WASHINGTON — I’ve often said in this space that September is “Show Me Month” and more than a few schools have shown us they have promise. But there’s also the grim reality that happens when late summer turns to early autumn and teams that think they are legitimate are exposed.
Schools like Oklahoma State put 59 points on the board one week against Pitt, only to cough up 44 the following Saturday at home against TCU. Colorado has everyone thinking repeat Pac-12 South title until they lose to defending Pac-12 champ Washington by 27 at home. The SEC second-tier triumvirate of Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky (all 3-0 for the first time since 1913, 19 years before the SEC even existed) saw their contending status turn to pretending with losses to Georgia, Alabama and Florida (you know, the real SEC programs). Even Maryland, after getting some splashy notice, came back to earth.
As the leaves turn their colors so do many college teams — to their usual shade.
Virginia (3-1) surpassed last year’s win total with a 42-23 win at Boise State. Granted, this isn’t the Boise State that Chris Petersen or even Dan Hawkins led to national prominence, but it was the Cavs’ first nonconference road win since 2011 (Indiana). Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team no longer has to worry about a potential third 10-loss season in five years. Who’s ready for ridiculous bowl-talk?
- Cavalier Congrats: Kurt Benkert threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, while Jordan Ellis provided the necessary ground threat with 93 yards rushing and a pair of scores. Quin Blanding led a defense that held the Broncos to 4-of-16 on third down by tallying 10 tackles; only three penalties on the night.
- Cavalier Concerns: When you have to point out that Lester Coleman averaged under 40 yards per punt, you’ve had a heck of a week and month. Bring on the ACC.
Next: Oct. 7 vs Duke.
Maryland (2-1) has to remember this is 2017, not 2012 when in Randy Edsall’s second year at the helm, the Terps lost a succession of quarterbacks to injury and wound up starting a scout-team linebacker at QB in November. The 38-10 loss to UCF saw the Terrapins lose their starting quarterback to injury for the second time in three games. And while Max Bortenschlager in a James Bond film probably has an evil henchman and an impenetrable fortress at his disposal, the sophomore began September third string for a reason. Kasim Hill’s lower leg injury will be looked at, re-examined and given the necessary MRI with everyone’s fingers and toes crossed.
- Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore made a circus catch for a 20-yard touchdown, one of his eight grabs on the afternoon; so far this year Moore has over 50 percent of the team’s receptions. The defense held UCF to 5-of-14 on third down. Wade Lees averaged 47.1 yards over seven punts with no touchbacks.
- Terrapin Troubles: The offense converted just two of 13 third downs, none in the first half. Bortenschlager was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. The defense allowed over 6 yards per carry and surrendered three scoring drives of 65 plus yards in the second half. Kicker Henry Darmstadter (fresh from a Louisa May Alcott short story) missed a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have put the Terps within one point; instead UCF drove 80 yards to take a double-digit lead they’d hold for the rest of the day.
Next: Saturday at 12 p.m. at 3-0 Minnesota.
Virginia Tech (4-0) set up a showdown with defending national champion Clemson by blasting Old Dominion 38-0; two shutouts in four nonconference games and an offense that averages 40 points per contest. Who’s ready to take on the Tigers in Blacksburg?
- Hokie Highlights: The offensive line allowed just one sack to a pass rush that had 16 over the previous three games. Steven Peoples ran for 62 yards and a touchdown while adding 73 receiving yards and two more scores. The defense held ODU to 64 yards rushing and 2-of-14 on third down and it was so dominant in the shutout that Andrew Motuapuaka was only needed to make three tackles and one sack.
- Hokie Humblings: Joey Slye missed a 27-yard field goal while Oscar Bradburn averaged just 36 yards per punt. Yes, we’re splitting hairs here.
Next: Saturday at 8 p.m. against 4-0 Clemson.
Navy (3-0) came off their bye week with a second straight AAC victory, this time outscoring Cincinnati 42-32. There’s plenty of good to keep the fans happy with just enough bad to keep the coaches working.
- Midshipman Medals: A near-school record 569 yards rushing (they actually broke the record but lost four yards on kneel-downs) with Zach Abey playing to his strengths — 20 carries as opposed to just three pass attempts — and getting quality instead of quantity through the air from Tyler Carmona (2 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown). The offense converted 6-of-8 third downs while holding the ball for more than 36 minutes. The defense held the Bearcats to 2.5 yards per carry, with Sean Williams tallying seven tackles and two passes broken up.
- Midshipman Miscues: Turnovers continue to creep up, with another lost fumble spoiling the day. The defense sacked UC quarterback Hayden Moore just twice on 48 pass plays. Bennett Moehring missed a 24-yard field goal. Yes, I’m being rather rough on kickers this week.
Next: Saturday at 1-3 Tulsa, 3:30 p.m.