Both football games for No. 10 Georgetown College this young season have played out in similar fashion, with the Tigers ripping open a substantial first-quarter lead and dominating Kentucky Christian and Bluefield in all phases.
Faulkner, which visits Toyota Stadium on Saturday for the mutual Mid-South Conference opener after a bye week for both teams, has proven more enigmatic. After an opening 34-27 loss to No. 12 Reinhardt, the Eagles (1-1) survived a defensive struggle with Point, 14-10.
Much in the same manner he’s hoping to see from his own Tigers (2-0), GC coach Chris Oliver expects a more focused and precise visitor from Montgomery, Alabama, for the 1:30 pn kickoff now that the Eagles have had time to evaluate and fine-tune their craft.
“They were 8-2 a year ago. They’re 1-1 right now, but their loss is a fairly close one to a Reinhardt team that is traditionally very good, so it’s going to be a better team I think than probably the last two opponents,” Oliver said.
Utilizing a two-quarterback rotation of Raequan Beal and Ben Anderson, Faulkner has completed fewer than half its pass attempts this far (27-for-58, 259 yards, two touchdowns, one interception).
Faulkner also has been held to only 2.4 yards per carry, with John Bolton (26 rushes, 93 yards) accounting for the only score on the ground.
“You go into a bye week, and you’re just focusing on yourself. Obviously they’re preparing for us and we’re preparing for them, but we’re both coming off a bye. You have those extra practices where you’re just trying to get more consistent and increase your own execution,” Oliver said. “I’m expecting to see them be sharper and improved. The thing that sticks out in their first two games is that they show flashes of being very good at times.”
Takeaways on defense have been an area of strength for both teams.
Four different Tigers picked off a pass against Bluefield, while Jailen Clemons’ two picks and four pass breakups lead an Eagles’ secondary with five interceptions in two weeks.
“They look inconsistent on video thus far, which I think you go from game one to game two and you see some of those things on both sides,” Oliver said. “You see defensive improvement from week one to week two for them, but their offense struggled in week two. So I’m sure they’re like a lot of teams.”
Georgetown made strides in every area by Oliver’s estimation between its 42-13 season debut at KCU and a 52-7 blowout of Bluefield in the home opener nine days later.
“I thought we tackled a lot better on defense, I thought we pursued better. Even though our defense played pretty well at Kentucky Christian, I thought we took a big step forward,” Oliver said. “And then offensively it was much sharper from the standpoint of fewer mental errors on assignments and doing a better job of sustaining and finishing drives.”
Georgetown threw five touchdown passes for the second consecutive game against Bluefield, including connections of 16, 22, 32 and 35 yards.
Drew Hartz is 27-for-37 through the air for seven scores without throwing an interception, while Gehrig Slunaker continues to provide an effective change of pace. The Tigers have featured 12 and 10 different receivers in the two contests.
“What we want to see is continuing to make the big play. We had a few big plays the other day against Bluefield. We want to see that more, and I’d like to see that more in the running game,” Oliver said. “We ran the ball fairly consistently from a statistical standpoint, but we’re still not hitting that big run. I think we’ve got some running backs who have that within their arsenal, and we’ve got to find ways to get those guys in space.”
Quincy Perrin (21 carries, 111 yards) has been the leading ground-gainer in both games thus far, but Isaiah Cobb and Darius Neal were key components of a committee that pounded out north of 200 yards two weeks ago.
Consistent forward progress has been a hallmark thus far.
“I think the big thing we saw from Thomas More (in week one) against Bluefield is Thomas More didn’t do a good job of staying out of third-and-long. They were in heavy passing situations on third down all day long, and Bluefield is a heavy blitz team in those situations,” Oliver said.
“At the end of the day you can have all the pass protections in you want, but if the defense if willing to bring one more guy than you can account for every single time, then you have to get rid of the ball quickly. We were very much focused on staying in front of the chains. We wanted to play great on first down and be at least second-and-6 or shorter, and for the most part we did a good job of that.”
Georgetown’s persistent pass rush from DJ White, Chad Holleran and Romarion Warner has put the play-making secondary led by Kyren Simpson and Davon Starks in prime position.
Payton Standifer also has been a leading hitter for a Tigers’ defense that won’t be as focused on stopping one player as it was against Bluefield’s All-American receiver JaQuan Ebron last time out.
“They’re a little bit more balanced from a standpoint of distributing the ball around the field in their offense. They’ve played a couple quarterbacks,” Oliver said. “I think they’ve started to settle on a quarterback from game one to game two. As far as skill guys touching the ball, it’s not the same situation as Bluefield because they are more balanced.”
Oliver said GC’s own QB shuffle will continue for at least another week.
“We’re still in the same situation. We’d like to work our way out of that eventually, but I thought both those guys played well the other day,” Oliver said of Hartz and Slunaker.
“It’s not like we’re waiting on someone to fail and to play poorly. That’s not it in any way. But at the same time, when both guys are continuing to progress and play well, I think it’s a situation where we’re not ready to go in a different direction yet, so I anticipate we’ll look very similar against Faulkner this week and see how that continues to play out.”
GC leads the all-time series with Faulkner, 4-2, including a memorable 40-39 overtime road win in the most recent meeting on Sept. 2, 2017.