crowd as well. It takes a village, and some sponsors too. Will either school reach out from its comfort zone and support an event that is not Howard Homecoming or Georgetown Basketball?

Where Was The Mayor? Can there be a Mayor's Cup if the Mayor isn't there to present it?

Mayor Vincent Gray's schedule Saturday included a rally with the Rev. Al Sharpton from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm which drew "several hundred", according to press reports, to push for DC voting rights. That evening, he attended a MLK dedication dinner. His web site did not list any official events from 1:00 to 6:00 pm.

Various reports in the DC press suggest Gray never made it to Greene Stadium that afternoon. If the current DC chief executive isn't supportive of an event which bears his office's name, maybe the Mayor's Cup needs a new sponsor who is more supportive

Air Defense: One number that really jumped out from Saturday’s game wasn’t the stout run defense or the third down conversions from the game recap, but the way Georgetown’s pass defense stepped up its efforts. Howard has been in the rise in the passing game and it just wasn’t there Saturday, in part to a better effort in the secondary. Yes, the Hoyas miss Jeremy Moore (of whose ongoing suspension nothing has been said in official or campus reports) but Stephen Atwater has stepped up and filled the role well.

Ground Control: Meanwhile, the rush defense faces its toughest test of the season Saturday against Colgate. The Red Raiders have endured another slow start but are picking up the momentum, and their ability to win the game usually rests on the shoulders of its running backs, which always seem to run roughshod over Georgetown’s defenses.

Two keys to the Colgate ground attack-- QB Gavin McCarney and RB Nate Eachus—were each held out of Saturday’s overtime win over Cornell. Eachus is working through the effects of a concussion, and with a doctor’s OK would be back in action Saturday. Eachus rushed more in the first quarter than Georgetown rushed all day in last year’s game, and finished with 44 carries for 214 yards against the Hoyas. Clearly, he would be the focus for Georgetown’s upset-minded hopes should he play in the game.

Ground Control, Pt. 2. On Georgetown’s side of the line, the rushing numbers are in decline.  The Hoyas have rushed for 1,024 yards in six games, but nearly half (485) come against the two Pioneer opponents on the schedule. Between Claytor, Logan, Campanella, and Durham, the coaches have to figure out a better way to leverage their speed if they can’t plow inside. These four accounted for only 85 yards against Howard Saturday.

Home-coming: For a five game road trip, 3-2 is a good outcome. It’s a little disappointing that students aren’t following the team as closely as they should, but these kids deserve a loyal and loud following on Saturday. Over the last year and a half, Georgetown has gone from 0-11 in 2009 to 9-9 (.500)—a number not insignificant given the size of the hill to which it is climbing and the amount of road games needed to do it.

Georgetown has never defeated Colgate in this century, most of the games haven’t been close, and the fans of the Red Raiders usually don’t take this game very seriously. Ah, what a win could mean for these kids and this program. Let’s make this a week to get ready for a great game.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 24-10 win over Wagner:

Kempf: A Step Ahead? During Georgetown’s platooning of quarterbacks, it was said that Scott Darby was the running QB who couldn’t consistently throw, while Isaiah Kempf was the passing QB who couldn’t consistently run. In recent games, however, Kempf may be proving conventional wisdom wrong.
In the Wagner game, Kempf had 11 carries for 46 yards, before three sacks netted to 35 yards. Not a huge number, granted, but Kempf is developing as a better runner when necessary, and that’s the operative word—necessary. Georgetown neither needs nor wants its quarterback to lead the stat sheet in carries, but if Kempf can keep opposing defenses honest, it’s going to open up opportunities—if not with Wagner, than in upcoming games.

The platoon still seems to be in action, so the job isn’t Kempf’s to stay. Still, he’s making a positive impression into the Howard game.

Defensive Stat Of The Day: I can’t say enough about how the defense has stepped it up this season. Here’s one number that is fairly obvious: Wagner (entering the game at 160 yards rushing per game) ended up with 33 carries for 77 yards, with a long of 21. Outside that one run in the third, Wagner was rushing 1.7 yards per carry, and managed only six rushes for first downs in the game—three each in the first and third, but none in the second or fourth quarters. Well done, Hoyas!

Defensive Stat Of The Day, #2: Wagner was held to 3-18 on third down conversions, a big improvement from Bucknell’s 9-17 conversion the week before.

Here Comes The Cup: Georgetown and Howard return to the gridiron in the best regional rivalry that really isn’t one. For some reason, this game gets no “pop” from the fan bases of either school, and local interest seems to be at about the level engaged during the Steve Dean Memorial trophy games with GU and Catholic.

It’s not enough to say that I-AA city rivalries don’t draw interest. Morgan State and Towson (one HBCU, one not) battle for local bragging rights and draw representative crowds, with just short of 10,000 in the stands to open this season. In Philadelphia, Penn and Villanova drew 10,071. In New York,  Columbia and Fordham drew 6,820 to 7,000 seat Jack Coffey Field.

Obviously, the unfinished Multi-Sport field isn’t accommodating crowds like this, but 10,000 seat Greene Stadium can. It remains to be seen, however, what interest the Bison can draw this season after such a poor start to open its season. Howard’s only home game at Greene this season drew 4,063 versus Norfolk State.
In 2008, columnist Dick Heller of Washington Times had this description of the outcome of the first game between the schools:

“Howard coach Carey Bailey tried to explain how the Bison managed to lose their opener to a poor opponent while a few thousand home fans mumbled and grumbled in the stands. The Bison lost the ball four times and didn’t do much when they hung on to it. After Floyd Haigler’s 5-yard TD pass to Willie Carter in the first quarter, Howard’s attack was totally inoffensive.

"We have to do a better job of coaching," Bailey said, using a standard excuse after a losing game. Not to mention a better job of playing. As Bailey spoke, three Bison players sat morosely at his side. Losing to a team like Georgetown is enough to depress anyone."

But, hey, cheer up, coach. Regardless of the outcome, doesn’t it make a lot of sense for Howard to play Georgetown? Dry chuckle. "It would make lot more sense if we had won."

And Heller added: “Nowadays, both football programs have nowhere to go but up, and it’s fitting that they try to do so together. Mediocrity marked their first joint appearance, but that impression need not be lasting.”

Three years later, the teams have as many wins in the 2011 season (seven) as the two teams managed in all of 2009 and 2010 combined. It would be great if the coverage and the crowd reflected it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 5 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 35-18 loss to Bucknell.

Bucknell isn’t Marist. We said as much last week, but Bucknell proved a significant step up in competition from the previous week’s effort. Although the Hoyas made its share of mistakes (and no matter what a team can do, fumbling on the second play carries no excuse), this game was won by a Bucknell team that did its homework and controlled the three phases of the game.

