Reporting David Elfin
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - When darkness comes earlier and the mornings are brisk, Washington’s teams also go cold.
The Redskins’ 31-16 defeat on Sunday night at Dallas dropped their October record during the Mike Shanahan era to 5-9 with dates left this month against the potent Chicago Bears and the unbeaten Denver Broncos. That 5-9 mark translates into a .357 winning percentage, significantly worse than Washington’s .436 percentage in other months.
The Capitals beat Edmonton at home on Monday night to end a three-game losing streak but are still just 2-4 this month despite having a seemingly very easy schedule. Washington’s only opponent so far that made the playoffs last season was defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago on opening night. And only two of the Caps’ six foes during the rest of October, the New York Rangers and Vancouver, took part in postseason last May.
In fairness, the Caps’ overall October record since focal point Alex Ovechkin debuted in 2005 (42-31-8, .567) is remarkably akin to their performance during the rest of the seasons (281-198-69, .575). We all know that their worst month is April, the flip side of October.
The Nationals, of course, disappointed local fans by not even making it to October this season, a year after losing their first playoff series despite holding home field advantage and a 6-0 lead in the decisive Game 5 against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
The Wizards are off to a 0-2 start this preseason heading into tonight’s matchup with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. After four more tune-ups, Washington opens the regular season on Oct. 30 at Detroit. It’s a very small sample size, but the Wizards are 0-3 in October since John Wall became the face of the franchise in 2010.
Then, there’s D.C. United, which thankfully has only two games remaining in a historically bad season. United is winless in MLS play since Aug. 3 and has managed to jar its faithful awake for just 21 goals in 32 league games while posting a hideous 3-22-7 record that includes a loss and a draw this month.
After shocking Atlanta to win Game 1 on the road in the best-of-3 opening round of the WBNA playoffs, the Mystics lost the next two and had their surprisingly successful season end seven days shy of October while the Dream eventually reached the finals.
On the college football front, Maryland is 1-1 this month, but that’s not to say that the victory and the defeat were similar. The latter was a record 63-0 drubbing at Florida State that dropped the Terps from the Top 25, a status that they had just attained for the first time in nearly three years. The latter was last Saturday’s 27-26 survival of Virginia that occurred only because previously perfect Cavaliers kicker Alex Vozenilek missed a 42-yard field goal try in the closing seconds.
Maryland visits beatable Wake Forest on Saturday but then welcomes (?) No. 3 Clemson to College Park to close out the month. Virginia, which was thrashed by upstart Ball State at home before losing to Maryland, faces Duke and a strong Georgia Tech team in Charlottesville on the final two Saturdays of October. Football used to be what Duke supporters endured before basketball season began, but the Blue Devils are 4-2 after crushing Navy 35-7 last Saturday. The Midshipmen are 1-1 in October with dates remaining at Toledo and with Pitt.
Duke is also Virginia Tech’s remaining October foe. The Hokies are the exception that proves the rule when it comes to area teams in October, having beaten North Carolina and Pitt at home and having their bye this week in what could be a perfect month.
In what used to be called Division I-AA, Howard has lost at home to North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman in October with a visit to Florida A&M on tap this Saturday before the Bison close the month against visiting Morgan State. Georgetown, which started September with such high hopes, began October with its bye before being pounded at home by Fordham. The Hoyas visit 5-1 Lehigh on Saturday before closing the month against Colgate.
October might have once belonged to Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson, but November can’t get here soon enough in D.C.
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. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin.