So much for saying “if the playoffs began today…”– I know that’s even more annoying after three weeks than billing a week three matchup a “duel for the division lead”.  But didn’t things look really good for a while?  A 17-7 lead against a team that had to be gassed because they’ve had to play catchup twice, most recently less than six days previously?  How did that game go from a ten point with six minutes left in the first half to a ten point deficit with five minutes to play in regulation?  Instead of a positive vibe heading into another divisional duel with a sub-500 team that’s looked bad, the Skins are banged up and have a short window of opportunity to prepare to show they’re ready for prime time football.

Kirk Operating at Warp Speed– the understudy shines by throwing for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns…and even gained a first down with his legs.  Cousins did throw an interception in the 4th quarter, but played very well against a defense that had been planning against him from the very beginning of the week.  One concern:  after hitting 19 of 25 first half passes, Kirk ran into some second half tribbles– completing 11 of 23 attempts after intermission.  Does this make RG3 Captain Christopher Pike?  Stay away from Talos IV while you rehab…

Running Down the Drain– Alfred Morris gained 64 yards on 17 first half carries before being limited to 13 yards on 6 second half tries;  the run/pass ratio was 20/25 in the first half and 8/20 in the second half.  This was a one point game at halftime…shades of some of last year’s second halves where the run was abandoned mid-third quarter.  Let the record show Morris was banged up mid-second quarter;  one never knows the true extent of midgame injuries.  But this Morris moment had the deja vu of Zach/Slater fighting over Tori…haven’t we already been there with Kelly?  And why do she and Jessie never seem to be found when Tori’s around?

Showing Philly the One-Two Punch– Rocky wouldn’t have known what hit him…the Skins WR combo had their best day of the season:  Pierre Garcon gained 138 yards on 11 catches while DeSean Jackson roasted his former teammates fo 117 yards on 5 receptions– both scored touchdowns as well (along with fullback Darrel Young– who keeps his string intact).  Andre Roberts added a couple of early third down grabs as well…and Niles Paul’s 6 catches for 68 yards might not be making people forget about the injured Jordan Reed, he’s making sure there’s not a glaring void at that position while Reed’s hurt.

Hold the Line– no sacks on 48 pass attempts?  No holding penalties?  Take a bow, boys.  Shaun Lauvao may find it difficult to take a bow this week as he injured his knee and is a question mark for Thursday.  Kory Lichtensteiger’s also banged up…so there could be some shuffling in the trenches between now and Thursday.

Third and Short Right– 8 for 15 should be cause for celebration, but the Skins moved the chains on just one of six second half attempts.  Alfred Morris did not have a carry on third down… Darrel Young and Kirk Cousins reaching the marker on separate 3rd & 1’s.  Cousins went 5-11 on third down (another incompletion was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty).  Ten of Cousins passes (including the penalty negated one) resulted in a throw to the short right side of the field–he hit his first four while the last four fell incomplete.  Yardage breakdown:  7-10 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 1-1 on third and medium (4-6 yards) and 0-4 on third and long (7+ yards necessary).  A much better job this week getting in position to be in position.

Defense Delayed, Didn’t Dominate– thanks to a pair of long touchdown drives by the offense sandwiching an Eagles 102 yard kickoff return, the defense didn’t set foot on the field until there was a little over 2 minutes left in the first quarter.  After recovering a fumble on their first defensive drive, the Skins allowed points the next four times Philly had the football–giving the team a one-point halftime deficit despite holding the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half.  Despite holding LeSean McCoy to 22 yards on 20 carries– they weren’t able to keep Nick Foles and the Eagle air attack in check.  Brandon Meriweather in his return for suspension led the team with 6 tackles…it’s never ideal when a safety leads the team in stops.

Secondary once again a Primary Concern– the Redskins defensive backfield took a few shots Sunday:  cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s done for the year with a ruptured achilles tendon and backup safety Duke Ihenacho joins him on IR with a broken foot.  Rookie Brashaud Breeland starts in place of D-Hall (subbing a Clemson guy for a VT Hokie in the ACC corner tandem with NC State product David Amerson).  Chase Minnifield gets promoted from the practice squad… and as of Monday night the 53rd roster spot has yet to be filled.  Will they be ready to face Eli Manning?