Offensively, Bucknell was  not afraid to mix up the calls, especially seizing opportunities against a Georgetown secondary that has underperformed this year. Defensively, the Bison shut down the Georgetown running game and further wounded its ability to be an effective option in league play. The disappearance of stats for Nick Campanella (229 yards in three non-conference games, 22 yards over two league games) bear this out. Special teams-wise, the Bison overcame a pair of poor punts and held its own on punt returns, less so on kick returns. Most of all, Bucknell won the turnover battle, and that was the key stat from this game.

Yes, Georgetown had its chances, particularly to start the second half, but a lack of depth can hurt down the stretch, and it did. The offensive line never seemed to adjust to Thomas Gallagher’s absence, the same for the secondary minus Jeremy Moore. When starters struggle, Georgetown does not have the firepower to pull from its bench. That’s a point of concern as the season enters the second half of the schedule, when injuries take its toll and the strength of schedule starts to climb.

Moore’s Status: The announcement on Saturday that Jeremy Moore was suspended  for the game was rare for Georgetown—if a player has been suspended in the last decade before a game, I’m not aware of it. The last time I’m even remotely aware of players were removed from the roster was in early 2004, when sophomore Alondzo Turner and senior Byron Anderson were placed off the pre-season roster without fanfare.

If this was men’s basketball and a player of Moore’s talent was suspended for a game, the HoyaTalk boards would be ablaze, but again, this isn’t basketball. Nonetheless, Moore is a good kid and I hope whatever was at issue Saturday can be resolved for his prompt return.

Strength Of Schedule: Some sobering numbers in this regard: in the 59 games of the Kelly era, Georgetown is 12-47, but 6-2 against Davidson and Marist; put another way, they’re 6-45 against everyone else. Of Georgetown’s 12 wins since 2006, 11 have come against teams which ended their season below .500 --only a win over 6-5 Holy Cross in 2010 could be categorized as a upset.

So what awaits the Hoyas in the second half of 2011? Saturday’s game at 1-4 Wagner should be one the Hoyas can win. The Seahawks are struggling, albeit with scholarships: Wagner has played just over .500 ball over the last two seasons at Grimes Hill, but Georgetown hasn’t won a non-conference game beyond Davidson or Marist since Howard in 2008.

As for Howard, that’s a competitive game, too—the Bison have wins over Div. II Morehouse and MEAC newcomer Savannah State, the latter of which ended a 0-29 streak in MEAC play for the Bison dating to 2007. But following Howard, the Hoyas must end the season with the PL’s best: Colgate, Holy Cross, (Fordham), and Lehigh—all of which expect to end the season over .500.

Hoya fans are a remarkably patient group, and a 5-6 record in 2011 would represent progress across the board. To do so, Georgetown needs to step it up over the next two weeks.

The Freshman 15: At the halfway point in the season, half of the 30+ newcomers have seen action, with significant contributions from starting DL Jordan Richardson, OL Mike Roland, and WR Kevin Macari.  Each of these three have been great additions this season, and Richardson figures to be a prominent GU lineman after Andrew Schaetzke graduates in 2012.

Most of the action from the frosh has been on defense and special teams, with DB Javan Robinson, LB Nick Alfieri, DB Chad Coleman, DB John Egan, DL Kevin Bond, DL Alec May, DL Xander Carpousis, DL Peter Daibes, and DL Joe Rosenblatt getting on the field through five games this season. But I wouldn’t be too concerned of the lack of time for the remaining freshman—it’s OK to serve some apprentice time and not be thrust into the lineup, especially in skill positions. Hard work and learning the college game should be the prime ingredients for the freshmen, whether or not they are on the field this season.

Most Unusual Georgetown Football Sub-Reference. Ever. From the Georgetown Voice:
During his lecture on Friday afternoon, filmmaker and author Michael Moore demonstrated an acute sense of his audience and location. Not only did he acknowledge that Georgetown has been or will be host to such conservative figureheads as Karl Rove and Ann Coulter, but he drew a political parallel that would make Hoyas from any corner of the political spectrum crack a smile. When discussing the voting patterns of young people, he explained why so few 18- to 25-year-olds bothered to vote in the 2010 midterm elections. “[Obama]’s been playing it like Georgetown football,” he said. The crowd erupted with laughter, whoops, and applause.”
OK, so someone probably slipped this into his speech, right? That is, unless Moore is:

a) a secret Georgetown football fan, 
b) a fan of the Hoyas’ Michigan products (Mose Hogan, Chad Coleman, James Spaly, Mike McIntyre), or
c) a very happy man now that Jim Schwartz (C'88) has  the Lions at 4-0.

Either way, it’s probably the only time you’ll hear a major speaker mix presidential politics and Georgetown football.

For this year, anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Day At The MSF

“Rumors abound that Harbin Field will eventually be turned into a real stadium, to be used by such teams as soccer, football and lacrosse. If this is the case, it will be a major boost for campus ... The university should do all that it can to provide better accommodations; after all, having sports on campus for all to enjoy follows the Jesuit ideal of educating the whole person - mind and body. We already have the teams ... now let's live up to our reputation and give them the facilities they deserve."—The HOYA, 2000

Day 2,200 for Phase 2 of the Multi-Sport Field (nee Facility) was much like the previous 2,199: nothing to see here.

For those who have forgotten (and there are too many), “the most significant project in the history of Georgetown Athletics” sits idly by, waiting for one of its various designs (there have been at least six, perhaps more) to rise from the sand and gravel that was laid down on a temporary basis in 2005 to accommodate the home season while construction would begin soon thereafter.

Except it didn’t.

It was to wait for the Southwest Quadrangle to be built. And it waits.

It was to wait for the Davis Arts Center to be finished. And it waits.

It was to be built in conjunction with the Hariri Business Building to be completed. And it waits.

It would surely be completed before the Science Building, right? And it waits.

Now, the 11-year project could be moved further back in the line as plans for a basketball training facility, the Intercollegiate Athletics Center, have come to the forefront. No one denies the need and the urgency for that project, not just for basketball but for all Georgetown sports, but now is not the time to put away the MSF plans for another five years and wait for the next capital project to come along and push it aside again. And frankly, it’s time for football and lacrosse supporters to speak up.

When proposed in 2000, the MSF (yet another utilitarian name for a campus that still has a 30 year temporary title for Village A) was priced at $22 million, not an insubstantial sum for what was a 4,600 seat field. (By contrast, Stony Brook got an 8,000 seat, $22 million stadium that looked like this ).

What Georgetown was really getting with the MSF was the ability to move offices out of McDonough in the absence of a training facility at the time, and when the price increased, more functionality was envisioned, from skyboxes to locker rooms.

In 2004, a number of factors intervened. Public fundraising stopped on the project, with reports of up to $12 million raised. A field was approved by the board of directors, but running electrical and plumbing lines to the business school took priority. Forty yards of fence was added with only half the 4,600 seat total in rented, temporary seats for the Brown game, but that was about it. A series of lights (mostly for team and intramural practice and less for game conditions) and a low-cost replacement to years of  problems with a similarly low-tech scoreboard are the only changes to the area since the field debuted (and construction stopped) 2200 days ago on Sep. 17, 2005.

