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Week 3: Ugly games lead to ugly wins and losses

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Week 3: Ugly games lead to ugly wins and losses

There's no way to sugarcoat it, Week 3 was an ugly one with a lot of ugly football games being played. Penn State defeated rival Pitt thanks to questionable playcalling, Maryland lost one of the most bizarre games ever played, Virginia Tech rallied from a double-digit deficit against FCS Furman and Virginia squeaked out a win in a penalty-filled slugfest with Florida State.

Here's a recap of the week's action.

Penn State 17, Pitt 10

The good: Journey Brown

The Nittany Lions finished with 167 rushing and 389 total yards. Brown accounted for 109 of those rushing yards alone.

The bad: The offensive line

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford completed only 14 of his 30 passes as he faced relentless pressure from the Pitt defense that the offensive line struggled to keep contained. The Panthers sacked Clifford three times and hurried him on several other plays 

The ugly: Pitt not going for the touchdown in the fourth quarter

This is the story of the game.

Pitt trailed 17-10  with the ball at Penn State's 1-yard line and less than five minutes on the clock. Instead of going for the game-tying touchdown, the Panthers lined up to kick a chip-shot field goal which kicker Alex Kessman ultimately missed. Afterward head coach Patt Narduzzi tried to justify the call saying the team needed two scores to win the game "unless you guys are playing for overtime."

Yes, somehow Narduzzi tried to claim going for the field goal instead of the touchdown was actually the bolder move.

If Narduzzi is scoffing at the notion of playing for overtime, then score the touchdown and go for two instead of the extra point. The fact is, the Panthers started that drive needing a touchdown. Even if they had made the field goal, the next time they got the ball, if at all, they would still need a touchdown. The problem was not that Pitt missed the field goal, it's that they should not have been trying to kick it at all. The Panthers were on the road playing a fierce and highly ranked Penn State team in the last game between these two rivals for the foreseeable future and Narduzzi went as conservative as possible. This game deserved bolder action from Narduzzi.

Temple 20, Maryland 17

The good: Anthony McFarland

The Terps are loaded with a strong running back core and McFarland has established himself as the dominant force through which this offense runs. He had 26 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown against Temple, as he tried to carry a sputtering offense to the win.

The bad: The playcalling

Going for it on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line in the first quarter? I get it. The Terps' strength is their rushing game, you want to be aggressive and push the Owls around up the middle, fine. But when you do that and then attempt a fake field goal on the very next drive, it came off as desperate. The score was 7-2 in the second quarter. There was no need for the Terps to chose points at that moment in the game and it cost them. Three extra points for Maryland certainly would have been significant in this game.

The ugly: Everything

Unless you watched, I am not sure it is possible to describe this game in a way that can adequately capture how unbelievably ugly and crazy it truly was.

This game featured a muffed punt, a goal-line stand, a safety off a bad snap on a punt, a fake field goal, a missed field goal, an interception negated by a penalty, seven Maryland players failing to pick up a fumble, a defensive holding call on third down which ultimately led to the go-ahead touchdown, a punt return to the 4-yard line that led to a second goal-line stand and seven-yard punt that gave Maryland one final opportunity to win the game .

Virginia Tech 24, Furman 17

The good: Tre Turner's second half

Down 14-3 at halftime to an FCS opponent, the Hokies needed someone to step up and take back control of the game. Turner scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half which took a 14-10 deficit and put the Hokies up 24-14.

The wide receiver proved a versatile weapon on Saturday with five carries for 68 yards on the ground and four catches for 29 yards.

The bad: Turnovers

Virginia Tech simply cannot hold onto the football. The Hokies entered Saturday's game tied for last among all FBS programs in turnover margin. Furman turned the ball over twice, but so did Virginia Tech which now has eight total turnovers through the first three games of the season.

The ugly: The first half

There was outright panic in Blacksburg after the first half as Furman took a 14-3 lead into halftime. That's not supposed to happen against an FCS opponent.

Virginia Tech had only 107 yards of offense in the first half with one made field goal, one missed field goal, two punts and two turnovers.

Navy 42, East Carolina 10

The good: Malcolm Perry's six touchdowns

Perry ran for four touchdowns on the ground and threw for another two touchdowns for six total scores. Six is the most a single player has scored for Navy since Keenan Reynolds scored six on Nov. 15, 2014.

The bad: Three wins

Navy is 2-0 on the season, already pulling them within one win of last year's total of three. Their dominance in the early season is a reflection of how much this team hasa improved and is ready to put an ugly 2018 behind them.

