The Doormat. The Sightseeing Trip. Tom Gilmore’s Opus. There’s the Patriot League and then there’s that other team. The Georgetown University Hoyas, the only football team I’ve ever heard of going to the Sun Bowl one year and dropping the sport the next (that really happened 1950-1951), was the only school in the league who could boast a high school squad in a high school stadium but competed in NCAA athletics. Notice I wrote was. With the installation of former Holy Cross assistant coach Dave Patenaude as offensive coordinator in early 2010, and a matured squad led by head coach Kevin Kelly and utility stud Keerome Lawrence, Georgetown is no longer Howard’s ugly D.C. twin. That was quite evident Saturday in a 17-7 loss to the Hoyas in front of a capacity crowd of (gasp!) 3000+. Like the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, the Hoyas are taking advantage of their underdog status to surprise a lot of teams with their youth, athleticism and flexibility in play calling and personnel. Georgetown proved to Holy Cross what the Spartans did to the Persians at Thermopylae: we’re here to fight.
However, let’s get one thing straight: Georgetown did not dominate the Crusaders. Nor did they outplay them. They stark reality is that the Saders, to use a cliché, beat themselves. Georgetown came into the game with a record of 2-1 after taking Yale to the wire at the Yale Bowl last weekend, with prior victories coming over Pioneer Football League member Davidson and league foe Lafayette. Opening the season on Homecoming obviously had an effect on the Hoyas, but this was our game to win from the very beginning. I will leave the particulars to Mr. Doyle, but this game came down to a lack of anything on offense and questionable play calling by the coaching staff. I may have put a little too much emphasis on the defensive back play last week (which, from my perspective, did underperform against a Harvard team that lost 29-14 to Brown), but that was most certainly not an issue this week. Coach Richard Rodgers had his platoon up for the fight, which yielded less than 200 yards to Georgetown quarterback and Tewksbury native Scott Darby (though he did rush for 98 yards). The defensive rush is still suspect, though preseason All-American Mude Ohimor provided the lone highlight with a 34 yard fumble return in the third quarter which sparked the only score of the day. Ricky Otis had a career day after sitting out the previous two road trips due to injury, nagging 16 total tackles and garnering Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The glaring problem is the darn offense. Much maligned Quarterback Ryan Taggart continues to look nervous as a hare in the pocket. On the second offensive possession for the Purple, Taggart failed to know where the sticks were, electing to baseball slide his way to the turf a yard or two short of the first down when lowering his shoulder would have extended the drive. More than one offensive lineman was incensed at this decision, letting Taggart know what his decision meant to them as they jogged to the sidelines. In addition to another shoddy run performance (86 yards total), the receiving corps cannot afford to drop passes on first and second down. The apparent shoulder injury to game-changing receiver Billy Edger is really limiting Taggart’s ability to throw the ball downfield right now, but he still has viable options in Freddy Santana, Luke Chmielinski and Rob Koster, not to mention budding stars Gerald Mistretta and Mike Fess. What is really puzzling is that tight end (and potential NFL prospect from what I understand) Alex Schneider (3 catches, 20 yards) is not utilized as often as he should be, especially for an offense that has chosen a more conservative approach of nickel and diming the opposition down the field.
This week’s third consecutive defeat is frustrating in that the entire game was frustrating, having scored 7 points or less for the third consecutive week. It hurts that many a possession started in what would be deemed prime field position. The offensive play calling was very suspect, especially on third and fourth down (RUN THE SNEAK PLAY, PLEASE!!!). What is especially frustrating for the team right now, however, is how this loss and the two previously are already being perceived by students and alums alike. Browsing Crossports after a long bus/plane ride home following a tough loss, I was appalled. Sure, losing three straight games brings back plenty of memories of the not-too-distant past. It’s normal to react in a negative manner, as I’m sure I did along with many of the Cross supporters in attendance in D.C. Losing downright sucks. But what sucks even more is the perception factor of so-called fans. Whoever compares this program’s ability to that of a Division III program is either disillusioned or on some kind of drug. This team is 1-3 with only one league loss and the world comes crashing down on all of us. We’ve got some clamoring for full scholarships immediately and others who would like to see the program dropped outright. If someone has a beef with the athletic department, that’s fine by many of us because there are areas that are sorely lacking and I will expound on that further (as I and many others already have). But do not give up on this team. This team is transitioning after a legendary 2009 campaign that saw three seniors briefly go on to the National Football League and, at the present, are not letting go of that dream, a season that saw the Crusaders take the FCS champs down to the waning moments of the first postseason appearance in two decades. While the same philosophy has always been in place and the playbook is generally the same as it has been in recent years, it comes down to a new group of guys leading the charge. In the words of Coach Gilmore after the trip, a sense of entitlement to this season may have been felt early on by many of the players and that mentality needs to change, simple as that. I really hope current students are not hanging their heads as low as some posters on Crossports, which may lead to a poor showing at future contests and lack of interest in the team. Perception changes a lot of things, but it will not change the resiliency and gamesmanship of this squad. The team is merely going through growing pains. Our brand of style is Holy Cross Football. A few losses are not going to change that. Beat Fordham.
Tidbits from the Georgetown Trip
- Nice to see many alumni/ae at the game, including recent graduates Mike Wright, Aaron Jones, Jack Leatherman and Wayne Nesbit. A strong showing by many parents from the Mid-Atlantic Region, as well as current students in the Washington Semester Program. These loyal fans took up about three-fourths of the away side stands, tailgating in force on the heights near the old football “stadium.” A Jones sends word that he has recently started a new job, but is hanging onto hopes of playing in the NFL again real soon, employing the efforts of a current coach to try and procure a new agent.
