This Saturday, the Georgetown University football team (3-2, Patriot League) will host Lehigh University (4-2, 1-0 Patriot League) at Cooper Field. Kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m.
While Lehigh already has a win in Patriot League play and currently sits at the top of the standings, Georgetown has yet to play a conference game. Tomorrow’s matchup against the Mountain Hawks marks the first of six consecutive conference games which will take the Hoyas to the end of their 2016 season.
“When you get into the conference [games], this is what the kids play for,” Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata said. “We talk about winning the Patriot League Championship and getting a chance to go to the playoffs and extend our season and play as long as we can.”
As of right now, winning the Patriot League is likely the only way into the playoffs for this Georgetown squad. After starting out with three straight wins, the Hoyas have lost two straight to Harvard University (4-0, 2-0 Ivy League) and Princeton University (3-1, 1-0 Ivy League). These two out-of-conference losses make wins in the Patriot League that much more important for the Blue & Gray. While the team is certainly aware of what is at stake in conference play, they are not preparing for this game any differently than they have all season.
“We approach this game the same way we approach any other game,” junior defensive back Jelani Williamson emphasized. “It’s league play, so we know that these games mean a lot more, but our mindset is always to give up no points. If they don’t score, they can’t win.”
Despite the loss last Saturday against Princeton, Williamson had a standout defensive performance which earned him the award of Corvias Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week. In addition to recording his second interception of the season in the Princeton game, Williamson also recovered a blocked field goal and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown, giving Georgetown a 7-0 lead. He also picked up six tackles during the game, four of which were solo. On the season, Williamson has 26 total tackles (14 solo and 12 assisted) and an impressive two interceptions on just two passes defended. The Hoyas defense needs such standout play going forward in Patriot League play, especially against a team like Lehigh, which has averaged 49.75 points per game in their last four games, all of which were wins for the Mountain Hawks.
“I was really happy when I heard the news [about defensive player of the week],” Williamson said. “Football is the ultimate team game. My immediate reaction was to thank the big guys in front of me, and to thank the smart guys that tell us what to do on the sideline. But this doesn’t change anything. If we win, as a team, each one of us will get more individual awards.”
On the offensive side of the football, sophomore quarterback Clay Norris will make his second start of the season against Lehigh, after senior quarterback Tim Barnes was injured in the game against Harvard and is still day-to-day with an injury to his throwing arm. In Norris’ start last week against Princeton, he finished with 13 completions on 26 attempts for 106 yards with one interception, which was not enough to carry the team to victory against the Tigers. The Hoyas remain confident in their quarterback and aren’t changing anything about their play.
“Clay is definitely composed back there [in the pocket],” junior running back Alex Valles commented. “Even when he came in in the Harvard game right when Tim [Barnes] was knocked out of the game, he was very calm and composed, and we really rallied behind him.”
Both Norris and Valles will be key offensive factors this Saturday against Lehigh. As mentioned before, Lehigh, led by senior quarterback Nick Shafnisky, has a high-powered offense that can score quickly and consistently in every game they play. Shafnisky is coming off of his third straight game with 300 yards passing, and he also recorded a career-high five touchdown passes against Colgate last Saturday. The Hoya offense is likely going to have to match the quick scoring ability of Lehigh, and Alex Valles looks prepared to do just that. On the season, Valles is averaging 5.6 yards-per-carry on 53 attempts, and picked up his first rushing touchdown of the season against Princeton last week.
Overall, there is an atmosphere of excitement in the Hoya locker room as they enter conference play. The team knows it will be a challenge, but they’re prepared to meet their own expectations and contend for a Patriot League title.
“Lehigh is playing really well,” Sgarlata said. “We’re excited to be home, and we’re excited to open the season in the Patriot League and see how we stack up against one of the better teams.”
The game will be broadcast live on the Patriot League Network starting at 2:00pm. Follow the Voice sports section on Twitter (@GUVoiceSports) for live updates throughout the game.