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Preview of Lehigh/Georgetown

You could say Georgetown comes at the best, or worst, possible time for the Mountain Hawks.

I don't think anyone pointed to the game this week in the preseason as a "must-win" game for Lehigh. But there it is. Lehigh needs to win the game this week at Georgetown, and win it with some gusto. If we can dominate this team, it could show a Lehigh team that is coming together just in time for league play. If we lose this game, our championship hopes will be over. Not COULD be over - WILL be over.

At 1-3, there is no more margin for error if we want to win the Patriot League title, and all league games count more than usual. But even so, a complete win here is really needed.

Why? With no wins over the last three weeks, it's imperative that Lehigh fans (and Mountain Hawk opponents) see a team this week that they could visualize winning the Patriot League championship. Lehigh's 1-3 start should mean that there is no more swagger, no more expectation that Lehigh just shows up and wins games. If we're to win the Patriot League this year and get into the I-AA playoffs, it starts with a quality win here at Georgetown.

The Hoyas have struggled offensively and were handled last week pretty easily by Colgate. Based on that result, that seems like a match made in heaven for a team that needs to show some killer instinct and not let a team get back in the game. Getting a solid defensive effort against a struggling team offensively, while getting our offensive execution on track against a good Hoya defense seems welcome.

But right now, we're a team that has been plagued by (at times) sloppy play and "letting up". If we let up here, our title hopes are finished in 2006. This team, to me, needs to show themselves and the rest of the league that they are a team to be feared. Right now, at 1-3, they are not. If we are to compete for this year's title, this needs to be changed this weekend.

Injury & Weather Report
OL Ben Harden
DB Jarvis Lewis
DB Courtney Elder

We see a new face on the injury list in sophomore DB Jarvis Lewis, who will be missed mostly on special teams. But the good news is that senior DL Paul Bode, senior OL Pete Morelli and junior OL Brendan Caffery are now officially off the injury report and ostensibly ready for duty in two areas where it is very important that we have more depth.

Unlike coach Lembo who frequently tweaked his starting lineups week to week, it's almost boring how coach Coen keeps the same starters week to week. However, there was one extremely subtle change worth noting. Senior Josh Pastore was bumped up the depth chart on kick return duties, implying that he will get more time there over sophomore DB Aaron Gilliard. My take on this is so Gilliard can be fresher for pass coverage; I think this is a very good thing. Pastore will be able to showcase his talents running the ball on kickoffs as well, something he hasn't been able to do too often in our crowded backfield of late.

If you're heading down to Washington, DC for this encounter, the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50's with a chance of showers. My advice to you is to get there early, and get there by public transportation if you can to avoid Georgetown's legendary issues with parking. This means the tailgate beverage of choice will have to be very portable. Solution? Cans of Yuengling. Throw a couple six-packs in the old knapsack, along with the hoagies you get from Goosey Gander's, and you will be good to go. (Note to food and beverage distributors: Lehigh Football Nation Sponsorship opportunites available upon request.)

A Word on Georgetown
Your great-grandfather may remember the early days of this "rivalry", when the Hoyas won 5 of 6 against the Engineers, from 1901 to 1925. After Georgetown's football program upgraded fifteen years ago from Division III to Division I-AA, they joined the mid-major MAAC football conference in 1993. Georgetown as a mid-major did fairly well, winning the conference title three years in a row and appearing in the ECAC bowl in 1997.

Yet their life in the Patriot League has been less than accomodating. Since joining the Patriot League as a football-only member in 2001, the Hoyas have not enjoyed a winning record, and last year the Hoyas had two league wins for the first time. After head coach Bob Benson stepped down, Goergetown hired former Navy assistant Kevin Kelly to take his place. He brought with him an attitude of "fanatical effort" in everything the team does. (Undoubtedly that's also a key part of Academy traing too.)

Like Lehigh, the Hoyas are adjusting to life with a new head coach, a new offensive system and a brand-new attitude. The Hoyas are entering this week's game 1-4, 0-2 versus the Patriot League with losses against title contenders Holy Cross and Colgate. Both teams need this win not only for a crucial league win, but for pride as well. Lehigh needs a good win after losing two straight to Ivy League contenders Harvard and Princeton, while the Hoyas are trying to avoid going 1-5 in order to at least have chance at a winning record this season.

Although coach Kevin Kelly has brought the spread option to Georgetown from Navy, the Hoyas statistically have mixed both the pass and the run in 2006, so it's not as simple as putting "eight in the box" all the time against an option team. Still, it has to be noted that Georgetown has struggled yet again for any offensive consistency.

One of my pet peeves about Georgetown is the fact that their game notes never seem to be timely, coming out on Friday before game time. As a result, I can't tell you if junior QB Matt Bassuener or sophomore QB Ben Hostetler will be the starter. Coach Kelly has played the "hot hand" in practice generally, and tomorrow we'll find out who gets the nod, but if I were a betting man Bassuener would get the nod. Both are mobile running and passing QBs in Kelly's option attack, but Bassuener has made fewer turnovers and also leads the team in rushing. Both are constant threats to run, and both are fairly accurate as well when they do pass.

