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A preview of Maryland vs. West Virginia

By Rick Nelligan

The closest thing Maryland has to an out-of-conference football rivalry is back after a 2-year hiatus. The last time we saw a Terrapins vs. Mountaineers game, Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine were running circles around us to the tune of 353 yards and a 31-14 win in College Park. What makes it worse is that we passed on the chance for Slaton to become a Terp after rescinding our scholarship offer in favor of Morgan Green (who?). In two games against the Terrapins, Slaton rushed the ball 47 times for 332 yards and 5 touchdowns. I still get cold sweats thinking about it. In all, the series stands at 23-21-2 with West Virginia in the lead after winning the last four.

Fast forward two years, and the Terps have a chance for redemption. West Virginia is coming off a tough overtime victory against Marshall, while Maryland is coming off an absolute thrashing of an outmatched Morgan State team. This game is a key litmus test to see what kind of team we have this year, and where our program could be in the near future. A win would give our team an immense amount of confidence heading into our ACC schedule, while surpassing our win total from last year. Not to mention what it would do for recruiting, bragging rights and Head Coach Ralph Friedgen’s and Offensive Coordinator James Franklin’s future at Maryland. A win could go a long way in new Athletic Director Kevin Anderson’s mind as to whether Friedgen should be kept for next year, and whether Franklin truly deserves his “Head Coach in Waiting” title. A loss would show that we are closer to the 2-10 team from a year ago than we expected.

Defeating the Mountaineers is no simple task, but the Terrapins are undeniably capable of doing so. On offense, the key will be getting the ball into Torrey Smith’s hands in any way possible. He’s arguably our best and most explosive player and has only touched the ball six times through two games; that must change. With West Virginia’s top cornerback Brandon Hogan suspended for receiving a DUI last week, this task just became easier. To this point, our defense has been stout. Granted, we gave up 412 yards rushing against Navy, but that’s what Navy does. Given that, Noel Devine is a completely different monster. He’s one of the most explosive yet consistent players in the country and far and away the key to West Virginia’s offense. Our defense must stay disciplined, not over-pursue and must wrap up and gang tackle. Shut down Devine, and it’s extremely likely you shut down the Mountaineers. On special teams, the Terrapins have been excellent so far, but we must make sure we do not give the Mountaineers good field position. The further back the better. Noel Devine will get his share of yardage, but there’s a big difference between him doing it and putting the Mountaineers in field goal range, and him breaking off a big run and still being on their side of the field.

This is an enormous game for the Terps. We need it so badly it hurts. A win against a nationally-ranked West Virginia team on the road will shoot Maryland up the AP and USA Today rankings, where we are currently ranked 42nd and 45th, respectively. My biased prediction: 24-17 Maryland, with our defense coming up huge, creating key turnovers and causing mayhem in Morgantown.

By Box Seats blogger  | September 17, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Maryland-West Virginia  
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Go Terps!

Posted by: nreyes1 | September 17, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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