College Football Corner: If you come at the king, you better not miss

College Football’s “Moving Month” began with the thinning of the unbeaten herd: Maryland was one of six Power Five Conference teams to fall over the weekend.

Boston College’s loss at Clemson leaves Wake Forest as the ACC’s last remaining unbeaten. No. 3 Oregon was upset in overtime by Stanford (meaning Oregon State now leads the Pac-12 North), No. 8 Arkansas was overmatched by No. 2 Georgia (not as close as the 37-0 beatdown would suggest), and No. 9 Notre Dame’s season of close calls continued with the Fighting Irish falling at home to No. 7 Cincinnati.

Also in the mix was No. 12 Ole Miss going into Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama with Head Coach Lane Kiffin talking up a storm, from questioning recruiting practices to telling CBS Sideline Reporter Jamie Ehrdal “Get your popcorn ready” before tossing his headset in mic-drop fashion.

Unfortunately for Kiffin and the Rebels, this was a case of popcorn starting a fire in the microwave (it’s actually happened at WTOP, but not by my hand) as the top-ranked Crimson Tide took a 28-0 halftime lead on their way to a 42-21 victory. Proving that while talk is great, the walk is what wins. Second, if you come at the game’s reigning dynasty, you better bring it. And lastly, please treat headsets with more courtesy in the future.

Virginia Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong (5) congratulates tailback Wayne Taulapapa (21) after Taulapapa scored a touchdown during the first half of a NCAA college football game against the Miami Hurricanes, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Virginia (3-2, 1-2 ACC) got one heck of a bounce entering October as Miami’s 33-yard field goal attempt hit the upright as time expired to preserve the Cavaliers’ 30-28 victory.

The triumph keeps the defending Coastal Division champs in contention, although it wouldn’t be the Coastal if six of the seven teams weren’t in contention on Halloween.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Wayne Taulapapa ran for 62 yards and a touchdown while scoring a key second half two-point conversion. He also caught a pair of passes. Billy Kemp IV resumed his role as the main option with nine catches for 81 yards. The defense held Miami to 5-15 on third down as Mandy Alonso notched two of the team’s four sacks. Jacob Finn averaged 50.3 yards per punt (with zero touchbacks).
  • Cavalier Concerns: Seven penalties for 60 yards won’t sit well in Charlottesville. And neither will a defense that gave up big plays of 36, 45 and 57 yards. The punt coverage team allowed a 22-yarder that jump-started the Hurricanes’ first scoring drive of the night.

Next: Saturday at 3-2 Louisville.

Maryland running back Isaiah Jacobs, left, rushes the ball as Iowa defensive back Kaevon Merriweather tries to bring him down during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) actually led No. 5 Iowa 7-3 after one quarter Friday night and it looked as if, after a rough start (Tua Tagovailoa threw an interception on the team’s second possession), the Terps were ready for prime time. Sadly the second quarter went from drizzle to downpour as the Hawkeyes went on a 31-0 run en route to a 51-14 rout of Maryland.

Welcome to the Big Ten Gauntlet, my friends.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Dontay Demus Jr. caught four passes for 61 yards in the first quarter before leaving with a leg injury. Three of Ami Finau’s tackles were for losses. Anthony Pecorella averaged 46.5 yards per punt. The new 120 x 54 foot videoboard in the stadium end zone is awesome and is the largest in the Big Ten.
  • Terrapin Troubles: Seven turnovers, including five interceptions thrown by Taulia Tagovailoa (although one was a hail-Mary at the end of the first half). Iowa turned the first four turnovers into 24 first half points. Ten penalties for 82 yards. And the defense wasn’t able to contain the Hawkeyes for a big chunk of the night (witness the soul-sucking 11-play, 82-yard scoring march that boiled 6:39 off the clock in the second half).

Next: Saturday at No. 11 Ohio State (4-1).

Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai runs with the ball against UCF during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Navy (1-3, 1-1 AAC) began its game against UCF rather auspiciously by fumbling on the third play from scrimmage, followed by the Knights scoring on the very next play. But the Mids would own the fourth quarter, outscoring the visitors 17-0 in the final period on their way to a season-salvaging 34-30 victory. The triumph also means that Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team has now beaten every AAC team since joining the conference in 2015.

  • Midshipman Medals: The ground game gained 348 yards, with Carlinos Acie and Isaac Ruoss each gaining over 80 yards and quarterback Tai Lavatai scoring two touchdowns. Diego Fagot tallied 11 tackles and forced a key fumble while Taylor Robinson notched a fumble recovery and an interception in the fourth quarter as the defense held UCF to 2-9 on third down. Special teams blocked an extra point and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown during a first half where so many things went wrong.
  • Midshipman Miscues: Lavatai fumbled twice inside the Navy 20, setting up a pair of one-play touchdown drives for UCF. The sophomore wasn’t helped on one second quarter drive where he threw a pair of passes that hit the hands of his receivers yet fell to the turf incomplete, resulting in an empty possession. Eight penalties for 72 yards with more than a few of them happening at pivotal points (i.e., a false start on 4th & goal from the one).

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 5-0 SMU.

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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