BETHLEHEM, PA – It is the type of game only real fans understand.
Nationally, the focus in FCS fan land is on matchups that involve the final positioning in the FCS Playoffs. The talk is of North Dakota State, James Madison, and teams that are on the bubble or off the bubble trying to get in.
But in Bethlehem, in a battle between Georgetown (2-6, 1-4) and Lehigh (1-8, 1-3), the focus is on two rebuilding teams – two teams with history – who are trying to finish on a high note and springboard into the offseason positively.
The Lehigh/Georgetown series started in 1901 – oddly enough, as part of a Thanksgiving event after the second Lehigh/Lafayette game, with a joint concert on Wednesday November 21st, and a 3,000 fan strong football game the following afternoon on Thanksgiving November 22nd.
The Hoyas and Brown and White would occasionally meet over the next two decades, but as Georgetown took off and became a team with national implications, Lehigh instead instituted very tough academic requirements (compared to other schools at the time) for athletes to qualify to play on the football team. As a result, in the 1920s, Lehigh football lost a lot of football games, and there was no need to continue the series with the Hoyas.
Georgetown would drop “big time” college football in 1950, but would re-institute club football in the mid-1960s and eventually transition to fielding a D-III football team in 1973. When the “Dayton Rule” came into effect in 1993, the Hoya football program found itself in non-scholarship I-AA football in the MAAC playing against similar schools like Marist and St. John’s, who wanted to have non-scholarship football teams but also compete for championships in NCAA Men’s Basketball.
As the MAAC started to wither, Georgetown announced a move to the Patriot League in 2000, aligning themselves with the academic principles of the Patriot League, eager to remain “non-scholarship” but also be able to play the Ivy League on a regular basis as well. This is how the Hoyas came to be members, and this year marks their 20th in the Patriot League.
Yet even from the outset it was very clear that Georgetown was going to have a huge challenge competing for Patriot League championships, perhaps no better personified than Lehigh’s 69-0 shellacking of Georgetown in the Hoyas’ first visit to Murray Goodman stadium in 2002. The Mountain Hawks, who admittedly were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time, just thoroughly dominated Georgetown in every facet – Georgetown gained under 100 total yards of offense, while RB Jermaine Pugh had 73 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns – on nine carries.
Since joining the Patriot League, Lehigh had dominated Georgetown for the better part of two decades – but the gap has narrowed considerably. In 2018, the Hoyas took Lehigh to double OT to finally get the monkey off their backs 22-16, and took Lehigh to the limit in 2019 in a narrow 27-24 defeat.
What the 20 year stretch has done for Lehigh and Georgetown is establish a sort-of rivalry between the two schools. For many years, Lehigh was Georgetown’s Moby Dick to the Hoya’s Captain Ahab. Now Georgetown has built their program into something better than it was 20 years ago, yet Georgetown lately has made the game against Lehigh their Super Bowl – still very much a measuring stick game.
The game is taking place at Murray Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, and kickoff is at noon. If you can’t make it to Bethlehem, it is going to be streamed on ESPN+ with Corey Spector and Lance Haynes calling the game. The Lehigh radio call will be available on Fox Sports Radio 1230/1320 AM and 94.7 FM Allentown, with Matt Kerr, Jim Guzzo and Tom Fallon on the call (and also available on LVFoxSports.com).
LFN’s Drink of the Week
The weather is getting colder, and as the initial weather report tells us, potentially rainy. For a colder, rainy tailgate, the perfect companion is hot buttery brandy with the perfect blend of fall spices that can confuse you, for a minute, if you close your eyes, that you’re drinking hot cider.
This recipe was a winner in our house this weekend:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 Tbsps light brown soft sugar
- 1 tsp salted butter
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 clove
- 2 drops vanilla extract
- 1 cup brandy
- Place the water, sugar, butter and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer on low heat.
- Stir to dissolve and mix the butter and simmer for 1 minute.
- Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Divide the hot water mix into two brandy glasses or any glass of your choice.
- Top with half the brandy in each glass.
- Stir to mix and serve immediately.
LFN’s Drinks of the Week are meant to be enjoyed in responsible tailgates, meaning everyone is over 21, nobody is driving while impaired or under the influence, and Ubers are lined up if necessary. Only enjoy these things responsibly.
TBD, but no significant ones that I’m aware of from last week’s game.
In many of Georgetown’s struggle years against Lehigh, they were a study in contrasts to the Mountain Hawks in that they usually, compared to Lehigh’s powerful offensive squads, they would field offenses that would struggle to score points. This year, however, they have consistently put up some solid offensive numbers, most notably against Ivy League title contender Columbia (24 points), Lafayette (23), and Colgate (21).
They’ve done so with a veteran passing game with some stars: WR Joshua Tomas (600 yards receiving, 3 TDs), WR Cameron Crayton (564 yards, 2 TDs) and QB Joseph Brunell, son of former Jacksonville Jaguar QB Mark Brunell (last week, 197 yards passing, 1 TD). This veteran trio has done the most with the offense as the Hoyas have struggled to run the ball (averaging only 78.9 yards per game). If I were Georgetown head coach Rob Sgarlata, I wouldn’t hesitate to take some shots deep with this group – and if I’m Lehigh I’d be watching out for it.
On defense, LB Owen Kessler (5 1/2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and S Ahmad Wilson (61 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 INT) stand out. Against Lafayette a few weeks ago, the Hoyas played the Leopards very tough, holding the Leopards to 3 of 11 on 3rd down conversions and very nearly springing the upset after jumping to a 17-0 lead.
Interestingly, Georgetown is 0-4 at home and 2-2 on the road this season.
Keys for Lehigh
- No Secret Anymore. It’s a strange thing, but Lehigh’s victory explosion against Bucknell last week didn’t totally feel all that far off in retrospect – it followed a stretch of games that were losses, but also showed a team not all that far away from being a much better team. Against Penn, Fordham, and Holy Cross – all three games in doubt into the second half – it seemed like mistakes would creep in, and a disastrous play or two would undo all the good work. Last week, that cycle was finally broken – it’s no longer a secret how to win. The key is, now that the secret’s out, to improve and get even more complete. And with a bowl game and a game that has a chance to be a 16,000 fan sellout next week, it’s important that they do.
- Line Play. Last week saw the payoff for Lehigh’s offensive line, who allowed 3 different Lehigh running backs to amass 5 touchdowns. If Lehigh is to win again this week, they’ll need to do that again and get a solid rushing game going behind it.
- Peer Pressure. Lehigh’s front seven last week only technically was credited with one sack, but that didn’t really tell the whole story on how they harasses Bucknell’s QBs last week, forcing them to throw 3 interceptions. If they can get the chance to pin their ears back again, they need to continue to fully take advantage.
With the monkey off their backs, will Lehigh now get some wind behind their backs? Though it’s tempting to say “yes” right away against a team they have historically done well against, if this Lehigh team at all overlooks them they could absolutely lose, as Georgetown always sees this game as their bowl game, their Lehigh/Lafayette. It feels like they still need to clean things up in time for their bowl game against their big Rivals. Will they?
Lehigh 30, Georgetown 21
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.
Reach him at: this email or click below: