On Dec. 3, 2009, Hofstra University announced it was cutting its football program due to a lack of funding. While this decision severely altered the athletic landscape at Hofstra, the effects of that decision are starting to be felt on the Hilltop.
When the Hofstra football program was discontinued, the players were not the only members of the team granted permission to transfer to other universities; the entire coaching staff also became free agents.
That’s where Georgetown comes in.
After a forgettable season in which the Hoyas averaged a meager 9.6 points per game, it was time to overhaul the offense. In April, the Georgetown athletic department hired Dave Patenaude, the former offensive coordinator at Hofstra, to take the same position at Georgetown. Since that hiring, the Georgetown offense has gone from a dysfunctional unit to one of the fastest, most upbeat offenses in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
“We scrapped everything. We started from ground zero. As soon as Coach Patenaude came in we started from scratch,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said about the new offense. “It’s an all-new system and all-new terminology. It’s like learning a whole new language. Last year was like learning Spanish, this year it’s French.”
The new offense may not look too different on the outside, but when you delve into its subtleties, you can see that many changes have been made.
“The formations are not different,” junior starting quarterback Scott Darby said. “But the scheme, the terminology and the timing of the routes have all changed. It is the little things that have been paying dividends.”
So far it is hard not to be impressed by the new and improved offense. After averaging 9.6 points per game last season, the Hoyas are averaging an impressive 27.7 points in the first three games of the 2010 campaign.
When the Hoyas take the field for tomorrow’s homecoming game against Holy Cross, the fans can expect to see a much faster and more explosive offense than in years past.
“We are an up-tempo, no huddle, run and shoot offense,” Patenaude said. “There will be a lot of shotgun with three and four wide receiver sets and a lot of motion. We take pride in playing with great pace, trying to put pressure on the defense.”
The run and shoot offense is a commonly used system throughout collegiate and professional football. Simply put, the objective of the run and shoot is to give the offense the ability to react on the fly. The quarterback will make many calls prior to the snap to line up the offense depending on what type of defense the opposing side is playing. It is a miniature version of what you see Peyton Manning doing every Sunday for the Indianapolis Colts. It puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback to make sure he reads the defense correctly,and then adjusts the offense accordingly.
“This offense gives the quarterback more freedom to decide which side of the field the play is run to and to make his own decisions,” reigning Patriot League offensive player of the week and senior wide receiver Keerome Lawrence said. “We’re loving it. You have to be excited about the run and shoot offense. We basically ran the same formations last year, but this year we’re doing everything faster.”
It is not uncommon for teams to change coaches after a disappointing season. Nonetheless, simply changing the coaches does not guarantee success the following year. A huge part of any offense’s success is whether or not the players commit to the coaches’ agenda and buy into the system. And despite the fact that Patenaude’s offense has only been in practice for five months, so far it is receiving rave reviews.
“I feel like [Coach Patenaude] brought excitement with both the plays he has put in as well as his experience,” Lawrence said. “He knows what he’s doing. He breaks everything down for the players so we know what other defenses are doing. It makes going into the games clearer, which gives us more confidence.”
Confidence seems to be the defining phrase of the 2010 Georgetown football team. Although his players and head coach might claim that this year’s early successes can be attributed to Coach Patenaude’s new scheme, the man himself remains humble.
“Building confidence was the first thing I wanted to do when I got [to Georgetown],” Patenaude said. “Instilling a new system and all that is great, but there was no miracle here. It has nothing to do with what scheme we are running. All we need to do is play with confidence and execute and we will be a good football team.”
Although the 2010 season has barely begun, the early results of the new offense have injected hope into Hoya football fans. Through three games, Georgetown is averaging 334.7 yards per game – almost 90 more yards per game than last season. Perhaps more surprising has been the resurgence of the Georgetown running attack. After averaging a paltry 57 rushing yards per game last season, the rushing attack has exploded for 120.7 yards per game this year. After being forced to pass over 60 percent of the time last season, the ability to run again has brought balance back to the offense.
“I feel like it is the best we have run the ball in a long time,” Kelly said. “[The players] are adapted to [the system]. They like it, and they believe in it. And that’s a huge battle. They’re confident in the system, and what we hope is that they make a big jump from week to week. It is important to keep improving every week.”
Patenaude said that he chose to come to Georgetown because of its recruiting potential.
“This place is an untapped gem,” he said. “We should be at the top of the Patriot League every year.”
If the offense can continue to progress at the rate it has under its new run and shoot offense, the Hoyas may be at the top of the Patriot League before long.”