GETTING A KICK
Maryland has not had a punt blocked since Nov. 13, 1999, when Florida State turned the trick. That string of 125 consecutive games without a punt rejection is the longest active streak in college football.
Part of the reason for that string is the consistency the Terps have had at punter and long snapper. Over the last nine years, Maryland has had just four punters and three long snappers. The long term benefits of playing and practicing together have definitely benefited the Maryland in the punting game. There's a bit of luck involved too, in that no truly bad or dropped snaps have occurred, but a good deal of the credit must go to the players who have established themselves early in their careers and held on to their jobs.
On the flip side, Maryland has already blocked two punts this year, having rejected a pair of Morgan State attempts.
GETTING OFF THE FIELD
One of the points of concern for the defense over the past couple of seasons was stopping foes on third down and ending drives early. So far this year, the Mountaineers have done well in that area. WVU's two foes to date have converted just seven of 28 chances on third down for a 25% success rate.
What's more, many of those stops are coming early in drives. After allowing 14 plays to Marshall on its opening pair of possessions, the Mountaineers allowed only two drives of more than four plays the rest of the way. One of those was a five-play series that ended in a punt, while the other was a touchdown drive of seven snaps.
Granted, this picture doesn't tell the whole story of the defense, because it doesn't touch on the yielding of a one-play, 92-yard scoring strike. However, it does show that the Mountaineers are doing better in getting stops when they have the chance.
TYING THINGS UP
West Virginia can even its all-time football record against ACC schools at 96-96-5 with a win over the Terps.
MISLEADING STAT OF THE WEEK
We love stats, and are always looking for new ways in which they can illuminate a point. The flip side of the numbers, however, is that they can lead observers to the wrong conclusion.
This week's example is Maryland's pass defense, which is currently yielding just 60.5 yards per game. Those numbers are good for first place in the ACC and third in the country. Impressive, to be sure, until you look at the Terps' opposition during the first two games. Navy hugs the ground like a snake, while Morgan State provided no offensive opposition at all.
That doesn't mean, though, that Maryland's pass defense is bad. It might turn out that the Terps have one of the best pass defenses in the country. It's just not a conclusion that can be made yet. If they can record the same sorts of numbers against the Mountaineers, then they'll have much more ammunition for that claim.
FILLING THE VOID
Everyone knows that Brandon Hogan won't be available for duty this week, but there hasn't been much said about the effects his absence will have on the Mountaineer defense – and special teams.
While some observers with little football savvy look down on Hogan's skills as a cornerback, the fact is that he has come a long way since his freshman season. He recovers well, plays the ball at its highest point and is a sure-handed (sure-armed?) tackler. Obviously, the coaching staff can't bemoan his loss, as that might send a lack of confidence message to those filling his position, but the fact is that the Mountaineers will miss his steady play on defense.
Hogan is also an under-appreciated punt returner. Teaming with Jock Sanders, the Mountaineers have typically been able to field punts and cut off those that might bounce deep (the Marshall game being an exception). He catches the ball well and makes solid gains, but gets little notice – much in the way former Mountaineer Lance Frazier did.
WVU has players that can fill these roles, but they haven't performed them on a routine basis, especially in game conditions. Their level of success could have a big impact on the contest.
Also, Will Clarke, who hobbled off the field in Huntington with what appeared to be a badly sprained ankle, is listed as doubtful. That will certainly have an effect on what West Virginia is able to do with its four-man line in passing situations.
LOST IN THE TRANSLATION?
Maryland has 27 players on NFL rosters, plus another three on practice squads. While earning an NFL roster spot doesn't always equate to college success, it does show that the Terps have had a great deal of raw talent to work with over the previous few seasons. That number, by the way, ties Maryland with Florida State for second most alums on NFL teams.
EIGHT DAYS LATER
After having a game on Friday and playing the next Saturday, the Mountaineers are 17-12-1, all-time. I would encourage readers not to use this fun, but ultimately meaningless stat, for any wagers.