College Football Corner: Don’t choke on your cupcakes

Late September gives Power Five Conference schools that final chance to load up on a victory against a “group of five” or FCS school without having to explain themselves (like the SEC in November).

But every scheduled cupcake brings with it a caveat: take care of business or you will look silly. Maryland and Virginia Tech played well enough to beat their lower-tiered foes this week, and neither put together what would be called a “solid sixty minutes.” But for every tough victory to stomach, there’s an embarrassing loss to deal with: Minnesota fell at home to Bowling Green, and even though Auburn pulled out a win over Georgia State, the sting of almost losing to a commuter school will have the Tigers avoiding the eyes of their SEC brethren. And Rutgers almost—hold on, I forgot: the Scarlet Knights are actually a Big Ten team, albeit one that shouldn’t be within a touchdown of mighty Michigan. Chew your cupcakes carefully…

Virginia (2-2, 0-2 ACC) picked up where they left off against North Carolina (59 points surrendered including touchdowns on all five second half possessions) by allowing Wake Forest to march 75 yards on nine plays to take a first quarter lead they’d never relinquish in U.Va.’s 37-17 loss to the Demon Deacons. The closest the Cavaliers came to coming back was a 4th and goal from the six on the next possession where Brennan Armstong’s pass fell incomplete.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns with Dontayvion Wicks (8 catches for 114 yards and a score) the top target. The offense actually began the second half with touchdowns on their first two possessions. Joey Blount and Nick Jackson paced the defense with 11 tackles apiece. Jacob Finn averaged 43 yards per punt.
  • Cavalier Concerns: Armstrong was sacked six times, but when you’re trailing for the final 47:34 of the game that’s going to happen. The defense failed to register a sack and allowed 203 yards rushing, allowing points to Wake the first seven times they had the ball.

Next: Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at 2-2 Miami.

Virginia Tech (3-1) bounced back from its loss at West Virginia by starting strong against Richmond: the Hokies took the opening kickoff and needed five plays to move 65 yards and take an early 7-0 lead. But Tech was unable to blow out the Spiders and staggered to a 21-10 victory. And Head Coach Justin Fuente’s next non-conference foe will be a little tougher of a test than this one.

  • Hokie Highlights: Tayvion Robinson gave the Hokies the lead for good with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown (he’d average 29.8 yards on the day) while making six catches for 76 yards. Tre Turner finishes with 102 yards receiving, catching a 27-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage and eventually scoring their first TD of the day. Alan Tisdale led the team with nine tackles while Dax Hollifield had eight stops that included one sack for a defense that held the Spiders to 3-14 on third down.
  • Hokie Humblings: The offense reached the red zone only twice and lost an interception deep in its own territory that led to Richmond’s only touchdown. On a day where the Spiders lost their starting quarterback early, the defense played well but didn’t generate a takeaway.

Next: Oct. 9 against No. 12 Notre Dame (4-0).

Maryland (4-0) is off to its best start in five years even with a somewhat uneven 37-16 win over Kent State. Now before you start printing bowl banners without embarrassing sponsors, the 2016 team went 6-7. The previous 4-0 Terps team finished 7-6. So there’s a long way to go before glory. But 4-0 is 4-0 and for a program that’s experienced a low ceiling lately, they’ll take it.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns (I blame myself for his interception as in my 3:45 p.m. update from the stadium said he’d yet to be picked off this year). Dontay Demus Jr. continues to destroy secondaries, grabbing four more catches for 108 yards and a score. The defense notched five sacks, held the Golden Flashes to 4-16 on third down and limited Kent State to one touchdown on seven red zone trips. Anthony Pecorella averaged 46.7 yards per punt.
  • Terrapin Troubles: Nine penalties for 120 yards lets the team know they have plenty to clean up, and Head Coach Mike Locksley cites the post-whistle penalties like the personal foul calls as easily avoidable. The offense converted 4/11 third downs while the defense allowed multiple explosive (20+ yards) plays. Kicker Joseph Petrino missed an extra point.

Next: Friday night at 8 p.m. against No. 5 Iowa (4-0).

Navy (0-3, 0-1 AAC) is off to its worst start in 20 years after a come-from-ahead 28-20 loss at Houston. The destination isn’t as bad as the journey as the Midshipmen led 17-7 at the half. But back-to-back three and outs to begin the second half allowed the Cougars a window of opportunity to exploit. Now one wonders when the next best chance for victory will be (please don’t say Temple in late November).

  • Midshipmen Medals: The ground game got back to the basics and two weeks after struggling against Air Force gained 202 yards. Xavier Arline (64 yards rushing and a touchdown plus 3/6 passing for 83 yards) looked much better, and he had help in the form of Isaac Ruoss (55 yards rushing and a TD) and James Harris II (47 yards). Diego Fagot led the defense with nine tackles and a sack. Riley Riethman averaged 46.5 yards per punt and Bijan Nichols was perfect in field goals and extra points.
  • Midshipmen Miscues: The offense converted just 3/15 third downs and managed 76 yards of total offense on 27 second-half plays. They also lost a second-half fumble that the Cougars turned into a cushion touchdown rather quickly (five-play, 26-yard drive). The defense coughed dodged a bullet when Houston missed a 32-yard field goal on their first possession of the second half but then allowed touchdowns on their next three drives.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 2-1 UCF.

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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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