The majority of college football teams kicked off their seasons last week, but Georgetown spent its weekend playing the waiting game rather than a football game. After a 1-10 season last year, some might say there is really nowhere to go but up, and from the looks of things, Kevin Kelly has his team on the rise.

Now in his third season on the Hilltop, Kelly has overseen his transformation of Georgetown football, but like any other remodeling job, things haven’t always looked pretty. With two and a half recruiting classes under his belt – we’ll only give Kelly credit for half of the Class of 2010 since he was not named the head coach until January of their senior years of high school – the Hoyas arguably put more talent on the field now than at any time in since football rejoined the NCAA in 1970. In junior running back Charlie Houghton, they have one of the most explosive players in the Patriot League, and this season’s offensive line is experienced and one of the biggest to man the Multi-Sport Facility.

If the talent level is higher, then how come last year was the worst in Georgetown history?

It’s not that complicated actually.

First, there was the rocky transition to the Patriot League. During the Bob Benson era of the late 1990s, Georgetown played in the MAAC, a conference that featured teams originally part of the MAAC’s basketball conference. Enter Georgetown, the only team with a basketball program in a BCS-conference. During their tenure in the MAAC, the Hoyas found themselves vying for the title year in and year out.

Then came Georgetown’s transition from a dominant program in the small MAAC conference to newcomer in the difficult Patriot League. Imagine leaving the friendly confines of your public golf course, where you dominated for years, in favor of playing with the wealthy patrons of a country club. Suddenly, what you thought was a great five iron isn’t up to par compared to the gleaming Titleist that your opponents are brandishing. It was only obvious that Georgetown was going to have some hiccups in making the jump to the Patriot league. Their struggles mirror the struggles of successful I-AA teams who make the jump to I-A only to stumble in their first few years on the big stage.

Second is scheduling. Just look at Georgetown’s schedule the last few years. Gone are the Canisius and St. Peter’s of the college football world, and now on the lineup are some of the most tradition-rich programs in the country. Programs like Penn, Yale and conference opponents Lafayette and Lehigh that are some of the best teams that the Football Championship Subdivision has to offer. This year, the Hoyas have upped the ante scheduling cross-town foe Howard, a school that, unlike Georgetown, offers scholarships that are not based on need. As if trips to Howard and Yale weren’t enough, the Hoyas will make the trek to the capital of Virginia to take on FCS national title contender Richmond, a team that played Appalachian State close in the national semifinal last season. Yes, the same Appalachian State that beat Michigan.

While Georgetown is still searching for that marquee upset that would jump-start the program, there is evidence that it might be on the way. Look at last season when the Hoyas dropped a heartbreaking 35-28 decision in the season opener at Stony Brook, a team that had just been flooded with D-1 transfers after adding 35 scholarships. Then there was a home date against Yale last year that saw Georgetown three yards and a few seconds away from tying the Ivy League runner-up Yale at the half. It’s all too easy for the casual fan to remember the Homecoming drubbing at the hands of Cornell and forget the near-miraculous comeback against Patriot League champion Fordham, but at times last season, the Hoyas did show glimpses that they might be a contender.

The saying goes that winning is contagious, but unfortunately so is losing, in general. Yes, maybe Kelly might have liked to open up with Marist or Bucknell and get the ball rolling with a win, but he must play the hand he is dealt, meaning a date with Howard, a game that is garnering its fair share of local media buzz. A win from the Hoyas might open some people’s eyes in the metro area and give them momentum heading into a showdown with Lafayette next week.

The reality is that Georgetown has its work cut out for it this season. Trips to Yale, Richmond and Colgate, along with home contests against Penn and Holy Cross, make for one of the most brutal schedules in the Patriot League. It’s conceivable that each of these contests could leave the Hoyas with another lopsided tally in the loss column, but with such a risk comes the reward, if they can pull off the upset. A win that would give confidence to a young team still trying to finding its way, and one that would be an outward sign of the quiet, hidden progress Georgetown has made in Kelly’s tenure.

Ryan Travers is a junior in the College. He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every other Friday issue of HOYA SPORTS.

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