An over-capacity crowd of 4,000 strong rattled Cooper Field as Georgetown University secured its first win against a ranked opponent since 2001, beating Fordham University.
After the Sept. 30 game, fans could point to the stout defense, clutch offense or energetic fan base as the catalyst for the win. Whatever it may be, the Hoyas (3-2, 1-0 Patriot League) finally landed a statement 28-24 victory over the formidable Rams (3-2, 0-1 Patriot League), who were ranked No. 15 heading into homecoming day.
Georgetown rebounded from a tough two-game losing streak and made all the necessary adjustments to seal the last-minute score in its conference opener.
The game-winning touchdown came with 1:02 on the clock, 3 points off, third down, 4 yards away and 21 losses in 24 previous matchups against Fordham since 1996. Fifth-year quarterback Tyler Knoop slung a perfectly placed floater for a fading junior wide receiver Brock Biestek, sending the bleachers into a celebratory craze as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” fittingly blared from the stadium speakers.
Knoop said the team’s passion and grittiness were key to the success.
“We played a good game for four quarters, and that starts from the first snap to the last snap,” Knoop said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think everybody did a really good job staying locked in, staying keyed in, feeding off one another. Fans did a good job staying in the game. It’s a battle of adversity, man, a good team win.”
Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said the team’s strong chemistry proved invaluable to its comeback success.
“Right before the game, we asked what they were willing to do for the person next to them,” Sgarlata said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is a really tight group. They’ve been through some ups and downs already in the early part of the season, and I was just impressed with when things went wrong today, how they stuck together on the sideline.”
From the beginning, Georgetown looked eager to pounce on any of Fordham’s shortcomings. The Rams struggled out the gate on the opening drive, wasting a deep starting position with multiple avoidable penalties.
The Hoyas, on the other hand, marched down the field through short checkdowns while also catching breaks with two penalties called for first downs on the drive.
An impressive 18-yard catch on a tipped ball by sophomore wide receiver Nicholas Dunneman advanced Georgetown near the end zone, and an accurate throw to wide-open first-year tight end Isaiah Grimes secured the game’s first touchdown.
However, the Hoyas opted for a fake kick, which was quickly defused by the Rams’ defense, and received a minor injury scare when senior offensive lineman Luke Popma limped off the field following the play.
Fordham stormed back with a fast-paced drive, as a 48-yard return set up a 5-snap touchdown to go up 7-6 with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter. The two teams proceeded to trade multiple drives without posing much of a threat to one another save for a 39-yard kick return by junior wide receiver Cam Pygatt.
Fortunately for the Hoyas, the Rams continued to struggle with foul trouble, accruing 7 penalties for 44 yards lost by the end of the second quarter. Georgetown finally capitalized on its chances behind a series of strong gains by junior running back Naieem Kearney to reach the 30-yard line, before a stellar contested catch by graduate running back Joshua Stakely sealed another touchdown.
The Hoyas opted for another risky two-point conversion, this time cashing in on their bets with a quick toss to Grimes to go up 14-7.
Sgarlata said his team’s aggressiveness is a sign of the players’ confidence.
“We were going to kick it and not chase points in the first half, and TK came over to me and said, ‘Let’s go for two,’” Sgarlata said. “When you have a quarterback that wants to be aggressive and has confidence in the O-line, you have to support that as a partnership with what you’re doing.”
The Hoyas rode their momentum straight into the third quarter in bombastic fashion. On the opening drive, Kearney, deep in Georgetown’s half, swerved past a herd of confused Rams and sprinted straight to a 70-yard rushing touchdown to send the bleachers into a frenzy.
Despite the strong start, Georgetown would watch its lead slowly trickle away for much of the game. Fordham connected on a chain of passes to immediately respond with 7 points to shrink the lead to 21-14 with 10:30 left in the third. While the Hoya defense did its best to quiet the Ram offense to just 3 points in the next 15 minutes, the team found itself staring at a 24-21 deficit with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter.
The offense responded in an emphatic fashion with the game-winning snag by Biestek, and the defense managed one final stop before a Fordham Hail Mary attempt fell flat in the final play of the game, sparking raucous cheering from the fan section.
The team overcame significant hurdles throughout the match behind several strong individual efforts. Kearney was the obvious standout, notching 114 yards on just 13 carries. Grimes led the team in receiving yards, hauling in 8 catches for 69 yards and adding a Big East freshman of the week award to his promising career.
On defense, senior safety Preston Murray earned 1.5 tackles for loss for 10 yards, while junior defensive lineman Ibri Harrell and senior linebacker David Ealey III supplied good pressure throughout the contest to hold Fordham to just 71 yards on 22 attempts.
Georgetown fan Katelyn Rickert (CAS ’24) told The Hoya she was excited to see a motivated team finally pull through under pressure.
“Today they felt the spirit. We had a great student section, which is motivating them to win, and they actually pulled through,” Rickert said. “I’m so proud of the Hoyas so far. They had a great game today, and I’m so excited for the student section showing up to the game.”
Knoop said he wants to see the team’s resilience and determination carry over into the rest of the season.
“I want our team to take away that we’re tough,” Knoop said. “We are built for the moment. We’re a tough team. We play four quarters, and it’s not just a fluke.”
Georgetown will hope to continue its winning ways as it travels for a three-game road series starting with the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (2-1, 0-1 Ivy League) this Saturday at 1 p.m. on Franklin Field in Philadelphia.