It was bound to happen at some point this fall. The odds were against the local FBS schools: With Maryland competing in the gauntlet-of-death, Big Ten East, Virginia & Virginia Tech in the first year of new coaching regimes, Navy playing another tough schedule, and James Madison no longer feeding off of FCS foes.
But this is the first time all season that all five local FBS schools went down in defeat. Five different roads to those defeats — but five losses nonetheless.
Meanwhile, the College Football Playoff herd was thinned a tiny bit with three of the top six teams in last week’s AP Poll going down to defeat: Tennessee learned that when you come at the defending champ (Georgia) you better not miss; Clemson learned that beating up on ACC foes doesn’t necessarily translate to the South Bend stage; Alabama’s failed two-point conversions at LSU set up overtime where the Tigers would win on a two-point try (why is irony sometimes so ironic). Four unbeaten teams plus eight one-loss teams remain.
Maryland (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) was greeted by November rain in Madison but faced a golden opportunity in the first quarter after a 29-yard punt meant the Terps’ second drive of the day would begin at the Wisconsin 37. Unfortunately, three plays yielded just two yards and Taulia Tagovailoa was sacked on fourth down, taking away their best chance to jump ahead on the road. The Badgers would grind out a long scoring drive (77 yards on 12 plays) before getting a breakaway run (89-yard scamper for a score) to give themselves a double-digit cushion they’d keep for the rest of the day as Maryland came home soggy with a 23-10 loss at Camp-Randall Stadium.
Terrapin Triumphs: The defense continued their “second half standout” season, holding the Badgers to a pair of field goals after intermission. Beau Brade led the team with seven tackles while Greg China-Rose tallied two of the team’s three sacks. Colton Spangler averaged 47.9 yards on his eight punts.
Terrapin Troubles: The offense was stuck in neutral for the first half, gaining 56 yards on 28 plays and posting four three-and-outs (not including the fourth down failure). Tagovailoa completed 10-23 passes for 77 yards and was sacked five times for 31 yards (meaning if they used NFL accounting, the passing game would be 46 net yards on 28 attempts). The defense allowed 211 yards rushing in the first half and failed to get a take-away.
Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at No. 16 Penn State (7-2). The Terps won there in 2020. Not that the Nittany Lions or their fans have long memories.
Virginia (3-6, 1-5 ACC) has long told us that their “real football rival” isn’t Virginia Tech, but North Carolina. Saturday, the Cavaliers brought the rivalry game-like energy and purpose against the No. 17 Tar Heels, taking a 14-10 halftime advantage over the Coastal Division leaders. But the high-octane UNC offense (tops in the ACC in most categories) wasn’t to be denied, and UVA now finds itself on the precipice of postseason elimination after a 31-28 loss.
Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong may have been betrayed by his line and receivers this fall, but his legs keep churning, as they did Saturday with 74 yards rushing plus a pair of touchdowns, while Sackett Wood Jr. stepped up with six receptions for 94 yards to provide a reliable target. James Jackson led the defense with 11 tackles and a sack, and UVA was able to drop Drake Maye three other times.
Cavalier Concerns: Eight penalties for 47 yards — at home. Armstrong completed under 50% of his passes and was picked off on the team’s second drive of the day. After scoring on their first possession of the second half, the offense was held to 33 yards on 13 plays the next three times they had the ball. And the defense allowed back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives covering 75, 71, and 80 yards after halftime.
Next: Saturday at noon against 5-4 Pitt. Rumor has it Kippy & Buffy (my UVA tailgating pals) will try to salvage the season with a Tannat.
Virginia Tech (2-7, 1-5 ACC) looked as if it might be snapping its monthlong slide from .500 to oblivion, taking a 27-16 lead over Georgia Tech into the fourth quarter with the ball at the Yellow Jacket 25. Unfortunately, the final period saw the five Hokies’ drives end badly: missed field goal, fumble, interception, three and out, and fumble. Just enough for Georgia Tech to score a pair of touchdowns and pull ahead for a 28-27 stunner. The losing streak reaches six (longest since 1987) and secures a losing record in Blacksburg for the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons.
Hokie Highlights: BEAMER BALL returned with a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tucker Holloway. Keli Lawson returned an interception for what would be the team’s final score of the day. Keshawn King rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown while catching a pair of passes to provide the team’s best offensive threat.
Hokie Humblings: The offense converted just 4-12 third downs and turned the ball over four times with three of those miscues happening in the fourth quarter. The defense after keeping Georgia Tech at bay allowed consecutive touchdown drives of 90 and 73 yards in the final period. William Ross’ blocked extra point and missed 40-yard field goal attempt proved to be costly at the end of regulation.
Next: Saturday at noon on the road at 6-3 Duke (yes, the Blue Devils are bowl-bound).
Navy (3-6, 3-4 AAC), minus their starting quarterback Tai Lavatai for the rest of the season, tried to shorten the game even more than they usually do, and their clock-killing offense granted just four first half possessions to defending conference champ Cincinnati. Unfortunately, the Bearcats were able to squeeze a touchdown and two field goals out of their four chances and the Mids were held to pair off field goal attempts (one of which was blocked) in their three opportunities. The Mids come home on the short end of a 20-10 score that puts bowl eligibility in question given the upcoming slate.
Midshipmen Medals: The quarterback combination of Maasai Maynor (3-5 passing for 81 yards) and Xavier Arline (12 carries for 87 yards) worked as well as a Plan B-C combo could. John Marshall tallied a sack in his team-high 10 tackles and the defense held the Bearcat to 3-11 on third down. Riley Riethman averaged 49.7 yards per punt and had the beauty that pinned Cincy on their own two.
Midshipmen Miscues: The offense began each half with a three and out. Two of Cincinnati’s scoring drives covered more than 80 yards. A blocked 25-yard field goal attempt in the first half curbed momentum, and a missed 44-yarder in the second half sealed their fate.
Next: Saturday at noon against 6-3 Notre Dame in Baltimore. Heaven forbid the Fighting Irish ever visit Annapolis.
James Madison (5-3) went into Louisville and took the opening kickoff, driving 58 yards on 10 plays to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. They took a 10-7 second quarter lead thanks to an 11-play, 80-yard march that ended with a Percy Agyei-Obese touchdown. But the Cardinals would wake up and use the final 1:43 of the first half to set up a game-tying field goal before scoring on three of their first four second half possessions to take the lead and put the game away. The 34-10 loss sends JMU back to Harrisonburg with quite a bit to work on with three games remaining in its inaugural FCS season.
Duke Do’s: Agyei-Obese ran for 102 yards and the team’s lone touchdown. Francis Meehan led the defense with 10 tackles while long-snapper Kyle Davis recovered a fumbled punt return.
Duke Don’ts: Todd Centeio, back from injury, completed just 4-15 passes for 52 yards. The offense that enjoyed two double-digit play drives in the first half was held to 19 yards on their first 15 offensive plays in the second half. And the defense that handcuffed the Cardinals early allowed points on five of their final seven drives (with the last one being a clock-killing possession).
Next: Saturday at 1 p.m. on the road against 3-6 Old Dominion. And after a week on ESPNU, they’re back to ESPN+