Flying Flags– 10 penalties for 131 yards…with 60 of those yards coming against the defense in the third quarter.  Three were on offense (Pierre Garcon’s taunt, Chris Chester’s false start and Kirk Cousins’ delay of game)…two came on special teams (Brandon Meriweather offsides on a kickoff and Akeem Davis’ horse-collar tackle after a punt return) and the other five came on defense:  2 pass interferences, one defensive hold, one illegal contact and one roughing the passer.  Two offensive flags helped stall drives:  Chester’s false start turned a 1st and 10 from the Eagles 39 into a 1st and 15 (they wound up settling for a second quarter field goal to take a 17-7 lead instead of a 21-7 advantage) while Cousins’ delay of game turned a 3rd & 7 from the Philly 9 into a 3rd & 12 from the 14 (after an incomplete pass Kair Forbath missed a 33 yard FG).  After three weeks, the Skins are the fourth most penalized team in the league for the fourth most yards.

Cobra Kai– the leg was swept from 49 and 44 yard field goals…but a missed 33-yarder wound up being the losing margin.  I’m not going to ruin Johnny’s second place trophy, but the fourth quarter against a division rival’s a heck of a time to miss a field goal for the first time all season.  Like not expecting the crane after crushing every competitor en route to the All Valley Karate Finals.  There will be a sequel, Mr. Lawrence…

Dissecting the Division– instead of taking the NFC East lead…the Skins find themselves in last place after three weeks at 1-2.  The NY Giants are third because they haven’t lost a division game yet win that tiebreaker.  Dallas (2-1) holds down second place while unbeaten Philadelphia (3-0) resides in the penthouse.  And what a division it is this year:  the 7-5 mark means they’re one of three quartets with winning marks-the AFC North is tops at 8-4 while the NFC West is 7-5.  The Sun Belt Conference of the NFL?  The AFC South is 4-8…with one of those wins coming against the Redskins.

Heat rises.  It also stifles and confuses.  Last season at this time I saw the multiple hot seats at blue blood programs Texas (Mack Brown retired), USC (Lane Kiffin was fired) and Nebraska (Bo Pellini’s tenure hasn’t expired).  A new year brings new coaches looking over their shoulders at schools that feel they’re entitled to 10 wins, playing for a conference championship and a New Year’s Day reservation.  Michigan’s Brady Hoke not only has the 31-0 thumping by Notre Dame to answer for…but also a home loss to Utah.  Florida’s Will Muschamp saw his Gators get worked by Alabama one week after they needed triple overtime to outlast Kentucky.  There was even talk around Texas and first-year coach Charlie Strong after their early loss to BYU.  Coaches are paid big money to produce wins and revenue for their schools…and the only opponent more difficult than this week’s is yesteryear.  Because nobody in Austin will admit that Darryl Royal ever had problems beating Oklahoma…nobody mentions how Michigan under Bo Schembechler was 5-12 in bowl games…and nobody mentions that the Gators didn’t win an SEC title until 1984 (that had to be vacated).  Thankfully a coach’s salary allows his expenses budget to include antacids.

 

Alma Mater Update– one tough loss at home for the Orange.  As if one didn’t realize after needing a fake field goal in double-overtime to beat Villanova that this wouldn’t be a replay of the 1987 Sugar Bowl season.  Penalties and missed plays helped ruin the offense in the red zone…and coverage breakdowns led to a pair of long TD’s.  Now for Notre Dame–can SU get the 1983 Liberty Bowl season Fighting Irish?

 

Maryland won on the road for the second time in three weeks…edging Syracuse 34-20.  Entering a Big Ten buzz-saw that includes ranked teams Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin (plus Michigan and Penn State and an Indiana team that upset Missouri) at 3-1 is so much better than 2-2…because who wants to sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner at 5-6 needing a win over Rutgers to become bowl-eligible?  Terrapin Triumphs– beware the big play:  CJ Brown tossed a 90-yard TD pass to Brandon Ross that began as a simple swing pass, a blocked punt set up a 2nd quarter TD and Will Likely returned an INT 88 yards for the team’s last TD of the day (he also tallied a team-high 9 tackles)… Red Zone Defense forced the Orange to settle for field goals or nothing at all multiple times… and the team bounced back from a tough loss at home in fine fashion.  Terrapin Troubles– the offense gained just 68 yards in the second half… 8 penalties for 75 yards won’t sit well with the coaching staff…and the defense allowed over 500 yards for the second straight week.  Next:  Saturday at Indiana.

 

Virginia Tech began the ACC season with a whimper–a 27-24 come from ahead loss to Georgia Tech.  Whatever glow this team had from its upset win at Ohio State two weeks ago is washed away…and while there are still Coastal Division hopes (hey– Duke, UNC and Virginia remain Duke, UNC and Virginia) one wonders if it isn’t too early to be concerned if this isn’t another 4 or 5 loss team.  Hokie Highlights– linebacker Chase Williams led the hit parade with 17 tackles … Isaiah Ford notched 8 receptions for 114 yards… the defense held GT to 4-12 on third down while the offense was 8-14 at moving the chains.  Hokie Humblings– Michael Brewer threw 3 interceptions (one of which was returned for a TD)… laundry continues to be an achilles heel for this team with 12 penalties for 79 yards… and was that a blocked field goal I saw?  Whatever happened to Beamer Ball?  Next:  Saturday vs Western Michigan.

