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Preview of Georgetown/Lehigh

I realized at some point today that I have never had to write a preview like this in the five years that I've been doing this.

Since starting this blog up in 2003, every game I've written about or previewed either had as its focus the Patriot League championship or a potential at-large playoff bid.

Now it's not even Halloween, and Lehigh is no longer in the title hunt. It's strange, and like me, I think a lot of Lehigh fans are adjusting to the new reality.

But even without titles this year, there are still goals that should be attained that will help us close out the year on a successful note. That involves a winning record and a win over "that school in Easton".

Closing on a successful note would mean a great deal to this program. Ask Northern Iowa what it meant to them to win their last two home games against Western Kentucky and Illinois State last year to salvage a 7-4 season. Now, they're undefeated and cruising to a Gateway title. That success didn't just start this year: it was built in those last games in 2006 as well.

That's the reason to go to Goodman this weekend to watch the game. To not only root on the home team and to get the horrible taste of the three-game losing streak out of our mouths, but to play this four-game season to get things together for "The Rivalry".

We have a lot of unfinished business with "that school in Easton". There is a three-game losing streak to the Leopards that needs to be reversed at all costs.

Georgetown seems to be coming at a good time for Lehigh to try to take the first step at achieving these goals. The Hoyas haven't beaten us in the modern era - since 1925, in fact. Simply the fact of getting off this three-game losing streak would be huge for the psyche of everybody in the Lehigh family - players, coaches, and fans. Winning resoundingly, with the offense finally getting off a four-week schneid, would be even better.

I'll be watching again, as I always do, to see what happens.

Game Notes & Weather Report
The big wild-card in this game could be the weather. As of today the forecast is a 90% chance of rain: the first rainy day we've encountered this year. On a day where we're trying to get our offense in gear, this is not what the doctor ordered.

As for personnel, the changes really are only on the offensive side of the ball. Senior QB Sedale Threatt and sophomore QB Chris Bokosky are going to "split time", in the words of coach Coen. The freshmen running backs, freshman RB Kwesi Kankam and freshman RB Jaren Walker, will most likely go the whole way for the Mountain Hawks and another freshman in freshman OL Ricky Clerge will in all likelihood be joining freshman OL William Rackley on the "O" line at some point during the game. Youth, it seems, is being counted on to be the answer to the offensive problems.

A Word on Georgetown
Georgetown, in this year and ever since they have joined the Patriot League, have usually been greeted with the word "poor" preceding them, as in "Poor Georgetown." But thanks to the efforts of people like DFW Hoya, their season comes alive for fans across the country. (He also does great previews of the Georgetown games every week, and he's released his preview of this game, available here.)

Their life in the Patriot League has been less than accommodating. Since joining the Patriot League as a football-only member in 2001, the Hoyas have not enjoyed a winning record, and two years ago the Hoyas had two league wins for the first time. After head coach Bob Benson stepped down last year , Georgetown 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 training too.) He struggled, however, in a 2-9 campaign.

After starting the year 0-7 had their first victory of the year last week in a 20-17 victory over Bucknell. The victory partially came about because coach Kelly scrapped his initial offense and switched his offensive attack, which has resulted in closer games. The win gave a nice ray of hope for the Hoyas for this year, and actually puts some wind in their sails and some positive momentum for the first time this year.

But Hoya fans sometimes feel like their school is competing with one hand tied behind its back. No school in the Patriot League is so hamstrung by the league's academic index restrictions, which dictate that the academic standing of football players needs to be commesurate to the rest of the student body. Adding to this, Georgetown also doesn't fully fund their football program, leading the Hoyas to offer fewer "scholarship equivalencies". So the Hoyas find themselves outweighed on the lines, and has some folks wondering if they'll ever be in the mix for Patriot League titles.

Georgetown actually has a great history of football tradition, including being one of the early powers of "Eastern Football" in the first half of the 20th century. They also were a major school in the very early days of football, too. The Hoyas had a huge rivalry with the "Columbia Athletic Club" which was a semi-pro team based in the District. Every year until 1894 Columbia A.C. and Gerogetown would play for the "district championship", until it was stopped in 1894 after the death of a Hoya player. Shortly thereafter, college clubs would be banned from playing semi-professional clubs.

