Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Modest Proposal: Meet The Hoya-Cats

In case you're wondering, no one left --or joined-- the Big East conference this weekend.

Which raises this question--what would it take for either Villanova or Georgetown to be a more serious player in these tectonic shifts? Football, of course, yet neither plays at the competitive level needed to either lead the Big East or be a candidate for another major conference.

So what if the two schools got together to field a Big East team?

(Please, it's only a parody. In the Internet age it doesn't take much for an story to go viral in the wrong way.)

BIG EAST Announces Debut of Georgetown University and Villanova University
In Innovative Football Partnership

PROVIDENCE, Nov. 31 -- The BIG EAST Conference has announced the addition of Georgetown University and Villanova University as a single conference entity that will compete in the BIG EAST in the sport of football.

The BIG EAST extended an invitation to S.J.-O.S.A., LLC, a joint venture between the universities, to operate a unified football team (to be known as "Georgetown and Villanova" or "G&V") comprising football student-athletes of both  universities at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA competition. G&V will begin BIG EAST football competition in the 2015 season along with the U.S. Naval Academy, who joins the league that season.

The combined team will compete under the nickname "Hoya-Cats". The team’s colors will be blue, white, and gray, reflective of the common colors of both institutions.  Each school will maintain its own records and the team will represent both universities as its sole intercollegiate football entity after the 2014 season. 

"We are very excited to welcome Georgetown University and Villanova University into the BIG EAST Conference for football," said a conference official.  "Each of these schools have a strong athletic tradition and an innovative plan of friendly competition that will help elevate our football league.  Each University is an outstanding academic institution that continue to reflect the values and responsibilities of their long held membership in the BIG EAST conference." 

Villanova and Georgetown compete within the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of NCAA Division I football, but each lacked the resources to make a jump to the FBS under its current funding and scholarship models. The combined team will have the full scholarship and facility resources necessary to compete at the highest level of intercollegiate football and allow the BIG EAST to sponsor an even number of teams by division.

The combined FBS entity will compete at the 85 scholarship limit mandated by the FBS. Approximately 60 of the scholarships will initially be supplied by Villanova, 25 by Georgetown.  The team will host six home games annually, three at FedEx Field outside Landover, MD (Georgetown)  and three at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA (Villanova).  In addition, an annual game with Temple will alternate between home and away at Lincoln Financial Field, giving G&V seven home opportunities annually between its two cities. 

Practice facilities will be established at both schools with team offices headquartered at Villanova. 

The student-athletes are admitted to the school of their choice and will receive degrees from either Georgetown or Villanova. Through a dual degree program to be announced,  each school will offer a program whereby a student-athlete can take the first three years of classes at either Georgetown or Villanova to receive a bachelor’s degree and conclude his intercollegiate eligibility at the second school for the pursuit of an MBA.

In conjunction with the joint venture and the athletic departments of the universities, a combined coaching staff for the 2015 season will be named at a later date. The schools will continue to field a full complement of BIG EAST sports independently of each other.

With the combined addition, the BIG EAST football membership will now be in 14 states, 13 of the top 50 Nielsen media markets and eight of the top 25 media markets. The conference will have a television households reach of 31.3 million - by far the largest number in college football.

(With apologies to the memory of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Steagles).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Week 11 Thoughts

Some (otherwise delayed) thoughts on Holy Cross' 24-0 win over Georgetown:

1. Not With a Bang, But A...For a team which had won two straight, playing a 1-9 team that had lost five straight, and to turn in that kind of effort on offense was the equivalent of throwing a bucket of cold water on the 2012 season.

Coach Kelly was not afraid to call out the defense in mid-season, and they responded. Not so for calling out the offense, whose play calls from Vinny Marino were as predictable as they were ineffective.

Injuries? Yes, they play a role, and one can argue that the offensive game plan went out the window the moment Isaiah Kempf went off the field at Davidson. Yes, the running backs were increasingly out of service, with Durham and Claytor hurt late in the year. But the overall effort on offense was disarmingly lacking, and the over-reliance on rushing when the Hoyas were especially weak in that area (and against a HC defense that was just as suspect in the secondary as the front line) proved futile.

You don't win games when your quarterback leads in rushing yards. You don't win games when you don't complete a pass for more than 19 yards, and throw nine others for a combined 44 yards. You don't win games when your number of completed passes (11) equals the number of punts (11).

The play calling showed neither urgency nor motivation. Neither team was going to the playoffs, but relying on a running game when there was none left was especially frustrating. Think of this: three running plays totaled 45 yards. The remaining 29 totaled 46 yards against the worst rushing defense in the league...but when you know your opponent is simply running the same plays, any rushing defense can look good.

Georgetown came off the field in the 2011 finale with Lehigh bloodied but unbowed. 2012 was a different story.

2. Five For '13? Depending on whether Isaiah Kempf comes back for a redshirt senior season, Georgetown could have has many as five quarterbacks with prior experience competing for a starting job next season. Some quick thoughts on each:
  • Isaiah Kempf: Efficient and effective. Kempf's a safe choice in '13, but it puts off grooming a successor for another year. 
  • Aaron Aiken: More suited to a running than a passing game. As Aiken is a rising senior, I'd like to see him as a Keerome Lawrence-slot back than as a full time signal caller.
  • Stephen Skon: Had his moments, but still too many interceptions (8) than touchdowns (4). 181 yards lost to sack yardage didn't help his final rushing totals, but Georgetown QB's don't have to run to be sucessful. As Skon is a rising junior, he's be an excellent platoon choice with...
  • Kyle Nolan: There aren't a lot of fourth string QB's anywhere with a passing rating of 157.7--and in I-AA football, only four at any class have a higher efficiency ranking, including Colgate's Gavin McCarney (159.05). We saw what McCarney could do with a stronger offensive line and some impact receivers, and if Nolan had a little more of both there's no telling what he could do. Maybe the best in-season debut by a Georgetown freshman at QB since Aley Demarest in 1990.
  • Cameron MacPherson--We didn't get to see much of MacPherson in the Holy Cross game (and at this point in the season, why not?), but MacPherson likely had little practice time this season and the expectations he would see any game time were nonexistent until about week 10. A work in progress for 2013 and he 's got some time on his side.
3. Attendance. 1,789? Really?

4. Offensive Moments Of the Year: In chronological order:
  1. Wagner (Sep. 8): Aaron Aiken's 12 yard pass to Kevin Macari with under 2:00 left sets the Hoyas in position to win the game over the 2012 NEC champions with a field goal.
  2. Princeton (Sep. 20): Fourth and 3 at midfield, 2:55 left. Going for it, a six yard run by Dalen Claytor gets the Hoyas into Tiger territory. If they punt, Matt MacZura may never have seen the chance to win the game.
  3. Princeton (Sep. 20): Yes, he missed some field goals this season, but as moments go, MacZura's game winning field goal on ESPNU may be the most memorable play for Hoya fans since Georgetown returned to  intercollegiate football in 1964.
  4. Colgate (Oct. 20): Down 37-14 at the half, Kyle Nolan throws his third TD pass of the game, 62 yards, to Kevin Macari. Georgetown would not go down without a fight, closing to 37-29 before the Red Raiders pulled away.
  5. Lafayette (Oct. 27): Down four, late 4th quarter, fourth and two at midfield. No safe run here, as Nolan goes downfield for 25 yards to Jamal Davis. The Hoyas go on to convert their best comeback of the season 20-17.
5. Defensive Moments Of the Year: In chronological order:
  1. Wagner (Sep. 8); Down 13-10 in the final minite, the Hoyas hold Wagner to a five yard pass on 4th and 15 to secure the win.
  2. Princeton (Sep. 20): Late in the second quarter, Rohan Williamson loses a punt at the Georgetown 17, which could have been a knockout punch for the Hoyas in this one. Instead, the defense forces losses on consecutive plays, taking the Tigers out of the red zone. A 42 yard field goal to end the half goes wide, the result of which keeps Georgetown within distance of a game that it would win on that side of the field with a kick of its own.
  3. Lehigh (Oct. 13): Three interceptions for Jeremy Moore and seven forced by the defense overall. Unfortunately, the Georgetown offense could convert only two of the seven into touchdowns and GU lost by three.
  4. Lafayette (Oct. 27): Cameron Gamble's interception late in the game seals a record third straight win over the Leopards, all settled by defensive performances late in the game.
  5. Bucknell (Nov. 10): A team effort, holding the Bison without a single third down conversion.
Stop by the blog (and the web site) during the off-season, with new columns every 2-3 weeks. Thanks for supporting the Hoyas this season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 10 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 10-3 win over Bucknell Saturday:

