Running down the winners and losers of Week 2 of the 2017 college football season …
[Check back for updates from Saturday night’s big games]
* Lamar Jackson: The Louisville quarterback and defending Heisman Trophy winner had one of his patented absurd performances, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 132 yards and three more scores in a 47-35 victory at North Carolina. This comes a week after Jackson carried the Cardinals (2-0, 1-0 ACC) to a tighter-than-expected defeat of Purdue.
It also came a few days after North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith insisted to reporters that Jackson wouldn’t be an issue. “He’s not going to beat us,” Smith said. “We’re just going to stop anything that he tries to do.” Well, the Tar Heels (0-2, 0-1) held him to fewer than 530 total yards, so maybe that’s a minor victory.
This showing cements two of last weekend’s takeaways. One, Louisville might only go as far as Jackson can take it, but he can do a lot. Two, North Carolina’s defense has regressed from middling to dreadful after the departure of coordinator Gene Chizik.
* Army and Navy: It wasn’t expected for either of these service academies to get to 2-0, but they have arrived there nonetheless. Army is off to back-to-back 2-0 starts for the first time since 1979-80 after scoring a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 21-17 defeat of Buffalo.
Meanwhile, Navy fended off Tulane, 23-21, in its conference opener. The Midshipmen had the option of letting Tulane take over inside its 5-yard line with about two minutes to play or accept a penalty and face a fourth and one. For Navy, this is never much of a choice. Sure enough, the Mids kept the ball, got a first down and ran off the rest of the clock to finish off the triumph.
* Penn State: Smacked Pittsburgh, 33-14, in a Keystone State rivalry game, in the process delivering payback for one of the Nittany Lions’ three losses from a season ago.
The encouraging sign here for James Franklin’s program is that Penn State should have created problems for a Panthers team without its best defensive player (safety Jordan Whitehead) and dealing with unremarkable quarterback play. It did what it was supposed to do, and that bodes well for when the Nittany Lions deal with the likes of Indiana, Maryland and Michigan State this season.
* Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs took a lot longer than they needed to finally put away Arkansas, but they came away with a 28-7 win in Fayetteville with the help of two late touchdowns (one just after a Razorback turnover).
TCU (2-0) should beat Southern Methodist to close out nonconference play next week. The opening stretch of the Big 12 schedule isn’t easy (at Oklahoma State, vs. West Virginia, at Kansas State), but it appears the Horned Frogs have bounced back a bit on defense after allowing only seven points in their first two games.
* East Carolina: Some coaching changes are puzzling, a feeling with a tendency to fade if the new coach fares as well or better than his predecessor. When things get worse — a lot worse — in a hurry, it’s easy to keep pointing to an odd decision.
Such is the case with the Pirates. Ruffin McNeill was a commendable 42-34 in six seasons. He is an East Carolina alum. But after posting a 5-7 mark that featured four one-possession losses in 2015, McNeill was ousted.
The Pirates went 3-9 in Scottie Montgomery’s first season, then opened this year with a 34-14 loss to FCS-level James Madison (as an underdog). Saturday, East Carolina lost, 56-20, at West Virginia after trailing 49-3 at the break and doesn’t look like a good bet to even match last year’s win total.
* Former Big East schools in the Northeast: So who had the cruddier day among the schools who were once described as “Eastern independents”?
Was it Boston College, which had four turnovers in a 34-10 loss at home to Wake Forest? Or Rutgers, which stumbled, 16-13 at home, against Eastern Michigan, which was 0-38 against the Big Ten before snagging a victory in Piscataway, N.J.?
Tempting though it might be to choose either, the “honor” goes to Syracuse, which fell, 30-23 at home, against Middle Tennessee (whose defensive coordinator, Scott Shafer, surely savored his return to the Carrier Dome less than two years after getting fired as the Orange’s head coach). Syracuse football remains rooted in national irrelevance, and a brutal remaining schedule all but ensures that won’t change in 2017.
* Georgia Southern: Ended up on the wrong end of an FCS-over-FBS result, falling 22-12 to New Hampshire in a game moved to Birmingham, Ala., to avoid Hurricane Irma.
This outcome really wasn’t astonishing, but it’s still not a good result for the Eagles. Georgia Southern is the sort of program where the athletic director feels compelled to give a struggling first-year coach a vote of confidence. An 0-2 start with a setback against a lower-division school is not an ideal follow-up for Coach Tyson Summers.
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