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Junior safety Travis Mack

Defensive backs are usually alone on the football field, covering bigger wide receivers or forced to make open-field tackles to prevent touchdowns by themselves. But in Georgetown’s defensive backfield, juniors Travis Mack and Chris Rau have each other to rely on.

The two safeties are standouts on a defense that has had its share of good moments this season. The Hoyas’ 1-6 record certainly does not reflect the way the unit has played.

“We have to keep fighting,” Mack says. “It’s important for us to keep believing in each other and working hard to turn it around. The pass rush and the D-line have been dominant and I think we’ve become an older team on defense. We’ve built a chemistry that we can carry into next year.”

As Georgetown (0-3 Patriot League) returns home tomorrow for a matchup with league opponent Lehigh (2-5, 1-1), it faces the final three games of its season, looking to somehow end on a high note.

“These next three games are winnable,” Rau says. “We’ll need to fly to the ball, go all-out on both sides of the ball and execute.”

For the past couple of seasons, Rau and Mack, who share similar 6-foot, 190-pound frames, have been two of the more productive players on the field for the Blue and Gray. Rau led the team in tackles a year ago and is currently third this season – he missed a game due to a concussion. Mack has been a starter since his freshman year and is the Hoyas’ leading tackler. As members of Head Coach Kevin Kelly’s first recruiting class, they have come through the program together since day one.

“They’re both excellent football players,” Kelly says. “We’d be in trouble if we lost those guys. They’re good people and a pleasure to coach.”

Nearly three years together in the secondary have given the two men a chance to get to know each other’s tendencies and style of play on the field and to form a solid friendship off of it.

“We have a great relationship,” Rau says. “We’ve played together for a while now, so a lot of times we don’t even have to communicate out there – we just know what the other guy will be doing. We live together, so we spend a lot of time with each other off the field.”

Both are outstanding students who agree Georgetown is the right place for them.

“It’s a great school,” Rau says. “It’s a building program. We got to play right away and you can’t beat the mix of football and academics.”

ack, who hails from West Chester, Pa., understands that along with his roommate, he will be called upon next year to lead the Hoyas, whose young players should be ready to blossom.

“We definitely want to carry the leadership of this year’s seniors on into next year,” Mack says. “In practice, the coaches look to us to huddle the defense up when things aren’t going well and pick the team up. We’ll continue that into next season.”

Like a significant amount of the team, Rau and Mack remain confident and upbeat despite the Hoyas’ struggles this season. With two of its final three games at home, Georgetown has a chance to finish off a tough season – which has seen a young offense sustain major injuries and growing pains – with a positive feeling going into the offseason. What will carry the Hoyas through the end of this season and make 2009 a breakout campaign are things that Mack and Rau commit to every day.

“Hustle and effort,” Rau says.

Hoya Notes:

– Lehigh comes to Washington with a deceiving 2-5 record. They have played a difficult schedule and have lost three games by three points or less.

“They average 20 points per game and they give up 20 per game,” Kelly said. “They’re very solid up front on both sides of the ball and I’m sure they’ll be looking to do the same things as us this week – be more consistent and limit turnovers. There are really five or six plays in a game that decide the outcome, so we have to be mindful of that.”

– Much of the offensive struggles for the Hoyas this season concern a decimated offensive line and a nicked-up backfield.

“That’s part of it,” Kelly said. “Continuity is huge and we haven’t had that. Frankly, a lot of our junior leaders have been out so that has hurt us.”

– As the season winds down, Georgetown is looking to improve on some things before heading into the offseason.

“On offense, it’s simple, we need to score points – that’s the bottom line,” Kelly said. “On defense, we have to not give up the explosive plays. They’ve killed us.”

– Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. tomorrow at Multi-Sport Facility.

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