1. Command Performance. In the words of Kevin Kelly, "Our defense turned in as good a performance as I have seen in my 28 years coaching." That's not an insigificant comment when you look back at the numerous bowl teams Kelly has been a part of, not to mention the I-AA national title teams at Marshall.And while this wasn't one of those -30 yard rushing efforts that skew the the stats, either. Consider these numbers for Bucknell:

Bucknell vs. 45-scholarship Fordham a week earlier: 7-15 third down conversion
Bucknell vs. Georgetown: 0-11 third down conversion

Bucknell vs. Fordham: 42 rushes, 217 total yards
Bucknell vs. Georgetown: 33 rushes, 73 total yards

Bucknell vs. Fordham: Average gain per rush: 5.2 yards
Bucknell vs. Georgetown: Average gain per rush: 2.2 yards

Bucknell vs. Fordham: 64 plays, 317 total yards
Bucknell vs. Georgetown: 47 plays, 168 total yards

The defense has had its share of ups and downs this season but came through big in this one--not with a title on the line, but for pride and dedication. They were challenged to step it up, and delivered. Well done!

2. Injuries. The season is coming to a clsoe at probably the right time for the Hoyas, given the number of injuries suffered this season, and not just at quarterback, where freshman Kyle Nolan became the fourth Georgetown QB sidelined this fall. Running backs, offensive and defensive linemen, receivers, and secondary performers have all been impacted this season.

The Hoyas lost two senior stalwarts (Fino Caliguire, Jeff Burke) before the beginning of the season, though burke has returned to brief action late in the season. Isaiah Kempf's injury was well disucssed, but a number of other players have fought through this as well. Depth--a word not nomally associated with Georgetown football teams of recent memory--helped the Hoyas get to a point this upcoming week when they can play for a winning record.

3. MSF Jinx? Matt MacZura's two missed field goals in the Bucknell game rasied this question--do the Hoyas kick better at home or on the road?

2009: Home 4-7, road 3-5
2010: Home 4-6, road 3-4
2011: Home 7-9, road 9-14
2012: Home  4-11, road 6-6
Total: Home 19-33 (.575), road 21-29 (.724)

None of those numbers suggest an inherent bias, unless you suggest that the wind patterns at one side or another on MSF are ill-suited to kicking for either team, and I don't have the numbers on which kicks came at which end of the place. But in the last four years at the MSF, the field goal numbers are as follows:

2009: Georgetown 4-7, oppponents 1-9
2010: Georgetown 4-6, opponents 7-10
2011: Georgetown 7-9, opponents 6-9
2012: Georgetown 4-11, opponents 6-8
Total: Georgetown 19-33 (.575), opponents 20-36 (.555)

Maybe it's all in the head of the kicker, or maybe the building configurations, crosswind, or shadows make the MSF a bit more challenging to kick out of. Either way, a home field goal is no sure thing and those buildings aren't going anywhere for a few decades, if ever.

4. All-Access. It's the end of the season, so I do not expect anything substantive to be done this late, but a comment about the quality of video coverage provided through it needs improvement. Chuck Timanus does an outstanding job with what little he has to work with, but the single camera video coverage is wholly inadequate and isn't always worth the $9.95 charged to see the games. Last week's broadcast was stuck in a data cache where the feed was, at times, 20 minutes behind the game broadcast, and basic amenities the sports fan has grown to expect (time and score, for instance) cannot be shown because, well, it's only one camera. Instant replay? Forget it.

Yes, Georgetown doesn't have a radio/TV major, so physical resources are limited, and Verizon FiOS did not renew its prior agreement to host games (though it was never part of the All-Access broadcasts and according to some PL fans, never showed some games at all). Still, the best way to support a team to be able to see them, and there should be some effort sought to provide a more professional level of video coverage worth the investment that fans make.

5. Senior Day. I'll talk more about it on the web site this week, but some thanks are owed to this senior class, the ones which stuck through the winless 0-11 season and will leave the MSF Saturday with at least a winning record over their next three seasons (17-15) and (hopefully) a winning record in 2012.

It's likely the final competitive football game for 12 or 13 of these men, which for those that have been playing football every fall since they were old enough to grab a helmet and play pee-wee football, Saturday's game is a turning point in their young lives, and for those parents who have traveled to grade school, junior high, and high school games, and college games from Worcester to Norfolk over the last four years for their sons and for the team--and not all live within driving distance, either.

To the students and their families, thank you for a job well done.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week 9 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 20-17 win over Lafayette Saturday:

1. One on One: There were lots of positive news from Saturday's game, from forcing seven turnovers to a pair of second half drives which proved the difference in the game. But in the individual matchups, Georgetown held its own in a big way.

  • WR Mark Ross entered the game with 100 or more yards receiving for the Leopards in each of the previous four games. Saturday, he was held to 30 yards.
  • RB Ross Schuerman entered the game averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The 2011 PL Rookie of the Year averaged just 3.8 yards in 13 carries.
  • QB Andrew Shoop entered the game averaging 242 yards per game. His 186 yards passing was the fewest in any PL game this season for the Leopards.

Clearly, Georgetown had its share of struggles as well--seven turnovers produced just ten points, and the offense continues to struggle with a three-and-out approach early in games. But football is a game played on the margins, where one foot short can end a drive and one missed tackle can end a game. Holding Lafayette's three best offensive weapons below their peak may have provided the margin--ever so slight--for  Georgetown to stay close, to take the lead, and to prevail.

2. Freshmen Of Influence: At this point of the season, playing a lot of freshmen is often seen as 1) a sign of injuries, b) a lack of faith in the upperclassmen, or c) a little of both. In fact, it can be seen as the elevation of players who are poised to take a step up to become the kind of four year players that a competitive team needs.

As the season enters the home stretch, the Class of 2016 has been a productive group on the field. It wasn't planned that Kyle Nolan or Dezmond Richardson would be starting so soon, but their efforts are reflective of a number of classmates making their mark in their debut season, among them Spencer Ball, Cameron Gamble, Jo'el Kimpela, Ettian Scott, Jake DiCicco, Matthew Satchell, Ty Parsons and Hunter Kiselick.  With three PL Rookie of the Week awards in nine weeks to date, the Georgetown class has exceeded the usual chatter that falsely assumes "under-funded Georgetown" isn't getting the recruits. Most of the freshmen have seen at least some action this season with the exception of the offensive linemen, who usually needs a season to get up to college speed (and size).

And it bears noting that the seniors are stepping up, too. Nearly every healthy senior has seen time in the games each week, even though only five are starting regularly.

3. Second Act: Freshman QB Kyle Nolan turned in another strong effort Saturday in only his second college start. The two fourth down conversions Nolan executed were as big as any plays Georgetown has seen all year, and his while his accuracy wasn't remarkable (15 for 32), he allowed just one interception to a Lafayette team having made 17 picks in the previous seven games. And, as noted above, a second interception at any point of the second half might have been the deal-breaker in this game.

4. Rumor Has It...More than a few fans took note at the opening paragraph of Brad Wilson's game recap in the Easton Express Times, which read: "After tonight, Lafayette College must now wish the rumors of Georgetown University dropping football a few years ago had came true."

What's that again?

This wasn't an issue even in Kevin Kelly's leanest years, and the subject of whether to maintain varsity football hasn't been in the campus zeitgeist since Georgetown had to decide whether to upgrade from Division III in 1992. But on the outside, people see an 0-11 season and assume the worst, that a school not willing to invest in a big stadium or scholarships isn't in it for the long term. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

Fans and alumni familiar with athletics at Georgetown understand that the dynamics of sport sponsorship at Georgetown are more than wins and losses--winning is important, but not at the expense of providing students with competitive opportunities that fit with the traditions and history of Georgetown--which is why a Division I football team works at Georgetown where a wrestling or water polo team would not.

At six Patriot League schools, football is #1 and basketball gets in line. That there is a different model at Georgetown doesn't make one right and one wrong, but that at a handful of schools, football has a place in the fall calendar but doesn't drive the entire discussion.

