Georgetown Football History
Chapter 5: 23 Wins And a Trip To Miami
Georgetown has had many great football teams, but for enduring excellence none could match the achievements of the 1938 through 1940 assemblages. Highlighting this era was a 23 game winning streak. The 1940 Georgetown-Boston College contest was selected by Grantland Rice as one of the fifty greatest sporting events of the century--the first forty years, that is--and saw its apogee in Georgetown's appearance in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1941.
Two pillars supported the accomplishments of these teams: the players of the Class of 1941 and coach Jack Hagerty. The Class of 1941 gave the Hilltoppers a three year backfield, a group as effective if not as well known as the fabled "Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame. Quarterback Jules Koshlap was a skilled passer (with either his right or left hand) as well as a magical ballhandler. Jim Castiglia and Lou Ghecas were the running backs. Castiglia, a powerful plug of a fullback, gained the tough yards between the tackles, while the lithe Ghecas was a brilliant open field runner who also excelled as a game breaking punt returner. Joe McFadden, all purpose footballer extraordinaire, completed the unit.
The backfield suffered from no want of support. Ends Art Lemke and Mike Kopcik were ever present down field threats. Anchoring the lines (yes, in the days of the two-way performer) were Augie Lio and Marc Ostinato. Lio, also the place kicker for the Blue and Gray, is a member of the collegiate Hall of Fame.
Head coach Jack Hagerty guided these Hoya squads. A master of both the mechanical and emotional aspects of the game, his teams were characterized by hard, clean, and smart play. Termed "among the very best that football knows" by a contemporary sportswriter, Coach Hagerty's record vouched for the efficacy of his demanding methods.
This era of glory began with a 51-0 thumping of Hampden-Sydney in the first contest of 1938. Two easy wins over Roanoke and Randolph-Macon followed. In their first test, the Hoyas defeated Manhattan 14-13 on a late Koshlap TD pass. Triple threat Joe Mellendick, who left for baseball after the season, sparked a 13-0 victory over Bucknell. With McFadden scoring all of the points in a 14-0 shutout over West Virginia, Koshlap returned next week to gun down maryland, 14-7. With the win, Georgetown achieved its first ever undefeated season.
Victories did not come as easily the following year. The 1939 campaign started with a 3-2 win over temple, with Lio providing the one point margin with a last minute field goal over 40 yards. The Orangemen of Syracuse broke the win streak with a 13-13 tie, but a loss by the Hilltoppers was narrowly averted by Ghecas' 70 yard run with only minutes remaining. From this point, however, the Blue and gray began to roll. Bucknell, George Washington, West Virginia, Maryland, and NYU fell in succession. Only Bucknell had points to show for their efforts.
Entering the 1940 season, the hoyas walloped Roanoke, 66-0. An easy 14-0 victory over Temple preceded a brutal clash with an obscure school in Pennsylvania, Waynesburg. The Hoyas stopped the Yellow Jackets 26-12, but Castiglia, Ghecas, Koshlap, Lio, and Kopcik were injured. Jack Doolan, a substitute halfback nicknamed "The Shadow", came off the bench to pull the team through this difficult period. He gained gobs of yardage and scored three TD's as the Hilltoppers downed Virginia Tech NYU by scores of 46-4 and 26-0, respectively. Syracuse (28-6) and Maryland (41-0) went down without a whimper.The Streak had reached 23, but it would come to an abrupt end a week later.
The scene was an overcast mid-November day at sold-out Fenway Park. The opponents were the Boston College Eagles, led by their talented and intelligent All-America quarterback, "Chucklin'" Charlie O'Rourke. The contest was a titanic struggle involving triple reverses, quick kicks, fake punt handoffs, multiple shifts, and bone cracking "up the gut" running. After 57 minutes of football, the scoreboard read Boston College 19, Georgetown 16. The Eagles had the ball on their own nine, with fourth down and 18 to go. Georgetown set up to return O'Rourke's punt.
O'Rourke, however, did not punt. Instead , he scrambled around his end zone, avoiding a myriad of frantic Hoya tacklers. O'Rourke remained free for a full 45 seconds, and when finally tackled, Georgetown still trailed, 19-18. Granted a free kick after the safety, BC booted the ball far downfield and dashed the Hoyas' hopes for a miracle finish. The minuscule margin of victory brought little consolation to the vanquished. Suffering from wounded pride, Georgetown fans who witnessed the game maintain steadfastly to this day that the referees robbed the Hoyas with a "phantom" interference penalty which led to BC's winning score.
One loss did not ruin a fine season in the eyes of those making bowl selections. An Orange Bowl confrontation versus vaunted Mississippi State loomed as a superlative opportunity for all concerned to end the 1940 season with a memorable win. It was not meant to be.
Mississippi State won, 14-7. Both Maroon TD's were unusual. The first came on a blocked punt and the second after a questionable pass interference call in the end zone. Down 14-0 against a team that had not surrendered a touchdown, the Hoyas made a heroic comeback. Jim Castiglia scored a touchdown, and the final GU drive ended on the Maroons' six yard line.
It is sad to think that a glorious era of Georgetown football was only one point and six yards from being exponentially more lustrous.
Excerpted from The HOYA and its 1981-1982 series "Great Moments In Georgetown Sports", by Bill Ferraro. Mr. Ferraro graduated from Georgetown with an A.B. in American Studies in 1982 and received his Ph.D. from Brown University. He is presently a professor at Southern Illinois University.
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