Archives for posts with tag: hurricanes

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Six weeks into the college football season means the first smattering of schools become bowl eligible, as if there was a doubt about Ohio State. Florida is also 6-0 but has a pair of FCS wins so they’re not technically in the mix just yet. There is one other 6-0 team, and it’s a blast from the past:  SMU is off to its best start since the 1982 team went unbeaten behind the likes of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.  Sadly, the “Pony Express” turned into “Pony Excess” (the title of a great ESPN 30-for-30 narrated by Patrick Duffy of “Dallas”) and the cheating got so rampant at the Southwest Conference school that the NCAA had to deliver the nuclear option of the “Death Penalty” later that decade.

The effect was long term: since restarting the program in 1989, the Mustangs have had eight double-digit defeat seasons while appearing in just five bowls.  Former Louisiana Tech and Cal Head Coach Sonny Dykes brought his high-octane offense to the AAC school two years ago, and the results have been almost immediate.  They averaged 30 points while going 5-7 last fall, and with Texas transfer Shane Buechele running the offense this fall they’ve taken things to the next level.  Far from the Pony Express of yore, the 21st century Mustangs currently rank 10th in FBS in passing yardage and are averaging 44 points per game.  An upset win of No. 25 TCU last month put them on the map, and Saturday’s 43-37 triple-overtime victory against Tulsa has them bowl-bound while thinking conference contention.  SMU has yet to post a winning conference record in the AAC, and still has huge road tests at Houston, Memphis, and Navy.  But for at least one week the Mustangs share the stage with the elite…thirty years after being all by themselves in NCAA Purgatory.

 

Alma Mater Update- a week off for the 3-2 Orange gives Tommy DeVito time to get healthy with NC State on deck.  It also gives one the chance to look at the schedule ahead:  six of SU’s final seven foes boast winning records with no soft spots.  Can they generate three more wins and make their triumphant return to the Pinstripe Bowl??

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) bounced back from getting blown out by Penn State, routing Rutgers 48-7 in a game that was close for much of the first half.  But just to show that no Saturday is complete without a little heartbreak for the College Park faithful, quarterback Josh Jackson went down with an ankle injury right before halftime. The fact that it took five games for the Terps’ starter to suffer a potential season-ending injury is encouraging, as in previous years the first-string QB would go down for the year in early to mid-September (or as in the case of CJ Brown in 2012, August).

Terrapin Triumphs:  the offense generated big plays of 80 yards (twice), 50 and 42 yards.  Give guys like Anthony McFarland, Javon Leake, Tavon Fleet-Davis and Dontay Demus space and they will make opponents pay.  The Terps also went turnover-free. Linebacker Ayinde Eley notched 12 tackles plus an interception returned to the Rutgers two that helped Maryland take a 20-point lead. Javon Leake returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a TD.  Leake also ran for two more scores.

Terrapin Troubles:  it took a while for the offense to get in gear; after scoring on an 80-yard pass on their first possession the team suffered four straight three and outs.  The offense would finish 4-13 on third down.  Penalties continue to pose problems, as the team was flagged six times this week.  The kicking game in concerning, as they had a 29-yard field goal blocked and missed an extra point. That might not cost you against Rutgers, but it did at Temple and very well could against the upcoming slate of the Big Ten’s middle class.

Next: Saturday at noon at Purdue.

 

Navy (3-1) needed a last-minute touchdown drive to pull ahead of Air Force after blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead, and the Mids would then recover a Falcons fumble on the final play to make the 34-25 final look deceptively comfortable.  But it was anything but comfortable as Troy Calhoun and company know they had a golden chance to steal one in Annapolis (Air Force is 1-8 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 2001).  What’s reassuring for head coach Ken Niumatalolo is that these were the types of games last year’s team lost.

Midshipman Medals:  Malcolm Perry complete 5 of 7 passes for 144 yards while running for 111 yards and two touchdowns.  Nolan Smith ran for 82 yards and the other two Navy scores. C.J. Williams caught a game-saving 32-yard pass on the go-ahead drive.  Paul Carothers and Diego Fagot (12 tackles apiece) led a defense that held Air Force to 2.4 yards a carry, 40% passing, and 5-of-17 on third down.

