BETHLEHEM, PA – All indications out of Bethlehem this week are that the Mountain Hawks have put the 45-17 loss to Villanova behind them, and they are confident in their ability to come out with a critical Patriot League win this weekend in the District, thanks to some bright moments in that game.
“Putting that [points and yardage] up on the No. 5 team in the nation definitely feels good,” TE Alex Snyder said this week on WFMZ 69 Sports. “The offensive coordinators feel good, offensive coaches are feeling good, and especially the players. We know we can do more and we’re going to do that this weekend.”
Compared to last season, when the offense struggled mightily to score in the first five weeks of the year, the offense has every right to be confident.
But despite the fact it’s only the second game of the season, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this game to establish either Lehigh (0-0, 0-1) or Georgetown (0-0, 1-0) as Patriot League contenders in 2022.
It means that there is not much about this trip to the District that will seem familiar – for anyone.
It’s almost unheard of for Lehigh to have the pressure of a game in league play this early in the season. The last time Lehigh played a conference game this early in September was in 2003, when the Mountain Hawks played Holy Cross and Fordham the first two weeks of the year (both wins) and finished with an 8-3 record.
“Our coach always says ‘one out of six championship games, every one counts the same,'” DB Spencer Roof said. “so we’re looking to dominate as always. Looking to hold down the run, and defend the pass well.”
The start time of the game is unusual, too – 5:00 PM Eastern, the latest kickoff time currently on the Lehigh football schedule.
Lehigh will travel well to Georgetown, and bring a very good number of fans – they always do – but they won’t have the familiar sounds of the Marching 97’s travel band there, either, because Georgetown didn’t allow them to come to their stadium dedication this weekend.
Lehigh head coach Tom Gilmore has two head coaching victories over Georgetown since taking over in 2019. But in an interesting twist of fate, Lehigh has not played Georgetown in Washington, DC since Gilmore became the Mountain Hawks’ head coach, thanks to COVID and Georgetown’s decision to not play football in the 2021 spring season.
What’s also interesting is that the last time Lehigh played at Georgetown, it was in 2018 in Andy Coen‘s final year as head coach- and the site of a double-overtime 22-16 loss to the Hoyas. It so happened to be the only loss the Mountain Hawks ever had to Georgetown in Patriot League history.
That means, if you look at the record books, Georgetown has only one Patriot League victory over Lehigh – yet the Mountain Hawks also haven’t beaten the Hoyas in the District since 2016.
All of this adds up to a strange dynamic for the Mountain Hawks in Week Two of the 2022 football season.
One thing’s for sure: Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata is quite aware of the importance of this game.
Head coach Tom Gilmore, too, has no illusions about Georgetown this week, either.
“From what we’ve seen so far, they’re a talented team that can score points,” he said. “and they do a lot of different things on defense to throw the kitchen sink at you. We’re going to have to be very disciplined on defense.”
Although Lehighlost to the No. 5 team in the country, they still do travel to Georgetown coming off of a loss, trying to re-discover the winning mojo from the end of the last season. They will be playing a critical league game much earlier in the schedule than any of them have ever experienced, at a much later time of day than most of them have experienced, doing so at a field almost all of them have never played on — a site where Lehigh hasn’t won in six years.
LFN’s Drink of the Week
It’s time for an old favorite – the easy-to-make, hard-to-screw-up Hoya Cocktail. You can find the recipe here.
LFN’s Tailgate Dish of the Week
I do not get paid to endorse things on this site, but when my family and I have gone to the District, we have made a special trip to go to a Greek restaurant we found in nearby Alexandria, Virginia called Vaso’s Mediterranean Bistro. We found it to be incredibly great food with excellent service. (My wife and her family descends from the Greeks, and it passed her taste test.)
It was that in mind that I decided to make the Tailgate Dish of the week keftedes, or Greek meatballs. The beautiful thing about keftedes for tailgating is that they’re pretty simple to make, they can be made the night before, they can put in a crockpot with some red sauce, and are perfect for meatball sandwiches, maybe in a homemade sourdough pita, or maybe even on a plate with some spanakopita squares and a yogurt dipping sauce. You can find the recipe here.