 

Virginia had #21 BYU on the ropes for 30 minutes before falling 41-33.  Another one-possession game against an unbeaten…another opportunity missed…but another encouraging sign that this program is moving in the right direction.  Cavalier Congrats–  how did they lose this game after owning a 35-16 edge in first downs and a 519-332 yardage advantage while  possessing the ball for over 40 minutes?  Miles Gooch (6 catches for 65 yards) continues to terrorize secondaries instead of Arnold Drummond… and Khalek Shepherd (73 yards rushing and a TD) looked sharp.  Cavalier Concerns– the defense bent and broke in the second half– allowing 3 touchdown drives… special teams allowed a kickoff return that kept the game out of reach… and neither quarterback averaged 10 yards per completion–even the Eight Ball knows you’ve got to stretch the field somewhat.  Next:  Saturday vs Kent State (evidently it’s schedule a MAC school day in the Commonwealth).

 

Navy fell behind early against Rutgers…and a second half rally wasn’t enough in a 31-24 loss to the Scarlet Knights.  Midshipmen Medals– Keenan Reynolds threw for 231 yards and a TD in his return to the lineup from a knee injury…the defense held Rutgers to 139 yards in the second half and turned an early Scarlet Knights fumble into a touchdown.  Midshipmen Miscues– the run defense was gashed for 284 yards… and after the D forced a fumble and a three & out allowed points on four straight possessions.  Next:  Saturday vs Western Kentucky.

This week’s major college football storyline wasn’t about which conference was best (the Pac-12 taking a major hit)…or even about which 3-0 team was fool’s gold (my money’s on NC State)…but on the top ranked and defending national champion’s reigning Heisman Trophy winning quarterback–for all of the wrong reasons.  Jameis Winston’s time in Tallahassee has not transpired without incident, from stealing crab legs to being accused of rape.  This week the 20-year old shouted obscenities of a sexual nature while standing atop a table in a student union building.  The school steps in and rightfully suspends the redshirt-sophomore…for the first half of Saturday’s game with Clemson.  Way to send a message, Seminoles.  This makes one look even more forward to December’s Heisman Trophy presentation…where one hears how great these kids are on and off the field.  Somewhere the script was lost after John Capelletti dedicating his Heisman to his Leukemia-stricken brother during his speech…as Winston finds himself in fine company of men not as much “of character” but who “are characters”.  Johnny Manziel sold his autograph for cash… Cam Newton’s parents reportedly sold their son’s services to the highest bidder.  Reggie Bush (since vacated) got the “full family treatment” by a USC booster.  At one time we used to wonder if the Heisman winner would pan out in the pros…now one just hopes they leave college without incident.  Herschel Walker, where have you gone?

 

Alma Mater Update– following the Orange (especially on the gridiron) prepares one for that moment when the other shoe drops… it could be an October 1991 Saturday in Tallahassee or a September 1998 evening in Raleigh, but it happens sooner or later.  SU entertains a Maryland team that they throttled last November in College Park…but based on their play against Villanova how much stock do you put into their rout of Central Michigan?  At least one has wings…

 

Maryland visits Syracuse– coach Randy Edsall returns to his alma mater (class of 1980) but more importantly his team tries to fix what went wrong in a loss to West Virginia.  That means consistency on offense and better secondary play on defense.  CJ Brown was held to 5 yards rushing and was intercepted twice last year in a loss at Byrd…and the senior has yet to fully regain the mojo he had last September.  The Orange boast a pair of runningbacks with three names:  Adonis Ameen-Moore and Prince-Tyson Gulley both boast breakaway speed and the necessary hyphens (backup George Morris II has tried to get his “II” counted as a name; NCAA ruling is pending).  The pass defense has to watch out for the short stuff–Terrel Hunt averages less than 10 yards per completion this fall.  Another factor:  heat inside a domed stadium that isn’t air-conditioned yet sponsored by Carrier.  Terrapins triumph, 24-20.

 

Virginia Tech tangles with Georgia Tech– now that the September Stagger (it took a while to put away William & Mary), September Shocker (freshman QB or not, Ohio State in Columbus?) and September Stumble (ECU spells upset) is in their rear-view mirror, VT can focus on the ACC season.  Defending the Yellowjackets begins with containing an option that’s second to Navy in effectiveness.  While the Hokies are allowing 86 yards a game rushing…this is a different animal.  But GT has looked shaky in wins over Tulane, Wofford and -wait for it- Georgia Southern.  When a victory over the Green Wave is your signature moment, it’s been a soft September.  The Yellowjackets gave up 38 points to instate foe Georgia Southern.  Michael Brewer, please stop licking your chops.   Hokies bounce back, 31-21.

