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.