The Georgetown football team (5-6, 4-2 Patriot League) finished off its season Saturday afternoon at Cooper Field in heartbreaking fashion, losing 32-31 to Holy Cross (5-6, 4-2 Patriot League). The Hoyas led by as much as 26 in the second half, but after a late swing in momentum, the Crusaders came back and took the lead in the final minute. With a huge lead and a chance to finish their season with a winning record for the first time since 2011, the Hoyas failed to execute in the second half, particularly on special teams where they had two punts blocked and returned for touchdowns.
On the first play of the game, head coach Rob Sgarlata went aggressive, calling for an onside kick that the Crusaders failed to recover. Georgetown took over at the Holy Cross 41-yard line in excellent field position for an offense that has struggled this season. For Sgarlata, it was a decision made with confidence.
“It was a challenge to the team,” he said. “We were trying to steal a possession. We knew that they could score some points offensively and it just turned out to be something that we said, ‘We’re not playing this game not to lose it, but we’re playing to win in the Patriot League.’ So, we figured we’d open with it and then put it on our defense’s back if we weren’t successful.”
After long runs by freshman wide receiver Josh Tomas and junior quarterback Gunther Johnson, the Hoyas got down to the Holy Cross two-yard line. On the next play, Johnson punched it in and after the extra point, the Hoyas had a 7-0 lead early on.
The next three possessions, neither team progressed to the opponent’s side of the field, but nine minutes into the game, the Crusaders would get on the board. After going three-and-out, junior punter Cody Wilkinson nailed a perfect punt which was downed at the Georgetown one-yard line. The first play of Georgetown’s drive, Johnson kept the ball and was taken down in the end zone for a safety.
On the ensuing kickoff, freshman wide receiver Spencer Gilliam had a huge return, taking the ball all the way to the Georgetown two-yard line before being brought down by junior cornerback Jalen Goldwire. Georgetown’s defense held strong on the goal line and did not allow any positive yardage on three straight run plays. The Crusaders settled for a field goal. Sgarlata loved the way his defense held firm with their backs against the wall.
“We had the return down to the four-yard line, or whatever it was, and our defense comes out and just plays,” he said. “It’s what I love about those guys. You just put the ball down. They don’t care where it is. They’re going to keep swinging at you.”
Early in the second quarter, the Hoyas started at their 22-yard line and reached their 48 after a couple of penalties on Holy Cross. On first-and-ten, Johnson found sophomore wide receiver Max Edwards over the middle. The Crusaders thought they brought him down, but there was no whistle, and Edwards sprinted into the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown.
The next possession, Holy Cross senior quarterback Geoff Wade threw his second interception of the game, and this time it was returned for a touchdown by senior cornerback Ramon Lyons after sophomore safety Ahmad Wilson picked it off and pitched it to him.
Late in the second half, Georgetown recovered a fumble and started another drive off with a long run from Tomas. Sgarlata relied on the speedy wide out as a runner throughout the game, and he finished with 46 yards.
“Josh is a talented kid,” Sgarlata said. “Josh is an explosive kid and every time he can touch the ball, it can turn into a big play.”
That drive would end with a field goal to put Georgetown on top, 24-5, going into halftime.
On the first Holy Cross drive of the second half, things got even worse for the Crusaders, as Wade threw another pick-six, this time to sophomore linebacker Wes Bowers. However, late in the third quarter the momentum started to shift. On fourth down, in Georgetown territory, head coach Bob Chesney decided to go for it and Wade picked up the necessary yardage on the ground. Two plays later, Wade found his top receiver, senior Martin Dorsey, in the end zone and Dorsey stretched out to make a diving grab. Georgetown failed to do anything significant on offense, but still went into the fourth quarter with a healthy 19-point lead.
Early in the final period, the Hoyas lined up to punt the ball away, but the Crusaders blocked it, and Gilliam made another big play, returning it 38 yards for a Holy Cross touchdown. They went for two, but failed the conversion and the score was 31-18 with 14 minutes to go. Three drives later, the Hoyas still could not generate anything on offense and junior punter Brad Hurst was again sent out. The Crusaders again broke through the Georgetown shield and blocked the punt. This time, it was freshman running back Peter Oliver picking up the ball and taking it back for a Holy Cross touchdown. With over nine minutes remaining, the Crusaders had brought it back within six.
“That’s on us,” Sgarlata said. “They block punts all year. I think they’ve had six on the year. We knew that they would come. We had a couple different things in. It’s no excuse. We had two kids that were in the shield that were hurt. So, we had their backups in, but it’s no excuse. We should be prepared and get the ball out.”
On the Crusaders’ next offensive possession, they got the ball to the Georgetown 12-yard line, but Wade was sacked and stripped, and sophomore defensive tackle Duval Paul was there to recover. Despite increased urgency, the Hoyas still could not do much on offense and were eventually forced to punt it away. Back on offense, Wade found Dorsey on third down for a 19-yard completion into Georgetown territory. A sack by sophomore linebacker Owen Kessler set Holy Cross back 10 yards, but Wade was finally finding success in the passing game after throwing four interceptions on the afternoon. On third-and-fifteen, Wade connected with sophomore receiver Tenio Ayeni for a 30-yard completion. Three plays later, Wade was looking for Dorsey in the end zone and Goldwire was flagged for pass interference. At the Georgetown two-yard line, junior tailback Miles Alexander got across the goal line. After the extra point, the Crusaders took their first lead of the game with 42 seconds remaining. On Georgetown’s final offensive possession, Johnson threw an interception to end the game.
“Give them credit,” Sgarlata said of Holy Cross. “They didn’t quit and their kids played extremely hard. And they made plays at the end when they had to to win the game.”
Wade finished with 280 yards passing, four interceptions, and one touchdown. Johnson had 80 yards in the air, and threw for one touchdown and one pick.
This concludes Georgetown’s 2018 football season. The Hoyas finished 5-6 overall, and 4-2 in the Patriot League. For continuing coverage of Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.