 

Virginia battles #21 BYU-- one year after the lightning-interrupted upset of the Cougars, UVa heads west to face a team that’s made a name for itself with an early rout of Texas…but struggled to beat Houston.  The Cavaliers held Taysom Hill to 13 of 40 passing last year…but so far this September the junior has thrown for 4 touchdowns while running for six more scores. He’s also completing 68% of his passes and averaging 119 yards per game rushing.  The kind of run-pass combination Coach Mike London can only get when he plays both Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns…which he fully intends to do. Don’t doubt the Eight-Ball! Cavaliers come up short, 24-14.

 

Navy takes on Rutgers– what is it with the Scarlet Knights and area schools?  They’ve already played Howard and wrap up the season with Maryland…perhaps the school wants to give former Maryland and current offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen a way to ease himself into the job. Rutgers opened the season with a 41-38 win at Washington State…but looked so-so against Howard and turned the ball over 5 times in a home loss to Penn State.  Keenan Reynolds returns to the lineup after missing the Texas State game with a knee injury…and Navy hasn’t lost in Annapolis in almost two years.  Midshipmen make it happen, 31-28.

 

Georgetown beats Brown, Howard loses to Morgan State, Towson tops North Carolina Central, James Madison falls at Villanova, Richmond rips New Hampshire, William & Mary edges Lafayette, Old Dominion routs Rice.

 

Last Week:  9-2.  Overall:  23-6.

 

Does a win count if it’s against the Jacksonville Jaguars?  You know, the team with the two-tone helmets?  The one owned by a man who has the coolest mustache ever but one of the worst teams in recent memory?  A squad that had their reverse lights on for most of the game-gaining 1 yard on their first 12 plays from scrimmage, not posting their first 1st down until their fifth possession and not taking a snap on the Redskins side of the field until the fourth quarter?  While the Jags looked awful, the Redskins responded with a solid effort and put the game away early in a 41-10 rout of the future Los Angeles Lasers.

 

RG3ver– OUCH.  One can’t get on with the game without addressing the early departure of Griffin…dislocating his left ankle while scrambling for a first quarter throw.  There’s no fracture– meaning he could miss the next 6-8 weeks.  They’ll re-evaluate his status after it’s in a cast for a few weeks–but once again, the face and future of the franchise will miss time on the field.  He made 15 starts as a rookie, 13 last year and now he’ll be limited to 8 starts at most in year three.  

Cousins Comes Through– the understudy shines with a 22-33 for 250 yard passing performance while firing a pair of TD tosses.  Now the focus is can he sustain solid play over multiple weeks?  After throwing for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns last year against an Atlanta team that went 4-12, Cousins was not as good against non-playoff teams Dallas and the NY Giants–completing 47% of his passes for 366 yards (4.3 per attempt) for 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions (passer rating= 48.6).  He’ll be facing an Eagles team that’ll be ready for him from the start while potentially lacking WR DeSean Jackson, RB Roy Helu, FB Darrel Young and TE Jordan Reed.  The clipboard and ballcap never looked so good…

Alfred the Security Blanket–  Mr. Morris rumbled for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns– helping the Skins carve out a 34-7 lead before stepping aside for Silas Redd.  There was more of a commitment to the run this time (42-36 ratio)…and you’d think they’ll lean heavily on the ground game against Philadelphia in week three.

Wideout Woes–  DeSean Jackson is a question mark for his return against his former team after spraining an AC joint in his left shoulder after making one catch for 19 yards (at least he averaged more than 10 yards a reception this time).  With Santana Moss inactive for the second straight week and Pierre Garcon limited to 1 catch for 12 yards on 4 targets, rookie Ryan Grant (5 catches for 57 yards) and veteran Andre Roberts (4-57) filled the void to help the passing game.  Will Santana be a factor against Philly?

The Understudy you aren’t talking about– tight end Niles Paul grabbed 8 passes for 99 yards and a TD…a huge boost with Jordan Reed still on the sidelines battling hamstring issues and Logan Paulsen not being targeted at all in the win over the Jaguars.  Is this the start of something special like we saw with Reed’s emergence last year?  Or merely a one-game mirage?

