Archives for posts with tag: Kasim Hill

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College football’s “Show Me Month” shows worlds turned upside-down in Lincoln and Tallahassee:  traditional powers Nebraska and Florida State are off to less than ideal starts with new head coaches.

While the Cornhuskers are not the program in the 21st century they were during the glory run of Tom Osborne, this is a program that hasn’t been 0-2 since 1957.  The coach that year was William Jennings, although it may just as well be William Jennings Bryan.  The idea when they hired Scott Frost away from UCF was their former quarterback would be the magic potion for a program that hadn’t competed for a conference crown since the Big Ten boasted its ill-advised “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions.  Instead, consecutive losses at home has the red jacket-clad fan base wondering if two years at an AAC school was enough of a proving ground.  Thank goodness they’ve rescheduled an opponent to fill the void when the Akron game was cancelled:  0-3 Bethune-Cookman (from the MEAC) comes to Lincoln October 27th.

Any panic you may see in the midwest pales in comparison to the horror on the gulf coast:  the Seminoles’ come from behind win over Samford can hardly cover up an 0-2 ACC start where the offense has scored just one touchdown.  And this is an 0-2 start in the conference with Miami and Clemson still on the schedule.  What happened to the program that posted double digit wins every year from 2012-2016?  And have visiting aliens kidnapped Deondre Francois?  Seriously, folks.  As a freshman the kid netted 8.4 yards per pass attempt (two full yards better than what he’s doing this year) with a 20-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio (he’s thrown three TD’s with four INT’s so far this fall).  Perhaps Jimbo Fisher departed for Texas A&M just in time?  The good news for FSU fans is that Willie Taggart has started slow in his previous stops as head coach before eventually delivering winners at Western Kentucky and South Florida.  But will a fan base that views a 10-win season as a “bad year” have the necessary patience?

Alma Mater Update– Syracuse is 3-0 for the second time this century and entertains UConn Saturday.  The Huskies are beyond bad this fall;  they’ve allowed an average of 56 points per game–including 49 in a win over FCS Rhode Island (I’m hoping they didn’t make up a “trophy” for that game).  But there’s a reason the Orange haven’t started 4-0 since 1991–and it’s that they used to lose games like this all the time.  Somehow the likes of East Carolina, Middle Tennessee, NC State and Cincinnati often have the last laugh.  Perhaps SU alum Randy Edsall will go easy on his alma mater.

Maryland (2-1) vs. Minnesota (3-0), noon (Big Ten Network)-  can the Terrapins bounce back from last week’s ugly loss to Temple and begin conference play on the right note, providing positive momentum entering the bye week?  Quarterback Kasim Hill needs to turn his season around;  the redshirt freshman has seen his passing yardage decline from 222 to 121 to 56 this month.  Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck brings a defense that allows under ten points per game and ranks first in the Big Ten in passing efficiency into College Park– he also brings wide receiver Tyler Johnson (20 catches for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns) to apply pressure on a much-improved Maryland defense (tops in the Big Ten in getting off of the field on third down).  Terrapins tumble, 27-17.

 

Navy (2-1) at SMU (0-3), noon (ESPN News)- the two AAC West schools provide quite a contrast in coaching stability:  Ken Niumatalolo is in his 11th season at the helm while first-year coach Sonny Dykes is the Mustangs’ fifth in that span.  It’s been a rough start for Dykes, with two of their losses coming against ranked foes and the other loss was against unbeaten North Texas.  It’s just as rough for third-year starting quarterback Ben Hicks, minus both of his top targets from last year as Trey Quinn is currently with the Washington Redskins and Courtland Sutton is playing for the Denver Broncos.  Last fall the Mids needed a last-second field goal to prevail in Annapolis;  so far this September Navy boasts the best turnover margin (+7) in the conference and has a ground game that holds the ball over 36 minutes per game.  Midshipmen handle the Mustangs, 31-14.