As time went on, athletic director Bernard Muir sold a phased approach to building the MSF, but made no outward progress, and left before the inaction caused any damage to his professional reputation. Dan Porterfield took over as interim director (a two month assignment that lasted over a year) and promoted a lower-cost alternative to get the project back in gear, but it too stalled. In his 17 months as athletic director, Lee Reed has not made any public statements as to its timeline.

Who or when is not important, the time has long since passed for finger pointing. The time has come to recommit to this project, without delaying or damaging the IAC fundraising, and work towards a suitable and sustainable model to build a permanent facility within the next three years—not in 2020, not in 2030. This project has been approved, zoned and vetted across the campus and community bureaucracy for years. It was variously waited for smaller donors, for larger donors, for naming donors, for design studies, for architecture reviews...only to see its core constituents, the students themselves, lose faith in the coaches and University that once told them, “By the time you are a senior you’ll be playing in a new stadium.” Nearly a quarter of the living alumni of Georgetown football have been told this. None have seen it happen.

With the IAC assuming many of the locker, training, and facilities needs originally envisioned under the MSF circa 2000, what does this project really need?

  • Permanent seating and/or standing room for 5,000, ideally within a design that is aesthetically and architecturally consistent with that part of campus.
  • A workable press box
  • A contemporary scoreboard
  • Some minimum amount of game day space for players, coaches and officials
  • Replacement turf (after six years, the ten-year lifespan of the MSF surface is likely to wear out soon given its continuous use)
  • Fencing and landscaping around the entire complex, not one side of it.
  • Permanent concession and rest room areas, a source of derision in the lacrosse community this past season:
    “I went to the G-Town/Nova game Saturday night. As we approached the stadium from the parking garage, I had in mind...posts about the lack of funding for the Georgetown program. I commented out loud that the stadium and field looked awesome, with huge buildings surrounding the stadium. Initially, I could not see any evidence to support the criticism from the Hoya alumni and fans. Then I noticed the chain link fencing, the construction gravel, the wooden ramp and the poorly constructed bleachers. I also saw tents, which I thought are probably used for the home and visiting teams. However, my biggest shock came upon observing the porta-johns. Then I began to understand and respect the frustration of the Gtown alumni. The final blow came at halftime. While the Hoyas players were playing their hearts out against my former team, I saw four of those Georgetown players in full uniform, waiting in line with me to use ......the porta-johns. I could only imagine a scenario more embarrassing for the players in the middle of a hard fought game. I, and other Nova fans simply stepped aside and allowed the players to go in front of us, as we collectively shook our heads. Loyalty to Nova does not in any way prevent support for the Georgetown lacrosse program. The Big East Lacrosse benefits when all teams are competitive. I have seen Villanova's Athletic Director and staff support the lax program and the benefits are clear. There is simply no reason the Georgetown AD should allow such an unacceptable situation to exist on its campus. It not only makes the program look bad, it makes the school look bad." –
Even with inflation, this is not a $22 million project. Saint Louis built a 6,000 seat soccer stadium for $5.1 million. Denver built a 2,000 seat lacrosse stadium for $6 million. Arlotta Stadium was build for the Notre Dame lacrosse program for for $5 million in 2008 and was completed in 15 months. If Georgetown had a copy of Arlotta Stadium, students and fans would do backflips.
It’s not enough to delay the MSF yet again because Georgetown can only build one project at a time. This would be an ideal opportunity to leverage the construction resources that will be needed at the IAC and get the MSF (ideally with a new name) up and running. Raise the money in 2012, start building by the fall of  2013, even if it means moving late season football games on the road. Move lacrosse up to North Kehoe for the spring, and open it in time for the 2014 season opener, the 50th anniversary season for modern Georgetown football. Short of joining the Big East for football, and that’s not happening, no single effort would do more to engage and energize the football and lacrosse community than a recommitment to a permanent home for these sports on the Hilltop.

Name it after a donor. Name it for Dave Urick, or Frank Rienzo, or even Al Blozis. Name it for a sponsor if they care to contribute. No matter the name, the mere presence of a facility that, as the front page reminds us, is a home, a home that befits Georgetown. No one expects Jerry World on the edge of the Southwest Quad, but a reasonable place to watch a game, to enjoy a concert, or simply to spend a relaxing spring day watching teams practice. The present eyesore accomplishes none of this, and the institutional inertia surrounding this project can only be a distraction as the IAC fundraising heats up.

If this reads like I’ve made this argument before, well, I did. Below is an excerpt from a 1998 article:

What is needed, therefore, is an adequate and expandable facility that could serve many needs--football, lacrosse, soccer, concerts, even commencement. Such a project would be a tangible commitment to maintaining green space at the Hilltop, a project that the University community could look upon with pride--just like any homeowner would. But if Georgetown builds it, will they come? First, they've got to know it's [coming].”
This is the time to recommit to a football and lacrosse facility for Georgetown University.

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 52-28 win over Marist:

1. Remember, It Was Marist. Not Bucknell, not Wagner, not even Howard. It was Marist.

If Georgetown is going to continue its move up the ladder of I-AA football, it has to dominate teams like Davidson and Marist and the Hoyas met the challenge this season. The Pioneer League is a lot like the old MAAC Fotball league in philosophy and talent, and if you’re in the Patriot League, you absolutely need to win these games. In recent years, that was not always a sure thing.

The Red Foxes entered the game with a good passing game, a poor running game, and a defense that could absolutely not afford turnovers. All three factors came to fruition in Saturday’s game. Marist's passing game was strong (300+ yards), its rushing game was poor (49 yards) and turnovers buried them Any team, whether it’s Marist or LSU, can’t give up three INTs that convert to short-drive touchdowns. That Marist is now a -7 in turnover margin after four games and is 1-3 makes sense. That Georgetown is now a +7 in turnover margin after four games and is 3-1 makes sense, too

And for those wondering, Bucknell’s turnover margin is +11, among the best in the nation.

2. Another Name In The Backfield. Brandon Durham’s strong effort in the Marist game adds another option to a need for the Hoyas entering October: depth in the backfield.

After four games, its smaller backs (Logan and Claytor) have not been able to make much headway with the offensive line. Nick Campanella had a big opening game but is now a marked man in opponents’ film preparation. A fifth option in the backfield opens opportunities to build a better running game and force the defense to pay more attention up front, opening up the secondary for a number of improved receivers.

For his part, QB Scott Darby had eight carries for 50 yards—good numbers for a quarterback, and reflective of the fact that a QB can’t (or shouldn’t) lead his team in rushing. While Georgetown has options in the air, it will win or lose in 2011 based on its ability to establish a running game. Saturday's game was another step in that direction

3. Best Number After Week 4: Sacks allowed: 2. In 2009, the Hoyas allowed 37 sacks, in 2010, 25.

4. Second Best Number After Week 4: Red zone conversions for touchdown: 13-16 (81%). In 2009, that number was 32%, in 2010, 60%.