5. The Home Stretch: The bye week is great for recharging the batteries for the team and coaches, but the turning of the seasons tends to take the wind out of football when it comes to fan support, especially with basketball season arriving.  The number of thread reads by game on the HoyaTalk board is one very unscientific measure of how interest has begun to shift away:

Princeton: 2,880
Brown:  1,756
Fordham: 1,678
Lehigh: 1,654
Colgate: 1,321
Lafayette: 722

Georgetown isn't winning the Patriot League title, but the next two games remain important for a winning 2012, for momentum into 2013, and for the continued growth of the program-- consecutive home games offer an opportunity to pick up wins against the bottom two teams in the PL to date. Finishing the season with three straight wins would be a great statement heading into next season, and would also be a great statement to the seniors as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 8 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Colgate's 57-36 win over Georgetown:

1. And Then There Were Four: Accentuating the positive, Kyle Nolan's debut in college football was as good as what could be expected--efficient, mobile, and (until the last three series when he was clearly rushing the pass), largely error-free. There were no reasonable expectations in August that a freshman would ever be in the lineup at quarterback, much less starting, so Nolan's preparation and execution served Georgetown quite well versus an opponent who is on quite a roll over the last three games, averaging 51 points a game.

To be sure, Colgate had no game film on Nolan and he wasn't even discussed as the pre-game starter until Friday, so the Colgate defense was flying blind, so to speak, on Nolan's technique and preparation. Not so for Lafayette, who will dutifully tear apart the game film to figure out what makes Nolan tick, and jsut as imnportantly, what Nolan did that  Kempf, Aiken, or Skon did not. That's going to be a challenge to the offensive play calls in this game, which in recent years appeared to have caught Lafayette off guard. Merely playing the Colgate playbook runs the risk of getting shut down by lafayette, getting too imaginative invites turnovers that Georgetown cannot afford. The Leopards have a resounding +11 on turnover ratio this season, most of it on interceptions.

Like many statistics, the historical numbers do not favor young Georgetown quarterbacks. A few weeks ago, we noted that Georgetown was 1-11 in the Patriot era in games with first time quarterbacks, and now that's 1-12. Its record in the second game for these quarterbacks is 1-11 as we speak.

2. Three For The D: Lafayette's defense arrives Saturday third in the PL in rushing passing, and total defense. Georgetown's numbers have slipped to fifth of seven...but that includes all games, not just league games.

The numbers for PL only games?

Lafayette is #1 in scoring defense, Georgetown last (of seven).
Lafayette is #1 in rush defense, Georgetown 6th.
Lafayette is #2 in passing defense, Georgetown last.
Lafayette is #1 in pass efficiency defense, Georgetown last.

Those numbers don't turn around overnight, but with Lehigh and Colgate in those numbers for Georgetown, it overstates the case a little bit. Still, there are three things it can do Saturday to set the tone:

1. In each of the last four games, an opponent RB has rushed for 99 or more yards.
2. In each of the last four games, Georgetown has averaged one sack per game.
3. Opponents continue to enjoy a near-automatic red zone efficiency (92.3%)

Those should be the three areas of interest--and concern--heading into Lafayette.

3. One Big Play? Each of the last two games in the series has stayed remarkably close--a combined seven points between the two games. It's come down to fourth quarter turnovers in each of the last tow years, but it needs to remain close for turnovers to make a diference.

A close game is on the mind of Lafayette coach Frank Tavani, in no small part because how the Lehigh Valley press views Georgetown, which is akin how the Big East press views, well, DePaul. A loss to Georgetown is unexplainable in their view, which is why is stings Lafayette that they've done what Lehigh has never done--lose to Georgetown not just once, but twice...and in a row. Tavani's goal? Get up in front and pull away.

4. Father & Son: No mention on the broadcast, but Colgate's 47 yard touchdown run by running back Nat Bellamy had a Georgetown connection.

Bellamy is the son of former Georgetown basketball great Gene Smith (C'84). Nat changed his last name when his mother remarried following the divorce and moved to Los Angeles. Gene was an outstanding student and athlete and it's clear his son shares many of those same qualities. Ironically, the 47 yard run was only the second carry of the season, and the only carry of the game with the Hoyas. If that run is any indication, the next two years will be memorable for Bellamy, his parents, and ultimately his team.

5. Grandfather & Grandson: The Time-Warner cable broadcast of the Colgate game had an unexpected guest--and apparel--in the third quarter.

TWC's sideline reporter caught up with the MacPherson family of Syracuse, whose son Cameron is the 5th string (well, 5th string at the beginning of the season, anyway...) quarterback for the Hoyas. Sitting with Cameron's family is a well known figure in Syracuse sports, Cameron's grandfather, Dick MacPherson, 81, who coached the Orangemen in football from 1981 to 1990, with a 4-1-1 record in bowls and three top 25 finishes en route to the College Football Hall of Fame. Other than Ben Schwartzwalder, there is no more revered coach in Syracuse football annals. MacPherson's Georgetown cap, however, was a surprise to many of the home town viewers.

When asked why he was wearing a Georgetown cap, MacPherson simply said, "I was told to wear it...and so I'm wearing it".

Coach Mac had few comments on Georgetown and basketball, saying he remembered the 1980 Manley Field House game but didn't pay attention to all the other games along the way--which by the way, is not unusual for college coaches. Did John Thompson worry about what Scotty Glacken was up to?

The elder MacPherson also said that Georgetown was "a wonderful opportunity" for his grandson. (Another grandson, by the way, is a tackle at Syracuse.)

A final MacPherson-Georgetown connection? In 1988, MacPherson hired a alumnus from his alma mater, Springfield College, and helped him get a foothold in Division I coaching as a graduate assistant at Syracuse. Twenty four years later, that graduate assistant was on the field at Andy Kerr Stadium, coaching MacPherson's grandson as the head coach of the Georgetown Hoyas: Kevin Kelly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Week 7 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lehigh's 17-14 win at Georgetown Saturday:

1. Every Play Counts. With under 30 seconds to play in the NFL game between Dallas and Baltimore, the Cowboys were on the verge of a major comeback, recovering an onsides kick and driving into field goal range. But on the penultimate play of the game, needing just a few yards to get into safe field goal position, the team's receivers failed to get back to the line, Tony Romo took their final time out, and the 51 yard attempt, nearly the longest in PK Dan Bailey's career, sailed left.

Thirty miles south and 24 hours earlier, it was the Georgetown Hoyas on the verge of the comeback, needing  a matter of yards to set up Matt MacZura for a makeable field goal, or to aim for the end zone to win it. Instead, a run up the middle and a spike of the ball left MacZura with a 37 yard attempt--not exactly insurmountable, but no sure thing given MacZura's career long was only 35 yards and he had missed two earlier in the game. MacZura's kick sailed left, and so did the Hoyas' momentum.

It wasn't the only error of caution in the game--two fourth down plays also cost the Hoyas chances at points:

3rd quarter, 4th and 8 at the Lehigh 34, game tied: Stephen Skon loses seven yards on a sack.
4th quarter, 4th and 3 at the Lehigh 33, game tied: Aaron Aiken loses six yards on a sack.

But back to the end game strategy. There has been a palpable inside the 35 for the Hoyas, and with some reason--Georgetown isn't converting. The specter of the INT versus Yale has led Georgetown to settle for field goals when it could be going for touchdowns, sometimes to its benefit (Princeton), others not (Lehigh). But among all the plays on a unlikely Saturday in October, settling for three instead of a chance at the win is one that coaches Kelly and Marino need to reexamine.

2. Turnover Margin. How does a team have a turnover margin of 5 and still lose a game? Answer--two fourth quarter sacks and three missed field goals. No good excuse for this one. Yes, Lehigh is a very good team, but to convert only one takeaway via an offensive touchdown was breathtaking in the scope of lost opportunities. How many similar opportunities face the Hoyas at Colgate or at Lafayette?

3. Answering The Call. After having been called  out following the loss to Fordham, Georgetown's defense  had a superb effort. Put aside the turnovers for a moment--Georgetown held the #10 team in the nation to 17 points. How many teams have held the Engineers to 17 or fewer points? Since the 2008 season, Georgetown is just the second PL team to hold Lehigh to 17 or fewer.

4. Aaron Aiken's Return? Aiken made his first appearance in three weeks Saturday in relief of Skon during the early fourth quarter, The results weren't overwhelming (2 for 6 passing) but it's a subplot for the remaining games--stay with Skon, return to Aiken, or platoon the quarterbacks as was done with Isaiah Kempf and Scott Darby for the better part of three seasons? For Colgate, Georgetown may want to stay with Skon because his passing can be more effective against a porous Colgate pass defense. Lafayette may be another story. Stay tuned.

