College Football Corner: Road trips aren’t easy. Just ask Maryland, Virginia, Navy and James Madison

Just like summer doesn’t technically end until Sept. 22, the college football season doesn’t really begin until the start of conference play.

I’m not referring to opening week games, like Louisville-Syracuse or Week Zero doozies like Nebraska-Northwestern, but that Saturday where you have more than half of your league playing one another and not against directional or hyphenated schools in buyout home games.

And, with apologies to Old Dominion or SMU, conference play on the road is more of a true barometer as to whether your school is going to be a contender or pretender.



This week’s action saw Maryland and Virginia both go on the road and, despite similar results, there are two different feelings in the Terp and Cavalier camps this Monday.

Meanwhile, Navy and James Madison both returned to campus with league wins under their belts. No. 5 Clemson and No. 7 USC also escape road scrapes unbeaten, while Kansas State (one week removed from losing to Tulane at home) returns to Manhattan fresh off an upset victory at No. 6 Oklahoma.

The Sooners were one of 33 FBS schools that entered the weekend unbeaten and became one of 12 to fall from that group like the leaves of a new season. Take it easy on the road while you’re traveling. It can get bumpy …

Virginia Tech (2-2) kicked off the week Thursday (despite not having a bye the week before) by losing to West Virginia 33-10. The Hokies actually led in the first half and were in this one until the Mountaineers pulled away with a 17-0 fourth quarter.

Hokie Highlights: Kaleb Smith notched five catches for 70 yards and the team’s lone touchdown. Chamarri Conner made 11 tackles and the defense played well in the first half, generating a three and out, a fumble recovery and a four play drive on three of the Mountaineers’ first four possessions.

Hokie Humblings: The running game netted 35 yards on 18 carries and Grant Wells completed just 16 of 35 passes. The offense went 2-10 on third down and managed just 98 yards in the second half. Penalties were a problem with 15 flags for 132 yards.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on the road at 3-1 North Carolina. It’s for the division lead-although many of us are pulling for Coastal Chaos in 2022.

Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) dropped its conference opener 22-20 at Syracuse in a game that was a true tale of two halves. The Cavaliers couldn’t get out of their own way en route to a 16-0 deficit, but could do little wrong while dominating after intermission 20-6. Sadly, missed field goals by UVA and those made by SU proved to be the difference-maker.

Cavalier Congrats: Perris Jones rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Keytaon Thompson made eight catches for 55 yards while rushing twice for ten yards and the other UVA score.

Four takeaways: one from special teams that led to a TD and three from the defense. Jonas Sanker notched 10 tackles with an interception, while Nick Jackson made ten stops (including a sack). Dan Parks averaged 48 yards per punt.

Cavalier Concerns: Twelve penalties for 105 yards on the road is not going to help. Neither is going 3-12 on third down. Brennan Armstrong completed just 50% of his passes and averaged 7.3 yards per completion. Brendan Farrell missed a pair of field goals in the first half that would have given the team an early lead and one of Will Bettridge’s extra point attempts was blocked.

Next: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at 3-1 Duke. Anybody up for taking in both Hokie & Cavalier games?

Maryland (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) stood toe to toe with mighty Michigan in the Big House and did not blink. Unfortunately, neither did Blake Corum: his 33-yard touchdown run on fourth down late in the first half gave the No. 4 Wolverines the lead for good, and his 47-yard scamper for a score in the fourth quarter all but put the game away in a 34-27 final that showed progress for Coach Mike Locksley’s program, but still keeps the Terps outside the Big Ten East’s velvet rope.

Terrapin Triumphs: JUST ONE PENALTY FOR FIVE YARDS. Given their issues this fall, a major improvement especially on the big stage. Taulia Tagovailoa got off to a hot start and led the offense to points on their first three possessions. Jaishawn Barham notched eight tackles to lead a defense that held Michigan to 5-12 on third down. Chad Ryland shortened the field with 52 and 53 yard field goals.

Terrapin Troubles: A fumbled kickoff to start the day helped spot the Wolverines a 7-0 lead before ten seconds dribbled off the clock. Taulia Tagovailoa was held to 6-12 passing for 86 yards in the second half and threw an interception into double-coverage. The defense couldn’t contain Blake Corum for sixty minutes as the Michigan tailback rushed for 243 yards on 30 carries, including the previously mentioned backbreaking breakaway touchdown runs.

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

James Madison (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) had run up a 107-14 score on its first two forgettable foes, but this was a trip to Appalachian State. The school that took down TEXAS A&M in College Station! The team that pushed North Carolina to the brink in a game that saw 124 points put on the board! A squad that, when it needed a last-second miracle against Troy, got one in a Hail Mary that was short of the end zone! And with six minute left in the first half it looked like the Dukes were done but, when you score the final 29 points of the game, I’ve been told you have a good shot. And JMU remains unbeaten thanks to their 32-28 victory.

Duke Do’s: Todd Centeio threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns while running for 61 yards and another score. The defense held the Mountaineers to 63 yards, rushing and even taking their quarterback Chase Brice (and his sacks) out of the equation limited App. St. to 85 yards on 28 tries (just over three yards per carry). Jamare Edwards notched eight tackles (including 1.5 of JMU’s four sacks) while Jailin Walker’s interception set up the go-ahead score.

Duke Don’ts: The offense converted just 2-14 third downs and took almost the entire first half to reach the end zone. A pair of first-half fumbles set up short fields (JMU’S 16 and 22-yard line) for Mountaineer touchdowns. Camden Wise missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.

Next: Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against 2-2 Texas State. One has to love the random SBC kickoff times.

Navy (1-2, 1-1 AAC) gave a demonstration as to what an early-season bye week can do, battling East Carolina into overtime before prevailing 23-20 in the second extra session. Each unit did just enough to prevail against the Pirates. And 1-2 certainly feels a lot more than a game better than 0-3.

Midshipmen Medals: Tai Lavatai completed 7-10 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown while Vincent Terrell II caught three of those passes for 114 yards and a score. During a season where the ground game is still finding its way, a threatening air attack is all the more necessary. Eavan Gibbons tallied seven tackles plus a fumble recovery that set up a touchdown. Tyler Fletcher’s interception with under a minute left kept ECU from driving into field goal range. Daniel Davies made all three of his field goal attempts, including a pair after the end of regulation.

Midshipmen Miscues: The running game (2.9 yards per carry) remains a work in progress and will have to start producing as they progress through the conference schedule. The defense was feast or famine, allowing touchdowns on the non-turnover Pirate possessions in the second half. And they’re not beyond allowing the big play: a 41-yard run in the first quarter led to ECU’s first points of the day while a 67-yard pass tied things up in the fourth quarter.

Next: Saturday at noon against 3-1 Air Force. In Colorado Springs. They know that’s 10 a.m. local time, right?

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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