Midshipman Miscues:  last week the Mids allowed 21 second-half points, and this week the D surrendered 16 in the fourth quarter.  After being held to 2-12 on third down through three quarters, the Falcons converted three big ones in the final period (scoring both of their touchdowns on third and goal).  Offensively the three drives that preceded the game-winning possession resulted in a missed field goal, a lost fumble, and a three & out.

Next:  Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Tulsa.

 

Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-2 ACC) saw its season flash before its eyes in the fourth quarter at Miami.  Somehow they were tied at 35 after the Hokies took a 28-0 first half lead.  But somehow VT was able to take a late lead and hold the Hurricanes shy of the goal line. (they’d get to the Hokie 10-yard line before time ran out).  The 42-35 win doesn’t cure all, but it keeps the team out of the Coastal Division cellar and also keeps the temperature down a teensy bit on their coach’s hot seat.

Hokie Highlights:  five first half takeaways helped set up short fields, and the offense played turnover free football all day.  Sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns while running for 76 and another score.  The offense moved the chains on 7 of 9 third downs in the first half, and scored touchdowns on all six red zone appearances.  Rayshard Ashby notched 11 tackles and a sack, and the pass rush generated seven sacks.  Jermaine Waller and Caleb Fraley each grabbed a pair of interceptions.  Oscar Bradburn averaged 50.4 yards per punt.

Hokie Humblings: talk about your tale of two halves.  The offense converted 2 of 7 third downs after intermission, and the defense that tallied turnovers turned into one that gave up 364 yards and four touchdowns over the final two quarters.

Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. against Rhode Island.

 

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Miami and Notre Dame.  The series originally began as a way to give the Fighting Irish fans a warm-weather November destination on the odd-numbered years when they weren’t visiting USC.  And then to everyone’s surprise, the intersectional rivalry heated up in the 1980’s with “Catholics vs Convicts” T-shirts, Jimmy Johnson running up the score and the two schools swapping national title runs. From 1987 to 1990 the two schools went a combined 85-12, each playing in New Year’s Day bowl games every season.  And then–they stopped playing.  While the Lou Holtz era is a distant memory and the Hurricanes have dealt with multiple crippling probations since the 80’s, this matchup still raises one’s eyebrows.  Notre Dame fans still look at Miami as obnoxious “new money”, while the Hurricane faithful view the Fighting Irish as “holier than thou” front-runners.  Add into the equation that there are a lot of people who hate both schools for precisely those reasons, and you have two teams that need to play more often.  Now that the Irish are a semi-member (actually a full member in every sport but the one you’d want them to be) of the ACC, this will happen a lot more often.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange need to win two of their final three games to have any hope at reaching the Pinstripe Bowl.  The good news is that neither Wake Forest, Louisville nor Boston College have winning conference records.  Today they take on a Demon Deacons team that’s dropped four of five and has allowed an average of 39 points over its last three games.  Eric Dungey’s health will be a question.  Hopefully the team will move beyond a pair of one-possession losses in the Sunshine state that would have been sweet upsets.

 

#17 Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3), 12:20 p.m. (ACC Network).  What is it with this new “12:20” window?  Can’t the ACC Network begin its early games at noon like the rest of us?  If the Big Ten can start games at 11 a.m. local time in Madison and Minneapolis, what’s the delay?  Makes me yearn for the good old days on Jefferson-Pilot.  Despite last week’s loss to unbeaten Miami, the Hokies defense leads the conference against the run and overall while allowing the fewest points per game.  The Yellowjackets lead the ACC in rushing offense and commit the fewest penalties in the league, but have trouble rushing the passer (13th in the league) and are 109th nationally in turnover margin.  Sounds like Annapolis South.  Hokies handle things, 27-13.

 

Maryland (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten) vs #21 Michigan (7-2, 4-2), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).  Terps quarterback Max Bortenschlager may have a concussion or a shoulder injury–when asked which it was coach DJ Durkin said, “it was a third down- he was trying to get the first down and took a pretty good hit right there” and “I think he was just competing trying to get the first down-he took a hit there”.  So much for clarity.  If Max can’t go, walk-on Ryan Brand will be the fourth starting quarterback of the 2017 season…and he’ll face a Wolverine defense whose 32 sacks lead the Big Ten.  Michigan runningback Karan Higdon has rushed for 200 yards twice in league play…bad news for a Terps defense that allows the most yards and points in the conference:  Terrapins tumble, 31-16.