5. The Home Stretch. Finally, there are just two home games left in Jeremy Moore's career. Even if you can't make it to Colgate or Lafayette, you owe it to yourself to see him in action once (or twice) more next month. There hasn't been a defensive back this good at Georgetown in 30 years, and it could be another 30 years again until fans see the talent he has brought to the position. And if you're one of these other PL teams, they will be on watch to see what Moore will do next. As should we.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Week 6 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts following Fordham's 38-31 win over Georgetown:

1. Halftime: At the midpoint of the 2012 season, where is Georgetown right now?

Maybe it's easy to say that the season changed with Isaiah Kempf's injury versus Davidson, but it's a larger issue than that. Offensively, the team averages 21.8 points per game versus 30.2 at this point a year ago, with the defensive numbers  within the margin of error (23.8 in 2012 vs. 25.8 in 2011). This year's team is 3-3 after six games, last year was 4-2... and with a little better luck, this could have been a 5-1 team going into Saturday's Lehigh game.

It's about conversions.

The 2011 team took a drive and converted in the red zone: 92% of conversions involved points, of these, two-thirds were touchdowns. In 2012, just 68% of red zone drives are converted into points, and just over half are touchdowns. If Georgetown was converting at 2011's rate, a 5-1 mark is certainly not out of the question.

It's about scoring.

The Hoyas are falling behind early and late in games--a net -25 in the first quarter, -23 in the fourth quarter. last season, the Hoyas finished a net +1 in the first and a net +35 in the fourth.

It's about momentum.

Last year's team was ready to go on an impressive four game run in mid-October and early November, holding opponents under 10 points a game and winning the four games by an average margin of 17.9 points. In 2012, Georgetown faces the toughest portion of its schedule and has two of its next three on the road. The Lehigh game isn't make or break--it's the first game of the PL season, after all--but the second half of a season can be every bit more productive than the first, if all the phases of the game are on the same page. it was in 2011. It can be in 2012.

2. Goal Line Groaner: A lot of fans who saw the late game defensive stand by Fordham had to wonder what OC Vinny Marino was thinking with four running plays from inside the two. More than the run, which had worked fairly well for the game, my question: why up the middle? Georgetown had done very well on option plays, something Stephen Skon has improved on each week. We'll never know if Dalen Claytor or Brandon Durham or Wilburn Logan could have picked up the yard, but it's conventional wisdom that option plays don't work well on goal line stands. Unfortunately, neither do three plays going to the same back.

3. Short Hand-ed: Georgetown has allowed 37.5 points per game in each of the last two games and it's a result of two factors, one not preventable, one preventable.

First and foremost, Brown and Fordham were vastly better offenses than those which preceded it on the schedule. Princeton is the #92 ranked offense, Davidson #93, Wagner #105. Brown is #65, Fordham #22.

The preventable issue is field position. In 14 opponent scoring possessions over these last two weeks, ten of them--ten--were scoring drives of less than 50 yards. The Georgetown defense works best when it is in a "bend, but don't break" mode, where an opposing team can drive 70 yards but settles for a field goal. But when the roll call of touchdown drives over the past two weeks shows drives of 41, 49, 0 (the blocked/bobbled punt vs. Brown), 53, and 47 yards, the defense is being dealt a short hand and it's a lot to ask them to fight through--to its credit, it held on half of the 14 drives for field goals, but it's not going to be enough.

4. Number One: LB Robert McCabe enters Saturday's game ranked #1 nationally in tackles (13.83 per game) and tackles for loss (1.75 per game). McCabe had 14 tackles in last season's game at Lehigh, and will again be called upon to help stop the Engineers where they are strongest: passing offense--25th nationally.

5. NextStep Fundraiser: For those who didn't see the note on the front page, it's worth repeating:

"A fundraising effort is underway with former Georgetown football captain Janne Kouri (B'97) to open a Washington location for NextStep, the fitness and rehabilitation center founded by Kouri following the spinal accident he suffered in 2006. Per its web site:

"Thursday, October 11th, NextStep presents its 4th Annual “Help Make a Difference” Benefit, in Washington, DC. NextStep is on a mission to open a NextStep Fitness facility in the DC community by December 31, 2013. The benefit is intended to help NextStep raise funds to complete this expansion project. The evening will host 300 professionals with cocktails, delicious food, and a silent auction. This year the benefit will take place at the beautiful House of Sweden at the Georgetown Waterfront."

Tickets and donation information can be found at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Week 5 Thoughts

Some quick thoughts following Brown's 37-10 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. A First-Class Event. Congratulations to the Alumni Association, the office of Alumni Relations, and the office of Advancement for all their efforts to make Homecoming Weekend and the 73rd Homecoming Game such a success, final score notwithstanding. This weekend has resumed its rightful place as a signature alumni weekend on campus, and now draws more on-campus attendees than any other event during the year. From academic seminars to the TedX presentation, from receptions to the outdoor competitions, and from the tailgate to the class parties, the "best of Georgetown" was on display for all to see this past weekend. Well done, and on to the planning effort for 2013.

2. Third String, First Seat: A little discouraged, but not surprised by the Hoyas' struggles under quarterback for Stephen Skon, and you can't blame him for everything that ground to a halt Saturday. Going back over the last 12 Georgetown quarterbacks in their first start under center, the results are not always crisp:
Morgan Booth: Lost 69-0 to Lehigh  (2002)
Andrew Crawford: Lost 27-2 to Florida Int'l (2002)
Alondzo Turner: Lost 45-24 to Lehigh (2003)
Keith Allan: Lost 17-6 to Lafayette (2004)
Nick Cangelosi: Defeated Bucknell 19-16 (2005)
Ben Hostetler: Lost  34-3 to Brown (2005)
Matt Bassuener: Lost 31-14 to Colgate (2006)
James Brady: Lost 47-7 to Yale (2008)
Scott Darby: Lost 23-21 to Marist (2009)
Isaiah Kempf: Lost 31-10 to Yale (2009)
Aaron Aiken: Defeated Wagner 13-10 (2012)
Stephen Skon: Lost 37-10 to Brown (2012)

What separates these names was which QB's improved over the succeeding games and which did not, which is why Morgan Booth or Keith Allan or even James Brady are among the lesser names in Georgetown quarterbacks in the PL era. Skon needs to improve ever week, if for no other reason that there will be a quarterback battle in 2013 and he (and Aiken) need to be at the forefront.

3. Running On Empty: The Brown game exposed a continuing weakness in the Vinny Marino offensive sets: a one back offense doesn't cut it against stronger defensive teams and those which can put losts of pressure on the quarterback.

None of the RB's this season have stepped up as they are capable of. Nick Campanella has 295 yards, but 127 of that was against Davidson, averaging just 42 yards per game in the other three. While the rushing numbers are good, they are not great, and the weakness in the passing game that is exasperated by the injuries to two quarterbacks is not balanced by the runners. 

A second back in the backfield, particularly one that can block like Campanella, gives a young quarterback like Skon more time to maneuver, helps provide run support for smaller backs like Dalen Claytor and Wilburn Logan, and reintroduces an old wrinkle from days gone by: the screen pass. Realistically, I don't expect a coordinator to change his horses in mid-stream, but fans may see similar struggles in the backfield as the Hoyas prepare to face three stout defenses over the next three weeks.

4. Matt Matters: He's probably not the most valuable player after four games, but one can make the argument that P/K Matt MacZura has been on the edge of some very important numbers for the Hoyas over the past five games.  His field goals won two games for the Hoyas, but the net punting numbers are now at 29 yards per game and Georgetown is losing field position as a result. Three times in the first half against Brown, short punts set up the Bears at midfield and they scored 17 points as a result. The blocker/bobbled lick which led to a Brown TD in the fourth quarter wasn't a game-changer, but is a sign that the special teams work needs continued work.

MacZura is a good kicker. He just needs to get work harder on the punts and start pinning the opponents deep on their side of the field. The defense can do the job, but it's easier to stop an 80 yard drive than a 40 yard one.

