College Football Corner: Terps, Hokies win while Prime Time steals the spotlight

Dave Preston is an AP Top 25 voter. See his latest rankings online here.

You can’t win a National Championship, or even a Conference/Division title, on Labor Day weekend but in college football you can win the imagination of your fan base and the spotlight of a nation.

At the same time Maryland was warming up for Towson and Virginia was facing No. 12 Tennessee, Colorado was equaling its 2022 win total by stunning No. 17 TCU 45-42 in a game where head coach Deion Sanders’ son Shedeur Sanders threw for 510 yards. We knew “Coach Prime” was going to bring a lot of swagger to the Buffaloes but not many of us thought they’d beat last year’s runner-up at their stadium in Week One.

Week Two has CU hosting a Nebraska team that is most definitely “not ready for prime time”; the Cornhuskers led Minnesota 10-3 in the fourth quarter Thursday night before a fumble and interception on their final two possessions allowed the Golden Gophers to win 13-10 on a field goal as time expired (Huskers are gonna Husker).

Colorado State (0-1 after giving up 50 points to Washington State) wraps up nonconference play before the Buffaloes face ranked foes Oregon and USC on consecutive weeks. But by then Deion’s team will likely be in the Top 25 as well. Fire up the spotlight …

Virginia (0-1) began the day with a lot of emotion. Cheerleaders put flowers on the one, 15, and 41 yard lines to honor the three players shot last November. The healing is far from over; I didn’t ask Tony Elliott when we spoke the other week but I’m sure “mass shooting” wasn’t in any “Coaching Football” handbook. But he told me that the program is doing its best to move forward. And for most of the first half they kept No. 12 Tennessee in check: with 9:15 left in the second quarter they trailed 7-0 and a punt pinned the Volunteers back on their own ten. But then we learned why the Vols have sky-high expectations for 2023 as they reached the end zone the next four times they had the football and Virginia was on its way to a 49-13 loss.

Cavalier Congrats: Zero turnovers on offense for new quarterback Tony Muskett. Steve Bracey tallied ten tackles as the defense held UT to 5-13 on third down. Only two penalties for ten yards. And Daniel Sparks’ leg may very well fall off by November, but the punter averaged 44.2 yards on nine kicks.

Cavalier Concerns: A missed 28-yard field goal robbed the team of some early momentum. The offense took a while to get going, managing just 25 yards on 22 plays from scrimmage over its first six possessions. And the defense went from bending to breaking, allowing touchdowns on back to back to back to back possessions.

Next: Saturday at noon against 1-0 James Madison.

Maryland (1-0) began with a bang against Towson, scoring 21 first quarter points on their way to a 38-6 rout. Lost in the glare of the fireworks was a defense that has now gone three games without allowing a touchdown — a feat not accomplished by the Terps since 1976. Fans of the program know that’s the team that went 11-0 before losing in the Cotton Bowl.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns while also running for a score. His top target was Corey Dyches (who seems faster after changing uniform numbers for 84 to 2) who caught six passes for 108 yards and a TD. Beau Brade paced the defense with six tackles and the D not only kept the Tigers out of the end zone they also held the visitors without a completion in the first quarter.

Terrapin Troubles: We’ll write off the multiple drops as “opening game jitters,” but have our eyes on the receivers’ hands moving forward. We’ll also write off the often dirty pocket Taulia had to deal with due to the fact that a lot of linemen were being run in and out (Coach Mike Locksley said they were subbing in guys mid-drive, something that rarely happens), but while he can spin out against FCS defenses the Big Ten teams won’t miss when they’re that close to the QB.

Next: Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against 1-0 Charlotte.

James Madison (1-0) never trailed Bucknell in their 38-3 victory, but their play was far from sharp. A first possession turnover put the JMU glass half-full for much of the evening before a pair of fourth quarter scores gave the Bridgeforth Stadium faithful something to take home.

Duke Do’s: Kaelon Black rushed for 125 yards on 12 carries to pace a ground game that gained 261 yards. Jordan McCloud came off the bench to throw for 144 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns. Taurus Jones notched nine tackles and a sack while Solomon Vanhorse had punt returns of 25 and 35 yards.

Duke Don’ts: Alonza Barnett III began the night by throwing an interception on the team’s first possession, and finished 3-11 for 15 yards (although he did run for a score). The defense coughed up a late score in the first half, allowing the previously stymied Bison to move the ball 43 yards on seven plays over 2:02 to kick a field goal.

Next: Saturday at noon against 0-1 Virginia. How purple will Scott Stadium be?

Virginia Tech (1-0) exacted revenge by topping the team that beat them in last year’s opener, beating Old Dominion 36-17. Just like last year’s Labor Day weekend loss to the Monarchs set the tone for a 3-8 campaign, the Blacksburg faithful are hoping the team’s first 30+ point performance in the Brent Pry era (last year’s high was 29 in a loss to Pitt) is a good omen for 2023.

Hokie Highlights: Grant Wells threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns and his top target was a transfer from ODU. Ali Jennings made five catches for 72 yards and two scores. Florida transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland led the team with six tackles and had two of the team’s five sacks. The defense also held the Monarchs to 3.8 yards per pass attempt.

Hokie Humblings: The running back rotation of Malachi Thomas and Bhayshul Tuten combined for 77 yards on 31 carries. The defense had issues stopping the run as even with the sacks factored in the Monarchs gained 201 yards on the ground.

Next: Saturday at noon against 0-1 Purdue.

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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