Since the start of the 2012 season, the Hoya men’s football team (3-3, 0-0 Patriot League) has had one game circled on their calendars: Oct. 13, 1 p.m., versus Lehigh University (6-0, 1-0 Patriot League). After falling to the Mountain Hawks in last year’s de-facto Patriot League title game 34-12, the Hoyas have been hungry for a shot at revenge.
“We’re all excited for this game, this is the biggest game of our year,” said senior linebacker Robert McCabe. “This is where our Patriot League schedule starts and this where we start our road to our goal of winning a Patriot League championship.”
Junior running back Nick Campanella, who leads the Hoyas with seven touchdowns on the year, echoed McCabe in his description of the fierce mentality in the Hoya locker room this week.
“There’s a spark, ‘cause they took us out last year in the conference championship, so we definitely want to pay them back,” he said.
Due to a scholarship technicality that discredits the Fordham loss in the Patriot League standings, this week’s game versus Lehigh will open Patriot League play for the Hoyas, offering a fresh start after two consecutive losses.
The Mountain Hawks, however, will be a tough opponent for the Hoyas to right the sinking ship. Undefeated and ranked 10th nationally, Lehigh will be looking to continue its dominance against Georgetown, to whom it has yet to lose to since the Hoyas joined the Patriot League in 2001.
The Hoyas, however, seem closer than ever to a breakout game. After struggling offensively in their loss to Brown (3-1, 0-1 Ivy League), the Hoyas posted 31 points against Fordham (4-2), their second-highest total this season, a change Campanella accredits to the maturation of the offensive unit as a whole.
“Our [offensive] line is really starting to step up and [sophomore quarterback] Steve Skon is really being a leader now,” said Campanella. “This is his second start, and he really showed what he could do last game.”
Head Coach Kevin Kelly also had high praise for his offensive line, a group made up of four upperclassmen and one sophomore.
“They’ve done a terrific job. We challenge them every week and Coach [Brian] Miller has done a great job with the O-line,” he said. “We’re a lot more aggressive and are moving people off the line of scrimmage and that’s why we scored 31 points last week.”
The offensive line, for the time being, will continue to protect Skon, who is expected to make his third start as quarterback this Saturday against the Mountain Hawks, with both senior Isaiah Kempf and junior Aaron Aiken still sidelined by injuries.
Defensively, though, the Hoyas have been plagued by inconsistency in their last two outings, giving up an average of 37.5 points per game.
“Defensively, at times we play well, but then there were times that we didn’t,” Coach Kelly said. “I always feel like if we score 31 [points], we should keep them under 31.”
Amidst the defense’s struggles, McCabe’s play individually has been spectacular. He had 15 tackles versus Fordham, and currently leads all players in the Football Championship Subdivision in total tackles with 83, which translates to 13.83 per game.
McCabe, however, was quick to divert the attention away from himself.
“As a defense we pride ourselves in being fast and running to the ball, getting eleven maniacs to the ball. That’s just what I’m trying to do,” McCabe said. “I’m doing my role in the defense. And if that means making 15 tackles in a game, I’m going to do that. But as a defense, each person has to do their role on the team. We’ve been doing that at times, but we’ve got to be more consistent in order to put a complete game on the field.”
When the Hoyas face off against visiting Lehigh this weekend, Coach Kelly sees no reason why excitement shouldn’t be at its all-time peak.
“They’re nationally ranked, they’re undefeated, it’s our first Patriot League game, it’s home. For a lot of reasons, our guys are very excited about playing.”