College Football Corner: Maryland and JMU open October undefeated

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

We’re only just getting started! Five fun weeks of September football is in our rear-view mirror, and what exactly have we learned? Heading into the season one thought that Maryland might be on to something special (they are), James Madison would learn how good it was during a three-game road trip (they did), while Virginia, Virginia Tech and Navy would be works in progress with plenty of hiccups and false starts (true, true, and true).

The final Saturday of “Show Me Month” delivered examples of each, and as each of the schools enter the teeth of conference play one looks forward to the next 30 days.

Twenty-two schools in FBS schools enter October unbeaten: They begin with two-time defending champ Georgia who staggered to another tough victory — this time by seven points at Auburn (no truth to the rumor Auburn boosters called for a 10-year contract extension for head coach Hugh Freeze in the first half before demanding he be fired in the second). They include Maryland, who is 5-0 for the first time since their last ACC Championship season of 2001, and James Madison who is 5-0 for the second straight year. On the other side of the coin, Virginia (0-5) is one of four winless schools in FBS (Nevada, Sam Houston, and UConn are the others).

Meanwhile, Colorado’s star has diminished somewhat after consecutive losses (the school should be spelled “Colorao” after allowing 125 points over the last three weeks), but the Buffaloes have a chance to recover with consecutive games coming up against losing teams in Arizona State and Stanford.

In other news, Duke is officially a basketball school again after the No. 17 Blue Devils’ last-minute loss to No. 11 Notre Dame. Although, it is still up for debate who was more insufferable at Wade Wallace Stadium, Duke hoop fans who are caring about football for the first time ever or Notre Dame fans who didn’t attend the school (don’t worry, the roles will reverse when the Irish play the Blue Devils in hoops this winter).

Saturday’s Results:

James Madison (5-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) returned home after three weeks away and used the home field to their advantage, taking a 24-7 halftime lead on their way to a 31-23 win over South Alabama. Evidently the tighter than desired (one, two, seven, and now eight) finishes are not going away anytime soon.

Duke Do’s: Jordan McCloud threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns while adding 61 yards rushing. His top target was Zach Horton who caught three passes for 116 yards and two scores. Trent Hendrick tallied 11 tackles to pace the defense while Jalen Green notched 2.5 of the team’s five sacks.

Duke Don’ts: The offense had issues moving the chains, going 2 of 14 on third down. The running back rotation managed 83 yards on 32 carries. Ten penalties for 108 yards will eventually come back to haunt you.

Next: Oct. 14 against 4-1 Georgia Southern.

Virginia (0-5, 0-2 ACC) took an early lead over Boston College in Chestnut Hill, only to crash back to earth in a 27-24 loss. Less than two years removed from being 6-2 and controlling its path to the ACC Coastal, UVa is enduring a historically bad start (worst since 1982).

Cavalier Congrats: After missing multiple games with an ankle injury, quarterback Tony Muskett threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Top target Malik Washington led the way with nine catches for 97 yards and a score, putting the senior on pace for 89 receptions for 1,264 yards with seven touchdowns. Jonas Salker was the team’s top tackler with 12 stops and Daniel Sparks averaged 48.1 yards on seven punts.

Cavalier Concerns: The offense converted just three of 12 third downs on the afternoon and managed 44 yards on 25 second-half plays from scrimmage. The pass rush generated zero sacks and 11 penalties for 90 yards is no way to go through life on

Next: Saturday at noon against 4-1 William & Mary.

Maryland (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) wasted little time showing its offensive firepower against Indiana. Their first three touchdown drives needed 25, 5, and 46 seconds and they would expand their lead to 27-3 at the half before cruising 44-17.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this team. This is a really close-knit group that just plays,” coach Mike Locksley said after the victory. “Still, just the beginning. We’ve still got some work to do. We’ve got a tremendous challenge coming up this upcoming week which I know our guys are excited for.”

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns while running for a score. His top target was Tai Felton who grabbed seven receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns. The defense held IU to 3-13 on third down over the first three quarters while posting back-to-back-to-back three and outs in the first half to set the tone.

Terrapin Troubles: A missed extra point, blocked field goal and 56-yard kickoff return allowed will make the special teams meetings a little more intriguing this week.

Next: Saturday at noon against No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) on FOX. Did the Buckeyes needed to take a week off to prepare for the Terps?

Navy (1-3, 0-2 AAC) after a week off returned rested rather than rusty and took a 14-0 lead over South Florida. Unfortunately the early momentum waned as they fell to the Bulls 44-30. Plenty of good, bad and ugly for the Mids who try to regroup before the season goes off the rails.

Midshipman Medals: Alex Tecza rushed for 82 yards on 13 carries to pace a ground game that posted 240 yards on the day. Tai Lavatai completed 4 of 6 passes for 83 yards while rushing for a pair of scores. Will Harbour led the defense with 11 tackles and a sack.

Midshipman Miscues: The offense moved the chains on 3 of 14 third downs. The defense allowed 9.9 yards per pass attempt while special teams allowed a return of a missed extra point the other way for two points that went to South Florida. The Mids also were flagged eight times for 70 yards worth of penalties.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 against 2-2 North Texas.

Virginia Tech (2-3, 0-1 ACC) was able to sustain its early lead against Pitt, but it wasn’t pretty. After seeing their 14-point halftime lead turn into a one-possession game, Kyron Drones found Jaylin Lane for a 53-yard back-breaking touchdown pass that put the game out of reach. They’d tack on a field goal following a 14 play, 77-yard march that squeezed 8:54 off the clock to finish with a 38-21 victory. It was the first Power Five win for the school since week two of the 2022 season.

Hokie Highlights: Kyron Daniels throws three touchdown passes while running for two more scores. Bhayshul Toun rushes for 109 yards. Alan Tisdale paced the defense with eight tackles as the unit held the Panther running back rotation to 59 yards on 18 carries (a far cry from 2022 when they allowed 320 yards rushing to Pitt).

Hokie Humblings: What is it with area schools getting flagged this weekend? Tech was charged with ten penalties for 91 yards. The defense was more break than bend at times, allowing touchdown passes of 61 and 75 yards.

Next: Saturday at No. 5 Florida State (4-0) at 3:30 p.m.

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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