The game started off great for the Mountaineers, with Pacman Jones taking the opening kickoff 53 yards back to the Maryland 47 yardline. In a sign of frustrating things to come, the Mountaineers were unable to get anything going on their first drive of the game. When Phil Brady lined up to punt, Mountaineer fans were thinking that at least Ralph Friedgen's offense would be pinned deep in it's own territory. Disaster nearly struck however, as the snap never got to Brady after the ball hit one of the up men and bounced all the way to the sideline, where Brady fell on it before a Terp could pick it up and head the other way for six. Looking back, this play proved to be crucial, as a Maryland touchdown at this point would have been the difference in the game.
Fortunately, Brady's heads up play gave the ball to the Terps around midfield, and on their first play from scrimmage, Josh Allen coughed up the pigskin. Mike Lorello pounced on the fumble to give the Mountaineer offense its second crack at the Terps defense. The Blue and Gold offense hadn't woken up yet though, and ended up punting again.
Maryland took over at its own seven yard line. Allen held onto the football on first down for a no gain. Sophomore quarterback Joel Statham, making his first road start, dropped back on second down, and found Pacman wide open in the secondary. The junior from College Park, GA took the interception all the way back to the Maryland six. From there, Kay-Jay Harris pounded it in on the drive's only play. Brad Cooper's extra point made it 7-0.
The teams traded uneventul drives, and Maryland was well on their way to breaking that habit until Statham found Pacman again, this time inside the WVU 20. You know that quote "Big game players make big game plays?" Well, that was Mr. Jones today. The kid is a star...nuff said.
Pacman's interception set up a drive that showed promise for the Mountaineers, but on the first play of the second quarter, Kay-Jay had the ball knocked loose while being wrestled to the turf. That turnover allowed the Terps to get into Nick Novak's range, and he hit from 31 to make the score 7-3.
Not a whole lot happened for the rest of the second quarter, but here's a cliff notes version. On the Mountaineers next drive, we got to see the first pooch punt of the season from quarterback Rasheed Marshall. On Maryland's next drive, they were again moving methodically down the field until that turnover bug reared it's ugly head again. Statham fired his third interception of the game, this time to Anthony Mims. I'll give credit where credit is due...at least he spread the ball around this time and didn't throw to Pacman's side. Mims made a great catch on the play too, cradling the ball while he was on the turf.
West Virginia's final drive of the first half got the ball down to the Maryland 22, but Brad Cooper missed a field goal from 39 yards out. Maryland hit a knee for the final play of the half, with the score still 7-3.
The first half was full of ups and downs for the Mountaineers. The ups, no doubt, were the four turnovers. The downs, obviously, was the lack of execution on offense. Given the results of the previous meetings with Maryland, I'm sure the Blue and Gold fans were more than happy to go into the locker room still in the game, let alone with a lead. Also, during halftime, the Mountaineer Parents Club announced their outstanding club winners for this year. The outstanding in state club went to the Harrison County chapter. The Northern Virginia chapter took home the award for most outstanding out of state club. Congratulations to both, and thanks to all the Mountaineer Parents Club members.
Back to the football.
Cooper's second half kickoff sailed through the end zone for a touchback. Maryland continued the offensive fireworks by getting off an entire six plays before punting this time. The Mountaineers had to get something out of their first drive to establish themselves in the second half. An 11 play, 52 yard drive that chewed up nearly 5 minutes of clock did just that, culminating with Cooper's 45 yard field goal. The home team was now up by a touchdown, 10-3.
On the ensuing Terp drive, Lorello made a beautiful play on a Terrapin run, dropping Sammy Maldonado for a six yard loss. Three plays later, Statham nearly got loose on an option, but there was just enough pursuit by Mountaineer defensive end Jason Hardee to force a pitch. The pitch was good, but Maldonado couldn't handle it. The ball fell to the turf and Hardee corralled it for the fifth Terrapin turnover of the day. West Virginia couldn't capitalize on the turnover however, and went three and out. There was frustration building in the stands, as many wondered just how many opportunities the Blue and Gold were gonna give to Friedgen and company. Those frustrations reached a boiling point when Statham found Derrick Fenner for a 27 yard touchdown pass. Novak's extra point tied the game at 10. Heading into the fourth quarter, the game was still tied.
After another Mountaineer punt, Maryland marched off a 12 play, 52 yard drive capped off by Novak's go ahead field goal, his third of the day, to give the Red and White (or is it black, I really have no clue) their first lead of the day, 13-10.
The Mountaineers then answered, using a beautiful 9 play 61 yard drive of their own to tie the game at 13 on Cooper's third field goal of the day, this time from 37 yards. With 6:20 left to play, it was still anybody's game.
Maryland chewed off 5 minutes of clock, getting the ball down to the Mountaineer 32. Novak was lined up for a 49 yarder that could prove to be the difference in the game. It sailed wide left, and the Mountaineers controlled their own destiny.
"I thought he hit it really well," said Friedgen after the game. "The wind was swirling and that may have had an effect on it. When he missed it, that was huge. You've got to make those."
Marshall then showed why this his team. The senior from Pittsburgh moved the offense with poise, progressing his reads and finding the open man. Inside the Maryland 30, Kay-Jay moved the ball to the middle of the field to set up a 44 yard field goal try for Cooper. Before the play, Maryland jumped offsides which moved the ball another five yards. Cooper now had a 39 yard attempt to win the game. Kevin Eli wasn't ready to go home yet, and blocked the kick to send the game into overtime.
The Mountaineers won the toss and elected to play defense first. They held the Terps from getting a first down, and Novak kicked a 33 yard field goal. All the Blue and Gold needed was a touchdown to finally topple the Terps.
Marshall sprinted for five yards on first down. Harris picked up seven on second down to get a new set of downs. Marshall picked up another five yards, moving the ball to the 8. Kay-Jay's one yard plunge set up the biggest play I've ever witnessed at Mountaineer Field.
Marshall came to the line, took the snap, and looked left.
"We were in a cover zero and their quarterback looked left first and ended up going to the right," said Friedgen.
Friedgen later went on to say he though Henry wasn't the first read, but Marshall admitted otherwise. He said the reason he looked left was to draw the linebacker away from Henry.
The junior from Belle Chasse, LA cut inside Terp CB Domonique Foxworth, snared the strike from Marshall, and then hoisted the ball into the air as madness ensued in Morgantown.
"I'm really proud of our team. They fought all the way to the end," said Rodriguez after the game.
"Offensively we moved well, we just didn't finish drives well at all today. We got a few turnovers from them which helped. Our defense did a great job of keeping the offense in the game...It's a big win because they're ranked and they're a great program. We haven't arrived yet by any stretch of the imagination, but we're getting better."
Added Friedgen, "They're a good program with good players. They did a really good job today. This is a great rivalry and I am looking forward to a good game next year. It's good for college football, the universities, and the fans from each school."
Milan Puskar Stadium, no, Mountaineer Field now sits empty. For the 60,358 in attendance today however, they will never drive past the stadium again without thinking of this game. There was magic in Morgantown on Saturday September 18, 2004. It truly was a great day to be a Mountaineer.