Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 8 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Colgate’s 34-14 win over Georgetown Saturday:

Not much that needs to be said after this game that wasn’t said after the Lehigh game.

Or The Fordham game. Or the Princeton game. Or the Brown game. Maybe even the Marist game.

A beaten up defense, little depth, and some bad luck. Sometimes there is a fine line between a five win team and a one-win team, but not this season. Many of the five points discussed each week could apply to this one as well

This isn’t a team losing games on last second field goals or turnovers. Georgetown has been outscored 103-33 in the first quarter this season. In its seven losses, the average margin at the half is more than two touchdowns. When it gets to the red zone, the Hoyas are pretty good. Problem is, they’ve been there 24 times this season. Its opponents? 44 times.

There will be plenty of times to discuss the state of the program entering 2014, and with an unusually early Senior Day this Saturday versus Lafayette, this question: is it time to honor—and then sit—much the senior class in the remaining three weeks of the season?

With few exceptions, it’s a credit to this class – and a cautionary tale for 2014 – that the Class of 2014 has some of the best players by position on this team. From quarterback to the offensive line, receivers linebackers, secondary, special teams, and more, the seniors are the backbone of this team. The names are familiar to Hoya fans: Kempf, Campanella, Durham, Campbell, Wharton, Caldwell-Meeks. Saturday, the class will be honored for a remarkable four years where they arrived from a 0-11 team, rose to an 8-3 season, then saw it sink under .500 once again.

That having been said, and every senior knows this, the end is in sight. Every one of these young men wants to play every remaining down of football, which may be among the last competitive games they will play going forward. But it’s also a nod to the schedule that it may be time to at least consider a changing of the guard after the Lafayette game, and here’s why.

Senior Day versus Lafayette introduces a late bye week on Nov. 9, followed by two road games which the Hoyas will again be significant underdogs. Yes, Georgetown could go one a roll and finish 4-7, but it could just as easily finish 1-10. Regardless of the record, replacing 26 seniors will be no small task. Is it worth a two week head start on 2014?

The torch has been passed at quarterback, where Kyle Nolan is getting starts that, in any competitive season, might have still gone to Isaiah Kempf. And while many other positions have seen the loss of seniors by injury, the staff has to learn which of the upperclassmen are going to take the mantle of leadership and responsibility. Who is the next Duston Wharton? The next Stephen Atwater? The next Matt MacZura?

That doesn’t mean benching the entire class, far from it. They deserve better. As time allows, they need ton contribute. But as opportunities arise, it may now be time to get some more reps from a Leo Loughery, a Myles Braxton-Johnson, a Ben Priddy. The impact of game experience isn’t reached in spring practice or August two-a-days, but many teams can’t afford the loss of talent to give freshmen enhanced playing time down the stretch of a season. As it stands right now, Georgetown can and whether it’s 3-8 or 2-9 or 1-10, the need doesn’t go away when the sting of the season does.

So what is being lost heading into next season? A lot.

After 2013, Georgetown loses one of the top five or six quarterbacks of the modern era, who fought back from a potentially career-ending injury for one more season for his school. It graduates three of its top four running backs, its starting wide receiver, its starting tight end, and much of its offensive line.

Defensively, Senior Day salutes the transition of its top two linebackers, three of its top four in the secondary, its punter, place kicker, and leading kick returner. And that’s no comfort for what follows.  Next year’s rising senior class is almost exclusively defensive players (16 of 21), putting added pressure on the  freshmen and sophomores on the offense to get up to speed in a big way to prepare for 2014.

Playing a young lineup isn’t “tanking” games or “mailing it in.” Rome wasn’t built in a  day and neither was this season. The Davidson win was nice, but face facts: Davidson is arguably the weakest team in the subdivision this year, having not scored more than 14 points against any Division I team and giving up 98 in its last two games to Marist and Jacksonville. Georgetown’s loss to Marist was far more telling, and it’s been one long first half every week since.

Day by day, practice by practice, game by game, injuries helped expose a team too lean in some positions, too small in others, and ill-prepared to mount the level of defensive intensity to facilitate comebacks. So what now?

Senior Day ought to be the opportunity for Georgetown to put together its best 60 minutes of the season, and extend an unusual three game win streak against Lafayette, where the three games were decided by late game Leopard mistakes in each. Despite its meager non-conference slate, Lafayette is still a contender in a year where the PL race looks a lot like the NFC East. A fourth loss to Georgetown would (almost) be as upsetting as a sixth straight loss to Lehigh. OK, maybe not quite that upsetting, but a deflating setback nonetheless.

