College Football Corner: Wins for Virginia and Virginia Tech, another long year for the Longhorns

Say what you will about Virginia and Virginia Tech competing in a “football light” league, the ACC’s alpha dogs don’t often stumble.

And when a Florida State goes into program decline, Clemson is there to emerge as the bully on the block.

Not so in a Big 12 which is down to just one unbeaten and both signature schools suffering early-October crises of confidence — and please note that I did not say “malaise.”

“Texas is back.”

We’ve heard that refrain multiple times over the last few years from the once-proud program that used to compete regularly for Big 12 championships but hasn’t played for a title in the last decade.

Head coach Tom Herman is in his fourth year with the Longhorns, and in what appears to be a down-year for Oklahoma (1-2), the potential road to the College Football Playoff looked a little lighter.

One could even write off their 63-56 overtime win at Texas Tech as a “lesson learned” game.

Unfortunately a lost fumble at the TCU goal line in the fourth quarter handed the Longhorns a 33-31 loss, their seventh defeat in nine games to the Horned Frogs since they joined the Big 12.

This sets up an underwhelming Red River Shootout against an Oklahoma team that’s lost two straight.

Texas is back, all right. Back to their usual place in the middle tier of a second-tier conference.

Virginia Tech (2-0) played another week without first string quarterback Hendon Hooker and Defensive Coordinator Justin Hamilton due to COVID-19 concerns.

They were also minus 20 other players and an assistant coach but still found a way to defeat Duke 38-31.

After an offseason where there were questions which way this program was trending (14-12 the last two years after going 19-8 in Justin Fuente’s first two seasons), it appears as though the 2018 and 2019 seasons were more of a hiccup.

  • Hokie Highlights: Khalil Herbert rushed for 208 yards and a two touchdowns while returning a kickoff 83 yards to set up another score. As a team VT rushed for 324 yards and held the ball for over 34 minutes. Emanuel Belmar notched three of the team’s seven sacks while Rayshard Ashby tallied 10 tackles, helping the defense hold the Blue Devils to five of 17 on third down.
  • Hokie Humblings: Get Hendon Hooker back pronto; while Braxton Burmeister showed his wheels with 54 yards rushing and two touchdowns, the understudy quarterback completed just nine of 25 passes and turned the ball over twice. Punt returns were a disaster as the Blue Devils pounced on a fumble for a first quarter touchdown. The defense that allowed just 73 yards on 29 first half plays surrendered points on three of Duke’s last four possessions.

Next: Saturday at noon on the road against No. 12 North Carolina. Who will be available?

Navy (1-2) visited an Air Force team that had yet to play a game and was without 32 of its players. Naturally they went out and lost 40-7. While I might be ready to give up on trying to understand the 2020 season, the Mids have the bulk of their AAC schedule ahead.

They’ve got to be more of the Navy that rallied at Tulane than the one that fell behind the Green Wave, BYU, and Air Force.

  • Midshipman Medals: Junior quarterback Tyger Goslin threw his first collegiate pass Saturday, and while his numbers weren’t great (six of 15 for 137 yards) he did have downfield strikes of 33 and 73 yards (the 73-yarder to Myles Fells was for the team’s lone TD). J’arius Warren tallied 10 tackles while the defense held the Falcons to 2 for 9 on third down.
  • Midshipman Miscues: The offense stalled on the ground, managing just 90 yards on 36 carries (2.5 yards per attempt). Their two turnovers were costly, as Air Force turned the fumble into a field goal and the interception into a touchdown. The defense that bent for three quarters allowed three fourth quarter touchdowns and wound up surrendering 369 yards on the ground (to the tune of 7.0 per carry).

Next: Saturday at 6 p.m. in Annapolis against Temple. That’s right, due to COVID-19 concerns the Owls have yet to play a game this year so your guess on what sort of team we’ll see is as good as mine.

Virginia (1-1) didn’t allow 62 points like they did in last year’s ACC Championship Game, but they still came up short against No. 1 Clemson. How good have the five-time defending ACC Champs been in conference play lately? Since the 2018 season, Saturday’s game versus UVA was just the third time in 21 games that Clemson has won by fewer than 20 points against a league foe (they beat UNC 21-20 last year and topped Syracuse 27-23 the season before). There’s no shame in falling to the best; let’s see how this team responds from early-season hardship with two more road games over the next three weeks.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong might not be matching the pace of Bryce Perkins, but the lefthander did throw for 270 yards and three touchdowns while leading the team with 89 yards rushing. Billy Kemp IV is the security blanket every first-year starter needs, notching 10 receptions for 96 yards. Nick Jackson paced the defense with 12 tackles while Nash Griffin averaged 46.5 yards per punt.
  • Cavalier Concerns: The defense allowed scores on four of the first five times the Tigers had the ball. The offense was held to 6 of 16 on third down while Brennan Armstrong threw two interceptions; both of those turnovers led to Clemson points.

Next: Saturday at noon against N.C. State.

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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