West Virginia Mountaineers
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Conference: Big East
2005 Record: 11-1
Series History: Tied 21-21-2
Last Meeting: West Virginia 31 - Maryland 18, 2005 at Maryland
The Mountaineers were not tested as they routed 1-AA Eastern Washington 54-3 at home. Most of the WVU starters played only a half. Star running back Steve Slaton rushed just eight times for 105 yards and 2 TDs as the Mountaineers racked up 394 rushing yards and 591 total yards in the game. Meanwhile, for the second straight week, Maryland showed very little offensively as it beat Middle Tennessee State 24-10.
It's no secret what West Virginia wants to do when it has the ball - spread you out and run, run, run. Sophomore QB Pat White and fellow sophomore Slaton give West Virginia one of the most dangerous backfields in the nation. In two games of limited action due to two straight blowout wins, Slaton has rushed for 308 yards and 4 TDs while White, not known for his passing, has completed 14 of his 18 pass attempts for 216 yards and 2 TDs.
West Virginia's offensive line is led by senior Dan Mozes, who may be the best center in the nation. Flanking Mozes on either side are experienced guards in senior Jeremy Sheffey and sophomore Ryan Stanchek. The Mountaineer line isn't a big, mauling group as they rely more on agility and quickness as part of their offensive scheme. Each starter is between 280 and 290 pounds.
Most of the West Virginia passing attack returned from last year, although the passing game is more of a backup plan for a team that loves to run the ball. Their top receiver from last year, senior Brandon Myles, caught 34 passes for 534 yards and 3 TDs last season and leads the team so far this
season with 7 receptions for 73 yards and 3 TDs.
West Virginia runs a somewhat unique 3-3-5 "stack"
defense with three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs. The defensive line is more of a blue collar unit whose job is to allow the talented linebackers to make plays. They aren't as big as you might expect a 3-man line to be. Junior DT Keilen Dykes is their biggest starter at 290 pounds.
Linebacker is the strength of West Virginia's defense, as seniors Kevin McLee and Jay Henry were all-conference selections last season. They are athletic playmakers who combined for 140 total tackles and 12.5 tackles for losses last year.
In the secondary, starting corner Larry Williams suffered a sprained back on Saturday and his status for the Maryland game was up in the air earlier this week. In addition to that question, the West Virginia secondary had to replace four starters from last season and has yet to be tested so far
this year. Senior SS Eric Wicks is the Mountaineers' lone returning starter.
WVU Special Teams:
Kicker Pat McAfee has made all 13 XP attempts this season and has attempted only one FG, which he made. Last season he converted 48 of 49 XP and 11 of 18 FG attempts. Redshirt freshman punter Scott Kozlowski has punted a grand total of four times this season for a 40.5 yard average.
It's difficult to know where either team is at this point in the season. Neither team has really been tested and Maryland has clearly held back offensively in preparation for this game. There is no doubt West Virginia will stack the line of scrimmage and force Maryland to throw the ball. This will lead to a battle between each team's biggest question marks - Maryland's passing game vs. West Virginia's secondary. On the other side of the ball it comes down to one question - can Maryland slow down West Virginia's rushing attack?
Last year in College Park, WVU racked up 301 rushing yards, wearing down the Maryland defense and scoring three fourth quarter touchdowns. This season might not be much different as West Virginia should be able to impose its will in the running game and rack up big yardage. Throw in a Thursday night game on national television in front of 60,000 rowdy fans, a questionable Maryland passing attack and maybe a little extra motivation for one-time Maryland recruit Steve Slaton and it could be a long night for the Terps.
Prediction: West Virginia 45 - Maryland 20
-- Compiled by Mike Hogan