- Georgetown has improved their facilities in recent years, but full improvements on the Multi-Purpose Field are still not complete. The “stadium,” which really resembles a poor man’s Hawk Bowl (for Xavarian Brothers (MA)/Catholic Conference fans), seats over 3000, but end zone seating and restroom facilities could be solid additions, not to mention that fellow manager Kevin Callahan had to film from a Georgetown player’s dorm room adjacent to the field. The visiting locker rooms were better suited to house a basketball team rather than an FCS football team, but then again this was a Georgetown program that considered dropping football again very recently.
- Homecoming activities at Georgetown meant lots of activity, but I was unable and unwilling to buy tickets to the Mr. Georgetown pageant for Friday night. The quad area on the upper campus was abuzz with activity on Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon was an adventure unto itself, especially for our bus drivers who had to dodge many an inebriated Hoya Superfan. The Georgetown manager (a grad student studying Sports Management who held the title of football manager for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish while an undergrad) who I filmed with from an extremely hazardous precipice (the lift we filmed on broke down in the second half) told me that this was by far the biggest crowd Georgetown has seen in a very, very long time. Probably since that Sun Bowl game back in 1950.
- If my memory isn’t hazy (which I did slam my head on the bus more than once), former Northeastern head coach and Minot State legend Rocky Hager was dressed to the nines while viewing the game from the air-conditioned (Holy Cross officials, take notice)press box. Not a clue as to why he was in attendance, but I’m sure watching Tom Gilmore ply his trade here as a spectator rather than as an opposing coach on a flooded Parsons Field seemed much better.
- This was the first overnight trip of the season and, boy, was it a treat. Not only did we get a plane trip out of it (with complementary snack and drink no less), the Key Bridge Marriot in Arlington, Virginia right across the Potomac from Georgetown was, in my opinion, a five-star affair. On par with the Fordham trip last year, the lasagna and ice cream bar that followed (standard fare on road trips) was extremely tasty. Breakfast featured at least ten different types of beverage, not to mention freshly-squeezed orange juice. The three guy managers shared a third floor room with the most comfortable beds I think we ever slept on. Of course, I took advantage of the customary free pen and paper in the room, adding to my ever expanding collection of hotel pen and paper, but, sadly, the shampoo and mouthwash was better left in the room to avoid trouble at the airport. Top it all off with a return plane trip at night with a cloudless sky and (besides the loss) you have a very enjoyable trip.
- Road trips also mean plenty of free time for managers and other non-football staff who made the trip. While most trips include a movie back at the room (who can forget The Bee Movie last year at Bucknell?) or maybe a trip to a nearby convenience store for a two-foot sandwich (a la Villanova), this trip included some sightseeing, baseball and some friends studying in the area. Our flight was originally delayed for an hour in Providence on Friday, so a 2 hour trip to the National Mall turned into the under 1 hour adventure. Some daring players made the sprint from the Natural History Museum to the Lincoln Memorial in 95 degree heat while some staff opted for the air conditioned bus and Italian Ice (no names will be provided). Some of us managers chose to take the Metro (confusing at first, but easy to learn) to take in the Nationals-Braves game at the new Nationals Stadium. Having gotten past a few scalpers, we were able to get free tickets and finagle our way a couple rows from the Braves dugout on a picture perfect Friday night. The Nationals ended up with the win, led by two home runs from Adam Dunn and a rare true inside-the-park home run from former Red Sox legend Willie Harris.
- Good to see Tom “Big Red” Kelleher back in the booth for the first time this season. Providing color commentary alongside the ageless Bob Fouracre, Big Red began his first of four broadcasts, with Gordie Lockbaum doing the last game this season (having done the previous three) and Charles Bare filling in for three more games this season. Kelleher is enjoying retirement in Miami, but still enjoys his time in the booth when he gets the opportunity.
- While we waited out the delay to board in Providence to get to BWI, two birds were flying around the players and staff in the waiting area. I took the opportunity to toss a few pieces of my sausage, egg and cheese for them to eat. Of course, you can’t give one some food without feeding the other, so both got their piece. However, one bird took the weight room slogan “only the strong survive” to aviary heights by barging in on the other bird and taking his piece of the croissant. I know that other bird must’ve felt as I did in that Harvard press box.
- Some commented on Crossports last week about the JV game. The Holy Cross JVs defeated a talented Bridgton Academy team on Sunday afternoon up at the Hart Turf, 29-6. A very large contingent witnessed the game as parents from both schools packed the stands and surrounding area. Some performances that stood out were those of freshman quarterback Max Librizzi and his classmate, running back Reggie Woods. Librizzi looked impressive in the pocket, using his legs to get himself out of trouble on more than one occasion and tossing for one touchdown. Woods, with the help of a stout offensive line, tore up the Bridgton defense by hitting the hole with a fearless approach. The only negative from this game was the lack of discipline shown by the young Crusaders, judging from the amount of flags for false starts and personal fouls after the play. This victory brings their record to 2-1 on the season with one more contest remaining, an October 10th tilt at Brown.
- Only pet peeve of the trip: The captain of our AirTran return flight from BWI into Logan remarked to someone ahead of me in line, “Isn’t Holy Cross a school in South Bend, Indiana?” Thanks a lot, Rudy.
- Don’t forget: This week is Homecoming vs. Fordham with the Ring of Fame ceremony to take place at Fitton. Having lost an NFL-caliber quarterback in John Skelton and losing to Division II Assumption College with scholarships last week, Fordham will have something to prove against a team that handed them a demoralizing loss last season. I really hope the Athletic Department hypes this game as much as Georgetown did their Homecoming. Looking forward to a very entertaining backyard brawl with both the Johnny Turco Memorial Trophy and the Ram-Crusader Cup on the line. Go Cross!