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Preview of Georgetown/Lehigh

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's schools which don't release their game notes in a timely fashion. Normally my game previews come out on Wednesday, but foolishly I tried to wait for Georgetown to post their game notes on their website.

These game notes are not only the lifeblood of something like this blog (where I'm able to write all sorts of free publicity about, say, Georgetown's football program), but it's also important to members of the mainstream media covering the game. The best way to have media members spell and pronounce the name "Ononibaku" correctly is to have game notes out by the middle of the week. Releasing them on a Friday doesn't help anybody - it's old news by then.

Having got out all my excuses for my preview being late, I was able to scrounge up enough information to come up with a credible preview blog post of the Georgetown/Lehigh clash this weekend. Over at hoyasaxa.com there is a "behind enemy lines" preview of the game which is a very worthwhile read. It's apparent that Hoya Nation feels a little stifled by Lehigh, but that shouldn't mean that Lehigh take the Hoyas lightly. A look at this years' Holy Cross and VMI games should be reminder enough that anything can happen on any given Saturday, and Lehigh needs to be getting better en route to Lehigh/Lafayette, not worse.

This weekend, it's going to be Family Weekend at Murray Goodman, and it's supposed to be a wonderful 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday. This time of year there the foliage should be incredible as well, so if you want to see South Mountain at its most picturesque I'd suggest heading to Lehigh for this weekend's game. Historically Family Day is a day with great turnout, and it will be the last home game before sold-out Lehigh/Lafayette. If for some reason you can't watch the game live at 12:30PM this Saturday, you can watch the game on Service Electric 2 in the Lehigh Valley, listen to the game on 1230/1320AM, or listen and watch the game on lehighsports.com.

Lehigh Injury Report
Senior QB Mark Borda (Ankle, Out)
Sophomore OL Jimmy Kehs (Ankle, Questionable)
Junior TE Pete Morelli (Hand, Questionable)
Junior FS Courtney Elder (Shoulder, Out)
Senior DE Owen Breininger (Hip, Questionable)
Senior LB Anthony "Graz" Graziani (Shoulder, Questionable)
Junior DB Calvin LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Junior LB Chris LaMont (Groin, Questionable)
Junior LB Travis Stinson (Shoulder, Questionable)

The story that nobody has talked about so far is the fact that Lehigh is majorly banged up after last week's big Colgate victory, most notably at linebacker. It remains to be seen who will get a lot of playing time against Georgetown, but it's very likely we'll see a lot more of sophomore LB Rashaun Gasaway. We even may see some of sophomore LB Beau Goodhart or a freshman or two if things get really bad back there. Hopefully this group (and DE Breininger) can get healed up in the next few weeks for the Lafayette game.

The two offensive injuries are also worrisome, especially to Kehs. The "O" line has been blessed by having no injuries this year, but have Kehs sit out would sideline one of our best linemen. Junior Jason Russell would get the call instead there. Morelli's injury may mean we will get to see more of junior TE Landon Maggs, who is a pretty good TE in his own right.

A Little About Georgetown
Georgetown has played at Murray Goodman once in the history of their illustrious program. That game was in 2002, and was embarassing 69-0 whitewash. Coach Bob Benson didn't even bother to check the tape of Lehigh's last game in preparation for that game, and it's unlikely that the Hoya coaching staff dug up those lowlights on their bye week last week either.

However, those days are light years behind us. Georgetown has made some major strides in their Patriot League football program in recent years, and it shows. Not only was this year the Hoya's first in their brand-new football stadium (though they need to work on a snappier name than just "Multi-Sport Facility"), this year has been their most successful Patriot League season ever, with 2 league wins for the first time. The next goal for these Hoyas has got to be a winning season and maybe even, if Jupiter aligns with Mars and Neptune enters the seventh house, a Patriot League title. Nothing would make this team happier than coming home with a shock win over Lehigh, and it would make their season.

