College Football Corner: A Cardinal Coming-out Party

WASHINGTON — When Louisville replaced Maryland in the ACC, many chose to see the basketball bonus because Rick Pitino’s team was a force to be reckoned with in the suddenly splintering Big East. Football was merely an afterthought.

No more.

Saturday saw the emergence of a new bully on the ACC football block when the 10th-ranked Cardinals crushed No. 2 Florida State, 63—20. To be truthful, it wasn’t even that close. All of a sudden, the Seminoles and Clemson have company in the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, North Carolina and Virginia Tech are thanking their lucky stars for being in the Coastal Division. The blowout also saw the proper introduction of Lamar Jackson, now to be known for the next two months by his full name: “Heisman Trophy Candidate Lamar Jackson.” The sophomore turned the Seminoles inside out all afternoon, rushing for four touchdowns while adding a score through the air.

It’s one thing to shine against Charlotte and Syracuse, but against FSU? It’s a good thing Bobby Bowden is long gone from the sidelines because fans and alums would chime in about how the game is passing him by.

Maryland (3—0) needed double-overtime to dispose of UCF, 30—24. The Terps conclude nonconference play unbeaten but enter their bye week with questions surrounding quarterback Perry Hills’ shoulder. True freshman Tyrrell Pigrome came off the bench in double-overtime to score the game-winning touchdown. Lorenzo Harrison tallied 77 yards on 15 carries to pace a ground game that hit the 200 yard mark for the third straight week. Jermaine Carter Jr. anchored the defense with 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Still no giveaways for the Terps’ offense after leading the nation last year. The passing game was less than productive, though. Hills completed under 50 percent of his passes while getting sacked five times. The offense converted just five of 17 third downs. Defensively, they had problems containing UCF wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (eight catches, 114 yards and a touchdown). How will they fare against Big Ten passing attacks?

Next: Maryland faces Purdue, Oct. 1.

Virginia (0—3) snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, wasting a seven-point halftime lead in a 13—10 loss at University of Connecticut. The Huskies are making their case as the cardiac kids of 2016, with all three of their one-possession affairs being decided in the final minute of play. The defense had its best effort of the season, notching four sacks plus an interception and a fumble recovery while holding the Huskies to 3—13 on third down. The firm of Kiser & Blanding (11 tackles apiece) set the tone again (Micah Kiser adding 1.5 sacks to the mix). Albert Reid notched 73 yards rushing while scoring the team’s lone touchdown. Armed with a 7-point halftime lead, UVa gained just 35 yards on their first four possessions of the second half. There were 10 penalties for 91 yards and the final play of the game had a Keystone Cops/Benny Hill theme to it as the Cavs rushed a field goal attempt that Alex Furbank missed from 20 yards out.

Next: Virginia faces Central Michigan (3—0), 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Virginia Tech (2—1) opened ACC play with a 49—0 rout of Boston College. While one had an idea the Eagles might not be that good this fall, coach Justin Fuente’s team made a major statement about how good they might be. Jerod Evans was on fire, completing 16 of 23 passes for 253 yards and five touchdowns (two to Isaiah Ford — five touchdowns in five visits to the red zone). The defense dominated, holding the Eagles to 1.6 yards per carry and 31 percent passing. Boston College had the ball 15 times and the VT defense notched 10 three and outs, while on two of the possessions the Eagles did record a first down and they would later turn the ball over. It’s tough to find anything wrong in a 49-point rout, unless you’re hyper-focused on punting — just 36.7 yards per kick, even though Michael Ludwig landed four of his sox kicks inside the 20 and had no touchbacks. Can I take that one back?

Next: Virginia Tech faces East Carolina (2-1) — the Pirates a recent nonconference nemesis of the Hokies — 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Navy (3—0) stays unbeaten with another close contest — this time a 21—14 win at Tulane. While one likes the Mids’ ability to win the close games, one-possession affairs against the likes of the Green Wave and University of Connecticut the week before do not give one a ton of confidence for upcoming matchups against the likes of Houston and Notre Dame. Will Worth ran for 111 yards and had the game-winning touchdown. Jamir Tillman does his best to keep defenses honest with three catches for 47 yards. The Mids owned third down again, converting nine of 14 chances while holding the Green Wave to 2—12. That said, five of 12 passing is less than ideal, and two fumbles will definitely get coach Ken Niumatalolo’s attention during their bye week.

Next: Navy faces Air Force (2—0) on Oct. 1.

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