Two weeks ago, coach Kelly went away from the ground-based triple-option attack he favored in the first games of the year and instead went to a more spread option offense, in part due to ineffectiveness (it wasn't working) and in part due to personnel (injuries were mounting at tailback). With 31 points against Fordham and a win against Bucknell, it's hard to argue with the results.

The triggerman is senior QB Matt Bassuener (pictured), and he does everything for the offense: run (171 yards, 4 TDs) and pass (1482 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs). He's quick and mobile, and has been an effective leader of the new spread attack of the Hoyas. Contain him, and you contain the Hoya offense, but it's not as simple as it sounds. He has been great passing the football, especially in the past two weeks - Bassuener chucked the ball 92 times and completed 68 of them, for a 74% completion percentage. It is a short-passing game offense, but Bassuener has been executing it well. Take away the pass, and he can take off with it on the run as well.

Georgetown uses a spread offense, but still uses three backs and runs the option, which makes the running backs the focal point. Senior FB Kyle Van Fleet is their best athlete by far coming out of the backfield, a converted wide receiver, who has 198 yards rushing and 439 yards receiving to lead the team. However, he suffered a broken hand and torn hand ligaments in the win last week and may not be playing (though he is listed on the depth chart). If he's not available, he will be replaced by unproven freshman FB Dean Duchak. Both look like speedy outside runners rather than grinding yards through the tackles.

The slotbacks are sophmore RB Charlie Houghton and freshman RB Mychal Harrison, who are double-threat backs that can run and catch the ball out of the backfield. Houghton is a former Patriot League Rookie of the Year and is the closest thing Georgetown has to a bruising back. Harrison is a scatback that can catch screens and go to the outside. Combined, they have 196 yards rushing and 243 yards receiving - but only two touchdowns, one passing and one receiving.

Senior WR Brent Craft and junior WR Sidney Baker are the leading wideouts on the team, with freshman WR Keerome Lawrence also getting significant time. Although the combined receiving numbers aren't that impressive - 468 receiving yards, 1 TD - they have a vital role in this offense in blocking downfield to help the backs score big runs from the short passing game. It seems like none of them are speed demons, as the Hoyas like to stick to the short passing game so far.

Georgetown fans are fond of saying thatthey are outweighed on each line, but the linchpin of this line is a big, 300 lb lineman in senior C Dan Osterhout. When this line was asked to dominate a line of scrimmage to grind out rushing yards, it struggled. When this line was asked to pass block for a short passing game, it has done much better - they've only given up two sacks in their last two games.

The Hoya defense is a 4-2-5 formation, which I like to call a "big nickel". It replaces one of the outside linebackers with a permanent "rover" safety. It takes a speedy secondary to pull off, depends on a very solid front four, and asks a lot of your two linebackers. In my mind, this defense can be attacked on several fronts.

Senior DT Nmandi Obaiko, at 6'0 250 lbs, is the biggest and best defensive lineman on this team right now, with 40 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. With standout defensive end junior DE Atefiok Etekuren off the depth chart this week, the Hoyas have less depth than usual on the "D" line as they rotate a lot of bodies in there. If there was ever a time to get our "O" line back on track, this smallish, decimated unit would be the one to do it against.

Two underclassmen - sophomore LB Scott Coffman and freshman LB Nick Parrish - anchor the most important position on the defense. Parrish is the better of the two with 53 tackles and 3 tackles for loss, but both - in theory - should be beatable by our offensive line. If we were ever to get a 100 yard rusher this year, this is our chance.

The secondary has two big standouts in sophomore safety Chris Rau (the "rover") and senior CB Kevin Cherepski. Rau, with 59 tackles and 1 sack, is the leading tackler on the team, while Cherepski has 52 tackles and has 1 of this secondary's three interceptions on the year. Again, it seems like this isn't a dominating unit, but with our struggling offense now being completely rebuilt, it remains to be seen if our offense will be able to take advantage of this.

Special Teams
Senior PK Eric Bjornerud only has 3 FG on the year (he's converted all three he's attempted), but the biggest two he's ever made came last week against Bucknell, including the 38 yard game-winner. He's also 13/14 on extra points, so he's a good kicker. That goes with another special teams standout in senior P Chris MacGriff, who is averaging 43.6 yards per punt.

