Reporting David Elfin
This past weekend was an ugly one for Washington’s pro teams.
For the first time in 12 years, the defending NFC East champion Redskins fell to 0-3, giving them a 2.6 percent chance of reaching postseason according to more than two decades of NFL history. The defending NL East champion Nationals were rained out on Saturday before splitting a doubleheader with lowly Miami on Sunday, putting them on the verge of playoff elimination.
The Mystics failed to wrap up their WBNA playoff series and lost at home to Atlanta (before having their brief postseason experience end on Monday). D.C. United lost again to fall to 3-20-6 during its horrendous summer.
Amidst all that wreckage, it was the first unbeaten weekend for the area’s major college football teams in more than a year. Navy was idle, but Maryland snapped its seven-game losing streak to West Virginia with a vengeance with a 37-0 romp.
“It’s always good to beat West Virginia, especially after seven [straight games] of not beating them and also to be able to shut out a team with the offense that they had,” said Maryland’s third-year coach Randy Edsall, whose Terps are 4-0 after going just 6-18 during his previous two seasons in College Park. “We don’t take it lightly, but we know that we still have so much more in front of us that we’ve got to accomplish so we can’t sit here and just think we’ve arrived after four games. There’s still plenty of room for improvement. We can get a whole lot better.”
So can Virginia Tech, which squeaked past Marshall 29-21 in overtime. Maybe Virginia, which pounded FCS school VMI 49-0, can, too.
Those victories upped the Cavaliers to 2-1 (with the loss to No. 2 Oregon) and the Hokies to 3-1 (with the loss at No. 1 Alabama). The Midshipmen are 2-0 under sixth-year coach Ken Niumatalolo. Include the Terps and that’s a combined 11-2 record for the four programs through four weeks compared to a 23-27 final mark in 2012.
Maryland, which is off this week before opening ACC play a week from Saturday at No. 8 Florida State, has already matched last year’s victory total while Virginia is halfway there as it looks for its first 3-1 start since 2007 by winning its ACC opener on Saturday at Pitt. Of course, the Panthers and quarterback Tom Savage (424 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s wild 58-55 triumph over Duke) are a major step up from the Keydets.
Navy, which on Saturday plays a second straight FCS school, Western Kentucky (coached this season by Bobby Petrino, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, Auburn and Arkansas), seems poised to start 3-0 for the first time since 2006 and to win 10 games for just the second time since 2004 after going just 13-12 the past two years.
However, Niumatalolo hasn’t forgotten that when Navy started 2-0 in 2011, it went 3-7 the rest of the way and he won’t let his players forget it either, especially after Monday’s poor practice irked him.
If Virginia Tech can improve to 20-7 on Thursdays by beating a potent Georgia Tech team tomorrow night in Atlanta – the Hokies are 5-1 against the Yellow Jackets and former Navy boss Paul Johnson’s unique option offense, although they’ve never dueled on a short week — it should be halfway through what could well be an eight-game string of victories heading into a Week 11 game at Miami. Compare that to last season’s 7-6 underwhelming finish under coach Frank Beamer, who’s just three victories shy of 200 during his 27 years in Blacksburg.
While Virginia is still in rebuilding mode under fourth-year coach Mike London, in our current bowl-filled era, Navy, Maryland and Virginia Tech all figure to extend their seasons into late December or early January. Three of the area’s four major teams going bowling in the same season last happened in 2010. All four only did so in 2003 and 2007. So while a continuation of their hot starts are far from assured, the local college football season has been surprisingly successful so far.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.