Football | Defensive Errors Plague Hoyas

In its third consecutive loss, the Georgetown football team (3-3, 0-1 Patriot League) suffered a lopsided defeat to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (5-2, 2-0 Patriot League) by a score of 35-3.

After falling 31-17 in two Ivy League matchups, the Hoyas dropped their conference opener at home.

Lehigh entered the game with substantial momentum from four straight wins, a streak in which they averaged 50 points. Early in the game, the talented offense appeared on track to continue that success.

On the team’s second drive, junior wide receiver Gatlin Casey, who has 10 touchdowns this season, caught a short pass from senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky and broke several tackles for a 42-yard score to give Lehigh a 7-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Shafnisky was forced to exit the game due to injury after being sacked by freshman defensive lineman Marquis Parris. Sophomore backup quarterback Brad Mayes took over the offense without missing a step, moving his team down the field on that same drive.

From the Georgetown 11-yard line, Mayes threw a touchdown pass over the middle to junior receiver Troy Pelletier, despite excellent coverage from sophomore defensive back Ramon Lyons. The score extended the Lehigh lead to 14-0.

Meanwhile, the Hoya offense struggled under sophomore quarterback Clay Norris, who continues to be the team’s starter after news that senior quarterback Tim Barnes is out for the season. Penetration from Lehigh’s defensive line forced Norris into many poor throws, including a would-be pick-six that was dropped by Lehigh senior cornerback Brandon Leaks. Norris took full responsibility for the struggles in the passing game.

“The protections come down to me. I need to see the field; I need to get us in the right protection. And if something does break down, I have to be the one that has to evade that and still make a play,” Norris said.

Special teams were a lone bright spot for the Hoyas on the day. Senior punter Harry McCollum averaged 45 yards per punt, including a 64-yard boot that was just one yard short of his career long. Additionally, just before the second half, freshman wide receiver Michael Dereus returned a punt 27 yards to the Lehigh 25, which set up a short field goal from senior kicker Henry Darmstadter to cut the lead to 14-3.

Ultimately, however, the Mountain Hawk offense proved too explosive to be stopped. After a 36-yard catch by Gatlin Casey on third down was overturned by the officials, Lehigh ran exactly the same play on fourth down. This time, Casey hauled in the pass to the Georgetown 1-yard line, which led to an easy touchdown to make the score 21-3.

Lehigh would add two more touchdowns toward the game’s end, finishing with 475 total yards on offense and a 35-3 victory. Even as the game got out of hand, Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata was proud of his team’s continual effort.

“I’m a big body language guy — how our kids carry themselves and how they play and how they come off the field after an extra point even when the game is into a 21-point deficit. I thought that they responded and came back and played just as hard,” Sgarlata said.

Georgetown did force two turnovers to Lehigh’s zero but failed to turn either of them into points.

“It’s momentum,” Sgarlata said. “Against teams like that, if you get a turnover you have to do something with it. Any time you get one and go three-and-out after it, it’s almost like not even getting it.”

Norris finished 17-of-29 for 103 yards through the air, while sophomore and junior running backs Christian Bermudez and Alex Valles totaled 74 yards on the ground. The offense improved slightly on its seasonlong third-down issues, converting 5-of-15, but two of the team’s eight penalties took away initial conversions.

“You never want to give anything away. No unforced errors is what we really talk about. We’ll get those cleaned up,” Sgarlata said. “Hopefully that will increase our efficiency on third down on offense.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the Patriot League looked competitive on Saturday. Holy Cross (3-4, 1-1 Patriot League) upset Harvard (4-1, 2-0 Ivy League), snapping the Crimson’s 16-game road winning streak, while Fordham (4-2, 1-0 Patriot League) — Georgetown’s next opponent — defeated Yale (1-4, 1-1 Ivy League).

“This is what you want, you don’t want to play in the league where you just win them all by 40 points. You want to play challenging opponents,” Sgarlata said. “If you don’t want that, you’re in the wrong place.”

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