Junior kicker Matt MacZura is making a habit of coming up clutch for the Hoyas. His 33-yard field goal with 14 seconds left clinched the Hoyas’ third win of 2012 last night, as Georgetown (3-1) defeated Princeton (0-2) 21-20 in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.
For MacZura, in his first year as a placekicker, Friday night marks the second time this season he’s come up clutch, having sealed the Hoyas’ home opener against Wagner two weeks ago in similar fashion. There’s also a valid argument that he should have had a similar opportunity last week against Yale, before an aggressive passing play led to an interception in the end zone, dooming the Hoyas.
But for MacZura and the rest of the Hoyas, there really was never a doubt once the junior stepped in for that final attempt. “I kind of knew we were going to make it,” MacZura said with a laugh. “I don’t know if it ever becomes old habit, but [the Wagner field goal] it makes the next one a little easier.”
I knew he was going to make it,” added Head Coach Kevin Kelly. “I told him before he went out, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to make it, they don’t have any timeouts and can’t ice you, just like practice.’”
Despite the victory, the final result belies the adversity Georgetown faced in its comeback. The Hoyas found themselves in a 14-3 hole early in the second quarter, unable to stop a steady dose of sophomore Will Powers. But up to that point, their offense was able to move the ball downfield, with junior quarterback Aaron Aiken completing eight of nine passes for 68 yards. Then, Aiken hurt his ankle on a sack.
The injury knocked him out of the game, forcing sophomore third-string quarterback Stephen Skon behind center. Skon was able to move the ball right away despite some nerves, leading to another MacZura field goal. ”I was just trying to get warmed up as fast as possible,” Skon said. “It takes a couple of plays to get your feet wet but after a play or two I felt ready to go, felt comfortable.”
On the next drive, the center inadvertently snapped the ball from the Hoya 22-yard line. No one on the Tigers was quite ready for the play, as the ball went sailing into the end zone before senior cornerback Jeremy Moore jumped on it for a touchdown. The play left the Hoyas trailing by just two as they entered halftime.
Both teams would exchange blows for the duration of the third quarter, with the Georgetown defense applying successful pressure to Princeton quarterback Connor Michelsen. Much of that success can be accredited to a halftime adjustment that allowed junior linebacker Dustin Wharton to line up with the defensive line and wreak havoc.
“We got to a point where we were running some zone pressures in the first half and said, ‘To heck with it, we’re going to rush four.’ Dustin did a heck of a job there putting pressure on the ball,” Kelly said.
After exchanging touchdowns, it the Hoyas found themselves down 20-18 with 5:34 left on the game clock. Kelly did a masterful job of controlling the clock, allowing Skon to drive down the field to set up the final field goal attempt. The drive included a tough fourth down conversion, a bold decision from Kelly with less than three minutes left in the game.
After the game, Kelly was ecstatic for his team, especially for Skon and MacZura’s performances under a great deal of pressure. If the ESPNU factor wasn’t enough to intimidate the Hoyas, the 28,000-seat Princeton University Stadium (albeit half-full) might have been. But once Aiken went down, everything else fell to the backdrop.
“If a guy goes down, let’s rally together, be a good teammate, which ends up being a good team,” Kelly said. “And that’s what we had out there tonight.”