“You start to question yourself and what you’re doing,” Kelly said this week in his office at McDonough Arena, referring to the winless campaign. “So this is gratifying. We control our own destiny, so to speak. It’s taken some time to turn it around.”
On Saturday, the Hoyas (7-2, 3-1) host Fordham (1-7) with a chance to wrap up their first undefeated home slate of games in 13 years. (Although Fordham is in the Patriot League, the game does not count in the standings because the Rams began offering athletic scholarships in 2010, thus forfeiting their right to compete for the title.)
Then Georgetown gets its shot at the big prize a week later when the Hoyas travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to face a Lehigh team they have not defeated since 1925. Since the universities renewed their rivalry in 2001, in fact, the Hoyas are 0-10 against the Mountain Hawks, mustering a meager 23 points in the past four defeats.
Facing long odds, though, are nothing new for senior defensive lineman Andrew Schaetzke and his teammates.
“We have to reiterate that this is a different team,” said Schaetzke, who leads the Patriot League in tackles for a loss (171
2) and sacks (91
2) this season. “This is a Georgetown team that has beat Colgate and Holy Cross and Lafayette this year. We’re a different team than the teams have come before us. Now just have to go out there and play like it.”
Indeed, confidence — as well as wins — has been on the rise at Georgetown the past 24 months. The turnaround began with a drought-ending 20-10 victory at Davidson in September 2010, a triumph that, in the words of Kelly, “got the monkey off our back.” League victories over Lafayette and Holy Cross later that month reinforced the belief that the Hoyas could compete in the Patriot League.
“You could tell that we were getting some confidence, a swagger,” offensive lineman Ed Hesselgren said. “We started to believe that we could win these games, that we weren’t outmatched, that we deserved to be here.”
Although injuries and the inability to close out opponents late in games contributed to an eventual four-win season, the Hoyas arrived on campus last summer with a renewed sense of purpose. Weightlifting sessions were tougher. Preseason practices were faster and more precise. Expectations within the locker room grew.
The result has been Georgetown’s best season since a 9-2 campaign in 1999, its last in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
But their sudden success doesn’t mean that this season has unfolded without its challenges. The Hoyas opened 3-1 but found themselves at a crossroads following a 35-18 setback at Bucknell on Oct. 1. They came out flat, falling behind 28-0 in the first half.