Column - Fun rivalry continues this weekend
Published: Monday, September 12, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2011 22:09
The rivalry between West Virginia and Maryland hasn't been a pretty one over the years. That doesn't mean it hasn't come without excitement and controversy.
WVU leads the all-time series with a record of 24-21-2, winning the last five meetings.
In 2001, a year after head coach Don Nehlen retired, the Terps won 34-7 in College Park, Md. They were led by quarterback Scott McBrien, who transferred from West Virginia that year because he felt he did not fit in former WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez's new offensive system, and he was quickly sliding down the depth chart.
It was not a happy ending to McBrien's career at WVU, for both sides. Not only was he angry because he wasn't getting playing time, but after he was gone from the team and at Maryland, there were rumors that he leaked the Mountaineer's playbook to his new team.
That game was the beginning of four straight wins for Maryland over the Mountaineers.
Three years later, in 2004, Maryland came into Morgantown. Down by three in overtime, quarterback Rasheed Marshall threw a pass to the late Chris Henry, who is quite possibly the most talented receiver to ever suit up for West Virginia, for the winning touchdown.
Since then, West Virginia has dominated Maryland in every game, including 2006, where former running back Steve Slaton rushed for 214 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 45-24 stomping.
Last season, WVU defeated the Terps 31-17 last season and wide receiver Tavon Austin finished with 106 yards receiving and two touchdowns, while former running back Noel Devine had 114 yards on the ground.
West Virginia is just 11-11-1 away from Milan Puskar Stadium against Maryland.
However, this year is different. Both West Virginia and Maryland have new
coaching staffs. The players are still learning their respective systems and trying to get to full potential.
Former UConn head coach Randy Edsall is now at the helm of the Maryland program, and has an accurate, confident quarterback under his wing, in sophomore Danny O'Brien, who threw for 348 yards and a touchdown against Miami (Fla.) last week.
Likewise, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has quarterback Geno Smith. Smith has been the leader of the Mountaineers for the last year and a half and has the confidence and ability to control the team's fate this season.
If the Mountaineers don't start off slow like they have the first two weeks of the season and manage to beat the Terps, it will be the first time either team won six games in a row since Maryland defeated WVU, when they played six times between 1949 and 1966.
Edsall has a more conservative style compared to Holgorsen's "Air Raid" offense, but that doesn't mean Maryland won't come out and score 30 points.
Mountaineer fans have to be encouraged about how dominating the West Virginia offense can be when everyone is clicking and on the same page.
The issue in WVU's two games this season – the offensive line and running backs have not blocked opposing rushers at all. The running game has struggled because of it. The defensive linemen and linebackers have not gotten enough sacks and pressure on the quarterbacks, and the defensive backs have not gotten any turnovers in either game.
In week three of the college football season, it is crunch time for the Mountaineers in its opening road game. The running backs have been scolded by Holgorsen on targeting their blocks and will need to efficiently communicate to each other on every play in the hostile environment in College Park.
West Virginia will be the favorite against Maryland, but it still has a lot to prove on both sides of the ball, especially if it wants to make a statement a week before LSU comes to town.
We'll see if the Mountaineers can keep its winning streak alive and continue to dominate Maryland like it has over the last five years.