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.