"You look at their size, especially o-line and tight end-wise, and we have nobody that looks like that," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "They have guys that are 6-6, 280 at tight end on the first and second team. Physically, they are probably one of the biggest teams we play all year. They are very physical. And if you play a physical team, you better be physical yourself or you will get embarrassed. Our players understand that, and I am sure theirs do, too."
West Virginia will limit its contact in practice this week due to the short week and the anticipated physicalness of meeting Maryland in a nationally-televised Thursday night home game. The teams are tied 21-21-2 all-time, with Rodriguez going 2-3 against the Terps, one of which was a defeat in the Gator Bowl. WVU has won the last two meetings.
"This is a rivalry game. It has been important for both teams for many, many years," Rodriguez said. "That has always held true."
The Mountaineers emerged from the 2-0 start with few injuries. Defensive lineman Doug Slavonic (ankle) and safety Ridwan Malik (hip strain) will miss their third consecutive game. Cornerback Larry Williams, receiver Dorrell Jollah and tailback Steve Slaton did not practice Sunday. Williams, who suffered a back injury, has spasms remaining. The X-rays were negative. Jollah has a bruise on his hip. It is unknown if they will practice Monday. Slaton is expected to practice Monday. He is wearing a protective boot as a precaution for a slight left foot/ankle sprain.
"Larry's is a sore back, so it could go away or it could linger for a couple days," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez dismissed the thought that Maryland might be easier to prepare for than the first two games against Marshall and Eastern Washington because the Terps return much of their core units and have faced West Virginia every year of Rodriguez's six with the Mountaineers.
"They have different coordinators," Rodriguez said. "They got a new defensive coordinator (Chris Cosh, who came over from Kansas State and was previously at Maryland as linebackers coach in 1997) and now Friedgen is the offensive coordinator. When you play a team with two new coordinators, rather the head coach has been there or not, it is different. There is a little guesswork going on. We can look at their first two games and some of last season, but there will be guestimates. I am sure (Friedgen) has had his footprint on the offense, but with him calling the plays, we have to see what he has done in the past as well.
"They have played two teams that played them pretty hard. I think Maryland got out in both games to a comfortable lead and just coasted to the end. They were never in danger of losing either one of them. I am sure what we have seen from them has been pretty vanilla, and I am sure what they have seen from us from half the Marshall game and three-quarters of the Eastern Washington game was pretty vanilla."
One thing WVU's coaching staff has seen on film is a passing play where Maryland runs two wideouts beside each other, then have them cross and go into post and flag patterns. It is an NFL-style route that has gotten some good safeties to bite over the years, and the staff is working with freshman free safety Quinton Andrews on its recognition and coverage.
Another concern is that West Virginia has yet to develop its pass rush. It has no sacks in two games and has forced just two turnovers, both coming on interceptions by Andrews. Part of it is the Mountaineers' basic alignments and sets, but part of it is a lack of push from the defensive line.
"I have been disappointed by that," Rodriguez said. "One, we have to bring more pressure on the quarterback and generate more negative-yardage plays. And somehow we have to be more aggressive attacking the ball."
On evaluating reserve corners Boogie Allen and Guesly Dervil: "They did ok. Guesly made some nice plays and Boogie did some things. We have a little more confidence in them. Vaughn Rivers made some really nice plays. We feel good about him out there."
On the impact of conditioning, especially with a short week: "It could be a test for both sides. A lot of times it is just the mental focus. You usually get a couple days to let the last game soak in, and with a quick turnaround, they have to get their focus on Maryland right away."
On Slaton's snub by Maryland, which offered him, then took away the scholarship without telling him (he found out via the media, then had to call an assistant coach for the final word): "I don't know all the parameters. I know we liked him from the start and certainly never wavered on him. I liked him from the fist two minutes of watching him on film. You saw a guy who could run. Everybody else looked in slow motion. He was a fast, fast guy but he also ran physically. It was an easy pick. He has turned out good for us. … We don't have anybody else like him."
On the play of backup QB Jarrett Brown: "He is getting more confidence and I think that is part of the maturing of a quarterback. He made some good plays and when he made a mistake he overcame it with athleticism. He was a bright spot for us. (Nate Sowers') hip is ok, but it's his hamstring now. He probably won't take any reps at receiver because of that."