WASHINGTON — The final pre-Thanksgiving weekend had a September feel.
Not in the temperatures but in a schedule that smacked of a cupcake buffet. Alabama-Mercer? Clemson-The Citadel? At a time when every game’s importance is magnified, we had just one match-up of top 20 teams (Michigan-Wisconsin).
To make things worse, the two most interesting rivalry games were on at the same time, despite both involving Pac-12 showdowns. Hey, left-coasters, I love the whole Pac-12 After Dark deal and the like, but couldn’t you have moved USC-UCLA to the 3:30 window so I could watch Stanford-Cal without having to flip over?
The major bummer is one looks up at the calendar and realizes there’s just one weekend left in the regular season to complain about shifting start-times, FOX announcers having Wade Less punting and Lorenzo Hudson carrying the ball, and the long walk from Regent’s Garage to Maryland Stadium. Where did the autumn go?
Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) saw its slim bowl hopes fade amidst the snow in a 17-7 loss to Michigan State that didn’t feel like a ten-point game. Now the program has one eye on 2018 and another on sending its seniors out against (gulp) Penn State.
- Terrapin Triumphs: They held Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke to 2-of-14 passing and limited MSU to 72 total yards in the second half. Jermaine Carter led the way with 12 tackles and forced a fumble. DJ Moore caught eight passes, putting him within striking distance (64 grabs after 11 games) of the single-season record (Geroy Simon caught 77 passes in 1994).
- Terrapin Troubles: Four of their first seven drives were three and outs, and on the other three possessions they punted after moving the chains once. The defense also coughed up over 100 yards to Spartans tailback LJ Scott in the first half.
Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against 9-2 Penn State.
Virginia (6-5, 3-4 ACC) saw its upset bid of Miami come up short in a 44-28 loss to the Hurricanes. Somehow 14-point leads are made to be coughed up — more than once.
- Cavalier Congrats: Kurt Benkert threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns with minimal help from his ground game. Micah Kiser led the team with nine tackles while Quin Blanding notched eight stops and an interception.
- Cavalier Concerns: Three turnovers on the road against a top ten team is not how you get things done — and Miami turned those miscues into 14 points. The offense also gained just 52 yards on its final 22 plays from scrimmage.
Next: Friday at 8 p.m. against 8-3 Virginia Tech. (If you haven’t heard, they haven’t beaten the Hokies since VT joined the ACC.)
Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 ACC) fought through a sluggish start and held off a late Pitt drive to prevail over the Panthers 20-14. Heading into the season finale against Virginia, one doesn’t especially feel confident. Could this be the year they finally slip to the Cavaliers?
- Hokie Highlights: They held Darrin Hall (486 yards rushing the last 3 weeks) to 4 yards on 15 carries and handcuffed the Panthers on the ground all day. Cam Phillips continues to be the Blacksburg version of DJ Moore, catching eight passes for 117 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Brian Johnson kicked a pair of field goals, on the same weekend AC/DC rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young passed away. HIGH VOLTAGE, indeed.
- Hokie Humblings: Against the most porous pass defense in the ACC, Josh Jackson completed under 50 percent of his passes and tossed an interception. The VT pass defense coughed up 311 yards and almost lost the game in the final minute when the Panthers completed a 74-yard pass to the Hokie 1-yard line.
Next: Friday at 8 p.m. against 6-5 Virginia. (They can’t lose this one, can they?)
Navy (6-4) had #8 Notre Dame on the ropes and a seven-point second half lead, before their last three drives ended with a missed field goal, an interception, and on downs in a 24-17 loss to the Fighting Irish.
- Midshipmen Medals: Zach Abey ran for 87 yards and a touchdown while passing for the Mids’ other score. They also dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 42+ minutes. Micah Farrar forced a fumble that set up their first touchdown of the day.
- Midshipmen Miscues: The defense allowed 5.3 yards per carry … and wound up surrendering three straight touchdown drives to the Irish. The absence of a passing game (3 for 8 with an interception) once again limited the possibilities of the option offense.
Next: Friday at noon at 6-4 Houston.
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