An opportunistic offense and a red zone defense with a penchant for forcing timely turnovers has Georgetown off to its best start in over a decade.
The Hoyas forced three second-half turnovers deep in their own territory to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit and defeated Lafayette 28-24 for the Blue and Gray’s first 2-0 start since 1999.
“It was a true team win for us and I can’t tell you how big this is for our program at this point in time,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said following the Hoyas’ first back-to-back wins since 2003. “I’m so happy for our players, especially our seniors who have gone through some real tough times. This is what coaching is all about. It’s rewarding to see some of the hard work pay off.”
Despite outgaining the Hoyas 509-265 for the game, the Leopards (0-1, 0-1 Patriot League) found themselves trailing by four with 1:58 remaining when they took possession at their own 17. Several long completions moved the ball to the Georgetown 23, but junior defensive back Jayah Kaisamba’s interception at the three-yard line, with 58 seconds remaining, clinched Georgetown’s first Patriot League victory since 2007.
“In the second half there we were: a true bend-but-not-break defense,” Kelly said. “We came up with stops. We forced them to drive the field; we didn’t give up the big plays. That’s kind of the game plan. We wanted to hang around in the fourth quarter, and that’s what we did. And we pulled it out.”
The victory puts Georgetown – ranked last in the six-team conference’s preseason poll – at the top of the Patriot League standings, and the Hoyas have their sights set on remaining there at the end of the season.
“It was good to go out and get some live bullets and see what you have under the hood [against Davidson], but coming into this game we knew we needed to step it up against a league opponent,” senior linebacker Nick Parrish said following the victory. “We talk about wanting to be league champs and that started this weekend.”
The opening quarter was full of costly miscues as the two sides took turns setting each other up for easy scores.
A fumble by senior running back Philip Oladeji 3:29 into the game handed Lafayette the ball at the Georgetown 14. Junior running back Jerome Rudolph needed only two carries to burst into the end zone to open the scoring for Lafayette.
Four minutes later, the Leopards handed Georgetown the ball near the goal line when senior punter Tom Kondash dropped the snap and was tackled at the four-yard line. Three plays later, junior running back Chance Logan punched it in from one yard out to tie the game at 7-7.
Georgetown forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but freshman return man Zack Wilke muffed the punt at his own 11. The Leopards recovered, and a four-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ryan O’Neil to senior wide receiver Mark Layton put Lafayette back in the lead.
Lafayette added another score early in the second quarter and had several chances to put the game away, but Georgetown made several timely defensive plays to stay within striking distance.
With Lafayette leading 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Rudolph – who rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries – fumbled at the Georgetown 37 and Parrish recovered it on a play that seemed to breathe new life into the Hoyas.
Georgetown began running a hurry-up offense, and Lafayette’s blitz scheme struggled to adapt. Senior wide out Keerome Lawrence’s six-yard reception capped a 60-yard drive and brought the Blue and Gray within seven at 21-14.
The Leopards added a field goal shortly before halftime to take a 10-point lead into the locker room, but the Hoyas came storming out of the gates in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Scott Darby and sophomore slot receiver Max Waizenegger hooked up for a 51-yard bomb to pull within a field goal, silencing the crowd in the process and making it clear that Blue and Gray weren’t going to go down easy.
“I think that was the turning point in the game,” Kelly said. “I think at that point Lafayette was like, `What the heck is going on here?’ You could hear a pin drop after that touchdown, and I think at that point our kids believed they could win the game.”
Lafayette marched down to the Georgetown six-yard line and looked set to restore a 10-point advantage, but O’Neil’s pass into the end zone found junior safety Wayne Heimuli, giving Georgetown the ball at its own 20. Ten plays later, Oladeji scampered 30 yards for what would prove to be the winning score, giving the Hoyas a 28-24 lead.
The Leopards missed a 33-yard field goal on the following possession, but they forced a three-and-out before moving the ball on another long drive. This time Andrew Schaetzke made the big stop. On third-and-11 from the 15, the junior defensive end got into the backfield and forced a fumble, which the Hoyas recovered.
Parrish’s eight tackles put his career total at 270.5, breaking Tom Wonica’s 15-year-old school record of 269, and his coach couldn’t say enough about what Parrish has meant to Georgetown football.
“[Parrish] is the total package,” Kelly said. “He’s exactly what you’re looking for in a football player. He’s a true team guy, the players love him. He’s a great football player, he’s unselfish, all those things that if you could build a football player, it’s Nick Parrish.”
Darby played his second mistake-free game in as many contests, and after a season of turmoil at the quarterback position last year, it appears that the Hoyas have finally found a dependable signal-caller. The junior completed 18-of-30 passes for 172 yards and two scores and added 22 yards on the ground without committing any turnovers, which earned him Patriot League offensive player of the week honors. Schaetzke finished the game with eight tackles – four for a loss, including two sacks – and a forced fumble to win the defensive player of the week award. This week marks the first time since Georgetown joined the Patriot League in 2001 that the Blue and Gray have earned both awards.
“Both those guys are really hardworking guys, both had an excellent football game,” Kelly said. “Scott did a terrific job of managing the game and Schaetzke had numbers that were out of sight as far as defensive players. They both deserved those awards, and I’m thrilled for them.”
Georgetown takes a break from Patriot League play with Saturday’s upcoming trip to Yale in the Bulldogs’ season opener. Another strong performance will be necessary to avenge last year’s 31-10 loss at MultiSport Facility, and the Hoyas’ coach expects Yale to be fully prepared.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” Kelly said. “I think that Lafayette was a little shocked, but Yale, I think we got their attention beating Lafayette.”