Offensive Breakdown
Having said all that, Georgetown has struggled this season offensively. They are last in all of Division I in scoring offense (yes, even behind I-A Temple), and last in passing offense in the Patriot League, averaging less than 100 yards through the air. This team normally grinds it out through the running game in a basic 3 WR set, but I'd bet to see a fair amount of tricks in head coach Bob Benson's arsenal to try to get some offense going, especially with the strength of Lehigh's rushing defense. They've had a problem honding onto the ball, even in their wins, so making turnovers hurt the Hoyas will be important.

Junior QB Nick Cangelosi is the triggerman for the offense. With a completion percentage of less than 50% and only 5 TDs on the year, he has struggled passing the ball. However, he takes off with the ball about 10-15 times a game, averaging 75 yards per game on the ground, so you can't ignore the thrat of him taking off at any time. Behind him is freshman QB Ben Hostetler, the son of the Super Bowl-winning QB of the New York Giants in 1990, should he falter.

The centerpiece of the offense is senior RB Marcus Slayton, who is averaging 74 yards per game rushing to go with his 3 TDs. He's 5-10 and 214 lbs with decent speed and good ability to run straight ahead and break the occasional big gainer. Sophomore RB Emir Davis backs him up and gets about 30 yards per game as well. Neither have been prolific options catching the ball out of the backfield, though Slayton has been getting more looks in the last 3 games. With Slayton's size and Davis' speed, it would not surpise me in the slightest to see them in the backfield together in the "I" formation.

The receiving corps is currently undergoing a "baptism by fire" with two true freshmen and a sophomore leading the receiving corps. Freshman WR Sydney Baker has emerged as the go-to option, with 12 receptions on the year for 157 yards, with sophomore WR Kyle Van Fleet not too far behind with 155 yards and a TD. It's worth noting that sophomore TE Harrison Beacher and senior TE Glenn Castergine are legitimate receiving options, with Castergine nabbing the game-winning TD against Georgetown two weeks ago.

The "O" line has given up 12 sacks on the year, a pretty big number for a team that doesn't pass the ball much, but they were brutally effective against Fordham as they bulldozed Fordham for 287 rushing yards. Junior G Robert Browning is the biggest athlete on the "O" line at 300 lbs, even though their line is smaller in comparison to Lehigh's.

Defensive Breakdown
It's no secret that the Hoya's 4-3 defense has won them games this year by shutting down opposing defenses. Their two Patriot League wins, 19-16 against Bucknell and 24-21 against Fordham were set up by smothering defensive efforts, notably giving up only 200 yards of total offense to the Rams. The foundation of their success is a monstrous pass rush, forcing sacks and fumbles, so Lehigh's "O" line will need to bring their "A" game on Saturday - not to mention protecting the ball.

The line is smallish, but have a pair of fast defensive ends that cause teams fits. Last year, the duo of senior DE Michael Ononibaku and junior DE Alex Buzbee had 21 sacks between them. This year, Buzbee is among the Patriot League leaders in forced fumbles, and Ononibaku is among the league leaders in recovered fumbles and tackles for loss. Obviously, any offensive Lehigh gameplan needs to deal with how to minimize these two great athletes.

The linebacking corps also has a couple of very good athletes in senior LBs Mehdi Hassan and Jason Carter. Both are good tacklers and also get good pressure on the QB when necessary. Overall, the front seven does give up some yardage on the ground (157 yards per game).

With the fearsome pass rush, it may be forgotten that the Hoyas has the best-rated pass defense in the Patriot League. Having said that, Georgetown hasn't faced an effective passing team like Lehigh all year. Still, senior safeties Sheldon Epps and and Maurice Banks have played well this year.

Special Teams Breakdown
Senior P/K Brad Scoffern and sophomore P/K Eric Bjornerud have split the kicking duties this year. Scoffern's 39 yard FG was the difference last week, so you know he has a decent leg. On kickoffs, the Hoyas are leading all of Division I on kickoff yardage allowed, so they have seen improvement in special teams. Freshman WR Ken Mitchell, sophomore RB John Lancaster and sophomore LB Michael Shotwell give Georgetown a decent trio of kick returners. On punts, junior DB Brian Tandy has been the main return man.