After that, it’s time to figure out what November holds for this team and who needs to step up—if not now, then next season. For this year’s senior class, they’ve done their part.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 7 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lehigh’s 45-24 win over Georgetown:

A Program, Not  A Team:  Lehigh won again. No surprise, right? After all, it’s become an annual occurrence. But Isaiah Kempf or Kyle Nolan weren’t around when it was Sean Peterson or Morgan Booth or Ben Hostetler or Matt Bassuener. The names may change but the results remain the same. What gives?

In college football, moreso than may collegiate or even pro sports, successful schools follow the acronym WBAP: We Build A Program. Whether it‘s Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan or, yes, even Lehigh, sustained excellence is no accident. It is a commitment at all levels of the enterprise, from the school’s leadership to its coaches, its players, and the recruits which are drawn to attend.  Lehigh isn’t the biggest program in the Patriot League, nor spends the most, not even has the best and brightest stadium. What it does have, and has nurtured for many years now, is a broad-based commitment to provide the best atmosphere for coaches and players not only to succeed, but to excel. Success is transitory, excellence endures.

This is an issue many alumni and parents ask: what is Georgetown’s commitment to football? Realistically, that can be asked of any GU sport other than men’s basketball. Yes, a commitment is there, but the tools to excel are not always in place: the facility, the coach, the recruiting, the player development, or the schedule could all be hurdles a team may not overcome. But programs do.

And programs win championships.

Stat of The Week: Or maybe the season. Georgetown has 5 sacks in seven games. Five. But it has allowed 20, for a gap of -15. In 2012, it earned 23 sacks and allowed 34 (-11) , in 2011, earned 23 and allowed just 20 (+3).

First Half Blues: In the last two games, Georgetown has been outscored 66-3 in the first half of its last two games and 175-76 all season. That’s no accident. The Hoyas have been, and continue to be susceptible to opponents with a strong offensive line that can dictate the flow of the game, whether with the pass (Fordham) or on the ground (Lehigh). If Georgetown can’t force the game defensively, teams can chip away with a broad level of success, which is what Princeton and brown were able to do but Fordham and Lehigh even more so.

This is less the case over Georgetown’s final four games, featuring teams with a combined record of 8-19. Obviously,a  1-6 team can take nothing for granted, but its prospects figure to be better than against teams like Lehigh and Fordham, a combined 14-1 this season.

Patriot League Network: Saturday’s game marked the first of three games broadcast over the Patriot League Network, which provides free live broadcast of PL games among five of the seven schools—Lafayette maintains its own network and Georgetown, well, maintains its pay service at

Saturday’s game featured the broadcast team from Service Electric’s channel 2 in the Lehigh Valley—professional, informative and very courteous to its Georgetown guests. Nary a word questioning the Hoyas, or casting ill will to its 1-5 record, much less noting the scholarship imbalance. Like its brethren down the road, residents of the Lehigh Valley enjoy solid college football programming which can only help but build bridges with its local community, and the crowd of 9,866 (or which 9,800 were probably supporting Lehigh) can relate.

But as noted before, charging $9.95 for a Georgetown game, even one with upgraded coverage, is a tall order for a DC and/or alumni community with limited awareness in the program to begin with. And while it’s fine for out of town parents and alumni that can be coerced away from the TV set to watch these games, it doesn’t do much for local coverage.

Reaching Records: Nick Campanella continues his climb up the career record charts, with three TD’s against Lehigh. His days are numbered, of course, as he is a graduating senior.

But at what point do the seniors begin to sit in favor of the underclassmen? 1-6 isn’t the end of the road but at some point that has to be a consideration, if not an outright issue, among the coaches. With so many seniors departing, this stands a chance of being an even weaker team in 2014, particularly in skill positions. There is no substitute for game time experience, but not at the expense of being non-competitive.

Georgetown needs a competitive showing down the road—you can’t sell a 1-10 season under the line of rebuilding, because the real rebuilding is a year away. The Hoyas played 45 in last week's game and there were plenty of underclassmen in that group. It wasn't enough, of course, but remember, the heights of 2011 were built on some of the beatdowns suffered two years earlier. This is the balancing act facing the coaches over the next four weeks, and especially at home.

Either way, win the day, but play to win.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Fordham’s 34-12 win over Georgetown:

Extra Credit. So, 34-12, what did you think? Some figured closer to 56-12 and if Fordham had converted its red zone opportunities, it would have been a lot closer to 56 than the 13 points it scored after the first . Credit was earned and due the Georgetown defense, battered most of the season, for giving Fordham’s 1st (and admittedly, 2nd) string units  a competitive game, even if the outcome was decided.

