Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's  17-3 win over Brown Saturday:

1. Good Timing: One could not have asked for a better afternoon in September for four generations of alumni to return and celebrate fifty years of modern Georgetown football. The tailgate, the halftime presentation, the awards dinner, and yes, the game itself, were  shining examples of what Alumni Association Executive Director Bill Reynolds (C'79) would call "the best of Georgetown".

It was also a great opportunity for older alumni to meet head coach Rob Sgarlata,. Granted, he's been a part of the program for nearly half of the modern era, but getting visibility to an older cohort of alumni, the alumni that can exercise powers of persuasion and financial wherewithal was vital. Sgarlata is not Bob Benson, nor is he Kevin Kelly.  He's a different man, one whose sincerity and focus on the well being of the students under his care is heartfelt and deeply rooted. Coaching is in his roots, and he takes the responsibility very seriously.

Amidst all the discussions, talk about scholarships was largely muted. Saturday's game and dinner was more about the past than the future. There may come a time to rally the alumni, but in the end it's the university that has to figure out what it wants out of its alumni and its program. Like then unfinished field that debuted nine years ago this past weekend, it's not clear if Georgetown understands the road it needs to be on. As a former Providence Journal writer once wrote about Georgetown basketball in the 1960's,  the school wanted to have a good basketball team but had no sense in how to go about doing it.

Make no mistake, Georgetown wants a winning football team. How it goes about doing that seems a arduous and unnecessarily elongated task. If Sir Winston Churchill were around, he might say that "I cannot forecast to you the actions of Georgetown. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Georgetown's institutional  interest."

Coach Sgarlata enjoined the younger alumni in Saturday's dinner to be there when the program celebrates its 100th such anniversary in 2064. Of course, waiting for the future is no way to prepare for it.

2. The Perils Of Youth: Brian had clobbered Georgetown in each of its four previous meetings, and not be insignificant numbers. In the first halves of the prior four games, the bears owned a combined score of  81-17. So what changed?

Georgetown's first half numbers were not impressive, its third down conversions were poor and Kyle Nolan was hurried more than most in the backfield. But with 11 new starters in the offensive lineup, the debut was more than the Bears expected.

Two false start penalties in the first two series were a sign of a team that, for all its practices and pre-season scrimmaging, still needed time to adjust in a real game. In most seasons, a warm-up against Georgetown would be an easy task for a veteran team, but the Bears were anything but. Mistakes and missed opportunities (two red zone possessions in the first half, netting three points) combined with four turnovers to wear down the hopes of the Bears, and youth was not served when Georgetown caught fire defensively in the second half, giving its beleaguered offense an opportunity to step up. This was 17-3, not 37-3, and the Hoyas' offense won't win many games thereafter this season on 17 points.

We'll learn a lot more  about both teams this week when Georgetown travels to Colgate and Brown hosts Harvard as part of the school's 250th anniversary weekend. If Saturday's game is any indication, Brown has a long weekend ahead of it against a Harvard starting lineup as good as any in the East.

3. One To Watch: When Matt MacZura graduated in 2014, Georgetown lost one of its most consistent punters. His successor has been a strong entrant thus far. Through just three games, Harry McCollum is averaging 43.8 yards per punt, which would put him third all time at Georgetown for punt a freshman. of his 25 punts to date, six have landed inside the opponent 20 and six have been for more than 50 yards.

4. Future Schedules: This is the last game on the calendar between the schools for the foreseeable future, with brown moving to a series with neighboring Bryant and Georgetown having signed deals with Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton for the first three weeks of the Ivy season through at last 2017.

Brown represents the kind of program Georgetown could emulate, however. The Bears don't have the financial punch of most Ivy teams and no one will confuse Brown Stadium with the Yale Bowl, but the school recruits well, is fundamentally sound on and off the  field, has continuity in the coaching staff and is competitive in the standings. That's not a bad combination at this level, and one to think about as Georgetown enters an uncertain time in its journey through college football.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 27-7 win over Marist this past weekend.

