Preview: Maryland

The border battle with Maryland resumes as West Virginia plays host to the Terrapins for the first time in three years.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 9/18/10 12:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 2-0
Coaches' Poll: 21
Last Game
Marshall W 24-21
TV: ESPNU
Radio: MSN
Web: BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 2-0
Coaches' Poll: 45
Last Game
Morgan St W 62-3
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Series: WVU 23-21-2
First Meeting: 1919
Last Meeting: 2007
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast



INJURIES

WVU – OL Nick Kindler (Out); DL Donovan Pearson, (Out) Toe Surgery; LB Pat Lazear, (Doubtful) Knee; TE Tyler Urban, (Questionable) Knee; Branko Busick, (Questionable) Hand; CB Brandon Hogan (Out), Suspended.

Maryland – QB Danny O'Brien (Questionable), Ankle; RB Gary Douglas (Questionable), Ankle; RB Taylor Watson (Questionable), Knee; PK Nick Ferrera (Questionable), Groin; TE Will Yeatman (Questionable), Finger; LB Ben Pooler (Out), Knee; TE Lansford Watson (Out), Knee; TE Devonte Campbell (Questionable), Knee.


GAME OUTLOOK

WVU Offense vs. Maryland defense

Maryland's defense played very good assignment football against Navy, but the Terps did allow a few elongated drives and likely should have lost the game if not for a series of Midshipmen mistakes in the red zone. UM did manage a four-down goalline stand at the end of the game to preserve the 17-14 win, but showed a lack of tackling and execution, especially in the front seven. West Virginia, conversely, didn't do much offensively for most of its last game, needing consecutive 90-plus yard drives at the end of the fourth quarter to tie and force overtime. The Mountaineers have been hampered by lackluster line play, the one area that needs major improvement against Maryland. The Terps have good size along second-year defensive coordinator Don Brown's 4-3 front, but lack a great edger rusher that can get into the backfield and blow up plays before the start. Too, Maryland was luckluster last year against the run, and was ripped by Noel Devine in the senior's debut against the Terps in 2007. WVU must be better in both run and pass blocking to offset Maryland's upgrade in muscle over a pretty decent Marshall line. Look for the Mountaineers to play a bit faster, as they did on the touchdown drives against MU, to try and counteract some of the up front deficiencies. Too, WVU will poke and prod various defensive areas early, seeing what works against Maryland and where the likeable match-ups are. Navy ran well in its loss, but the differences in the option and spread offenses and how Maryland was aligned for much of the game won't aid a lot of film work. UM ranked just 105th last year against the pass, and that stat and the idea of a new starting corner and one safety who played wideout last year will temp coordinator Jeff Mullen to let Geno Smith sling it a bit – especially after his performance late in last week's game.

From a purely athletic standpoint, one player to watch is former Southern Cal signee Antwine Perez. The safety has exception speed and closing ability, and will be among the more physically-gifted corners WVU will play this season. Fellow safety Kenny Tate forced two fumbles against Navy and tallied 12 tackles, but is still getting comfortable at the slot after years at receiver. Linebacker is likely the unit's best position, with middle ‘backer Alex Wujciak (first team All-ACC) recording 18 tackles and a pick versus Navy. Strongside linebacker Adrian Moten has NFL ability, and Demetrius Hartsfield gives Brown three very good players in the middle. Problem is, UM's line has been getting pushed into the second level at times, and the linebackers have been unable to scrape or get to the ball effectively. Nose tackle A.J. Francis has the size and hands every coach desires, but his counterparts have not played as well. Marland is doing some shuffling up front to try to find its best, and has thus far brought Joe Vellano up from the second team to try starting. The line play in this match-up involves units that haven't yet met potential, and will be closely scrutinized throughout. West Virginia has an edge in continuity, but that hasn't done much thus far. Watch to see how much push each side is getting up front, as this factor could be a deciding one when WVU has the ball. Maryland shouldn't score a ton on the Mountaineers – but if the Mountaineers can't be a bit better up front (and get Ryan Clarke to head downhill, and not dance), this game could be another nail biter.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Maryland
Scoring Offense 27.5 ppg Scoring Defense 8.5 ppg
Rushing Offense 168.5 ypg Rushing Defense 224.5 ypg
Passing Offense 176 ypg Passing Defense 60.5 ypg