5. Hold That Line: In the game with Brown, Georgetown earned no sacks for only the second tie in the last 2+ seasons. Defensive linemen account for just 5.5 of the 13 sacks to date, and only one lineman is in the top 10 on tackles (Dezmond Richardson). Yes, injuries are in play, but for Georgetown to give Fordham's soaring passing game a test, the defense needs a step up--and a step through--the Fordham offensive linemen.

"On Sunday, what I told the guys was that I didn't do a good enough job of preparing them and that we, as coaches didn't do a good enough job in any of the three phases of the game," Coach Kelly said in his post-game notes. "On offense, we did not score enough points. On defense, we did some nice things, but we were too inconsistent and did not play well enough to win. Our special teams unit gave up the touchdown and did not have its best game. Now our task is learning from this game and moving on."

The defensive line needs to be at the forefront as Georgetown enters its toughest stretch of the season.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 21-20 win Friday over Princeton:

1. Support. For a school not known to travel well, the fan support at Princeton was encouraging and a confluence of location, opponent, and preparation.

One of the reasons Georgetown struggles to gather road attendance in places like upstate New York or western New England is distance and density--there aren't as many Georgetown alumni in the area, or aren't enough willing to wake up at 6:00 am to get to a place like Hamilton or Worcester on a biennial basis. The location of Princeton (one hour from New York, one hour from Philadelphia, and three hours from campus) was a great opportunity to play football in the heart of the alumni base and in an opponent students and alumni could get interested in.

That'a not a knock on the opponents of the Patriot League, but a recognition that despite its lean years of late, Princeton is the kind of program Georgetown fans would be comfortable playing on a regular basis. Barring a multi-million dollar change of heart, Georgetown doesn't figure to see Memphis or Louisville on future schedules, and the relationship with the scholarship aspirants of the Patriot League will remain a tenuous one. Teams like Princeton fit the mold of a philosophy that dates back to the 1965 "Football For Fun" case study undertaken by the Georgetown student body, and was expressed over a decade ago by former coach Bob Benson:

"There must be a vision...It is really quite simple. Utilize the game of football to create an environment and atmosphere among our students, faculty, and community on an autumn Saturday afternoon and bring to our campus a school spirit on a fall day that is desperately needed.
The move to the Patriot League was a perfect opportunity. Georgetown has always wanted to play peer institutions. As one of the top academic institutions in the nation, Georgetown wanted to be associated with schools in the Ivy League and the Patriot League...It is a vision:
  • Play peer institutions.
  • Build a new facility with all the tradition of the past in mind.
  • Place it in the center of campus.
  • Create a new school spirit among our students, faculty, and the community, and bring an environment with a wonderful aura of history and tradition to the Georgetown campus."
Friday's game was also a success because of preparation--working between staff and alumni channels to organize the tailgate, to get the cheerleaders and band to come to the game, and to get students to join them.  With the generous support of head coach John Thompson III to help make it possible for more students to visit his alma mater, and the coordination that for a game with national reach, the support would be fitting for the occasion.

Games like Princeton don't happen every year, and certainly not on national TV. The Tigers travel to Washington next season and the two teams return the series in 2016 and 2017. The seeds planted by Friday's game can, with continued support, be the start of a foundation of support among students and alumni to support the team.

For one night in September, anyway, you could hear the fight song from coast to coast.

2. The View Across The Field: Monday's Daily Princetonian had its take on the game:
"So where did Princeton go wrong? Well, the easy scapegoat is the kicking game. Freshman kicker Nolan Bieck missed three field goals and had an extra point blocked. Those points, of course, would have won the ball game. But blaming the kicker is a cop out. First off, two of those attempts were from a distance, 42 yards and 49 yards, which would be difficult for any college kicker (anyone see Alabama kicker Cade Foster in the regular season Alabama-Louisiana State game last year?). Secondly, Bieck was put into a bad situation as a true freshman. The Tigers’ first touchdown, which looked to be a fake field goal attempt, was actually a botched snap that ended fortuitously for Princeton. That’s no way for any kicker to establish confidence at the beginning of a game, let alone a freshman. So yes, technically it’s the kicker’s fault — but if he is to receive blame, so does the rest of the kicking unit as well as the coaching staff.

The harder answer as to why the Tigers lost on Friday night? Georgetown is simply a better team. That may not be the answer Princeton is looking for, but it’s true. The Hoyas are a top-flight opponent from the Patriot League that went 8-3 last season. What is remarkable about this season is that not only were the games with Lehigh and Georgetown competitive (which would be a stretch to say of some of last season’s games), the Tigers were actually threatening to win in the closing minutes of both."
3. The Third Quarterback: A lot of great individual performances followed in the game, starting with PK Matt MacZura and the outstanding defensive efforts from players up and down the depth chart. One can't underestimate, however, the impact that third string QB Stephen Skon had in keeping the Hoyas in the game and leading them to the game winning FG. It's never easy to take over from an injured teammate, much less make one's college debut on national TV, and Skon handled both of these. It's too soon to confirm when Isaiah Kempf or Aaron Aiken will be cleared to return, but Skon really stepped up Friday and appears to be  ready top do so again in the weeks to come.

4. Running Back Rotation. Even with a 3-1 record, Georgetown's one running back setup is a point of concern.

To date, Georgetown has been able to get strong yardage (211 yards per game, or 20th nationally) with a one RB set against weaker defenses and those defenses without significant size up front. That strategy figures to run into trouble over the next three weeks as Brown, Fordham, and Lehigh have size and quickness on its defensive line which could make it tougher for Campanella, Durham, Claytor, or Logan to make the kind of headway they have gained in the first four games.

If Skon sees continued time under center, good RB play is essential. Coach Marino has stayed away from a two back set in favor of more passing options, but there may be more opportunities to run two of the four backs in more plays, if only to provide blocking support to allow Skon to set up in the pocket. (This was done at least twice with Campanella moving up what looked like a wildcat or split zone formation, to some success.  One can expect brown coaches to be watching the game film intently on Campanella in that set, and whether similar success can be seen Saturday is yet  to be determined.

5. Rookie Of The Week: Congratulations to freshman Dezmond Richardson, named the PL rookie of the week following the Princeton game.

Big games are not new to Richardson, having played at prep powerhouse Euless (TX) Trinity, home of former defensive back Wayne Heimuli and fellow freshman Jo'el Kimpela. Richardson's seven tackles and a sack in his first college start Friday bring much promise to a young defensive line that will be tested in October and that, following the graduation of its linebacker corps, will be the defensive anchor for next season and beyond.

On to Homecoming..

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Yale's 20-17 win over Georgetown Saturday.

1. Win As A Team..."This past week, for a lot of us, was the toughest loss since we've been here." These were the words of head coach Kevin Kelly following the Yale game and it's hard to blame him for the sense that Georgetown let this one get away. Turnovers, missed opportunities, and a crushing defensive error that contributed to a 14 point swing at halftime all contributed to a deflating afternoon.

It would be easy, perhaps, but otherwise unfair to drop all of these mistakes at the foot of Aaron Aiken. Aiken did not look good in the game and the execution wasn't there when it counted. It bears repeating that this was Aiken's second career start, and no amount of controlled scrimmages can prepare one for actual game time decisions. Aiken has to get better and needs to reestablish his leadership Friday versus Princeton, and past experience shows it can be done--look no further than Isaiah Kempf, who suffered the indignity of  a last minute interception in his second start, a game Georgetown should have won, in a 14-11 loss versus Howard in 2009. He learned from it, and so did the team. In the end, teams lose together, and with better effort, win together.

2. Red Zone Efficiency: Is there any stat that jumps out from 2012 than this one? In 2011, Georgetown was 92%v scoring inside the red zone, 62% by touchdown. Defensively, GU held opponents to 68% scoring and just 46% by touchdown.

In 2012, just 45% of Georgetown's possessions have been converted from inside the 20, and 27% by touchdown. Opponents are 100% scoring inside the 20, 83% (5-6) by touchdown. Ouch! Fixing this statistic is priority one for the coaches.

3. The Kicking Game: News of an open tryout for kicker got some local attention, but by the look of the roster, no new addition was made. That's put additional pressure on junior Matt MacZura, the punter, place kicker and (mostly) kickoff leader for the team. His early numbers have been down from 2011, with only 32 yards per punt, down from just under 35 last season.The Hoyas are going to need MacZura to win a game or two down the line, and both punting and kicking can make the difference, as it did against Wagner...and might have against Yale.