1. A Win, In Perspective:  A good win at a good time for the Hoyas, but let's not add too much, or take away too little, about the opponent.

Much like Davidson a season ago, Marist is struggling through a quarterback change and is not going be very good this season. From an 8-3 season last year under senior Chucky Looney, the 2014 Red Foxes might win one game the rest of the season unless its quarterback situation significantly improves.  At 1.6 yards per carry, the Red Foxes aren't likely to go very far on the ground, and a pre-game injury to WR Armani Martin neutralized any consistent passing threat in the game.

The Hoyas won every phase of the game Saturday night: the offense did what it had to do, the defense kept Marist in check throughout, and special teams were effective with the exception of that punt return which led to Marist's only points of the game. Overall, 20 of Georgetown's 27 points were generated by turnover, which says two things: 1) the defense remains the best hope Georgetown has down the road this season, and 2) the offense remains a liability to generate points on its own.

Marist is not Brown, Colgate, or Harvard. And that should be the focus of the Hoyas over the next three weeks.

2. More To Follow: Last week's column cited the fact that Dayton could not return its game to Washington until the 2020 season because the schedules could not identify a common opening date.

Future schedules from the Ivy league appear to lock in the Hoyas to three games annually through 2018, but assuming there are no major changes in the Patriot League,  the Hoyas need five non-conference opponents a year. Davidson and Marist would seem obvious given its competitive level (and Georgetown's), but remember it was Davidson that passed on a game with the Hoyas to earn an easy win. (Since then: losses of 35-7 and 52-24.)

Scheduling is an inexact science made years in advance. Bob Benson scheduled Richmond because he expected the Hoyas to be ready for them by 2008 and they were not. Kevin Kelly scheduled the Ivies in hopes the Hoyas would be ready for them and the jury is out, especially with a Brown team that has not scored fewer than 34 points on the Hoyas in any of its last four games in the series.

As long as the Georgetown programs slogs along in the competitive mindset (or is it minefield) it's in, there will always be a home for the Marists and Davidsons of the world on the schedules. Trouble is, there aren't very many of the Marists and Davidsons of the world around anymore.

3. Media Coverage: Maybe, just maybe things will change, but the idea of paying $9.95 for a Georgetown sport on video continues to be a nonstarter for 99.9% of alumni, especially with the glut of free football elsewhere. Not to be outdone, of course, Marist also charged $9.95, an old business model that needs to be shelved. If only 1,823 showed up at Tenney Stadium, how many paid to watch it at home?

On the radio, the WKIP announcers were easy to follow and entertaining, although after 20 years, one would think the announcers knew what the word "Hoya" means. Play by play announcer Geoff Brault said he heard it was from Latin, meaning "'fight on." USC references aside, if you don't know, don't guess.

And this quote from analyst Ed Weir, after noting that Georgetown was the only nonscholarship team in the Patriot League: " They're getting some commitments going, and I hear they're talking about joining the Ivy League at some point."  There's  some news!

As for the Georgetown radio broadcast, I couldn't get it because it too was behind the paywall.  

" No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket," wrote St. Matthew. Neither should Georgetown.

4. Opening Week: Brown University arrives at Georgetown Saturday for its first game of the season, while Georgetown (and most Division I teams) are on the third week of the calendar. Why is this?

"The Ivy League begins its regular season three weeks after everyone else for the simple reason that it doesn’t see itself like everyone else," wrote Stephen Tydings  at the Daily Pennsylvanian. But Tydings makes an important point that has been picked up in the Ivy collegiate press.

"Facing teams with more game experience provides more injury risk," he wrote. " Furthermore, playing teams like Villanova that are at a higher level can present more than a reasonable challenge and simply not give you usable experience moving forward."

Tydings argues to move the Ivy calendar closer to the late August opening of other schools. "It would allow for Ivy schools to have more flexibility in their schedules, either by adding a game or — the more likely possibility — creating a bye week.", he said.

