Jerry Seinfeld once said that in sports we are really rooting for laundry…and while in College Football you’re supporting your school it still rings a little bit true.  People refer to Michigan as the Maize and Blue almost as much as the Wolverines.  Alabama’s called the Crimson Tide…and Syracuse the Orange (after Orangemen/Orangewomen proved to be too unwieldy a decade ago).  Fifty shades of Grey had nothing on the multiple shades of red–growing up I learned the difference between Crimson and Cream (Oklahoma), Scarlet and Gray (Ohio State) and Garnet and Gold (Florida State).  Iowa’s known as the school that wears Steeleresque black and gold because Hayden Fry wanted his early 80’s Hawkeyes to think like a winner  by dressing like one.  And the UCLA-USC contrast of blue and red was the subject of a many a Kodak ad in Sports Illustrated.  Flashforward to this fall with multiple schools boasting multiple alternate uniforms.  In the interest of full disclosure, my alma mater Syracuse is a major culprit with Saturday’s gray sweatsuit look against Notre Dame.  But even the Fighting Irish–a college football blue-blood if there ever was one– has trotted out monstrosities.  Saturday I saw another member of college football royalty debase itself as Nebraska went with all-red helmets and a red-on-red outfits (I didn’t check the shoes on purpose).  Maryland trotted out special unis honoring the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore–and the Star Spangled helmets and jerseys were kind of cool.  But Saturday’s Indiana-Maryland game saw the Hoosiers wear their “reflecting chrome helmets” against Maryland…a safety violation if I ever saw one.  And I’m sure it didn’t commemorate the 200th of anything–although it could be to celebrate the 30th anniversary of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” reaching #15 in the charts (he is from Indiana if you weren’t aware).  I know there’s no going back (even Oklahoma is tinkering with its unis) to the day where the uniform (noun) was actually uniform (adjective)…but can we have a little quality control?

 

Alma Mater Update– another September of Discontent in Central New York.  Another 2-2 start with an unfriendly ACC (Florida State, Clemson) looming.  Five takeaways and they still can’t get within a one possession game of a Fighting Irish team that might be in the top ten but has wins over Rice, Michigan and Purdue (combined 5-9 record).  Somehow the defense allowed 25 consecutive completions by Everett Golston while the SU offense converted just 3 of 15 third downs… and penalties continue to pose problems with 10 more flags for 85 yards against the Orange.  Terrel Hunt seems to be finding himself– but a tough slate looms.  When does basketball begin again?

 

Maryland won its first ever game in the Big Ten…and it wasn’t close.  The team’s 37-15 thrashing of Indiana put the other 12 members of the Big Ten on notice that this is not a team that’s happy to be along for the ride.  Especially with Penn State and Michigan looking less than their brand this fall.  Terrapin Triumphs– NO TURNOVERS (when you don’t beat yourself like that you merit all-caps)… both quarterbacks CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe carved up the Hoosiers defense (22-33=361) with big plays the rule again (29, 30 and 36-yard TD passes)…and the WR combo of Stefon Diggs and Deon Long roasted the secondary for 220 yards…LB Cole Ferrand notched 11 solo tackles with 8 assists to lead an aggressive defense.  Terrapin Troubles– eight penalties (I only use all-caps if it gets to double digits) will give the coaching staff something to work with… the defense allowed over 200 yards rushing for the second straight week. Next: Saturday vs Ohio State.  Welcome to the Big Ten, indeed…

 

Virginia Tech ended a two-game slide by staggering to a 35-17 wobbling win over Western Michigan.  For those who never saw Muhammad Ali late in his career when he was rope-a-doping and outlasting opponents, this team has that feel.  Thank goodness September is over in Blacksburg.  Hokie Highlights– 308 YARDS RUSHING!  The thunder and lightning tandem of freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams gives VT a credible threat for the first time in a few years… the defense holds the Broncos to 4 of 15 on third down while notching 5 sacks… and special teams gets things going by returning a fumbled kickoff for a TD followed by a safety on a bad snap to the punter. BEAMER BALL!  Hokie Humblings-- another rough outing for Michael Brewer (under 50%, 2 INT’s)… nine penalties gives the team 49 for the year-a top ten list you don’t want to be on… and was that a blocked extra point? Is it too late to take the beamer ball all-caps back?   Next:  Saturday at North Carolina.

