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.