 

Virginia (2-1) vs. Louisville (2-1), 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network)- the Cardinals own a three game winning streak over UVa, but that was with quarterback Lamar Jackson. This year’s already brought a change at the position with Malik Cunningham getting the nod instead of Jawon Ross this week.  Virginia counters with dual threat quarterback Bryce Perkins (4th in the ACC in passing efficiency while averaging 80 yards rushing per game).  The first ACC game means Kippy & Buffy switch over from white to red wine…and there’s no better way to kick off conference play than with a bottle of A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon.  The 2015 vintage offers “striking aromas of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries are overlaid with a cornucopia of spices. As the wine moves across the palate, ripe, dusty tannins bracketed by juicy acidity give shape and definition to the powerful fruit flavors in harmony with a mineral quality, reminiscent of slate and graphite.”  As we’re already in the Beaver State, Kippy & Buffy break out the Rogue Smokey Blue cheese on multi-grain crisps.  Cavaliers come through, 28-20.

  

Virginia Tech (2-0) at Old Dominion (0-3), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)- the Hokies may be on the road but Norfolk is well within the program’s footprint.  Last year they turned FedEx Field into a sort of “Blacksburg North” for their game with West Virginia.  Hopefully they’ve brought plenty of Lane Stadium turkey legs for their faithful to consume.  The Monarchs may be winless, but one benefit of having last Saturday off was coach Justin Fuente’s team had a chance to see multiple upsets.  They won’t be taking ODU lightly, even with the Monarchs’ offense converting just 28% of third down conversions.   Hokies handle business on the road, 38-14. 

 

Howard tops Bethune-Cookman, Georgetown loses to Columbia, James Madison beats William & Mary, Richmond gets by Stony Brook, Morgan State comes up short at North Carolina A&T.

 

Last Week: 4-2.

For the Season: 16-8.

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No matter when Maryland kicks off its 2018 season, it’s going to be too soon.  Redshirt Freshman Jordan McNair died of heatstroke in June after collapsing during an offseason conditioning drill in May, and the program and school has been dealing with what happened and just as important what allowed that to happen.  This was supposed to be a pivotal year for coach DJ Durkin as he now has three recruiting classes on campus.  Instead, a team as well as a campus and a fan base grieve for a 19-year old and all eyes will be on how the school resolves what was reportedly a toxic program where bullying and abuse from the strength and conditioning staff was commonplace.  There will likely be wins this fall and if we’ve learned anything about the Big Ten East, more than a few losses.  But everything is small potatoes compared to the loss of a young man, and there will be more eyes on the big picture of what happens with the direction of the program moving forward.

That said, Maryland enters its fifth year in the Big Ten with all of the new-conference shine off of the program.  Long gone is the 4-4 league campaign of 2014 where the Terrapins posted their first-ever victories at Penn State and against Michigan.  Facing the Terps this fall is an East Division with four foes in the top 14 spots of the preseason rankings.  Once again the trenches will be tested-last year Maryland offense allowed the second most sacks in the league while the defense ranked 12th in stopping the run.  More than any other conference in the country, contenders are built up front on both sides of the ball.

Once again the major question mark for the Terps on offense will be who plays quarterback and can he stay healthy.  Last year the team lost their #1 and #2 QB’s in the first two weeks, and after more injuries wound up starting walk-on Ryan Brand in a game at Michigan State they needed to win to maintain bowl eligibility.  Whether Tyrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill gets the nod, the key is not only staying healthy but remaining effective.  Since 2003, Maryland has started the same quarterback in all 12 regular season games just twice:  Sam Hollenbach in 2006 and CJ Brown in 2014.  Both were special seasons.  While a making the right choice at quarterback and keeping him in the lineup won’t guarantee a successful season this fall, not being able to do so would likely lead to a result like last year’s 4-8.

While the receiving corps loses the record-breaking DJ Moore, the running game should be in good shape with senior Ty Johnson and junior Lorenzo Harrison back.  Johnson averaged over six yards a carry last fall and Harrison has produced consecutive 600-yard seasons as the team’s “plan B”-and averaged over seven yards per carry as a freshman.  They’ll welcome stability and mobility at the quarterback position:  the offense averaged 315 yards on the ground the first two weeks with Pigrome and Hill at the controls, and managed just 131 per game after both went down with knee injuries.