Third and Quality instead of Quantity– the Burgundy and Gold converted 6 of 14 third downs…but more importantly 5 of 8 in Jaguars’ territory (with the team scoring on the play after one of the failed attempts on 4th down).  The run-pass breakdown was 11 passing plays to 3 runs.  Kirk Cousins completed 7 of 7 passes while getting sacked twice and scrambling for a 3 yard gain on 3rd & 4( RG3 was sacked on the other attempt).  Yardage breakdown:  2-3 on short-yardage (less than 4 yards needed) , 3-4 on intermediate and 1-7 on 3rd and 7+.  When half of your third downs are long-distance, you’re going to have a lot more passes...and a lot more punts.

D earns an A– where to begin?  I’ll start with holding the Jaguars to 1 net yard on their first four possessions.  Keeping the Jags from running a play in Redskin territory for the first three quarters was huge as well.  The TEN SACKS that ties a team record set in 1977 when they posted the same number against Tampa Bay (more on those bad, bad Bucs in a bit).   Credit a pass rush that allowed Ryan Kerrigan to tie a team record with 4 sacks…and while Jason Hatcher (1.5) helped draw double-teams and create space for others, Chris Baker playing well after moving from starting defensive end to nose tackle was pivotal.  Trenton Robinson tallied an interception...and despite Bacarri Rambo being unable to tackle the secondary did a nice job shutting down the Jaguars’ passing game.

One moment to look back at the Bad, Bad Bucs– as bad as this year’s Jaguars edition is…the ’77 Buccaneers were hall-of-fame bad offensively:  103 points scored (53 in the first 12 games) while getting shut out six times, a quarterback trio of Gary Huff, Randy Hedberg and Jeb Blount that completed 41% of their passes for 3 touchdowns and 30 interceptions en route to a passer rating of 22.5….22.5!  They extended the Bucs losing streak to a league record 26 games…before helping get two Hall of Fame coaches get fired:  Hank Stram was canned following Tampa Bay’s first ever win (in New Orleans) and Don Coryell was done after the Bucs beat St. Louis.  Somehow that Tampa Bay franchise hosted the NFC Championship Game two years later.  In 1977, the creamsicle uniforms were a necessary distraction.

Flying Flags– 11 penalties for 98 yards would hurt you against a real team.  Five came on kicking-return teams (still not using the S word, sorry)– with two going against Adam Hayward (offsides on a kickoff and illegal formation on a punt).  Four were on offense– with two going against Trent Williams (false start and an unsportsmanlike conduct).  Two were on defense (illegal use of hands and personal foul).  Were they costly flags?  Kory Lichtensteiger’s hold wiped out what would have been a first down by penalty (offsetting calls)…Aldrick Robinson’s hold while moving the offense back from the Jax 11 to the 21 didn’t prevent them from reaching the endzone.  Williams’ false start turned a 1st & 10 from the Jaguars 28 into a 1st & 15 from the 33…preventing a last-minute first half drive from generating a field goal.  Williams’ unsportsmanlike conduct foul moved a 1st and goal from the Jax 1 to the 16…and they wound up settling for a field goal.  This won’t hurt you against the Jaguars…but against a real team it might.

Cobra Kai Finding a Way– a groin injury prevented Mr. Forbath from kicking off… allowing him to concentrate and focus power:  hitting 36 and 42 yard field goals while connecting on all 5 extra point attempts.  The sensei would be proud– as the prize pupil hasn’t missed a field goal since last November 3rd (San Diego).  Punter Tress Way was pressed into kickoff duties and was solid… while hammering punts at an average of 49.8 yards.  It’s as if Bobby had been more of a positive influence on Johnny Lawrence (let the record show he tried) in KK1 and instead of focusing on terrorizing a hapless Daniel LaRusso, Lawrence became a better guy and won Elisabeth Shue back on his own merits.  Sweep the leg?  He would’ve swept Ali off her feet!

College football is better known for its late-season drama.  Rivalry games that determine conference championships, bowl bids and now playoff possibilities.  September?  More “Two Broke Girls” than “NCIS”…”Show Me Month” is supposed to be the comedy portion of the schedule.  Blowouts to the tune of 40-3 and 55-6.  Time to fatten up on directional schools and programs that have lost their way…or to collect guarantee paychecks that add to the bank account while subtracting from the won-lost record.  Not so this weekend.  Saturday’s slate in addition to three nail-biters in College Park, Blacksburg and Charlottesville saw Boston College upset #9 USC (Trojans alum Marcus Allen looks like he could still play) while #12 UCLA escapes disaster against Texas…South Carolina shock #6 Georgia (Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier looks like he could still pitch & catch) while Florida needs triple overtime to beat…wait for it… KENTUCKY (Spurrier looks like he’d be a better QB option for the Gators now)…while Notre Dame wears weird “ND” decals on the sides of their helmets (NBC sideline reporter Doug Flutie looks like he could still grow a few inches).