5. The Week 5 Crossroads: Yes, few expected Georgetown and Bucknell to be at the top of the standings on October 1, but both will take it. As to week five, it can be a turning point for both teams

Georgetown has not won in week five since the 2003 season, while Bucknell has split its last six in the first week of October; surprisingly, the Bison have played at home on the first week of October six straight years while Georgetown hasn’t played the same week at home since 2006. (Two years ago, a winless Georgetown team lost at Bucknell 14-6 on Oct. 3, 2009.)

Georgetown could see its first 4-1 season in 12 years with a win, and despite two more road games ahead, could really build some momentum for a program unaccustomed to it. For its part, a Bucknell team which has only enjoyed one winning season since 2005 could make its own statement to go to 4-1 with three of its next four at home. Only one can do so, of course, and in a series where close finishes are a matter of course, it’ll be a busy week for both teams.

For once, there’s a lot on the line for the presumed second tier of PL football.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Yale’s 37-27 win over Georgetown on Saturday.

1. Um, While We Were Away… Yes, the weekly blog post was held up with all the firestorm over Big East realignment. If a bullet has been dodged, it’s neither the first nor the last, and while it’s not the driver to the discussion, the issue of football at Georgetown plays a role in the outlook for basketball—namely, if Georgetown doesn’t want to commit to a more competitive football program (at least in the eyes of other schools, conferences, or TV networks), where does that leave the basketball one?

No one that I know is calling for a lease at FedEx Field and getting Urban Meyer on speed dial anytime soon, certainly not Jack DeGioia. But one of the byproducts of this latest mess is the growing idea that teams move or stay in tandem—Pitt and Syracuse, Texas and Texas Tech, Rutgers and UConn, etc. Who is (or would be) Georgetown’s wing man in future discussion? Are the Hoyas a coupled entry with Villanova, who may or may not see a second opportunity to jump start its PPL Park I-A bid? Does Vilanova, a team that has studiously avoided scheduling games with Georgetown in football to resist any temptation of comparisons, want to steer clear of being associated with Georgetown for its athletics future? If Villanova got an better offer elsewhere, would they weven try to bring Georgetown along?

If not, who? Does Georgetown want to take its chances in the world of college athletics as St. John’s traveling buddy? Are we just another Seton Hall? Another DePaul? Is Georgetown even less valuable as a major program if its athletic program is seeking as lacking in commitment, with or without major college football?

Late last week, over at the basketball page, I wrote the following:

‘If Georgetown has enjoyed unprecedented success in the last 32 years despite spartan and grossly inferior facilities, know that men's basketball is the engine. Georgetown has an impressive 29 sport program for over 700 men and women...because of men's basketball. It has build a worldwide brand for the University, its admissions, and the pride of the Georgetown community...because of men's basketball. If Lee Reed gets the long-delayed athletic training facility off the drawing board he will do so...because of men's basketball. But if Georgetown watches these assets disappear, so will its resources and ultimately its institutional support. If that happens, the basketball training facility will join a list of projects which Athletics could not secure funding for...and never got back.

“So if "change" means adding travel packages to unfamiliar locales like Ames and Waco and Lawrence, let's do it. If "change" means calling up Temple and UMass and rebuilding the old Northeast Corridor footprint, let's get it done. Georgetown doesn't need to settle for a national "CYO League" of faded Catholic programs that can only hope for one NCAA bid a year while the super conferences will clamor for eight and ten bids a year. And if "change" means setting a new course in an unfamiliar conference setting, much as Georgetown did in 1979, that should be vetted as well.”

When this scenario comes around again, and it eventually will, what kind of peer institution does Georgetown want to be associated with, and by whom? Answering that demands a positioning for football in the equation, whether as a university that aspires, that acquiesces, or simply accepts whatever fate is dealt it.

And if the Ivy League needs a ninth team for scheduling, well, that’s another topic entirely.

2. Special Teams: Special teams didn’t lose the Yale game but it was a major factor. Each of Yale’s first scores were the result of kickoff returns of 60 yards or more which set up short fields for the scores. Georgetown owned the kickoff return against Lafayette and had, on average a +4 yard gain in average field position to start a drive. Against Yale, that average number was a -6 yards.

3. Did The Hoyas Get Tired? During the radio broadcasts, the Yale announcers noted how Yale was wearing down Georgetown in the third quarter, and a few of the player quotes from Yale backed this up as well. While this was the first afternoon game for the Hoyas, the game time temperature (61 degrees) wasn’t the issue. The issue? For whatever reason (physical, mental, or teams adjusting at halftime) Georgetown is losing the third quarters in its 2011 games.

  • Against Davidson, the Wildcats held a 2:42 advantage in time of possession: 2- 4 on third down conversion versus Georgetown’s 1-4.
  • Against Lafayette, the Leopards held a 5:32 advantage in time of possession: 1- 4 on third down conversion versus Georgetown’s 0-3.
  • Against Yale, the Bulldogs held a 5:08 advantage in time of possession: they converted where Davidson and Lafayette didn’t (4-5 on third down conversion) versus Georgetown’s 0-3.

 In 2011, winning the day means Georgetown must win the third quarter.

4. Freeze Frame: This was the point in the 2010 season where Georgetown’s offensive strategies began to wilt under film analysis by opposing coaches. Even though the Hoyas were nonetheless able to pick up a win in week four of the 2010 season, the seeds of its October decline were coming into play. It’s worth watching (figuratively, of course, to those not able to be in Poughkeepsie this week) to see if Marist is more proactive and keying on Georgetown’s offensive sets than its first three opponents were.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude made few visible changes to the offense last season and the result reflected this. Will we see new wrinkles heading into October, or more that opponents can prepare for?

5. A Statement Win? The words “Marist” and “statement win” seem incongruous, but if Georgetown is to start making a move up the steep ladder of I-AA football, it needs to get to a point where games with Marist College are expected wins, not just competitive ones.

As Georgetown stalled and stumbled over the first decade of the patriot league, the gap between its skills and that of non-scholarship Marist has not been much. Since joining the PL, Georgetown is only 4-3 against Marist, and none of its wins have been by more than seven points. It has not defeated Marist in Poughkeepsie in three tries .

We’re not talking Lehigh or new Hampshire or even Dayton here, but Marist, a second-division team in the weakest conference in Division I-AA. This series shouldn’t be this close and this game shouldn’t be either, but the Hoyas have a habit of playing down to its competition in games like this. Much like it has begun to separate itself from Davidson in recent games (and Davidson’s not a powerhouse either), it must do the same with Marist, which will allow it to reach higher in the schedules and maybe, just maybe, be a little more competitive against the next tier upward, that being the Ivy League.