Advantage: Slight to West Virginia


WVU Defense vs. Maryland Offense

This was a bad match-up for West Virginia last week. Not this time. WVU is built to stop the run, get players to the ball and disable a lot of I-formation, off tackle runs. That's a staple of the Maryland offense, and the Mountaineers should be able to limit the ground game. The issue with this version of the Terps is the running quarterback. Jamarr Robinson gives head coach Ralph Friedgen another element in the ground game, and could negate some of WVU's blitz schemes because of the threat of escaping and breaking a big play. The junior ran for 92 yards against Navy, but did struggle with the passing game. He'll need to be able to cycle through his reads and not lock into his first option, especially against an odd stack defense that can be confusing the first time one faces it. West Virginia needs to play solid assignment football, collapse the pocket into itself and not get pushed too far upfield to eliminate lanes and escape routes. It should be able to, as Maryland's line was among the worst in the nation last season, and that was with two decent players it doesn't have this year. WVU appears to have a significant advantage up front, as the Terps will press two former walk-ons and a trio of sophomores into action.

With Chris Neild, Scooter Berry and a solid linebacking corps, coordinator Jeff Casteel's defense should be able to bottle the run and puzzle Robinson enough to force check downs or hold the ball longer than the Maryland staff would like. If he does get time, though, UM's receivers have some ability. All-ACC wideout Torrey Smith is the best of the bunch, and has decent size at 6-1, 205 pounds. The junior averaged more than five catches a game last year while racking up 824 yards. The majority of the Terp receivers are 6-0 or greater, which will give them some size edge over West Virginia. Combine that with Brandon Hogan's absence (suspension for DUI), and Robinson could have a decent day if he can read the alignments and match-ups quickly enough. He should have excellent aid in tailbacks Davin Meggett and Da'Rel Scott. Meggett ran for more than 100 yards in the first two games and appears primed to breakout. The junior combines good burst with some strength and quickness, and he will force WVU to get multiple players around the ball. Scott, who sat out much of last season with a broken wrist, ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2008. He seems to still be adjusting after coming back, and the carries will likely be split at best for Scott.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Maryland
Scoring Defense 10.5 ppg Scoring Offense 39.5 ppg
Rushing Defense 99 ypg Rushing Offense 241 ypg
Passing Defense 176 ypg Passing Offense 80 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia


WVU Special Teams vs. Maryland Special Teams

West Virginia won the game by outexecuting Marshall on the two special teams plays in overtime. Much of the rest of the game, though, the Herd was able to edge the Mountaineers in the category and continually pin WVU deep in its own end. No team made huge, game-changing plays, but West Virginia didn't field punts or block well on a field goal attempt that was rejected by the Herd, and Marshall got excellent penetration and could have blocked other kicks as well. Check to see how much push Maryland is getting, and if WVU is getting blown up at the point of attack. Maryland's special teams continually produce excellent punters, and that continues this year in Travis Baltz. Baltz averaged more than 40 yards per punt last year, and his opening week average of 53 against Navy was exceptional. He is also handling field goals this year, and though he doesn't have the experience of Tyler Bitancurt, Baltz has reasonable range and is steady. Maryland can match WVU in the return game with Smith and Tony Logan, the latter netting 53 yards on a return against Navy, and the absence of Hogan also puts a question mark on WVU's punt returns. If West Virginia solidifies line play, it could pull even here. But not until.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Maryland
Net Punting 43.9 yards Net Punting 43.6 yards
KO Returns 23.6 yards per return KO Returns 17.4 yards per return
Punt Returns 5 yards per return Punt Returns 37 yards per return

Advantage: Maryland


PICKS TO CLICK

On Offense: Ryan Clarke, OL.

On Defense: Broderick Jenkins.


PREDICTION

The match-ups, for the most part, benefit West Virginia. The major issue is that the ones going for Maryland – kickoff and punt return – can create sizeable yardage and scoring differences. The Mountaineers must cover well and need to better field punts this week to keep from getting pinned deep in their own end. WVU should be able to hold down Maryland's rushing average and bother its young signalcaller. On the flip side, Maryland's defensive line isn't great, creating a push up front, and West Virginia has better playmakers in the backfield. The Terps will need some plays to go their way, but this isn't a blowout going away.

WVU - 28 Maryland- 20


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