Leading up to his debut as Richmond’s coach Saturday, Danny Rocco braced for what might be in store from opposing quarterback from Virginia.
He had watched the young man closely last season, and rooted for him to emerge on top in a three-way battle for the starting position over the past few months.
That’s because Virginia’s quarterback, Michael Rocco, is Danny’s nephew.
“I just don’t need him to play great on Saturday,” Danny quipped in the days leading up to the game.
Well, so much for those hopes. Michael completed 25 of 37 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown as Virginia defeated Richmond, 43-19.
Michael’s passing yardage total was one yard shy of his career best, and the Cavaliers racked up 545 total yards.
The Rocco family connection isn’t the only thing shared by Virginia and Richmond.
Danny Rocco and Virginia Coach Mike London were on the same Virginia staff from 2001 to ’04. London is a Richmond graduate, and he guided the Spiders to the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision title game in his first season as their head coach.
Four Richmond assistants had coached at Virginia, and two of them played for the Cavaliers. On Virginia’s staff are three former Richmond coaches.
Making a point
West Virginia and quarterback Geno Smith picked up right where they left off last season, lighting up the scoreboard and stat sheet in a 69-34 victory over Marshall.
In their final game last season, the Mountaineers defeated Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl as Smith passed for six touchdowns.
Against Marshall, he completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns in what was the highest-scoring season opener in West Virginia history.
Smith has a record 651 career completions, 21 more than that of Marc Bulger, who played from 1996-99.
West Virginia had 655 yards, including 413 in the first half.
What might have been
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s starting senior linebacker, made six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery as the Fighting Irish routed Navy, 50-10, in Dublin, Ireland.
That just shows how much better USC could be. The Trojans, years ago, reportedly were the front-runners to land Te’o as a recruit, but lost out in the end.
So USC fans can only dream about how their defense would look with Te’o in the middle. Probably similar to how the offense looks with Matt Barkley taking snaps.
However, Te’o didn’t provide the biggest play of the game on defense. That was made by one of the biggest players on the field, period.
Late in the second quarter, Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-3, 303-pound sophomore defensive end, scooped up a fumble and rambled 77 yards for a touchdown.
We’re not sure whether Navy couldn’t catch him, or didn’t want to catch him.
Somewhat mighty MAC
They play pretty good football in the Mid-American Conference, which is known as the “cradle of coaches.”
That was on display as Ohio upset Penn State, Northern Illinois fell by just a point to Iowa, and Bowling Green gave No. 23 Florida all it could handle. But in the end, the conference was 1-5 against higher-profile competition in openers on Saturday.
The other scores: No. 18 Ohio State 56, Miami Ohio 10, No. 6 Georgia 45, Buffalo 23 and Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7.
But even in one of the blowouts, the MAC struck a blow early. Miami Ohio outgained Ohio State and new Coach Urban Meyer, 172-48, in the first quarter when the Buckeyes’ supposedly high-octane offense punted at the end of its first four possessions.
Meyer, by the way, is one of the famous coaches the MAC has produced. He coached at Bowling Green. A few of the other former MAC coaches: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Sid Gillman, Brian Kelly and Brady Hoke.
The conference can also say it helped produce Nick Saban, who played at Kent State.
They call Ohio the Buckeye State, and in football, for good reason.
Ohio State last lost to an in-state football rival in 1921, when it dropped a 7-6 decision to Oberlin.
As for Meyer’s successful debut, Buckeyes coaches are 22-1-1 in first games. The tie? Alexander Lilly in 1890. The loss? Jack Ryder in 1892.
And they thought Lilly was bad!
The Associated Press contributed to this report.