Sari Frankel/The Hoya
Sari Frankel/The Hoya

For more than a decade, the Georgetown football team was a laughingstock on campus. Having notched 11 consecutive losing seasons, the squad attracted neither buzz nor crowds. That changed last fall.

When the Hoyas took to the gridiron to begin the season, no one expected a turnaround from a winless 2009 campaign and a 4-7 2010 team. But there was some cause for hope, which would be justified as the season went on.

“We have an excellent recruiting class, and some of the newcomers are supplementing our existing guys very, very well,” Head Coach Kevin Kelly said going into this season. “I feel good about really all positions, quite frankly.”

After a week of indecision, junior quarterback Isaiah Kempf got the start in the first game, and Georgetown came out firing on all cylinders in a rare twilight matchup against Davidson, romping to a 40-16 win.

But it wasn’t just Kempf; the Blue and Gray’s defense — led by senior defensive end Andrew Schaetzke and senior defensive back Jayah Kaisamba — was key in the win against Davidson and throughout the remainder of the season.

In the following game, Georgetown held Lafayette to just one touchdown in its first Patriot League win of the year.

Next, a trip to Yale loomed for Georgetown, and the overmatched Hoyas struggled to a 37-27 loss. Even worse, Kempf was injured during the third quarter and senior quarterback Scott Darby was thrust into the game in his place.

The Yale contest was the first of a four-game road swing for the Hoyas, who next traveled to Marist. Darby was under center again against the Red Foxes and helped the offense explode to a 52-28 win. But the fact that the defense — especially the pass defense — gave up 28 points was a serious worry.

“[We are] looking closer at how we are teaching and practicing the coverages,” Kelly said after the game. “We will be better.”

But they weren’t — at least not right away. The next weekend was worse, as Bucknell flustered Kempf, who had returned as quarterback, and lit up the reeling Georgetown defense. The 35-18 loss left the Hoyas 1-1 in conference play.

Adjustments in the ensuing weeks improved the team’s defense, especially the secondary. This was clear in both a 24-10 victory at Wagner and a 21-3 demolition of Howard across town in two back-to-back weekends.

“These last couple weeks, we’ve been able to make plays on balls. It’s helped us out. It’s helped out our run game,” Kaisamba said after the win over Howard. “And we’ve been able to shut down some other teams.”

With the secondary — and the defense as a whole — looking up, Georgetown demolished Colgate, 40-17, in a Homecoming rout that also secured a very meaningful winning season for the Hoyas.

“It’s huge. We haven’t had [a winning season] here since 1999,” Kelly said after the victory. “There are a lot of guys who were here two years ago when it was at its lowest point, and they stuck through it. I’m proud of those guys. They are the character guys.”

Now 2-1 in the Patriot League and hunting for the title, the Blue and Gray kept rolling the next Saturday, this time in the middle of a western Massachusetts snowstorm.

With visibility so poor that Holy Cross’ radio broadcasters couldn’t see the placement of the football from the press box, Schaetzke had six tackles and two sacks, and Kempf keyed two touchdown drives in the second half. That was enough for the 19-6 win.

With Fordham ineligible for league play, Georgetown’s game against the Rams was rather meaningless, but the Hoyas still notched a 30-13 win, giving them momentum heading into the season finale with Lehigh, where the Patriot League championship was on the line.

Though a large contingent of fans followed their team on the road, the Mountain Hawks were too much for the Hoyas, who ended their 2011 season with a 34-12 loss.

Even in defeat, Kelly and his team were celebrating Georgetown’s campaign. After the season, once Schaetzke had been honored as an FCS All-American and Kelly had flirted with, then withdrew from consideration for, the top job at Yale, the coach’s words after the last game rang true.

“No one will ever forget this football team,” Kelly said. “[The seniors] might not realize it today, but someday they will understand it — we have to celebrate this season. This is a special group.”

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