Junior KR Kenny Mitchell is the key weapon in the return units, with 513 return yards on kickoffs, while freshman RB Mychal Harrison is the primary punt returner (he also had a 63 yard kickoff return). These guys are legitimate threats and need to be contained - a sleepwalk by our special teams units could find these guys find the end zone.

Keys To The Game
1. Make something happen. It doesn't have to be pretty; I don't have to like it; all I'm asking is that the offense make something happen to score points. I don't care if the ball is underthrown by 10 yards, or the ball bounces off two defensive backs, or we have to fumble the g-d thing into the end zone. All I'm asking is that our offense make something happen to score points. Tackle-eligible? Run and shoot? Three tight ends? I don't care. Just get it done.
2. Special Teams. This unit will have to play at its best for us to win this game - that means containing the return men, great tackling, and no dumb penalties. The stats don't lie: these units could very well break one, and it could be the difference in the game.
3. Pass Coverage. Holy Cross picked us apart on defense last week, and Georgetown absolutely has the tools to do the exact same thing here unless our pass coverage improves in some way. If we sit back in a soft zone, get no pressure on Bassuener and sit back in a zone, they have the opportunity to gain big yards on us just like Holy Cross did. We can't let this happen.
4. Helmets. If this team looks at Georgetown's helmets, and only sees the "G" on there and assumes we're going to win automatically, they are dead wrong. If we come out flat because we think we're "big, bad Lehigh" and that Georgetown is simply going to run away, we will have learned nothing from the last three weeks. I can stomach losing to better teams, like Holy Cross, Yale, and Fordham, if we play hard all the time and play to our potential. I cannot abide players assuming they are better simply because "we're Lehigh". And I cannot abide by players not learning from their mistakes.

Fearless Prediction
Like many Lehigh fans, my faith in this team was deeply shaken after last week's performance. I've never seen such an inept display of Lehigh football ever since I've written the blog. There have been tough losses these last five years, and even a few times where we lost big. But even in those games we battled, and against Holy Cross we gave up the battle.

On paper, Lehigh wins this game. But will they? Will they work harder than Georgetown? Will this reshuffling on offense really work to kick-start everything? Will the defense make the adjustments necessary to keep Georgetown from playing their game? Will this team refuse to come out flat emotionally once again?

I so desperately want to say "yes". I want to say that this team has learned the lessons of the past three weeks. I want to see this team be the Lehigh that I remember even last year, that closed the year strong and dominated Bucknell. The team that played well on offense, defense and special teams. I want to see a team that plays better, plays with pride, plays with emotion.

But the team I saw last week wasn't that team. If that team comes out again this week, we will lose this game. And I am not yet convinced that we've seen the last of that team that came out last week.

I'm done making picks on hopes and dreams. I'm going to pick the the game based on what I've seen. And from what I've seen, Georgetown will beat Lehigh for the first time since 1925.

Georgetown 23, Lehigh 17


Anonymous said…
I temporarily rescind my complaint of a few weeks ago that Chuck is a homer ...
Anonymous said…
Ye of little faith....
Dick Kedd said…
Georgetown 13
Lehigh 7
LU82Engineer said…
I was going to say there is no way Lehigh loses this game but the weather is going to play a major role in how this one plays out. This is a must win for the team, we lose this one and things are much worse than they appear.
parz '92 said…
Oh Chuck.... You've lost it.

The game is just starting. Threat is not playing. McGowan is.....

Lehigh 24
Georgetown 10

Yes, I am a homer.

Go Engineers!
parz '92 said…
Wow. I guess my prediction is wrong. Wish I was at the game. It is all Lehigh 21-0 in the first quarter. McGowan looks unstoppable, Brokosky looks good.

Can they keep it up?
Anonymous said…
What a difference a week makes!!!

Return of McGowan plus a major attitude change = success.

Now we'll see what they can do in Hamilton NY.
hawkineer said…
Let's keep things in perspective. It was a good performance. However, a major reason that this week was so different was the opponent. Georgetown is certainly not HC. Georgetown looked disinterested from the get-go today.

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