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Game Preview, Lehigh at Georgetown, 10/13/2012

Winning doesn't change everything.  But it changes a lot.

That's something you don't have to say too loudly to any Georgetown Hoya fan over the last few years.

While nobody will be confusing Georgetown for Maryland, Navy, Duke or even Delaware anytime soon, the Hoyas, finally have made headway in carving their niche in Washington, DC.

Ten years ago, or even five years ago, people might have laughed if you told them to "watch out for Georgetown".  That speaks more to their tough overall history in the Patriot League than anything else.

But this year, building off two years of winning records and near-misses for the Patriot League championship, there is no more laughter.  They've simply won too many games to not be wary of the Hoyas.

Georgetown's football stadium, a subject that probably is worth several blog postings in an of itself, is essentially an unnamed field called Multi-Sport Field, which Wikipedia says seats 2,500 people.

It's a tiny stadium - the tiniest in FCS, as a matter of fact, now that the St. Francis Red Flash upgraded tiny Del Gol stadium a couple of years ago and Central Connecticut State made a similar upgrade to Arute Field.

Most years, attendance hasn't been an issue at MSF, as it's come to be known.

And that's because Georgetown, frankly hadn't been competitive as a Patriot League program since joining the league in 2001.

In 2008, a year when both Lehigh and Georgetown were struggling with sub-.500 records, MSF hosted the Mountain Hawks in a game where the announced attendance was 2,053 - probably not bad for a football game on a campus where the men's basketball program appears to tower over everything else.  As befit a struggling team, there were still plenty of seats still available before kickoff.

But the Hoyas that year, in head coach Kevin Kelly's third season at the helm, were also the "same old Hoyas".  They would finish 2-8, and would be well out of the title chase by the time Lehigh came to town.

The Hoyas were the "same old Hoyas" for years - that is, until 2010.

That was the year that Georgetown had an important game in November for the first time in their Patriot League history - and was the last time Lehigh came to MSF.

In Week 11, Lehigh faced the Hoyas with a playoff bid and no worse than a co-championship on the line - and the Hoyas, at 2-2 in the Patriot League with wins over Lafayette and Holy Cross, still had a chance at the league title as well.

"A Georgetown team that was different from the other Georgetown teams challenged Lehigh almost the entire way," I wrote about that game two years ago.  "But ultimately the Mountain Hawks wrestled the game away from the Hoyas and got the 24-7 win they wanted - and removed the 'co-' from the Patriot League championship. It would be a celebration to remember - because this was no coast of a win over the Hoyas. Not by a long shot."

After battling for two field goals in the first half, QB Chris Lum would be intercepted by LB Paul Sant'Ambrogio, setting up a short field for a touchdown drive that would make it Georgetown 7, Lehigh 6 at halftime in front of an overflow crowd of 2,800 plus fans - the first time Lehigh had ever trailed at halftime to the Hoyas.

In a scene that will be familiar to every Lehigh fan this year, the Mountain Hawks that afternoon took the lead, fell behind after a turnover, and then had to settle down to complete the win.

And the Hoyas have only improved since then.

"They've got kids that have grown with this program," a focused Andy Coen said in the weekday presser, "and this is their opportunity to beat Lehigh, continue their march to try to win the Patriot League.  We need to be the aggressor and go in and attack.   We have to do everything we can this week to come out with a win."

"They have much more confidence - you can see that on film," LFN fave senior CB Bryan Andrews said.  "We call these business weeks, and you enjoy taking on the challenge of important games, 'every game matters,' 'every play matters'." 
"I feel like we're closer than ever," junior OL Matt Lippincott said.  "because we had those down series.  Coaches get on us, and we get on each other, but I feel it makes us stronger as a unit.  Not only their personnel, but their scheme on defense is probably the best we'll see all year."

As the Hoyas have improved - and despite their tiny stadium - the fans have showed up.  An overflow crowd of 3,000 showed up on homecoming to watch Georgetown take on Brown, and it's fair to expect a similar crowd vs. Lehigh as well.

And to the Hoyas and their fans, nothing would say "we've arrived" like a win over nationally-ranked Lehigh, preseason pick to win the Patriot League.

Game Notes
The sort-of good news from this weekend's game notes is that for the first time since the beginning of the season, Lehigh will be starting the same "O" line in consecutive weeks.  The bad news is that senior OL Vinny Pelligrini,who is still recovering from a head injury, is still uncertain for this Saturday, according to Michael LoRe's report this week.

