Maryland vs. West Virginia

Maryland vs. West Virginia

October 04, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI and BOB FLEENOR

Why the Terrapins will win...

Let's face it.

This isn't your mother's Atlantic Coast Conference championship Maryland Terrapin football team anymore.

It's not even your dad's ... your brother's ... or even your pet dog's team anymore.

Much has changed for Maryland since it started the 2002 season with all the promise in the world. Now instead of promise, it might be time to compromise.

So when they head into Morgantown, W.Va. on Saturday (noon, ESPN2), Maryland has to do a lot to prove they are still one of the up-and-comimg powers in college football. There are two major factors that will help them accomplish it.

First is Maryland's defense.

All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson is healthy again and it only helps the Maryland defense, especially against the run. The Terps will be tested by the running of WVU's Avon Cobourne, who leads the nation in rushing.


Maryland has to stop the run so it can get back to help the young secondary in coverage. The defense must also force turnovers and give the Terps' inconsistent offense the short field to work with.

If the defense can set the tone for the offense, Maryland is in good position.

But the second reason the Terps will defeat WVU is because they all but have to.

This game can become the most pivotal one of the season for the Terrapins.

It's Maryland's first true road game of the season. And maybe more importantly, it's a game against a team that is an even match. Remember, the Terps have not played in a game yet this season when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter.

But a win or a loss against WVU will probably go a long way in deciding what Maryland's bowl future will hold.

The Terps have already lost games to Notre Dame and Florida State, two of the nation's top 25 teams, while earning three wins over decidedly weaker opponents.

A third loss and a 3-3 record heading into the off week could reflect badly on Maryland down the road. After this game, it is ACC matchups the rest of the way for the Terps, who were picked to finish third in the league behind Florida State and North Carolina State.

With 13 games, Maryland has more than ample chances to land itself a nice bowl. Third place in the ACC would still probably get them a New Year's Day invitation.

But the luster will be off the Terps if they have four or five losses by bowl time.

A win here is the difference between being .500 and .667 for the season. And those are percentages which could mean the difference between spending the holidays in Florida or Idaho.

Why the Mountaineers will win...

'Splain this one to me, Lucy.

You've got a team with 14 starters, including perhaps the nation's best linebacker, returning from a Top 10, league-champion, BCS-bowl club.

Its next opponent went 3-8 in 2001 and, despite a 3-1 start this fall, could finish sixth or worse in its eight-team conference.

Yet, surprisingly, Maryland is a 3-point underdog at West Virginia.

Surprisingly? Yeah, because the line is only 3.

Last year, Rich Rodriguez's first as head coach, the Mountaineers played with the cohesion and maturity of a U-8 rec league soccer team. Even so, the future ACC champs were fortunate to beat them.

WVU gained 430 yards and crossed the Maryland 20 seven times, but six turnovers and other assorted pratfalls led to a 32-20 loss.

Naysayers neighed, correctly, that Rodriguez's no-huddle, spread offense was ill-designed for the red zone. But that was last year's no-huddle spread. This fall, Rich Rod has wisely borrowed from the Book of Smashmouth authored by his predecessor, Don Nehlen.

WVU still favors a one-back, four-wideout look, but frequently employs at least one tight end and fullback Mo (Banana-fana?) Fofana as a lead blocker.

Which means Avon Cobourne, WVU's leading career rusher (and this year's national leader at 159.5 ypg) can run amok. So can Quincy Wilson, his backup and occasional running mate. In their last two games, against Cincinnati and East Carolina (not exactly Akron and Wofford), Cobourne totaled 453 yards and Wilson 286.

At Tulane and Clemson, Rodriguez's offenses misfired in his first season as coordinator but hummed like 12-cylinder Jags the next. The pattern is repeating at WVU, now No. 2 nationally in total yardage.

Sophomore QB Rasheed Marshall might not be a Shaun King or Woody Dantzler, but he'll do. He's a better runner than thrower - regularly overshooting or overlooking open receivers - but his wideouts can grab the ball if he can get it anywhere near them.

Former Shepherd defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has helped reintroduce a radical concept - tackling - that had become a forgotten art in Morgantown. Before the sun sets Saturday, the Terps will know linebacker Grant Wiley's face better than their own grandmothers'.

The main story line Saturday is the return of Terp QB Scott McBrien, once a fan favorite in Morgantown who McBLT'd to College Park a year ago.

McBrien didn't play especially well at Mountaineer Field, even with 60,000-plus zanies pulling for him, but my hunch is he won't get rattled when those same folks turn hostile. Will he pick on cornerback Brian King, his best friend and ex-roomie, as other opposing QBs have this year?

The Terps aren't without talent. Linebacker E.J. Henderson (who could join Rickey, Florence, Fletcher, Skitch and The Rain King on my all-time, All-Henderson team) is nasty. The special teamers, notably kicker Nick Novak and return man Steve Suter, are superior to WVU's. They might keep the Terrapins close.

But not close enough. West Virginia 27, Maryland 16.

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