Welcome to October: Where strong starts go to die and September unbeatens get a double dose of reality.
After extended sunny skies in September, this past Saturday’s weather shook up the rankings. Four of the top ten survived scares and four others went down in defeat.
Number two Georgia saw its unbeaten season go up in flames at LSU — the 36-16 blowout officially relegates the SEC East to second-tier status.
Sixth-ranked West Virginia suffered the Dave Preston-writes-a-column-about-you jinx and lost at nondescript Iowa State.
Number seven Washington came up short in overtime at Oregon — who had previously fallen this fall in OT — and ninth rated Penn State’s chant is now “We are” … “a two-loss team” after a second fourth quarter fade to a conference foe.
Even paper-Buffalo Colorado — a very soft 5-0 and deservedly ranked 19th — lost.
Meanwhile, third ranked Ohio State, number five Notre Dame, ninth rated Texas and number ten UCF count their lucky stars after needing rallies to stay in the potential playoff mix.
Don’t you feel a little chill outside?
Maryland (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) routed Rutgers 34-7 in a game where they held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for over 59 minutes. There are those who say Maryland-Rutgers is not a true Big Ten matchup, as both schools are less than a decade in the league. I found the matchup remarkably like the Big Ten I grew up watching — in 1972 when “passing game” meant you received a C+ in Hunting & Fishing 101 and quarterbacks looked like they wore mittens on their throwing hands.
Terrapin Triumphs: The D earns an A+ by intercepting the Scarlet Knights five times — the most since a seven-INT effort at Duke in 1998 — and holding the visitors to 1-10 on third down until the final drive of the day. How bad was it? Rutgers had 41 yards on 24 first half plays and in 13 possessions either turned it over or failed to register a first down nine times. Ty Johnson tallied 132 yards as well as a 65-yard scamper for a score that put the Terps ahead to stay. Kasim Hill threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers. Wade Lees had some killer punts in the first half, forcing Rutgers to start from their own two and six yard lines their first two possessions.
Terrapin Troubles: The passing game stalled at times … and while the inability to get more than a field goal out of a late first-quarter take-away inside your foe’s 30 won’t hurt you against Rutgers, it will come back to haunt you against Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State.
Next: Saturday at 5-1 Iowa (noon).
Navy (2-4, 1-2 AAC) took a 17-7 lead over Temple on their first possession of the second half. Unfortunately, the offense would gain just 67 yards on their final 26 plays — and the Owls would tally two touchdowns and a field goal as the Mids fall 24-17 in Annapolis. With the Commander in Chief’s Trophy and AAC West hopes taking major hits the last two weeks, one now wonders if the Mids can scrape their way to a bowl berth.
Midshipman Medals: New quarterback Garret Lewis ran for 56 yards and a touchdown while fullback Nelson Smith notched 108 yards rushing and a TD. Hudson Sullivan paces the defense that tallied a pair of take-aways with 12 tackles.
Midshipman Miscues: Lewis completed just three of 11 passes … while the offense converted just five of 13 third downs. After a solid first half, the defense coughed up over seven yards per play after intermission — not including the Owl’s kneeldown at the end.
Next: Saturday at home against 4-1 Houston (3:30 p.m. kickoff).
Virginia (4-2, 2-1 ACC) came off its bye week by nipping #16 Miami 16-13. So much for a Hurricane warning this fall in the ACC — instead Mark Richt’s team gets downgraded to a tropical storm. And Bronco Mendenhall’s team just got one step closer to bowl eligibility — something that hasn’t happened in consecutive seasons since 2005.
Cavalier Congrats: Juan Thornhill notched two of UVa’s three interceptions … while Zane Zandler tallied nine tackles and half of a sack. Jordan Ellis ran for 86 yards and scored the Cavs’ only touchdown. Brian Delaney nailed all three of his field goal attempts.
Cavalier Concerns: Bryce Perkins threw three interceptions … while the offense went 3-10 on third down. Tough to find blemishes when you upset a ranked team in conference play.
Next: Saturday against 5-1 Duke (12:30 p.m. gametime).
Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-0 ACC) had beaten North Carolina 34-3 and 59-7 the previous two years, and this fall’s Tar Heel team looked even worse than the 2016 and 2017 editions. So naturally Tech needed to rally to stay unbeaten in the conference and atop the Coastal Division. The 22-19 victory wasn’t pretty, but coach Justin Fuente and staff will take the W and use the gamefilm as “coaching moments” over the next week and a half.
Hokie Highlights: Ryan Willis threw two touchdown passes while running for a score. Rayshard Ashby tallied 12 tackles as the defense recovered a pair of fumbles. Oscar Bradburn averaged 43 yards per punt.
Hokie Humbles: Willis isn’t exactly the quarterback you want to lead the team in rushing — while the rest of the ground game was limited to 66 yards on 26 carries. He also threw a pair of picks.
Next: Thursday Oct. 25 in Blacksburg against 3-4 Georgia Tech (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
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