Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Week 8 Thoughts

Week 8 Thoughts

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

1. The More Things Change...Yes, the column missed a couple of weeks, but frankly, there wasn't much to say that wasn't said before: the defense was superb, the special teams  promising, too many penalties, and the offense is just not there. Repeating that every week doesn't solve very much.

Yet, Saturday's loss was troubling not in its sameness but in its contrast. This was not Georgetown fighting uphill versus Harvard or Princeton, nor to a Lehigh team headed to the I-AA playoffs or even a Fordham team that will host a game at Yankee Stadium next week. This was a loss, and a convincing one at that, to a Lafayette team that had lost 17 of its past 19 games, was giving up 54 points a game over its last three weeks, and hadn't won a home game against a Patriot League opponent in two years. This was the Lafayette team that the Hoyas beat 38-7 last fall for its largest margin of victory in its 15 year PL history.

And this year? One yard rushing at halftime. One possession inside the opponent 20, made possible from special teams. A run of four consecutive second half possessions that garnered a total of six yards....all this against the worst defense, statistically speaking, in the conference.

So what gives? It is strictly the lack of scholarships?  It plays a factor, but non-scholarship football hasn't stopped Georgetown from a defense that earns respect among its opponents. And I can't lay this at the feet of three quarterbacks with little or no prior college experience. Injuries don't help, either.

yes, Georgetown was dealt a short hand on offense in 2016, but we've been saying this for far too long. Excepting the two years of Dave Patenaude as offensive coordinator (and to some future historian in the PL, the 2011 season must not have actually happened, with Georgetown at 8-3 and Fordham at 1-10), the offense at Georgetown has been a bellwether of the program.  Elliot Uzelac didn't change that momentum. Neither did Jim Miceli. Vinny Marino certainly didn't turn the ship around, and now Mike Neuberger faces a stat sheet that, at any other school, would be cause for shopping resumes:

  • Passing Yardage: 107th of 122 schools
  • Passing Efficiency: 115th of 122
  • Rushing Yardage: 115th of 122
  • Total Offense: 120th of 122
  • First Downs: 120th of 122
  • Third Down Conversions: 120th of 122
  • Yards Per Completion: 122nd of 122

Unless Georgetown is playing the two teams consistently below them on those lists, which they do not  (Robert Morris, Savannah State) they're in a position of real trouble on offense. The team has scored 20 points combined in three weeks, and hasn't scored more than 20 points in any game to teams not named Davidson. 

Do the math.

At some point Georgetown has to invest in an OC. That doesn't mean Coach Neuberger can't or shouldn't do the job, but defense and special teams can't win games on its own. Lacking scholarships, the road to a winning season is as narrow for Georgetown as for any team in Division I-AA. 

"This place should have a good football program,” Coach Sgarlata told the Georgetown Voice in 2015. "We’re excellent at everything that we do. This whole place is built on being the best you can be at what you’re doing. There’s no reason why this football program shouldn’t be the same thing.”

The offense is essential to getting there, and 120th place isn't a winning number.

2. Meet the Crusaders: Up at Holy Cross, the web site is all about promoting Holy Cross' game at Fordham in two weeks--it's a big deal playing at Yankee Stadium, sure, but it's also a reflection that there's nothing big about Georgetown that you can sell to the home towners .

The Crusaders lost its starting quarterback midway through the season and have struggled through the toughest part of the schedule, a 46-14 loss to Lehigh and a 26-8 loss last week at Lehigh. Much like Lafayette, HC fans are not happy with the performance of head coach Tom Gilmore, whose record through 13 seasons stands at 69-75. The Crusaders at 3-6, Gilmore's fourth losing season in his last five years at Mt. St. James. A loss to Georgetown (a team they beat 45-7 last season) would not go well entering the Fordham game, which is expected to be the largest turnout of HC fans outside Worcester since its I-A football days.

Despite an offensive line that averages over 300 pounds, HC has not been able to get a consistent run game, relying instead on a passing game ranked third in the PL at just under 240 yards a game. Its defense ranks only 6th but Georgetown's offense of late can do wonders for a team's statistics.

"Like us, Georgetown has had injuries at some key spots, but they have shown the ability move the ball well and play great defense,” said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore at its midweek release. “We need to get back on track in practice and execute much better this week in order to earn a victory.”

Neither team can afford to finish 3-8 this season. Georgetown is trending in that direction, while a loss Saturday could lead HC in the same direction. It might be as simple as the first team to 21 points wins, which doesn't give Georgetown fans a rally cry.

3. Whatever Happened To... While reviewing Mike Neuberger's bio on GUHoyas.com, I came across this note:  "In 2012 with the Hoyas, Neuberger’s wide receivers averaged 12.11 yards per catch and accounted for seven touchdowns, while helping develop Kevin Macari into a Second Team All-Patriot League selection."

