College Football Corner: You can’t repeat the past

This August, in between attending Navy and Maryland Football media days, I reread “The Great Gatsby” in order to come to terms with the end of summer.

The book remains loaded with more than a few money quotes: one is an exchange where Gatsby is told “You can’t repeat the past,” and incredulously replies “Why of course you can!” (he may have added an “Old Sport” in there for good measure).

College football is loaded with “Old Sports” that try to recreate their glory days, and for every Alabama that hires the second coming of Bear Bryant in Nick Saban, there’s a Texas or USC or Florida State that has buyer’s remorse before their new hire has coached one month’s worth of games.

Saturday we saw the Longhorns lose to former and future conference foe Arkansas (welcome to the SEC), the Trojans tumble to a rebuilding Stanford and the Seminoles stumble to Jacksonville State (welcome to FCS?).

Prior performance is no guarantee of future success in the always shifting world of college football. But past performance is a guarantee your school’s fan base has a short supply of patience and understanding. Are you going to win next week, Old Sport?

Virginia (2-0) sent their fans home early with a 42-14 rout of Illinois. Despite the 11 a.m. kickoff, the Cavaliers were wide-awake from the start, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions of the afternoon — I mean morning — and are off to a 2-0 start for the second time in three years.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong threw for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns while Jelani Woods provided the deep threat, catching 5 passes for 122 yards and a score.

Noah Taylor tallied 2 sacks and 7 tackles while the defense got off the field on 11 of 17 third downs. Punter Jacob Finn averaged 46.7 yards per kick.

  • Cavalier Concerns: Justin Duenke missed field goal attempts of 31 and 46 yards. The offense converted just 4-10 third downs and turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter.

Eight penalties for 74 yards can’t sit well with the coaching staff and will serve as good teaching points after outscoring their first two foes 85-14.

Next: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at No. 24 North Carolina (1-1).

No. 19 Virginia Tech (2-0) turned a one-possession game at the half into a 35-14 win over Middle Tennessee by scoring on back to back to back drives in the third quarter.

The smoked turkey legs at Lane Stadium always taste good — trust me — but they’re a little bit better after a double-digit victory.

  • Hokie Highlights: The running game averaged 5.7 yards per carry and tallied 224 yards, with Raheem Blackshear scoring a pair of touchdowns.

The offense also notched a turnover-free day while converting 7-12 third downs. Nasir Peoples paced the defense that held the Blue Raiders to 66 yards rushing by making 11 tackles.

  • Hokie Humblings: Three of the first five drives ended with three and outs for the offense (granted the other two were touchdown drives) that took a while to click. While the passing game had plays of 26 and 47 yards it still averaged less than 10 yards per completion.

Next: Noon Saturday at 1-1 West Virginia.

Navy (0-2) lost to rival Air Force 23-3 on a beautiful afternoon in Annapolis that turned ugly for a misfiring offense as well as the special teams that made mistakes at the most inopportune time.

The Washington Post and the (Annapolis) Capital Gazette both reported late Saturday night that longtime offensive coordinator Irvin Jasper was fired after the game, but there has been no official word from the school as of Sunday morning.

  • Midshipmen Medals: Diego Fagot made 13 tackles while the defense held the Falcons to just 70 yards of total offense. Maasai Maynor came off the bench to complete 3-5 passes for 32 yards while posting 5 of the teams 6 first downs on their final possession of the day.

Bijan Nichols connected on a 23-yard field goal that gave the Mids a second-quarter lead.

  • Midshipmen Miscues: The offense gained just 68 yards while converting 1-12 third downs. Eight of those third downs had the Mids needed at least eight yards to move the chains.

The punting game was plagued with problems, from a snap through the end zone for a safety to a 19-yard kick that led to the Falcon’s first touchdown.

Punt returns weren’t much better, as a fumbled kick at the Navy 19 almost led to an early Air Force score (they’d miss a 35-yard field goal) and a roughing the punter penalty kept a key drive alive for the visitors in the second half.

Next: Sept. 25 at Houston.

Maryland (2-0) continued its 2021 trend of strong starts by scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions against Howard Saturday night.

The Terps then took things to the next level by putting 24 points on the board in the second quarter en route to a 62-0 shellacking of the Bison. Who’s ready for Big Ten play?

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa completed 22-27 passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. His top two targets once again were Dontay Demus Jr. (6 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown) and Rakim Jarrett (6-67 with a score).

The offense converted 9-15 third downs on the night. Not to be outdone, the defense held Howard to 0-11 on third down. Jakorian Bennett notched an interception for the second straight week.

  • Terrapin Troubles: Six penalties for 55 yards won’t necessarily cost you against an FBS school from the MEAC, but there’s a little slimmer margin for error in the Big Ten. Joseph Petrino missed a 45-yard field goal one week after missing a 51-yarder.

Next: 9 p.m. Friday at Illinois (1-2).

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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