Georgetown’s records against Ivy schools since 2003? 0-11.

Yes, there is still work to be done. Lots of it. Getting a third win Saturday is the next step on a long climb.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 2 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 14-13 win over Lafayette:

1. "Oh, The Humanity..." A good, hard fought game. A close finish. Both teams played well, right? Not if you read the post-mortems coming out of Central Pennsylvania. Titles and quotes like "Lafayette College staring into an abyss of disaster", "Saturday's horrifying 14-13 loss to Georgetown", and a "death march" of a schedule filled Brad Wilson's Monday column in the Easton Express Times. It's not like Lafayette lost to the Apprentice School Shipbuilders, did they?

Unfortunately, there's a thread in some PL writers which is not far removed from that. They see the Georegetown program as so far beneath the Patriot League as to be virtually noncompetitive. A loss to Georgetown is not seen as a win by a better team as much as it is the signs of a collapse by the other team.

"Georgetown is improving -- its talent level, especially on defense, increases each season," Wilson writes, avoiding any such laurels offensively, but past columns from the Express-Times and Allentown Morning Call still read as if Georgetown is making a step up from Division III.

I suspect some of this animus comes from having to travel to Washington and sit in what passes for a press box at the MSF. Whereas the press areas at Fisher Stadium are clean, comfortable and well stocked with food and beverages, the MSF has, well, none of this.

"This place is brutal," writes Paul Reinhard of the Allentown Morning Call. "I'm seated between the public address announcer and a Georgetown intern who is in charge of pumping music into the stadium."

"With 35 minutes to game time the Lafayette crowd outnumbers the Georgetown following," said Reinhard. Fact check: by gametime, the Lafayette crowd (maybe 500 or so, as evidenced by many empty seats across the way) are a fraction of the announced 2,435 at MSF, many spilling over from the temporary aluminum seating across the field. Then again, given how uncomfortable the MSF seating is, why would any Geogetown fans want to sit there a half hour early, anyway?

Bottom line, in the last 13 games, Lafayette is 2-11, Georgetown 6-7. At some point, the PL press will have to give Georgetown its due, but probably not this year.

2. What Worked: Offensively, Georgetown's running game was inert, and the Lafayette defensive strategies all but neutralized Nick Campanella after a strong showing agaisnt Davidson. But Isaiah Kempf was able to keep the passing game going in two key drives, and did the one thing that is essential to a good quarterback--he did not commit turnovers. Too often in prior games, Georgetown has collectively shot itself in the foot with turnovers with were converted into easy opponents scores and deflated the Hoyas accordingly. No such mistakes Saturday night.

Defensively, the Hoyas continue to surprise the experts, some of whom assumed Lafayette would have its way with the Georgetown secondary. In the final four Lafayette drives of the first half, the Leopards failed to pick up a single first down, and the secondary continues to step up its defensive play late in possessions. An opponent might get to the red zone, but Kaisamba, Heimuli, Quintero et al. aren't ready to hand them a ticket into the end zone. In two games, opponents are just 1-7 in red zone touchdown conversions. Georgetown is 7-7 in that same category. Outstanding!

3. Rushing Defense: Stat of the week: After two games, opponents are averaging just 1.9 yards a carry against the Georgetown defense. That's to be expected against a somewhat nonexistent Davidson run game, but the ability to hold Vaughn Hebron and the Leopards in check was a key factor in the game. As has been said before, a strong defense gives the offense more time on the field and more opportunities to build field position, and field positioned powered the G-men to the win Saturday.

4. Five Weeks Of White Jerseys: Much was made in the Lafayette press about a four week run on the road to start the season. Georgetown, unfortunately, can take that four and raise it. Georgetown's next home game will not be until October 22.

How (and why) did this take place?

If Georgetown and Yale were a home and home series, the Elis would be at Multi-Sport Field this weekend, but Georgetown signed a six year series which guaranteed Yale four home games (and three straight from 2010-12). it's been extended to 2013, so Yale gets home games over the next three years with no return game required. In Geoprgetown's view, a game against Yale still carries more prestige than looking to St. Francis or Campbell to pick up a game, and Georgetown's not the only school to take annual visits to New Haven. According to the College Football Data Warehouse, Dartmouth did not get a home game at Memorial Field versus Yale until 1971--that's right--the schools met at New Haven annually from 1924-1970.

As to the other games, Marist, Bucknell, and Wagner are return games, and there was no return by Sacred Heart, so the Hoyas accepted a road game at Howard, which isn't a home game but no bus trip, either. Let's be fair: home and away travel is a fact of football life, but if you don't have to play a game at the MSF, chances are you won't.

Still, five road games is an anomaly and a challenge. No Georgetown team has played five straight road games since 1940, and the travel can wear on a team. The story of the 2011 season will rest on those white jerseys.

5. A Story Worth Telling: I wasn't at Saturday's game, and didn't learn about this event until seeing photos posted on Jack DeGioia's Facebook page: the football team held a dinner Friday night in honor of Joe Eacobacci (C'96), whose death from the 105th floor of 1 World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 was also recognized at a pre-game ceremony. The dinner featured speeches by Coach Kelly, University president DeGioia, and Tom Eacobacci (B'93), Joe's older brother who was three years ahead of him on the team.

Those of us who were of working age that day will never forget where we were--whether in lower Manhattan, Washington DC, or at countless places worldwide. I was in New Orleans, attending a travel conference which was featuring a panel of airline executives that morning. The exodus of CEO's and airline executives from that meeting hall in those earliest minutes was telling that something was going on.

But to the kids on the football team, let's not forget that they were not much older in 2001 than that group of elementary students President George W. Bush was visiting in Florida. Today's freshmen were but eight years old, the seniors not much older than 11. As time goes on, the direct memory of 9/11 will not be a part of the lives of future Americans. By the time of the 20th anniversary, our college age population will have no memory of it.

We must not forget, nor must we let the passage of time diminish its impact and the sacrifices made to those who sill simply be too young to remember otherwise. I hope the dinner noted above can become an annual tribute to Joe and those Georgetown alumni who lost their lives that day.

"Those in [the Pentagon] that day knew what they were witnessing," said vice president Joe Biden at ceremonies yesterday. "It was a declaration of war, by stateless actors bent on changing our way of life, who believed that these horrible acts of terror directed against innocents could buckle our knees, could bend our will, to begin to break us, break our resolve."

"They did not know us."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lost In Translation

Was it something he said?

Or maybe how people read (into) it?

Such was the curious response to an August interview in the Georgetown Voice with University president Jack DeGioia (C'79, G'95). The annual interview gives the student press an opportunity to ask some topical questions to DeGioia on the upcoming school year. To those that follow such things, the responses (on issues ranging from the August earthquake to the upcoming capital campaign) follow the calm, measured cadence that DeGioia offers in situations like these. Entering his 10th year in the office of president, DeGioia remains a steady hand on the ship of state that is Georgetown University—a well regarded ship on the high seas of higher education, but a ship seen as slow to change its course.

