Georgetown University football team walked away victorious from a defense-dominated nail-biter that disturbed the peace of a foggy, rainy Saturday afternoon in Bethlehem, Pa.
With both the Georgetown Hoyas and the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks fortifying their own halves with robust pressure, a few moments of offensive excellence ended up dictating the outcome of the Oct. 14 game.
An early touchdown by Georgetown (4-3, 2-0 Patriot League) preceded a long scoreless streak on both ends, setting the stage for Lehigh (1-6, 0-2 Patriot League) to finally get on the scoreboard with a game-tying score in the third quarter. Even as the momentum seemed to shift in favor of the Mountain Hawks, the Hoyas’ defensive resilience and offensive persistence comfortably stopped a comeback attempt with a 10-point cushion in a 17-7 victory.
While both teams punted away their opening drives, Georgetown successfully broke through for the first touchdown of the game on its second try. Shortly after crossing into the opposition half, fifth-year quarterback Tyler Knoop slung a high-arched, deep shot from the 44-yard line, hoping to catch the Mountain Hawks off-guard and target their defensive gaps. Sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Kibble cradled in the pass over a Lehigh defensive back and fell into the endzone despite being tackled.
Georgetown was able to match its offensive finesse with defensive discipline. The Hoyas almost doubled their lead after a big hit by senior safety Zayid Aziz knocked the ball loose, allowing first-year cornerback Quincy Briggs to scoop the fumble and run into the end zone.
However, match officials overturned the call and declared the pass incomplete as the receiver never had full possession of the ball. While the Mountain Hawks got a mulligan on the drive, quarterback Brayten Silbor missed just high on a deep pass to his receiver, allowing junior cornerback Kamren Watkins-Hunter to tip the pass for an interception by redshirt junior Kolubah Pewee Jr.
To start the second quarter, the Hoyas had the opportunity to re-earn the points from the reversed pick-six. Instead, Georgetown met stiff resistance on 4th-and-1 from Lehigh’s 7-yard line, as the opposing linebackers accurately read a Knoop run-pass option and closed in for a 2-yard tackle-for-loss to the delight of the home crowd.
The two teams then traded multiple uneventful offensive possessions, stifled in their opponents’ territory. The Hoyas resorted to a more conservative play style, punting at the next 4th-and-1. The Mountain Hawks were similarly unable to generate any momentum.
While both teams finally managed to edge their way into field goal range within the last four minutes of the half, 2 missed field goals in wet conditions gave Georgetown a 7-0 lead heading into halftime. Georgetown’s offense underwhelmed following a promising start, and Lehigh could not find any consistency in the red zone despite a solid stat sheet of 154 passing yards and 57 rushing yards in the half.
The Mountain Hawks made immediate adjustments to open up the third quarter, gradually maneuvering across the field and remaining unfazed in Georgetown’s defensive half. On 2nd-and-10 at the Hoyas’ 13-yard line, Silbor tossed a dart to a wide-open wideout Eric Johnson, leveling the score at 7-7 with 11:16 left in the third quarter, restoring a feeling of excitement to the game.
Quickly forcing a Georgetown punt thanks to a 9-yard sack, Lehigh regained possession just three minutes after its touchdown, now with a decisive opportunity to seize its first lead of the game. Yet, on the second play of the drive, a misjudged pass by Silbor gifted standout first-year safety Zeraun Daniel an interception by the Hoyas and ended this comeback sequence in abrupt fashion.
Georgetown took advantage of the chance to recover its lead, as junior kicker Patrick Ryan nailed a 33-yard field goal with 3:42 remaining in the quarter.
The game then transitioned back to a defensive battle. Trading punts and unable to penetrate into field goal territory, the Hoya offense held on to a 3-point advantage that was far from assured.
Hoping to seal the deal with 8:06 left in the fourth quarter, Georgetown steadily progressed up the field, eventually landing in prime position to score following a 26-yard contested catch by junior wide receiver Brock Biestek on a risky 4th-and-9 call. With four yards to go, graduate running back Joshua Stakely forced his way into the end zone amid a pileup to make it a two-possession game with 3:44 left.
Though in a relatively cushy position with a late 17-7 lead, the Hoya defense remained strong and forced a turnover on downs in just one minute, crushing any glimpse of hope for a Mountain Hawk comeback.
Georgetown is now ranked second in the Patriot League with its first away win of the season, trailing just behind College of the Holy Cross. The flashes of offensive brilliance and overall defensive consistency marked an impressive bounce back following last week’s dramatic overtime loss at the University of Pennsylvania, as the Hoyas prepare to gear up for a deep postseason run.
Knoop had his best performance to date this season, completing 26-of-32 passes and raking in a season-high 332 passing yards to win Patriot League offensive player of the week honors. Sophomore wideout Nicholas Dunneman led the team with 102 receiving yards and 10 receptions, while Kibble continued his strong run of form with his third touchdown on the season.
The secondary unit proved to be the difference maker on the defensive end. Pewee Jr. stood out with 1 interception and 2 pass breakups, while junior cornerback Rashon Adams Jr. and Patriot League rookie of the week Daniel led Georgetown’s impenetrable wall with 4 and 5 tackles, respectively.
The Hoyas are hoping to further assert themselves as a formidable conference contender at home against Colgate University (2-4, 0-1 Patriot League) on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. Georgetown is entering the most critical stage of the season, closing it out with four conference games to determine if it will head to the postseason.