Archives for posts with tag: Longhorns

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Many out there, Maryland Coach Mike Locksley among them, say a college football team improves the most between weeks one and two.  This isn’t just a throw-away statement; with no preseason exhibition games to gage one’s talent against other foes, week one is often a time of surprise discovery and rude awakening.  How the team bounces back from those awakenings and maximizes its discoveries goes a long way towards how successful the team will eventually be.  Think of the season as a paragraph, and week one as the first sentence.  That said, there are statements to be made in September-especially this Saturday.

Two schools with early-season opportunities to make major statements reside in the Lone Star State.  Texas always has Texas-size expectations and the last two Septembers the Longhorn balloon was popped in week one by Maryland; but 2018 saw UT finish in the Top 25 for the first time since (gulp) 2012.  Saturday night under the lights Coach Tom Herman can make a major statement as they host No. 6 LSU.  The ‘Horn’s former longtime rival, Texas A&M, also ended a drought last fall when former Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to a Top 25 finish.  While guiding the Seminoles Fisher went 4-4 against Clemson, but won just once in Death Valley.  This week A&M visits the top-ranked and defending National Champion Tigers.  The money the school paid Fisher to leave the Sunshine State was for Saturday statement games like this one.

 

Alma Mater Update- much like George Louis Costanza, my worlds collide this week as the school I attended for four years plays the team I’ve covered for the last 14.  The University that was my home 20+ years ago visits the place that is my virtual home from August to March (with trips in May during the Lacrosse tournaments).  It’ll be great seeing old Orange friends before anchoring updates at 15 and 45 Saturday on WTOP.  It’ll be nice telling people what time it is before and after work tomorrow.  I’m just hoping for a good game and a better drumstick-to-wing ratio.

 

Friday-

William & Mary (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 8 p.m. (ACC Network).

The Cavaliers opened the season of possibilities by beating defending division champ Pitt on the road thanks to a strong second half where they outscored the Panthers 17-0 and just as importantly matched Pitt’s physical play.  Enter William & Mary, coached by former UVa coach Mike London.  The Tribe run an option-based offense, exactly the kind that’s tough to prepare for on a short week.  They’re also coming off of a win over Lafayette where quarterback Hollis Mathis ran for 127 yards and a touchdown but split snaps with Kilton Anderson. Shades of London’s carousel of quarterbacks in Charlottesville; we know how that worked out.

Kippy and Buffy are working their way through their tailgating schedule for 2019, and they usually open against a non-conference foe with Conundrum White.  But in the autumn of possibilities they’re going outside the box, metaphorically of course-they’d NEVER have wine from a box.  For a matchup of two Commonwealth schools, Montifalco Vineyards 2018 Blanc rings true. A blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Seyval Blanc grapes provides “bright citrus, tropical notes and crisp finish”.

Presto’s Pick: the bright season continues as the Cavaliers come through, 34-16.

 

Saturday-

Maryland (1-0) vs. #21 Syracuse (1-0), noon (ESPN).

How do you top a week where you post more points than your opponent’s total yards?  By taking on a ranked opponent.  The Terps haven’t beaten a ranked foe in College Park since NC State in 2010.  The Orange opened their season with a 24-0 shutout of Liberty, a game known more for Flames coach Hugh Freeze calling plays from a hospital bed set up in a stadium suite (you cannot make this up).  SU brings a pass rush that notched eight sacks last week, but the Terps were able to counter Howard’s pressure with downfield strikes in the opener.  Syracuse also boasts a starting quarterback in Tommy DeVito, who depending on your interests will have you humming Four Seasons tunes from “Jersey Boys” or re-enacting Joe Pesci scenes from “Goodfellas”.  You think that’s funny?  Funny how?

Presto’s Pick: Terps are unable to pull off a Lufthansa Heist, slipping 27-21.

 

Virginia Tech (0-1) vs. Old Dominion (1-0), noon (ESPNU).

