The Mountaineers won the toss and elected to kick-off to the Terrapins. Neither team could muster much offense early on, as each squad failed to gain a first down on their first two possessions. Bednarik suffered his only interception of the day at the hands of Terp safety J. J. Justice on a long pass attempt to Rayshawn Bolden on the Mountaineers' second offensive series.
WVU was able to negate that mistake with a big play of its own, however. On the third Maryland offensive possession of the game, West Virginia's defense provided the first points of the afternoon. On second and seven from their own 36-yard line, Hollenbach dropped back to pass. Junior linebacker Jay Henry hit Hollenbach hard as he released the pass, and what was intended as a crisp square out to senior wideout Derrick Fenner resulted in a floater. WVU cornerback Anthony Mims stepped in front of the wobbly aerial to pick it off, and then negotiated the wide-open field in front of him for the touchdown and a 7-0 WVU lead with 6:10 remaining in the first quarter.
The Mountaineers' defensive gem seemed to awaken the Terps' offense as Maryland came right back with a touchdown of their own to tie the score. On the drive, Hollenbach completed three of four passes, two to senior Jo Jo Walker, and running back Keon Lattimore converted two third down situations with key gains of four and seven yards, respectively, to keep the drive alive. Aiding the Terps' march were two WVU penalties, one a personal foul and the other defensive holding. On first and goal from the WVU two-yard line, Terps fullback Ricardo Dickerson barreled through the WVU defensive front to cross the goal line for the tying touchdown with 0:21 remaining in the opening stanza.
After failing to reach midfield on the ensuing possession, WVU was forced to punt. Walker hauled in Scott Kozlowski's's kick at the Maryland 18-yard line and, following his blockers patiently, returned the punt to the WVU 39-yard line before being forced out of bounds, giving the Terps excellent field position. However, the WVU defense allowed the Terrapins only six yards on three plays and forced freshman kicker Obi Egekeze to kick a 50-yard field goal with 11:29 left in the second quarter for a 10-7 Maryland lead.
Following the kick-off, West Virginia began handing the ball off to the talented Jason Gwaltney. Gwaltney showed why he was one of the nation's most highly touted recruits by gaining 46 yards on the drive, many of them after being hit by Maryland defenders. Between Gwaltney's carries, Bednarik hit tight end Josh Bailey over the middle for 12 yards and completed two passes to tailback Jason Colson, who had lined up in the slot receiver position, for a total of 19 yards. With a first and goal at the Terrapins' 8-yard line, Bednarik appeared to have completed the go-ahead touchdown pass to wideout Rayshawn Bolden, but officials ruled Bolden was out of bounds when he caught the ball. Replays later showed that Bolden did get one foot in bounds and the pass should have counted for a score, but the replay official inexplicably did not call override the call, and thus the Mountaineers were faced with second down. Two subsequent carries by Gwaltney netted just three yards, with Terrapin junior linebacker David Holloway making a jarring hit on a third and six toss sweep for no gain. West Virginia settled for a Pat McAfee 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 5:53 left before halftime.
Maryland then engineered a long drive of its own, aided by a key WVU penalty, to re-take the lead. Starting from the Maryland 11 after a well-executed kick-off placed deep in the corner by WVU's Colby James, sophomore running back Lance Ball ripped through the WVU defense for 16 yards. Hollenbach then completed passes to tight end Vernon Davis, Walker, wideout Drew Weatherly, and after several carries by ball, the tailback caught a flat pass to move Maryland to the Mountaineers' 28-yard line. On third and five, Hollenbach's pass to Weatherly was incomplete, but West Virginia was called for roughing the passer, giving Maryland a first down at the WVU 14. Three plays later, Lattimore rambled for a Terps first down at the one. WVU managed to hold the Terps out of the end zone for two plays, but on third down Lattimore managed to cross the goal line to give Maryland a 17-10 lead with just 37 seconds remaining in the half. With only one timeout remaining, West Virginia took a knee after receiving the ensuing kick-off and went to the locker room down by seven points.
