It’s always nice to have that first weekend of college football in the books. And what’s nice about it is Week 1 almost always falls on Labor Day weekend, giving one a little more time to sort things out (with apologies to my editors).
The first challenges of 2021 have been met by each of the FBS locals, some successfully and others not so awesomely — it was painful to look at updates from Annapolis while covering the Maryland-West Virginia game.
The second challenge of the season is to learn from Week 1 while not becoming a prisoner to it. Virginia Tech and Maryland each posted great wins at home over favored teams, but they’ve got enough to clean up from those efforts and can’t bask in one victory over a 12-game slate.
Navy needs to figure out what went wrong and make corrections, but can’t overthink those issues because when the Midshipmen have been right — and they have been for the vast majority over the last 20 years — they’re a pretty good team.
Virginia needs to reset its alarm for a morning kickoff, trading in the tailgating wings for eggs Benedict (although I prefer Eggs Norwegian with smoked salmon).
Former Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer said that the biggest improvement of a team is from Week 1 to Week 2. And while it’s important to begin on the right foot, it’s just as important to sustain that success, or bounce back from a rough outing.
Virginia Tech (1-0) began the weekend with a bang, beating No. 10 North Carolina 17-10 Friday night. I could almost smell the smoked turkey legs from our WTOP studios (truth be told we still have barbecue sauce containers from July in the fridge), and while watching the team enter the field to “Enter Sandman,” I wanted to drive to Blacksburg immediately.
The win puts the always topsy-turvy Coastal Division up for grabs, especially with Miami getting crushed by No. 1 Alabama, Duke slipping to Charlotte, and Georgia Tech falling to Northern Illinois.
- Hokie Highlights – The defense intercepted highly touted Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell three times in the second half and limited UNC to 2-10 on third down. Amare Darno led the pass rush with 1.5 of the team’s six sacks. Braxton Burmeister threw and ran for touchdowns, while punter Peter Moore averaged 44.3 yards per kick.
- Hokie Humblings – The offense was held to 3 yards per carry and kicker John Parker Romo missed a 31-yard field goal that would have extended the lead to 13. Keshawn King and Raheem Blackshear each had fumbles.
Next: Saturday at 2 p.m. against Middle Tennessee.
Maryland (1-0) continued the local vibe with a 30-24 win over West Virginia. Coach Mike Locksley told his team it would be a “four quarter game” and the showdown between former annual foes turned out to be one with enough twists and turns to make you think that ’80s coaches Bobby Ross and Don Nehlen were on the sidelines.
After a first quarter that saw 31 points, the Terps let a double-digit lead dissolve as they trailed at halftime. But thanks to a defense that made big plays and an offense that moved the chains on third down, going 5-of-6 plus a kneel-down in the fourth quarter, the Terps came out on top.
- Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were 60+ yards. Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus Jr. each recorded 100-yard receiving games while Tayon Fleet-Davis ran for 123 yards, including a 53-yard carry on third and one that sealed the game. The team tallied three takeaways on defense and another on special teams, while Sam Okuayinonu notched 1.5 sacks to lead a pass rush that made life uncomfortable for the Mountaineers’ Jarret Doege.
- Terrapin Troubles: Special teams had some spotty situations, from a fumbled kickoff return (thankfully out of bounds) to a 23-yard punt in the third quarter that gave the Mountaineers the ball in Maryland territory. Taulia Tagovailoa took a sack in the first half that turned a 38-yard field goal attempt into a 51-yard miss. Five penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct foul after an interception, will provide the coaching staff with a teaching moment this week.
Next: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Howard.
Navy (0-1) saw its season opener turn sour in a 49-7 loss to Marshall. The Mids actually went toe-to-toe with the Thundering Herd, but red zone execution, special teams miscues and turnovers sealed their fate as Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team trailed 28-0 at the half. Usually starting strong in September, Navy is 0-1 for the third time in four years.
- Midshipman Medals – The offense actually reached the Marshall side of the field seven times in 14 possessions. James Harris II led the team with 80 yards on 11 carries while sophomore quarterback Xavier Arline scored the team’s lone touchdown and gained 76 yards on 16 attempts. Mitchell West paced the defense with eight tackles while Kevin Brennan and Mbiti Williams notched interceptions.
- Midshipman Miscues – A blocked field goal attempt took three points off the board while a blocked punt set up a short field for a Marshall touchdown. The Herd converted 5-8 third downs, meaning not only did the Mids have issues getting stops but they only put Marshall in eight third down situations all day. The passing game went 5-16 for 61 yards and two interceptions, with four players throwing passes.
Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Air Force.
Virginia (1-0) took a while to get going in their 43-0 shutout of William & Mary. The Cavaliers were only up 3-0 early in the second quarter, but would reach the end zone on their final two first half drives before scoring on four of their first five possessions after intermission. And for all those who are high on the Hokies in the Coastal Division, remember that Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team is defending Coastal champs.
Cavalier Congrats – Brennan Armstrong threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a pair of scores. The ground game gained 206 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. Nick Jackson tallied 12 tackles while the defense got off the field on 11-14 third downs and recorded a safety. My UVa friends were also pleased they could finally buy beer in the stadium.
Cavalier Concerns – The offense converted just 6-13 third downs and took some time to find its rhythm. A holding penalty wiped out a kickoff return for a touchdown. And my UVa pal who says I sell his tailgating short was proud to show me pictures of the pesto pasta salad enjoyed pregame.
Next: Saturday at 11 a.m. (not a misprint) against Illinois.