The Georgetown football team (3-2) fell to the Princeton Tigers (3-1) 31-17 in a game that saw several changes in possession, partly due to heavy rain at Cooper Field on Saturday.
The Hoyas lost the turnover battle, committing a total of five turnovers.
Sophomore quarterback Clay Norris, who filled in for injured senior quarterback Tim Barnes, made his first start of his college career and finished 13-of-26 for 106 yards with one interception.
“I thought he did well once he got through the first quarter. Just normal jitters and letting the speed of the game slow down a little bit for him. … He started to settle in and run the offense the way we know he can,” Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said of the young quarterback’s performance.
“Personally, I’ve got to play better, can’t make the mistakes that I’ve made. … Overall I think there’s a lot of stuff that we left out there and stuff we can improve on,” Norris said.
The Hoyas started the game strong, establishing an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to their special teams. Fifth-year defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick blocked Princeton freshman kicker Tavish Rice’s 42-yard field goal attempt, allowing Georgetown’s junior cornerback Jelani Williamson to collect the loose ball and return it 51 yards to score.
However, the Tigers responded quickly on the next possession to score a 1-yard rushing touchdown by junior quarterback John Lovett, knotting the game at seven in the first quarter.
After trailing 21-14 at halftime, the Hoyas got the ball to begin the second half, but their struggles to extend drives continued. For the game, the team was 1-of-12 on third down conversions and had only 188 total yards on offense, compared to Princeton’s 414 total yards.
“I keep saying it but it’s not so much what we’re doing on third down, it’s what we’re doing on first and second [down],” Sgarlata said.
“We just have to be better on first and second downs and be more efficient,” junior running back Alex Valles, who rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown, said.
Princeton scored on its first possession of the second half, with its senior quarterback Chad Kanoff connecting with sophomore wide receiver Jesper Horsted for a 22-yard touchdown catch. With the struggles of the Hoyas offense, a two-touchdown lead was enough to put the game away for the Tigers.
“We let one get away. … Coming out of it, it’s one that got away but you got to learn from it because you’re going to go up against a really good Lehigh team that won today as well. Looking forward to the challenge, but we’re really just worried about ourselves, we got to clean up what we are doing,” Sgarlata said.
This Saturday, the Blue and Gray begin conference play when they host the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (4-2, 1-0 Patriot League).
The Mountain Hawks are currently riding a four-game win streak and have historically been a perennial contender for the Patriot League title. Lehigh Head Coach Andy Coen is in his 10th year at the school, boasting a 72-48 record and three conference championships.
Senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky, who returns for his third straight year as the starter, leads Lehigh’s explosive offense. The Pennsylvania native is a dual threat, recording 14 touchdowns through the air and an additional five on the ground this season.
Junior wide receivers Gatlin Casey and Troy Pelletier add speed to the offensive attack. Combined, the two 6-foot-3 players have hauled in 14 touchdown passes, including nine of 30 yards or more.
“They’re definitely going to try and challenge us with the deep ball, that’s one of their main focuses,” junior linebacker Matt Apuzzi said. “We just have to stick to our defense, everybody has to do their job.”
Meanwhile, the Hoyas’ offense seeks to exploit a defense that has struggled to stop the run all season. The Mountain Hawks have surrendered an average of 245 rushing yards per game, including an abysmal performance against Villanova (5-1, 3-0 Colonial Athletic Association), during which they allowed 396 yards. Valles emphasized that the upcoming opponent will not affect Georgetown’s scheme.
“We’re going to do what we’ve always done. We’re going to start off trying to run the ball and set up the pass, [the game plan] doesn’t change week by week,” Valles said.
Georgetown may be without Barnes, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against Harvard, for a third straight game. Norris would again start under center if Barnes cannot play. Regardless of the quarterback, the Hoyas’ offense must fix its third-down issues.
“We just have to stick to our game plan. First and second down we have to be better because we had way too many third-and-longs,” Valles said.
After consecutive losses, the conference matchup will give the team a chance to improve in the standings. Williamson, who was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week after the Princeton game, stressed this week’s additional importance.
“Every game is a must-win, but especially coming off two losses. This is an inflection point for our season. We’re looking to see what we’re really made of,” Williamson said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Cooper Field.