College Football Corner: Virginia & Virginia Tech eliminate hopes of ‘Coastal Chaos’

A part of me died on Saturday, Oct. 29.

In the autumn air of Charlottesville, Virginia’s 14-12 loss to Miami meant we officially say goodbye to “Coastal Chaos.” Their defeat plus Virginia Tech’s to NC State means one of the two commonwealth schools will finish with five league losses. Thus, we can’t get the dreamed of seven-way tie of 4-4 teams for the Coastal Division championship.

Let me retrace my steps here: when the ACC expanded to 12 schools instead of north-south divisions they had the idea of “Atlantic” and “Coastal,” with the Hurricanes in a different division than Florida State so they could meet for the Championship (they never did) instead of have the winner face an inferior school in the title game (kind of like what Clemson does now).

Every conference has an implied “junior partner,” from the Big Ten West to the SEC East, and the ACC Coastal more than delivered that image with a 5-3 Georgia Tech advancing to the title tilt in 2012, and 2017 Coastal winner Pitt finishing 7-7 overall. But the days of being a punching bag will end, just like they did for the Big 12 North or the Pac 12 North when those conferences moved past having divisions.

And while one knows the mathematical near-impossibility for seven schools to each finish 4-4, one was hoping for Coastal Chaos possibilities to at least reach November. But sadly, we have to move on … while I check out the Sun Belt Conference Standings, even though their divisions are not titled “Sun” and “Belt.”

Virginia Tech (2-6, 1-4 ACC), after a scoreless first half on Thursday night, scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 21-3 lead over NC State. Unfortunately, they allowed three touchdowns the next three times the Wolfpack had the ball, the offense went off the rails (16 yards gained on their final 12 plays from scrimmage) and the Hokies came up short 22-21. They’re now one loss away from their fourth losing season in five years.

Hokie Highlights: Kaleb Smith caught three passes for 141 yards (58% of the team’s passing yardage) and a touchdown to spark the attack. Grant Wells ran for a pair of touchdowns. Zero turnovers for the offense. Alan Tisdale paced the defense with 11 tackles and a sack.

Hokie Humblings: the offense converted just 1-11 third downs and the running game managed only 50 yards on 26 attempts. The defense allowed explosive plays of 35 and 43 yards while failing to tally a take-away. The team committed 13 penalties for 69 yards.

Next: Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against 3-5 Georgia Tech. This one has the feel of ESPN8 … without the fun.

Virginia (3-5, 1-4) trailed Miami 3-0 at the half, but rallied with a pair of second half field goals to lead 6-3 late in the fourth quarter, only to allow a 13-play, 53-yard drive over the final 5:29 of regulation that ended with a game-tying field goal at the gun (for symmetry’s sake the Canes’ first half field goal also came at the very end of the second quarter). This wasn’t last year’s Penn State-Illinois game but, after exchanging multiple field goals, the feel was that both teams deserved to take a loss. Miami was able to score during the second round of two-point conversions and outlast UVA 14-12.

Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong gained 275 of the team’s 327 yards. He’s not the problem with the sputtering offense. Nick Jackson led the defense with 14 tackles, while Will Bettridge provided all of the scoring with field goals of 24 and 27 yards in regulation plus a pair of 41-yard field goals in OT. Daniel Sparks averaged 43.5 yards per punt.

Cavalier Concerns: the offense converted just 5-16 third downs, and the offense failed to put points on the board in the second half after having a first down at the Miami one (the sequence included a dropped pass in the end zone). The line allowed five sacks and the ugly truth is that Virginia hasn’t scored more than 20 points against an FBS team in seven games this fall.

Next: Saturday at noon against No. 21 North Carolina (7-1). UNC didn’t miss a beat with the departure of Sam Howell to the NFL.

Navy (3-5, 3-3 AAC) saw a ten-point fourth quarter lead vanish as Temple, after misfiring for most of the afternoon, finally connected on a couple of EJ Warner strikes to Amad Anderson. The first was a 20-yard TD pass on 3rd & 14 that made it 20-17, and the second was a 40-yard pass on a 3rd & 10 that gave the Owls a first and goal at the Navy five with under two minutes left.

But the defense held and the visitors had to settle for a game-tying field goal. The Mids then scored on a 23-yard run by quarterback Xavier Arline and Dashaun Peale intercepted a fourth-down pass to seal the 27-20 overtime victory.

“This game typified who we were and who we are,” Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It kind of went up and down. I’m just proud of our guys that continued to fight.”

Midshipman Medals: Xavier Arline was pressed into action when Tai Lavatai went down with a knee injury in the first half and rushed for 54 yards, including the game-winning score. Daba Fofana rushed for 63 yards and a TD, becoming the first Navy fullback in the option-era (since 2002) to record 20 carries in four straight games. John Marshall tallied 11 tackles, a sack, five pass breakups and three quarterback hurries as the defense held the Owls to 20 yards rushing and 50% completions. Turnovers were key, with Elias Larry’s interception setting up a field goal and Mbiti Williams’ fumble recovery of a muffed punt leading to an eventual touchdown.

Midshipman Miscues: the offense hit more than a few speed bumps with six three and outs, a failed fourth down, and a fumble on third down that was returned for Temple’s first touchdown. That’s eight in 13 regulation possessions (not including the end of halves). The secondary was tested on the first play from scrimmage by a deep throw and the Owls were able to connect multiple times in the fourth quarter.

Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. at No. 21 Cincinnati (6-2). The Bearcats are coming off a tough loss to UCF and might just be angry.

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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