RAPID RECAP: Comeback Bid Falls Short Against Holy Cross

The Georgetown football team (3-6, 0-4 Patriot League) dropped its sixth straight in heartbreaking fashion with a 21-20 loss to the Holy Cross Crusaders (4-6, 2-3 Patriot League) on Saturday.

Early in the game, it appeared the Hoyas would only amplify their recent struggles on both sides of the ball. On offense, sophomore quarterback Clay Norris returned to the starting position after losing it to freshman Brock Johnson last week, and led the team to an immediate three-and-out. Subsequently, on the first play from scrimmage defensively, the Hoyas allowed receiver Brendan Flaherty to get behind them and haul in a 46-yard deep ball that would have been a touchdown had he not tripped. The Crusaders capped off the drive seven plays later to take a 7-0 lead.

Georgetown’s special teams, which have been excellent all season, came back with a quick response. On the ensuing kickoff, freshman receiver Michael Dereus fielded it at the goal line, ran right, then made a quick cutback and beat the kicker to the corner, taking it all the way to the house to tie the score at 7. It was the team’s first kick return for a touchdown since 2010.

The teams traded punts, and Holy Cross made the game’s next big play when sophomore quarterback Geoff Wade found Flaherty wide open down the field again, this time good for 80 yards to the Georgetown 5-yard line. Wade threw a fade route to the end zone on third-and-goal to complete the drive and make it 14-7.

The Hoyas responded with a strong offensive drive of their own, the likes of which have been rare this season. Norris found sophomore receiver Brandon Williams downfield and junior running back Alex Valles in the flat repeatedly on the drive, connecting strings of short passes for first downs. The young quarterback also showed he was comfortable moving in the pocket as he dodged sacks and occasionally gained yardage with his legs. Georgetown stalled in Holy Cross territory, however, and senior kicker Henry Darmstadter booted a 46-yard field goal attempt off the crossbar and into the uprights to cut the deficit to 14-10 in the second quarter.

Geoff Wade and the Crusader offense countered with another long passing play, this time a 50-50 ball that receiver Jordan Montgomery snagged over junior defensive back Jelani Williamson. The 52-yard catch placed Holy Cross inside the Georgetown 5, leading to a rushing touchdown to make it 21-10.

Clay Norris, clearly having his most efficient game at quarterback, completed several short passes on the ensuing drive. On a third-and-eight from the Holy Cross 45, he escaped a collapsing pocket and ran forward for a 20-yard gain, the longest rush of his career. The drive appeared to stall in the red zone, but Head Coach Rob Sgarlata reached into his bag of tricks and called a fake field goal. Norris, the holder, got up and found junior tight end Jacob Sweitzer for the first down. Valles finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run, tightening the game to 21-17 just before halftime.

In the second half, the offense began picking up right where it left off, moving the ball slowly and methodically. Senior receiver Justin Hill became Norris’ favorite target, finishing the game with 12 receptions for 85 yards. Darmstadter made his second field goal of the game, this time from a career-high 49 yards out and with room to spare, making it a 21-20 barn burner.

The team could not continue its momentum, however, as the offense slowed in the fourth quarter. With just over two minutes left, the team had the ball at midfield. Norris rolled out to his left and threw an ill-advised pass on a route that was well-read by Holy Cross linebacker Andre Chevalier, who grabbed the interception.

After Sgarlata used all three timeouts and the defense made a stop, the Hoyas had one final chance with even less time remaining. The offensive line, which struggled throughout the game, allowed the Crusader defensive line to sack Norris, bleeding precious time off the clock. Norris then threw a rather desperate pass looking for senior receiver Tommy Jesson, which was tipped and intercepted with 19 seconds left, solidifying the loss.

Norris finished 25 of 37 for 185 passing yards, and added 56 rushing yards on 14 attempts. On defense, senior defensive lineman Hunter Kiselick and sophomore linebacker J’V’on Butler led the team with nine tackles apiece. Junior defensive back Jelani Williamson had an interception (towards the end of the first half) and a forced fumble (early in the third quarter), neither of which the offense could convert into points.

Despite a valiant effort, it was a painful defeat for the Hoyas, who remain winless in the Patriot League. The team seeks to improve its standing next week when it hosts the Bucknell Bison. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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