Lehigh Game Notes and Injury Report
Lehigh’s game notes reveal that the freshmen OL that had a very good game against Villanova’s defensive front will be staring again this week, OL Aidan Palmer and OL Langston Jones. They’ll line up against a starting Georgetown defensive line who average about 10 lbs less across the board than the Wildcats.
Another missing name off the depth chart is LB Liam McIntyre, who was injured during the Villanova game and didn’t return. In his place is LB Mike DeNucci, who had 4 tackles and a 1/2 TFL last week against the Wildcats. Junior LB Tim Bell backs up DeNucci.
One of the nice things about last week’s Friday game is that it allowed me to do some scouting of Georgetown, as they played Marist the following day and the game was available on ESPN+, which I have. With the important caveat that I don’t know exactly how good Marist will be by the end of the season, what was visible on their game film was that they looked quite good.
The first thing that pops out about the Hoyas is that they have a very veteran offense, with eight seniors or 5th years in the starting lineup (with the number going up to 9 if you count both running backs).
Their offensive line is quite big, something the Hoyas used very much to their advantage when running roughshod over Marist to the tune of 224 yards and 4 TD. RB Joshua Stakely, at 6’0, 225, provided the bulk of that rushing yardage with 123 of them and 2 TDs, with RB Herman Moultrie III more than ably providing a chance-of-pace and an improved receiving threat when he was in the game.
I was also impressed with QB Pierce Holley, whose QB rating of 153.0 demonstrated how poised and efficient he was when called upon to pass the ball. He didn’t stretch the field that much vs. Marist, but with 2 blocked punts and an early lead, Georgetown didn’t really need to, with WR Joshua Thomas and WR Cameron Crayton as his top targets last week.
LB Justin Fonteneaux didn’t get credited with a tackle last week, but don’t count on him being silent this week at home vs. Lehigh. The heart and soul of the Georgetown defense, listed at middle linebacker, he had 87 tackles last year for the Hoyas and had 17 tackles against Columbia alone. Last week’s defensive effort was a team one across the board, with no player notching more than 5 tackles – but more importantly they forced 4 turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble, to go along with two blocked punts.
LFN’s Keys to the Game
- Building Blocks. It’s true – there were some great building blocks from last week developed some positive “muscle memory” for Lehigh to go into this week. The trick is going to be to develop on the positives, while cleaning up the mistakes that doomed Lehigh to not be in the running to win against Villanova. If they demonstrate that they’ve cleaned up most of their issues, I like their chances.
- Ground And Pound. The confidence of the offense is reassuring, and the way to probably build off that confidence is to lean a bit more on the offensive line and see if they can carve out another big rushing day for Lehigh’s deep rotation of running backs. If Lehigh has more than 200 yards rushing against the Hoyas, again, I like their chances.
- Turnover Ratio. It can’t be emphasized enough how turnovers and blocked kicks played a role in Georgetown’s big win last week, and unquestionably they will be coming into the game defensively with confidence, knowing they can force turnovers. It’s the defense’s job to match, or better, the number of turnovers – if they get more turnovers and special teams plays than Georgetown, again, I like their chances.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about football, it’s that it thrives on routine – the same kickoff times, the same general gist of schedule, the same schedule week to week. Nothing about this Georgetown game screams “routine”, which, frankly, makes me nervous.
This isn’t the same outmatched Georgetown team from the early 2000s, when Lehigh was a nationally-ranked powerhouse nobody wanted to play and Georgetown was one step up from the non-scholarship MAAC. The Mountain Hawks are a different team, now, trying to find their way back to being Patriot League title contenders and FCS Playoff participants, just like in the early aughts.
You might also think me crazy for mentioning this, but don’t underestimate the “mojo factor” – Lehigh’s last trip to what will be officially christened Cooper Field was not only a loss, it was an extremely rough double-overtime loss that in many ways signaled the fact that Lehigh had a very long way to go before being considered serious title contenders in the future.
To me, this points to a game that could be close. Lehigh, for so many years, has been the gold standard to which Georgetown measured itself in the Patriot League. Their games against the Mountain Hawks have been their Super Bowl, and I think they will indeed throw everything and the kitchen sink in this game. Lehigh had better be ready.
Lehigh 30, Georgetown 27
Listen to my Twitter Space, where I talk about last week’s game and this week’s matchup, below.
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
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