Stopping opponents in the red zone, forcing turnovers, stopping third down conversions, learning to play under pressure—it might not mean much for this season, but it’s a valuable lesson for those Hoya teams of the future, particularly when facing deeper opponents as future schedules appear to foretell.

Now Playing, Number 14: Yet another name to add to the long list of Georgetown quarterbacks in the PL era: Tim Barnes, though he probably made it to the field two years early.

Barnes’ opening appearance for the Hoyas was neither remarkable nor awful, but it speaks to the level of injuries and turnovers that the quarterback position has faced over the past two years. Five quarterbacks played last season (Kempf, Aiken, Skon, Nolan, MacPherson) and more names could see action this season should injuries continue to be a problem. Experience is great but it’s doubly difficult to plan an offense around a quarterback that isn’t there. As a result, fans are seeing an initial burst by the Georgetown offense, then a much more repelled attack as defenses adjust.

It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff plays the position going forward. Isaiah Kempf still represents the most likely option, but there will be no sixth year for the Glendale, CA senior. What will be left for 2014 will be numerous and, across the board, inexperienced.

3. Talk About It. Some interesting commentary over at the HoyaTalk about  a subject near and dear to this blog: Multi-Sport Field. Presented without comment:

Eb59: “I wanted to get people’s thoughts on the concept of putting a “Locker Room Building” in the End Zone where the ugly retaining wall currently stands. In my personal opinion, this could be done it a relatively low cost, its basically just two large open rooms with some bathrooms and electrical. My thought it that it could be cut into the current slope of grass and dirt in front of the retaining wall, providing a HUGE functional upgrade by providing a locker room area for two teams; as well, as a really significant visual upgrade to an area that I don’t think will ever look quite right as a grass seating area b/c of the differences in levels all the way across that back area.”

P.S. - Why can't the "Stadium" be built in segments? Take on an improvement every 1-2 years, make the goal, project plan and timeline known to people upfront and collect towards that improvement. The simple fact is that in the past 3k days that nothing has been done (aside from new turf - absolutely needed), we could have been chipping away at improvements like I have suggested above. My guess is that this addition would cost between $250k and $500k, which could have been built and done at this point without needing to gain the approval of the Neighborhood Board more than likely. Why can't we do a little each year (Locker Room Building & Move the Electric Boxes on the Home Side preventing Growth, Added Stands Home, Build Press Box, Concession & Restroom facility, Added Stands Visitor, Etc....) We could have a pretty nice facility in my opinion if the past 10 years were not wasted waiting for the Big Bang improvement - lets eat this Baby Elephant in annual improvements.....Thoughts?

Well, there are many, but add them to the message board. I’m sure someone at Georgetown has considered this any plenty of other scenarios, but they remain just that, scenarios. No one seems comfortable stepping forward and saying: “this is important to us.” It’s IAC or bust, and raising money for a woebegone field is a distraction, because, um, you know, IAC or bust. It doesn’t have to be, of course, but it is.

Meanwhile, try selling that to football and lacrosse recruits.

A Real Disappointment: I came across this link the other day from the online issue of the Duke magazine titled “Why Football Matters”. At last, I thought, a spirited defense of why schools like Duke (and by extension, Georgetown) consider football within the course of a college experience, rewarding and worth its time and treasure.

Instead, the article was a half-hearted defense of the need to go big time to avoid becoming, well, Georgetown.

“They saw what the Big 12’s near-death experience might have meant to a kindred college basketball powerhouse,” writes Jon Scher.  “Kansas almost wound up in Conference USA,” [deputy director of athletics Chris] Kennedy says. “We were looking at that and thinking, ‘That can’t be us.’ We need to anticipate. We don’t want to wind up in Conference USA. I don’t want to insult Conference USA, but we want to be in the in crowd.”

The “in crowd”? An administrator really said that at Duke?

“There are two questions here,” says Charles Clotfelter ’69, a public policy professor and the author of Big-Time Sports in American Universities. “The bigger question is: How necessary is it for Duke University to have big-time basketball? If you assume it is necessary, then you have to start talking about how important is football for the basketball. I don’t think anybody’s asking the first question.”

