MORGANTOWN - The more things change, at least when it comes to No. 8 West Virginia and fast starts, the more they stay the same.
"I know we didn't start very good in the first two games, but we started fast against Maryland last year," head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We hit the field and started fast, and it'll be something we talk about all this week.
"We've talked about it the prior two weeks; we've done a good job of starting fast. We need to start faster in the second half, and we need to finish people.
"We haven't done a good job of that. We let Marshall keep playing, we let James Madison keep playing and score late.
"Last year against Maryland, we let them keep playing and they scored a bunch in the second half and almost beat us in the end."
The then-No. 18 ranked Mountaineers traveled to College Park a year ago and jumped out to a 24-3 lead only to see the Terrapins pull to within three points, 34-31, on back-to-back rushing touchdowns by D.J. Adams and a two-point conversion by Davin Maggett with 10:29 left in the game.
West Virginia, which improved to 25-21-2 overall in the series, proceeded to eat some clock with a scoring drive that lasted 5 minutes and 41 seconds and ended with a 21-yard field goal from Tyler Betancourt - his third 3-pointer of the game.
"I'm pleased with how we're starting, I'm pleased with our tempo, but we need to do a better job of starting fast in the second half and do a better job of finishing people off," added Holgorsen.
West Virginia went on to post a 9-3 regular season mark, capture the Big East's automatic BCS berth, and defeat Clemson by a 70-33 score in the Orange Bowl in Holgorsen's first season as head coach while Randy Edsell's first season at the helm of the Terps ended with a 2-10 mark.
"Every game is important, and I think from a fan base that this one is pretty important. I think we have 10 or 12 guys from Maryland, and it's gong to be important to them.
"One of the things last year that was big, like when we went and played at Cincinnati, was that the Ohio guys got everybody cranked up. When we went and played Maryland, the Maryland people got people cranked up."
One player who never needs to be cranked up is senior wide receiver/kick returner Tavon Austin. The Baltimore native hauled in 11 Geno Smith passes in last year's six-point victory for 122 yards. He was one of three Mountaineer receivers to finish with 100-yard receiving days as Stedman Bailey finished with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown and Ivan McCartney chipped in 101 yards on eight catches.
That trio returns and are a big part of a offensive attack that is averaging 55.5 points and 612 total yards per contest.
It will face a Maryland defense ranked No. 8 against the pass and an offense missing two important cogs from last year's attack - quarterback Danny O'Brien and running back Davin Maggett.
O'Brien completed 34-of-52 attempts for 289 yards, but tossed three interceptions while Meggett, in addition to his late 2-point conversion run, amassed 113 yards on the ground on 19 carries.
Replacing O'Brien under center is freshman Perry Hills while the running attack is paced by Wes Brown's 124 yards on 21 carries and Justus Pickett's 116 on 36 attempts.
"He (Hill) is just young," said WVU's coach. "He's going to continue to get better. He's a good looking kid that is trying to figure things out."
They will face a Mountaineer defense that is still trying to develop under first-year defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson.
Freshman Isaiah Bruce, who returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown in WVU's 69-34 win over Marshall, leads the unit with 25 tackles (11 solo) while Terence Garvin, who had one of the defense's three picks last year, is averaging 10 stop per outing and Brodrick Jenkins chips in with six tackles per game.
The 49th meeting between the two schools is slated for a noon kickoff at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"Not at all," said Holgorsen when asked if he was upset over the early starting time. "You have to play at some time, so we might as well get it over with. We're trying to play fast around here.
"What is a better way to start fast than playing early? As opposed to sitting around being lethargic, let's just get up and play. Plus, we get to practice for next week."