It’s a situation that neither the Georgetown Hoyas or the Lehigh Mountain Hawks usually find themselves in Patriot League play.
The Mountain Hawks, at 1-5 with a resounding 43-14 conference loss last week, desperately need a win against Georgetown to avoid a second consecutive losing record and to stay alive in the Patriot League title race. Lehigh has done themselves no favors, with two demoralizing losses by more than three touchdowns in consecutive weeks.
But the Hoyas, who have already beaten Fordham and Lafayette, need a win to stay in contention for the Patriot League title – a win over Lehigh would not only be their first against the Mountain Hawks since joining the Patriot League in 2001, it would also put them in a tie atop the Patriot League with Colgate with a 3-0 league record.
Electric vs. Fizzle
Georgetown’s defense has shut down opponents comeback attempts in consecutive weeks.
“The mood right now is electric,” defensive back Jethro Francois said after the Hoyas’ 23-11 win over Fordham, Georgetown’s first Patriot League win since 2015. “We are so happy to have this one, but we are focused on getting more wins.”
Lehigh’s current team mood couldn’t be more different than Georgetown’s. Last week, allowing big plays on defense, and turning over the ball in the red zone multiple times, were killers to Mountain Hawk team morale.
“We haven’t done the little things right,” senior DE Harrison Kauffman said after last week’s loss. “Once the little things start to go wrong, the other team starts to score, and from a defensive perspective it’s easy to let ourselves get down. We’ve been working a lot on being resilient, and fighting, but towards the end of the game, we stopped.”
Contrast that to Georgetown, who forced three interceptions against Lafayette, including one that set up a short field for QB Gunther Johnson and the Hoya offense to punch in the first of his two touchdown runs of the evening, holding up for a 13-6 win over the Leopards.
“All the defensive success today started in practice,” Francois said two weeks ago. “We emphasized communication. We needed to make the right calls and work as a team. “If we are all on the same page, we are going to be successful.”
As Lehigh was giving up the fight last week, Georgetown kept fighting, jumping to a 13-0 lead against Lafayette and making it hold up, nabbing their final interception to stop the Leopards’ last-gasp attempt to force overtime.
“The stats don’t tell the story of this game. Our kids just kept coming after it,” Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata said after last week’s win. “We talked about winning your one-on-one battle. I think they did a great job of dealing with adversity today.”
Lehigh knows they need to do better dealing with their own adversity.
“When another team makes a good play, we have to show up and throw a punch back a bit better than we have,” Kauffman said after last week’s loss to Fordham. “I think it comes down to us re-focusing on those little things again. I think the issue is ownership. Everyone needs to think ‘I need to do my job the best that I can.’ If we can do that and not be beaten down, we’re going to be a pretty tough defense.”
Historically in this series, it’s Lehigh that comes in with the large amount of confidence and the Hoyas who have to find a way to punch up to try to win.
Georgetown’s last win in this series came in 1925, a 40-0 drubbing back when the Hoyas were considered one of the top teams in Eastern football and Lehigh was in the middle of one of their worst stretches ever.
But since 2001, Lehigh has dominated Georgetown, winning every single contest in the series since the Hoyas joined the Patriot League as an associate member.
It’s Lehigh fans’ hope is that recent history repeats in several ways.
They would be quite relieved to see a repeat of last year’s 54-35 win at Murray Goodman stadium, where Lehigh QB Brad Mayes went 31 for 40 with 384 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, all of them going to the since-graduated WR Troy Pelletier.
There was also last year’s first road Patriot League game at Colgate, too.
When last season’s Mountain Hawks started the year 0-5, many pundits wrote off Lehigh’s season as well – only to have to count them right back into the hunt after a shocking trip to Hamilton, New York, where the Mountain Hawks put up a stunning come from behind 41-38 win over Colgate.
In that game, RB Dominick Bragalone earned over 200 all-purpose yards, and scored two touchdowns, and Mayes found Pelletier for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.
So despite the current despair, this team knows that they have done it before – come back into the Patriot League title hunt when everyone else except themselves were counting them out.
“Georgetown’s going to be a tough game,” Kauffman said. “We’re not out of it. We still have a bunch of games to win. We need to refocus this team, and the goals we have set are still available.”