College Football Corner: Terps and others competing with a new opponent

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

James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud (2) gets tripped up by Appalachian State defensive end Michael Fletcher (5) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)(AP/Daniel Lin)
Welcome to the confounding confluence.

Forgive me if I’m not completely dialed in to the Maryland men’s basketball team’s loss at Villanova, hot starts by George Mason and George Washington, or Navy playing in the Veteran’s Classic. It happens every November when college football is playing its highest-leveraged games at the same time men’s and women’s college basketball joins the already large menu.

So instead of spending more attention on the Terps’ upset bid of unbeaten or James Madison trying to stay unblemished, we’ve got an endless slate of preconference games on the court.

And, unlike pro sports leagues who are not beholden to each other schedule-wise, Division I FBS schools in theory operate in the same building. In a busy world, fans and boosters often don’t have time for both (or all three, if they’re season ticket holders for men’s and women’s hoops as well as football) and sadly, somebody has to suffer, whether it’s a half-filled SECU Stadium or a lightly-attended Xfinity Center.

Unfortunately, the NCAA does not have me on speed-dial. But, if they did, I’d want opening weekend for hoops to be pushed back to at least Nov. 15 — or the Friday before Thanksgiving. Give college football’s Closing Month a little time to breathe … and college basketball’s bread course a little less shelf life to get stale.

Maryland (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) took an early 3-0 lead against No. 2 Michigan, only to fall behind 23-3 in the second quarter. Somehow they rallied to make it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. But, given the chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, they began drives on their own 20, 10 and one yard lines and were unable to cross midfield and fell 31-24. Still a great effort. Still a disappointing result.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 247 yards while backup quarterback Billy Edwards Jr. scored three touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Beau Brade tallied 10 tackles for a defense that held the best (54.4%) third down offense to 4-13 (and 0-6 in the second half) on third down.

Terrapin Troubles: Tagovailoa tossed a pair of interceptions while losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. He also had an intentional grounding that resulted in a safety and helped jump-start the Wolfpack’s final drive.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at 6-5 Rutgers.

Navy (5-5, 4-3 AAC) sent its seniors out in fine fashion while keeping its bowl hopes alive by delivering their third shutout of the season, blanking East Carolina 10-0. The D earned another A as they began their day holding ECU to 23 yards on 14 plays over their first four possessions.

Midshipmen Medals: Alex Tecza rushed for 94 yards and the game’s only touchdown, while quarterback Xavier Arline added 68 yards on the ground, plus 10-11 passing for 102 yards. Colin Ramos tallied 10 tackles as the defense held the Pirates to 2-13 on third down while also notching four takeaways.

Midshipmen Miscues: Seven penalties for 35 yards didn’t hurt them this time, but two lost fumbles and a missed field goal will give the coaches plenty to chew on before diving into Thanksgiving dinner. The offense didn’t finish fine, gaining just one yard on ten plays on their last three drives.

Next: Saturday at noon on the road at 9-2 SMU.

James Madison (11-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) had been playing with fire all season, at one point winning four straight one-possession games. On Saturday, they appeared to once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a fourth-quarter rally against Appalachian State. But after settling for a field goal in overtime, JMU allowed a Mountaineer TD and the unbeaten season was no more, slipping 26-23 in OT.

Duke Do’s: Jordan McCloud threw for 289 yards and a touchdown while also connecting on a 2-point conversion that knotted things up in the fourth quarter. The pass rush forced an intentional grounding that led to a safety and a 5-3 second quarter lead.

Duke Don’ts: McCloud lost a fumble on the ensuing possession to set up the Mountaineers first touchdown of the day, and he followed that up with an interception. He didn’t have a ton of help on the ground as the offense gained just 61 yards rushing. Eight penalties for 65 yards is no way to stay unbeaten.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on the road at 7-4 Coastal Carolina.

Virginia (3-8, 2-5 ACC) has been snake-bitten with multiple close losses this fall, and it appeared as though they might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter when Duke rallied back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. But instead of folding this time, UVa burned 5:20 off the clock to kick a late field goal on their way to a 30-27 victory. They’re not going bowling, but coach Tony Elliott has his first ACC home win and the team has momentum heading into their game with Virginia Tech.

Cavalier Congrats: Anthony Colandrea threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns while adding 66 yards rushing. All-American candidate Malik Washington made eight catches for 112 yards and two scores. Kamren Robinson led the defense with 11 tackles while the unit tallied two takeaways. Will Bettridge made all three of his field goal attempts, providing the eventual margin of victory.

Cavalier Concerns: The offense had issues sustaining drives, going 5-15 on third down. The defense coughed up 159 yards on the ground at 5.7 yards per pop. Twelve penalties for 117 yards almost cost them against the Blue Devils.

Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Charlottesville against 5-6 Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-3) had a chance to punch its postseason ticket when they held Senior Day against N.C. State. Unfortunately, they got punched in the mouth midway through the game, allowing touchdowns on five straight possessions. They rallied in the fourth quarter but a late interception helped seal their fate in a 35-28 loss.

Hokie Highlights: Kyron Drones led the team with 51 yards rushing while throwing for three touchdowns, finding top target Da’Quan Felton seven times for 87 yards and two scores. Keonta Jenkins led the defense with eight tackles.

Hokie Humblings: Drones was the only rushing threat on an offense that converted just 1-7 third downs and had the ball for just 19:23. The defense couldn’t contain Brennan Armstrong, allowing 203 yards and two touchdowns passing plus 89 yards and two touchdowns rushing to the former UVa quarterback.

Next: Saturday on the road at 3-8 Virginia.

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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