Shelled

West Virginia came into College Park with hopes of evening its season record at 2-2 and getting back on track after a devastating loss to Cincinnati.

Instead, the Mountaineeers left the land of turtles with a 1-3 record and very few signs of life. The Mountaineers made Ralph Friedgen's Marylalnd troops look more like the team that was picked as a dark-horse candidate to win the national championship before the season than the 1-2 squad that fell to Northern Illinois in week one before being pounded by Florida State a week later, as the Terps dropped a 35-10 decision.

Throughout the days leading to the contest, Rich Rodriguez stressed the importance of making Maryland win the game and not giving the Terps anything. Apparently, Coach Rod's words fell on deaf ‘Eers as the Blue & Gold shot themselves in the foot early and often.

The first mistake came early in the first quarter as WVU punt returner Adam Jones once again felt the results of the elimination of the "halo rule." In both the ECU and Cincinnati games, Jones felt that he was not given an ample opportunity to field the opponents' punts. His complaints were shot down, however, as the officials explained that there was no longer a halo rule and as long has he was given a chance to pull it in, there was no penalty. On the first Mountaineer punt of the evening, Jones had the chance he had been waiting for. As Maryland's dangerous return man Steve Suter waited on a booming Todd James punt, "Pacman" broke loose and had an open shot on Suter. Jones, Suter, and the ball all met at once and Suter fell hard to the grass at Byrd Stadium. Unfortunately for the Blue & Gold, the Big East officials did not interpret the rule as same as the Conference USA crew did a week ago, and Jones was flagged for interference giving the Terps excellent field position. Seven plays later, Maryland found the end zone on a four yard Bruce Perry run, and the Terrapins took a 7-0 lead.

The Mountaineer mistake was only a sign of things to come, as the WVU attack only got worse. West Virginia could mount no offense at all and the game quickly got out of hand. The aggressive Terps took advantage of seven West Virginia penalties to take a 20-0 lead into the locker room at the half. The UM offense was explosive enough without the help of its opponents from the Mountain State, but West Virginia aided the attack by giving the men wearing red a number of first down by way of penalty. Rodriguez's plan of making them earn everything was simply not to be.

Third down defense also plagued the Blue & Gold on the humid night in College Park. Scott McBrien and his teammates converted an amazing eight of 13 third down attempts including some from long distance. The Terps' offensive numbers were quite balanced with 260 yards coming on the ground and another 238 coming through the air. Four different Terrapin backs finished the night with more than 50 yards rushing, with Sammy Maldonado's 88 leading the way. Bruce Perry saw his first significant action of the season and made the most of it. The senior totaled 79 yards on just 14 carries and found pay-dirt twice. McBrien also showed off his legs gaining 55 yards on just five runs.

Not wanting to be out done, McBrien and company lead a similar assault through the air. The former Mountaineer completed 14 of 25 attempts for 220 yards and a touchdown. The senior avoided mistakes, only throwing one interception and being sacked just twice. Senior Latrez Harrison was the lefthander's favorite target, hauling in four balls for 88 yards in the lopsided win.

West Virginia's offensive numbers were much the opposite. The Mountaineers managed only 156 yards of total offense with half of the yards coming in the final period against the Terrapin reserves. The Mounties depleted offensive line simply could not open up a single hole, and West Virginia managed only 120 yards on the ground against a stingy Terp defense.

Even down big in the second half, Rodriguez and staff simply refused to throw the pigskin. Marshall finished the game with just two completions on seven attempts before giving way to Charles Hales. The backup did not fare much better, connecting on just one of five passing attempts. In all, the Blue & Gold gained just 36 yards through the air with only two players catching a pass. Superback Quincy Wilson caught two while Miquelle Henderson was the only Mountaineer receiver to make a catch.

West Virginia's only score came late in the game against the Maryland reserves. The Terps desperately wanted the shutout, but junior Kay Jay Harris was simply too much for the inexperienced unit. The Tampa native gained 34 yards on just four carries as the Mountaineers posted a token score before ending the evening.

When the final gun sounded, the white clad Mountaineers left the field a 34-7 loser with their heads down and a difficult road ahead. The 1-3 Mountaineer must regroup before heading to South Florida to take on the second ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl. Tough matchups with Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Boston College, among others, lie ahead and the ‘Eers bowl hopes are hanging by a thread as the head into conference play.


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