The ugly: The pass attack

Who would have thought you would be reading about the passing offense from Navy? If you can't even keep the Midshipmen from passing, it is going to be a long day for you. That proved true for ECU on Saturday.

Perry completed five of seven passes on Saturday for 151 yards and two touchdowns showing a different dimension of the Navy offense most would have assumed they did not have.

Virginia 31, Florida State 24

The good: Bryce Perkins

Florida State linebacker Leonard Warner said earlier in the week of Perkins, “I don’t think we are going to have too much trouble with him. We have a good game plan built up. I think we have pretty good plan for controlling him.”

Perkins ended up throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 46 yards. He did throw two picks, but he also had perhaps the play of the game.

When Virginia scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:34 remaining in the game, they lined up to go for 2. Left with no one to pass to, Perkin danced around in the backfield desperately trying to find an open receiver. He stepped into the pocket, retreated back, scrambled right, put on the breaks and turned back left, set to throw, pulled the ball in again, then turned the corner on the defense to the left and knifed through the stunned defense into the end zone.

The bad: A missed extra point

A one-yard touchdown run from Taulapapa pulled UVa within one at 24-23 with just over six minutes left to play. Brian Delaney stepped up for the extra point...and missed. At the time, given how much time was left in the game, it felt like a significant blunder for Virginia. Luckily for the Cavaliers, it did not end up costing them.

The ugly: Penalties

Just about everything is going wrong for Florida State in the Willie Taggart era, but one issue that was staggering on Saturday was the Seminoles' total lack of discipline. Florida State was flagged 10 times for 83 yards in this game including four fourth-quarter flags. Two of those flags were personal fouls.

As undisciplined as the Seminoles looked in the fourth, Virginia was just as bad with four penalties late in the game, all of which came with less than three minutes remaining to give Florida State a chance to tie the game.

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Here’s why the NCAA is not giving winter sports an additional year of eligibility like spring sports

Here’s why the NCAA is not giving winter sports an additional year of eligibility like spring sports

On Monday, the NCAA announced that it will allow schools to grant student-athletes an additional year of eligibility for spring sports but not for winter sports. This means there will not be an additional year granted to men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes. 

While the move may be disappointing for seniors and fans alike of several basketball programs, this move is the correct one as the NCAA navigates through the impact of the coronavirus. 

Four days before the selection of the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament field, and five days before the women’s, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring sports championships. In addition to no March Madness and no national champion, there are several conference titles left undecided with the regular season completed. 

Many teams across the country, though, had already wrapped up their seasons. The week prior to cancelation had wrapped up over half of the men’s and women’s 2019-20 campaigns with losses in respective conference tournaments. This was primarily the men’s mid-major conferences and most of the women’s high-major (Power 5) leagues. A select few were waiting on their postseason fate, but many were either home or on their way there and making offseason plans. 

This is the lone reason cited in the Division I Council’s release. But that is only part of the reason why the NCAA isn’t granting an additional year.

Logistically this would be a nightmare. Already, the NCAA revealed as much in its announcement of another year of competition for spring sports. It leaves the discretion of giving the additional year to each institution instead of a broader relief. 

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” council chair and Penn athletics director M. Grace Calhoun said in the release. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that."

To make this possible, the NCAA adjusted financial aid rules, is providing funding and is extending the five-year clock of competition by a year. Most importantly, it also expanded the roster limit for baseball teams to allow incoming high school seniors to not occupy roster spots for those who wish to return. No other sports have roster limits. 

Div. I basketball programs are allowed no more than 13 full scholarships. Giving seniors the opportunity to come back would complicate how schools would make decisions on which players can do so, and which ones couldn’t. Any spot that a school would allow a senior to come back could take away a scholarship from a recruit that already committed to the program. 

Not every school would make the same decisions either. The scholarship limit would have to be lifted, but then for how much and for how long? Would the extra year be given to the underclassmen too? 

Allowing those programs to get that season back would create more problems in a trying time for many across the world. Administrators, coaches, fans, players, recruits; there would be no easy solution that would be fair to all parties. 

At least a canceled March Madness stinks for everyone. Fans included. 

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March Madness Revisited: When 16-seed Mount St. Mary's pushed 1-seed Villanova

March Madness Revisited: When 16-seed Mount St. Mary's pushed 1-seed Villanova

As March winds down without its usual flurry of March Madness moments, NBC Sports Washington takes a look back at some smaller DMV schools who made a big impact during their most recent NCAA Tournament appearances.  

