Match-Ups: West Virginia - Maryland

Checking out the key confrontations as Maryland invades West Virginia in a battle of 2-0 teams. 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
Radio: MSN
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
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

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WVU defensive line vs. Maryland running game

Typically, we highlight individual battles in this space, but the two key confrontations we see in this week's contest are simply too much to ignore. In this face-off, West Virginia's defensive line must do its part to contain a Maryland running attack that has put up impressive numbers in two wins.

The standard task assigned to the defensive line in West Virginia's3-3 stack is to keep the linebackers clean of blockers so they can flow to the ball. While that's always going to be a primary goal, it's a big help when a defensive lineman can beat a block (or even a double team) and make a play for no gain or a loss. That's something that the Terps have prevented through the first two weeks of their season, albeit against a pair of teams that aren't defensive giants.

Maryland's three primary ballcarriers – running backs Davin Meggett and Da'Rel Scott, along with quarterback Jamarr Robinson – have combined for 51 carries this year. They have gained 399 yards while losing just 16 – and 11 of those are the result of a sack on a pass attempt. Thus, the Terps are averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and are gaining yardage with every snap.

No defense can be expected to totally shut down a rushing attack with the talent Maryland possesses, but the Mountaineers can make things more difficult by injecting a few lost yards on the rushing game. Beat a block and make a tackle for a two-yard loss, and now its second-and-12 or third-and-nine – resulting in much better odds for the defense. Keep an eye on West Virginia's front three – are they able occasionally to get penetration and either make a tackle or at least disrupt the timing of a play? Or is the Terp offensive line controlling things at the point of attack and avoiding problems in the backfield? Just one lost yardage play can end a drive, so if the Mountaineers can record three or four such plays, it could go a long way in determining the outcome of what figures to be a very physical confrontation.

WVU offensive scheme vs. Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak

Maryland's defensive leader is a force against both the run and the pass, and it will be interesting to see how the Mountaineers attack the standout tackling machine.

Joe Madsen
One of the primary goals against any defense is to get a player to react in a certain manner, then call plays that take advantage of that behavior. With Wujciak, however, that's a difficult task. He is a heady player who diagnoses the action early and is usually in the right place at the right time, typically with bad results for the offense.

Watch for West Virginia to mix things up early in the game in order to see how Wujciak and the rest of the Terp defense responds to certain formations and motions. It won't be a surprise to see several different types of passes early to try to get the Terp senior out of run support mode. Navy did just the opposite with its run game, but the Midshipmen's spins, motion and misdirection are a handful for any defense. WVU doesn't have nearly that level of movement, but it will try, with formations and motion, to create some of the same results.

Of course, it's not as if this is any secret strategy. Wujciak, along with every defensive player, gets tested in the same fashion each week. WVU, however, has some different weapons, in the form of speedy wideouts and perimeter-stretching plays, that could force him to make long runs to be a factor in the defense. If West Virginia can be successful in getting Wujciak moving side to side, and can cause him to hesitate a bit in reacting to different action, it may have the ability to record a couple of big plays in the middle of the field.


How has the two-year break affected the passions that used to run so hotly through this series. Although never reaching the historical hatred of the Backyard Brawl or the emotional confrontations with Virginia Tech, this series had a bit of nastiness all its own. The supposedly erudite D.C. team definitely looked down on West Virginia during the most recent games of the series, even when the Mountaineers were winning. That created some natural friction, and along with some carryover conflicts between veteran members of the coaching staff, there was certainly a bit more electricity in the air when these two teams met.

The question now is, will that spark still be present? With each team off to 2-0 starts, there's a good bit at stake for such an early season contest. The Maryland game has long been a barometer for WVU's season success – win it, and typically there's a bowl and a good season to follow. The Terps, coming off an ugly 2-10 season, are definitely feeling optimistic about a return to a bowl this year, and the natural buoyancy a team and fan base feels when climbing off the mat could also contribute to some stronger emotions in this week three battle. The feeling here is that it won't take long for those emotions to heat up to a fever pitch.

* * *

Right after West Virginia's win over Marshall, I posed the question about playing at an increased pace, since WVU had clearly performed at its best when running plays quickly against both the Herd and Coastal Carolina. Head coach Bill Stewart was noncommittal about an increase in the number of such plays or series, but indications are that West Virginia might do just that against the Terps.

It should be made clear that we're not talking about running a two-minute drill the entire game. Instead, the hurry-up is more in line with what the Mountaineers executed against Coastal Carolina. WVU didn't huddle, and didn't take a great deal of time to get to the line. There wasn't a lot of looking at the sideline for play changes, either. While the ability to make audibles was present, more often than not the Mountaineers lined up, ran the play, then repeated the process.

Will we see more of this against Maryland? As the magic 8-ball says, "Signs point to yes." While it's not likely to be a part of every possession, the potential benefits, including maximizing West Virginia's conditioning advantage, slowing the defensive rush and getting the ball to playmakers quickly, are simply too good to pass up. Game circumstances can dictate a change in tactics – WVU isn't going to go up-tempo if it leads by 14 in the fourth quarter – but don't be surprised to see the Mountaineers increase the pace of play on at least half of their possessions.

* * *

A great deal has been made about Maryland's use of two quarterbacks to date, and the first question out of just about every media member has been about the Terps' plans to continue that tactic. Maryland has used that to its advantage, spreading the notion far and wide that it will continue to play both Robinson and Danny O'Brien, thus hoping to contribute to some confusion for foes as they prepare for two different styles of signalcallers. Will this really, however, be such a big deal?

After O'Brien appeared for one play against Navy and fumbled the snap, the wager here is that Robinson gets the vast majority of playing time against West Virginia. If the Mountaineers shut down the Terrapin offense or don;t allow its running game to gain any traction, the O'Brien might get a legitimate shot. And this doesn't preclude him getting in for a series or so. But with Robinson's productivity on the ground to date, and Maryland's ability to control the ball, the smart money says that Robinson is the guy.

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