Mountaineers have Maryland’s number
MORGANTOWN – Two ‘excited’ teams will collide for the 50th edition of the ‘Border State War’ at 3:30 p.m. today at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, with the hopes of the rest of their seasons resting in the balance.
“I can’t tell you how excited our team is to play Maryland this week,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We got going on Sunday and immediately put the Georgia State game to rest.
“It’s something our boys are looking forward to. We don’t have many regional rivalries left – this is the only one that we play this year. I look forward to meeting more in the future.”
Something Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has been attempting to accomplish as he has entered the Mountaineers into a two-year agreement with Penn State to resume the series with the Nittany Lions beginning in 2023.
But for now, Holgorsen and his Mountaineers will have to contend with a Maryland squad fresh off of a 32-21 victory over AAC (former Big East) member Connecticut. A game that witnessed senior quarterback C.J. Brown rush for 122 yards on 16 carries and complete 15-of-28 passes for 277 yards.
“It is a great team,” senior defensive lineman Shaq Rowell said. “They are 3-0, and are a very fast team. They will be a good challenge this week. It is just like playing Pitt, it is a rivalry. A lot of the other guys do not really know about this rivalry, but we have played Maryland 49 times since 1919 and have beaten them the last seven. I know Maryland will come out this weekend wanting to beat us.”
And, one of the biggest weapons for the Terrapins in last year’s 31-21 loss in Morgantown – wide receiver/kick returner Stefon Diggs – will be back on the field.
“Tavon (Austin) and Diggs are pretty similar,” Holgorsen said. “They’re both from Baltimore and receivers and returners. He’s proven to have big play potential. He’s probably a little better at downfield play than Tavon. Tavon didn’t have just the downfield potential. His thing was to get the ball and go score.”
And West Virginia’s offense has been slow to overcome the loss of its top three playmakers from a 7-6 team in 2012. Geno Smith, now a New York Jet, Austin and Stedman Bailey (both members of the St. Louis Rams) are gone.
In their place will be a still-untested redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress, a speedy, but still improving running back in Charles Sims and a receiving corp that has yet to have a pass-catcher record a 100-yard effort, something that was a stable of last year’s offensive attack.
“I think Ford having the ability to see over the line is important,” explained Holgorsen. “He’s 6-foot-5. He has the ability to look over the line and downfield and see where the guys are at. I just want the ball to go from point A to point B effectively. He could improve on that, but his action was good.”
The Houston native will also have to improve upon his escape-ability as he will face the nation’s top pass rushing duo in Maryland’s Yannik Cudgoe-Virgil and Marcus Whitfield.
The duo combined for six sacks against the Huskies and definitely test a young, but improving Mountaineer offensive line.
“I like my O-line,” Childress said. “I think we will do well. We worked a lot today on their blitzes. We will get it down and will be able to get it down. They do some stuff that we haven’t seen this season yet, but we know what it is. We’ve watched a lot of tape on them so they’ll be able to pick it up.”
West Virginia is 26-21-2 overall in the series and has won the last seven, placing more emphasis on a Terrapin team looking to climb to the top of the ACC before leaving for the Big 10.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun Saturday to be able to go up to M&T Bank Stadium and play in Baltimore,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “I know our guys are excited about it to get up there and play in a great venue in the biggest city in the state. We know we got a tremendous challenge. We haven’t beaten West Virginia in seven (straight games).”
Mountaineer fans are hoping that number will go to eight.