The Harvard Crimson agreed

"Starting the season a week earlier would ensure warmer weather for the first night game, capitalize on back-to-school fan enthusiasm, and allow students to go to more games before their workloads reach cruising altitude," it argued. "Shifting the schedule would also mean inserting a bye week in the middle of the slate, as most other college and professional teams do. Adding a week off would fit perfectly with the conference’s stated priority regarding safety and health."

Brown returns just four starters, and none on offense. Would an extra game help their development? We'll find out more this week.

5. Win Or Learn. I hope that Georgetown football fans (and any other readers to the blog) are paying attention to the important work head coach Rob Sgarlata has been doing in linking the educational and athletic goals of the football program, bringing a number of speakers to the team to put their four years of football into larger perspective. It's important, and it's timely.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the modern era of football at Georgetown, and as any alumnus since 1964 will tell you, the time moves by all too quickly. The ability to learn from a variety of individuals and put those efforts into practice and game time situations is an added benefit that distinguishes the Georgetown program.

Since training camp, the team has heard from former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue (C'62), former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, brigadier general San Nichols, and community leader (and former Georgetown defensive back Marques Lucas.

Coach Sgarlata has called it "Win or Learn":

With this firm footing, the time will surely come when Georgetown can do both with equal fervor.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Breaking Bad

All eyes will be on campus Friday morning to the site of the former Georgetown tennis courts, where a ground breaking will take place for the John R. Thompson Intercollegiate Athletics Center. But if anyone suggests this is the first athletics ground breaking since McDonough Gymnasium, recall this photo:

That's a photo from the University's formal ground breaking of the Multi-Sport Facility, April 29, 2005. The photos were gone from this page at, but live on, thanks to Google.

The silence from Georgetown as to what has been done (or more, specifically, not done) about this project remains a puzzling legacy across two athletic directors and two interim ones. Unlike the Boathouse, there is no federal red tape to overcome, no community opposition, and no physical constraints that preclude its completion, or at least some spirited discussion. This is a set of permanent bleachers we're talking about, not Kyle Field, a $450 million stadium renovation in the middle of the Texas A&M campus. It's not even Tenney Stadium, a stadium at Marist College that cost just $4 million. In fact, Georgetown reported gifts of nearly $12 million to the MSF in 2005 but has said little about it since.

The last public comment on the MSF predates Lee Reed. On Sept. 10, 2009 (that's five years and two days ago), then-Vice President Dan Porterfield wrote:

"First, it is crucial that we complete the Multi-Sport Field, which hosts not only our football and lacrosse games, but also intramurals, club sports, and events such as the annual all-night Relay for Life, a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The original design, which includes precast cement stands and a rebuilt foundation, has been an expensive proposition. Though improvements have been made to the field in the last few years, the project remains unfinished and still requires significant investment to complete. For that reason, I have asked colleagues in Athletics and the University to see if we can develop a cost-effective approach to completing the field. Our goals will stay the same: To improve our teams' game-day experience, to make the venue more fan-friendly, and to construct an aesthetically pleasing facility. As we develop new options for this important project in the coming months, we look forward to sharing its details with our friends and donors."

"The Field With No Name" has become a sad monument to Georgetown...from the temporary seats (that were being finished the morning of the home opener with Brown) that never went away, to the sand that piles up on its fringes from other construction projects more favorably blessed in the University's capital budget," wrote a blog post in 2010. "The message this project has sent to prospective students and prospective opponents is an exceedingly poor one--it's the academic equivalent of setting up trailers on Healy Lawn and telling people that this is the library."

"Few great universities would put up a temporary building, do nothing with it for five years and be satisfied with it. Georgetown would not have considered putting up temporary housing in the New South parking lot and calling it the Southwest Quadrangle. It would not have considered knocking out some drywall in the Ryan Administration building and hand it over to the fine arts department as its new facility. But five years later, where is the person that works outside McDonough Gym that sees this monument to institutional inertia and expects something better?

