College Park, MD – Through two games the West Virginia has looked strong, but now the squad must take the show on the road. The destination will be College Park, where West Virginia will take the field against the rival Maryland Terrapins at Byrd Stadium.
It is early in the year, but the Mountaineers seem to be the most balanced team in the Big East. Conference play is still a couple of weeks away for WVU, so until then, coach Dana Holgorsen is hoping he can continue to lead the Mountaineers to victories in his first year at the helm. West Virginia has not been truly tested yet, defeating the likes of Marshall and Norfolk State by a combined 89-25 margin.
Randy Edsall might be a coach in the ACC, but he will have to deal with an old rival when the Mountaineers arrive in College Park. Edsall was the head coach of Connecticut before taking over at Maryland, so he is very comfortable with squaring off against WVU. Coach Edsall took over a team that claimed nine victories a year ago, and in his first game he was tossed right into the ACC fire, standing toe-to-toe with the Miami Hurricanes. On a rain-soaked field the Terps earned a 32-24 win, giving Edsall his first victory at Maryland and in ACC action.
Although West Virginia and Maryland are not in the same conference, there is a long history between the two programs. The first ever meeting took place way back in 1919, and the Mountaineers began the series with a 27-0 win. Since then there has been 46 more meetings with the majority of those coming after 1980. Recently the Mountaineers and Terrapins have squared off five times since 2004 and during that span the Mountaineers have dominated Maryland, winning all five meetings, including a 31-17 decision in 2010. With the recent run, the Mountaineers now own a 24-21-2 edge in the all-time series.
The Mountaineers clearly did not take Norfolk State seriously in the first half this past Saturday and it showed in the 12-10 lead for the opposition at halftime. However, the Mountaineers quickly regrouped and scored 45 straight points en route to the 43-point win.
The reason for the offensive explosion was the performance of QB Geno Smith, who threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Smith has been outstanding through two games and is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the Big East Conference.
While it was an impressive showing, coach Holgorsen is Smith's toughest critic and thinks there is room for improvement.
"He needs to get better," Holgorsen said. "He missed some checks and got the wrong checks a couple of times. Even one (missed check) is unacceptable."
Tavon Austin and Devon Brown both had solid showings, as Austin finished with 82 yards and one score on six catches, while Brown hauled in four passes for 109 yards and one touchdown.
While the passing attack looks to be in mid-season form the rushing attack has yet to get going for West Virginia. Through two games the Mountaineers are producing just 72.0 ypg on a meager 2.4 yards per attempt. In the win over Norfolk State, Vernard Roberts led the way with 64 yards and one score.
Clearly that is not good enough, and coach Holgorsen recognizes the team's shortcomings in that area.
"Our run game was not good," said Holgorsen. "We're usually targeted right, but we aren't finishing blocks. It's not what we want right now and we have to get better. I'd say Vernard ran the hardest. We need to study that a little bit more."
West Virginia has squared off against Marshall and Norfolk State, so the defense for coach Holgorsen has yet to face a powerful offense. However, with that said, the Mountaineers have performed well in their first two games, limiting the opposition to 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Running the ball on this defense has not been easy for Marshall or Norfolk State, and through those two matchups the Mountaineers are allowing just 80.0 yards per contest.
This past weekend Norfolk State had the ball for close to 20 minutes in the first half and even though the Mountaineers did not give up a touchdown coach Holgorsen was not happy with the amount of yards the defense surrendered.
"We gave up too many yards in the first half and part of that was offensively we put (the defense) on the field a lot," said Holgorsen. "We're more comfortable with our defensive scheme right now than we are with our offensive scheme."
While the uniforms for Maryland might have been tough to look at, the performance by the offense was just what coach Edsall wanted to see. Maryland, which averaged 32.2 ppg last year, looked the part of a dangerous offense against a Miami team that came into the matchup with plenty of question marks.
Danny O'Brien came out firing and finished with 348 yards and one score on 31- of-44 efficiency. The touchdown went to Ronnie Tyler, but Kevin Dorsey was the main option downfield, hauling in eight passes for 124 yards.
Coach Edsall was happy with his quarterback's performance, but he also realizes that there is still a learning process for the young gunslinger.
"I thought Danny (O'Brien) played very well. I thought he made a mistake when he threw the interception. I'll have to look at the film, but I thought he could have run the ball in," said coach Edsall. "In his development as a quarterback he has a lot of confidence in his ability. Even if he didn't run it in the window he had to throw the ball into was too tight. He should have thrown the ball away and given us another chance to get the ball in on third down. That is something he will learn from as he goes on."
Davin Meggett, who led the team last year in rushing, was at it again for the Terps, racking up a team-best 92 yards in the win. As a whole, the Terps rumbled for 151 yards on 34 totes, and that is slightly better than the 138 yards per game Maryland posted a year ago.
Defensively the Terps took on a Miami squad that did not have a few key players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris. The fact that Miami was short-handed and still managed 372 total yards, including 172 yards on the ground, does not bode well for the Maryland stop unit.
In 2010 the Terps were outstanding against the run, and there is enough talent back up front for the unit to be strong again in that area. However, that was not the case in the opener.
What made up for the poor run defense was the unit's ability to force mistakes, as Maryland claimed four turnovers, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Cameron Chism and a fumble that was returned by Joe Vellano for a score. The return by Chism sealed the deal for Maryland.