Leopards defense essential to Georgetown win last Saturday

Senior+running+back+Selwyn+Simpson+%28pictured%29+helped+shift+the+Leopards+momentum+in+Saturdays+game+against+Georgetown+with+a+55-yard+touchdown+run+which+was+the+longest+run+of+the+season+for+the+Leopards.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+GoLeopards.com%29

Senior running back Selwyn Simpson (pictured) helped shift the Leopard’s momentum in Saturday’s game against Georgetown with a 55-yard touchdown run which was the longest run of the season for the Leopards. (Photo courtesy of GoLeopards.com)

Charlie Berman, Contributing Writer

The Leopards pulled off a thrilling victory over the Georgetown Hoyas last Saturday, Oct. 30, to improve to 2-1 in Patriot League play. The Maroon-and-White eked out a 24-23 victory over Georgetown in Washington D.C., after blocking a 50-yard walk-off field goal attempt from the Hoyas.

Coming off a bye week following a crushing defeat at the hands of the Harvard Crimson in Cambridge, the Leopards looked to put their 2-5 start behind them and ensure they kept pace in the Patriot League. The team refused to get discouraged and came back from a 17-point deficit to secure the win and preserve its season. 

“Coming off the bye, our team adopted this mantra of creating a filter by asking this one simple question, ‘will it make the boat go faster,'” Head Coach John Garrett said. “This is adopted from the 2000 Great Britain rowing team. To put it practically, it is a commitment line whatever they do, whatever they think, whatever they say will be put through this filter to create a goal that is infinite. It is something we carried to Georgetown, and it is something we will carry through the rest of the season.”

The Leopards started sluggish, quickly falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter as the Blue-and-Grey took advantage of Lafayette’s defensive aggression to score. Georgetown marched 74-yards down the field and scored on an explosive 41-yard touchdown pass. 

The Leopards were then caught off guard when the Hoyas went for an unexpected onside kick, which Georgetown recovered. However, the Leopards managed to block the Georgetown field goal attempt on the ensuing drive, resulting in possession being handed to Lafayette.

The Leopards’ offense continued to stumble as the running game could not get going. Faced with a 4th-and-1 on their own 36-yard line, the Leopards elected to hand the ball off to senior running back Selwyn Simpson who could not convert. Georgetown took advantage of the tired Lafayette defense and the short field, tacking on another touchdown to take a 14-0 lead.

On their next drive, the Leopards’ struggles continued as freshmen quarterback Ah-Shaun Davis threw an interception. Georgetown capitalized on the turnover, scoring a field goal to push the lead to 17-0 toward the end of the first quarter.

From this point on, Leopards took over the game’s momentum and put together an unanswerable comeback. The defense, led by senior captain and three-time Patriot League first-team defensive lineman Malik Hamm, spearheaded the effort. Hamm had 2.5 sacks to add to his 8-tackle total, earning him Patriot League defensive player of the week. 

“The catalyst just came from everyone involved on the team,” Hamm said. “We did not change much game plan-wise, but we just got better at doing the basic things, and our assignments within the game. 

The Leopards capped off their first scoring drive with a 55-yard rushing touchdown by Simpson, the longest run of the season for Lafayette. The score came at the end of the first quarter, shrinking the deficit to 17-7. Simpson showcased why he was a First Team All-Patriot League running back in the spring with 12 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown in the game. 

The Leopards’ defense locked down Georgetown on the ensuing drive and Lafayette went right back to work, driving down the field before having to settle for a field goal which was blocked. 

“I think that throughout the entire game there was a belief that we will win,” Hamm said. “That confidence just came from knowing who we are and the abilities that we have.” 

From that point on, Davis took over the game. After starting the game throwing just 3-for-6 with one interception, he proceeded to only miss 4 more attempts for the rest of the game, finishing 15-for-22 with 203 yards and a touchdown. 

Davis found junior wide receiver Julius Young for a 47-yard bomb to bring the score within three with five minutes left in the first half. Young posted 9 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, earning him Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week. 

Georgetown responded before the half with a 31-yard field goal to make it a 20-14 game and then added another 38-yard field goal early in the third to make it 23-14.

The Leopards offense responded immediately, getting into the endzone on their longest drive of the game, a 10-play, 45-yard drive ending with junior running back Jaden Sutton scoring from one yard out to make it 23-21 Georgetown. 

After the defense stopped the Hoyas once again, the Leopards’ offense took control for what turned out to be their last possession of the game. Lafayette converted on a clutch 4th and 1 on the fifty-yard line with seven minutes to set up freshman kicker Micah Petit for a 28-yard field goal which he converted. That kick put the Leopard up 24-23 with five minutes left in the game. 

“To be down 17-0, you know a lot of teams that don’t have the football character, the belief or the fortitude. They’d quit, but we have the right kind of guys and a great football culture, they were not going to be denied,” Garrett said.  

Georgetown had a chance to respond, milking the clock and moving the ball to the Leopards 33-yard line before attempting a 50-yard field goal. The game reached its climax as the ball was struck by Georgetown kicker Connor Hunt’s right foot, and then the hand of Lafayette senior defensive lineman Colin Hurlbrink. The ball fell lifelessly to the turf as time expired. 

The Leopards escaped D.C. with a win by the skin of their teeth, staying alive in Patriot League contention. While the Maroon and White struggled out of the gate, they closed on a 24-6 run in the last 48 minutes of the game. 

“I’m just proud of their guts, their fortitude, their perseverance, and the fact that they kept believing and keep playing,” Garrett said. “We made big plays on offense and we got defensive stops, in order to win we had to execute and both sides of the ball did.” 

“When you can come back and win the way we did, it gives you a lot of confidence going forward along with that same comeback win being a very humbling experience,” Hamm added. 

The Leopards will now look to next week’s matchup against Holy Cross, two-time defending Patriot League champions and the current league leaders. 

The game against Holy Cross will kickoff at 12:30 on Saturday, Nov. 6 on ESPN+ in Worcester, Massachusetts.