The defense will be bolstered by the return of senior Jesse Aniebonam; the lineman’s loss for the season last year against Texas severely undercut the pass rush (five of the team’s 16 sacks came in that game).  Also back to contribute will be junior middle linebacker Isaiah Davis (70 tackles in 2017) while junior nickelback Antoine Brooks and senior strong safety Darnell Savage (the duo combined for five of the Terps’ 10 interceptions last fall) anchor the secondary.  Last year’s defense allowed the most points in the Big Ten, the second most yards in the conference and ranked third-worst in stopping the run and the pass.

The schedule doesn’t do the Terps any favors this year as they open up against #23 Texas at FedEx Field September 1st.  Last year Maryland upset the 23rd ranked Longhorns in Austin, and one can imagine Tom Herman’s team won’t overlook Maryland this season.  The “semi-neutral” venue in Landover will allow for plenty of burnt orange in the stands.

The Big Ten cross-over games give the Terps tilts with Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois-only the Hawkeyes are expected to have a winning record this year.  There will be home games against Ohio State and Michigan State plus trips to Michigan and Penn State.  A second bowl appearance in three years is a tall task given the current climate in college park plus the daunting slate.

Penthouse Prediction- somehow the Terps upend an overconfident Texas and enter Big Ten play unbeaten.  While coming up short against Ohio State and Penn State, they’re still able to defeat the conference’s middle and lower class.  An 8-4 campaign leads to a bowl berth.

Outhouse Prediction- a tough loss to Texas precedes a dismal defeat at Bowling Green. October begins with Jim Harbaugh running up the score in Ann Arbor and concludes with a humiliating upset at home to Illinois.  Hundreds of people show up for kickoff as the Terps get torched 75-0 by Ohio State in the home finale.  A 2-10 finish signals another regime change in College Park.

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I’ve often said in this space that September is “Show Me Month”…and more than a few schools have shown us they have promise.  But there’s also the grim reality that happens when late summer turns to early autumn and teams that think they are legit are exposed.  Schools like #6 Oklahoma State put 59 points on the board one week against Pitt, only to cough up 44 the following Saturday at home against TCU.  Colorado has everyone thinking repeat Pac-12 South title until they lose to defending Pac-12 champ Washington by 27 at home.  The SEC second-tier triumvirate of Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky (all 3-0 for the first time since 1913, or 19 years before the SEC even existed) saw their contending status turn to pretending with losses to Georgia, Alabama and Florida (you know, the REAL SEC programs).  Even Maryland after getting some splashy notice came back to earth.  As the leaves turn their colors so do many college teams…to their usual shade.

Alma Mater Update- speaking of “show me” and “pretenders”, the Orange came up short in a 35-26 loss at LSU.  The seeds of an upset were there as this Tigers team is more Gerry DiNardo than Les Miles…and SU actually outgained the LSU.  While I’m not a fan of the soft-touch offense that averages less than ten yards per completion, Dungey impressed yet again with his grit.  The defense even made a huge pick.  Unfortunately they didn’t have the athletes to make the difference-making plays down the stretch and now the Orange enter ACC play 2-2.  Five of their next eight foes have winning records, and that isn’t including 0-2 Florida State.  Can they find a way to squeeze out four more wins and that dream of a Pinstripe Bowl berth so we can hang another banner at the Carrier Dome?  

Virginia (3-1) surpassed last year’s win total with a 42-23 win at Boise State.  Granted, this isn’t the Boise State that Chris Petersen or even Dan Hawkins led to national prominence, but it was the Cavs’ first non-conference road win since 2011 (Indiana).  Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s team no longer has to worry about a potential third 10-loss season in five years.  Who’s ready for ridiculous bowl-talk?  Cavalier Congrats: Kurt Benkert threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, while Jordan Ellis provided the necessary ground threat with 93 yards rushing and a pair of scores.  Quin Blanding led a defense that held the Broncos to 4-of-16 on third down by tallying 10 tackles.  Only 3 penalties on the night.  Cavalier Concerns:  when you have to point out that Lester Coleman averaged under 40 yards per punt…you’ve had a heck of a week and month.  Bring on the ACC.   Next:  October 7th vs Duke.