Remember Kevin Macari? A promising  recruit from New Canaan, Connecticut that didn't get a scholarship offer, he turned down a preferred walk-on at Miami to play at Georgetown.

 "I just felt comfortable [at GU]," Macari told the Connecticut Post in 2012. "It is some place I want to be for the next four years." Instead, he transferred to Delaware.

Macari's football dreams ended abruptly at Delaware. His junior year was lost to injury. As a senior, he played in two games, and did not catch a pass in either. A major in Community Leadership at UD, Macari returned home to New Canaan for a job as an assistant football coach in 2015, but did not return to the staff following a June 2016 stop for drug possession.

A college football career is fleeting, but life after football can't be ignored.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Lehigh's 35-3 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. Unexpected? No fan, no coach, no player wants to lose, that's a given. But no one wants to lose each and every year to the same opponent. For the last 10 years, that's Harvard over Yale. For the last 14, it's been navy over Army. And for the 16th straight game, it's Lehigh over Georgetown. Can we be surprised? No.

Lehigh plays a game especially unsuited to a team like Georgetown--depth wins out every time.  The Engineers have been solid over the years on the lines, something where recruiting and injuries have taken its toll on Georgetown for two decades.  A solid o-line opens up holes for running backs, gives quarterbacks time to find receivers, and extends the ability to adapt to defensive sets. When a QB is running for his life, that doesn't apply. Line play has been strong for Lehigh for years and when they play a team like Georgetown which can't control the line of scrimmage, they can wear opponents out. When you go from 14-3 at halftime and drop touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half, that's a function of talent and depth.

How does this change? There's no one secret formula, as Yale and Army can attest.  Harvard and Navy are beating up on a lot of people, not just one or two. If Georgetown can get better (and that's an open question given the constraints imposed by PL recruiting) it has to come in the lines. The defense has earned its reputation in league circles as a strong-willed bunch. The offense needs that same approach.

Georgetown's run versus Lehigh is not the longest in current terms. Pennsylvania's 35-10 win over Columbia was the 20th consecutive win in that series; in fact, Penn has won 28 of the last 32. But you can tell that's going to change. Columbia gets better every week under Al Bagnoli (this was only a 7-0 game at the half) and Penn has seven seniors to replace on offense next season. Watch out for this rematch at Baker Field next season.

And Georgetown's rematch at Lehigh next year?  Probably more of the same.

2. Quarterback #3.  The introduction of Brock Johnson into the lineup at the end of the Lehigh wasn't just to give Clay Norris a breather. There's a chance for some competition  at QB, and Johnson has all the tools to make a go at it. It's likely this was an issue the coaches would have preferred to deal with in spring practice next year after Tim Barnes had graduated, but the future is now and both figure to get some time the remainder of this season.

I'm reminded of a pair of  (now) older Hoyas who competed at QB in the mid-90's: Bill Ring and Bill Ward. Clay Norris is the Bill Ring type--tall, consistent, methodical. Johnson has a little of Ward in him-- someone not afraid to air the ball out to move the dial. Georgetown has some of its best receivers in a decade right now but they aren't getting the ball downfield under either Barnes or Norris. Johnson has the skills to be a really, really good quarterback.

Fordham will make it difficult for either QB this week. I'd stay with Norris against the Rams, then use the final four games to set the course for 2017.

3. Fan-Friendly.  It's no secret that visiting PL writers do not like Cooper (nee multi-Sport) Field. There's a nice spread for the writers at places like Fisher, at Goodman, or even at Jack Coffey. When free lance writer Keith Groller writes this about the place, it's not a compliment:

And yet, Georgetown seem unwilling to improve the fan experience until this still-mysterious Cooper Field redo takes place. There's some chatter that the visitors seating may go away entirely (which won't be well received around the league) but the current experience is lacking.  Has been for years, and it isn't likely to change.

Do our fans vote with their wallets? Check the average attendance figures from around the league:

Holy Cross: 9,501 (2 home games)
Colgate: 8,010 (1)
Lafayette: 7,134 (2)
Lehigh: 6,525 (2)
Fordham: 4,994 (4)
Bucknell: 4,800 (2)
Georgetown: 2,237 (4)

So what would Georgetown do if 9,500 people suddenly showed up to watch a game?  That would be a fun one.

4. From The Wayback Machine:   So when was the last time Georgetown won at Fordham? A long time ago. Here's the story from the Fordham Ram, November 6, 1974:

"Led by halfback John Burke's three touchdown runs and a stubborn defense, the Georgetown Hoyas trounced the Ram grid squad 35-7 last Saturday, disappointing a partisan Homecoming crowd of approximately 4,500 at Jack Coffey Field.