A season removed from winning the national championship in 2016, Villanova found itself trailing by a point with less than five seconds to play in the first half of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

At the time, no No. 16 seed had ever beaten a No. 1 seed. That would come a year later. The Wildcats’ opponent that March evening in Buffalo, N.Y.? Mount St. Mary’s.

The little school from Emmitsburg, Md. had been to the Big Dance before. Legendary coach Jim Phelan, who ran the program for 49 years and is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, shepherded the Mountaineers from Division II to Division I in the early 1990s. They won the Northeast Conference tournament in 1995 and 1999 to reach the tournament and made it twice more in 2008 and 2014 even after Phelan retired. 

But it was its fifth trip the NCAA Tournament, under current George Washington coach Jamion Christian, where The Mount put a scare into the defending champs and heralded what UMBC would do a year later against No. 1 seed Virginia.     

The road to becoming Northeast Conference champions did not get off to an easy start. The Mountaineers opened the 2016-17 campaign with nine straight road games. But that was by design.  

“I knew when we built that schedule we had a great team,” Christian told NBC Sports Washington. 

Entering a Dec. 22 showdown with Coppin State, the Mountaineers were 1-11. Mount St. Mary’s won its final non-conference game with ease, 87-49, and went 14-4 in NEC play en route to claiming the conference’s regular season championship. 

“I bet on their ability to rally around one another when it got tough and I bet on their ability to be great,” Christian said. “We got it spot on that year.”

Christian had played four years for Phelan and his successor, Milan Brown, from 2000-2004. But a three-year starter and captain, his teams at The Mount never reached the NCAAs. He did take them there as head coach in 2014, a 71-64 loss to Albany in a First Four game in Dayton.  

But 2016-17 was different. Until that season, Mount St. Mary’s had never won the NEC regular season title and tournament in the same year. The Mount defeated St. Francis (Pa), 71-61, at home at Knott Arena to earn the school’s fifth trip to the tournament. 

On Selection Sunday, the Mountaineers learned that they would be headed to Dayton again for the second time in four years as part of the First Four. This time they were a little offended, not just happy to be going at all. 

“We didn’t feel like we should have been in Dayton,” Christian said. “We felt like we should have been a 15 - or even a 14 seed with our numbers that year. And we went into that game bringing back the underdog mentality that we wanted to prove and show the world how good of a team we had.”

The 2014 loss to Albany had prepared Christian’s group for what was to come in 2017. They weren’t worried about escaping Dayton this time around. 

“It was a perfect scenario for us with all of that,” Christian said. “We had played in Dayton before. We had made some mistakes playing in Dayton the first time just because you don’t know.”

Led by a 23-point performance from Junior Robinson, the Mountaineers defeated New Orleans, 67-66, in Dayton. 

Next up? Villanova less than 48 hours later in Buffalo. Christian said he learned a lot from a 90-59 loss to the Wildcats in 2013 and knew exactly what his game plan was going to be. 

“The number one thing was we wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to be in attack mode,” Christian said. 

Top seeded teams were 130-0 against No. 16 seeds entering that game. But following an Elijah Long 3-pointer, the Mount led Villanova 10-2 with 13:27 to play in the first half. The Mountaineers led the majority of that first half and owned a 29-28 lead in the closing seconds of the half before a Jalen Brunson backdoor layup put Villanova in front heading into the locker room.

“When we got to the half, I remember walking in and the guys were breathing really hard and I said, ‘Oh boy,’” Christian recounted. “It was one of those moments where you want to try to continue to give them confidence, but you’re also letting them take a moment to take a deep breath so they can play to their full potential.”

Villanova eventually pulled away in the second half and won 76-56. But the game did leave Wildcats head coach Jay Wright impressed. For a large part of that game, The Mount made Wright and the Wildcats uncomfortable. 

“It’s in the back of your mind,” Wright said after the game. “It hits you for a second. ‘This could be one of those nights.’ You’ve got to knock it out and concentrate on the next play. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come up.”

It didn’t end quite the way they wanted it to. The really big upset would have to wait until the following season when UMBC stunned Virginia 74-54. But after its 1-11 start, Mount St. Mary’s won 20 games in a season for the first time in two decades and showed everyone the blue print for how a 16 could finally beat a 1. 

“The best don’t look at winning and losing as a finale, they look how hard you compete,” Christian said. “And I felt [Villanova] had a great level of respect for how hard our team competed that day.”

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