Maryland (2-1) has to remember this is 2017, not 2012 when in Randy Edsall’s second year at the helm the Terps lost a succession of quarterbacks to injury and wound up starting a scout-team linebacker at QB in November.  The 38-10 loss to UCF (DO NOT CALL THEM CENTRAL FLORIDA) saw the Terrapins lose their starting quarterback to injury for the second time in three games…and while Max Bortenschlager in a James Bond film probably has an evil henchman & an impenetrable fortress at his disposal, the sophomore began September third string for a reason.  Kasim Hill’s lower-leg injury will be looked at, re-examined and given the necessary MRI with everyone’s fingers and toes crossed.  Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore made a circus catch for a 20-yard touchdown, one of his eight grabs on the afternoon (so far this year Moore has over 50% of the teams receptions).  The defense held UCF to 5-of-14 on third down.  Wade Lees averaged 47.1 yards over seven punts with no touchbacks.  Terrapin Troubles: the offense converted just 2 of 13 third downs, none in the first half.  Bortenschlager was sacked five times and threw two interceptions.  The defense allowed over six yards per carry and surrendered three scoring drives of 65+ yards in the second half.  Kicker Henry Darmstadter (fresh from a Louisa May Alcott short story) missed a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have put the Terps within one point;  instead UCF drove 80 yards to take a double-digit lead they’d hold for the rest of the day.  Next:  Saturday at 3-0 Minnesota, 12 noon.

#13 Virginia Tech (4-0) set up a showdown with defending national champion Clemson by blasting Old Dominion 38-0.  Two shutouts in four non-conference games and an offense that averages 40 points per contest.  Who’s ready to take on the #2 Tigers in Blacksburg?  Hokie Highlights:  the offensive line allowed just one sack to a pass rush that had 16 over the previous three games.  Steven Peoples ran for 62 yards and a touchdown while adding 73 receiving yards and two more scores.  The defense held ODU to 64 yards rushing and 2-of-14 on third down…and was so dominant in the shutout Andrew Motuapuaka was only needed to make three tackles (and one sack).  Hokie Humblings:  Joey Slye missed a 27-yard field goal while Oscar Bradburn averaged just 36 yards per punt.  Yes, we’re splitting hairs here.  Next:  Saturday at 8 p.m. against 4-0 Clemson.

Navy (3-0) came off their bye week with a second straight AAC victory, this time outscoring Cincinnati 42-32.  Plenty of good to keep the fans happy with just enough bad to keep the coaches working.  Midshipman Medals:  a near-school record 569 yards rushing (they actually broke the record but lost four yards on kneel-downs) with Zach Abey playing to his strengths (20 carries as opposed to just three pass attempts)…and getting quality instead of quantity through the air from Tyler Carmona (2 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown).  The offense converted 6-of-8 third downs while holding the ball for over 36 minutes.  The defense held the Bearcats to 2.5 yards per carry, with Sean Williams tallying seven tackles and two passed broken up.  Midshipman Miscues:  Turnovers continue to creep up, with another lost fumble spoiling the day.  The defense sacked UC quarterback Hayden Moore just twice on 48 pass plays.  Bennett Moerhing missed a 24-yard field goal.  Yes, I’m being rather rough on kickers this week.  Next: Saturday at 1-3 Tulsa, 3:30 p.m.

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Unlike college basketball where most of the bluebloods actually wear blue (look it up: UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky & Duke), the majority of college football teams wear red.  Saturday night we saw two premiere programs battle in a top five showdown, with Oklahoma under first-year-interim-former-vice-president coach Lincoln Riley (you could never have gotten away with having  a Sooners coach named “Lincoln” during the Big Eight days).  Somehow the fresh-faced 34-year old went from substitute teacher to “Coach in his own right” as OU shocked the 2nd ranked Buckeyes in the Columbus night, winning going away 31-16.  Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield won the Ohio primary over JT Barrett by throwing for 386 yards and three scores…and the rest of the Big 12 is on notice that the Sooners are back.  As opposed to 2016 when they were a disappointing 11-2.  Being a blueblood, no matter which color you wear, is never fair.