"Burke, who scored on runs of 71, 11 and 24 yards, gained 190 yards for the game on 18 carries, and earned the Madow Trophy, awarded to the. game's most valuable player. Previously, the trophy had been awarded in the Battles of the Bronx

"After the game the question on many minds was: Is Georgetown that good or is Fordham that bad? The answer you receive depends on who you talk to, of course. Nevertheless, the 4-1 Hoyas made believers out of Ram head coach Dean Loucks and his quarterback, Don Hommel.

"Make no mistake about it", said a dejected Loucks, "Georgetown is a very good football team and they deserve all the credit." As for his own team's deficiencies, the coach commented, "Sure, we can play better than that, but Georgetown is a better team than we are."

Read more about it at this link.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Harvard's 31-17 win over Georgetown this past weekend.

1. Yes, They're That Good.  Maybe it's the 31-2 record over the past three seasons. or that its starting QB, a fourth year rookie, was 15 of his first 20 passes, Or that a team had more first downs (25) than points (24) by halftime.  Harvard isn't Alabama, but for its place in the college football firmament it's as good as it gets.

That's a tribute and a testament to Tim Murphy, who has re-written the Crimson record books, but who is not beyond criticism from fans who accuse him of padding the record with soft opponents like...well, Georgetown.

"I battled rush hour traffic to get to Harvard Stadium, to sit in the rain and watch the Crimson only to find out that the best offensive weapon... wasn't playing," said a fan at a popular Ivy League message board, adding, " [He] wasn't dressed because we were playing [a JV team]...You get to see your new young players get their feet wet early but I just can't take another game vs JV Georgie like last night. Harvard used it like a scrimmage and if you can do that against any team then I don't want to be playing [them]."

There is a perception that Georgetown is a second class opponent across the Ivies, academically and athletically. Never mind that Georgetown has split its last eight games with six of the Ancient Eight, but it's a combined 0-9 versus Harvard and Yale and 0-10 is a fair conclusion a year from now when the Harvard series wraps up (the series will not extend past 2017). there are Harvard fans who ask why the crimson can't play a New Hampshire, a Delaware, or how about that team down Commonwealth Avenue it hasn't seen since 1944. Its record versus Boston College? 3-0-1.

"Each one of our forty two Division I varsity sports has a special story to tell, all in a special place in our history," Murphy said. "But the flagship sport at Harvard is Harvard football, and the biggest event on campus is the Harvard-Yale game."

Were that Georgetown could aspire thusly. It doesn't mean it can't be great at basketball, or track, or lacrosse. But football has a place on this campus that remains understated and somewhat underappreciated, and if a coach can get an a self-important campus in Cambridge to take football seriously, certainly it can happen in Washington.

2. Make or Break? There's an argument to be made that this week's game with Princeton is the most important game of the year. Not that Patriot league games aren't important, though given Georgetown's seat at that table, but they aren't make or break. Or not that a win versus Lehigh or Fordham wouldn't be big. But the Princeton game comes at a crucial time of the schedule where the offense has gone silent. Save for two long runs versus Harvard, the Hoyas have generated a total of 110 yards over the last six quarters of play. The running game is non-existent and there is a real likelihood that a sophomore makes his first start at QB if Tim Barnes's shoulder injury proves unworkable. The same Columbia team that came up short against the Hoyas was routed by Princeton, 48-13.

Win this game and the Hoyas move to 4-1. The following two games are admittedly prohibitive--Georgetown is 0-15 against Lehigh since joining the PL, and hasn't won at Fordham since 1974. A fourth win keeps hope to sneak a win over a Lafayette, a Holy Cross, a Bucknell after its October gauntlet. A bad loss Saturday sets the skids that a young team might not recover from.

Princeton is a really good team. But it's not Harvard. Georgetown can win this game but it needs a complete effort.

3. Future Schedules: As discussed above, the Harvard series ends in 2017. What is the status of Georgetown's non-conference schedule over the next few years?

As Ivy teams go, the Hoyas get three in 2017, a mirror of 2016: at Columbia, Harvard, and at Princeton. The list drops to two in 2018 (Columbia, at Dartmouth) and two in 2019 (at Columbia, at Cornell). The football office doesn't talk about who else is on the schedule, though it's likely full through 2021 of 2022. Sadly, it's likely to have its share of Davidsons and Marists.  Much like the aforementioned Harvard fan who would like to see the Crimson schedule up, Georgetown should, at the least, consider it.