 

Alma Mater Update–- Can SU get a bye week before every opponent?  Orange Nation breathes a sigh of relief after the team’s 40-3 rout of Central Michigan.  Causes for confidence include holding the Chippewas to 34 yards rushing and 1-10 on third down…while causes of concern include Terrel Hunt completing more than enough short stuff (175 yards passing on 20 completions).  At least he didn’t punch any opponents.  Break out the wings!

 

Maryland came up short after rallying from 22 points down to tie West Virginia…slipping 40-37 on a last-second field goal to the Mountaineers.  It’s tough to win a shootout against a guy named Clint, and the WV quarterback Trickett burned the Terps for 511 yards and 4 touchdowns passing.  Terrapin Triumphs– the red zone defense kept the game from getting out of hand by recovering 2 fumbles and stopping a 4th and 1… special teams had their moments with a blocked field goal, recovered fumbled punt and Will Likely’s 69-yard return for a TD… CJ Brown rumbled for 141 yards and a score.  Terrapin Troubles– the defense allowed 694 yards (albeit on 108 plays– I’m tired and I didn’t even set foot on the field) and Trickett was able to expose the secondary early for big gains…the offense converted just 4 of 15 third downs…and the team committed 7 penalties for 71 yards (including an offensive pass interference that wiped out a 1st and 10 in the red zone).  Next:  Saturday at Syracuse.

 

#17 Virginia Tech saw a third one-possession game with East Carolina in four years end on a last-minute touchdown run by Shane Carden…and a 28-21 loss to the Pirates.  Some say this was a hangover game from their high-flying win over Ohio State–but those who’ve followed VT recently are familiar with the September stagger that sometimes results in a stumble.  Hokie Highlights– freshman WR Isaiah Ford notched 7 catches for 77 yards and 2 TD’S…the defense forced three key 3 & outs in the 4th quarter… and the smoked turkey legs are darn good at Lane Stadium.  Hokie Humblings– the defense took a while to warm up, allowing 205 yards… Michael Brewer threw 2 interceptions… and the annual September Stumble remains more of a fact than a legend.  Next:  Saturday vs Georgia Tech.

 

Virginia shocked the world with a 23-21 win over #21 Louisville.  The two-quarterback system employed by coach Mike London worked so well…he’s thinking about using three next weekend.  Cavalier Congrats– four takeaways, with a recovered fumble on a punt return leading to the game-winning field goal… Anthony Harris notched 8 tackles and intercepted the pass that led to the team’s first TD of the day… Miles Gooch notched 4 catches for 78 yads and a TD while taking a break from terrorizing Arnold Jackson.  Cavalier Concerns– Kevin Parks was held to 3 yards a carry… the quarterback situation saw both Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns throw second quarter interceptions… and the defense finally broke in the 4th quarter, allowing consecutive TD drives instead of being able to ice the game.  Next:  Saturday at #21 BYU.

 

Navy won on the road minus starting quarterback Keenan Reynolds…pasting Texas State 35-21.  After watching game film of Texas State I realized I was watching “Necessary Roughness” with Scott Bakula and Kathy Ireland…which contained more drama than the Mid’s win.  Plus plenty of laughs…make that film your next Netflix audible.  Midshipmen Medals–Tago Smith completes 5 of 7 passes for 117 yards and 2 TD’s… Noah Copeland nets 116 of the team’s 352 yards rushing… the defense holds the Bobcats to 5-15 on third down.  Midshipmen Miscues–  how does Texas State in real life go by the Bobcats and not the Fightin’ Armadillos?  Even the minor league baseball Albuquerque Dukes tipped their cap to the Simpsons by changing their name to the Isotopes. Next:  Saturday vs Rutgers. 

 

I’ve often titled September the “Show Me Month” of college football (October being “Moving Month”, November being “Closing Month” and December being “There are WAY too many Bowl Games Month”)…while seasons can end before fall technically arrives (Michigan, South Carolina, Texas) the first few games are more about possibilities than limitations.  Part of it is the new-season smell…part of it is the semi-cupcake schedule (credit the SEC and Pac-12 for holding conference games between ranked teams early)…part of it is we want to see the best in our team–at least until they’re under .500 with a trip to the conference leader coming up. 