A week from now, Brown University returns to the field they inaugurated in 2005. Nothing has changed. It calls to mind a quote from University president Jack DeGioia: "The most distinctive thing about Georgetown is the fact that we are never satisfied. We are always seeking ways to be ever stronger, ever better, ever more true to our mission and identity."

It has been 3,281 days since construction was halted on the Multi-Sport Facility. There is no satisfaction in that number.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 2 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 23-14 loss to Dayton this past Saturday:

1. Footnote or Bellwether? Many who have followed Division I-AA football knew that Dayton's Connor Kacsor was a productive running back who can cause damage in the stat charts. Still, few would have predicted he would put up 300 yards on a Georgetown run defense that generally keeps big yardage efforts in check. What happened?

Kacsor was held in check in the first quarter, just 14 yards. But Dayton made no secret that  they would run Kacsor until Georgetown figured out a way to stop him, which it never did. Not only did Kacsor rush for 34 of the Flyers' forty carries, he rushed nine straight  plays to end the game and 17 of Dayton's final 20 plays--and still gained yardage!

There is a visible trend in Georgetown's  average yards allowed per rush. In the winless season of 2009, opponents averaged 4.7 yards per carry. By the 2011 season, that number had declined considerably, to just 2.9 yards. Since 2011, however, it has been on the rise: 3.8 yards in 2012, 4.4 in 2013. The current average of 5.3 after two games is inflated by Kacsor's numbers, but it bears watching. If Georgetown is allowing anything like it did in 2009 (and to some degree, 2013), it's in trouble, if for no other reason that it's allowing teams a much easier path to the end zone than via the pass.

Connor Kacsor is a fine runner but he's by no means the toughest running back on the 2014 schedule. If Georgetown can't regroup from what Kacsor did, watch out for Paul Stanton at Harvard.

2.  Week 3 Turnaround? Marist represents the most competitive game left on the 2014 schedule and the Red Foxes have struggled on offense, with just seven points in two games.

Marist's pass defense  is allowing 230 yards per game, nut more importantly, a 60 percent rate of completion by opposing quarterbacks. With two ineffective games from QB Kyle Nolan, the Red Foxes would seem a timely opportunity for the Hoyas to get back into an offensive rhythm.

Saturday's game may well be decided by time of possession. The Red Foxes were held to just 9:21 in the second half, and you can't win with numbers like that.

Then again, Georgetown managed just 10:31 versus Dayton in that same period.

3. C'mon, Really? From the A-10 network, this was the scoreboard appearance on the  A-10 Network feed through much of the first half:


Overall, the Dayton announcers were fairly objective, save when the Flyers scored, where its color analyst channeled an announcer at an SEC game. Upon the first Dayton touchdown, he exclaimed "Hot diggity dog!"

I'm guessing those are three words you won't hear from Chuck Timanus this season.

4. Schedule Talk: The Dayton announcers did not that the Flyers will not return the home game to Georgetown to Georgetown until the 2020 season, in that the  Hoyas did not have an open date that worked for each team until then.

That's good, I guess, but it raises the question--who's on those future schedules?

A peak at Ivy schedules suggests Georgetown is lining up a steady rotation of Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton later this decade, with a home game against Dartmouth (2015) in the mix. Add in six PL games and that still leaves two early September games each year. As to who they might be, I'm not sure. Wagner goes off the schedule this year, Davidson might be happier with an annual clobbering of College Of Faith, and while Marist is an easy add, is there someone else out there with a Georgetown on its future schedules?

5. 50th Anniversary Dinner. If you haven't heard about it, Georgetown is hosting a  gala dinner September 19 to honor 50 years of the modern era of the sport at Georgetown, and to honor the 1964 team that brought the game back to the Hilltop. If you're in the area next weekend, register now to attend.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 21-3 loss to Wagner Saturday:

1. The Lost Art: It was not unexpected that a 40-schoalrship Wagner team would have a string defensive effort against the Hoyas, but Georgetown's running game raises some serious questions about the viability of the offense this season.

