It has been 10 months since Tom Williams ended his first season as head football coach, going out after a decision that left many Yale fans scratching their heads and the national media questioning the then-rookie coach’s judgment.
But Williams and the Bulldogs are officially putting that agonizing loss behind them as they take on Georgetown on Saturday to begin the 2010 season.
“The year of newness is behind us,” Williams said. “The guys have an understanding of what we’re asking of them, in terms of how we conduct ourselves.”
This is the fourth consecutive season that the Hoyas and the Bulldogs will meet for Yale’s opener. In Yale and Georgetown’s first three meetings, the Elis beat the Hoyas by an average of 25 points.
But Georgetown (2–0), out of the Patriot League, already has two games under its belt this season — against Davidson and Lafayette — and, on paper, the Hoyas appear to be a stiffer challenge than in years past. If Georgetown beats Yale, the Hoyas will have won more games in the 2010 season than over the past three years combined. (They entered this season having won three of their last 32 games.)
Offensively, the Bulldogs return nearly all their starting skill position players, including their top two rushers, Alex Thomas ’12 and Mordecai Cargill ’13, and quarterback Patrick Witt ’12, who was named the starter in the off-season.
With the return of Cargill and Thomas, who rushed for 124 yards on 26 carries against Harvard last season, the Bulldogs expect improvement over last season, when they finished eighth in the Ivy League in rushing offense.
“We feel like we can give both of those guys 20 touches a game and get the same productivity,” Williams said.
Although they also return starting receivers Jordan Forney ’11, Chris Smith ’13 and Gio Christodoulou ’11, who missed almost all of 2009 due to injury, the Elis lost their top receiving threat from last year, h-back John Sheffield ’10. Forney is the top returner with 30 catches for 321 yards last season — Sheffield nearly doubled that output with 612 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs return four of their top eight tacklers from a season ago, and the secondary returns cornerback Drew Baldwin ’12 and Adam Money ’11, who is moving to strong safety from cornerback this season. Baldwin and Money combined for five interceptions and 15 pass defenses last year, serving as top performers in a unit that led the Ivy League in pass defense in 2009. Chris Stanley ’11 will start opposite Baldwin, and Geoff Dunham ’12 starts at free safety.
The Bulldogs are making the transition from the 3–4 to the 4–3 — meaning they will use four defensive linemen instead of three, and three linebackers instead of four — in attempt to play to their strength at defensive line, led by captain Tom McCarthy ’11.
“Most people would think moving to a 4–3 from a 3–4 [would mean] you’re losing speed because you have four linemen on the field, but actually the defensive ends, a lot of them are moved down from linebackers,” McCarthy said. “So I guess you could say we really have five linebackers on the field at a time.”
The Hoyas have been impressive so far, winning two games in a row behind their backfield of Phillip Oladeji and Scott Darby, and currently rank second in the Patriot League in scoring offense and defense. Their secondary is young but experienced, as is their linebacking corps, led by Nick Parrish, Georgetown’s all-time leading tackler. Defensive lineman Andrew Schaetzke was named the Fathead.com FCS National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts last week; in the Hoyas’ 28–24 win against Lafayette, Schaetzke racked up eight tackles, four of them for loss, and two sacks.
The team also features two New Haven natives and Hillhouse High graduates, wide receiver Keerome Lawrence and defensive back Kareem Moore. Lawrence caught six balls for 54 yards against Lafayette, and Moore had nine tackles.
Saturday’s kickoff is slated for noon at the Yale Bowl.