Cameron Pollack / Sun File Photo

Cornell will take the field for Homecoming at 3 p.m. Saturday.

October 3, 2019

Scouting Georgetown: Traditionally an Ivy Punching Bag, Hoyas Won’t Be Easy This Time Around

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The last time Cornell football faced Georgetown, it trounced the Hoyas, 45-7, in 2007.

Twelve years later, the Red may be facing a more difficult matchup. Georgetown, after dropping its opener against Davidson, has rattled off three straight victories, outscoring its opponents by 123 points over that span. This included a 40-point victory over Marist — an opponent that Cornell scored only 21 points against in a narrow win.

More concerning, though, is the Hoyas’ recent victory over Columbia. On the road, Georgetown held the Lions’ inept offense to just 10 points to notch its third victory in a row. For many years now, Georgetown has been regarded as a punching bag for Ivy League opponents. But as the Hoyas recently demonstrated, they can beat the bottom half of the Ivy League — which is where the Red currently finds itself.

Here’s a closer look at Georgetown as it visits East Hill on Homecoming weekend:

At 39 points per game, Georgetown’s offensive output ranks 10th in the nation. It starts on the ground with a rushing attack that averages nearly 200 yards per game. The Hoyas have a number of heads in their ground game. Sophomore back Herman Moultrie III has earned the lion’s share of touches, but he has only averaged 3.6 yards per carry en route to 213 yards. While he may not be the most efficient runner, the 195-pound back has plowed his way into the endzone a total of five times.

Behind Moultrie III is freshman Joshua Stakeley, a running back who has only seen 18 touches in three games, but he has turned those carries into 142 yards and a score. Senior quarterback Gunther Johnson has displayed his wheels as well, averaging eight yards per rush to the tune of 140 yards and two touchdowns. Beyond them, five other runners have racked up 281 yards to round out a versatile ground game.

Similar to Cornell, the Hoyas have employed a two-quarterback system. Johnson, who has played in four contests, has completed 58 percent of his passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Joseph Brunell has appeared to sap more playing time from Johnson, as he handled the majority of snaps in the victory against Columbia. On the season, Brunell has thrown for 318 yards and three touchdowns on a more efficient completion percentage of 64 percent.

While Georgetown heavily emphasizes the run, its receivers are nothing to slouch at. Joshua Thomas headlines a crew that has accumulated 664 yards thus far. The sophomore has notched two touchdowns and is coming off a 104-yard effort against Columbia. Cameron Crayton and Michael Dereus are the two other main options. A sophomore, Crayton has functioned as a threat in the intermediate field, tallying 135 yards on 15 catches. Meanwhile, Dereus has hauled in nine passes for 133 yards.

Cornell’s defense will have its hands full against a staunch offense, but it can certainly slow down the Hoyas. After stuffing the Red Foxes in its first game, the Red proved its might by slowing down Yale’s dynamic duo of Kurt Rawlings and Zane Dudek, limiting the Bulldogs to 327 yards of offense and a 35.7 percent conversion rate on third down.

Georgetown’s offensive numbers have been skewed by outbursts against cupcake opponents like Marist and Catholic. The Hoyas’ 20-point and 24-point efforts against Davidson and Columbia, respectively, are more likely to be replicated against Cornell compared to the previous scoring explosions.

Not only do the Hoyas boast a formidable offense, but their defense is arguably even more stout. Holding its foes to a flat 10 points per game, Georgetown’s defensive unit stands as the second best in the country, trailing only Dartmouth.

Opponents have struggled to establish the run against the Hoyas. With a front seven led by Xavier Reddick and Kristian Tate, Georgetown has limited its foes to a rushing average of only 107.3 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. Reddick and Tate have each tallied two sacks, and the unit as a whole has compiled nine sacks and 25 tackles for loss.

This will be the toughest challenge that senior running back Harold Coles has faced. Through two contests, the Erie, Pennsylvania native has gashed Marist and Yale for 268 total yards in consecutive 100-yard efforts. He also matched his career high with 141 yards last week against Yale. If Cornell’s offensive line continues to play well, Coles can keep his 100-yard streak alive, even against a tough rushing defense.

In the secondary, the Hoyas have held opponents to 148 passing yards per game. Georgetown boasts a number of ballhawks in the secondary. Led by juniors Cameron Deen and Jonathan Honore, the unit has picked off six passes.

That doesn’t bode well for the Cornell offense, which is coming off a game in which junior quarterback Richie Kenney threw four interceptions. With senior Mike Catanese’s status uncertain once again, Kenney could be in trouble. The junior threw three of his picks in the fourth quarter as he attempted to engineer a comeback once the Red fell into a hole. If Kenney can keep the ball out of the Hoyas’ hands by completing high-percentage passes and feeding the rock to Coles, Cornell should be in good shape.

Once again, Georgetown’s impressive ranking comes with the caveat of the offensive weakness from its first few opponents. Both Marist and Catholic average under 15 points per game. Columbia’s average of 280 offensive yards per game ranks dead-last in the Ivy League. On the other hand, Davidson has averaged 35.5 points per game, but the Hoyas lost to the Wildcats. That being said, the Red hasn’t impressed on offense in its first two games, but it can easily improve if it cuts down on mistakes.

To win this game, Cornell will need to limit its mistakes while forcing Georgetown into mistakes of its own. With a turnover margin of +2.25, the Hoyas are the best team in the nation in that regard. Both Johnson and Brunell have yet to throw an interception, and Georgetown has only coughed up the ball three times while forcing six fumbles on the other end.

The Hoyas’ gaudy stats are bumped up by two enormous victories, and when one compares total offensive yardage, Georgetown’s average of 361.5 yards per game is actually lower than Cornell’s average of 370 yards per game. The difference lies in the Red’s capability of moving the ball between the 20s before faltering in the red zone. Saturday’s contest will likely amount to a low-scoring affair.

In the end, Cornell — despite what the stats may say — boasts the superior talent, and it can earn a win in front of the Homecoming crowd if it properly executes its gameplan.