In a cold and rainy matchup at Cooper Field on Saturday, the Georgetown University football team (3-2, Patriot League) lost to Princeton University (3-1, 1-0 Ivy League) by a score of 31-17.
The game started out fairly positive for the Hoyas, especially on special teams. Princeton drove down the field on their opening drive and attempted a field goal, but the Blue & Gray forced a miss to keep the game scoreless. On the next Princeton drive, the Tigers attempted another field goal, but this time senior defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick was able to block it (his third block of the season), and junior defensive back Jelani Williamson recovered the ball and ran it back for a touchdown, giving the Hoyas a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers responded in turn with 21 unanswered points due to some sloppy turnovers by both teams. Senior Hoya wide receiver Justin Hill fumbled the ball over the middle, giving Princeton a short field to work with, but senior Tiger quarterback gave the ball right back to Georgetown after throwing an interception in the end zone to Williamson. Just three plays later, Georgetown sophomore quarterback Clay Norris made an ill-advised throw of his own, and Princeton came up with an interception that led to their second touchdown, making it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. From that point on, the Tigers maintained at least a touchdown lead over the Hoyas en route to their 31-17 victory.
The weather appeared to be a factor in causing so many turnovers. It rained consistently throughout the game, and there were six total turnovers (five for Georgetown and one for Princeton). However, Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata was quick to assert that the weather was no excuse for his team’s play on Saturday.
“[The weather] didn’t change what we were doing very much,” Sgarlata pointed out. “It’s not something you can blame. We haven’t turned the ball over five times in a game in a long time.”
In addition to turnovers, penalties plagued the Hoyas for much of the game, especially in key situations. Georgetown finished with 12 total penalties for 132 yards, in comparison to Princeton, which had 5 penalties for just 49 yards. Late in the third quarter, in what was a crucial drive for the Hoyas, an illegal motion penalty stalled the momentum for Georgetown, and the drive ended in a field goal, bringing the score to 31-17. It was the last scoring drive of the game for both teams.
“The penalties and the unforced errors have to be cleaned up if we want to be a good football team,” Sgarlata emphasized. “We let one get away. That’s a good football team, but I’d like to lace up the cleats and play them again right now.”
The Hoyas were also without starting senior quarterback Tim Barnes, so sophomore Clay Norris had to step up for his first start of the season. Norris struggled early on with the interception in the first quarter but improved as the game went on, finishing with 13 completions on 26 attempts for 106 yards and one interception.
“I think, offensively especially, we have to play better,” Norris said. “We can’t turn the ball over five times. Personally, I have to play better. I can’t make the mistakes I made.”
As mentioned earlier, special teams play was one of the few positives for Georgetown in this game. Princeton went one of five on field goal attempts, as the Hoyas forced three misses and blocked one attempt and returned it for a touchdown. While their strong play was not enough to push the Blue & Gray to victory, this game had an added emotional element for the special teams unit. After Jelani Williamson returned the field goal block for a touchdown, he ran to the sideline and gave the ball to senior linebacker Ty Williams. Williams, who suffered a severe neck injury last year against St. Francis (Pa.), has remained an integral part of this football team in terms of morale.
“I think having Ty around the team makes getting up every day easier,” Williamson said. “I think having Ty around the team makes playing 99 plays easier. I think scoring and giving the ball to Ty makes everything easier. Everyone on our team is blessed to be able to play this game. Because one of our own can’t, it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to play this game well.”
The Hoyas will look to bounce back from this loss next Saturday, as they begin their conference stretch of games against Lehigh University (4-2, 1-0 Patriot League). Kickoff is slated for 2:00pm at Cooper Field.