New-look Georgetown football looks to build a winning culture

September 23, 2023

Photo by Daniel Rankin. Design by Athanasios Basiakos.

The Hoyas started off the season strong with two dominant home wins, already equaling last season’s win total. However, they stumbled in a 23-20 loss to Stonehill, a team only in its second season at the Division I FCS level. But Georgetown football has a young, tight-knit group of players hungry to prove themselves this year after a dismal previous season.

Last year, Georgetown went 2-9 and did not win a single home game. The Hoyas finished last in the Patriot League, with just one conference win. However, close losses to conference opponents Lehigh and Bucknell showed that the Hoyas had potential to perform better. Still, the team’s disappointing season has contributed to the team’s poor reputation on campus.

Heading into the offseason, 10th-year head coach Rob Sgarlata saw there had to be changes. He brought in a bevy of new players to populate this year’s roster, hoping to refresh the team after an unsuccessful 2022 season. Twenty-seven freshmen are listed on the roster, and four new transfers joined the team as well. These fresh faces add an exciting dimension to the team, according to sophomore cornerback Wedner Cadet.

“We have a lot of gems that are really going to help both the offense and defense and special teams excel,” he said in an interview with the Voice. “I wouldn’t say it’s changes, but it’s additions to the team that have helped us excel a lot in this offseason.”

Quarterback Pierce Holley spent the most time at quarterback for the Hoyas last year, but won’t be returning to Georgetown after transferring to Eastern Illinois University. As a result, the starting quarterback position will be filled by graduate student Tyler Knoop, who is the most experienced returning quarterback on the team. While Knoop got the nod to open the season, there are six quarterbacks on the roster, so fans might see other players under center this season. “It’s definitely a talented group, a very young group,” Knoop said. 

Fifth-year running back Joshua Stakely led the Hoyas on the ground last season and is returning for the 2023 campaign. In the first three games, Stakely has racked up 342 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Junior running back Naieem Kearney has split carries with Stakely, and he has totaled 252 yards up to this point. A strong start to the season from both players means Georgetown has a strong running game to rely on offensively.

Blocking for the running backs are more new faces, starting with their position coach Joey Partin. Partin—just one of the new position coaches added on the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary—was previously the graduate assistant offensive line coach at University of Memphis. On the composition of the offensive line room he inherited, Partin said, “They’re tough, they’re physical, and they’ve picked things up really quickly, which has given them an opportunity to help us, and we’re gonna need some of them to help us. I’m very, very happy with where those guys are at right now.”

On the defensive side, Cadet is one of the most exciting returners for the Hoyas. He had four interceptions (including a pick-six), one fumble recovery, and 35 tackles last season. His impressive freshman season led to his 2023 Patriot League Preseason All-League Team selection. 

The defensive back hopes to make a difference for the Hoyas. “For me personally, on the field, I kind of just want to be that guy, be someone the team looks to when we’re down or when we’re up,” Cadet said. The Hoyas are also hoping junior defensive lineman Ibri Harrell and sophomore defensive lineman Mateen Ibirogba will continue to be game changers on defense. 

With the changing roster, the Hoyas are also figuring out a new team chemistry. “I think that is something that separates this team [from years past],” Knoop said. “We’ve always had the talent, but it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together, and I think that begins with getting to know each other and having a good environment.” 

Cadet has similar feelings. “I think that’s been [Sgarlata’s] emphasis this offseason—bringing everyone together and helping people understand each other more, because ultimately when we’re out there on the field, it’s just us and we have to have each other’s backs,” he said. 

But, perhaps unlike years prior, the team is feeling more cohesive than ever. “We’re a tight team. Not only is each position group pretty strong as a family, but the team is connected, and I think that’s gonna show in the way that we play. We may not be perfect in everything that we do, but we’re gonna stick together through thick and thin,” Partin added.

Coming into the season, the Hoyas looked to be in position to secure the program’s first home win since 2019 in the season opener against the Marist Foxes. The magnitude of the moment was not lost on Knoop, who said he was excited to have a chance to lead the Hoyas to victory. “Enjoying the moment is definitely the biggest thing. We definitely don’t want to look at last year and think it will be a walkover situation or anything like that, definitely don’t want to underestimate any opponent.”

While a walkover may not have been what Knoop was expecting, it is certainly what happened. The Hoyas opened the season with a 49-7 blowout win over the Foxes. Then, they doubled down and won again the next week, defending Cooper Field against Sacred Heart. The team has been led foremost by strong play on the ground, averaging over 200 yards per game, and Knoop at quarterback has yet to throw an interception, despite accounting for seven touchdowns in three games. While the loss to Stonehill showed that the Hoyas are by no means unbeatable, new faces and strong team cohesion mean that Georgetown football has laid the foundation for an impressive turnaround.

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It has reached a point in GU football, why? Is it just a step up from intramurals. Is the goal to just have a team on the field ? Losses and wins are irrelevant? This year they finish at Holy Cross in Worcester. Issue is why is Holy Cross winning and GU just mainly getting killed? Yes, a few wins this year but head coach in his tenth year of what. I strain to write competitive.
Does the administration care at all? What is the Win – loss record these past ten years? Does anyone care?
Frederic N.Halstrom, C’67, football 1965,1966. Running back and CB.