My top five picks for a non-conference "play-up game" in any one year:

1. Villanova. A built-in rivalry, an opponent Georgetown alumni would recognize from the start...unlike, say, Butler.

2. Howard: Nothing like a locally promoted DC game, but Howard remains uninterested.

3. Pennsylvania: A series that would be great for both schools. The previous two game tour was one-sided (Quakers, 69-20) but it's worth pursuing.

4. Army: Not there yet, but they're playing other PL schools and the experience for the GU kids would be special.

5. Swing For The Fences: Wagner College, a team that is reasonably competitive with Georgetown in football, has played the following schools in the last four years: Florida Atlantic, Syracuse, Rice, and Brigham Young. This season; Boston College and UMass. To no surprise, they're 0-6 to date, losing 42-10 to the Eagles two weeks ago. Does Georgetown have to go that deep? No, but taking a step up every few years raises interest and expectations. It's doesn't have to be a big-time program, but one that opens some doors for recruits and for fans.

Sunken logs are not stepping stones.

4. Strike Up the Band: The Harvard band sounded great in the corners of Harvard Stadium, with the echoes coming down from the colonnades. On the field, less so. Scramble bands are self-indulgent and not very musical. Having an orator read a rambling essay as the band prepares for some 30 second song is silly.

Don't expect much more from Princeton if their band makes it to Washington. Here's last week's halftime show. (And no, I don't get it.)

Because orange never works in Washington.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Week 3 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 17-14 win over Columbia on Saturday:

1.  Hanging On: Fully realizing that I was likely the only fan at Cooper Field that would actually compare the Columbia game to a basketball game, but watching the second half of the  game reminded me of a game in Madison Square Garden a quarter century ago.

On March 8, 1991, the Georgetown Hoyas shot 25 percent for the game in their Big east quarterfinal against Connecticut. In any reasonable scenario, that's a ticket for an early exit; instead, the Hoyas won by 21. How? defense, in the name of one Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo, or Dikembe Mutombo for short. Mutombo scored 13 points and carried off 27 rebounds in the game, two short of the school record.  Georgetown would be bounced from the two tournament two days later shooting 33 percent, but the defense stood tall when no one else quite did.

Such was the case against Columbia. For a Georgetown team that mustered five first downs and 125 yards over the last 55 minutes of the clock and still won is a remarkable, if troubling, accomplishment. It's not secret that Georgetown has been, and continues to be, one of the Patriot League's most resolute defenses. But let's be clear: 125 yards isn't going to beat many more teams on the 2016 schedule, least of which Harvard.

2. See No Injury, Say No Injury. In the pros, injury reports are relayed to TV and radio audiences in the same series. Thanks to some litigious college administrators,  schools are more likely to tell you their WiFi password than if a player came out of the game with an injury.

Coaches have been carpet-bombed by compliance officers who have been told to say that  that speaking the obvious--that halfback that limped off the field sprained his ankle, for example--is a federal privacy violation.

" I heard the radio group announced something [about a player injury]," said TCU coach Gary Patterson after his team's win at SMU. "Whoever [on the staff] told them, I'll fire. Let me say that to you. Because it's not our job, it's illegal to be talking about injuries. So, bottom line to it is, whoever did it is in a lot of trouble when I find out who it is."

So don't expect Rob Sgarlata talk about the condition of Alex Valles, who limped off the field Saturday. He might be on the depth chart Friday, maybe not. If he's not, Georgetown  is dead in the water offensively. Isaac Ellsworth is too small and Christian Bermudez is to slow to get past a great Harvard defensive line.

And maybe it won't be in this game, but I'd like to see lineman (and former RB) Khristian Tate get a chance in the backfield. At 260, he's built like a tank, and his bio notes that he "rushed for 2,429 yards and 32 touchdowns on 216 carries in 22 games over his final two seasons, averaging 11.2 yards per carry." A 260 pound running back flies in the face of conventional wisdom that speed beats size, but if Georgetown's got a fourth and two, 260 into the line still beats 160.

3. Unsportsmanlike Conduct.  It's au courant this fall for players to channel their inner Colin Kaepernick to express some discontent with all things that they don't disagree with. Everyone is entitled to matters of conscience, but it makes you wonder if some of these kneel-down photos are more about "look at me" than discussing issues which deserve a more serious audience.

So I was disappointed for the Georgetown Voice to stir this up in a Twitter post:

Let's be clear. That photo was taken before the anthem....but they didn't say that, did they?. The Georgetown players were standing. So were the Columbia players, including the two that knelt down on the goal line while the Superfood singers were setting up.  I say that because I was watching it. The audience stood, and so did the players.

Apparently, another Voice photo confirms this,

If the Voice has an angle here, that's their business. Perspective, however, shouldn't be ignored.