 

Navy (5-3, 3-3 AAC) vs SMU (6-3, 3-2), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).  The Midshipmen are free-falling after three straight conference losses.  They’ve gone from the “can they contend for a West Division title?” to the “they’re going to qualify for a bowl, right?” conversation thanks to a turnover-prone offense and a soft pass rush.  The Pony Express isn’t walking through that door for the Mustangs, but they do boast the AAC’s leading receiver in Trey Quinn (90 catches for 921 yards and 7 TD).  They’re also more of a match defensively for the option offense, lead the AAC in red zone defense and own a +12 turnover margin.  Midshipmen fall, 31-24.

 

Virginia (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at Louisville (5-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).  Expect plenty of points as the Cardinals lead the conference in passing, total yardage and scoring.  They’re also near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories and have coughed up 28 or more points in four straight games.  Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have reverted to last fall’s “break but don’t bend” defense that coughed up big plays, allowing 30+ points the last three Saturdays.  Defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson might not be on track to claim another statue, but the junior is completing passes at a higher rate and gaining more yards per carry this fall.  UVa is also coming off its sixth win of the year, and might just be exhaling now that they’ve clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.  Kippy & Buffy plan on exhaling at the tailgate with a bottle of Carlisle Winery 2011 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel:  “drop-dead gorgeous aromas of cherry, herbs, and spice box spill from the glass. Full bodied with an explosion of red cherry fruit. Suave tannins build through the long finish.”  Unfortunately one does not see a happy finish at Papa John’s Stadium.  Cavaliers come up short, 43-31.

 

Howard beats Norfolk State, Georgetown falls at Bucknell, Towson tops William & Mary, James Madison tops Richmond.

Last Week: 5-4.

Overall: 58-21.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

The four local Division I FBS schools have all played six games…and while each had a different set of expectations coming into the season those hopes often change by mid-October.  For instance, nobody thought Virginia would double its win total from the previous year before Columbus Day and be in position to go bowling for the first time since 2011.  The Cavaliers’ glass (read below to see what they’re pouring) is more than half-full.  Virginia Tech came into 2017 expecting to compete for another Coastal Division title…and barring a hiccup at home over the next two Saturday’s that’s what they’ll get in early November at a nationally ranked Miami team.  Navy learned it’s in for a long battle to return to the AAC Championship game…but is safe at quarterback for the time being in Zach Abey.  And Maryland?  Right where we were in late-August…looking to scrape together six wins and make a bowl.  Looking ahead they need victories over Indiana and Rutgers to have a prayer…and somehow need an upset over Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan or Wisconsin.   All four of those schools are currently ranked in the Top 20.

Alma Mater Update– eight days after it’s improbable victory over #2 Clemson, the Orange visit #8 Miami.  Somehow I don’t think this is going to end well.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Hurricanes over the last decade, it’s that they’re often downgraded to tropical storms in mid-October.  I have an annual column saved in my computer for that purpose.  I’m not saying that Eric Dungey can get it done…but the U does rank 12th in getting off the field on third down.  Breaking out two bleu cheese containers to let one wing soak while I eat the other.

Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at #5 Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0), noon, FOX.  Another national showcase involving the not-ready-for-prime-time Terps has them battling the Badgers at high noon…although it will technically be 11 a.m. in Madison.  Hopefully the dining halls will open up early so the students can load up on Monte Cristo sandwiches before heading to Camp Randall.  The Terps defense that’s allowing a Big Ten-high 36.5 points per game will have its hands full with Jonathan Taylor (a Big Ten-best 164 yards per game with 10 touchdowns this fall) and an offense that converts 54% of its third downs.  Wisconsin is also #1 in the league at stopping the run… and we saw what happened last week when the Terps’ tailback tandem averaged under three yards per carry.  I fully expect Max Bortenschlager to get the ball to DJ Moore a ridiculous amount of times…but also fully expect the conference’s best pass rush (20 sacks in six games) to plant Max in the turf early and often.  Terrapins tumble, 41-16.