The interview also included DeGioia's thoughts on football scholarships and his reaction to Fordham University's move towards schoalrship football. As to the response within the University community to the interview, well, there really wasn’t any. The article gathered no responses at the HoyaTalk message board. Ten responses followed the Voice article, most mired in a somewhat internecine argument about how Latinos are defined in faculty recruitment.

A comment posted today from someone named Lynn Blackwell, was anything but obscure. The comments are below:
"I can’t begin to express my outrage at President’s DeGioia’s comments regarding the Patriot League. In just about all other areas of the Division I athletics played at Georgetown, scholarships are awarded. It is understood, that the time and commitment required by athletes, exceeds those required by “regular” students, particularly at Division I level. It is with this understanding that schools provide scholarships as incentives and recognition of these students abilities and their commitment to continue provide their services. Georgetown is fine with rewarding students with scholarships in other areas, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, etc. However, football is supposed to be different? I totally disagree. As long as the academic standards are high, providing scholarships to football students will not lower the type of players that Georgetown attracts.

How is it a school with such prestigious alumnus and such a high tuition, cannot cover the costs associated with football? I suspect, that if Georgetown invested in football [one fourth] of what is invested in basketball, they would have an exceptional football program. I think President DeGioia’s response regarding Georgetown’s participation in the Patriot League is a cop-out and it does a disservice to the student athlete’s that participate on the football program and to the coaches who have to recruit each year.

There is a large pool of qualified candidates that will not attend Georgetown, because their families make just enough money that will disqualify them from financial aid needed to cover the cost of attendance. If these athletes have worked hard on and off of the field and they qualify academically, Georgetown should be willing to step up and do its part."
Well, that’s a strong response. What exactly did DeGioia say, again?

Here’s the excerpt of the interview Blackwell cites.
Voice: The issue of scholarships in the Patriot League remains unresolved with Fordham’s continued presence in the conference. Where do you stand on the issue of football scholarships, and how do you see this issue affecting the football team and other athletic teams?
DeGioia: We compete in football in the Patriot League, and we joined the Patriot League because it was consistent with the way in which we want to conduct the football program, which is a non-scholarship program. There are three tiers of football. We’re non scholarship, the next tier is the Football Championship Series, 63 scholarships from my recollection, and then I think it’s 82, and 82 is the Bowl Championship Series. We’re the least-cost program that you can offer, and this has been an ongoing issue within the Patriot League. To date, we have sustained the commitment to non-scholarship, and Fordham has gone scholarship, but they’re not eligible for the championship within the Patriot League because they’re playing by a different set of assumptions.
DeGioia (continued): The Patriot League has worked for us in terms of providing a very good context for our football program. It’s been very competitive and it’s required the highest level of competition that we have ever played since the 1950s, and I’m very proud of the way our young men have represented us on our football field. I am not supportive of moving to a scholarship program. I don’t believe that fits the ethos and the culture of Georgetown, and I believe the way that the Patriot League is conducted is exactly the right place for us to be, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be the best place for us to be, but I’m not supportive of moving to a scholarship program and I’m not supportive that Georgetown would follow the move that Fordham did and go to 63 scholarships. It’s just very expensive and I don’t think it’s commensurate in who we are and in our aspirations for our athletic program."
The article link got picked up on a Division I-AA message board many Patriot league fans follow, and the responses were akin to a declaration of war. Some responses include the following:

  • "What a piece of **** statement from an enlightened individual. So..what about all the rest of the ethos of scholarships with every other sport you sponsor?"
  • "He has no clue about the football program except they are taking more money away from the well funded basketball team."
  • "I have been a strong supporter of Georgetown's participation in Patriot League football, but this statement by Dr. DeGioia really has to raise some eyebrows. Somebody had better clue him in that, regardless of the funding formula, the Patriot League fully expects all of its members to compete on a national level in FCS."
  • "He said that football scholarships - in and of themselves - don't fit in with the character and culture of Georgetown. It's as if he believes that any kid on scholarship for athletics is somehow against the culture of the institution. Either he feels that all scholarshipped kids don't fit in with the "ethos" of Georgetown - or that it's just specific to football players. Either way, it's an awful thing to be saying about the very students that attend your school. At the bare minimum it is incredibly hypocritical."
There’s a subplot to this ire, and it’s the Patriot League’s presidential punt last December on the issue of football scholarships. Lafayette president Daniel Weiss took a shot across the bow when he told the Lafayette student newspaper in advance of the vote he was not in favor of adding scholarships, and Weiss was held out to ridicule when the decision was tabled.

Proponents of scholarships in the league vary wildly in their outlook on its effects—some see it as elevating the league to better competing in the  Division I playoffs. Others see it as a means to fend off the Ivy League’s growing advantages in need-based recruiting, while still others see the Patriot League going the way of the buggy whip and the landline telephone if it does not adopt a model as Fordham is already doing. Good people can agree to disagree on such matters, and that includes the PL presidents.

There also was some fan indigestion raised over DeGioia’s comment in the transcript that “there are three tiers of football” and "the next tier is the Football Championship Series”. “The real problem here is Dr. DeGioia's supposition that the Patriot League competes at a level below that of the Football Championship Subdivision,” wrote one fan. “That is wholly unacceptable.”

Except he didn’t say that.

(Note: My initial response, portions of which were previously posted on that message board, is included within the overall comments below.)

First, I don't see anything particularly remarkable in this interview, as it follows a long-held institutional belief that Georgetown is better suited as a program recruited and funded along the lines of the Ivy League than the Colonial Athletic Association (Delaware, James Madison, Richmond, etc.). DeGioia didn't say he wants out of the Patriot League or Division I-AA, only that the Fordham approach doesn't appeal to him.”

What is the “Fordham approach”? Well, for the uninitiated that haven’t read this blog for the last three years, Fordham is moving towards a 63-scholarship program that will increase its football budget to $5 million a year, or about 25% of its athletics budget. (By contrast, Georgetown spends about $1.4 million of its $29 million athletic program on football, or about five percent).  It will allow Fordham to offer full rides (grants) to football players regardless of family income, while Georgetown may offer a lot or a little, depending on family income, and in varying forms of loan, grant, or work study. Fordham is leveraging this heightened investment to play one to two major college opponents a season (it lost to Connecticut in the opener, 35-3) and become a national I-AA playoff contender. Colgate would like to do this, too.

Lehigh, probably. Holy Cross and Bucknell, a little less so. Lafayette, as before, no. Thus, the aforementioned December "punt".

Do the absence of athletic scholarships hold the Patriot League back? Yes, but no less so than its long-held ban on 85% of all football recruits nationally who do not meet its self-imposed minimums on SAT and GPA, the Ivy-League approved “Academic Index”. (Some PL fans are quick to do battle on scholarships, but are otherwise loyal to the arbitrary nature of the Ivy Index, but that’s another topic.)

