It's frustrating to try to break a team down when, as of Friday at 1PM, Georgetown's game notes for the weekend's games are not available. On the plus side, though, Georgetown did supply a short preview article that does provide a way forward with some critical injury information. That, plus last week's game notes, provide something to go on.
Something that does leap off the page of that preview is the following fact: "Georgetown has had a combined 15 players from its season-opening two-deep miss 28 games this season due to injury, including four different linebackers missing at least two games apiece. "
Certainly injuries have taken a toll on Georgetown's non-conference schedule, including sidelining the preseason Patriot League defensive player of the year at a bare minimum. But will those injuries affect this weekend's game? It's hard to say.
Breaking Down Georgetown
Two years ago, the Hoyas had Dave Patenaude as an offensive coordinator, where he transformed a moribund Hoya offense into one that could allow for the Georgetown defense, which has always been a very solid unit, to get off the field for longer stretches.
It's no coincidence his presence coincided with Georgetown's run towards a Patriot League title in 2011.
With Patenaude now designing and calling the offense for nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina, his replacement, offensive coordinator Vinny Marino, has installed a more rushing-intensive offense that is more physical in the passing game. His offense hasn't had the same results as Patenaude this season, but they Hoya's offense thus far are still ahead of Bucknell's in terms of total yardage and scoring.
The Hoya's offensive set is now a two-wideout, one-tight end, two-back basic set, with one conventional running back and one slot receiver, designed as a hybrid that can either catch the ball or run with it. But like any offensive scheme, it requires healthy, experienced players to run properly.
Head coach Kevin Kelly has had to shuffle four quarterbacks into the lineup at varying times this season thanks to injuries, and going into this week it's unclear which QB will be getting the nod.
Certainly senior QB Isaiah Kempf would be the top choice for Kelly if healthy, a 5th year senior who lost all of last season to injury but returned this year to lead the offense.
When healthy, Kempf is a good QB to run this type of system: at 6'3, 195, he's got speed for running to the outside, and is also fairly accurate, completing 57% of his passes this season. In the first game of the year against Wagner, he showed what he can do on offense, leading the Hoyas to three 1st half touchdowns.
In the past two games, however, Kempf hasn't been able to go the entire way: he was pulled late in the second half against Princeton, and early in the game against Fordham. Whether that's because the game was out of hand or due to him battling through a hand injury, it's not totally clear.
What is clear is that the trio of quarterbacks behind him haven't been nearly as effective. Last week, freshman QB Tim Barnes came in and scored a late touchdown at the end of the Fordham game. He was only in because 6'5 sophomore QB Kyle Nolan was unavailable due to injury.
All three are of similar build to Kempf, with Nolan as a QB with some significant potential upside. Nolan is the hardest to bring down and is built like a running back: Barnes is more of a speed back, if he's in.
Georgetown runs a two-headed running back tandem with 5'10, 185 lb sophomore RB Joel Kimpela (165 yards, 2 TDs) and 6'0, 223 lb senior RB Nick Campanella (286 yards rushing, 3 TDs) making up the Hoya backfield. As you might imagine, Kimpela is more of a speedy, scatback-type player, while Campanella is Georgetown's version of senior RB Sean Farrell - physical, but with another gear, and more than capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Senior RB Daren Claytor (106 yards, 1 TD) has also appeared in the Hoya backfield, but he didn't play last week vs. Fordham, and it's unclear whether he'll be in the backfield this Saturday.
Where the Hoyas have issues is at receiver.
With their top slot receiver out, 5'9 senior WR Zach Wilke (260 yards, 1 TD), last week relied on another player, 5'10 senior WR Mike Cimulica (106 yards, 2 TDs) ended up as the Hoya's leading receiver. Listed on top of the depth chart last week at wideout was freshman WR Justin Hill (145 yards) and senior WR Elliott Owusu (89 yards), with sophomore WR Jake DeCicco (300 yards, 2 TDs) making appearances, too.
The Hoys hope, according to their relase, to have Wilke back for the Lehigh game, but if they don't they'll be relying on the speedster Cimulica and the possession guy Owusu to get receptions, with talented, promising youngsters Hill and DeCicco also getting lots of work. 6'5 senior TE Daniel Sprotte (245 yards, 2 TDs) also plays a key part of the offense when all the pistons are firing.
Senior OL Mike Francis anchors a pretty good line, size-wise, but one that has had plenty of issues protecting the quarterback and forging a consistent running game. An O line that has allowed 19 sacks in 6 games goes a long way towards explaining Georgetown's inability to field healthy quarterbacks.