Kickoffs are no less important--through three games, Georgetown is giving up a net -4 yards on kickoffs than opponents, with an average starting field position of the opponent 32. Stil time to correct this before confernece play, and definitely something to build upon with a good effort Friday.

4. Freshmen of Influence: Through three games, few freshmen have seen significant time, but a few names are making a positive early impression. Defensive lineman Dez Richardson (six tackles), Matthew Satchell (three) and Ty Parsons (three tackles, blocked punt return) have stepped up. With a veteran offense, it's not unusual to see little in the way of statistical impact from the newcomers, but that will come in time. Nine of the 22 freshmen have seen action to date this year, and other three or four may as well before it is all over.

5. Support: Another good crowd (2,689) at MSF Saturday. Numbers like that don't look like much at other campuses, but with the size and generally fan-unfriendly condition of the MSF, an oversold crowd is a positive sign that student and alumni support continues to build for this team. With Brown on the horizon for the 73rd Homecoming game in two weeks, get your tickets early.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Home Improvement

Sir Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us." Such is the case as generations of Georgetown alumni walk with pride amongst the welcoming paths that have followed visitors to its Hilltop for generations. George Washington once stood here, Lincoln, over there. Jim Thorpe played football on what is now Copley Lawn, and Bill Clinton had a beer in that corner of The Tombs just like thousands have since.

We value space at Georgetown because there is a limited supply of it. In the last decade, it has taken--and improved--underperforming spaces and made each something which will endure for the generations to come--a performing arts center, a quadrangle of dormitories, a dining hall, a business school, a science facility. 

The same cannot be said for its athletic field, which has atrophied amidst the crosswinds of changing priorities, institutional indifference, and benign neglect. 

Fourteen years ago, Georgetown announced plans for a home stadium for Georgetown football. Seven years ago this weekend, it opened a temporary facility on its grounds with the understanding that it would be completed in a short while. In the interim, virtually nothing has changed since Brown University became the first Ivy League team to play a game on Georgetown’s campus. It is a monument to inaction.

But this column is not to retell that story. It is to tell another story, about giving the field and its environs the "spring cleaning" it needs to serve the next generation of Georgetown students, who neither know nor care about the internecine politics of the whole thing but want a safe, scenic, and sensible place to watch and play a game. 

We can do this. And we can do it soon.

It is time to redevelop the MSF footprint. 

Before you discuss the field. or the seating,  start with the fence. The 2005 construction project started--and stopped--after just 40 yards of fencing along the south side of the facility. The rest has been irregularly covered with chain link fencing better suited to a construction site. The place does not even have the permanent flagpole envisioned and approved by Hoyas Unlimited over a decade ago, well before the MSF even opened, to be dedicated in honor of Georgetown alumni lost on 9/11/2001.

Likewise, the concept of any landscaping or amenities were not a priority on opening day. Yet, the construction gravel and dug-out sand that was around for its debut is, in many cases still there. The construction sites of recent years that grew up around the MSF have come and gone. But the construction site that is the MSF still has the look that you might need a hard hat to go within its borders.

The footprint is now entirely surrounded--the Southwest Quad, the Yates access road, the Hariri and Regents Halls, Harbin. Is it now time to give three sides of the property the same fencing that one side enjoys, and to provide some level of basic landscaping so as to give the field (and its guests) a better sense of place? 

Georgetown didn’t build the Southwest  Quad and let the gravel sit untended. It didn’t build the business and science centers without the thought to provide some basic scenery around it. It didn’t build the Davis Performing Arts Center and left piles of sand laying around.

It is time for a conversation  to replace the field. 

Not the location, but the surface. The lifespan of a Field Turf installation is 8-10 years, according to its web site, with the caveat of "under normal conditions". Conditions at Georgetown are anything but normal for a sports facility, with use seven days a week, up to 16 hours daily. Many colleges use their in-game Field Turf maybe 16 hours a month, not 16 hours a day. 

Either way you slice it, the turf at MSF is reaching the end of its useful life. Before Georgetown makes the same mistake it did with the tattered Kehoe Field turf, it’s time to discuss a turf replacement in 2014.

It is time for a conversation to replace the MSF seating. 

In its online promotional  materials, the company that installed the 2005 seating at MSF stated that Georgetown : "initially thought that their need would be for a two season rental of our [seating]." Well, two years is now seven, going on eight. 

The materials are worn, the plastic seats are showing the effects of age and weather, and the odd configuration of seating when the MSF was constructed (seats were only installed from the 10 yard line to the opposite 40) wastes a lot of space and does not serve the long term interests of a fan-friendly and accommodating seating area. 

Reluctantly, it is unlikely that Georgetown is ready for the physical commitment to install permanent seating. However, that does not preclude the need for a second round of seating. This past spring, a private gift funded a renovation of North Kehoe Field that installed modern, through temporary, seating across the field of play, not across half of it:

If North Kehoe is an example, this is what is needed on, at the least, the west side of the MSF--80 yards of seating from the 10 to the 10, which can safely and comfortably accommodate students, parents, visitors and fans without them crawling over each other as is often the case in the current configuration. This would also increase seating from roughly 1,600 on the current west side to as many as 2,500.

Ideally, a similar effort would be undertaken to provide seating on the east side for visitors--a 5,000 seat stadium capable of welcoming Ivy and PL schools who do not feel like they are seating on wooden timbers to watch a game. Realistically, the funds may not be there for both sides, which suggests that the existing west side could be repurposed to the east side, with some of  the wooden seats moved to the undeveloped area in the north end zone where students could walk down from the Hariri and Regents buildings to watch activities on the field without formal admission.

Yes, this takes money, and the results are at best temporary. The North Kehoe expansion cost $750,000, according to But with a two year seating solution at MSF now entering its eighth year of service, it’s time to recognize that it’s at the end of the life cycle as well, and a new round of seating to accommodate the growing population of fans in the MSF’s primary activities of football and lacrosse is in order, if only to extend the current lifespan of the place for  another 5-7 years.

It is time to discuss a name for the facility. 

The name "Multi Sport Facility" (and its progeny, Multi-Sport Field) are redolent of an earlier era in Georgetown athletics where this would be the centerpiece of the athletic community at Georgetown; it was even hailed in print as the most important project in the history of Georgetown Athletics.

It isn’t anymore.

For whatever reason you choose (and there are many), the MSF was left by the wayside as other projects took precedent. Now, with the as-yet unnamed Intercollegiate Athletics Center (or as I would call it, with a few million dollars, the "John R. Thompson, Jr. Center for Intercollegiate Excellence") being the stated priority for Athletics, the need for the MSF to be the flagship facility is no longer applicable.

Nor is its name--the field only serves football and lacrosse. "Multi-Sport"? Yes, in a technical sense, but it is no longer being constructed for the wide range of activities planned for with the IAC. 

Georgetown University has a poor track record when it comes to naming buildings with any shred of creativity. For the first 100 years of its existence, its major buildings were merely named "North" and "South". Its striking landmark, the Healy Building, was originally named the "New Building" for its first 10 years, then called the "Century Building" when someone realized it wasn’t very new anymore. Sometime after 1912, someone thought to name it after a former college president who labored to find donors willing to finish the project.

"There is a good deal more to be done yet," wrote Patrick Healy, S.J. in 1879. "Oh, for the money to do it!" 

In recent years, it decided not to name its new apartment complex "Carrollton" in 1979 with hopes of a generous naming donor; today, forlorn Village A is waiting for a name after 33 years, while Village C, another placeholder name, now approaches its third decade without a title of its own. 

Neither names nor buildings, are eternal, even at Georgetown. Names like the Foreign Service Annex, Collier Hall, and the Ryan Administration Building now reside in a dusty corner of the Archives. If you have even heard of O’Gara Hall, chances are your kids haven’t got a clue what you are talking about.

Ideally, if a company would sponsor a name for the field for five or ten years, but Georgetown’s pursuits for corporate generosity likely start and stop with the IAC. Is it time to discuss a honor to name this field after one of its own? Calling the facility by a new name--"Rienzo Field", "Urick Park", the "Class of 1965 Stadium", et al.-- is eminently more useful that the awkward placeholder of Multi-Sport Field and lends some permanence to it. It doesn’t mean it will always be called thusly, but it’s an opportunity to honor some giants in Georgetown University while it is still appropriate to do so. 

It is time to plan the next generation of facility for football and lacrosse. 

