We break down the Georgetown game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.
It must be said that Hoya head coach Kevin Kelly, who is in his sixth year coaching Georgetown, has to get credit for presiding over one of the most incredible turnarounds in FCS history.
Sure, there have been coaches that have gone from D-III to partial scholarships - you can look to legendary coaches like Albany head man Bob Ford and Wagner athletic director/head coach Walt Hameline.
Coach Kelly, who built upon the legacy of former head coach Bob Benson, didn't start out at zero scholarships when he came here. But it was no secret that Georgetown has plenty of challenges that weren't shared by, say, Lafayette, who underwent a multi-million dollar athletics renovation of football facilities that Hoya fans could only dream of. Many thought their institutional challenges were something that simply couldn't be overcome.
In a world when many were thinking that football could not succeed at Georgetown, their 8-3 record last year proved the doubters wrong.
He's also, like Columbia coach Pete Mangurian, not a bad blogger. He had this to say about Lehigh this week:
Our non-league schedule is finished and this week marks the beginning of our Patriot League schedule and we don't need any extra motivation, with Lehigh coming to town. Lehigh is undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in the nation and none of our guys have forgotten our loss to them in the Patriot League Championship Game last season. It's a game that I'm sure a lot of our guys have had circled on their calendars for a while. We've played two common opponents, with Lehigh defeating Princeton and then beating Fordham on the last play of their game, so we know that we need to have our `A' game to beat them.How do the new-look Hoyas match up against the Mountain Hawks? Let's find out.
Breaking Down Georgetown
Lehigh, finally, is going to be facing off against a school whose head coach has been at the school for more than nine months - Columbia, Fordham, and Liberty all were coached by first-year head coaches.
But with the departure of Hoya offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude for Coastal Carolina this year, a new offensive philosophy comes from new offensive coordinator Vinny Marino's more rushing-intensive offense, and wide receivers coach Mike Neuberger 's new focus on become more physical in the passing game.
"We have to be as physical as we can be," Neuberger said. "When the ball is in the air we want to be physical in going up and taking it away from defensive backs, when we're running our routes we want to be physical getting off the ball and getting over the top of linebackers and when running the ball we want to be physical at the point of attack on the perimeter. That's something we stress to them that you won't get the ball unless you can block. I think they have embraced that and worked very hard at it."
The Hoya's offensive set, a three-wideout, one-tight end, one-back basic set, is similar to the one employed at Liberty. It's designed to work with the athleticism of the quarterback on rollouts and short passing, with the wideouts asked to become great blockers as well as great receivers.
But the Hoyas have seen their top two QBs sidelined by injury, meaning the starting quarterback is a player that was third on the depth chart to start the season, 6'2, 202 lb sophomore QB Stephen Skon (49/89 passing, 484 yards, 3 TDs, 6 INTs). As befits the head of this offense, he's a decent rusher (he gained 50 yards on 19 rushes last week against Fordham), but in the two games he's started he's also tossed 5 interceptions, showing that he's still raw and adjusting to being the starter.
The two-headed running back tandem, too, has seen injuries to senior RB Wilburn Logan, meaning that 5'8, 170 lb junior RB Dalen Claytor (240 yards, 1 TD) and 6'0, 223 lb junior RB Nick Campanella (348 yards rushing, 4 TDs) team up the Hoya backfield. As you might imagine, Claytor is more of a speedy, scatback-type player, while Campanella is Georgetown's version of senior RB Zach Barket - physical, but with another gear, and more than capable of catching the ball out of the backfield.
The Hoya receiving corps does not lack senior targets - or physical players. Senior TE Tucker Stafford, a 6'6, 262 lb former quarterback, is a particularly dangerous target (10 catches, 105 yards), and senior WR Max Waizenegger (10 catches, 122 yards) is another sure-handed target for the Georgetown passing game. And that's even before the most promising of their wideouts, sophomore WR Kevin Macari (24 catches, 263 yards, 2 TDs). Stafford, Waizenegger, and Macari are all tall, physical receivers and they fit in perfectly with the Hoya's passing and rushing game, with 5'8 speedster junior WR Zach Wilke (11 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD) providing the deep threat.
Once upon a time, the Georgetown "O" line was small, undersized, and could be pushed around by any halfway-decent defensive line. That is no longer the case. Anchored by 300 lb senior C Kevin Sullivan, Georgetown's "O" line is much bigger than Columbia's was last weekend. In six games, however, the line has averaged giving up more than two sacks a game, putting them in the lower half of FCS.
Georgetown has had a history of struggling offensively over the years, but they have always boasted a very strong defense, which has always included one superstar. Their current 3-4 defense follows this current trend.
