Sometimes the leaves turn earlier than one expects. After the start to a season where all possibilities were on the lips of all four area FBS schools received national notice (Maryland and Virginia were ranked at points this past month, while Navy and Virginia Tech each received votes along the way), the final weekend of the month saw the four all go down in flames. Just like no two leaves when they change colors look exactly alike, the status of each of the four teams is markedly different. Some fractures are hairline, and some are compound. With the bulk of the conference season ahead, what can be salvaged? That’s for October to decide. Isn’t fall foliage great?
Navy (2-1, 1-1 AAC) got the weekend of woe underway by taking a 20-7 first half lead at Memphis, only to lose 35-23. It was a tale of two halves as Tigers were just too much after intermission, outgaining the Mids 203 yards to 81.
Midshipman Medals: Keoni Makekau rushed for 101 yards while Malcom Perry added 91 on the ground. The defense held the Tigers in check for most of the first half, allowing just 98 yards of offense and holding Memphis to 0-3 on third down. Owen While averaged 45.2 yards per punt. Nizaire Cromartie recovered a fumble.
Midshipman Miscues: It all began on special teams when the Mids allowed a kickoff return late in the first half that turned a double-digit lead into a single-possession game. The offense converted just 1 of 7 third downs after halftime, and the running game was held to 74 yards on 23 tries following the break. The defense also had issues in the third and fourth quarters; after holding Brady White to 12 yards passing in the first half the Tigers quarterback completed 10 of 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns the rest of the way. Six penalties, an interception and a fumble lost didn’t help either.
Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 3-1 Air Force.
Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) kicked off conference play Friday night, and things did not end well. Actually, things didn’t even start well as Josh Jackson was intercepted on the fifth play from scrimmage and Penn State cashed in with a quick touchdown. A three and out then set up a 58-yard touchdown pass by the Nittany Lions. It appeared as if the Terps regained themselves and were about to put points on the board but then Jackson threw another interception at the Penn State goal line. The ensuing 11-play, 95 yard march put the visitors up 21-0 with 13:23 left in the 2nd quarter. The student section looked like a guy with male pattern baldness as the quarter (along with more Penn State points) progressed, and resembled actor Bruce Willis after halftime. The 59-0 loss was the school’s worst since 2017 when Penn State last came to College Park and rendered a 66-3 bludgeoning. They’re on the schedule again next year, right?
Terrapin Triumphs: Brandon Gaddy and Colton Spangler each averaged 42.8 yards per punt, although whenever one leads this category with the punter it’s not a good thing. Nick Cross had a sweet sideline interception that kept the Nittany Lions from scoring on every one of their first half possessions, so there’s that. The lone genuine highlight of Friday’s game was the welcoming back of former head coach Ralph Friedgen; the honorary captain won 75 games and led the Terps to seven bowls during his 10-year tenure. It’s just a shame the game was out of hand when they honored Fridge on the field.
Terrapin Troubles: Jackson’s two interceptions represented a 10-point swing at best and a 21 point swing at worst. He was also sacked four times and completed just 10 of 21 passes for 65 yards. They weren’t helped with eight penalties for 70 yards-in the first half. Both sides of the ball were dominated on third down: Penn State converted 9 of 13 while the Terps were held to 4 of 15. The offense tallied just a pair of first downs in the second half. And the defense just couldn’t contain Sean Clifford all evening.
Next: Saturday at noon on the road against 1-3 Rutgers.
Virginia Tech (2-2, 0-2 ACC) took a 3-0 lead over Duke with a first quarter field goal, but it was all downhill from there as the Blue Devils scored touchdowns on their final three drives of the first half. To prove that wasn’t an aberration the visitors reached the end zone on their final three possessions of the second half, and the Hokies were handed a 45-10 loss- their worst since falling 48-7 at No. 2 LSU in 2007. The 35-point margin was their worst at home since 1974 when they got blown out 49-12 by Houston (gotta love the late Bill Yeoman and the veer offense). Interesting note: current Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians was the quarterback for that Hokies team. Another note: this year is turning into one major nightmare for the Blacksburg brethren.
Hokie Highlights: Deshawn McClease ran for 102 yards on 17 carries. Damon Hazelton had an impressive 72-yard catch for the team’s lone touchdown. Reggie Floyd and Rayshard Ashby each tallied eight tackles. Hezekiah Grimsley notched a 25 yard punt return while Oscar Bradburn averaged 41.2 yards per punt.
Hokie Humblings: The defense failed to get a sack as Blue Devils quarterback Quentin Harris completed 20 of 27 passes. The D also allowed 5.7 yards per carry and coughed up points on seven of Duke’s final eight possessions. Ryan Willis completed just 7 of 18 passes, and if you take away his TD strike to Hazelton he averaged less than six yards per completion.
Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at 2-2 Miami.
No. 18 Virginia (3-1) wrapped up the trend of taking a first half lead to put hope in the hearts of its fans, only to come up short in a 35-20 loss to No. 10 Notre Dame. The defense that had been responsible for come-from behind wins against Pitt, Florida State and Old Dominion couldn’t survive a pair of crucial second half fumbles. The first led gave the Fighting Irish the ball on the U.Va. seven and they scored two plays later; the second was returned for another touchdown.
Cavalier Congrats: Bryce Perkins threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns, with Hasise Dubois (9 catches for 143 yards and a score) doing the most of the damage. Joey Blount led the defense with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, and the defense notched four sacks. Brian Delaney connected on both of his field goal attempts.
Cavalier Concerns: The offensive line allowed eight sacks, leading to three Bryce Perkins fumbles. Perkins also threw a pair of interceptions, and the Fighting Irish were able to turn those five turnovers into 28 points. The running game went nowhere again, generating just 59 yards on 21 carries after accounting for sack yardage.
Next: Friday, Oct. 11 at 2-2 Miami.