 

Alma Mater Update– yes, the Orange needed two weeks to get ready for Central Michigan.  If you saw last weekend’s win by the Chippewas at Purdue, you’d be concerned.  If you saw SU’s double overtime win over Villanova, you’d be more concerned.  Hopefully Terrel Hunt will throw touchdown passes instead of punches this time.  Especially with Maryland on the horizon…

 

Maryland meets West Virginia– the Terps have shown us that they can win games pretty (dominating James Madison) as well as ugly (6 turnovers against South Florida).  While the offense continues to find itself the defense has been the early rock (allowing 3.0 yards per carry, 4.3 yards per pass and 33% third down conversions).  They’ll face a Mountaineer team that didn’t blink against Alabama…guided by a quarterback who’s named to be a gunslinging signalcaller–Clint Trickett.  The Florida State transfer completes 75% of his passes for 320 yards a game…and didn’t play against the Terps in last year’s 37-0 disaster.  Can CJ Brown shake off two less than ideal efforts in a potential shootout with a guy named Clint?  Terps come up short, 34-31.

 

#17 Virginia Tech vs East Carolina– the Pirates have been problematic recently for the Hokies:  a five-point margin last year, a seven-point victory for VT in 2011, and people in Blacksburg are still smarting from the 27-22 loss to ECU in 2008.  September Staggers (like going to double overtime with Marshall last year) are also never to far away from the conversation at Lane Stadium.  Pirates quarterback Shane Carden’s averaging over 300 yards per game… can the defense contain the first prolific passer they’ll face this year?  VT sacked him eight times in last year’s win.  They also were held to 53 yards on 34 carries that afternoon…I’d like to see more out of the running game that picked up steam late against William & Mary but was bottled up by Ohio State.  Hokies hang on, 29-20.

 

Virginia vs #21 Louisville– Maryland’s ACC replacement comes to Charlottesville…not looking unlike their predecessor.  Red and black in the uniforms…a mascot that tries to appear more threatening than it actually is…and alphabetically Louisville falls right between Georgia Tech and Miami like theTerps did.  But that might be where the similarities end:  the Cardinals come to Scott Stadium fresh off scoring 97 points over their first two games–including a 31-13 “welcome to the ACC” mauling of Miami.  UVa Coach Mike London plans to use both quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns depending on his gameplan, specific down & distance situations and Eight-Ball answers.  One hopes he doesn’t get a run of “Ask again later”, “Cannot predict now”,  and “Concentrate and ask again”.  Cavaliers can’t keep pace, 37-14.

 

Navy at Texas State– upon further review, this is not North Texas (the team that routed SMU 43-6 and set the resignation of June Jones in motion) thus making seven hours of exhausting research moot.  The Bobcats did beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 65-0 which means almost as much as Arkansas-Pine Bluff beating Concordia (Ala.) 31-0 the following week.  Keenan Reynolds health is far more important…and the junior QB’s been cleared after an MRI on his knee.  Midshipmen make it happen, 35-17.

 

Howard handles Morehouse, Georgetown over Marist,  James Madison gets by St. Francis, Towson defeats Delaware State, William & Mary wails on Norfolk State, Richmond rips Hampton, Old Dominion defeats Eastern Michigan.

 

Last Week: 8-2.  Overall: 16-4.

 

Sometimes the whole is far less than the sum its parts.  Statistics don’t often correlate to the scoreboard.  Sunday the Redskins found a way to lose in Houston 17-6…despite outgaining the Texans on the ground (131-115 yards while averaging 5.7 yards a carry) and through the air (241-201 while completing an astounding 78% of their passes), posting more first downs (20-16) and only losing the turnover battle by one (3-2).  So how did the ingredients for victory turn into a flat souffle?  Turnovers and special teams.  The two fumbles came at the beginning of the second half…with both occurring in the Texans red zone.  While there was early optimism the kicking and return game had improved over 2013’s grease-fire, the Redskins had an extra point blocked and a punt blocked for a touchdown…an 8-point swing in a game where they lost by 11.  The defeat not only ends what was the longest losing streak in the NFL (14 games) but also extends the Skins now-league long nine game slide.  The mantra changes from “it was only the preseason” to “it’s only one game”…at least until the home opener against Jacksonville.

 

RG3ver–the face of the franchise completes 29 of 37 passes for 267 yards…posting a passer rating of 96.7.  Those numbers were massaged in part by the vast amount of checkdowns…and #10’s performance on third down was less than ideal.  Griffin held the ball a little to long as has been his custom…and Sunday was sacked 3 times.  The first two were rather costly:  one turned a 2nd and 5 into a 3rd and 13–and the Skins punted on the following play.  Another was a 12 yard loss on 3rd and 8 on the Houston 34–that turned a potential 52 yard field goal attempt into a 64-yarder (Skins wisely opting to punt).  I hope he doesn’t take to twitter…

 

Morris and his Men Moving Mountains– Alfred the Underused gained 91 yards on 14 carries (6.5 yards per attempt) while Roy Helu Jr. and Darrel Young (a combined 5-57) stepped in when needed.  On the team’s lone scoring drive the team ran 4 times for 46 yards…all four plays on the possession.  One of the holdovers from the Shanahan regime remains the ability to run but also the inability to emphasize it.