4. A Model Program. If Georgetown wants to build a football program rooted in scholars-athletes that compete in the classroom, on the field, and offer its grads the opportunity to play at the next level, it need look no further than Friday's opponent.

Yes, Harvard has lots of advantage and lots of money, but this is not a team that outspends everyone to win. It's built on coaching, recruiting, and teams that are built to win.

"Since the 1990s, [coach Tim] Murphy has had the highest winning percentage of any Harvard football coach," said the Harvard Gazette. "For 22 seasons, he has picked bright and talented football players. The most recent and notable of his veterans include Kyle Juszczyk ’13 (Baltimore Ravens), Cameron Brate ’14 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Nick Easton ’14 (Minnesota Vikings), Zachary Hodges ’15-16 (Los Angeles Rams), and, most famously, Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 (New York Jets)."

"Those kids who have great character seem to exceed at whatever their athletic and academic potential is perceived to be," said Murphy.

Over the past ten years, with the highest scores in the Ivy's Academic Index, the Crimson is 102-20 (.836), in its last three years, 30-2 (.937). Harvard recruits nationally, and brings in students who excel in football without a detriment to their careers after football.

It's no surprise to see a Harvard football grad on Wall Street, and no shock to see them on a Sunday afternoon in the NFL either. Maybe someday Georgetown can say the same.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Off-Week Thoughts: A Homecoming, And a Plan

For one weekend a year, more people come to campus than any other. It isn’t orientation, graduation, Reunion, or even Parent’s Weekend. It’s Homecoming, and since 1925 it’s been built around the shared experience of fun, fellowship and football.

Yes, even at Georgetown.

The event has endured its ups and downs, from the days of spirited alumni parties at the Wardman Hotel, to thousands of beer-friendly grads overwhelming Kehoe Field, to a run of games where the meager status of MAAC opponents left it a decided non-factor to returning guests. Today’s Homecoming event is as much academic as athletic, but it raises a question: in many cases, it’s the only exposure many alumni (and sadly, many students) get to experiencing football on campus. What are the messages Georgetown is sending?

From the start, it’s a mixed one.

Many teams build a pre-season pyramid of goals:

Win the opener.
Win at Homecoming.
Win the rivalry game.
Win the conference title.
Win a bowl (or playoff) game.
Complete for the National Championship

After that second level, Georgetown football grinds to a halt every year.

Over 20 years ago, former coach Bob Benson laid out his vision for the program.  He stated the following  as goals:

  • Establish accountability and discipline.
  • Emphasize the term student-athlete.
  • Reconnect with alumni.
  • Separate from Division III as quickly as possible by upgrading the schedule.
  • Recruit quality student-athletes.
  • Educate the leaders of the Georgetown University community about the game of football.
  • Win.

For the most part, mission accomplished, but the bar was set fairly low. The program has reconnected with its alumni, but basketball shines such a searchlight over athletics that it makes it difficult for any sport to make the argument that it’s worth their continued attention. It’s an unfortunate by-product of the last 10 years of Georgetown athletics that it’s tacitly made the case that basketball is the only sport which matters at Georgetown. Maybe at Fox Sports, but this isn’t Fox Sports.

Benson did upgrade the schedule and had plans to do more, but Kevin Kelly quickly dialed it back. Richmond was out, Old Dominion cancelled after one game. No CAA opponent has appeared on the schedule this decade, none seem likely. Every other Patriot league team has scheduled upcoming games with teams you know—Army, Navy, BC, Syracuse, Temple, UConn—but not Georgetown.

Some of that is competitive reality, some if it is institutional myopia. We can’t do better because we won’t do better.

Ivy League teams are a comfortable “name” opponent to administrators, but I wonder how many 20-somethings even care that it’s Columbia at Homecoming instead of Canisius or even Catholic. Georgetown is one of a handful of schools that does not seem interested to schedule better opponents, and that sends a message to its constituents. Lafayette plays Villanova this weekend, but there are plenty of people that will claim Georgetown could never play such a school because we can’t compete.  Would more people show up to see Villanova or James Madison or even a game with Army at RFK Stadium? Would they care?

Because to play Villanova, to play JMU, or to get the Cadets to make a trip to DC takes something more. Scholarships? Likely, but not exclusively. Budget? Yes, but not as much as some would think. Vision? Absolutely.

“It is really quite simple,” Benson wrote. “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.”

What is the vision for Georgetown football?

Absent Georgetown joining the Ivy League, it needs a plan, a vision statement for the 2020’s, not for the MAAC Football League. It needs to educate the community that selling up is not selling out, and that the marginal investment in competitive football is a material gain for the University and how it brands itself as a well-rounded experience for all its students. Or can alumni expect no more than to be “first in war, first in peace, and last in the Patriot League?”