Keys To The Game
1.Another great "O" line performance. Keeping the Hoya's killer "B"'s off of Sedale Threatt, while forging yards for Rath and Thompson, will be the big challenge on offense. If our line can bring it the same way they brought it against Colgate, we should have another big day.
2.Prove your defensive worth. Lehigh's "D" is not considered one of the best in the Patriot League. That's a fact, especially against the pass. If I'm on the defense, I'm looking to make a statement going into the final month of the season that our defense is Patriot League championship-worthy, and that means shutting down Georgetown's rushing offense especially.
3.Take care of the ball. We can lose this game if we turn over the ball. Especially with the Hoya ball-hawks, protecting the ball will be especially important. I'd like to see another win in the turnover battle this week.
4.Guard against trick plays. With a lot to play for, look for the Hoyas to empty out their magic hat against Lehigh with reverses, trick plays, fake punts, fumblerooskies - basically, everything but the kitchen sink. Mentally, the troops will have to be sharp.

Fearless Prediction
The weather prediction for Saturday is 70 degrees and sunny. We're coming off a big win against Colgate. This 2005 Mountain Hawk squad has followed their best efforts of the year (Delaware, Harvard) with their worst (VMI, Holy Cross). Will this happen again against Georgetown? I-AA Nation will be watching closely as well to see if Lehigh is a national championship contender (yes, you read right, championship contender) instead of another "one-and-done" Patriot League school.

I'm thinking Lehigh will play better than the VMI and Holy Cross games this year. I think everyone is starting to bring their game up another notch - a notch that will be needed the rest of the way. There ain't no more off days. If I see an off day this Saturday, I'm concerned. If I see the crisp, focused Lehigh team that I know can deliver the goods, I think the sky may be the limit.

Lehigh 56, G'Town 14

Comments

Anonymous said…
Excellent post. Tough getting info on the Hoyas. Your conclusion says it all. What will Lehigh bring on Saturday in terms of mental toughness--needing to bring the same effort they did at Colgate against a team with a 'lesser' reputation, but with enough athletes to make you pay if your head isn't in the game causing mistakes and turnovers. With all the injuries, it would be nice to see Lehigh jump out quickly and dominate in order to rest the wounded. However, I think there will be more of a struggle, but the Mountain Hawks make it look easy by the fourth quarter. 45-17
Ngineer
DFW HOYA said…
Excellent article.

One note--Bob Benson's comments from the 2002 opener that made it onto the Lerhigh broadcasts and post-game coverage are an example that the LV press never quite understood the Hoyas. For Benson to say he didn't watch film was a bit of humor--he spends a LOT of time on pre-game prep and that bit of levity among coaches was taken all too seriously by a local press which still consiers Georgetown as the odd man out in the PL. It would be like hearing Bill Parcells say he wasn't going to focus on defensive strategy anymore.
LBPop said…
Your information about Georgetown is quite thorough and mostly up to date. You have risen on my credibility meter. Given the Hoyas' three blow-out losses this season, it's hard to quarrel with your prediction. After all, Cornell hung up 57 points and that game had no championship implications for them--Lehigh should be motivated by their championship aspirations.

Having written that, the first quarter should be very telling. If the Hoyas come to play and if the Engineers are licking their wounds and looking ahead, it could get scary at Goodman. That same Hoya team that allowed 57 vs. Cornell, lost by 12-7 to Lafayette and it wasn't a fluke. I don't expect an upset, but I do hope to have some fun and check out Goodman.
LUHawker said…
LBPop -
G-Town matches up better with LC for some reason or another so I'm not sure the transitive property is in play here, but I think we'll see an improved GU team anyway. That said, I think LU is focused again. As I review the season for Lehigh, I see a similar pattern to recent years. Namely that LU gets up for the big games and slouches for others. I think the HC game and then the scare by Yale woke the Hawks up and I think we should see a more determined LU squad from here on out. I think that loss to Delaware had a more impactful effect than was initially realized and its taken a bit of time to get the swagger back. Hope you enjoy the atmosphere at Goodman!
Anonymous said…
You do a fantastic job on this blog - keep it up and I hope you can monetize this some day.

One factual error regarding G-town's Hostetler. He's the nephew of Jeff, not the son. http://www.giants.com/news/special_features/story.asp?story_id=969

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