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Game Breakdown: Lehigh at Georgetown, 11/1/2014

We break down the Georgetown game - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

Whenever I need to get caught up on Georgetown, I always check the Hoya game notes and athletic site, of course, but I also, always, check out DFW Hoya's site on Georgetown football for his in-depth analysis and breakdown of the Hoyas.

His site was one of the few sites talking about FCS football at all when I started doing this Lehigh Football Nation thing at the very beginning, and his site has always been an inspiration - and I don't toss that word around lightly - to what I've wanted LFN to become.  As a fellow website-master, I know how much work it takes to do previews and games, and I appreciate it.

In his preview could be the stat of the season for Lehigh.  As a Hoya fan, he looks at this season as Georgetown's best chance to beat Lehigh since the Hoyas joined the Patriot League.  He also said this, which is true:

"The Engineers are a woeful 4-22 in two PL games converting on third down. Lehigh should do somewhat better in this one, but their gains on second down figure to be just as, if not more, important, when short yardage options become more plentiful. Defensively, Lehigh allows 55% of third downs, something Georgetown must take advantage of."


Before settling into the preview, a word about Georgetown's new head coach, Rob Sgarlata.

Rob became head football coach of the Hoyas once Kevin Kelly resigned to join Pete Lembo's staff at Ball State (Lembo, of course, being the head coach of Lehigh just prior to head coach Andy Coen's hiring.)  A long-time assistant to both Kelly and Bob Benson (now an assistant coach at Albany), Sgarlata was a natural choice, a Hoya alum who had played football and also had helped develop what was the strength of the Hoya team over the years in terms of their defense and the defensive line.

As a result, Sgarlata's team reflects the Hoya's defensive-minded mindset over the years in his first season as head coach.  Their team is near the top of all the defensive categories in the Patriot League.

Breaking Down Georgetown
Offense

The Hoyas have struggled this season on offense, perhaps due to the fact that the Hoyas are seeing their third offensive coordinator in three years with Michael Neuberger calling the plays.  Having said that, the base part of Georgetown's offense with a pro set, tight end and slot back, seems similar to years past.

Junior QB Kyle Nolan
Georgetown actually balances the run and pass better than you might expect, and have a fairly experienced signalcaller, junior QB Kyle Nolan, throwing the ball.  In years past, Georgetown has had big problems keeping their quarterbacks healthy, but this season Nolan (1,394 yards passing, 53.6 % completion, 6 TDs, 5 INTs) has gone the entire way.

The 6'5 Nolan is a good athlete that is not afraid to take off with the ball and run with it for a 1st down, complementing the running game of junior RB Jo'el Kimpela (555 yards, 1 TD) and senior RB Daniel Wright (273 yards, 2 TDs).  Overall, though, the Hoyas have struggled mightily to run the ball, only averaging 119 yards per game on the ground.  Junior FB Troye Bullock is primarily a blocker, though he also catches passes out of the backfield.

RB Jo'el Kimpela
Where the Hoyas have made the most hay is in the passing game, with Nolan spreading the ball to sophomore WR Justin Hill (301 yards, 2 TDs), sophomore TE Matthew Buckman (342 yards, 2 TDs), senior WR Mike Cimmicula (10 yards, 1 TD), and junior WR Jake DeCicco (313 yards, 1 TD).  (DeCicco has a brother, WR Jimmy DeCicco, who is a star receiver on Colgate.)  That's a lot of targets for the young QB, and you can be sure he won't be afraid to toss some home run balls on Saturday.

Surprisingly, Georgetown hasn't given up a lot of sacks this season, averaging just a little over two a game.  310 lb senior OL Mike Roland protects Nolan's blind side well, even if this somewhat light unit overall hasn't gotten a very good push in the run game this season.

The Hoyas only have 11 offensive touchdowns all season in 8 games.

Defense

In their two Patriot League games this season against Lafayette and Bucknell, the Hoyas were in it until the very end thanks to a very impressive 4-3 defense.  Though they didn't come away with victories, their defense is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

DE Alec May
The superstar on the defensive line is senior DE Alec May, who has eye-popping stats for any Division I defensive lineman: 16 tackles for loss including 13 1/2 sacks, and 65 tackles in 8 games.  He's obviously the pass rusher that needs to be contained in order for Lehigh's offense to be successful, though 300 lb senior DT Jordan Richardson, 260 lb junior DT Dezmond Richardson and senior DE Richard Shankle make up a big front four.

Georgetown also has a great inside linebacker in senior LB Nick Alferi (81 tackles), that pretty much does it all in regards to blitzing, dropping back in coverage, or just staying home and stopping big gains. On the outside, junior LB Matt Satchell (60 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss) and sophomore LB Tyrell Williams (32 tackles, 3 tackles for loss) provide balance for blitzing and allow for a very strong, aggressive pass rush.  That aggressiveness has resulted in 6 forced fumbles this season, making this defense one of the most opportunistic Lehigh has faced this season.

The other great beneficiary from this fearsome rush is the Hoya secondary, where junior CB Ettian Scott (4 picks) and junior SS Garrett Powers (3 picks) have combined to nab 7 of the Hoyas' 11 interceptions this season.  Sophomore CB Porter Huntley and freshman FS David Akere round out this solid, opportunistic defense.

Special Teams

Sophomore PK Henry Darmstadter has only missed one kick all year - unfortunately for the Hoyas, it came against Lafayette in a game which the margin of victory was a field goal.  Other than that aberration, Darmstadter has been automatic, though the problem is he hasn't had that many chances to kick extra points (10/10).  Sophomore P Harry McCollum is averaging a healthy 42 yards per punt.

Junior WR Jake DeCicco returns punts - his longest being 10 yards - while junior RB Daniel Wright needs to be spied on kickoffs, who has had a 44 yarder this season already.

LFN's Keys to the Game

1. Grinding.  One way to not turn over the ball is to establish a fearsome running game, and establishing a good running game early, with senior RB Rich Sodeke in predicted rainy weather, is probably a good idea.  You can't get a lot of sacks if you've established a good running game, and fewer sacks, hopefully, will result in fewer turnovers and a better chance at a win.

2. Pressure on Nolan.  Though Nolan can run, the inability of Georgetown to get an effective run game opens the door for some serious pass rushing themselves.  Big push and blitzing from the front seven will be hugely helpful in preventing any big plays from the Hoya offense.

3. The early jump.  An early jump is always good, but for this Lehigh team, it was critical in their only win of the season against Cornell.  If they can follow a similar plotline to the Cornell game, getting up by two scores and then grinding out the win, I like Lehigh's chances to win yet again against Georgetown.

Fearless Prediction

Lehigh is blessed - these games matter.  It makes a game that normally might not be that exciting between teams with losing records into one that is a key phase in the development of the Mountain Hawks for the Rivalry game in Yankee Stadium.

And in that vein, Georgetown comes at the right time for the Mountain Hawks - a team better than Cornell, for sure, but one that follows a similar feel to the Big Red in that they are defense-first, struggling offensive sort of team.

Is it easy to see the Lehigh defense giving up two or three "oops" huge plays for touchdowns, giving the Hoyas a program-defining win?  Yes.  Too easy.

But I think this Lehigh team is better than that, farther along than that, and have too much to play for in order to let that happen.

Lehigh 31, Georgetown 21

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