College Football Corner: Rough roads for Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech

There’s a reason why it’s called “home field advantage.” Until this past weekend Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech had not played away from their campus and each had enjoyed 2-0 starts.

Granted, fitting a “Group of Five” or FCS school into the schedule (or in The University of Virginia’s case, one of each) is going to help, but one can’t discount home cooking: from 2016-2020, the Terps were five and a half games better at home while the Hokies were four and a half games better in Blacksburg.

The University of Virginia has been the classic Jekyll and Hyde, going 22-10 in Charlottesville and 8-23 elsewhere. Week three saw each of the schools go on the road for the first time in 2021, and each struggled in different ways. The good news is they’ll each be home in week four.

Maryland (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) escaped unscathed Friday night in a far-from-perfect 20-17 win at Illinois. While the way they got there may not have been ideal, the Terps woke up Saturday morning a 3-0 team and halfway to bowl eligibility.

Fans will like the win in the standings while the coaches will like the amount of “teaching moments” they’ll see on the game film.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa tallied his third straight 300+ yard passing game, throwing for 350 yards this week. Tavon Fleet-Davis rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown while notching 44 yards and a touchdown receiving.

Nick Cross led the team in tackles and also recorded an interception while Sam Okuatinonu notched two sacks and six tackles. Punter Anthony Pecopella averaged 49 yards per kick.

Terrapin Troubles: The offense had issues moving the chains, converting 2-10 on third down. The team also lost a pair of fumbles: one coming at the Illinois 11 and the other at the Terps’ 25. A season-high eight penalties is not the way you want to begin Big Ten play.

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

No. 15 Virginia Tech (2-1) visited Morgantown for the first time since 2005 and fell behind double-digits early in its game at West Virginia, but rallied in the fourth quarter and actually had a first and goal in the final minutes of regulation.

Unfortunately, a pair of unsuccessful runs by Jalen Holston (Raheem Blackshear was out with leg cramps) and two incomplete passes resulted in a 27-21 loss. The September Stumble tradition continues.

Hokie Highights: Braxton Burmeister threw two touchdown passes and stretched the secondary with passes of 25, 29 and 39 yards. The tailback tandem of Blackshear and Holston combined for 89 yards on 20 carries.

Dax Hollifield’s 10 tackles and one sack led a defense that got off the field on 9-12 third downs and kept West Virginia out of the end zone in the second half (allowing 33 yards on 17 plays over the Mountaineers final four possessions — not including the kneeldown).

Hokie Humblings: The offense converted 6-16 third downs and three times had the ball inside the West Virginia 10 without getting points, losing a fumble and missing a field goal before turning the ball over on downs in the final minute of regulation.

The defense that allowed 24 points over the first two weeks gave up 24 points in just the first half Saturday, surrendering touchdowns on the Mountaineers first two drives thanks to scoring plays of 80 and 29 yards.

Next: Saturday at noon against 2-1 Richmond.

Virginia (2-1) fell behind early in Chapel Hill, allowing touchdowns on the first three North Carolina drives (the Tar Heels settled for a field goal on their fourth possession), but somehow found a way to rally and take a 28-24 halftime lead (for the record, Friday’s Presto’s Picks had them losing 28-24 after two halves).

Unfortunately, the second half had to be played and the Tar Heels reached the end zone on back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back drives in a 59-39 Virginia loss. The empty road stretch (seven straight losses away from Charlottesville) continues.

Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong threw for a school-record 554 yards and five touchdowns while getting great performances out of Dontayvion Hicks (7 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown) and Billy Kemp IV (8-106-2).

Noah Taylor tallied a dozen tackles to lead the defense. Joey Blount and Nick Jackson also notched double-digits in that department.

Cavalier Concerns: Armstrong lost a fumble and tossed an interception, and the pick kept what was a back-and-forth game a two-possession affair for the rest of the night.

The defense allowed almost 700 total yards and coughed up 8.3 yards per carry, failing to stop UNC on seven of nine third down attempts (the Tar Heels did not punt at all). Nine penalties for 102 yards created even more obstacles on a rough night.

Next: Friday night at 7 p.m. against 3-0 Wake Forest.

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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