Maryland doesn't stack up

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen wanted to learn where his team stood in the ranks of college football after Thursday night's game against West Virginia. He knew its place was well above the Terrapin's first two opponents, but he wasn't sure how close it was to the No. 4 Mountaineers.

The answer—one which wasn't entirely unexpected—took shape gradually, then rapidly. A manageable halftime deficit ballooned into a blowout 15 minutes later. When it came to an end, West Virginia had enough rushing yards to cover three and a half football fields and more than enough points to double-up Maryland, winning 31-14 in front of 53, 107 at Byrd Stadium, the fifth-largest crowd ever.

"West Virginia's obviously a very good football team," said Friedgen, who is 4-4 against the Mountaineers. "We just have to keep working and trying to get better and try to grow from this experience."

Perhaps the biggest growth if Maryland is to approach a level near West Virginia's has to be that of quarterback Jordan Steffy. A fumbled snap on the first play from scrimmage led to West Virginia's first touchdown (it was later revealed that Steffy never received the ball from center Edwin Williams). An inability to find receivers downfield resulted in only two passing plays of more than 20 yards.

He was sacked five times, partially because when the pocket collapsed, the 6-foot-1 Steffy had trouble seeing his receivers over the linemen, Friedgen said. Neither of his two interceptions ended up hurting Maryland, but the first could have been avoided if he threw the ball just a few feet out of bounds. He finished 16-of-23 for 180 yards, including a late touchdown to Danny Oquendo.

Steffy is--not to Friedgen's surprise--still a work in progress.

"He missed a couple things this week. I anticipate that's going to happen," Friedgen said. "He's got to make some reads. I believe that will happen. I would like it to happen in the next five minutes, but I know it's not going to. I don't let that frustrate me."

Steffy and Maryland's offense had success early. Friedgen felt he could control the clock by running the ball and wearing down the West Virginia defense. On Maryland's second drive, Keon Lattimore had seven carries for 29 yards and scored on a 4-yard run to cap off an 11-play, 75-yard series. Steffy hit Darrius Heyward-Bey on a 3rd and 10 for 33 yards to keep the drive alive.

So far, so good. Maryland held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the first quarter. In the second quarter, though, the offense couldn't get more than five yards into West Virginia territory on three drives, including ones that started on the Maryland 38 and 43.

"They started disguising defenses a little bit more," Steffy said. "They weren't giving us some things they were giving us early on."

The defense held up surprisingly well in the first half. It limited Pat White to just 7 yards rushing and Maryland went into the locker room down 14-7. Granted, Steve Slaton had 103 yards on the ground in the half, but as long as West Virginia didn't score, Friedgen was content.

There was reason, though, to believe that West Virginia's offense hadn't even revved up. Last week at Marshall, the Mountaineers put up 21 points in the third and forth quarter each after trailing 13-6 at the half.

On the first drive of the second half, West Virginia converted a 3rd and 12 when Pat White found Dorrell Jalloh for a 21-yard completion over the middle. It was the one of four third down conversions of over 8 yards on the night for West Virginia. They had another one when Kevin Barnes was called for pass interference in the second quarter.

Five plays later, Slaton scored from 1 yard out, his second of three touchdowns.

"Third and long, I don't know what happens," said linebacker Moise Fokou. "I think we probably broke down."

Maryland didn't cross the West Virginia 40 until its scoring drive late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Meanwhile, West Virginia's ground attack was just getting started. Noel Devine, a heralded freshman from Florida, had runs of 31 and 76 yards in the third quarter. His 76 yarder was the longest non-touchdown run in West Virginia school history. He finished with 136 yards on just five carries.

Slaton added his third score with 1:53 left in the third to put West Virginia up 28-7. He rushed for 137 yards on 26 carries. It's the first time two backs have exceeded 100 yards in the same game against Maryland since Virginia's Alvin Pearman (170 yards) and Wali Lundy (107 yards) did it in 2004. West Virginia finished with 353 rushing yards, the third consecutive year it's rushed for more than 300 yards in the border rivalry.

"It's one of those teams where you can do a good job for three plays, two plays and they explode and get 20 on you," said Erin Henderson, who had a game-high 11 tackles.

Henderson said West Virginia exploited a weakness in Maryland's defense in the third quarter with a fullback-led stretch play. Devine made both his big runs on that play.

Much like last year, the stands began to empty after the third quarter with the game out of reach. Maryland teased with a miracle comeback when it recovered an onside kick after its touchdown late in the fourth, but Steffy was sacked three times on the ensuing drive and it went backwards three yards.

West Virginia takes a two-game lead in the all-time series and has won four straight against Maryland.

"They're legit," Henderson said. "I can't take anything from them, the score shows it. If I said anything different I'd being lying out my mouth."

TerrapinTimes Top Stories