"That roughing call killed us," lamented Rodriguez after the game. "We had stopped them and that gave them new life. You can't make those kinds of mistakes, especially on the road, and especially right before halftime. That kind of took some of the wind out of our sails and we took a long time to get back up to speed." Asked about the roughing call, Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said, "Our guy [Hollenbach] got blasted pretty good on that play. We could see their guys were pretty deflated after the penalty."
Friedgen must have been right, as West Virginia received the second half kick-off and came out flat both offensively and defensively. After three running plays netted just five yards, WVU punted and Maryland wasted little time in building on their halftime lead. Starting at their own 36, the Terps picked up 18 yards on consecutive runs by Lattimore. On second and two from the WVU 46, Hollenbach dropped back and hit a streaking Walker in stride down the WVU sideline at the 10-yard line, and the talented senior from Carrollton, Texas outran Mountaineer free safety Jahmile Addae into the end zone. The ensuing extra point was good, giving the Terps a 14-point lead at the 10:50 mark of the third quarter.
The WVU offense again sputtered and failed to pick up a first down on its next possession. The Terrapins took the ensuing punt at their own 41 and quickly added to their lead. Lattimore and Dickerson took turns shredding the Mountaineer defense with several rushing gains to move Maryland to the WVU 16-yard line. From there, Hollenbach hit Weatherly in the right corner of the end zone for a seemingly commanding 31-10 Terrapins lead with 5:07 left in the third period. The only negative for the Terps was that Hollenbach was hit hard on the play by WVU's Keilen Dykes and did not return to the contest.
At that point, WVU's chances at making the game a contest appeared grim, especially in front of a raucous Byrd Stadium home crowd. However, West Virginia seemed to wake up and began what turned out to be a valiant comeback attempt. On first down from the WVU 28, Gwaltney picked up 14 yards, then six, then seven more, and when a late hit personal foul penalty on Maryland middle linebacker Wes Jefferson was tacked on, the Mountaineers had the ball to the Maryland 30. Bednarik then hit Brandon Myles for 26 yards on a sideline pattern to the Maryland four, and two plays later Colson scored to get West Virginia back into the fight at 31-17
West Virginia then surprised almost everyone in Byrd Stadium by calling for and successfully converting an onside kick. Linebacker Jeff Noechel recovered James' perfectly executed high bouncer at the WVU 49, which put the Mountaineer offense back in business. Bednarik scrambled for seven yards on first down, and then sophomore tailback Pernell Williams broke free from the arms of Terps' defensive lineman Jeris Smith for a gain of nine. Another completion to Colson operating out of the slot moved the ball to the Maryland 25, and then Gwaltney broke the biggest play of the game for the visitors. The Long Island Express took a pitch-out from Bednarik, cut back inside, shed the tackle attempts of three different Terrapins defenders and rumbled into the end zone for his fifth touchdown of the season to bring WVU to within seven at 31-24 with 11:01 left in the game.
Maryland then showed some resiliency, taking the WVU kick-off and working time off the clock with a ball-controlling drive. The Terps stayed almost entirely on the ground, with back-up quarterback Joel Statham handing off to Lattimore, Mario Merrills and fullback Tim Cesa, who had replaced the injured Dickerson. Dickerson suffered a concussion on a thunderous hit by WVU linebacker Kevin "Boo" McLee on the third play of the drive. The hit engendered some bad feelings, as some Maryland players thought McLee's hit was unnecessarily hard, causing tempers to momentarily flare on the field.
That play seemed to spur the Terps, as they converted three consecutive third down plays while marching to the WVU 19-yard line. There, however, the Mountaineer defense came up with another big play, as cornerback Dee McCann tipped away what looked to be a certain touchdown completion on third down from Statham to Terps' wideout Dan Melendez. Egekeze came on to boot a 36-yard field goal, and Maryland had extended the lead back to 10 at 34-24 with only 4:42 remaining.
