Maryland faces its toughest test of the year on Saturday, when the Terps make the short trip down I-95 to face border rival West Virginia at M & T Bank Stadium. The Terps are 3-0 and off to their best start since 2001, but it has been seven long seasons since Maryland beat West Virginia.
Ask the average Maryland fan, BIG deal. Just don't ask the Maryland coaches or team. In fact, head coach Randy Edsall was asked what he's learned about the Maryland-West Virginia rivalry, his response?
"That's a bordering state of Maryland," Edsall said. "They have tremendous fan support. They have a very good team. They're always well-coached, very athletic, and again when you play West Virginia you better have it buckled up pretty tight because they're going to get after you."
While Edsall and the team did their best to down play the importance of the game, there was no denying the excitement about playing in Ravens stadium.
"I wasn't like some of these guys in the locker room that played there in State Championships and stuff," Maryland linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil said. "It is definitely going to be a great experience especially being a guy from Baltimore and having some of my family members attending the game. It is definitely going to be a big game for me and something I will never forget."
For others, like center Sal Conaboy, the experience will be somewhat nostalgic. In 2010, Conaboy's freshman year, Maryland won its season-opener against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 69, 348 fans.
"I just remember the whole time it was exciting from the opening time we ran out of the Tunnel to the very last snap," Conaboy said. " It was just a cool atmosphere for the game, so hopefully it will be like that again."
Conaboy red shirted his freshman year so he never got the chance to actually take a snap in the game, but as he gets ready to return to the place where his career started, he is feeling like a freshman all over again.
"It feels exactly the same," Conaboy said. "I'm really excited to go back up there and be in the atmosphere."
Since Randy Edsall took over the helm at Maryland, he's made a significant effort to build a strong foundation in the local community. Last spring, Edsall scheduled two open scrimmages at local schools, one in Frederick, Maryland at Middleton (Md.) High and the other in Baltimore City at Dunbar High.
Maryland expects a crowd of over 50,000 on Saturday and a win over West Virginia on national television, in heart of Baltimore…that just might win over the locals.
There will also be a handful of top prospects in attendance, including: Dwight Morrow (Englefield, N.J.) four-star athlete Juwann Winfree, who has both Maryland and West Virginia in his final six, and Norcross (Ga.) athlete Jordan Noil, both of which will be on their official visits on Saturday. A number of the top prospects from local powerhouses such as, Gilman and Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), will also be at the game.
"We're trying to continue to develop the Maryland pride. With the city being as large as it is, and also having that venue, M&T Bank Stadium there in Baltimore, when you do have the opportunity being that we're the flagship university here in the state and we're the only state school that's an FBS, it's something that I think is important to us," Edsall said. "The more that we can do to develop that Maryland pride, get the people from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and the surrounding counties to be involved with what we're doing I think it's a win for us. It's a great way for the people in Baltimore and in Baltimore County to come out and support some of their own, and the rest of the football team.
"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. 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."
However, not all of the Maryland players are going to be basking in the glory of Ravens stadium.
"I am actually a Steelers fan," said quarterback C.J. Brown, who is a Pittsburgh-native. "Being around here with all these Ravens and Redksins fans, we talk smack all the time. Of course they have the upper hand being the Super Bowl champs."
Brown smiled and added, "But hey I'll give them that, we still have six."
Stakes are High for Terps in Border Battle
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