In four previous games versus the Seahawks, Georgetown had rushed for 100 or more yards: 140 in 2010, 153 in 2011, 166 in 2012, 104 in 2013. It wasn't close Saturday, with 20 carries for just 19 yards. What happened?

The offensive line returns starters from 2013, the quarterback is the same as well. But a one running back set allows defenses to all but tee off on Joel Kimpela out of the backfield, and absent another back in the backfield, it's a pile-on.

Kimpela follows in a  decade-long run of the smaller running back at Georgetown, from Kim Sarin to Emir Davis,  Keion Wade and Mychal Harrison, Brandon Durham and Dalen Claytor.  Backs like Kimpela have been able to succeed, however, when there is help in the backfield, and in fact, larger backs like Charlie Houghton and Nick Campanella were, at times, able to take some of the pressure off the smaller backs as a result. For now, anyway, Kimpela seems to be the only option amidst just five backs on the roster, three with no prior experience, and opponents will use this to their advantage.

Which leads me to this lament: where is the fullback in modern college football? Is Georgetown that much better with four receivers instead of three?

2. The Opening Drive: Georgetown's talent level leaves it vulnerable on defense to opening game drives for touchdown, and such was the case Saturday. We discussed on this blog last year how the numbers were against Georgetown when they trailed early in games--the offense just isn't capable of quick strike drives unless Davidson is the opponent, which it isn't. (More on them later.)

Dayton enters this week's game with seven retuning starters on offense, including all three receivers. To avoid a similar outcome in Week two, the defense must make an early stand.

3. One Long Bus Ride: Georgetown makes its first ever visit to Dayton this week, a bus ride of eight hours, the longest such trip since the Hoyas visited Charleston Southern a decade or so ago.

Travel is nothing new to the Flyers, whose road games features bus and/or plane trips to  Duquesne (4 hrs), Davidson (8 hrs.) Marist (11 hrs.), San Diego (a flight of approx. four hours and roughly $75,000 in fares and lodging), and Butler (just 2 hrs.).

Georgetown's first visit to the Buckeye State was in 1936, a 7-0 win at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. its last was in 1976, a 30-3 loss at John Carroll University.

4. A Solid Effort: It's going to be difficult for the PL office to award a Player of the Week honor to a team like Georgetown who could be in trouble in every game from here on out, but Alec May put in a fine performance against Wagner and one of many to come.  Georgetown will have its struggles in 2014, but the defense will always come to fight.

5. Keeping The Faith?  Georgetown opened its season with Wagner in lieu of Davidson, which ended its series with Georgetown for, well,  um, eight losses in its last nine to the Hoyas. Coming off a 0-11 season, the Wildcats took a small step towards a softer schedule.

Make that a giant leap.

In lieu of games against Division II or Division III squads that were once common on the post-SoCon schedules for the Wildcats in the late 1980's and 1990's, Davidson opened its 2014 season with a 56-0 win over the College of Faith.

College of Faith does not belong to the NCAA or NAIA. In 1960's parlance, it would be considered a club team, except  that this club doesn't even have a campus , a classroom, or even a athletic facility. The team practices at a middle school.

"Charlotte’s College of Faith is an extension of the school’s main campus in West Memphis, Ark., along with other branches in Oklahoma and Florida," wrote the Charlotte Observer. "While its courses are online only, the Charlotte school is headquartered at the Cosmopolitan Community Church in West Charlotte, where the football team holds meetings and study hall."

"The Saints were 1-7 last season, their lone victory coming against North Georgia Sports Academy, a junior college. College of Faith struggled in other games, including losses against NCAA Division II teams Brevard (69-0) and Tusculum, Tenn. (63-0)."

The Wildcats led 43-0 at the half.

"[The] College of Faith football program is in its 2nd year of college football," one of its coaches posted on a recruiting web site. "We don't have S.A.T. or G.P.A. academic eligibility requirements. Our football program competes against NCAA D2, D3 and NAIA schools. We are looking for some impaact players of all sizes to help grow this great program into something special."

A win's a win, but it shouldn't be cannon fodder, either.