Each of the topics discussed above are, at their core, temporary. I fully realize, understand, and concur that in the present campaign, the MSF is neither a priority nor something someone in McDonough wants to tackle. It’s all about the IAC until the doors open, and even after that. If any permanent plans are envisioned for an outdoor field, they would only start after the end of the current capital campaign in 2016 and, just as likely, a few years after that. 

If we begin to engage in a  dialogue about what can be done now to get another seven or eight years of passable service out of what GU has right now, we can then begin to provide the framework for Georgetown to commit to getting something built in our lifetimes--in the next decade. The present capital campaign will have concluded, a new campaign will be in the quiet phase, and barring the wholesale construction of a new campus in Southeast, the only likely facility project left on the Hilltop will be a renovation of Lauinger Library, which by that time will be a half-century old. Nothing will be in the way (figuratively or literally) from a permanent stadium that suits the contemporary needs of the campus.

But back to what can be done now. Fencing, landscaping, turf replacement, seating--when does all this get done when there are so many entities using the field? 

A suggestion. 

The last home football game of the 2013 season is Nov. 2--a little early, but a optimal time to close the MSF and begin its retrofitting so there are not, as was in 2005, construction workers bolting in bleachers the day of the first game. Lacrosse could play on North Kehoe for the 2014 season, and the new field (name TBA) opens in the fall of 2014 during the 50th anniversary of football, a season which includes the 75th Homecoming Game that season against (what should be) Harvard, in the Crimson’s first appearance ever in Washington. With so many alumni expected to return for the event, why not have a decent place to put them all, now to mention the question, where do all those Harvard folks plan to sit?

But let’s not wait until 2014 to talk about it.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 2 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 13-10 win over Wagner:

1. Staying the Course. Wagner is no Davidson and Aaron Aiken is not Isaiah Kempf, but give Georgetown credit for staying to a strong game plan in its win. The Seahawks are a considerable step up from the Wildcats, in scholarships (35), in defensive sets, and in the level of talent that can disrupt games. The Wagner defense successfully stopped two Florida Atlantic drives for touchdowns in the season opener which could have opened up that game, and Wagner did the same against Georgetown. But to its credit, the Hoyas didn't lose focus (or confidence) after two drives inside the 10  resulted in just three points.The defense tightened, and the offense found a way to win. In the non-conference, that's the recipe for success.

2. Who's the #1 RB? Over two seasons, Nick Campanella ran roughshod over Davidson, but has yet to maintain that level of momentum against other teams. Such was the case Saturday, as neither Campanella, Brandon Durham, Dalen Claytor or Wilburn Logan clearly established themselves as the go-to running back in the Vinny Marino offense. That's OK for a week or two, but at some point Georgetown needs a strong RB choice as opponents get more game film on Aaron Aiken and begin to limit his carries. A running back by committee option is still available out there, but someone need to step forward to be the clearer choice in the fall.

3. Robert McCabe. As a senior LB, he's really leading the charge and his efforts have not gone unnoticed in consecurtive week's honors by the Patriot League as its defensive player of the week--congratulations. Saturday's Yale game will be a test as the Eli offense has been traditionally tougher for Georgetown to manage, having scored no fewer than 28 points per game in each of the last five meetings. Size-wise, McCabe is a throwback to former LB Andrew Clarke (2000-03), who could pick up lots of tackles per game--granted, some of that was because of Georgetown's inexperienced lines during those years, but Clarke was a valuable asset to the Georgetown defense when it needed it the most. Yale figures to be a significant test for McCabe and the entire GU defense to rise to the occasion.

4. Whither Yale? While this is not quite the Yale team Georgetown saw last fall in New Haven, a new coach and a new QB figure to complicate the pre-game strategy of the coaches. Overall, though, teams do not change their stripes overnight and the Bulldogs will continue to be a formidable opponent for Georgetown, particularly along the lines and in the speed positions. In each of the prior games, and particularly in the last three, Yale set the tone early and was able to control the game late with its ability to get points on the board when it needed it. Last year's Bulldogs controlled time of possession (32:45, 18:07 in the second half) and red zone conversions (4-5) which proved the difference. With a new coach, new QB, and new running backs, it's easy to expect the unexpected, but Georgetown needs to prepare for much of the expected, too.

5. Break that streak. Since a 2003 win over Cornell, Georgetown has gone a discouraging 0-12 against Ivy league opponents in the intervening years: one loss to Columbia, two each to Brown, Columbia, and Penn, and five straight to Yale. This week, and this team, has an excellent opportunity to begin to undue that legacy and reestablish Georgetown as legitimate competition in Ivy circles.As noted in an earlier column, Georgetown needs to be considered as a capable Ivy opponent in an era where the scholarship gap with Patriot League is a clear and present danger. That journey begins anew Saturday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Saturday’s 35-14 win over Davidson:

1.  Georgetown's Nightmare. Losing a starting quarterback is never easy. Losing one five plays into the first drive of the season, ever more so.

It's still early to speculate on the short and longer-term implications of Isaiah Kempf's collison will be. Obviously, as a senior, there are precious few weeks left of his football career, but such time must be tempered with the long term considerations to protect student-athletes from lingering effects and potentially more damage. Football has progressed from calling a concussion "having your bell rung" and simply shuttling a player back into the game to something much more preventive and attentive. 

At such time Kempf is cleared to play, it will be done with long-term, not short-term, interests at the forefront, which is what it's all about. Give credit--and give patience--to junior Aaron Aiken, who must assume the mantle and the inevitable adjustments opponents will bring--beginning with Wagner, as game films help define who he is and what he does. Wherher Kempf returns in week 3, 6, 9 , or not at all, Aiken figures to play a significant role this season and one where the practices over these last three years will pay dividends. 

2. Davidson's Nightmare.  Davidson had three goals in Saturday's game: a balanced offense, a tighter run defense, and avoid penalties. They missed on all three. 

You can't win games with a -18 yards on the ground. Period. The Wildcats have a talented quarterback and some fine receivers, but they are put at a disadvantage with such a one sided offensive array Yes, the GU defense was up to the task, but the Wildcats need running backs.

Maybe its real nightmare was defending Nick Campanella. After three touchdowns in the 2011 opener, he topped it with four in this one, both from short and long range. While Davidson is a career highlight, Campanella knows he must continue to gain ground during he season, where he had mixed results in 2011 after week one.

Penalties? Davidson went from 78 yards in 2011 to 117 in 2012. Teams that earn 100 yards in penalties can struggle, and Davidson learned this the hard way.

3. Defense! Lots of recognition is due the GU defense for a solid outing Saturday--the two davidson scores came froma  very short field following Aiken's interception and a late score with the outcome already in hand. Granted, Davidson is not Brown, much less Lehigh, but it's a meaningful first step in the post-Schaetzke era. 

4. Special Teams: For all the talk about tryouts for kicker, early results show that Matt MacZura is up to the challenge, having moved (at least in week one) ahead of Devon Papendrew on the depth chart. Georgetown will still need two kickers this year, because the kicking game will prove crucial down the line.

Missing from special teams this week was all-PL candidate Jeremy Moore. Without comment, he was not in the two deep in special teams nor in the secondary. It's not worth speculating for why and for when, but we look forward to his return to the lineup.

5. How 'Bout Those Seahawks? Wagner enters Saturday's game having been picked seventh in the nine team NEC, but opening some eyes in a defensive-minded 7-3 loss to Division I-A Florida Atlantic on Saturday. And FAU needed to score in the fourth to do it!

This raises the question whether Wagner was seriously underrated in NEC circles, or, well, is FAU that abd. Probably a little of both. The Owls are picked near the bottom of the Sun Belt and expectations are fairly low, even as school officials were telling the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that the Wagner win counted for bowl eligibility.

"The Owls would need more than six wins to make a bowl game, in reality, as no bowl would take a .500 FAU team and a 5-3, or 4-4 record in the Sun Belt would likely not be enough to secure a bowl tie-in," writes the Sun Sentinel's Dieter Kurtenbach. "So while it's unlikely that we'll ever have to revisit the subject, let it be established, the Owls are one step closer to bowl eligibility. Seriously, stop laughing."

Still, how can a NEC team with 40 or fewer scholarships be a bowl eligible opponent? The devil is in the details, I guess.

Either way, Wagner held Florida Atlantic to 86 yards for the first half. That ought to be a warning that the Seahawks mean business in trying to stop the Hoyas at home this Saturday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Five Questions, Defense

In the second part of some pre-season questions to consider for the 2012 Hoyas, this column focuses on defense and special teams.