Alma Mater Update- is the second week of the season too early to say the Orange’s bowl hopes are doomed?  Saturday’s underwhelming loss at home to Middle Tennessee was decidedly less than ideal…and for a team whose ceiling was six to seven wins this fall a home loss to a school from Conference USA is crushing.  The offense averaged under five yards per pass attempt and under three yards per rush.  The defense allowed big plays (Ty Lee’s 48-yard TD catch) and long drives (a fourth quarter march of 75 yards on ten plays) in defeat.  At least they face Central Michigan before going to LSU.  They’ll beat the Chippewas, right?

Maryland (2-0) took to Towson like a blowtorch through butter in its 63-17 rout of the Tigers, scoring on their first three possessions of the game while reaching the end zone the first five times they had the ball after intermission.  They’ve started 2-0 before…but not with this type of ferocity.  Games like Northwestern and at Minnesota all of a sudden appear more winnable…and the road to six victories (and postseason play) becomes a lot more manageable.  Terrapin Triumphs:  Ty Johnson tallied TD runs of 46 and 74 yards en route to another 100+ yard afternoon, while the team gained over ten yards per carry.  Kasim Hill excelled in his first career start, making plays with his arm and feet.  DJ Moore caught both of Hill’s TD passes while running for a third score on a broken play where he was almost brought down in the backfield.  The defense held the Tigers to six yards on 13 plays from scrimmage in the third quarter to effectively end the game.  Terrapin Troubles:  a soft first half by the D (an 81 yard scoring march plus a drive that died inside the Maryland 10) was less than ideal as the Tigers converted 6 of 10 third downs before intermission.  Calling out the schedule-makers too for the week three bye– when you score 114 points over the first two weeks the only thing that can contain you is inactivity.  Next:  September 16 against UCF.

Virginia (1-1) received a dose of reality in its 34-17 loss to Indiana.  Yes, this team is better than the 2-10 squad that suffered early and often in coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first season…but they still have strides to make.  And those strides haven’t been made yet.  Cavalier Congrats:  Kurt Benkert threw for 259 yards and a touchdown while going another week without tossing an interception.  Jordan Mack led the defense that held IU to 4 of 15 on third down by tallying 16 tackles and half of a sack.  Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding provided their customary 10+ tackles as well.  Cavalier Concerns:  the running game netted just 55 yards.  The defense allowed a redshirt freshman to complete 80% of his throws…and coughed up scoring plays of 26, 29 and 32 yards.  The punt coverage team surrendered a game-clinching 44-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. Next:  Saturday vs 1-0 Connecticut. 

Virginia Tech (2-0) had less than six days to prepare for Delaware, but wound up blanking the Blue Hens just the same 27-0.  Can we see a battle of unbeatens to wrap up the month against Clemson?  (Apologies to coach Justin Fuente for looking ahead). Hokie Highlights:  Greg Stroman returned a punt 61 yards for the first TD of the day.  Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson threw two touchdown passes while turning in another turnover-free game.  The defense was led by the Edmunds brothers:  Tremaine tallied 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble while Terrell added eight stops, a sack and a 55-yard interception return.  Hokie Humblings:  the offense converted just 3 of 11 third downs, while the running game that gained 234 yards against West Virginia was held to under three yards per carry.   Next: Saturday at 0-2 East Carolina.   

Navy survived a scare in Annapolis, outdueling Tulane in a battle of option offenses 23-21.  The AAC waters will be rough sailing this fall for the defending West Division champs. Midshipman Medals:  Zach Abey ran for over 100 yards while throwing a 79-yard touchdown pass.  DJ Palmore led the defense with ten tackles…and the D held the Green Wave to 3 of 14 on third down.  Owen White averaged over 40 yards per punt. The Mids did not commit a penalty.  Midshipmen Miscues:  the offense turned the ball over twice and Abey completed less than 50% of his passes for the second straight week.  If they’re going to contend for a second straight trip to the championship game, the attack has to be a little more versatile.  Next: Saturday vs 1-1 Cincinnati.OO