Adds Kennedy: “When all this stuff started, we were looking at each other saying, ‘Boy, the Georgetowns and the Providences and the Villanovas are screwed.’ ”

Law professor Paul Haagen poses this question: “Why do you want to be one of the sixty-four [BCS] teams? If you are competing with the sixty-four, and you are at least moderately successful, then this becomes a proposition that actually pays for itself. Risks are high—you’re putting money into facilities, you’re running the risk of scandal—the risks are not trivial. But trying to compete at a level other than the top is extremely expensive, because people don’t watch, there is no national media attention, and then we get beyond that to the practical question: Is there another group of like-minded schools that wants to operate [a football team] at this reduced, controlled-competition level, and is the controlled competition stable?”

Oh, there is…but they’re “screwed”, right?

At some point in the next two weeks, I’ll sharpen up the spell check for an article worthy of the name: “Why Football Matters”. And it does.

I’ll post it here.

Recommended Reading: With the Lehigh game approaching, an unsolicited endorsement for the dean of online I-AA columnists: Chuck Burton, host of Lehigh Football Nation. With equal doses of detail, context, and fairness when covering the Engineers, it’s always a must-read for Patriot fans but this week as well, when he reviews the visiting Hoyas. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week 5 Thoughts

Some brief thoughts following Georgetown’s 50-22 loss to Princeton last Saturday:

1. Depth. When a team is losing games by a touchdown or less every week, blame the coach. When a team is losing by two touchdowns every week, blame the players on the field. When a team is losing by four touchdowns, blame the players off the field.


If a team is consistently getting clocked in games, it speaks to the fact that the best players on the team are likely on the field, and they aren’t doing well enough to win. There’s no bench (injured or otherwise) to make a substantive difference in games. For a variety of reasons, scholarships being one piece (but not the entire puzzle), Georgetown has not been able to recruit effectively for depth in key positions and the results on the field are evident. Consecutive routs by Marist, Brown, and Princeton speak to a team where any significant injury cannot be easily replaced.

Take Marist out of the equation for now…please. Brown and Princeton are likely middle tier Ivy teams in 2013. How would this Georgetown defense fare against Penn or Harvard? Or how about a undefeated full scholarship team or an undefeated Patriot team? As to the latter two, this is what faces the Hoyas after the break. Fordham is a bad matchup for Georgetown and Lehigh has always been a bad matchup. There’s plenty of football left to be played, but a potential 1-6 record after these next two weeks may have the staff refocusing to 2014.

2. Home Means Blue: I’m not sure why the road jerseys came out for this game, but they need to stay in the locker room. Home teams wear home colors, esp. at Home-coming. Has anyone said where are the new Nike home jerseys with the piping seen on the road unis?

3. The Hoyas’ Number. So, Georgetown lost to Princeton. Not much surprise, given the ongoing lack of competitiveness the Hoyas have shown against Ivy foes. Georgetown has one win in its last 12 against Ivy teams. Is it as simple a case that the Ivies simply outrecruit the Hoyas at every turn, or is there something else involved?

4. Quarterback Injury. Coach Kelly’s comments in Tuesday’s HOYA on Isaiah Kempf’s apparent injury in the third quarter versus Princeton can’t be good news. Georgetown has lots of quarterbacks in waiting, but Kempf has been a stalwart in the backfield and the 2013 offense is built with him in mind. At some point this fall, the staff has to start looking at Kyle Nolan and Cameron MacPherson as potential starters, but as long as the Hoyas can compete in the PL race, Kempf figures to be front and center.

5. Around The Patriot League: A tale of two races: Fordham and Lehigh are a combined 9-0, the rest of the league 3-16. The Rams and Engineers meet this week and while the league title isn’t up for grabs due to Fordham’s penalty for getting to the front of the scholarship line, it could play a factor if the PL hopes to have a second playoff entrant. But one can’t help but wonder if Georgetown can get healthy and otherwise ready for these teams over the next three weeks.

As noted before, Fordham is a bad matchup—Georgetown is 2-14 in its last 16 games with Fordham, both wins at the MSF, so the Hoyas have that going for them. Not so with Lehigh, where the Engineers are 12-0 versus Georgetown, and dominate the head to head meetings at Goodman Stadium.  Georgetown has been outscored 221-26 at Lehigh since 2002. At least there’s a week's more time to plan…worry…or both.

6. The Larger Question: Yes, Georgetown’s been in this early October rut before, and it survived. But with all the changes going on in the Patriot League, and all the inertia the program faces in the usual suspects: facilities, recruiting, budget, and performance, are there storm clouds on the horizon? Of course there are. Is something being done to address this, or should we merely invest in umbrellas and rain boots? If Kelly's teams can't compete with opponents at 15 scholarships, what happens when they're playing teams with 60 every week?

Slowly, some of these questions are being asked in the Georgetown community. Later this week, some thoughts on a possible course of action.