So for those unaware with Georgetown football, the obvious retort follows: “if you’re against scholarships, why do you have them in basketball?” But Georgetown doesn't have an philosophy against athletic scholarships. Some sports at GU are fully funded, some sit in the middle with need-based aid, and some get next to nothing at all, because it's never been able to fully fund all its sports (and unless you're Notre Dame, Stanford, or Texas, chances are your school can't, either). Football has long been a middle tier sport at Georgetown sitting between the fully funded programs (basketball, track, lacrosse, and soon, soccer) and those with even less (tennis, swimming, baseball, softball).

And without the ability to recoup scholarship expenses (as basketball can), where is the return on a 63-grant football program? You could charge $100 a ticket at the MSF for every home game, students included, and that still wouldn't fund 25 men's scholarships a year. Is there huge untapped demand for alumni to see Georgetown aspire to play Delaware or James Madison, assuming there is a place built to fit them?

On one level, it really is a money issue DeGioia is driving at. Georgetown doesn't view an extra $3-6 million a year (incorporating Title IX) in grant-based scholarships a good return for its investment, and it doesn't stand to make much of it back playing in the mess that is the MSF. The PL presidents also see much of the same paradox--they see Fordham drawing the same crowds as Bucknell and spending twice as much to do so, asking "what's in it for us, again?"

Jack DeGioia is not an casual observer here. He is the only PL president that actually played the game, and at Georgetown, no less. He is a past president of the Big East Conference, was invited to Mark Emmert's NCAA summit last month, and knows the PL's balance sheets far better than any of us do.

I neither claim nor pretend to have the view “behind the curtain” that DeGioia does, but some public data illustrates his institutional concern. U.S. Department of  Education data allows readers to contrast schools by the amount of athletic-based aid it awards versus the number of participants in their sports. Georgetown University awarded $3.071 million in athletic aid to male participants in 2009-10 (I’m using the male half of the equation for consistency purposes across schools, below).

$3.071 million, sounds like a large number, but is it?

There are over 400 men on 14 Georgetown teams from baseball to sailing, and at a cost of $58,500 a year (tuition, room, board, books and fees), that amount “buys” 52.5 funded scholarship equivalencies (FSE’s), a term I use to describe the composite athletic aid available for a school to award.

What are the comparable male FSE’s for other Patriot League schools?
Colgate: 102.3 students
Fordham: 96.8
Lehigh: 89.6
Lafayette: 82.4
Holy Cross: 69.7
Bucknell: 67.3
Georgetown: 52.5
Yes, that's right: Georgetown spends less on athletic aid than not only Big East schools, but Patriot League schools.

But put another way, Colgate has enough athletics aid in its budget for 102 male students to receive some form of athletics grant…if the PL allowed it, of course. Currently, only men’s basketball and men’s soccer are scholarship-available, leaving the rest for various aid buyouts, but if Colgate wanted to convert some number up to 63 from its FSE list for football, there seems to be room to do it.

Allocating 52.5 scholarships for Georgetown wouldn’t even cover the football team, but remember, that number covers all 14 sports, not one. When you subtract out the commitments for Big East basketball scholarships (13), track (12.6), lacrosse (12.6), and soccer (maybe 6.3 out of the 9.9 allowed), that’s 44.5 scholarships. Some quick math leaves somewhere about eight FSE’s for ten remaining sports, including football. In business, that’s called a tight margin.

These may not be the hard and fast numbers at play, and I don’t suggest it is. But DeGioia does know the numbers, and he knows 63 doesn’t work at Georgetown. The Big East requirements for scholarship minimums in key sports don’t give Georgetown the wiggle room to transfer athletic aid into football in ways Fordham can--and Colgate could.  To suggest Georgetown could is one thing. To suggest it would is quite another.

That having been said, DeGioia s also incredibly supportive of the Georgetown football program when others have been less so, and attends as many games as he can (although at the MSF, there's even not a box seat for him to sit at). But asking the Board of Directors to get behind a multi-million scholarship initiative that his head coach hasn't pushed for, that his athletic director hasn't pushed for, and frankly, the fan base hasn't pushed for is unrealistic. For a University that lost hundreds of millions of dollars before DeGioia took over, advancing a plan with little institutional support and with almost minimal ROI isn't good business sense for any CEO.

Fans at other schools didn’t hear that, of course. They read a statement from the interview as a roadblock to progress, to I-A games, to the kind of visibility Fordham aspires to.

Where DeGioia says “The Patriot League has worked for us in terms of providing a very good context for our football program,” they see “We’re non scholarship, the next tier is the Football Championship Series.” Yes, the Patriot League is part of the Championship Series and yes, there is a long standing funding gap at Georgetown between the two. The two statements are not mutually exclusive.

Of course, if someone wanted to make seven-figure gifts in that direction, he's not going to turn it down, either. Alumni have raised funds to fund women's soccer grants and a baseball grant here and there, and that's fine by him. Could Georgetown convert a few need based awards to scholarships? Maybe. But Georgetown itself doesn't want to be caught on the hook for 63 every year when the donors grow weary and the school’s balance sheet doesn't have that kind of leverage. If Georgetown fans like Lynn Blackwell want DeGioia to see the benefit in football scholarships and make it financially palatable to do so (as lacrosse did to their credit), well, why not work through the Gridiron Club and make it a priority? DeGioia has never drawn a Hunter Guthrie-like line in the sand and said “No More Scholarships For Us!” Instead, the approach has been that in an era where the university’s stated #1 priority is need-based aid, any drive towards scholarships that go beyond need would have to come from the constituents themselves and not at the expense of the University’s stated priorities. Absent some major donors to change the equation, why would any college president commit to doing otherwise?

For those that like to use such a debate to question Georgetown's interest in football, this quote from DeGioia bears repeating: "I believe the way that the Patriot League as conducted is exactly the right place for us to be, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to be the best place for us to be."

Short of the PL mandating 63 scholarships, that sounds like an affirmation to me.

It’s all in how you read it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 40-16 win over Davidson:

1. It Was What It Was: A home opener is designed for three things, and Georgetown got each of them Saturday: 1) a win, 2) a successful opening for the offense, and 3) a win. And while fans left the unfinished MSF with some good feelings about the 2011 Hoyas, it’s always fair to keep it in perspective—Davidson isn’t Delaware, and Georgetown isn’t  Eastern Washington, either.

The Wildcats entered the game picked ninth in the ten team Pioneer League, and its lack of running game really hurt  its ability to mix up the offensive sequences. Still, Davidson was able to get four red zone possessions off its passing game, but misfired on two that could have really made the game interesting, none more so than  midway through the third, trailing by seven. Davidson stood second and goal at the eight, then proceeded to give up a sack, an illegal forward pass, and a blocked field goal. One minute and 42 seconds later, the Hoyas were up 21-7 and never looked back.

