The Georgetown football team (3-1) will host the Princeton Tigers (2-1, 1-0 Ivy League) this Saturday in the final nonconference matchup for both teams.
The schools have not faced each other since 2013, when the Tigers spoiled Georgetown’s Homecoming with a 50-22 drubbing of the Hoyas. This year, Princeton returns to the Hilltop riding momentum from a 48-13 blowout last week over Columbia (0-3, 0-1 Ivy League), the same team that Georgetown defeated by only three points the week before.
The Hoyas, however, are viewing the opposition the same way they do each week.
“[We’re] getting ready for another good team. Every week this conversation will be the same, every team we play coming up is a good football team,” Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said.
Although the Blue and Gray lost their unbeaten record last week after a 31-17 defeat against the Blue and Gray (3-0, 1-0 Ivy League), the performance was a major improvement from last year’s 45-0 rout.
“We finished the game fighting our tails off at Harvard. I told the kids that I was probably more proud of them up there than I was in the three wins because that game easily could have turned the wrong way for us,” Sgarlata said.
The Hoya defense made several notable stands late in the game, including three three-and-outs and two turnovers forced in the second half.
Freshman defensive lineman Marquis Parris, who was awarded Patriot League Rookie of the Week after recording six total tackles and two tackles for loss, attributed the defensive success to the players’ ability to adhere to their responsibilities.
“We have everything planned in accordingly before the game, and we just do what we’re coached to do. We run to the ball, we play fast, we make sure we do our job,” Parris said.
Nonetheless, after giving up 33 first downs last week, the defense will need to limit the yardage it allows. Doing so will be no easy task against a Princeton offense that has averaged 37 points and 414 total yards per game.
The Tigers are led by senior quarterback Chad Kanoff, who is starting for the second straight year. The California native had an efficient performance last week, completing 21 of his 25 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
Princeton has also found success on the ground, with sophomore running back Charlie Volker and senior running back Joe Rhattigan combining for six touchdowns this season.
Junior quarterback John Lovett, despite only attempting 20 passes so far this season, has added to the dynamic attack with six rushing touchdowns of his own. Faced with a statistically dominant opponent, the Georgetown defense still believes it has superior size and strength.
“Their offense, they’re decent, they work together, but they’re also undersized, so we are going to play that to our advantage,” Parris said.
On the other side of the ball, the Hoya offense looks to continue making explosive plays. Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Williams’ 76-yard touchdown reception against Harvard was the team’s longest play of the season. Later that game, junior running back Isaac Ellsworth’s 74-yard touchdown run became the second-longest.
“[Williams and Ellsworth] can run away from just about anybody,” Sgarlata said. “We think that if we can get our guys in space that we can make some plays.”
Ellsworth, who finished with 109 yards on ten carries last week, noted that creating the opportunities for large gains is a team effort.
“I just got to give thanks to the line and the receivers. They really set it up. We’re a cutting team, and we’re going to try to take the legs out and get outside,” Ellsworth said. “So I feel like when an opportunity is there, I know that as a running back I can trust the holes and just take off.”
However, Georgetown may be without senior quarterback Tim Barnes for the first time this year. Although he is not officially ruled out this week, Barnes injured his shoulder late in the second quarter against Harvard.
Should Barnes not play, the starting role will fall to sophomore quarterback Clay Norris. Last week, Norris finished 10 of 19 passes with 45 yards and an interception.
Under both quarterbacks, the unit has continuously struggled on third downs, converting just three of 30 in its past two games. Ellsworth pointed to poor communication as an issue.
“There were some times we weren’t completely sure what we were doing,” Ellsworth said. “We just gotta get back to the basics — not make it tricky for our quarterback.”
Another key to the game will be converting turnovers into points. Georgetown has taken the ball away four times in each of the past two games but only scored three points off those turnovers in each game.
“That’s a big goal for us this week, to capitalize on those opportunities, because they’re huge momentum shifts in the game,” Sgarlata said.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Cooper Field. The game will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network and Sirius XM radio.