Ten returning starters on offense gives the 2012 Hoyas a lot of options entering the season. While the defense sustained some significant graduation losses, there is still a lot of returning talent to look forward to.

With that in mind, five questions to consider with the season approaching:

1. Is Jordan Richardson Georgetown's Next Defensive Star? Ononibaku, Buzbee, Etukeren, Schaetzke. The front lines of the Hoyas have featured some outstanding skill position players in recent years. With the graduation of Andrew Schaetzke, the emergence of DT Jordan Richardson is worth watching.

Richardson started nine games at tackle last season. He is big (6-2, 300) and quick for his size. The Georgetown media notes called him a "disruptive force" as a freshman, and his 24 tackles were a promising start considering he was just a freshman. With John Porter and Peter Daibes fighting for a role on the DE position vacated by Schaetzke's graduation, an effective presence in the middle is essential. Much as Micharel Ononibaku turned the corner as a sophomore, a big year by Richardson could be invaluable to a defensive line that will be tested in the second half of the season.

2. Rushing Defense. For those looking for a secret to the Hoyas' eight game turnaround from from 2009 through 2011, look no further than rushing defense. A defensive unit  that stops the rush limits third down conversions, limits time of possession, and limits teams from taking over games. In 2009, Georgetown was not very good at any of these, allowing 208.2 yards per game on the ground. In 2010, that number fell to 144.6. In 2011, the numbers were outstanding, holding opponents to 98.6 yards a game on the ground, among the top ten nationally. Dustin Wharton and Robert McCabe can provide tackling support off the line, but it's up to the men up front to limit that opening burst and force those second down and nine plays rather than second and three.

The progression of the schedule is ideally suited to building that number, opening with Davidson and Wagner, then on to Yale and Princeton, picking up the pace with Brown and Fordham, than diving into the PL schedule, where the top three PL teams will all be looking to the run to get things done.

3. Turnovers. Another statistic that has showed marked improvements over the past three seasons, the defense will again be counted upon to force turnovers. This was the case in three key games last season where the defense set the tone for the win: a three INT game that turned the tide against Colgate, forcing five turnovers to stall Holy Cross' efforts to come back in that game, and four turnover versus Fordham. Those three games, all against strong PL offenses, was the difference between 8-3 and perhaps a 5-6 finish. Driving the defense to get the ball will be a key performance indicator for 2012.

4. The New Secondary. Georgetown's biggest defensive challenge in 2012 is replacing three starters on the  back line of the secondary. Together, Wayne Heimuli, David Quintero, and Jayah Kaisamba accounted for 142 tackles last season and six of Georgetown's 17 interceptions. The pass defense bent, but did not break last season, and the depth chart has the level of talent where the new starters can work their way into the job. Stephen Atwater and Malcolm Caldwell-Meeks figure to be keys to rebuilding the lines, with sophomore Javan Robinson not far behind. Junior transfer Rohan Williamson is worth a closer look as well.

5. Wanted: Kicker. By now, you've read that the lack of depth in placekicker has led Georgetown to host an open tryout to find a backup for junior PK Devon Papendrew. It's not an insignificant need--graduated kicker Brett Weiss accounted for 79 points last season and the Hoyas need a consistent option on PAT's and mid-range field goals. If that's Papendrew and the newcomer gets plenty of halftime practice kicks, great, but if Papendrew gets hurt or is ineffective, a game or two could come down to effective kicking, both on scoring plays as well as kickoffs.

With Papendrew's lack of any in-game experience, even the pre-season media notes were hedging. It noted that Papendrew was the "likely" option at PK--not a ringing endorsement when you're the only kicker entering camp.  

Yes, there are some open questions for the defense, but there is experience waiting to make the difference. And notice there's no talk in this article about the immediate need for freshmen to fill the gaps. That's a pleasant (and welcome) byproduct of depth that will serve the Georgetown defense well as it grows and matures this season.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Foot In The Door

They don't make kickers like they used to.

This week, The HOYA noted that a tryout will be held at month's end because, with one kicker on the roster with no in-game experience, the Hoyas enter 2012 mighty thin at kicker. Never mind that they'll have two kickers on the roster with no in-game experience, they need depth, now more than ever.

The notice:

The Georgetown University football team will be holding open tryouts for placekickers on Thursday, August 30 beginning at 4 p.m. Tryouts will be held at Multi-Sport Field, as the Hoyas coaching staff is looking to add depth at the position.

Those interested in participating in the open tryout should contact Georgetown Director of Football Operations Justin Brown by calling 202-687-6700

Such was not always the case.

Kickers were not as disposable back in the day, pro or college.

From 1968 through 1986, the Dallas Cowboys had only four placekickers in 19 seasons--Mike Clark, Toni Fritsch, Efren Herrera, Rafael Septien. In the next 25 seasons, they've gone through 21 more. During that same era, the Washington Redskins had just two kickers--Curt Knight and Mark Moseley. Since  then, a parade of names from Max Zendejas to Graham Gano...22 in all.

So it is with the Hoyas. The 1980's and 1990's had their run of veteran kickers: Jim Corcoran, Erich Beringer, Tom Timperman, Anthony DeGuzman.

But in the last 15 years, just two kickers have finished their careers as four year players, and only one played in all four seasons. It's become a position where recruits don't last very long and the Hoyas are often looking to walk-ons and transfers to fill the gap.

Let's go back to 1997, where the Hoyas added arguably one of its best kicking prospects ever, St. Francis Prep's Peter Carbonara. As a freshman, Carbornara was named all-conference after just one season, but left Georgetown and ended up enrolling at New Hampshire, kicking for the Wildcats before he was dismissed by UNH in the off-season. Carbonara was replaced by Paul Wiorowski, who kicked for two seasons before graduating. In the Patriot League era, however, kickers have come (and mostly) gone:

  • 2000: The Hoyas turned to a second year law student, Marc Samuel, who kicked for two seasons. Samuel was no rookie, having kicked for two seasons at Kentucky, but classes still took precedent over football.
  • 2001: Bryan Bobo, a regional All-County selection from Palm Beach, joins the roster. Unable to move up the depth chart, he plays only two seasons.
  • 2002: Michael Gillman, recruited by (but did not play for) Florida, joins the team. Though his stats were up and down (18-35 field goals over a three year career), he was the Hoyas' best option at the position. A walk-on, Anthony Soric, joined the team but does not see action.
  • 2004: Eric Bjonerud's four seasons (2004,05,06,07) finally provided stability in the position. 41 of 44 in PAT's, 13 of 20 field goals (though only one longer than 34 yards), he also punted for parts of two seasons. Reserve kicker David Corak made it one season with limited play. 
  • 2007: The PK kicker position was a point of emphasis in Kevin Kelly's first recruiting cycle Georgetown brings in two of the best local kickers to succeed Bjonerud, but neither made the grade. Kilgo Livingston, an all-WCAC kicker at DeMatha, played in one game as a special teams player and left the team. Casey Dobyns, a two year all-MIAA kicker at Georgetown Prep (also known for his summer internship as a European fashion model), played sparingly and transferred to Richmond in 2009. In their place, the Hoyas reached out to the soccer team in Jose-Pablo Buerba, who had not played American football before joining the team. 
  • 2009: Georgetown adds two kickers in Kris Zabioleff and David Conway. Zabioleff lasts one year, does not start. Conway was on the bench for three seasons.
  • 2010: With Buerba graduating, Georgetown finds a replacement in Brett Weiss, a  lacrosse player who transferred from Maryland. Weiss turns in some of the best  numbers since Marc Samuel over the past two seasons, earning second team all-Patriot League.
  • 2012: Junior Devon Papendrew is the lone kicker on the roster after Weiss and Conway graduated.
Is there a Marc Samuel or a Brett Weiss out there among the student body? Is there someone from another team interested in a two-sport commitment (e.g., can Jabril Trawick kick a consistent 40 yard field goal)? Or is there someone from the team itself that can step up? Two of the greatest Georgetown kickers of all time held other positions on the team--Augie Lio (1938-40), an offensive lineman, blocked (and kicked) his way into the College Football Hall of Fame, while Jim Corcoran (1978-81) was a safety who who could punt and kick with the best of them. 

The best case scenario is that Papendrew can take over and give the Hoyas two strong years in the position. Recruiting for the four year kicker, however, remains as elusive as ever.