 

Virginia bounced back from a slow start to crush Kent State 45-13.  Nothing like exceeding last year’s victory output in September…even though the Golden Flashes have an outside shot at going 0-12 in 2014.  Cavalier Congrats– Five takeaways including a 69 yard interception return for a TD by Maurice Canady… Kevin Parks assumes the offensive security blanket by rushing for 62 yards and a TD while adding 4 receptions for 43 yards and another score… Eli Harold leads the sack pack with 2 of the team’s 5.  Cavalier Concerns– two fumbles lost, two interceptions and nine penalties… and the quarterback carousel didn’t feature the injured Greyson Lambert this time but David Watford (aka 2013’s starter)–at least it was in mop-up duty and not via the Magic Eight-Ball.  When Lambert’s healthy, will the shuffle resume? All signs point to yes.  Next:  Saturday vs Pitt in prime time.

 

Navy saw a 21-13 lead early in the third quarter dissolve into a 36-27 loss to Western Kentucky.  Believe it or not, there was talk of the Midshipmen potentially going 12-0 if they upset Ohio State in the season opener.  Instead, the team is trying to count to six (wins and bowl eligibility).  VMI is the one true gimme with San Jose State, South Alabama and Army must-win games for a Merry Christmas in Annapolis.  Midshipmen Medals– Keenan Reynolds rushes for 121 yards and 2 TD’s… LB Daniel Gonzales notches 13 tackles and an interception… Pablo Beltran averages 44.8 yards on 5 punts.  Midshipmen Miscues– Reynolds completes just 3 of 14 passes with an interception… the offense converts only 2 of 11 third down attempts…and the defense allowed 551 yards (387 through the air).  Next:  Saturday at surprisingly good (3-1) Air Force.

The Prime Time Microscope often serves as an amplifier:  tiny blemishes are revealed to be major scars and minor deficiencies are shown to be major shortcomings.  For the Redskins, prime time has not been kind as of late:  the team went 0-5 under the lights last year…and looked lost in Thursday night’s 45-14 defeat to the New York Giants.  The game recalled for me a 2009 Monday Night meltdown against the Giants (45-12) that featured a swinging-gate fake field goal…but that loss marked the end of an error, I mean era for then-coach Jim Zorn’s regime.  This is game three for Jay Gruden.  The league is such a week-to-week thing (witness Tampa Bay getting blasted by 42 eleven days before winning at Pittsburgh)…but it’s tough to find any good spin in Thursday’s mess.  Next up?  A Monday Night Football game against- defending champ Seattle.  Should I add that the Seahawks are coming off a bye week?

 

Captain Kirk Crashes– from the high of the win over Jacksonville to the mixed review of the loss in Philadelphia…and now this.  Four interceptions and a lost fumble remind Skins fans of a different #8…and Turnoverasaurus Rex has long departed the Potomac River basin for the shores of Lake Erie.  Cousins went 6-14 with those four picks in the second half–his issues in the third and fourth quarters this year have to be somewhat of a concern as well.  Kirk before intermission: 74% completion rate with a 4-0 TD/INT ratio.  Kirk after the break:  48% and 2-5.  Is it a case of the opponents making sharp halftime adjustments?  Perhaps it’s a case of “Mirror, Mirror” when the other Kirk gets beamed into an alternate universe.

 

Saved by Underuse– Alfred Morris notched 12 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown…never getting into any sort of rhythm– three carries in the first and second quarters before getting five touches in the third.  All told the Skins ran the ball just 17 times in defeat.  Reminds me of the Bell episode where Zack wasn’t involved in the plot in a major way– hold on, that never happened.  Peter Engel knew what the Skins offensive braintrust hasn’t grasped yet– Morris has to be involved big-time for this whole thing to work.  There’s a reason there weren’t any Violet Bickerstaff-centric episodes.

