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.