What are the messages Georgetown is sending about football at Homecoming this week? You won’t see it in the facility and the ongoing lack of communication around field construction. You won’t see it with the crushing lack of pageantry and excitement around the game, where many Homecoming guests will be more content sitting in a humid tent than buying a ticket for the game. But where you need to see it start is in conversation: one on one, one to many. It’s not enough that Georgetown has football or that we’re happy playing Davidson and Marist every season, two of the lowest ranked programs in the nation on a year in, year out basis. People have to ask where Georgetown can reach higher without tripping over its own two feet. In nearly every other sport, students have nearly limitless opportunities to be the best they can be and to strive for national acclaim…football excepted. To paraphrase John Thompson, Georgetown doesn’t need to be the USC of the East, but be the Georgetown of Georgetown. And right now, we’re not that Georgetown.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week 2 Thoughts

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

1. Remembering. The program does its part to remember the legacy of Joe Eacobacci every day, not just today. Let's also remember those Georgetown alumni and staff lost that day. Here's a link to a 2001 article from The HOYA with the names and stories of those killed that day.

2. Nothing Wrong With 2-0, But...: Another early win is a plus for 2016, and entering a bye week over more so. Georgetown got solid efforts on all three phases of play (offense, defense special teams) and on the road that's essential.

The offense led time of possession across the board, the defense continued its bend but don't break approach in limiting red zone conversion, and the special teams came up big with two blocked punts that foretold the final outcome. But this game shouldn't have been this close, and from those silver linings there's a few clouds to pay attention to:

--Georgetown held Marist to a remarkable 0 for 13 on third downs--superb congratulations, but this was still a three point game.  What if Marist was 1 of 13? Two of 13? The Hoyas still needed two blocked field goals to earn the win, and won't get those kind of breaks the rest of the season.

--For its sake, Georgetown converted on just 5 of 20 third downs against one of the weaker defenses in the subdivision. Enough for the Pioneer League, perhaps, but certainly not enough for the opponents to come. And it was consistently weak throughout: 2 of nine before halftime, 3 of 11 after it.

--Rushing defense has been stout--12th nationally after two weeks. But Marist and Davidson were both among the bottom 20 in rushing in 2015 and while that's not a predictor of how they'll do in 2016, it's a matter of context.

So let's celebrate the win and promptly forget about it. Two weeks to prepare for Columbia, the start of a three game express run through the Ivy League which will tell us more about the 2016 season than Marist ever will.

3. Ancient Eight Preview: Coverage of Ivy football isn't what it sued to be but Jake Novak 's Columbia blog is as good they get it. Novak, whose distaste for the coaching regime of  Pete Mangurian was anything but reserved (and don't get him started on former Hoyas and Columbia OC Vinny Marino), is much more enthused over the arrival of Al Bagnoli to Morningside Heights and the opportunity for an elusive target for the Light Blue: a winning season.

Georgetown has posted one winning season since 2001. By contrast, Columbia has just two winning seasons since 1971 and its seniors are a combined 2-28. But this is a new era at Columbia and Novak knows it.

"Bagnoli delivered early on the hope to make Columbia a more relevant team right away," he writes. "The Lions were competitive in all but one game last season and they enjoyed a gargantuan leap statistically over their numbers in 2014 and 2013. And yet they still didn’t really overreach out of the gate as they were unusually unlucky not to have finished 2015 with at least two more wins. In that sense, perhaps 2016 will be more about matching 2015’s rightful total of four wins rather than making a quantum leap into title contention."

His 2016 Ivy picks:

1. Pennsylvania
2. Harvard
3. Princeton
4. Dartmouth
5. Columbia
6. Brown
7. Yale
8. Cornell

A fifth place finish wouldn't get Bagnoli a parade up Broadway but would be a seismic change for a team without an Ivy title since 1961. They'll see its first two games, St. Francis and Georgetown, as a dress rehearsal for that step upward.

4. Ram-page: Columbia usually opens its season with Fordham, but to the ire of the Bronx contingent, Columbia canceled its series. The Rams then took out its aggression on Elizabeth City State University, a Division II historically black college in rural North Carolina who made its first scheduled visit north of the Mason-Dixon line since 2002. Fordham led 38-0 after the first quarter and sent the Vikings home to a 83-21 loss for new coach Earnest Wilson III, himself a battle scarred veteran of the woeful Savannah State program that was 2-32 under his watch in 2014 and 2015.

What was to be gained by that game? A win, sure. Some extra reps between the Rams' games at Navy and Penn. With seven of its games in the city, and the league's best NFL prospect of this generation in RB Chase Edmonds, the Rams are primed to step on some people.