Senior LB Robert McCabe, Georgetown's first-ever preseason defensive player of the year, has been a tackle machine the last two years, with 134 in 2011 and 93 already this season. He looks and plays a lot like former Lehigh LB Mike Groome in the way he always seems to be around the football to make the play.
He's not just a tackle machine, either - last year, he notched 4 interceptions, and this year he's added two sacks to he resume, too. You never know when he'll blitz or drop back in coverage, but you will know he'll be wherever the football is.
McCabe's tackling ability and football-tracking ability, along with a very solid run-stuffing "D" line, featuring 300 lb sophomore NG Jordan Richardson, makes Georgetown one of the top run-stuffing teams in FCS, currently ranked 22nd in the nation and 2nd in the Patriot League.
And the linebacking unit is hardly McCabe and the Three Amigos - they have four extremely solid athletes to round out their front seven. Junior LB Dustin Wharton (60 tackles, 5 pass break-ups, 3 1/2 sacks) is a fantastic rusher from the outside. Senior LB Jeremy Grasso (39 tackles) complements McCabe perfectly in the middle. And junior LB Sean Campbell (24 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup, 1 forced fumble) has also been effective on blitzes. This is a good, solid unit.
The Hoyas also have a shutdown corner as well: senior CB Jeremy Moore (40 tackles, 2 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions, 1 interception return for TD), who is the veteran that teams in the know do not want to face. Last week against Fordham, QB Ryan Higgins barely threw his way, and one of Moore's tackles was a sack, showing that the Hoya defense will scheme and come at you from every which way.
Sophomore CB Daniel Wright (28 tackles), junior FS Malcolm Caldwell-Meeks (19 tackles), and sophomore SS Nick Alferi (55 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception) round out a relatively inexperienced secondary outside of Moore, though Alferi has had an outstanding first half of the year.
The Hoyas special teams units have been very solid in the return and blocking games this season. Sophomore WR Kevin Macari already has 147 yards of punt returns and 1 TD to his credit, while senior CB Jeremy Moore has done a great job returning kickoffs, boasting a 20.2 average. Kelly is not shy about having starters on the special teams units, too, with junior LB Dustin Wharton blocking two kicks already this season. These are very well-coached units.
Junior K/P Matt MacZura takes care of both the punting and placekicking duties, and while he's been accurate (7/9 on field goals), his longest is 35 yards, so it's unclear as to whether he could nail a 47 yarder as time expires. On punts, too, he averages only 34.8 yards per kick, putting him well below the average of Lehigh's opponents this year. (Fordham P Patrick Murray averages almost ten yards a kick more than MacZura!)
LFN's Keys to the Game
1. Scare Skon..Getting pressure on the young Hoya quarterback will be critical this week, disrupting his game and forcing errors. If Skon has time, he will connect to his scary, efficient low receivers and grind out the clock. Disrupt Skon, disrupt the passing game, and the ball will be in the hands of the Lehigh offense, which will be critical.
2. Test the kids in the secondary. Moore is a tough cookie, and someone who undoubtedly will be tasked to know where senior WR Ryan Spadola is at all times. That's where senior QB Michael Colvin needs to be at his best in finding the open men, whether it's junior WR Lee Kurfis, junior WR Sergio "Stay Thirsty, My Friends" Fernandez-Soto, or another one of Lehigh's stable of receivers. They will need to improve even more this week.
3. Minimize Mistakes. Georgetown won their nationally-televised game against Princeton by capitalizing in a big, big way on Tiger mistakes. If Lehigh repeats the same sort of mistakes they did against the Hoyas, this could easily be a loss - Georgetown thrives on capitalizing on other teams' mistakes. Minimizing the mistakes will go a long way towards a Lehigh victory.
Clearly, this ain't your mother's Hoyas. They look a lot less like the offensively-challenged teams of their early years of the Patriot League and a lot more like a team that could very well win the Patriot League.
They have their issues, but overall, they are a team that executes extremely well. More important than anything else, they know how to win, even if they didn't manage to knock off Fordham last weekend.
Lehigh's problems have been in final execution - "lapses", as the Lehigh players and head coach Andy Coen have called them. More than the tale of the tape, it's these "lapses" that scare Lehigh fans the most. And if they come against Georgetown - a team that knows what to do with an opposing team's lapse - what will happen? Put it this way - what might Georgetown do with two gift-wrapped touchdowns, as Lehigh gave away last Saturday?
Without "lapses", this could be a more typical Lehigh/Georgetown game. But a win is going to require Lehigh going up by three scores early - something I haven't seen all year. Since I don't see Lehigh doing that, I see another cardiac game ahead for Lehigh fans - one that only might just end up in a victory.
Lehigh 24, Georgetown 21