However, the WVU offense wasn't done just yet. Bednarik guided the Mountaineers on a 51-yard drive, which was set up by a 47-yard kick-off return by sophomore Antonio Lewis. Bednarik completed passes to Louis Davis for 11 yards, Vaughan Rivers for eight, and Joe Hunter for 13 and Colson for seven, putting WVU at the Maryland six. Bednarik then executed a quarterback draw to the one, and Gwaltney plowing onto the end zone on the next play to pull WVU within three at 34-31 with 2:27 remaining.
With three timeouts left, Rodriguez elected to let his defense get the ball back, and Jeff Casteel's group did not disappoint. Holding Maryland to a mere five yards on three running plays, the WVU defense forced a punt that gave the Mountaineers the ball on their own 28 with 1:21 to go. From there, Bednarik began moving the Mountaineers' offense again. Mixing passes to Bolden, Rivers and Dwayne Thompson and scrambling himself for seven yards on third and five, the WVU offense moved to the Maryland 37. Facing fourth down with 0:17 remaining, Pat McAfee came on to attempt the tying field goal from 54 yards out. The kick was long enough but glanced off of the left upright, leaving WVU just short in a valiant comeback attempt, 34-31.
"I liked the fact that our guys didn't give up when we got [further] behind after halftime. We showed a lot of fight to battle back like that, but we dug too deep of a hole against a good team," said Rodriguez outside the quiet WVU locker room following the loss. "We hurt ourselves, though, with our own mistakes and [committed] some penalties that kept their drives alive. Its tough enough to lose but when you contribute to a loss with your own dumb mistakes that really hurts. We obviously have several things we still have to correct. But, give Maryland credit for capitalizing on our mistakes, which is what good teams do."
Friedgen was candid in his post-game comments. "I thought their guys were maybe a little too wired and overly aggressive at times and it ended up costing them," quipped Friedgen, who has infuriated West Virginia fans on more than one occasion in the past with his post-game remarks. Asked whether he was worried about giving up the big lead after WVU's torrid fourth quarter performance, Friedgen replied, "No, I never thought we'd lose this game, even after they took the early lead. I thought we could throw on them and we did. I thought we could run on them and we did. No, I never doubted we'd win the game, even though they got back into it at the end. But, no, I wasn't worried. I have all the confidence in the world in our guys and I knew we'd do whatever we had to do to win the game."
Mike Lorello again led the West Virginia defense with twelve tackles including two for a loss. He also had two pass break-ups. The Mountaineers sacked Hollenbach two times, one each by Johnny Dingle and Dykes. Bednarik was also sacked twice.
West Virginia fell to 1-2 on the year while Maryland improved to 3-0. Next up for Maryland is its ACC opener against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. West Virginia returns home for its final non-conference game with a noon kick-off against Conference USA's East Carolina.
PASSING – WVA – Bednarik 16-27-166-0-1 16-27-166-0-1 MD Hollenbach 18-27-208-2-1 Statham 1-3-9-0-0 19-30-217-2-1
RUSHING – WVA – Colson 8-37-1 Williams 6-27 Gwaltney 18-145-2 Phillips 2-4 Schmitt 2-5 Bednarik 4-10 40-228-3 MD Lattimore 14-108-1 Ball 11-47 Merrills 4-19 Dickerson 5-23-1 Cesa 2-9 Hollenbach 5-6 41-212-2
RECEIVING – WVA – Bolden 2-19 Myles 1-26 Rivers 3-24 Hunter 1-13 Thompson 1-16 Colson 4-38 Williams 1-3 Gwaltney 1-4 Bailey 1-12 Davis 1-11 MD Walker 6-111-1 Fenner 3-34 Weatherly 2-21-1 Melendez 3-16 Davis 3-21 Ball 2-14
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article are intended for entertainment purposes only. No criticism, direct or implied, is intended. The author assumes no responsibility for any errors or inconsistencies and has produced the series strictly for the enjoyment of Mountaineer football fans during the agonizing summer months without WVU football.