Bits and Bytes: WVU - Maryland

It's a weeknight confrontation, so many will be firing up the microwaves and stoves, rather than the grill, for our pregame fare.

TIGHTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS

In addition to the nearly even series record (WVU leads by one game), head coaches Rich Rodriguez and Ralph Friedgen are also neck-and-neck in their careers at their respective alma maters. The duo is tied at 19th among active coaches in terms of winning percentage. Both are in their seventh seasons at their respective schools and own 52-24 (.684) marks.


INSIDE THE NUMBERS

We love stats here, and often highlight those that catch our interest. It's important, though, to look deeper than the raw numbers, and note that they can lead to a different conclusion than first supposed.

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Game Info
WVU 2-0, 0-0
UM 2-0, 0-0
Thu 9-13-07 7:45 pm
Byrd Stadium
Series: 22-21-2 WVU
TV: ESPN
Coaches: WVU-4 UM-NR
Line: WVU -17
Take, for instance, Maryland freshman punter Travis Baltz. He has the unenviable task of filling the shoes of departed Adam Podlesh, who was merely all-ACC four consecutive years. At first blush, some might assume that Baltz isn't up to those standards, as he is averaging just 38.8 yards per kick. However, that assumption would be dead wrong.

First, Baltz has punted 11 times, and has put six of those inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Figuring that at least some of those punts came on a short field, Baltz' average probably suffers a bit from having more than 50% of his boots occur in situations where he's not trying for maximum distance. Baltz has also forced three fair catches, and the combination of placement, height and good coverage have yielded excellent results. His net punting average is 36.0, an excellent number.


MORE DEPTH

Both WVU's Patrick White and Maryland's Jordan Steffy are completing a high percentage of their passes this season. However, it's not as if either is bombing the ball deep with any regularity. Both passers concentrate on a variety of short routes, which are obviously easier to complete. So far this year, Steffy is 37-50 (or 37-49, depending upon which official Maryland stat source you are reading). That's an impressive 74%, but he has gotten just 8.3 yards per completion in two games, and his longest completion of the year is 24 yards. White at 23-36 (63.8%) for 341 yards (14.4 per completion), is in similar statistical range.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with this approach. Both QBs avoid interceptions, protect the ball and keep their offenses moving. However, their percentages shouldn't be overrated. With the types of passes they throw, a completion percentage of at least 65% should be expected.

One other thing to keep an eye on is the accuracy of those short throws. It's not enough to simply get a completion when the ball isn't going far from its originator. Short passes need to hit receivers in stride so they don't have to adjust or break their momentum to catch the ball. This is particularly important on West Virginia's bubble screens and Maryland's swing passes to its running backs, which is uses in much the same manner as WVU's screens. The quarterback that can deliver the ball the most accurately in these situations gives his teammates the chance to do more with the ball once it is caught.


VIEW FROM ON HIGH

While most colleges put more coaches on the sidelines than on the field during games, Maryland splits its staff evenly – five upstairs and five on the field.


KEEPING THE ZERO ON THE RIGHT

West Virginia has won nine of its last 10 games against Maryland when entering the game undefeated. The only loss was a 14-10 setback in 1990 when WVU was 1-0. WVU is 12-5 overall in Maryland games when entering undefeated.


FAMILIAR GROUND

Some teams and coaches have figured out how to slow West Virginia's potent rushing game for portions of the contest, but total shutdowns have been few and far between.

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It has taken WVU a bit longer to make in-game adjustments than some instant gratification hounds would like, but the fact is that the Mountaineers usually figure out what opposing defenses are taking away – and more importantly, what they are giving. Opponents are beginning to play more conservative defense against the Mountaineers, trying to control gaps and cut back lanes and prevent the big play. But when one door closes, another opens, and West Virginia has still been able to roll up big numbers in the majority of its contests.

WVU has rushed for more than 300 yards in 14 of its last 18 games – a staggering number. And the Mountaineers are back in their accustomed number two spot nationally in rushing, trailing only Arkansas by an average of 11 yards per contest.


MEDIA GUIDE MUSINGS

We'd love to share some this week, but Maryland is one of two schools that did not make a media guide available to us. That might be the best comment to be made about this series.


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