 

The Mixed Bag that is the Receiving Corps– alpha dogs Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson caught a combined 18 passes.  Great!  The duo averaged under 8 yards per catch.  Not Good!  I understand the idea in setting up a quick wideout with a short pass that they can turn into a long gain…but 18 receptions is a major sample size.  Tight end Jordan Reed caught a 4-yard pass before leaving with a bad hamstring…and then Niles Paul caught a 48 yard pass on a third and 7 at midfield.  Before fumbling the ball away in what would be the second of two giveaways the team in the third quarter.  Who’s ready for Jacksonville?

 

Third and Not Awesome– the Skins converted on 3-12 third downs…passing on 10 of 12 plays (5-9 with one sack).  Yardage breakdown:  1-3 on third and short (1-3 yards) including a loss of 1 for Morris in his first short-yardage attempt of the season, 2-3 on third and 4-6 yards needed including a roughing the passer penalty that prolonged the drive, 0-6 on third and long (7+ yards needed).  Another bad sign:  half of the third down situations were with 7+ yards needed.

 

Defense Situationally Successful– the D held the Texans to 3.5 yards a carry while limiting Houston’s air attack to 201 yards.  Positives include Jason Hatcher’s first regular season sack and Keenan Robinson’s recovery of an Arian Foster fumble.  Negatives?  The fact that Hatcher’s sack was the only one of the game– and a shaky secondary can’t afford to have minimal pressure.  The backbreaking drive came in the fourth quarter when the Texans used 6:32 to move the ball 68 yards on 13 plays and kick the game-clinching field goal with minimal time on the clock.  A drive that saw the Texans convert on three straight third downs.

 

Secondary remains a Primary Concern–  How did the back four fare?  Pantsed during the Texans 76-yard touchdown pass that would be their only offensive TD of the game.  Age (Ryan Clark and DeAngelo Hall are in their 30’s), Inexperience (Bacarri Rambo  is so green he makes fellow second year DB David Amerson appear to be a wily veteran), Injury (Phillip Thomas unable to get on the field/roster to make an impact) and Suspension (Brandon Merriweather when he’s not hurt has been disciplined during his tenure):  a four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for a new century.  Hall did lead the team with 8 tackles– although I’ve heard that when one of your cornerbacks is the top tackler, it’s just as much of a reflection on the front seven not making plays as it is on him making the stops.

 

Flying Flags– Seven penalties for 70 yards.  Three offensive, three defensive and one on special teams.  No repeat offenders.  Which ones were costly?  Chris Chester’s false start turned a 2nd and 9 into a 2nd and 14–and the Skins punted two plays later.  Robert Griffin III’s intentional grounding (questionable call as it appeared he was outside the tackle box) killed a last-minute drive in the first half, pushing the Skins from the Houston 44 to their own 41 with under a minute remaining.  Two defensive penalties resulted in first downs on the Texans crucial 4th quarter drive:  Chris Baker’s neutral zone infraction turned a 3rd and 1 from the Houston 17 into a first down…and Jarvis Jenkins roughing the passer on the next play moved the Texans to their 37.  This is a team that unfortunately can’t afford mistakes like those as right now it appears as though they have a limited window of opportunity for victory.

 

Cobra Kai– after outdueling Zach Hocker, Mr. Forbath may be wondering if he didn’t lose by winning:  yes, he gets an NFL paycheck but he still has to work with the Redskins kicking and return units.  Note that I am not using “Special Teams” when regarding this bunch…although after Sunday’s disaster a different S word comes to mind.  Forbath had an extra point blocked…and the team fumbled away two of three times they were inside the red zone.  Much like Johnny Lawrence at one point in time had to look around and realize that Dutch and Tommy might not be the coolest co-horts.

 

Dissecting the Division– thank goodness the Skins play in the NFC Least.  Philadelphia began the day by falling behind Jacksonville 17-0 before rallying to win 34-17.  The Jaguars selling points are their two-tone gold-black helmets and their owner’s flamboyant mustache.  Dallas dug itself a deep hole in the first half against San Francisco, turning the ball over 4 times while falling behind 28-3.  Jimmy Johnson remains absent in the team’s ring of honor at AT&T Stadium.  The Giants?  A 21 point loss to Detroit with Eli Manning resembling the “rookie Eli Manning action figure” as opposed to a QB that’s won two super bowls.  First team to 8 wins gets the division?

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