 

Receiving Recall–  after shining in the loss at Philadelphia, the duo of Garcon & DeSean were held to a combined 3 catches for 37 yards by the Giants defense.  Less than ideal…as Jackson’s dancing and chest-thumping against his former team didn’t carry over to being shut down by his former and current division rival.  Roy Helu lading the team with 78 yards receiving is as wrong as Ryan Clark leading the team with 7 tackles…a runningback shouldn’t be this much of a main man in a passing game.

 

Tight End Troubles– Niles Paul was on his way to another solid game…catching 3 passes for 60 yards when he was greeted by what resembled the “Malachi Crunch”:  Antrelle Rolle and Quintin Demps bounced Paul out of the game with a concussion.  Already minus Jordan Reed (whose 2013 ended with a concussion), the Skins were forced to focus on Logan Paulsen– who caught 3 passes for 28 yards but lost a fumble in the red zone.  Paul will be tested over the next week to make sure there are no lingering effects–meaning Cousins’ security blanket (16 catches in 2 and a half games) may be a question mark.

 

Third and Abysmal– the Skins went 1-8 in moving the chains….getting another first down in the third quarter on a Neutral Zone Infraction by the Giants.  The offense gained a total of 8 net yards on those 8 third down plays:  Cousins set the tone for the night by fumbling while being sacked on the team’s first 3rd down of the night…before completing 1 of 6 passes for 7 yards with 2 interceptions.  The lone conversion?  A 9 yard scramble by Cousins on 3rd & 8.  Breaking things down by yardage:  0-1 when 1-3 yards were needed, 1-2 when 4-6 yards were necessary and 0-5 on 3rd and 7+.  After four weeks, the offense is 18-49 on the critical down (37%, ranking 24th in the league)…with 22 of their 49 attempts coming from 7 yards or more.

 

D gets an F– the problem with going 1-8 on 3rd down?  You have to punt and send this defense out on the field.  The Giants scored the last three times they had the ball in the first half and used the quick-throwing short passing game to negate the Skins pass rush (just one sack on the night).  The secondary looked undermanned and lost as Giants TE Larry Donnell caught 3 TD passes in the first half–on one play either Brandon Meriweather played the wrong coverage or Ryan Clark wasn’t in the right spot or quick enough to provide help.  David Amerson’s good at guarding the opposition’s #2 wideout–containing their #1 not so much.  Thank goodness coordinator Jim Haslett doesn’t have Mike Shanahan around to meddle in the D.

 

Flying Flags– 11 penalties for 88 yards gives the team 39 for 388 on the season (most in the league).  Two of the four offensive infractions were holds by an offensive line that wasn’t trying to cheat as much as trying to keep Kirk Cousins alive amidst a tepid Giant pass rush.  Two of the three defensive penalties set up Giant scores:  Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference kept a drive alive late in the first half that resulted in a field goal and Perry Riley’s illegal use of the hands gave NY a 1st & goal from the 1-yard line (they’d score on the very next play).  Four penalties came on special teams– with Clifton Geathers getting flagged twice (illegal use of the hands & unsportsmanlike conduct) and the other two violations  coming on a false start and a neutral zone infraction.  It’s a mess…

 

Cobra Kai Cameo– Mr. Forbath converted on both extra points and wasn’t called on for any field goal attempts…while Tress Way stole the kicking game show by averaging 58 yards a punt (including a 77-yarder).  Much like the bully in KK2…

 

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia remains atop the NFC East despite their loss at San Francisco because the 3-1 Eagles own the division tiebreaker with 3-1 Dallas.  The Giants at 2-2 are all alone in third place while the Skins are inthe oh so familiar spot of last place in the division (eventual destination in 2008-11 and 2013).  Best division after four weeks?  The AFC North is 9-5 while the NFC West is 8-5…as the NFC East and North are tied for third at 9-7.  Both South divisions have gone south in September—each is 6-10.  While the Skins get the AFC South on their schedule this year– they also get the entire NFC West (ugh).

