College Football Corner: Coaching changes hit full stride

WASHINGTON — As the regular season winds down, another is just beginning to fire up — literally. The coaching carousel has already been in motion for a few weeks and hit full stride this past weekend with name schools pink-slipping their program architects.

While the Pac-12 caught the biggest fish in Chip Kelly, nowhere was the coaching carousel spinning faster than in the SEC. Arkansas fired Bret Beilema before he could leave the field after the Razorbacks lost to Missouri. Texas A&M joined in the mix by firing Kevin Sumlin, although the school showed restraint and waited at least until after he had left the field.

Florida and Tennessee jumped on the carousel early by giving their coaches walking papers during the season. It’s worked out for the Gators, who landed former assistant and current Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

You can’t say the same for the Volunteers, who had to back off from hiring Greg Schiano amid massive protests. And Mullen’s departure from Starkville — not the easiest place to win — means there will be six SEC schools with first-year head coaches in 2018. And that doesn’t count Ole Miss, who took the interim tag off Matt Luke this past weekend.

Navy (6-5, 4-4 AAC) began the area action over the weekend by losing to Houston 24-14. Unlike the last two years where this determined the West Division champ, this tilt was merely an appetizer for some interesting games (UCF-South Florida-WOW). Midshipman Medals: D.J. Palmore tallied 8 tackles to lead the defense that held the Cougars to 3 for 13 on third down. Malcolm Perry ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. Owen White averaged over 40 yards per punt and landed a pair of kicks inside the 20 with no touchbacks. Midshipman Miscues: The offense sputtered after halftime, converting 1 of 7 third downs while gaining just 69 yards on 30 carries. Pass protection allowed three sacks on 11 drop-backs. Steven Dunbar ripped the Mids’ secondary for 8 catches and 142 yards. Next: Dec. 9 against 8-3 Army. Only the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is up for grabs.

Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC) kept the Commonwealth Cup for a 14th straight year by blanking Virginia (6-6, 3-5) 10-0. For those scoring at home, that’s back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back wins over the Cavaliers. “Friends” was still on TV showing first-run episodes when U.Va. last prevailed in what has become an annual hour of agony.

Hokie Highlights: The offensive line helped churn out over 202 yards on the ground while not allowing a sack. Tremaine Edmunds tallies 9 tackles and two sacks to help the defense hold the Cavaliers to 4-15 on third down. Hokie Humblings: A shutout on the road against an in-state rival? They get a pass for putting just 10 points on the board.

Cavalier Congrats: Micah Kiser (19 tackles) and Quin Blanding (17 stops) continue to be the bright spots on a U.Va. defense that was much-improved this fall. Lester Coleman averaged 43.9 yards per punt. Cavalier Concerns: The running game allowed four sacks and on 16 other registered runs gained just 20 yards. On a night that the Hokies had just a pair of scoring drives, U.Va. didn’t cross midfield until late in the second quarter and didn’t convert a 3rd down in the second half.

Maryland (4-8, 2-7 Big Ten) saw its season come to a close with a 66-3 loss to No. 10 Penn State. The Nittany Lions scored on four of their first five possessions to take control before scoring on their first three drives of the second half. According to coach DJ Durkin, “the Texas game feels like eight years ago.” Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore catches 8 passes for 100 yards, breaking the single-season record set by Geroy Simon in 1994 while also passing the 1,000-yard mark for the year. Senior Jermaine Carter wrapped up his career with 11 tackles. Terrapin Troubles: Third down was a black mark all year as the team ranked last in getting off the field on defense and moving the chains on offense — and against Penn State they converted 1 of 15 attempts while allowing the Nittany Lions to 11 of 17 money downs. Trace McSorley carved up the Terps defense to the tune of 205 yards in the first half. They also fumbled four times-losing two of them that the Nittany Lions turned into touchdowns.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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