The win did have an effect on the league record books: it overwrote the previous scoring record set by Lehigh over Georgetown in 2002. The less said about that game, the better.

5. Around the League: Other scores from week 2, with Colgate on bye:

Villanova 26, Lehigh 21
Duquesne 30, Bucknell 19
Delaware 24, Lafayette 6
New Hampshire 39, Holy Cross 28

It's early, but the Patriots have taken their lumps in the non-conference slate: 6-7 overall, but just 3-7 in games not involving Pioneer League teams.

This week's schedule include the following, with Georgetown and Fordham on bye:

Colgate (0-1) at Yale (0-0)
Lehigh (0-2) at Pennsylvania (0-0)
Cornell (0-0) at Bucknell (1-1)
Lafayette (1-1) at Princeton (0-0)
Holy Cross (1-1) at Albany (2-0)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Week 1 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Georgetown's 38-14 win over Davidson:

1. Passing The Test. Three years in the making, senior Matt Barnes was all business in the opener, staying on course and avoiding the mistakes common to quarterbacks of any age making their season debuts. Barnes' four TD's were the most by a Georgetown quarterback in a season opener since 1996 and were generated during a run of four TD's over five series, tossing aside any hopes of a Davidson comeback.

Even more encouraging was Barnes' accuracy as the game went on:

1st Quarter: 1 for 3 (33%)
2nd Quarter: 11 for 16 (68%)
3rd Quarter: 4 for 5 (80%)
4th Quarter: 8 for 9 (88%)

That second half number tells an even better story: 12 for 14 after halftime is a number worthy of any quarterback.

Barnes was aided by an outstanding effort from the Georgetown offensive line, which held Davidson without a sack for the entire game, something it hasn't done since the game at Columbia last season.

For his part, Barnes has some challenges ahead of him--he is not a mobile quarterback and opponents may be more agressive in forcing him out of the pocket than what Davidson proferred,  Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to make his mark and Barnes did juct that.

2. Early Warning? Amidst all the positive statistics from the game, one item to watch: the running game.

Past games against Davidson have allowed Georgetown to run roughshod over its opponent--Nick Campanella made a career on the Wildcats' front line--but such velocity was not in evidence Saturday afternoon. The Hoyas rushed for just 153 yards, 49 of it from one broken-play run, and this against the worst rated defense in the Pioneer in 2015.

It remains to be seen if Alex Valles has the foot speed to be a consistent 80-100 yard rusher. At 160 lbs, Isaac Ellsworth could be chewed up by the time PL play begins, and with only three other RB's on the roster, it's a position Georgetown appears thin entering the season.

Without a consistent running game, opponents will flood the box and dare Barnes to throw past them, a situation that routinely faced Georgetown teams in the late 2000's when the offense could not generate yardage.

Bucknell rushed 44 times on Marist's defense in Saturday's 26-10 win over the Red Foxes, a deceiving final in that the teams were separated by just seven yards in total offense. The numbers from Valles and the other Georgetown runners bears some watching this week.

3. Underrated. Teams don't get a lot of plaudits for kicking, but Georgetown is getting some great efforts from Henry Darmstadter and Harry McCollum heading into 2016. In his last 12 games, Darmstadter is 32-32 on points after touchdowns and 10 of 14 on field goals. McCollum is providing consistent punting support and both seniors figure to peak at the right time this season.

4: Attendance: Blue, Lots of Gray: Saturday's attendance, well supported by Davidson fans and not necessarily Georgetown ones, was 1,863, the lowest number for an opener in ten years.  Georgetown does not seem to know how to market this team and absent a concerted drive to build a suitable Cooper Field, seems in no hurry to.

Of the remaining home games, Georgetown looks to fill its seats for the 77th Homecoming game with Columbia, but don't be surprised to see lots of light blue at the game. As for the others (Princeton, Lehigh, Holy Cross and Bucknell), Hoya fans could be outnumbered in as many as three of these games, which is sad on many levels.

5. APB: Cooper Field. Georgetown presented an updated "concept" of  the ever-elusive Cooper Field renovations to the Old Georgetown Board last week, but with no further comment on its web site, which simply reads;

OG 16-335
HPA 16-593
3700 O Street, NW
Georgetown University
New Structure, Alterations - Cooper Field

The last public drawings were posted almost a decade ago, and are likely to be considerably different, as we discussed earlier. When will these drawings be released; and if not,. why not?

It's day 4,006 since construction was halted, and we wait.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ready In 2018?

With a new football season comes some new questions, and some old ones too. And a few which never go away.

Such is the lot of a Georgetown fan, where promises are made but which stands the test of time, and not in a good way. This is day 3,885 of the "will they or won't they" game that is Cooper (nee Multi-Sport) Field, of which I've written as much as anyone, about the veritable lack of direction which has left this project as (save the Boathouse), the longest running construction project at the Hilltop since the Healy Building, which wasn't actually finished out for nearly two decades after they started building it.

