WVU ready for Power 5 test vs. Maryland

West Virginia's showdown against Maryland will be one of seven games this weekend between a Big 12 Conference and a team from another Power 5 league.

It's the Mountaineers' second game this season against a major-conference opponent, a trend the program is trying to continue in the future by scheduling the likes of teams like Penn State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and North Carolina State to either a home-and-home series or a one-time game at a neutral site.

With the College Football Playoff now in place, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen expects this to become common throughout major college football.

"Every weekend is important obviously, but the way we're viewing our schedule here is we think that's the future of college football," Holgorsen said Monday on the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "If you're in one of the five visible conferences, the schedule is going to continue to shift toward playing Power 5 conferences, so that's what we're doing."

This week's contest against Maryland is a chance for the Mountaineers (1-1) to gain some revenge from last year's 37-0 loss at the hands of the Terrapins at M&T Bank Stadium.

While Holgorsen sees plenty of similarities between that Maryland team and the one the Mountaineers will be seeing Saturday in College Park, Md., he thinks there are major differences when he looks at where his Mountaineer was then compared to now.

We'll look at (last year's game). They've got the same schemes, we've got the same schemes," Holgorsen said. "I view where we're at is a completely different place, I think we're better at every position. We have a better understanding of what we're trying to do on all three sides of the ball, so I think the majority of the people on our team right now played in that game last year and weren't very happy with the outcome and were embarrassed because of the outcome.

"This is a pretty motivated bunch to get over there and try to put a better effort out there on the field."

West Virginia is coming off an impressive 54-0 win against Towson last Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. It was the Mountaineers' first shutout since the 2010 season opener against Coastal Carolina.

The fourth-year head coach was impressed with his defense that game, but especially with how the backups played when they were called upon.

"Our starters probably only played about 30 snaps on defense, so a lot of second and third-team guys got in there and played at that same level," he said. "In order to get a shutout in a game like that, you've got to be able to have all your backups go in and play well, which I felt like they did. Moving forward, that should be able to increase where our depth is and help us get more guys on the field when we need to."

The star of that game, however, was senior quarterback Clint Trickett. The signal caller continued his impressive start to the 2014 season by completing 35 of his 40 pass attempts for 348 yards and two scores.

Trickett is currently seventh in the nation is passing yards, throwing for 713 yards in the first two games of the year. It's been a big and noticeable difference from the quarterback who got to WVU last August shortly before the start of camp as Trickett had to struggle through a handful of injuries during in junior season.

"It's his first opportunity and his last opportunity in the same breath. Last year he didn't get in until the fifth game, and unfortunately got hurt the same game, so his sense of urgency has been big," Holgorsen said. "He understands where to go with the ball and is running the offense the way we want him to run the offense. Right now, I'm really pleased with how he's playing, but he's got to continue to make plays and make sure he doesn't put his body into harm's way.

"He's got to continue to get the ball out of his hands and get it to our skill guys around him, that's part of what his job is."

But the offense as a whole has been clicking in a way it hasn't for the last few seasons. The Mountaineers have been able to get up and down the field with the tempo where they like it to be while letting the playmakers do what they do best in space. In Saturday's win, the Mountaineers gained 606 yards of total offense on 96 plays and did not have a single play go for more than 26 yards.

"Of the 12 drives we had, 11 of them went to the red zone because we were putting the ball in play, we were running it and throwing short passes based on them being very deep in the secondary," Holgorsen said. "We've got to be patient when it comes to that. We've got to do a little better job of finishing the drives. Of those 11 drives, seven ended up with touchdowns, but three ended with no points. We've got to do a little better job of taking what they give you, getting first downs and keep doing it."


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