How do you wash away the stain of a season-opening loss where you turned the ball over five times and coughed up 35 points?  By facing the team that began your current 4-8 tailspin.  Remember the Monarchs?  The team that put 49 points on the board last fall and turned what was supposed to be an easy cross-state trip into a nightmare that would last for the rest of the season.  The good news is ODU quarterback Blake LaRussa (495 yards and 4 TD passes against the Hokies) left the program last winter to enter the Seminary and full-time Ministry.  The Monarchs also lost leading rusher Jeremy Cox (130 yards and 2 TD rushing) to the NFL.  It’s market correction week in Blacksburg.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle the Monarchs, 37-14.

 

Howard falls at Youngstown State, Georgetown beats Marist, Richmond loses at Boston College, James Madison beats St. Francis (PA), Towson tops North Carolina Central, Catholic slips to Kenyon.

Last Week: 6-2.

 

Saturday’s marquee matchup saw #19 Texas upset the Big 12 applecart by outscoring #7 Oklahoma 48-45 after a game filled with plenty of thrill and spills–and chills.  The notoriously slow-starting Longhorns jumped out to a 24-10 second quarter lead and led 45-24 after three periods…before the Sooners stormed back to tie things up with under three minutes left.  But Kyler Murray and company left too much time on the clock and Texas was able to kick a field goal with nine seconds left.  Calling this rollercoaster ride next to the Texas State Fair was FOX’s Gus Johnson…an announcer known for high-energy calls of big plays in clutch situations.  He might not be everybody’s cup of tea-or more appropriately given his energy, double espresso-but nobody makes the mundane plays more interesting and nobody makes the big plays more sublime.

 

Alma Mater Update- those of a certain age also recall the last time the Orange started 4-0 they dropped two straight games.  Saturday’s overtime loss at Pitt was unfortunate; while we know SU isn’t in the same class as Clemson, a win at a sub-500 ACC foe like the Panthers shouldn’t be too much to ask for.  They host North Carolina in two weeks.

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) in its 42-21 loss to Michigan scored more points against the Wolverines than they had in the last three years combined, but the Terps were unable to contain the Wolverines after holding them in check for the first quarter.  Terrapin Triumphs: Tyrrell Pigrome came off the bench to lead the team with 63 rushing yards, including a 42 yard scamper and the game’s final touchown.  Tre Watson tallied 10 tackles to pace the defense.  Ty Johnson returned a kickoff 98 yards for the touchdown that gave the Terps their only lead of the day.  Terrapin Troubles: the offense stalled early and often, gaining just 47 yards in the first half.  The defense allowed the Wolverines to move the chains on 9-of-13 third downs…as Michigan scored five of the last six times they had the ball (the final possession of the day being the exception).  Penalties continue to be a problem, with 12 flags for 107 yards.  Next:  Saturday at home against 1-5 Rutgers (noon kickoff).

 

Navy (2-3) went west to face Air Force, and things went south after the Midshipmen took an early 7-0 lead.  The 35-7 loss was the their biggest defeat in the series since 2002 (Paul Johnson’s first year).  Midshipman Medals:  not a lot of good to thumb through.  Pete Tanuvsa made 11 tackles to pace the defense.  Owen White averaged 48.7 yards per punt…and he had plenty of practice with a career-high seven punts.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense went three and out five times in seven first half possessions…and converted just 2 of 13 third downs.  Navy quarterbacks completed 3 of 12 passes.  Next:  Saturday at home against 3-3 Temple (3:30 p.m. kickoff).

 

#24 Virginia Tech (3-2) held Notre Dame to minus-three rushing yards in the first half, but on the Fighting Irish’s second offensive play of the second half Dexter Williams broke for a 97-yard touchdown that turned a one-point game at intermission into a 45-23 rout.  Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw for 309 yards while Damon Hazelton tallied 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.  Reggie Floyd recorded seven tackles and an interception.  Hokie Humblings:  two turnovers-one of which was returned for a Notre Dame touchdown.  The defense gave up big plays–in addition to the 97-yard TD, the secondary coughed up passes of 40 and 56 yards.  Next:  Saturday at 1-3 North Carolina (7 p.m. gametime).

 

 

 

Portions previously appearing on WTOP.COM-

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.