October 1, 2007

Football Cages Hoyas, Runs Wild

Print More

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Georgetown moved from Division-III to Division I-AA in 1993. On Saturday, it showed.
The Red controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, running the ball to keep the offense in rhythm and pressuring Georgetown in the backfield to shut down the Hoyas’ shotgun option attack in the Red’s 45-7 victory.
Of the 3,184 people at Georgetown’s Multi-Sport Field, nearly half were red-clad fans cheering on Cornell.
“We wouldn’t have even filled our side if it wasn’t homecoming,” said one Georgetown graduate.
Senior tailback Luke Siwula had his second three-touchdown game of the season, rushing for 93 yards on 17 carries in just over three quarters of work. The defense racked up five sacks — nearly doubling its season total of seven — and eight tackles for a loss, making senior quarterback Matt Bassuener an impotent running threat. Head coach Jim Knowles ’87 pointed to the team’s confidence in itself despite a crushing 51-12 loss to Yale last week.
“You have to get into a rhythm and you have to believe in yourself,” he said. “You got to have confidence. If you miss one play you have to come right back and do it again. You’re going to make mistakes. When you get on the road, sometimes those mistakes magnify themselves. All of a sudden you get out of rhythm. [Last week] we got out of rhythm. [Today] we [made some mistakes], but we were always able to come back.”
While there were mistakes — junior quarterback Nathan Ford’s interception, nine penalties totaling 77 yards — they were few and far between. From the start, the Red stymied Georgetown’s misdirection offense. Bassuener, who had only seven carries less than the Hoyas’ top rusher (Kyle VanFleet), was tackled at the line of scrimmage repeatedly when he kept it himself. In the first quarter, he had a net total of one yard on five carries — with a long carry of 14 yards.
“I think our guys up front, we challenged them,” Knowles said. “We played very strongly against Bucknell and then last week [against Yale] we didn’t perform the techniques like we should have. We challenged them this week. And I love the way our front line responded. We were all over. we had a couple of really nice short yardage tackles.”
As a team, Georgetown had only 15 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter. Knowles, on the other hand, had vowed to establish his running game early, and that he did. The Red had eight ruses to only four passes in the first quarter — a distinct difference from the Yale contest.
“Something I look for is to get a little bit of a rhythm to be able to get adjusted to the defense,” Siwula said. “I think for our overall confidence as a team if we can establish the run early it’s a good way to establish everyone’s confidence.”
Part of the Red’s 66 first-quarter yards was a one-yard scamper for Siwula that put the team up 7-0 after 15 minutes of play.
While Siwula continued to move the chains in the second period, the Red took to the air in the red zone. Twice Ford went to the fade in the corner of the zone, and once went over the middle on a crossing rout. The first fade was the one that put points on the board, however. It was only his second career reception, but sophomore Nick Zerante pulled down a jump ball over a defender draped on him to make it 14-0.
The Red still maintained a more run-oriented approach, though, by rotating in sophomore Stephen Liuzza at quarterback to run the option.
“We went to Liuzza every now and then to keep the defense on their toes,” Knowles said. “He’s a guy who can make plays for us with his feet. We’re trying to continually build that package. We didn’t do a good job against Yale, but we’re going to work it all year and be able to bring him in certain situations.”
Liuzza lined up at wide receiver, quarterback and even running back on occasion. He caught screen passes, ran it on the end-around, handed the ball off to Siwula and occasionally bounced it through the line himself on a keeper. He finished the game with 72 rushing yards on seven attempts — 42 of which came on a long run to set up Siwula’s first touchdown — and was the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 32 yards.
“[Rotating me in at quarterback] just gives us more options,” Liuzza said. “I’ll do whatever coach asks me to do. As an offense, it spreads us out and keeps people on their toes. “
Both Knowles and Liuzza said that these packages have been in the playbook all year, but they noticed that the Georgetown defensive ends were crashing hard from one side and thought Liuzza could pick up on that and escape the pocket through the line on the other side.
“He’s got great talent,” Knowles said. “It’s just our job to put him in the right position.”
Cornell also proved it was founded in the running game when Knowles made an unconventional call at the end of the first half. With 12 seconds remaining and the ball at the Georgetown 12-yard line, Knowles called for a handoff to Siwula up the gut. Siwula bounced through the hole and dragged some tacklers into the endzone for a 21-0 halftime lead.
“That was a really gutsy call from coach,” Siwula said. “He just put it on our offensive line to get it done. It was either that or nothing right there. They got it done. I got a nice cut from [junior receiver Zac] Canty on the outside and just barely squeaked it by the goal line. That really put a lot of confidence in our team going into the second half.”
When Siwula put in his third score of the day to put the Red up 28-0 just under three minutes into the third quarter, the Hoyas became forced to go to the air. Despite a completion percentage of 70.9 coming into the game, Bassuener overthrew, underthrew, and simply tossed away a number of passes — many under heavy pressure from the Red defense. After a five-for-six start, Bassuener only completed six of his next 14 balls.
“Coach was really putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that the pass rush helped the secondary,” said junior defensive end Luke McCarthy, who led the team with 10 tackles — one for a loss — a sack and a forced fumble. “We came out ready to play this week and the coaches gave us a good scheme to help us get pressure.”
The Red began to rotate in its second unit as the third quarter wound down, including sophomore Ben Ganter at quarterback and sophomore Randy Barbour at running back. Barbour kept the offense moving, using a straight up and downhill mentality to pick up 69 yards on nine carries and a score to make it 38-7. With the game already out of reach, Liuzza punched in a 14-yard touchdown with just under three minutes left to finish the scoring.
“We played really tough,” Knowles said.