The Hoya backfield has really struggled to make a name for itself - a major problem considering the Hoya option should offer more opportunites for backs to get yards. Junior RB Emir Davis is a "speed" back that actually has proven himself to be more of a threat catching the ball out of the backfield rather than rushing the ball, and he's their most fearful RB. Junior slotback Brent Craft is another "speed" option that catches the ball a lot out of the backfield rather than running straight ahead. Junior RB Erik Carter is probably their best rushing back, but only sports a 3.6 rushing average per carry. Freshman RB Charlie Houghton is another good rushing option, but he was hurt last week and his status this week is uncertain.

The receiving corps is essentially the same crew as last year, so this is an experienced unit. Junior WR Kyle Van Fleet is the go-to-guy with junior WR Jasper Ihezie and sophomore WR Sydney Baker not far behind. Although Ihezie and Baker have some speed, most of the Hoya passing game has been underneath in long, grinding drives, so in a way they're all "hands" receivers.

The "O" line is definitely on the smaller side, with the center weighing in at 240 lbs, but the right side of the line, led by senior T Liam Grubb, is a fine blocker at 6'7 290 lbs. Surprisingly Georgetown has only let up 5 sacks in 5 games, so their pass protection hasn't been bad.

Boy, do the Hoyas miss Michael Ononibaku on this 4-3 defense. The "D" has still been the strength of this team, but they miss Ononibaku's big-play ability and pass rush. Their three takeaways have also been a huge bug-a-boo for a solid defense that is not as spectacular as last year's team.

Like last year, Georgetown's line is smallish, but without Ononibaku, the main source of pass rush and defensive leadership falls on senior DE Alex Buzbee. By far he's the most dominating player on the line with 4 tackles for loss, while the rest of the unit (one DE weighs in at 235 lbs) struggles to find a complement on the other side.

The linebacking corps are a solid bunch of tacklers and have also been decent in pass coverage, but have not been opportunistic in forcing turnovers. Senior LB Chris Paulus and junior LB Derek Franks are the standouts here, with Paulus leading the team in tackles.

Senior FS Darren Franks is another leading tackler and the leader of the secondary that has been overmatched at times this year. Incredibly the Hoyas only have 1 interception on the year so far, so some hay may be able to be made there.

Special Teams
Junior P/K Eric Bjornerud, surprisingly, has had few opportunities for FGs this year, so even at this late stage of the year he is still largely unproven. He splits punting duties with junior P/K Chric MacGriff, who has shown great punting ability with a 40 yard average. Sophomore WR Kenny Mitchell is the main man returning kicks, and he is a good threat with a 60 yard return already this year. On punts, senior DB Brian Tandy has been the main return man with limited success.

Keys To The Game
1. Killer Instinct.
Against Princeton and Havard, we had big leads, went on cruise control and let them get right back in the game. I'd like to see us "step on the Hoya throats" early and often if we get out to a big lead. If we do, this could pay benefits down the road.
2. Patience. I'd like to see our offense dissect and pick apart this defense more on long, sustained drives. There's no need to air it out all the time. Balance the run and pass, and make good short passes to wear out this defense.
3. Linebackers In Pass Coverage. Georgetown's passing game will involve a lot of passing to the backs out of the backfield and passes underneath. I want to see more variety from our linebacking unit to disrupt the passing game in the soft part of the zone.
4. Fewer mistakes. I'd really like to see Lehigh cut down on the mental mistakes and big turnovers from September. This sends out notice to the rest of the league that we're going to be a better, more focused, team the rest of the way.

Fearless Prediction
I think Lehigh will get the job done this week and smooth over some of the problems we had in September as we approach a crucial league game. This game will have to be a showcase of Lehigh football in 2006, and I think that it will be. A heartwarming win for Lehigh fans, as some of our swagger, perhaps, returns.

Lehigh 45, Georgetown 13


Anonymous said…
Getting there on public transportation: Metrorail Red Line to Dupont Circle station, then transfer to Metro Bus G2 - fairly quick bus ride that takes you right to the front gates of GU, then a short stroll through the campus to the field; details on public transportation fares, schedules, etc. at
Ngineer said…
Excellent review there LFN. One point, however, it that Georgetown was in the Colgate red zone several times and turned it over. So the score could have been much closer. As with any team, turnovers kill. I'm concerned about another rain game--although at least will be on turf.
LBPop said…
On paper (and on field turf) this figures to be a rough game for the Hoyas. But IMO, for this season's Georgetown team the sum of the parts has been greater than the whole. If these kids stop making the dumb mistakes, somebody good might find themselves in a real dog fight. Why not tomorrow?

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