 

Virginia (5-1, 2-0 ACC) vs Boston College (3-4, 1-3), 12:30 p.m., ACC Network.  Does one credit the Eagles with a 45-42 upset of Louisville or realize that the Cardinals are major frauds this fall?  What isn’t up for debate is the 272 rushing yards produced by freshman AJ Dillon…and that the Cavaliers rank ninth in the ACC in stopping the run.  But they’ve been solid everywhere else on that side of the ball, from #1 against the pass to #4 on getting off the field on third down.  BC is the very definition of “one dimensional” this fall (13th in the conference in passing and last in passing efficiency) and last weekend’s outburst was the first time the school had posted 30+ points in a league game since 2014.  Kippy & Buffy can taste bowl eligibility as well as a Cross Key Cabernet Franc: “aubergine and opaque in the glass; redolent of raspberry compote with hints of fennel.”  Strong suggestions of bleu cheese on Triscuits to complete the fun.  Cavaliers come through, 26-16.

 

#14 Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1 ACC) vs North Carolina (1-6, 0-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2.  Somewhow UNC has already lost more games this fall than they did in all of 2016.  Blame the worst defense in the ACC…as well as an offense that ranks last in converting third downs.  It doesn’t help that the Tar Heels have a mess at the quarterback position…as the freshman-grad transfer combination of Chazz Surratt and Brandon Harris has produced just the wrong combination of inexperience and limitations (as opposed to potential and experience).  Speaking of quarterbacks, the Hokies Josh Jackson has thrown four interceptions over his last three games.  Good thing he’s going up against a very forgiving UNC D.  Hokies win big, 38-14.

 

Navy (5-1, 3-1 AAC) vs #20 UCF (5-0, 3-0), CBS Sports Network.  The Knights (they dropped the Golden last decade when they moved away from “Central Florida”-#branding) blew away Maryland last month…and haven’s slowed down one bit.  McKenzie Milton is completing 70% of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (one coming at Maryland) for the highest-scoring offense in the AAC.  The Mids aren’t horrible against the pass, but they aren’t great against it by any stretch of the imagination.  UCF is also plus-8 in the turnover battle, and Navy’s minus-5 is the red flag no ship wants to fly.  Midshipmen fall at home, 33-22.

 

Howard beats Morgan State, Georgetown edges Fordham, Richmond falls at Delaware, James Madison beats William & Mary.

 

Last Week: 7-1.

Overall: 42-12.

How can we miss something if it never truly leaves?  That is the predicament of Thursday Night Football.  Born in the 1978 season as a “Special Thursday Night Edition of Monday Night Football” on ABC, the NFL would play a handful of games (usually one in September and one in December) on Thursday (in addition to one Friday and a couple of Sunday night games) in addition to the traditional prime time package.  Now everybody plays on Thursdays-and after devouring a full plate of college football on Saturdays and even more on Sundays before Sunday and Monday night come our way…we have to line up with enthusiasm for college and pro games tonight.  I don’t mind the Thursday night game in college-as long as you’re giving both teams the previous Saturday off.  This week Virginia Tech returns to an evening where it used to dominate: the Hokies are 12-4 in Blacksburg and 21-9 overall while competing with “Friends” and “Big Bang Theory” for eyeballs.  Along with special teams excellence, smoked turkey legs and Metallica, Thursday night helped create the Beamer brand of Hokie football.  New head coach Justin Fuente gets his first taste this evening… 

Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-1) vs Miami (4-2, 1-2), 7 p.m., ESPN- this matchup looked a lot better two weeks ago…before the Hurricanes came a missed extra point and fell to North Carolina, and before the Hokies lost by 14 to a 2-4 Syracuse squad.  Instead of a showdown for the ACC Coastal Division lead…it’s a fight to see which team can snap out of a funk.  Despite allowing the Orange to convert on 5 of 6 third downs in the fourth quarter last Saturday, Tech still leads the ACC in third down denials (74%).  The Canes are the 2nd worst team in the conference at moving the chains.  Jerod Evans has been better than expected with his arm and legs at quarterback this fall for the Hokies, but Miami’s defense (14 points allowed per game, tops in the ACC and 4th in the nation) is better than any of the ones he’s faced this fall.  Hokies hold on against the Hurricanes, 28-21.