Since we last visited on the blog, there has been nothing to report on the  project, so much so that the finished product ought to have a giant stone enscription across its facade: quod sumus hoc eritis. Sadly, the lack of movement is endemic of a well-intentioned program that can't seem to make any progress in the sport, much of that self-inflicted.

Maybe I'm being a little jaded here. I'm one of these donors who bought Bob Benson's sales pitch hook-line-and-sinker, sent the check and waited for the goldmine to get going. And while the long-awaited Cooper gift rallied the faithful, this too fell into the "need to know" approach of donor relations, calling to mind the Lake Wobegon grocer who suggested "If you can't find it [here], you can probably get along without it."

Amidst another off-season of vague discontent, a ray of hope flickered across my Twitter feed last week:

Ok, one things jumps out there, and it's not those temporary seats which stand as a sentinel to inertia: DoneInSpring18?

So while it's clear Lee Reed knows a lot I don't about this project, there's a healthy bit of Missouri ("show me") in any claim Georgetown makes about a facility. To wit:

Spring 18 is roughly 15 months away, yet there has been no design dislosed to the public in over a decade. The Cooper gift is likely not to build a design from the Bush administration.

The last appearance by the University on this project in front of the DC version of the Scylla and Charybdis (the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Old Georgetown Board) was, at least according to its records, 2007. " No objection to revised concept design for Multi-sport facility at the Georgetown University with stadium lights no taller than 80-ft high as shown in supplemental drawings dated 21 September 2007," reads the minutes. "File new submission of working drawings, including dimensions, details and material samples, with permit application for review by the Commission when ready." 

Well, even if they are ready, the BZA has already signed off, we think, writing in 2012 that " The [John Thompson Center]  was approved by the Commission in Z.C. Order No. 07-23 under the 2000-2010 Georgetown University Campus Plan along with the New Science Center and modifications to the already-approved Multi-Sport Facility The approval for all three buildings was extended by Z.C. Order No. 07-23A. Since that time, the University has commenced construction of the New Science Center and the Commission’s orders of approval are now vested."

The next topic: how much is it? The public declaration of the Cooper gift was certainly unclear about the share of the gift to fund the field, and given estimates which variously ranged from $10 million to $45 million on the project, it's hard to guess how much of the gift will go to the field and when. It would be foolish to assume that the $22 million in pledges for MSF is still active or sitting in a bank account somewhere, but at some point a price tag has to be determined to figure out what it'll get. Will it be a Georgetownian version of Robins Stadium, whose $28 million commitment transformed the Richmond campus?  Or will it be more of a Tenney Stadium , the single-sided redo of Marist's Leonidoff Field, with an announced capacity of 5,000 but actual seating for less than 1,800?

But what about the inevitable design changes? The latest campus plan doesn't provide many clues.

" The west edge of the student life corridor would also be enhanced as future investment in Cooper Field would allow for removal of the existing chain-link fencing and creation of a more open and integrated experience," it reads. Investment to bring down a fence? What does that mean? 

One design in the plan envisions a three sided stadium:

But the plan endorses three buildings in close proximity to Cooper, any one of which could impact not only a timeline, but the use of the field itself. Writes the plan:

"A new building South of Regents Hall in the academic core of campus, which would provide approximately 80,000 square feet of academic space with ground floor student life functions supporting the Student Life Corridor concept ;
▪ A new Harbin Tower on the existing Harbin Hall plaza, which would provide approximately 67,000 square feet of academic and administrative space along with double-level ground floor space dedicated to student life functions supporting the Student Life Corridor concept;
▪ A component of the multi-use Reiss redevelopment option, which would accommodate a full replacement of the existing facility’s 136,000 square feet of academic space"

Another design in the plan envisions a rather nondescript one sided stadium:

And still another design (in the same document, no less) has stands on the east side:

Maybe the Cooper gift isn't enough to build the 2007 design. Maybe it's not in the bank right now. Maybe it's as simple as they just don't know. But nothing says "cheap" in sports like a one-sided stadium. Remember that Latin phrase? "Such as we are, you will be."

So putting regulations, design and money for a moment, there is one constant: time.  To build a facility by spring 2018, you have to basically close the field in 2017, yet there is no chatter that Georgetown is about to become a barnstorming team in 2017. A real facility is a 12-15 month effort with an aggressive calendar.

So which is it? I don't know, but I wish Georgetown knew. Maybe they do. Maybe, like a lot of projects, it's on the University taxiway, waiting to be cleared for departure.

It's been there way too long.