Maryland makes history Saturday.  For the first time since the early 1950’s, the Terps will play a conference game that won’t involve the letters A, C or C.  We’re almost used to schools trading leagues like shirts–the ACC’s newest member Louisville for example has played in Conference USA, the Big East and the American Athletic Conference (of America) since 2004.  There are some old guard Maryland fans who still think of the ACC as one with South Carolina and without Georgia Tech, let alone the Florida schools or ex-Big East teams.  Although coach Randy Edsall and his players say that this is just another game, it represents a new era that we’ll be looking back at for years to come.  This marks the first step towards a future that could sport a 70,000 seat Byrd Stadium…or one that turns the Terps into Rutgers-South.  Not that just one game makes or breaks a future– but the first step has to head somewhere.

 

Alma Mater Update– Syracuse plays Notre Dame in the annual Heisman revenge game.  Heisman revenge?  Twice the Fighting Irish propped up a substandard candidate for college football’s highest honor…and they went on to win despite a superior season by an Orangeman.  In 1956 Jim Brown rushed for 986 yards and 13 TD over 8 games for a 7-1 SU team…only to finish well behind Paul Hornung who after throwing 3 TD and 13 INT for a 2-8 Notre Dame.  In 1987 Don McPherson passed for 22 TD, ran for 5 more and even caught a TD pass for an 11-0 SU team– evidently not as good as catching 39 passes and 3 TD with 3 more scores coming on punt returns for an 8-3 Fighting Irish squad.  Not that one is bothered by that any more than the fact that the Fighting Irish used the Big East like a cheap mistress for its non-football sports while staying married to football independence…and is now using the ACC in a similar fashion.

 

Maryland at Indiana– both teams are coming off road wins…but not all road wins are created equally.  The Terps topped a Syracuse team that couldn’t get out of its own way– while the Hoosiers upset #18 Missouri.  IU boasts a solid ground attack (310 yards per game–and 6 yards a carry) led by Tevin Coleman while the Terrapin D has had issues stopping the run (212 ypg against FBS schools) this fall.  CJ Brown is coming off his best game of the season–and looks to exploit a Hoosiers defense that allowed 45 points to Bowling Green.  Terps triumph, 35-28.

 

Virginia Tech vs Western Michigan– the Hokies need to get their act together before this year dissolves into a scraping to six wins world.  The 12 penalties they committed last week against Georgia Tech give VT 40 for the season.  Michael Brewer tossed three interceptions last week…and one has to wonder if he’ll be the long-term solution or just a short-term problem in Blacksburg.  The visiting Broncos can put points on the scoreboard–after posting 34 in a week one loss to Purdue WMU’s scored 45 points in consecutive weeks.  Hokies hold on, 38-26.

 

Virginia vs Kent State– the Cavaliers know full well how good teams from the Mid-American Conference can be…losing last year to Ball State by 21.  This year UVa has played very well against elite competition by beating Louisville and losing one-possession games to a pair of teams currently in the top 20 (BYU & UCLA)…looking much better than the 2013 dumpster-fire.  Greyson Lambert is a question mark with ankle injury–but don’t worry, coach Mike London isn’t averse to using only Matt Johns against the Golden Flashes.  David Watford despite playing his way out of the starting job last year remains an option… and the school may be looking into remaining eligibility for Matt Schaub, Aaron Brooks and Don Majkowski.  Cavaliers come through, 31-16.

 

Navy vs Western Kentucky– what to make of the Hilltoppers?  They beat Bowling Green, who beat Indiana, who beat #18 Missouri.  They also lost to Middle Tennessee, who lost to Memphis, who almost beat UCLA, who almost lost to Texas.  Blast you transitive property!  One thing the Hilltoppers can’t do is defend:  WKU is allowing 41 points a game.  Midshipmen bounce back from a loss to Rutgers, 27-17.

 

Georgetown falls at Colgate, Howard slips to North Carolina A & T, James Madison loses to Delaware,  William & Mary pound Stonybrook,  Towson tops Maine,  Morgan State beats Norfolk State.

 

Last Week: 8-3

Overall: 31-9.  Don’t worry, I’ll come back to earth once we completely enter conference season.

 

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!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 857 other followers