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Terps look to conjure up old memories vs. WVU

September 17, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md.

If the University of Maryland football team had the memory of an elephant, things would be just fine.

Usually when the Terrapins think back on their yearly battles with West Virginia, they have lasting, fond memories.

But this year, it's the game to forget that's in Maryland's mind.

The Terps own a 4-1 record against the Mountaineers in the first four years of the Ralph Friedgen era at Maryland. The first four were all fun and games, including a 34-7 romp against WVU in the 2004 Gator Bowl.

But last season's 19-16 overtime loss in Morgantown, W.Va., seems to temper it all.

"Personally, I get up for every game," Maryland defensive back Josh Wilson said. "But after last year, this one is big. If we had won last year, we would have beaten the (No. 6) team in the nation. We let it get away. It hurt me a lot last year."

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Maryland players are looking for some redemption after the loss in Morgantown. They await WVU today at Byrd Stadium, a place which has been a house of horrors for the Mountaineers, who have lost their last three games in College Park.

"We owe them, especially after last year," tight end Vernon Davis said. "They did some crazy things up there. They stood there and made fun of us. First the players, then the fans. It was nasty. It's time to get back at them."

There are other things on Maryland's plate to worry about after last week's fourth-quarter collapse against Clemson when the defense loosened and the offense became ineffective in the last 10 minutes to give up a 10-point lead.

Still, facing the Mountaineers creates an atmosphere for intrigue.

"If we are out for paying back people, I'd have a lot to do," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We owed Clemson last week and you see where it got us. Now we owe them twice as much. The debt is mounting.

"Obviously this is a rivalry that has existed for a long time, so it's a game that I think both teams enjoy playing. I can remember playing in it when I was playing here."

Over the past few years, it's been Maryland which has been getting all the enjoyment.

"My favorite memories of WVU games are when we had Scotty (quarterback Scott McBrien) here and to see a friend do so well against his old team," tight end Derek Miller said. "Then there was the Gator Bowl when we thumped them. It's a rivalry and it's fun because those boys can get tough in the trenches."

But last year, it tempered the enthusiasm some. Maryland took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter and let WVU tie the game. The game went into overtime after both teams missed field goals down the stretch.

In overtime, Nick Novak hit a field goal, but WVU countered with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry to get the win and a measure of revenge.

"No game is just another game," Wilson said. "All of them are big and this one is big for us because it is a rivalry. We let that one get away from us last year. The defense has to start winning games for the offense."

WVU (2-0) has many layers to its early effectiveness. The Mountaineers' defense was stingy against a Syracuse team just learning to play the West Coast Offense and NCAA Division I-AA Wofford. And their offense has found a wrinkle to make it tough for opponents to prepare.

"We have to prepare for a good football team," Friedgen said. "They are the No. 1 defense in the country, allowing 128 yards per game. They have a lot of talent at quarterback and they are throwing well and run the option."

WVU's wrinkle is a platoon system for quarterbacks, alternating sophomores Adam Bednarik and Pat White in certain situations.

"It is one of those things that we have to deal with on defense," Friedgen said. "They both run the offense and we are aware of what they do. It just makes it more difficult for us."

But it's the things Maryland needs to deal with if it wants to erase a blot from its memory banks.

"It's just like past years when we have had battles with them," Wilson said. "It is so intense. WVU is a hard-nosed football team. After (last) Saturday, it makes us hungry."

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