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."