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.