Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lafayette FB: A QB shakeup, scouting the Hoyas

I admit to getting a bit nit-picky. One of my favorite targets is the depth chart released by Lafayette football coach John Garrett.

I have come to accept the fact that the two-deep list that usually comes with sports information director Phil LaBella’s weekly game notes may not be an accurate indication of who will or won’t play in that week’s game. Garrett is super protective of information concerning injuries.

Last week was the worst. The notes for the Leopards’ game with Princeton came with no depth chart page. To compound the dilemma, Princeton Coach Bob Surace also provided no two-deep for the Tigers. Garrett and Surace are long-time friends, so I don’t know if they were playing some kind of mind game before the undefeated Tigers and the winless Leopards met last Friday night.

When I arrived at the weekly media luncheon on Tuesday, the first thing I wanted to see was whether Garrett would again be withholding information, fearful, perhaps, that he was giving Georgetown Coach Rob Sgarlata some secrets in advance of Saturday’s game in Washington.

I’m happy to say depth charts for both the Hoyas and the Leopards were handed out. I immediately began looking for names of previously injured players who might be making a return for what Garrett would say “almost feels like a second season” consisting of all six Patriot League contests.

(NOTE: I’m not going to address the “almost” remark, except to say that if what’s about to begin this week doesn’t feel “exactly” like a second season, the next six Saturdays won’t be much fun for Leopard fans. No one should be happier than the Leopards to have a clean slate and something to play for.)

But the thing that stood out to me this week was not that offensive linemen Alex Barshaba and Taron Hampton, or defensive linemen Harrison Greenhill, Ian Grayson or Colin Hurlbrink, or defensive back Tre Jordan or tight end Jake Taggart – none of whom has played for weeks – finally would be back.

What stood out was that Garrett’s No. 3 quarterback was sophomore Shane Davis. Is Coach Garrett telling us the competition didn't end back there in Game 2, when Keegan Shoemaker was named the starter over C0le Northrup?

Here I've thought all along that junior Northrup had been giving freshman Shoemaker a run for his money. And  what about sophomore Troy Fisher, the former Pittsburgh CCHS star who has yet to get on the field despite some impressive reviews. Or junior Reed Aichholz and freshman John Paci.  Back of the seven-QB pack, all of them. Shane Davis is moving up.

(Note: The whole Lafayette-Garrett QB situation has been baffling to me ever since the then new head coach brought in four of them in 2017, giving him eight for the start of summer practice. But it became even more befuddling when I heard Penn State football coach James Franklin say on his weekly Thursday night radio program that “We’re taking all four quarterbacks to Iowa.” With all those available scholarships, Franklin has only four QBs? How does he sleep at night with such a shortage?)

During the question-and-answer portion of the luncheon Tuesday, I asked Coach Garrett how Davis suddenly leaped over several other contenders and onto the “podium” with Shoemaker and two-year starter Sean O’Malley, now serving as the Lafayette holder for field goals and extra points. I should have known what was coming.

“Well, every decision we make as far as personnel is based on what we see on the field,” Garrett said. I supposed that comment was meant to put me in my place. Hadn’t he given me the same answer many other times?

“Since Shane Davis has been here, he has been very serious-minded and has prepared. And every opportunity he has gotten, he has proved to us that he can be counted on, that he is learning the offense and what to do and how to run the team. Based on his play he has earned that position.”

Coach made no comment about any of his quarterbacks being unable to play, but I heard from the grapevine that Northrup may have some kind of knee problem that would require surgery. I emailed LaBella and asked if he was aware of that. He responded that, indeed, Northrup already had his knee worked on but that he learned it only on Tuesday. “Cole is recovering and doing well and is out indefinitely but has not been ruled out for the rest of the season,” Phil wrote.

I wish Coach Garrett could have shared that. I admit that I also wonder now if others on the injured list I mentioned earlier also might be in the same position. What I do know is Hampton hasn’t played in any games; Greenhill and Grayson have played in just two; Barshaba, Tre Jordan and Hurlbrink have played in three and Taggart has been in four. Demetrius Breedlove saw is first action last week but I’m not sure whether it was on offense, defense or special teams.

During the conference I asked Coach Garrett for three keys to defeating a Georgetown team that is 4-2 and, if nothing else, has learned how to win. Some people might argue that point because last week, in their league opener against Fordham, the Hoyas took a four-point lead in the fourth quarter and then intercepted a Rams pass to get the ball with just 2:57 left. They moved to the Fordham 26, where they could have attempted a field goal. Instead, they went for a 4th-and-2 and were stuffed.

Fordham, with just 1:21 left, took advantage of the Hoyas’ prevent defense and completed passes of 11, 20 and 25 yards to get to the G-town 17. Three incomplete passes followed, but on fourth down, Tim DeMorat hit Kokosioulis for a touchdown and a 30-27 stunner.

So, does that mean the Hoyas will be deflated – or fired up – this week?

“First of all, it’s always about us, not about them,” Garrett said Tuesday. “We’re only concerned about how we play. That’s the biggest thing. We need to be able to play explosively on offense and also eliminate the things that cause us to lose. Reduce penalties, don’t turn the ball over. They have been very advantageous and opportunistic with turnovers. They’ve gotten a lot of turnovers. In their win against Columbia, Columbia turned it over five times. I can’t remember the last time someone has lost when they got five turnovers. They take advantage of those. (NOTE: Hoyas turned two TOs into TDs) That’s the biggest thing. We need to be explosive and generate big plays on offense and eliminate errors. And then defensively, what we need to do is prevent those explosive plays. They have some real threats on offense. And then tackle the running back so he doesn’t have long runs and then get off the field on third down and then create those turnovers, which gives us an opportunity to score in advantageous position.”

For the record, according to the NCAA FCS stats, Georgetown is tied for sixth in the country in turnover margin – at +7 – compared to Lafayette, which is tied for 106th – at -5. The Hoyas had intercepted nine passes; the Leopard, only two.  And here are a couple of other statistical comparisons between the two teams based on their rankings in the Patriot League.


                                                HOYAS                     'PARDS
Scoring Offense                1st, 32.8 ppg            3rd, 18.7 ppg
Scoring Defense               1st, 13.0 ppg             5th, 33.7 ppg
Rushing Offense              1st, 179.5 ypg         5th, 88.5 ypg
Passing Offense                6th, 199.0 ypg         1st, 257.8 yp
Rushing Defense              2nd, 123.7 ypg         7th, 207.5 ypg
Total Defense                    1st, 276.7 ypg          5th, 445.8 ypg
Total Offense                     1st, 378.5 ypg          3rd, 346.3 ypg
3rd-down Offense             1st, 29-70-41.4%     6th, 25-86-29.1%
3rd-down Defense            1st, 32-90-35.6%    7th, 42-87-48.3%

Linebacker Ryan Dickens was one of the player guests at the Tuesday luncheon, and he may have had the perfect analysis of the Leopards’ position.

“They’ve won and they’ve proven they can win,” Dickens said of Georgetown. “Watching film, they’re a good team … We’re not taking any opponent differently. They came in here last year and they moved the ball and scored points on us. It left a pretty sour taste in our mouths and we’re really excited to get back at them. We have no reason to be confident in anything because we played better teams. We haven’t won a game. That’s the big mindset … We’re unproven and that’s good for us because it gets us going. We’re excited for that … we’re not looking over them to any other team. We’re focused on just Georgetown.

Because I made that bold prediction about the Leopards winning the league title, I decided while doing the capsule for Saturday's Morning Call that I had to pick the Leopards. So, guys, you have to work harder than ever for me tomorrow. Leopards 17-13.



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