WVU - Maryland Matchups

There are several clearcut battles that West Virginia must prevail in if they are to have a chance at evening their record at 2-2 against Maryalnd on Saturday night.

KEY BATTLES:

WVU bullets Adam Jones and Anthony Mims vs. UM punt returner Steve Suter

Suter put the cap on Maryland's 28 point first quarter outburst last year with an untouched 80 yard punt return for a touchdown, and he has to be chomping at the bit to get a shot at West Virginia's shaky coverage teams.

Mims, who came on as a mid game replacement last week, and Jones have the difficult task of keeping Suter pinned down until help arrives. The problem is that Suter is equally adept at splitting defenders in the middle of the field or taking the ball outside, so there's no "book" on how to play him.

Look for WVU to mix up their punting strategy again by using both sprint and conventional punts to keep Suter guessing as to where the ball is. It would help, however, not to put Moe Fofana in motion every time the sprint punt is called. WVU might also elect to simply kick the ball out of bounds on occasion.

The Mountaineer bullets must try to keep Suter from running in a straight line, prevent him from getting to top speed quickly. If he's able to get past Mims and Jones without a challenge, the Mountaineers are likely to see him headed for the end zone again.

WVU bandit Mike Lorello vs. UM quarterback Scott McBrien

This looks like a matchup in the passing game, but it's actually run support and assignments that are the focus of this battle.



Mike Lorello
Although the bandits in this year's scheme don't have as much run responsibility as the spurs, Lorello has been a swarming presence in the Mountaineers' run defense nonetheless. The active sophomore has 34 tackles, including eight behind the line of scrimmage.

In McBrien, Maryland has a effective weapon to counter Lorello's excellent pursuit. Mountaineer fans can easily recall McBrien's unopposed stroll into the end zone on a bootleg play where the entire defense, along with about half of the players on the sideline, followed a fake run into the line while McBrien scored standing up.

Lorello must be conscious of his assignments and either make sure McBrien does not have the football, or, if he does, keep him contained and force him back to the inside. Maryland has no doubt noticed Lorello's aggressive style, and will likely try to use that against him on Saturday.

WVU guard Travis Garrett vs. UM defensive tackle Randy Starks

Starks isn't a household name just yet, but he has been dominating the line of scrimmage during the first part of this season. He's a big reason linebackers such as D'Qwell Jackson and Leon Joe are racking up big tackle numbers.

Starks isn't just a space eater, though. He's an active player who already has 16 tackles this year, including three behind the line of scrimmage. Starks is third on the Terps' season total tackle list, an amazing achievement for an interior defensive lineman.

WVU obviously has to improve their offensive line play from a week ago, or they will be in for a long night in College Park. Garrett, who has the size to match up with Starks, will be on the short end of the experience scale, and will have to be ready for a variety of moves.

One important thing will be to watch how Garrett handles a setback. Starks is sure to make some plays, so it will be important for Garrett to put each play behind him after its over and concentrate on the next one.

THINGS TO WATCH

Following up on our opening matchup, here are a pair of frightening numbers. Maryland is averaging an incredible 15.2 yard per punt return. WVU is giving up 12.2 yards per return. That's like a free first down every time the Mountaineers punt the ball away, and it has to be corrected it West Virginia hopes to get a win.

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Both teams feature a group of tall wide receivers with the ability to go up and get the ball. Maryland has seven receivers that stand 6-2 or taller, while WVU puts a pair of 6-4 receivers (Chris Henry and Aaron Neal) alongside 6-2 Miquelle Henderson.

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Both squads will be looking to get a big play out of their passing attacks, and often those types of plays are made by wide receivers outjumping smaller corners. West Virginia has been using Chris Henry in that role, but needs to get similar plays from their other tall pass catchers. Which team will make those plays on Saturday? The winner, of course.

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With WVU looking to get thier ground game back on track, the Mountaineers probably couldn't have picked a tougher opponent to do so against.

The Terps are giving up an average of just 115 yards per game on the ground, and are holding foes to a miniscule 2.9 yards per attempt.

With the Mountaineer offensive line struggling to find some consistency, the running game matchup looks like a mismatch. West Virginia will likely have to gain at least 175-200 yards on the ground in order to spring the upset. Keep an eye on the push WVU's offensive line is able to get, and also for penetration by Maryland's excellent defensive line. The players that are able to move their opponents will win this battle, and likely determine West Virginia's offensive fortunes.


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