College Football Corner: Close calls for Md. and Va., Hurricanes are downgraded to a summer squall

College Football fans were treated to what has become a meteorological and 21st century college football event: the official downgrading of the Hurricanes.

On a Saturday when the Old Dominion Monarchs were almost crowned the football kings of the Commonwealth (Virginia fans may still be nervous after the last two weeks) and Maryland needed a second-half surge to avoid getting stampeded by the Mustangs of SMU, we were also treated to what has become a meteorological and 21st century college football event: the official downgrading of the Hurricanes.

No. 13 Miami made a splash hire in the offseason when they pulled alum Mario Cristobal away from Oregon (he was 35-13 at the Pac-12 school) and entered the season with a ton of hype (thank you NIL for making payments to players not only legal but encouraged). Of course, previous hires were the “right move” as the average tenure of Randy Shannon, Al Golden, Mark Richt and Manny Diaz was just under four years (how Golden got that fifth season I’ll never know). So when the Hurricanes went to College Station to play a Power Five team after bludgeoning Bethune Cookman and swamping Southern Miss (great volleyball school), the 17-9 loss to the Aggies resets the perspective in Coral Gables. There’s no reason not believe Cristobal (and a little South Beach$$$) won’t turn things around, but once again the Canes have been banished from the unbeaten garden before the end of summer.

Virginia Tech (2-1) had the unenviable 11 a.m. kickoff but still started strong by taking a 20-0 halftime lead over woeful Wofford. Perhaps the early wake-up call sapped the Hokies because a less than sharp second half resulted in a 27-7 triumph over an FCS school that had been outscored 57-0 this fall. But the early start also means a little bit extra turnaround time for a Thursday night game.

Hokie Highlights: Grant Wells threw for 314 yards as the offense scored on four of their first five drives (a missed fourth and one at the Wofford 22 the exception). They owned third down, converting 7-13 on offense and holding the Terriers to 3-11 when they had the ball. William Ross connected on field goals of 41 and 46 yards while Pete Moore averaged 47.7 yards per punt.

Hokie Humbling: just one scoring drive after halftime and their first two possessions in the third quarter netted 28 yards on 10 plays. The ground game gained just 3.2 yards per carry. And to allow a touchdown to a team that had been held scoreless on the season (albeit just two games) isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not ideal.

Next: Thursday at 7 p.m. against 1-2 West Virginia. In Blacksburg. Exit light … enter night.

Virginia (2-1) also started strong in their game with Old Dominion, tallying a touchdown and a field goal in their first four possessions. It appeared as though more points were pending in drive number five, but a Mike Hollins fumble at the ODU four kept them from getting 17 points in the first half. And over the next 30+minutes they wouldn’t get to 17, escaping upset with a 16-14 win thanks to a Brendan Farrell field goal. Bring on the ACC?

Cavalier Congrats: Brennan Armstrong had a much better day than he did at Illinois, passing for 284 yards while rushing for 54. Xavier Brown rushed for 88 yards and Keytaon Thompson caught nine passes for 118 yards. Langston Long led the defense with nine tackles. And Perris Jones not only rushed for 56 yards, but also recovered a fumbled punt that set up a UV a field goal.

Cavalier Concerns: three fumbles (two by Brennan Armstrong), one of which took points off the board and another that set up the Monarch’s first touchdown. Langston Long’s nine tackles might be nice, but three of the top four tacklers were defensive backs. It means that your first two levels aren’t getting it done against the run or too many passes are being caught against the secondary. While Farrell made the game-winner as time expired he also missed a 36-yarder that would have put the game out of reach with three minutes left.

Next: Friday at 7 p.m. against 3-0 Syracuse. Not a misprint, the Orange are actually unbeaten.

Maryland (3-0) and SMU each entered Saturday night averaging over 45 points a game and it felt like they might get there after a slow start as the Mustangs took a 20-17 lead into halftime. But the Terps’ defense held Tanner Mordecai to 14-26 passing for 104 yards after intermission while the offense put together two dominant fourth quarter scoring drives (nine plays for 68 yards and 10 plays for 46 yards) to pull away with a 34-27 victory. Was it perfect? No. But their record is … for now.

Terrapin Triumphs: Roman Hemby rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown while adding 62 yards receiving. Coach Mike Locksley also cited his pass blocking, especially on the 49-yard TD pass from Taulia Tagovailoa to Rakim Barrett in the first half. Beau Brade made 15 tackles and notched an interception that set up a Terps’ touchdown. The defense would post two more takeaways, including an interception that set up the game-winning TD and a fumble recovery inside their 10 keeping SMU points off the board. Colton Spangler averaged 50.6 yards per punt.

Terrapin Troubles: 15 penalties! Including a sequence when given a first and 10 at the SMU nine, Maryland was whistled for illegal formation, illegal snap, holding and unsportsmanlike conduct in short order to set up a fourth down at the 23. They were fortunate to get a field goal. The offense also took a while to get in gear, converting just 1-5 third downs in the first half.

Next: Saturday at noon on the road against No. 4 Michigan. The 3-0 Wolverines have outscored their opponents 166-17 this season.

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