"It was supposed to be a big test and I think I did well," Slaton said. "I had a lot of motivation to get positive yards every carry. I think I came out and made a statement. We feel like we are one of the top teams and we want to play like it every game."
The play was so lopsided late that Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen seemed to quit by the end of the third quarter, calling base runs off tackle and guard and short patterns to crossing wideouts and the tight end. That probably should have been his plan from the start, but with his team trailing by two possessions within the first five minutes, any game plan was scrapped.
"It looked like we were star-struck," Freidgen said. "Between the hype and the national television, it looked like we were in slow motion and West Virginia wasn't."
Indeed, it took West Virginia, which had lost four of the previous six meetings to Maryland by a combined 155-51 score, just nine plays to gain a 14-0 lead on the way to its third consecutive win in the series. It went 69 yards in its first drive, mixing Slaton and fullback Owen Schmitt on alternating carries to move to midfield before White rushed for three. That setup Slaton's 38-yard run for a 7-0 lead. Three plays later, the Mountaineers went ahead by two scores when White found Darius Reynaud in the end zone on third down from the four. That was setup by Josh Wilson's fumbled kickoff, which was recovered by Ovid Goulbourne at the Maryland 11.
"It seemed like everything that could go wrong did," Friedgen said. "It wasn't the best way to start a game."
An exclamation was put on the contest – already out of hand – when West Virginia then forced a Maryland punt on the next series after one first down which led to perhaps the greatest tailback run in WVU history.
The ball was at the Maryland 37-yard line following a 59-yard drive after UM's punt went out of bounds at the four-yard line. White handed to Slaton and, bottled to the left, he swung back to the right and faked a run inside before bouncing it to the outside. He got a block, then froze two defenders near the sideline, one with a head fake, the other with a slight hesitation that left the defender iced as he lunged for nothing. Slaton reaccelerated past, then cut through the rest of the defense and into the end zone for a 21-0 West Virginia lead. It was, simply, the finest single run by a tailback in the past decade for WVU. "It looks like he is playing a video game," center Dan Mozes said. "I am pretty sure he has a joystick out there or something because that's what it looks like out there. He is juking and jiving and making his own plays. He looks like a made-up player. We stick with our blocks and the great athlete and player he is, he makes up for it. We did things up front that picked up blitzes and things, but it was mostly Steve."
West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez cautioned that too much of that could be detrimental – but not this run.
"Steve is still just a young guy," Rodriguez said. "You have to be careful when you have success with those (early runs). You might want to do it too much. You don't want to limit his creativity, but there are times when he just needs to bang it. He knows that. One thing about Steve Slaton, he is one of the most conscientious players."
The run capped a 10-play, 96-yard 4:42 drive that segued into West Virginia's second turnover, one forced by the thing it had locked most in the first two games in quarterback pressure. Eric Wicks blitzed from the right and, as Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenback stepped up to throw, slightly batted the ball. It fell directly into the hands of linebacker Jay Henry, and West Virginia was setup at the 46. A 52-yard Slaton run off the right side later, the Mountaineers were at the two-yard line. Slaton then fumbled into the end zone – seemingly his only sin – where tight end Brad Palmer recovered the ball for the score.
At 28-0 with 1:05 left in the first quarter, everything that could go wrong did. It was Palmer's first career touchdown, and it marked the first time under head coach Ralph Friedgen that Maryland had allowed 28 points in the first quarter. The last team Maryland allowed 28 first quarter points was Sept. 25, 1993 against Virginia Tech.
"We are a fast tempo team," Reynaud said."When we get the ball we lineup fast. We go with it. That's what West Virginia does, we pound and pound. Then we hit big plays."
The Terps responded with an 80-yard drive that took 15 plays and ate 6:39 off the clock. Hollenback hit tight end Joey Haynos for his first score of the year on third and goal from the six. The blown coverage play was the first touchdown allowed by WVU's defense in seven quarters.
The offense responded with another scoring drive aided by two personal foul calls, one of which was a facemask foul. The drive stalled when White, on a rollout pass, kept and appeared to gain the needed eight yards for the first down at the five. It was ruled he stepped out at the 12, and so WVU settled for placekicker Pat McAfee's 29-yard field goal, his second FG of the year.
Maryland then chose to test McAfee, with senior cornerback Josh Wilson bringing the ball out from five yards deep. He made several Mountaineers miss, but safety Akeem Jackson nailed Wilson, who fumbled. Reed Williams recovered at the 30, and West Virginia was on offense again. But WVU buried itself with two fouls with a holding and, perhaps a first at WVU, an unnecessary roughness foul on a quarterback, as White was flagged for conduct after the play. The result was a second and 35 from the 46, and WVU went nowhere on two plays and was forced to punt for the first time all game.
Maryland scored a field goal, then was hit again with what could only be described as the worst luck – or lack of speed and execution – that ever beset one team in a game. Reynaud fumbled the deep kickoff (had he been playing for Maryland, he undoubtedly would have lost it), picked up the ball after two bounces, and hit the middle of the line, where there was a slight crease. The speedster accelerated through the cut, which had been broken up via mistiming because of the fumble. He broke free, then outraced the coverage for a 38-10 lead with 31.4 seconds remaining in the first half.
The 96-yard return was the seventh-longest kickoff return in school history. It was the first one since Nov. 8, 2003 against Boston College (a span of 30 games), when Pacman Jones brought one back against the Eagles.
What was lost in the runback was the Goulbourne was catching, then passing other Terps on the return. He didn't throw a block, but the speed differential between the two squads was easily seen.
"When I got it I set my blocks up and it happened. It opened up easily," Reynaud said. "That fumble might have helped a lot in getting Maryland out of where they wanted to be. I just outran everybody."
Maryland called a timeout after the kickoff, then preceded to turn it over for the fourth time on a hook and lateral play. The recovery came as time expired, so West Virginia's first half totals were two scores (TDs) on four turnovers. It had major edges in rushing yards (213-53) and total offense (256-136). Slaton had 167 yards on 12 carries (13.9 ypc) and the two scores.
West Virginia added a score by White on a one-yard keeper on fourth and goal with 4:03 left in the third quarter to finish the tally. It rang up 340 net yards rushing and averaged 7.9 yards per carry. WVU had just a 50-yard edge (383-333) in total offense, but most of the Terps' offense came late, when the game was already over.
Maryland's Hollenbach completed 24 of 45 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tailback Lance Ball led UM with 50 yards on 12 carries. Lattimore added 42 yards on 12 rushes. Reynaud's 48 yards receiving on four grabs led WVU, while Haynos tallied eight snares for 51 yards and his touchdown. Boo McLee and Antonio Lewis led West Virginia with eight tackles each. Lewis also had a breakup and an INT.
West Virginia advanced to 8-0 in night games under Rodriguez and won its 39th straight game when scoring 30-plus points. It has won 10 consecutive games, the second longest streak in the nation, tied with Ohio State behind Texas.
"I should talk to our athletic director and play every game at night," Rodriguez said. "We talked about it in our team meeting the other night. Nighttime and West Virginia football is pretty special."