In this week's College Football Corner, WTOP's Dave Preston talks Thanksgiving's climactic games.
WASHINGTON — College football will have more games with higher stakes, from the conference championship games on tap next weekend to the College Football Playoff in early January. But it almost feels anticlimactic after the weekend that was. High scoring affairs included a 74-72 seven-overtime (septuple-OT for those grading at home) game between Texas A&M and LSU as well as a 59-56 regulation runaway between Oklahoma and West Virginia (or, just another night in the Big 12). Rivalries with ill feelings included fights during the Ole Miss-Mississippi State (they’ll have their eggs over easy for the next year) and North Carolina-North Carolina State (goodbye Raycom Sports) games.
Once again, and with apologies to Alabama-Auburn and Washington-Washington State, the centerpiece to the weekend began at high noon Saturday in the Big Ten. And once again, Ohio State was the roadblock standing between Michigan and a shot at a Big Ten (as well as a potential national) championship. Just like the Wolverines kept John Cooper’s title-contending teams out of the Rose Bowl in the 90s, the current Buckeyes appear to be the bane of Jim Harbaugh’s team this decade. And this time was even more painful for the school up north: a 62-39 thumping that turned the maize and blue red-faced. That makes the man in khakis 0-4 against Urban Meyer, whose school is suddenly back in the playoff conversation. Winter never seemed so cold in Ann Arbor.
Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-4) somehow salvaged what could have been its worst season since 1992 with a 34-31 overtime win over Virginia (7-5, 4-4). The Cavaliers rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to take a seven-point lead with under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. But just like the Hokies have had a hex on their instate foes since joining the ACC, wouldn’t you know Ryan Willis would find Dalton Keene for a 45-yard hookup on 3rd-and-10? And wouldn’t you know that Tech would fumble later in the drive only to have Hezekiah Grimsley recover the ball in the end zone for a game-tying touchdown? And doesn’t it make sense somehow that Bryce Perkins — who had put the Cavaliers on his shoulders all afternoon and all season — would fumble in OT? Now Virginia Tech has beaten Virginia in 15 straight seasons. That means that no fifth year player on the Cavaliers’ roster was on the same team as anyone who played alongside anyone who beat the Hokies. Staggering.
Hokie Highlights: senior Steven Peoples went out in style, rushing for 96 yards as Tech tallied 254 on the ground. The defense held the Cavaliers scoreless in the first half. Special teams returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Hokie Humblings: Ryan Willis threw a pair of interceptions and the offense converted just 6-of-18 third downs. The defense allowed touchdowns the first four times UVa had the ball in the second half.
Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns while running for 112 more. Joe Reed caught four passes for 119 yards and two TD’s. Juan Thornhill tallied 14 tackles while Jordan Mack made 10 stops while recording an interception. Lester Coleman averaged 44.8 yards per punt.
Cavalier Concerns: In addition to his defeat-sealing fumble in OT, Perkins lost a ball at the Hokie 12-yard line on their deepest drive in the first half.
Next: For Virginia Tech, a December 1 duel with Marshall at noon to see if they can become bowl eligible. For Virginia, a long winter of discontent — until men’s basketball begins ACC play.
Navy (3-9, 2-6 AAC) fell behind Tulane 21-3 before rallying to take a fourth-quarter lead over the Green Wave. Unfortunately, the Mids’ defense allowed the Green Wave to drive 71 yards on seven plays to retake the lead for good in a 29-28 Navy loss.
Midshipman Medals: Zach Abey threw for 167 yards and a touchdown. Taylor Heflin led the defense with nine tackles. Owen White averaged 51 yards per punt.
Midshipman Miscues: The offense went 3-and-out in four of six first-half possessions and finished 2-for-15 on third down. The defense was gashed early and then couldn’t stop the Green Wave when it counted in the fourth quarter.
Next: Dec. 8 against 9-2 Army.
Maryland (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) after losing by two points two weeks ago and then falling by one last Saturday, the Terps were never close in a 38-3 loss at No. 15 Penn State. A season that showed plenty of promise amid plenty of tragedy comes to a close with questions surrounding the future of the current coaching staff and the athletic program in general.
Terrapin Triumphs: Tyrrell Pigrome threw for a career-high 185 yards on a day the run was bottled up. Isaiah Davis paced the defense with nine tackles while graduate transfer Tre Watson closed out his Terps career with four stops to finish the season leading as the Big Ten leader. Wade Lees booted a 50-yard punt and placed five of eight kicks inside the Penn State 20.
Terrapin Troubles: The running game never got in gear, with the tailback triumvirate being held to 53 yards on 19 carries with a long of seven. The offensive line also allowed five sacks. The defense coughed up 310 yards rushing (7.0 yards per carry).
Next: Aug. 31, 2019 at home against Howard. After the offseason press conference that wraps up a third coaching search in eight years.
James Madison (9-3) was one of five CAA schools to see action in the first round of the FCS Playoffs, and the only one to advance. The 20-6 win over Delaware sends coach Mike Houston’s team to the round of 16 for the third straight December.
Duke Do’s: Ben DiNucci threw for 223 yards and a touchdown while the offense held the ball for over 37 minutes. The defense held the Blue Hens to 2-of-14 on third down and kept the Blue Hens out of the endzone.
Duke Don’ts: The running game had issues, generating just two yards per carry. Eleven penalties cost JMU nearly an entire football field.
Next: Saturday at 1 p.m. against 9-1 Colgate.
Towson (7-5) took a 10-3 halftime lead over Duquesne in its first playoff appearance since the 2013 FCS Championship game, but the Dukes dominated the second half as the Tigers tumbled 31-10. But coach Rob Ambrose gets quarterback Tom Flacco back for his senior season, and a program on the right track.
Tiger Takeaways: the tailback tandem of Shane Simpson and Kobe Young averaged almost six yards a carry while the team gained 230 yards on the day. Simpson also caught a pair of passes. The defense held the Dukes to 5-of-14 on third down.
Tiger Takedowns: Tom Flacco completed just 10-of-33 passes as the offense went scoreless after intermission. The defense allowed 282 yards rushing.
Next: Aug. 31, 2019 at the Citadel.
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