"A Real Slaughterhouse"

West Virginia's Owen Schmitt makes a grisly equation of the play Thursday at Byrd Stadium, where No. 4 West Virginia faces Maryland in a bid to stay unbeaten.

"It will be a real slaughterhouse," he said. "Speed will be a factor on both sides, really. I definitely see that as a giant key. It will come down to speed and conditioning once again."

West Virginia was able to quickly dispatch Western Michigan, then used superior conditioning and a change from spread sets to tighter, more power formations to defeat Marshall. Now, it faces a Terrapins' squad known for its base 4-3 defense, inside running and dink and dunk downfield game – something that alludes as much to a showing of physicality as to skill. In preparation, WVU has not held a full contact practice session during the short week to try and heal after the strain of the first two games, when it averaged 55 points and 526.5 yards of total offense.

Other stats are equally revealing: Schmitt, quarterback Patrick White, superback Steve Slaton and others have rushed for a mean of 339 per contest. WVU has stuffed teams for 76.5 rush yards per game, but has allowed a surprising 332 yards of offense on average, meaning 255.5 comes through the air. Maryland, meanwhile, has allowed Villanova and Florida International just 12 points, 175 yards of offense, 46.5 rushing, while gaining 349 yards per outing itself. The numbers would indicate West Virginia advantages in heads-up offense, while the Terps would have an edge in pure defensive statistics. That's likely the case, though West Virginia played by far the stronger competition, and neither coach has shown even half of their schemes and attacks on offense or defense. So, once again, this is the early season, non-conference tilt that will determine – and reveal – much.

"We'll run our offense and see what happens," said assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, who, along with head coach Rich Rodriguez, calls the plays. "We really can't control what they do. We are going to try to get first downs and score the ball like we always do, whether that's quick or takes longer. The plays we ran Saturday in the second half we have been running for seven years. You can call it power or whatever you want, but we ran zone. We try to establish that in every game."

The idea of taking longer will be better, if West Virginia can execute it well enough. Maryland leads the nation in time of possession at 36:01 per contest and is game planning to hold the ball, use a solid, power running game to try to push and punish the smaller WVU defensive line – perhaps without starting nose tackle Keilen Dykes (foot sprain) – and mix in a few passes to move the chains and keep the ball, and White and Slaton, off the field. If the Mountaineers (2-0) can consistently move the football well and keep it away from UM (2-0) more than it has against some other foes, it will be in better position to help the defense stay fresh and not be on the field for, say, 17 out of 22 snaps should WVU score in five plays and UM managed consecutive lengthy drives.

"We'll try to keep them from getting into that flow," associate head coach Bill Stewart said. "If you can, then you take a team like Maryland out of the two tight ends, the play actions, the methodical drives down the field. You keep the ball and score when you have it so you bring them out of their game plan. It helps all phases, including defense."

West Virginia overwhelmed Marshall with the idea in the second half, but Maryland's hulking offense could be able to impose its will. Combined with better play in nearly all areas and superior athleticism on both sides of the ball compared to the first two foes, this is the game that will be the first true test of the Mountaineers.

"They look very tough," left tackle Ryan Stanchek said. "They fly to the ball. I played against them last year and it was a hard fought game. I expect that again. I think their defensive line is real tough. (Last week) I think the coaches made some scheme changes and that's the bottom line with it. They called great plays the second half and gave us a great opportunity to succeed."

Said Schmitt of establishing the run and better controlling clock: "We will try. We'll see what happens. Obviously if you can run a play perfect you should be able to run a play against anyone. Hopefully we can run players perfectly."

Sure, there's nothing wrong with getting into the end zone every series. It virtually guarantees a win. What's difficult is answering a Terp score quickly, thus forcing the defense back on the field. If West Virginia can't answer every time, or control the clock a bit, it runs the obvious risk of a very worn out unit by the mid to late third quarter. The Mountaineers have traditionally been better at ball control than they are given credit for. WVU finished off the last two bowl victories over Georgia and Georgia Tech in the Sugar and Gator, respectively, by using White to gain steady yardage, get first downs and melt away the clock. It will be interesting to see how Rodriguez, who would rather just take Maryland out of every comfort zone known like WVU did in opening a 28-0 first quarter lead last year, plays the ball control against the quick-strike abilities of his offense when the defense does become tired.

"Both of their first two opponents had less than 60 plays," Rodriguez said. "They are getting a lot of three-and-outs and the offense is staying on the field. That makes it hard when you don't have the ball. The defense has to create something, or the special teams. We have countered that in the past and this year already with our offense taking the game over. We have to do a good job of the offense getting some first downs and our defense getting off the field."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories