After a winless campaign in 2009 and a dull 4-7 season in 2010, the Georgetown football team breathed new life into the program and raised hopes for their 2011 campaign when they dispatched Davidson, 40-16, on Saturday night.
Driven by a stingy defense and a productive offense, the Hoyas exhilarated a large home crowd contingent in a rare night game at the MultiSport Facility. The 6 p.m. kickoff meant that the sun had sunk to rest after halftime and the Blue and Gray seemed to blossom in the warm evening air.
Although both teams came out relatively flat, the Hoyas quickly asserted the defensive prowess that places them among the Patriot League’s best. After stopping the Wildcats from gaining a first down on the opening drive, the Hoyas were unable to convert on their own first series. They did, however manage to hold Davidson scoreless when the visitors regained the football.
The game also seemed to resolve the question of who would quarterback the Blue and Gray, with junior Isaiah Kempf starting over senior Scott Darby. Kelly had been tight lipped about that personnel decision before the game but seemed satisfied by both Kempf’s solid play and Darby’s reaction.
“It was a hard decision this week. We decided at the beginning of the week that we were going to go with Isaiah,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “The neat thing about it was the way Scott Darby handled the situation. He’s a class act. Isaiah also played a terrific game.”
On their second drive, the Hoyas were more productive, and the good fortune of a 15-yard defensive penalty placed the ball on Davidson’s 5. Kempf ran the ball five yards in for a touchdown and senior kicker Brett Weiss earned the extra point to give the Blue and Gray a 7-0 lead with 4:18 left in the first quarter.
Despite defense that seemed impressive and a big hit by junior defensive back Jeremy Moore, Georgetown was unable to stop Davidson from tying the score in the waning moments of the first quarter. Wildcats sophomore tight end Reese Williams caught an 8-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff.
Sophomore running back Nick Campanella, who started only three games on special teams last season, showed a new dimension in the second quarter. As he broke out, so did the Hoyas.
“It didn’t surprise me and it didn’t surprise anybody in our program,” Kelly said of Campanella’s performance. “I knew he was going to have a great year and he’s started that already.”
On the first drive of the second quarter, Kempf’s steady passing and short running game moved the ball all the way to the Davidson 1, despite two false start penalties against the Blue and Gray. But it was Campanella who finished in the red zone, rushing for a one-yard touchdown with 9:28 left in the half. Weiss connected again on the PAT to put Georgetown seven points up once again.
“Isaiah, you don’t always see it in practice but he’s got pretty good speed and he’s pretty athletic,” Kelly said. “He made some huge plays for us running the football.”
In a classic example of defense creating offense, the Hoyas were able to block and recover the Wildcats’ field goal attempt on the next drive and Kempf —who turned up his running game in the matchup —managed to rush for 24 yards. Campanella reprised his performance from the previous possession, bringing the ball four yards across the goal line for a touchdown. When Weiss missed a 55-yard field goal attempt as the halftime clock expired, Georgetown led 21-7.
“They are a throwing outfit, we knew that, and we dared them to run,” Kelly said. “We did have trouble throwing the ball over their heads but we’ll correct that this week.”
Georgetown failed to move the chains on their opening drive of the second half and the result was a long Davidson drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal, cutting the Hoyas’ advantage to 11.
On the very next drive, Georgetown took advantage of Moore’s excellent 37-yard kick return to score again. Campanella spearheaded the effort, rushing for a combined 30 yards on the play and seemingly dancing past the Davidson defenders. Weiss missed the extra point, but senior defensive back David Quintero intercepted an errant pass on the Wildcats’ next possession and returned it for 28 yards. The Hoyas carried a 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
“All offseason our linesmen have been stepping it up big time,” Campanella said. “I knew there would be a lot of holes tonight and with our running backs it was a great combination. We also really emphasized finishing.”
Georgetown junior linebacker Jeremy Grasso recovered a fourth-quarter Davidson fumble , which was forced by senior defensive linesman Andrew Schaetzke. Georgetown’s final touchdown came off a beautiful 44-yard pass from Kempf to freshman receiver Kevin Macari.
“I was really happy with who was in there and what we were doing,” Grasso said. “Going into Lafayette we have a lot of momentum.”
Davidson managed a garbage time touchdown when they scored with 36 seconds to go. However, it was too little, too late for the Wildcats, who lost the game by a final count of 40-16.
Next up for Georgetown is perennial Patriot League power Lafayette. The Hoyas will meet the Leopards in another twilight kickoff, set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at the MultiSport Facility.