After a year where the Hoyas had a 3-4 multiple defense, similar to Lehigh's this season they have reverted to a 4-3 multiple defense similar to Colgate's. Like the offense, the defense has been racked by injury.
According to the game notes, the entire right side of the defensive line that started against Fordham will "likely" be unavailable for Saturday, which means freshman DE Phil Novacki and junior DT Peter Daibes, who have eight credited tackles between them, will be starting on Saturday. They'll be without senior DE Sean Campbell, who had 3 1/2 tackles for loss for the Hoyas.
The strength of the Hoya defensive unit was, and is, the linebacking unit. Junior LB Dustin Wharton seems back at full speed after being out a couple of games, credited with 9 tackles against Fordham, as is junior LB Nick Alferi, who wasn't far behind Wharton in total tackles. Interestingly, Wharton and Alferi are both converted defensive backs - Alferi, as early as last season, played safety.
Against Princeton, Lehigh went against RB DiAndre Atwater, son of for NFL player FS Steve Atwater, and this weekend the Mountain Hawks will line up against another member of this football-playing family, senior FS Stephen Atwater. As you might imagine, Atwater is a solid tackler, third on the team in total tackles, and someone whom Lehigh ought to be keeping tabs all game.
Senior SS Malcolm Caldwell-Meeks is scheduled to play in his first action of the season against Lehigh, but with the news that sophomore CB Ettian Scott may be unavailable could be yet another huge blow for the Hoyas, as he was a starting corner last week. The Hoyas may very well be low on corners as senior CB Rohan Williamson and junior CB Javan Robinson will most likely be slotted as the starters.
Lehigh hasn't done a great job forcing turnovers, but they may have met their match in Georgetown. The Mountain Hawk defense has only forced six turnovers all season; the Hoyas only seven.
Senior K/P Matt MacZura has been a very good kicker this year, only missing 1 FG attempt all season and nailing a pair of 40+ yard attempts already this season. As a punter he's been less spectacular, but still very, very good with a 39.4 average.
Sophomore WR Jake DeCiccio has shown some good promise in punt returns, averaging 6.7 per return, while senior RB Brandon Durham (496 yards) has been the Hoya's primary kick returner this season.
LFN's Keys to the Game
1. Play Lehigh Football.. This season, there are only five guaranteed stages left to show the world what Lehigh football in 2013 is all about. This Saturday is one, and it's going to be important for Lehigh to do what Lehigh does, and establish the Lehigh game is. Getting sucked into a low-scoring game is a recipe for disaster; the Mountain Hawks need to go with what got them there, and show it off on Saturday.
2. Fix the Turnover Ratio. Almost everyone on the roster should remember last season's game where seven turnovers almost doomed Lehigh to defeat in the District. Forcing multiple turnovers is something this defense needs to do better down the stretch in order to win the Patriot League autobid and get back to the playoffs. A +1 in turnover ratio - or, hopefully, even better - would go a long way in not only winning, but sending a message to the rest of the League.
3. Bring the Blitz. I'd like to see senior LB Nigel Muhammad set free on more blitzing in order to put pressure on whomever the Georgetown QB will be. A nice 5 sack effort, wherever the sacks come from, would be huge towards a Lehigh victory this Saturday.
The talk has been of 1-5, and injuries, but maybe the talk should center around 0-0, and anyone's ability to win the Patriot League.
Almost everyone on the Lehigh roster should know that Georgetown can play football. Twice in the last three meetings, the Hoyas led at halftime. In the last meeting in D.C. it took a last-second FG block to seal the game.
The biggest possible mistake Lehigh could make is taking Georgetown lightly. After all, slipping against Columbia would have no real effect on Patriot League title hopes. Slipping, and losing, against Georgetown would be devastating to the Mountain Hawks' chances at the Patriot League title.
What is the psyche of this Lehigh team right now? Are they overconfident? Are they expecting to show up and win just by showing up? Are they ready to put on the type of display that will show the rest of the League that they are truly a Top 25 team? Are they ready to have a game, possibly, not in doubt by the second half?
I wish I had the confidence that this Mountain Hawk team could execute so well that they would make the game an academic question by the first half. But this team hasn't shown that ability: they've shown time and again that they're slow starters, they'll give up points on the first drive, and fall behind early.
I predict that this trend will continue against Georgetown. Lehigh will once again come from behind and win, but once again, and despite Georgetown's 1-5 record, it will be a fight well into the second half.
Lehigh 31, Georgetown 23