College Football Corner: Big upsets in the Big Ten, plus Maryland’s upsetting debut

The Big Ten’s return to the college football landscape saw plenty of the usual goings-on — from No. 5 Ohio State’s 52-17 rout of Nebraska to No. 18 Michigan’s 49-24 blasting of Minnesota that begins the traditional narrative that ends in either Ann Arbor or Columbus, and this year the Buckeyes have home field.

But this year’s opening weekend also served notice to Maryland that the always-tough East Division may be even more of a challenge, as traditional also-rans Rutgers shocked Michigan State 38-27 and Indiana pulled out a 36-35 overtime win over No. 8 Penn State.

Greg Schiano’s triumphant return helped the Scarlet Knights not only end a 21-game conference losing streak; Rutgers 38 points in their opener was 13 shy of last year’s total accrued over nine league games.

And the Hoosiers’ roller coaster ride went from a 10-point halftime lead to down eight with under a minute remaining, only to survive a last-second field goal attempt in regulation before finally prevailing on a two-point conversion in OT.

Penn State and Michigan State aren’t going away either, which makes Maryland’s mountain to climb all the steeper.

Navy (3-3) dropped to 3-1 in the AAC with its 37-21 loss to Houston. The Mids did a nice job limiting the Cougars to field goals before allowing a 51-yard touchdown pass late in the first half. Unfortunately, after intermission a pair of missed field goals and an interception turned the tide the visitors’ way before a last-minute touchdown made the score somewhat respectable.

  • Midshipman Medals: Dalen Morris had his best day as a starter, throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a score. Diego Fagot notched 10 tackles plus a sack; the defense bent but did not break in the first half as they held the Cougars to 1-7 on third down.
  • Midshipman Miscues: A pair of missed field goals in the second half hurt any chances at keeping up with Cougars, and the defense that previously bent ended up breaking as Houston converted 5-6 third downs after the intermission. Daniel Davies averaged under 35 yards per punt, giving the visitors decent starting field position on multiple occasions (two field goal drives in the first half began at midfield).

Next: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against No. 23 SMU.

Virginia (1-4) didn’t fall behind double digits in the first quarter as has been their custom this fall, but the Cavaliers still came up short at No. 11 Miami 19-14. While the effort was better and for the first time this fall, Virginia played a game decided by fewer than 17 points, Bronco Mendenhall’s team is off to its worst start since Mike London’s final season in Charlottesville.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong is back! The quarterback threw two touchdown passes while also rushing for 91 yards. Billy Kemp IV continues to be the hero UVa quarterbacks need, want, and deserve, catching five more receptions to lead the team yet again. Nick Jackson notched 16 tackles as the defense recorded five sacks and held the Hurricanes to 2.5 yards per carry.
  • Cavalier Concerns: Allowing a 2-play, 75-yard scoring drive on the first possession of the night is not how you want to begin any game, against anyone, anywhere, let alone the No. 11 team in the country. In a game of inches, the little things turned out to loom large: a second-quarter touchdown that would have given the Cavs a 14-7 lead was wiped out due to an ineligible man downfield penalty. They’d go on to miss a 36-yard field goal. A lost fumble ended the team’s final drive with under a minute to play in regulation.

Next: Saturday against No. 13 North Carolina at 8 p.m.

No. 23 Virginia Tech (3-2) and Wake Forest each averaged more than 40 points per game entering Saturday’s showdown in Winston-Salem, so naturally 39 points were scored between the two teams in a 23-16 Demon Deacon victory. Halfway through the 10-game ACC schedule, the Hokies find themselves locked into the league’s middle class, which in this year turned upside-down isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  • Hokie Highlights: Hendon Hooker rushed for 98 yards as the ground game gained 210 on the afternoon. Chamarri Conner tallied 10 tackles as the defense limited Wake to 3-15 on third down. Brian Johnson connected on three field goals, including a 54-yarder that made the game a one-possession affair in the fourth quarter.
  • Hokie Humblings: Hooker threw three interceptions, each to freshman safety Nick Andersen (who happens to hail from Clifton, Virginia). Ten penalties certainly didn’t help matters. Johnson missed a pair of field goals — from 42 and 51 yards — with a sack on third down preceding the miss. The defense allowed 206 yards rushing.

Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. at 2-4 Louisville.

Maryland (0-1) kicked off its 2020 season on the road with its first-ever football game in Evanston, Illinois.

I’m sure the Terps are not looking forward to heading back there anytime soon after a 43-3 thumping delivered by a Northwestern team that looks like it may be more contender than pretender for the West Division title they took two years ago.

And on a Saturday when Indiana and Rutgers both posted upsets, the Terps look around the East Division cellar for company and don’t get any eye contact from Penn State and Michigan State.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: A first-possession field goal! The offense’s initial drive mixed eight runs and four passes while producing the team’s longest gain of the afternoon (a 24-yard scamper by Jake Funk). Jeshaun Jones caught 5 passes after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries. Chance Campbell (14 tackles) was expected to be one of the key contributors on defense, and he produced as expected.
  • Terrapin Troubles: Three interceptions and one fumble completely undercut the offense and put the defense in less than ideal spots (Wildcats generated 17 points from those miscues). The running game generated just 64 yards on 20 carries and the quarterback combination of Taulia Tagovailoa and Lance LeGendre averaged under eight yards per completion. Zero sacks for a defense that allowed Peyton Ramsey to complete 77% of his passes and also surrendered 6.1 yards per carry.

Next: Friday against 0-1 Minnesota at 7:30 p.m.

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