Thursday, October 19, 2017

Week 6 Thoughts

Some thoughts Following Lehigh's 54-35 win over Georgetown Saturday:

1. D is for Depth: Georgetown's defense was shredded for the fourth consecutive weekend Saturday, in a way that hasn't been seen for many years at the Hilltop.

In fact, the closest parallel to the crushing defeats to Princeton, Harvard, and Lehigh was the middle of the 2007 season, a miserable run where the Hoyas finished 1-10 and lost to Holy Cross, Cornell, and Pennsylvania by a combined  score of 142 to 20. (In the last three games, it's 144-67, so pick your poison.)

The recaps of those games read as eerily familiar to 2017.

"Georgetown turned in a thoroughly non-competitive effort in a 55-0 runaway by Holy Cross at Fitton Field Saturday," read on September 22, 2007. "Sadly, the score could have been even worse."

A week later, it wrote, "In an otherwise unremarkable game, Cornell posted 469 yards of total offense in a 45-7 walkover of the Georgetown Hoyas... The Hoyas' inexperience and conservative offense continue to be its biggest adversaries in making plays on the margin that could provide a fighting chance."

By the third week, this entry: "The heretofore winless University of Pennsylvania team needed only a quarter to walk over the Hoyas, 42-13, before 8,823 at Franklin Field Saturday. Outmatched on the lines for a sixth straight week, Georgetown offered little resistance to a team that was in need of a win and was determined to get it."

The Quakers led 28-0 after the first quarter.

These recaps share one common thread: depth killed the 2007 team. Sure, the revolving door of quarterbacks Matt Bassuener and Robert Lane didn't help, and the recent play calling of Michael Neuberger channeling that of Jim Miceli isn't encouraging. But the depth of 2007 (and succeeding years) doomed those teams to be able to compete.

The Hoyas are down three starters from opening week and are ranked 117th of 123 teams for tackles for loss. Sacks? Nonexistent. Give any talented quarterback time in the pocket and he will find receivers.

For the better part of a generation, Georgetown ahs been able to hang on in the patriot largely on the sheer will of its defense. For it to win Saturday, and anytime in the near future to a team not named Davidson, the defense must step up, play through the pain, and set an example. As strange as it sounds, Saturday offers that hope.

2. Whither Fordham?  No team, not even the one further down this column, is more surprising in PL play as is Fordham. With the best PL All-America candidate since Gordie Lockbaum on the Rams' roster, Chase Edmonds' senior season was going to be Fordham's run to the PL title and a healthy run in the playoffs. It's been anything but.

Injuries have rendered the Fordham offense a shell of itself--the Rams average just 115 yards a game on the ground and its defense has been battered all season long. From a  64-6 opening loss to Army right up through last week's 38-12 loss at Colgate, Fordham has allowed 30 or more points in all but one game this season.

Maybe even more telling: the Rams have not scored more than 12 points in any of its last three games.

Georgetown's game notes (which will still try to tell you Tim Barnes is the starting quarterback) may provide some clues as to how the Hoyas can compete with the Rams in this one--it starts with the receivers.

3. Whither Holy Cross? The biggest news of the week was, without question, the mid-season firing of Tom Gilmore at Holy Cross. At 14 seasons (and until last week, still counting) at Mt. St. James, no one doubted Gilmore's coaching ability nor his recruiting, but four straight losses and a shutout at Yale was a breaking point. It's the kind of thing that we expect in the SEC, but not in the Patriot League. What's going on?

To tie this to the pressure of scholarship football is, for now, a logical fallacy. One decision does not a trend make. Yes, Holy Cross spends a lot of money on football and, yes, Gilmore was under .500 for his tenure in Worcester. But scholarships didn't lead to a change, but momentum, or the lack thereof. It helped bring an early beginning to Frank Tavani's retirement plans at Lafayette, and it turning up the heat on Fordham's Andrew Breiner, 9-9 in two seasons.

Numbers like this (from the Fordham media guide) don't help, either:

"The 2017 Fordham Rams have yet to score on their first offensive possession of a game.  Last year, the Rams scored on their first offensive possession in eight of the eleven games. Conversely, three of Fordham’s seven opponents have scored on their first offensive possession. The Rams are being outscored 93-21 in the first quarter."

Pressure is part of the business for all head coaches, including Georgetown. While Rob Sgarlata sits in a different position than Tom Gilmore did, momentum is important. In his 40th game as a head coach Saturday, Sgarlata has just 11 wins. He has to do better going forward, and he knows that. The collective Georgetown has to do better as well, and I'm not sure they know that.