The offense was proficient and the defense held its own, so you can’t argue with the results. The -7 yards rushing is the fewest allowed in 15 years, but Georgetown ought to be careful to put the win into context. Seven years ago, a similar verdict was reached over an outmanned St. Francis team, 36-7, whereupon the Hoyas defense remained strong but the offense scored a total of just one touchdown in the next three games. The longer-term takeaway from Davidson is not the win, but how it prepared the Hoyas for what lies ahead.

2. Welcome, Mr. Campanella.  After years of struggles from the backfield, the arrival of RB Nick Campanella added a much needed boost to the Georgetown running game. Campanella rushed 13 times for a game-high 82 yards, with six of those rushes resulting in first down yardage and three for touchdowns. If there were accuracy statistics for that kind of running, he’d be off the charts.

To be fair, it’s not like Davidson had any game film of Campanella in the backfield, unless they tracked Campanella via his YouTube clips at Montini Catholic HS. The element of the unknown rendered Davidson fairly unaware of what to do with the big back, but Lafayette defensive coordinator John Loose will be doing his homework on defensive sets to limit Campanella off the line of scrimmage. For its part, RB’s Wilburn Logan and Dalen Claytor had much less impact against a defense they should have been able to make some against Davidson, and the task at hand is going to be tougher Saturday. Logan rushed for only 14 yards in last season’s game, while Claytor did not play. And excepting a 30 yard touchdown run by Philip Oladeji, the Hoyas managed just 63 yards on the ground last season versus Lafayette. A better rushing game by everyone will need to be in order Saturday.

3. Hold (Together) That Line. Both teams’ offensive lines came under scrutiny Saturday, for different reasons. The Hoyas seemed to hold its own but a couple of players were dinged up in the process. The ability of the offensive line to stay together is among the most pressing issues facing the 2011 Hoyas, and they’ll need a strong effort Saturday versus. Lafayette.

Across the sidelines, the Leopards didn’t do much with its line, with four seniors and three three-year starters, against a tougher North Dakota State team. Lafayette managed no running game of note, were 2-12 on third down conversions, and gave up four sacks. Not that Georgetown’s numbers wouldn’t have looked different had Georgetown took up the offer to travel to Fargo last year (NDSU had offered, and Georgetown declined, just such an offer) but Lafayette knows its needs a better line effort to allow QB Ryan O’Neil to go to work on the Georgetown secondary as he did so effectively last season.

If you’re looking for a storyline to Saturday’s game, start in the trenches.

4. A Successful Deployment. I’m a skeptic on the QB platoon process, having felt neither QB in the rotation has enough skills on both sides of the ball to dominate on both sides of the stat sheet. For this week, however, it paid off. Isaiah Kempf  took advantage of Davidson’s gaps at linebacker and picked up some much needed yardage; how 16-24 passing was proficient and did not harm, particularly in the red zone. Lafayette presents some different quarterback challenges and it would not surprise me to see Darby back in the game next week—it’s going to be like this for much of the season.

5. Opportunities Lost. I can’t say enough about how the defense forced Davidson into mistakes on key possessions in the red zone. A blocked FG in the second, settling for a FG in the third, an incompletion on 4th and 2 at the 19. You’re talking about as many as 21 points coming off the table, and with two teams as closely matched as they were, you just can’t win like that.

Rewind, then, to the second game of last season. Here were the outcomes of four Lafayette second half possessions against the Hoyas:

  • 66 yards, interception at the Georgetown 6
  • 39 yards, missed a 33 yard field goal
  • 61 yards, fumble at the Georgetown 17
  • 60 yards, interception at Georgetown 23
The Leopards know first-hand that they can’t leave points like that on the table. But it’s up to Georgetown to do its part, too. Again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Patriot League and Georgetown, Ten Years Ago

"The size and depth of #11 ranked Lehigh powered the Engineers past Georgetown, 41-14, in the Patriot League debut for the Hoyas. Despite the loss, and more tough competition around the corner, the game gave Hoyas fans a glimpse of some exciting times to come.", Sep. 1, 2001

Ten years ago today, Georgetown made its Patriot League debut at Kehoe Field against Lehigh University, a 41-14 loss before 2,512 at Kehoe Field. The Hoyas, who had lost just 28 games in the entire MAAC era under coach Bob Benson, entered a decade that was, by most accounts, the worst in Georgetown's longstanding football history: from 2001-10, the Hoyas were just 28-81, 8-52 in the Patriot League (5-27 for Benson, 3-25 for his successor, Kevin Kelly).

Root causes for the last decade's performance are myriad: Georgetown offered far less financial aid than other PL schools, its academic index requirements were much more restrictive than its peers, injuries and player attrition cost it key contributors, and the ongoing failure of the Multi-Sport Facility project (prominently promoted in the 2001 media guide as "scheduled to begin construction in the fall of 2003") became a decade-long obstacle towards program stability. Whatever the causes, the 2011 Hoyas continue to build from the bottom up as they did that day on Kehoe Field, a site which was eventually ruled unplayable for intercollegiate play by the University.

The recap from that 2001 game, posted here, included the following:

"Lehigh made its statement early, returning the opening kickoff 50 yards to the Georgetown 41, and scoring three plays later. The Hoyas made a nice comeback, advancing to the Lehigh 19, but QB Sean Peterson's pass was intercepted in the end zone. Lehigh answered with a field goal to lead 10-0, and held Georgetown to frequent punts in the first half, extending the lead to 24-0 in the second. A fourth TD in the half was narrowly was avoided when DB Byron Anderson stripped the ball from Lehigh's Josh Snyder at the one yard line, following a 62 yard pass completion headed straight to the end zone. However, the Hoyas offense stalled, and Lehigh took the punt and drove for a 35 yard field goal, which sailed wide.

"With 3:35 to play, Peterson took the Hoyas on a 82 yard drive, culminating in an exciting TD pass from Peterson to Craig Agnello with no time outs and :02 remaining in the half.

"The two teams traded field position in the the third quarter, with Dave Wilson scoring on a 1 yard run to increase the lead to 31-7 with 3:46 in the third. Following a field goal to lead 34-7, Lehigh took advantage of Georgetown's special teams to block a Dave Paulus punt at the Georgetown 18. Despite holding the Engineers in a goal line stand, Lehigh pushed through on fourth and goal to lead 41-7.

"The Hoyas completed the last score, with Peterson finding sophomore Luke McArdle on a 38 yard touchdown strike with 5:28 to play. Overall, Peterson finished the game 23-33 for 288 yards.
"There was still a positive attitude on the sideline and on the offensive side of the ball," Peterson said in the Washington Post... "It was good to score late in the game. That shows we still had a lot of pride."

After the game, Benson told the Allentown Morning Call, "We realize what kind of team we were playing today. If you're going to start something, you might as well as start at the top and that's where Lehigh is right now."

Then and now.