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Leopards taking nothing for granted
Ugly loss against Georgetown in ‘03 reminds coach win isn’t guaranteed.
As painful memories go, it doesn’t get any worse for Lafayette football Coach Frank Tavani than Oct. 4, 2003.
On that day, Georgetown, anything but a dominating force in the Patriot League, drove 95 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter for the touchdown that gave the Hoyas a 17-10 victory on Fisher Field.
“I never was more embarrassed about our play,” Tavani said Tuesday during the weekly media luncheon focusing on Saturday’s league, season and home opener against Georgetown. “Not that we had lost to Georgetown; they came in spanked us and outplayed us. The embarrassing part was about how we played.”
Lafayette is 8-1 against Georgetown during the Tavani era, and the Hoyas have won only six of 55 games against Patriot League teams – none in the past two seasons – and Tavani said, “Certainly, the expectations are that this is a game we should win. But we’ve all been around football a long time, and going into my 34th year in coaching, 24 being here, I’ve seen a lot of strange things happen.”
Georgetown, which was winless overall in 2009, opened the 2010 season last week with a 20-10 victory over Davidson, but Hoya Coach Kevin Kelly admitted during a conference call that “Davidson is not a Patriot League football team; I told our players it was a good game to start the season, but we’ve got a different opponent coming up this week in Lafayette.”
League rules stipulate that, because this is technically Lafayette’s bye week for 2010, Georgetown had to give Tavani a film of the game.
Tavani, however, said, “I’d rather have four quarters or more under my belt and on my legs than have the film. You can look at all the film you want. You have to go out and play on Saturday. They’re used to the speed of game play, the conditioning of game play. They’ve gotten over some of those first-game jitters, and they’re coming off with a big win on the road. A confident football team is a dangerous football team.”
Kelly, who is in his fifth season at Georgetown, has a record of 6-38 overall and 1-22 in the Patriot League. The team was hard hit by players’ defections during the offseason. Rumors put the number as high as 18, and while Kelly did not mention a number, he didn’t sidestep the issue during Tuesday’s interview.
We had some attrition, that’s true,” he said. “I’m not going to deny that. But if those guys don’t want to play, that’s fine with me. We’re going to play with the guys that are here in the foxhole. I felt we had an excellent recruiting year. The guys that are the players for us … the starters are here. Some of the backups decided not to play and that’s fine with me. The new guys that are with us are filling in quite nicely and I’m happy with our progress thus far.”
The Hoyas’ two-deep chart shows only five seniors starting on offense and five on defense. Three juniors and three sophomores round out each starting 11. Special teams include a freshman punter and a freshman punt returner. The backups include eight freshmen and four sophomores.
If Kelly sounds almost giddy about the potential of his young players, it is that same element that concerns Tavani.
“The fact is, we’re a very young football team, maybe the youngest I’ve put out there in terms of inexperience at critical spots,” Tavani said of his Leopards, who have only three seniors listed on the starting offensive unit and seven on defense – only four who started last year.
“I’m not going to specifically identify them, we have a lot of kids playing that haven’t played before. It’s gratifying that we have kids who are working hard … guys on both side of ball are getting the same thing. I’ll find out like the rest of you how it works out. As head coach, I’m concerned about errors, dumb penalties, pre-snap errors, first game jitters or being overly pumped up We must start focused, stay focused and execute.”
LEOPARD SPOTS – Lafayette will use either an H-back ("half fullback, half tight end,” Tavani said) or a fullback in various alignments. Both positions will be manned by freshmen (Gary Kessel at H-back, Pat Creahan a true fullback) … Tavani left the door open for other frosh to see action, saying, “We have a couple … who have earned that right, and you’ll get to see a little bit of those young kids.” … The coach played it close to the vest concerning returning players who have been injured, but he did say tailback Jerome Rudolph is ready to take his place in the lineup.
By Paul Reinhard, SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL