The No. 8 Mountaineers (3-0) forced three turnovers and five fumbles to go with five three-and-outs. In between, it was a mishmash of big hits, bad tackling and some needed in-game adjustments to limit Maryland's blueprint for success.
The Terrapins (2-2) followed the right recipe early, burning 11:18 off the first quarter clock with a series of drives highlighted by bootlegs and some misdirection that kept West Virginia's defense guessing, and its offense off the field. It took a quarter-plus for WVU to adjust to the new looks, in which UM gave a run-set to the eye, but executed a bootleg in either direction or ran some misdirection to slow the Mountaineers' pursuit.
"Then," WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said, "you're guessing which way to bring pressure."
West Virginia focused much of its early effort on intense and direct pocket pressure. Then, when Maryland quarterback Perry Hills began to find tight end Matt Furstenburg on the boots, it switched to pressure coming from the edges. That, combined some other tweaks, began to limit one of the few things the Terps did well – besides break tackles – and forced Hills to throw from the pocket, where he became more of a stagnant feature.
"It's very tough," said linebacker Doug Rigg, who finished with a team-high seven tackles. "They were coming out in formations where you expect them to run the ball and you see them on film running the ball a lot. With a freshman quarterback, you know they are going to give him easy passes to complete. You are caught between playing the run and the little dink passes. It gets frustrating. I think we did an all right job throughout the game controlling it. Sometimes they got some big plays, but for the most part I think we did a good job controlling it."
Rigg was also the beneficiary of the biggest defensive play of the game courtesy of a safety blitz. Darwin Cook timed a blitz perfectly, sliding through the Maryland front like it as a sieve and nailing Hills as faked a handoff. The ball popped loose, and Rigg, also blitzing on the play, scooped and ran 51 yards for an early 7-0 lead. It was a reverse of the Orange Bowl play, where Rigg created the fumble, with Cook recovering and running for a touchdown.
"That was beautiful," said Cook, who noted that WVU saw on tape that Hills moved his leg slightly before the snap, tipping it off for better blitz timing. "I was so happy when (DeForest put that blitz in this week), because I wasn't getting any action. We put it in and I was excited. We were going over quarterback mannerisms. I knew I had him."
Still, even after the score, Maryland stayed with its plan and continued to use clock. The biggest adjustment came when the Terps inserted another offensive tackle to give them additional size up front, and started to pound the ball. WVU held down the run well, but did need to again tweak the defense.
"We didn't expect that," Cook said. "That was something new. The coaches did a good job adjusting to the game plan and we were able to stop them and make some plays."
"A lot of times, there were two or three guys around and it was like one guy was waiting for the others to get them down instead of multiple people getting them down at the same time," Rigg said. "We are in position getting to and running to the ball. It is a matter of finishing."
"I feel like we struggled," he said. "We have to get better all the time. We gave up to many passing yards, too many deep balls, too many big plays. Missed tackles. That's where most of the yardage came from."
Still, the Maryland drive chart shows solid WVU defensive play. The Terps' drives averaged five plays and ended in Punt-Fumble-Punt-TD-TD-Punt-Punt-Missed FG-Punt-Punt-Fumble-TD-Interception. West Virginia also had some players dinged up, and thus had to insert some reserves who were not as solid as the starters in some execution aspects.
"I thought Maryland had a great plan with time of possession," said DeForest, who acknowledged UM tried to stay out of drop back passing for its young QB to avoid pressure. "They came out with big people and tried to keep the ball away from our offense. They tried to run the ball, we stuffed the run and then they went to the passing game. Some of the things that happened to us in the passing game were just poor execution of the defense called.
"The drive in the third quarter where we gave up the touchdown in two plays, that was just poor tackling and poor execution. … The touchdown in the first half, we called a blitz and the guy coming off the edge unblocked fell down. We gotta execute better. Overall, I think our kids played well. Without looking at the tape, I thought we tackled better except for that one occasion. The two scores they had was poor tackling. Other than that, I thought we executed the game plan."