 

Previously appearing on WTOP.com–

There’s nothing worse than a false Hurricane Warning.  You brace yourself for destruction and hope for minimal damage…only to realize that the University of Miami is providing fool’s gold once again.  Thursday night’s loss to a .500 Cincinnati team ends another unbeaten dream…and sends fans of the U scurrying while wondering if Al Golden is the right guy to bring this program back to prominence.  Long gone are the days when Miami reigned over college football (four titles in nine years from 1983 to 91) and front and center is the yearly reminder that these not only aren’t your father’s Hurricanes, but not even your big brother’s Canes from 2002.  When they joined the ACC they were placed in a different divsion than Florida State so they could potentially square off with the Seminoles in the Championship Game; sadly they’ve yet to make a trip to the title tilt while Wake Forest, Boston College and Duke each have.  In the last three seasons they’ve appeared to be on the cusp of the Coastal crown before each Hurricane dissipated:  4 losses in 5 games in 2012, 3 straight losses in 2013 and 4 straight losses last year.  Hopes were high as Miami went into Thursday night’s game with Cincinnati of the AAC unranked at 3-0…only to prove why they weren’t in the top 25 with a double-digit loss to the Bearcats.  Hurricane U downgraded again…

Alma Mater Update– the Orange have the weekend off…after losing by 10 to the number 8 team in the nation.  Somehow going with “Plan E” at quarterback undermined the offense and trying to tackle the best runningback on the planet was too much for the SU defense.  After a 3-1 start they get the week off before visiting South Florida and Virginia– winnable games necessary if dreams of a Pinstripe Bowl are to be met.  It’s also a bye week for Orange fans, who instead of buffalo wings, potato wedges or Varsity pizza will enjoy a healthy salad…dressing on the side.

Maryland entertains Michigan– last year the Terps went to Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines for the first time ever.  This year they have a turnover-prone quarterback and a defense with issues (14th in the Big Ten against the run, 12th in passing efficiency and 13th in yards and points allowed)…while Big Blue comes to College Park with a rock-solid defense (1st against the pass and overall, second against the run and in scoring) and a coach who wears khakis.  The game has been moved to noon, meaning my tailgate friends Matt and Stacia have to audible at the line of scrimmage in shifting their emphasis from shrimp dip to breakfast casserole.  The secret?  Hash browns as the first layer.  The secret for Saturday?  Turnovers and penalties will tell the tale again.  Terps tumble, 31-16.

Virginia Tech hosts Pitt– the Hokies after getting their traditional September throat-clearing (2 losses during Show Me Month for the fourth time in six years) kick off ACC play against a former Big East rival.  The Panthers are one of those programs you just feel should be better– but it’s been over 30 years since Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett were wearing the royal blue and gold with the script “Pitt” on their helmets.  While there was plenty of concern surrounding how Brenden Motley would fill in for the injured Michael Brewer at quarterback, the redshirt junior has actually played well–providing a run/pass threat not seen since Tyrod Taylor wore a maroon jersey.  The issue facing this team is how they’ll mask the loss of standout cornerback Kendall Fuller, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.  Hokies come up short, 28-26.

Navy meets Air Force– with “Army West Point” as it’s now branded continuing to chase its own tail, this has become the defacto Commander in Chief’s Trophy Championship Game.  As an aside, I’m hoping that the other academies resist temptation to eventually be called “Navy Annapolis” or “Air Force Colorado Springs”.  Despite one school defending our oceans and the other in charge of the skies, both excel on the ground:  the Falcons rank 2nd nationally in rushing offense while the Midshipmen are 3rd (Army West Point is 9th– no doubt slowed down by having three words in its name where one or two would suffice).  The Keenan Reynolds victory tour continues…Midshipmen grind it out, 27-21.

Virginia against “Open”– Kippy and Buffy get a weekend off, but they’ll be busy shuttering up the Outer Banks cottage as is their bye week custom…with a bottle of bubbly.  This year there’s more urgency with Hurricane Joaquin on the horizon.  There’s also more unpleasantness as their Saturday night college football viewing will be #8 Georgia hosting 13th ranked Alabama.  The Bulldogs quarterback?  Former Cavalier Greyson Lambert.  Did you know the guy who couldn’t start in Charlottesville has thrown more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (2) the last two weeks?  Tough to stomach the champagne and caviar under such circumstances…but as always, Kippy and buffy willl find a way. 

Howard falls to Norfolk State, Georgetown loses at Harvard, James Madison gets by Stony Brook, William & Mary defeats Delaware, Richmond over Maine.

Last Week: 3-5. Purely an abberation. An isolated incident. Nothing to see here…

Overall: 28-6. Isolated incident?  Leaves aren’t the only thing turning colors and falling…