Following a narrow defeat last week, the Georgetown football team looks to rebound in its final home game of the season against the Bucknell Bisons on Senior Day Saturday.
Although the Hoyas (3-6, 0-4 Patriot League) have suffered from injuries and inexperience in key positions this season, which have contributed to a six-game losing skid, they have managed to keep games competitive, with each loss being a two-possession game at worst. They seek to translate their efforts into a Patriot League victory against a program that has been on the rise in recent years.
Bucknell football (3-6, 2-2 Patriot League) boasts a complex history, having won the first ever Orange Bowl in 1935 by beating the Miami Hurricanes. The Bisons remained a serious force in college football in subsequent decades, sending several players to the NFL draft in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.
The team, however, was downgraded to NCAA Division I-AA in 1978, becoming part of the newly formed Patriot League eight years later. Bucknell has won only one conference championship since then and zero in the last 19 years.
However, the team has finished second in the league in two of the past three seasons, largely thanks to seventh-year head coach Joe Susan.
“Joe Susan is as good as it gets in the business. They’re a well-coached team,” Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata said. “They try to limit your possessions. If you look at their time of possession historically, they’ve been excellent.”
Susan’s offensive scheme is powered by Bucknell’s large offensive line, which includes five senior linemen who average approximately 300 pounds. Among this group is senior offensive linemen Julie’n Davenport, a standout tackle who is serving as the team’s captain for the second straight year.
“They’re excellent up front. They pride themselves on being tough. They run the ball nonstop. It’s going to be a game won in the trenches,” senior defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick — who notched a team-high nine tackles last week — said.
Meanwhile, the Hoya defense will focus on containing senior quarterback R.J. Nitti and his weapons on the edge. The receiving corps is led by senior wide reciever Will Carter, who holds five career 100-yard receiving games.
Georgetown’s secondary will need to improve upon its performance against Holy Cross, in which it surrendered three long passing plays of 46-, 80- and 52-yards, all of which later led to touchdowns. 5 feet 8 inches junior defensive back Jelani Williamson was targeted in coverage several times but managed to snag an interception and force a fumble.
“We trust our guys and have utmost confidence putting them in those positions,” Sgarlata said. “Consistently over the year, our defensive backs, our safeties especially, have done a good job in some of the one-on-one matchups.”
On the other side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Clay Norris continues to play under center after solidifying himself as the starter by completing 25 of 37 passes for 185 yards last week.
“I think he’s feeling more comfortable in the spot and hopefully he continues to progress this weekend,” Sgarlata said.
The offense has demonstrated talent on the perimeter, particularly with senior wide receiver Justin Hill, who had a career-high 12 receptions last week. In the ground game, junior running back Alex Valles continues to receive a majority of the team’s carries, while Norris also can be a threat with his legs when throwing lanes are unavailable.
“I’ll take our skill guys over anyone in the league,” Hill said. “I think we can match up with anyone.”
Bucknell’s defense, nevertheless, has proven to be stout. Heading the effort is junior linebacker Mark Pyles, a second team All-Patriot League selection who led the team with 95 tackles last year. The defense has also forced 17 turnovers in its nine contests this season.
“They’re not really complicated, but they’re excellent at what they do. Historically, they’ve been at the top of the Patriot League in defense,” Sgarlata said. “They’re holding teams to 24 points a game, about 100 yards rushing and 260 throwing the ball.”
Saturday’s game also holds special significance for Georgetown seniors. Since the Hoyas will travel to New York to play Colgate next week for its season finale, this weekend’s game will be the last one played at Cooper Field until next September.
“[It’s] definitely more meaningful, the last time I get to play on this field. Just reflecting over the last four years, it’s been a good time,” Hill said.
“These kids have been with us through the battles,” Sgarlata said. “Mostly people see what we do in the season, but this is a 365-day-a-year commitment, and I’m really proud of these guys.”
Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.
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