After a loss to Bucknell last Saturday that left it searching for answers, the Georgetown football team (3-2, 1-1 Patriot League) heads to Staten Island, N.Y., this weekend to try to right its course against Wagner (1-4, 1-2 Northeast Conference).
The Hoyas suffered from an early turnover against the Bison, which contributed to a 28-0 deficit midway through the second quarter. Despite a furious 18-point rally on the back of a solid performance by redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jamal Davis, Georgetown stalled in the second half, and Bucknell prevailed, 35-18.
“We didn’t want to go out there putting the ball on the ground and, then they score and it just kind of snowballs,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said. “By the time you look up, it’s 28 to nothing. Some games are like that.”
Special teams play was the lone bright spot in the loss for the Blue and Gray; this pleased Kelly, who had emphasized the importance of special teams after it cost the Hoyas valuable points in their game at Yale.
“Special teams were solid [against Bucknell],” Kelly said. “It was nothing spectacular, but they did the job and that’s all we can ask of them.”
But that improvement may be a case of one step forward, two steps back. The Blue and Gray have struggled on defense, particularly with pass coverage. Poor play in the secondary has allowed their opponents to put up some big numbers through the air in the past couple weeks.
“On defense, pass coverage is part of it. We’re addressing that. … Some of it right now is a confidence thing,” Kelly said. “We’ve moved some people around and taken a good hard look at how we’re playing and how we’re teaching it. I’m not just going to blame the kids on that. I’m going to blame us as well.”
Another problem that became clear against Bucknell was Georgetown’s difficulty in stopping third-down conversions. The Bison were able to convert on 9 of 17 tries against the Hoyas.
“We’re taking a look at the whole [defense], and we expect this week to get better at it,” Kelly said. “Third downs are the same thing. I think they are tied together [with pass coverage].”
The quarterback situation is also of great concern for the Hoyas. Junior Isaiah Kempf and senior Scott Darby both struggled against Bucknell after a strong start to the season. Kempf played in the Hoyas’ first two games before an injury forced him out at Yale. Darby had one of the best games in Georgetown history against Lafayette. Ensuring solid quarterback play will be a key to Hoya success in the future.
Wagner, which has struggled this season, is a scholarship program, meaning that Georgetown will line up across the gridiron this weekend against some talented players.
“If you look at their scores … they have had a lot of close football games,” Kelly said. “And then last week, there was bad weather, a downpour, their quarterback has been banged up a little bit, some injury issues.”
The Seahawks handed the Hoyas a tough defeat last season, tying the game on a 56-yard field goal before returning a Darby interception for a touchdown to win the game in double overtime. But the team doesn’t seem to be dwelling on revenge in the lead-up to tomorrow’s game.
“We haven’t talked too much about it, to be honest,” Kelly said. “For our guys, this is another opportunity to play another football game and to come out on the winning side of it.”
And despite Wagner’s dismal record, Georgetown isn’t taking anything for granted as they prepare to head up to New York.
“You’ve got to be careful with [teams like Wagner]. If they come out with some confidence at the beginning of the ballgame, they can be tough,” Kelly said.
Although Wagner isn’t a Patriot League rival, a victory could give Georgetown some momentum as they head toward a series of critical league matchups that will determine the outcome of the season.
“In our league, there is a lot of football left to be played. From top to bottom, any of the teams can beat any other team any given week,” Kelly said. “It’s going to go right down to the end.”
Even coming off their struggle against the Bison, the Blue and Gray remain optimistic about where they fit in the conference picture.
“I told our players on Sunday, after the game, we still have several goals we can attain,” Kelly said. “One is to have a winning season and then also to win the Patriot League and that’s well within our grasp.”
Kickoff against Wagner is set for 1 p.m. tomorrow on Staten Island.