GAME NOTES: Fresh off a thrilling victory, the 21st-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers now return back home to host the Maryland Terrapins in non- conference play at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
Facing instate rival Marshall last Friday, the Mountaineers overcame a late 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to rally for a dramatic 24-21 overtime win in front of a record-setting crowd of 41,382 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
"I looked up and there was eight minutes to go and we were down 21-6 and we go 96 yards and 98 yards and score a two-point conversion,' said head coach Bill Stewart, who is now 3-0 against Marshall. "That just shows you how we grew in the fourth quarter."
It was quite a come-from-behind victory for the Mountaineers, who had a much easier time blanking Coastal Carolina, 31-0, in their season opener.
As for the Terps, they had no trouble with their second opponent of the season, tallying a 62-3 victory over Morgan State this past weekend.
"We could have gone out and just not been into the game, but that wasn't the case at all," state head coach Ralph Friedgen. "Coming off a very emotional game Monday and on a short week of practice, I knew that Morgan [State] was going to come in here fired up and our team met the challenge and I was proud of them."
Maryland, which escaped Navy, 17-14, in its season opener, posted its highest scoring game since a 62-24 triumph of Virginia back in 1975. Furthermore, the Terps have already tied their entire win total from last season, when they finished just 2-10.
In regard to the head-to-head series, WVU holds a 23-21-2 edge over Maryland and has won the last four encounters, including a 31-14 decision in the most recent meeting in 2007.
After attempting just five passes in an opening win over Navy, QB Jamarr Robinson got a few more chances to showcase his arm, passing for 70 yards and two scores on 6-of-14 tosses in a triumph of Morgan State last weekend. The dual-threat gunslinger also added 36 yards on the ground in limiting playing time with the game being well out of hand early on.
"I think Jamarr missed some opportunities that we had," stated Friedgen. "I'm going to have to look at the film and see, but at the end he put us in the right play, which is I think important and hasn't always been happening."
Danny O'Brien also saw significant time under center and impressed by throwing for 79 yards and three scores on 5-of-10 pass attempts. The redshirt freshman certainly gave Friedgen something to think about in regard to the starting QB position.
"We have to see how [Danny O'Brien] is," stated Friedgen. "I'm not going to say anything before I watch the tape, but I think he came in and made some plays for us. I knew he would. I was hoping that the quarterback position would be a strength for us."
The biggest strength for Maryland thus far has been its ground attack, which has gained 261 and 221 yards, respectively, in the first two games.
A goal-line stand by the Maryland defense gave it a win over Navy in the opener and the unit built off that with a dominating effort against Morgan State. After allowing 412 yards on the ground to Navy's potent attack, the Terps held Morgan State to just 37 rushing yards on 28 carries. The defense gave up just 85 more yards through the air, while recording three takeaways. The unit was even strong on third downs, allowing just 2-of-14 conversions, helping the defense spend significantly less time on the field. The Terps' defense was on the field for nearly 40 minutes in the opener against Navy, which went 10-of-18 on third downs. Alex Wujciak had five stops in the win, a nice follow up to his 18-tackle performance versus Navy.
Trailing 21-6 in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers used two long drives of 96 and 98 yards, respectively, in the final five-plus minutes to rally against Marshall. After a five-yard TD pass from Geno Smith to Will Johnson with 12 seconds left, the Mountaineers converted a successful two-point conversion to force overtime. Tyler Bitancurt booted a 20-yard field goal in the extra session and WVU claimed the victory after Marshall's Tyler Warner missed a 39- yarder.
After a slow start, Smith bounced nicely to rally the troops, throwing for 316 yards and the one score on 32-of-45 tosses.
"I was pleased with how he responded because not many young football players in the country in their second complete could have done what he did," said Stewart of Smith's performance.
Also having a big performance was veteran TB Noel Devine, who rushed for 112 yards and a score while also pulling in 10 balls for 62 yards. A speedy back, Devine went over the century mark for the second game in a row.
WVU's defense gave up couple big plays to Marshall, including a 96-yard TD pass, but for the most part the unit was strong. The defense, which allowed just 186 total yards in a season opening shutout, kept Marshall to just one TD in the second half and forced the Thundering Herd to settle for a long field goal attempt in the overtime. The defense simply came up with big stops in second half and that ultimately gave the offense a chance to rally for the win. Najee Goode had 10 tackles, including two for a loss, for WVU, which limited Marshall to 364 total yards.
The Mountaineers are coming off a confidence building win and should be a bit more ready for this game. Devine will get his numbers on the ground and WVU's defense will limit Maryland's one-dimensional offense for the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: West Virginia 31, Maryland 13