Charles Nailen/The Hoya The Hoya offensive line will face a Monmouth defense that is among the best in Division I-AA, allowing an average 15 points per game since 2000.

Georgetown is on the verge of falling to 0-3 and beginning this season the same way it did in 2001. But the Hoyas can be confident that despite the similarities between the two seasons, this year there are definite signs of improvement.

The average margin of loss in 2003 is 4.5 points, while two years ago Georgetown lost its first two games by an average of 29.3 points. The Hoyas had just 34.5 yards a game against Lehigh and Holy Cross in 2001, while they mustered 124.5 average yards versus Colgate and Holy Cross this year.

But closer games and a stronger running game may not be enough.

Despite entreaties from head coach Bob Benson, Georgetown’s defense failed to come through last week at Holy Cross, costing the team a crucial early-season contest. This weekend, the Hoyas are looking for an especially strong performance on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“We’ve asked our offense to step up,” Benson said. “We’ve just got to take care of Georgetown. We didn’t at Holy Cross and we came home losers.”

The Hoyas’ opponent for Saturday’s match is onmouth, a team that coaches selected to finish seventh in the eight-team Northeastern Conference in a preseason poll. The Hawks have started the year red hot, going 2-0 after shutting out St. Peter’s in week one and capitalizing on a late-game fumble by Robert Morris to seal a one-touchdown victory. And Monmouth is not about to take its week three competition very lightly.

“[Georgetown is] the best team on their schedule,” Benson said. “They’re going to come down here like this is their Super Bowl.”

Since the 2000 season, the Hawks have allowed 525 points – the fifth lowest total among Division I-AA teams. Even the best Patriot League team, Lehigh, ranks just eighth with 570 points.

The Monmouth defense squelched the running games of its first two opponents, allowing just 19 rush yards. Georgetown sophomore running back Marcus Slayton will be hard-pressed to match his 100-yard game last weekend against the Hawks on Saturday.

“Monmouth has created an image, a mindset that they’re good,” Benson said. “We really have to bring what we did to Colgate.”

The Hawks are led by two young passers, sophomore Brendan Kennedy and freshman Brian Boland, who have split playing time to this point in the season. Kennedy went a combined 15-of-20 for 201 yards against St. Peter’s and Robert Morris, while Boland was 8-of-20 for 104 yards over the two-game stretch.

Senior linebackers William Skultety and Andrew Clarke, who leads the Patriot League in tackles (23) for the second straight year, will pressure the Hawks’ offensive line. Georgetown has an edge in the air game as junior quarterback Andrew Crawford is 28-of-51 for 434 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. A favorite deep target of Crawford’s is senior wide receiver Luke McArdle. McArdle is the national leader in Division I-AA scoring per game and all-purpose yards per game, averaging 15 points and 201.5 yards a match. Though he has caught just seven throws, he has scored touchdowns on five of those, with four coming last weekend against the Crusaders.

The Hoyas have been relatively healthy so far this season. Senior strong safety Matt Fronczke, who sat out the second half of the Holy Cross game after aggravating his shoulder, has practiced all week and will start Saturday. Sophomore kicker Michael Gillman, whose recovery from a hip injury is expected to take at least one more week, will be replaced by sophomore Brian Golper for a second straight game.

At the conclusion of practice on Wednesday, Benson told his team: “We need a win very badly. This program needs a win very badly.”

That opportunity starts at 1 p.m. Saturday on Harbin Field.

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