By John-Paul HezelHoya Staff Writer

With his team set to kick off its inaugural season in the Patriot League tomorrow at 1 p.m. on Kehoe Field, Head Coach Bob Benson has turned the offensive reins over to Sean Peterson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior from Gaithersburg, Md.

As it happens, Peterson will start against Lehigh, what might be the Hoyas’ toughest opponent of the year.

Peterson had been locked in a preseason battle for the position with last year’s starter, junior David Paulus, and sophomore organ Booth. Paulus suffered an injury during the spring session that hindered his progress, so the three quarterbacks entered the fall workouts in a battle for the starting job.

Benson announced his decision last Friday, a day after the team’s final split squad scrimmage.

Despite Paulus’s 2,147 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2000, Benson decided to give the job back to Peterson, who began last season as the Hoyas’ starting quarterback but lost the job to Paulus early on in the year.

“His overall understanding of the offense, athleticism, senior leadership, the ability to make big plays [and] the ability to effectively run the system,” Benson said, listing the reasons for his decision. “[Peterson] puts us in the best position to win.”

The Hoyas will need Peterson to step up in every one of those categories when Georgetown faces Lehigh, No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today I-AA poll, tomorrow at home. The Mountain Hawks finished the 2000 season with a record of 12-1 and are the three-time defending Patriot League Champions. They also advanced to the second round of the 2000 NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs. The Hoyas went 5-6 last season.

The Lehigh squad, coached by Pete Lembo, a four-year starter and 1992 graduate of Georgetown, has a high-powered offense that has scored in double figures in 52 straight games and that outscored its opponents 337-160 last year.

Led by senior quarterback Brant Hall, the Patriot League’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, the Mountain Hawks have a versatile offense with numerous weapons. Hall hit 12 different receivers last season, including senior Josh Snyder who finished second on the team in 2000 with 42 receptions for 448 yards. Hall also completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,485 yards and 24 touchdowns and helped the Mountain Hawks to a 42 percent success rate on third down attempts, best in the league.

“He is probably the best athlete that’s stepped on this field in a long time,” Benson said. “We’re going to have to be careful.”

Georgetown will likely have to eliminate turnovers and penalties to overcome Hall’s passing and scrambling ability and give the Hoyas a chance to win the contest.

“We must remain disciplined on both sides of the ball,” Benson said.

Hall ran 146 times for 681-yards last season, the team’s second highest rushing totals.

Georgetown must also win the special teams game and play to their strengths defensively. Lehigh was ranked No. 12 in the nation last year, averaging 22.8 yards per kickoff return with senior Abdul Byron ranking first nationally in return yardage with a 34.8-yard average. But Lehigh has only one returning offensive lineman, while the Hoyas are strongest up front with seniors Brian Blankenship, Eric Speron, Josh Thomas and Scott Pogorelec manning the line.

Besides the physical component, Benson believes that there are three other crucial factors in Georgetown’s winning

First, the Hoyas may need a little trickery.

“We may have to steal one somewhere, the element of surprise,” Benson said, adding that they might need to “pull the old Charles Lindbergh – take chances, but not too many.”

Second, Georgetown will have to stay realistic and keep a tough mentality.

“You gotta believe you can do it . We’re going to try to knock off someone no one thinks we can beat.”

And finally, the Hoyas need a stadium packed with fans.

“We gotta get the students out to the game,” Benson said. “That’s the key.”

In Benson’s eight years at the helm, his teams have won five opening day games, including five of the last six, their only loss coming at home against Holy Cross last season, 38-22.

The Hoyas are 18-13 in season openers since joining the NCAA in 1970.

If Georgetown wants improve that win total to 19, everything from the opening kickoff to the rocking stadium will have to fit together.

Georgetown last played Lehigh in 1911, when they won 28-3. The Hoyas hold an overall 3-1 in the series that dates back 1901. The ountain Hawks last defeated Georgetown in 1903, 12-6.

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