There's also uncertainty around the outside linebacker position, where junior LB John Mahoney has been out with "migranes" according to coach Coen.  Last week, with Mahoney not 100%, he sat while sophomore LB Isaiah Campell filled in more than ably for him - he was an LFN Player of the Week.  If Mahoney is unable to go, we could see more of freshman LB Noah Robb, who was Patriot League freshman of the week as well.

Another player back is sophomore DB Jason Suggs, who sat the last two weeks with an unspecified injury.  He'll play as an extra defensive back, and is listed as backup to senior RB Marcus Dormevil when returning kicks.

Weather Report
All current indications are that Saturday in the Washington, DC area are going to be optimal for football.  A high of 61 is predicted with a 0% chance of rain, and DC should be spared the frost and low temperatures of the Lehigh Valley.

In other words, go down early for the 1PM start and enjoy downtown Georgetown, and find your scalper early, preferaly before lunch.

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 disbanding football in 1951, at the same time as many smaller, mostly private, religious instutions did, the Hoyas restarted football at the club level in 1961 - again, at the same time as schools like Fordham restarted football at the club level.  From there, Georgetown's football teams grew, first to Division III and then, thanks to the "Dayton Rule" to I-AA football, joining the non-scholarship MAAC football conference in 1993.

The "Dayton Rule" essentially forced football teams competing in Divisions II or III to reclassify as Division I if they wanted to keep their basketball programs at that level.  Uiversity of Dayton, Butler University and quite a few other schools "moved up" to Division I, but still choosing to compete without scholarships in football.  The Hoyas were one of these teams.

Georgetown did fairly well in the MAAC, winning the conference title three years in a row and appearing in the ECAC bowl in 1997.  But perhaps sensing problems, the Hoyas would jump to the Patriot League in 2001, and the MAAC would only survive seven more years, dwindling to five members before finally disbanding.

Why didn't a non-scholarship football conference in the Northeast work?  Certainly, playing "non-scholarship" Ivy League and Patriot League football programs were a part of their strategy, and when both of those leagues started to stretch the meaning of "non scholarship", conferences like the MAAC weren't seen as peers anymore.  When the Patriot League applied for, and got, an autobid to the I-AA playoffs in 1997, it was clear the direction they were headed.

Yet, couldn't the MAAC have adapted, like the NEC has today?  The NEC went from limited grants-in-aid to a limited number of scholarships, up to 36, and certainly have been competitive with the Patriot League and Ivies.  Albany is a Top 20 team right now, and nobody complains about their inclusion.

In any event, the life of the Hoyas in the Patriot League had been less than accomodating for most of the time of their stay. From 2001 to 2009, the Hoyas had not enjoyed a winning record, and until last year had never won more than three conference games in a season.

Last year's 8-3 mark was the Hoya's first season with eight or more wins since Bob Benson last achieved it in 1999.  In that year the Hoyas wrapped up their third straight MAAC championship before the tough decade of the noughties.

LFN's Drink of the Week
I'm finding more and more requests for the "Drink of the Week" come through to my inbox, Facebook, Twitter, or the (too) many ways I can be reached.  The request this week was the "have it be a more normal drink" - i.e. something without Blue Curacao in it - and I will oblige.

I also like to re-use drinks if they've worked in the past - and that's what I'm going to do here.

Two years ago, I poked around the different places to eat and drink around the District.  And I found the posh choice of beverage to be an odd choice: Peroni Beer. "Brewed in Italy to the original recipe since 1963, Peroni Nastro Azzurro exemplifies the traditions of Italian craftsmanship, passion and flair."

"Seeing as Lehigh will need craftsmanship, flair, and passion to win this Saturday, despite the fact that this beer is neither Pennsylvanian or German, it seems apropos for this weekend," I said two years ago.  Is it still true today?  You betcha.

As always, Drinks of the Week have a place in responsible tailgates, but only if you behave yourself, don't get behind the wheel while impaired (or worse), and are over 21. Please do that. (And, fine folks at Peroni? My February calendar is wide-open for an all-expenses paid visit to Italy. Call me.)

The Five Songs on my Mixtape for Georgetown
After two weeks of the ability to crib New York City for music ideas, Washington, DC is, um, not as easy.  (Unless you like John Phillip Sousa marches.)  So I'll lead with, inarguably, my favorite song of the moment - and it's not even in English.  (Soon to be a regular with cheerleading and dance teams across the nation.  Guaranteed.)

1. Gangnam Style (PSY)
2. Lump (POTUS)
3. Let's Stay Together (DJ Prince vs. Al Green)
4. It's a Beautiful Day (Pizzicatto Five)
5. The Hustle (Vann McCoy)


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