The No. 4 Mountaineers (3-0) moved 63 yards in nine plays, steamrolling the Terps (2-1) and establishing itself as the superior team – even within a game with multiple mistakes. Quarterback Patrick White had fumbled in the first half. The Mountaineers had failed to even get points with a first and goal at the two-yard line. And the solid special teams were marred by Pat McAfee's miss of a chip-shot field goal and two out-of-bounds kickoffs.
But if there's one assurance with this squad, it's that it starts the second 30 minutes with a statement. Against Maryland, the bulletin read that UM would play catch up – if it wanted to play with WVU at all. West Virginia moved 63 yards in nine plays on its opening march, doubling a one-touchdown lead into a 21-7 edge. The Mountaineers overcame an initial hold by wideout Tito Gonzales, something it has failed to so in past series', and even mixed the run and pass in arguably the finest drive of the year. White hit Dorrell Jalloh for his only catch of the game for 21 yards, then kept on a run for 12. What happened next was a showcase of what was to come. Backup tailback Noel Devine took a handoff running right and accelerated through the line, hitting the second level and shifting gears. The back then changed his entire balance, avoiding an oncoming tackler with a stop-and-sidestep. Thirty-one yards later, the back had setup West Virginia at the one-yard line. Steve Slaton went off the right side three plays later for a 14-point lead.
"It was important to get that ball in there," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of the first drive of the second half. "We had missed some in the first half because of execution. It was really disappointing not to get points (in the red zone when WVU had a first and goal). But Noel gave us a big lift in there. That first drive got our confidence going."
The game, if not over then, was close to calling the proverbial fat lady. Maryland and West Virginia traded two possessions for one (the latter a Terrapin three-and-out), and the Mountaineers got the ball back on their own 23-yard line. Enter Devine. The true freshman ripped off a 76-yard gainer – this as impressive as the first one – again coming three feet short of a score. The open field acceleration was evident, as was the complete sealing of the right side of the Maryland defensive front by the offensive line. The party was on, first in the open field, then in the end zone and stands.
"I thought I was going to make it in, but at least we got the points on the board," Devine said. "I have to thank the linemen for opening the big holes. I think I ran out of gas (on the 76-yarder). I am more used to grass, because that is what we played on in high school. I think I did better on that. Me being short, guys can't see me. I see holes and I take it. I didn't picture doing this. This is a good team."
Starting tailback Steve Slaton scored again, his third touchdown of the night (the three scores pulled him within one of all-time rushing touchdown leaders Avon Cobourne and Ira Errett Rodgers – 42 each). That trio of touchdowns also allowed Slaton to pass Amos Zereoue's 40 career scores, while the Devine run netted the longest non-scoring gain in school history, tying a run made by WVU's Jim Moss in 1962 versus William and Mary.
The 28-7 lead eventually ballooned to 31-7, and the Terps began to lose their cool. A personal foul infraction on the kickoff following McAfee's field goal placed the ball inside the UM 10, and the countdown was on, even for UM head coach Ralph Fridegen, who became content to play ball control and save face by saving additional WVU scores.
"I'm disappointed with the loss," Friedgen said. "West Virginia is a good football team with a lot of speed. I think I can do a better job as coach. We just have to keep trying and get better from this experience."
Maryland did score again for the final 31-14 margin, but never really challenged West Virginia once it established itself on the opening second half drive. In all, West Virginia racked up 448 yards of total offense in beating the Terrapins for a school-record fourth time. They tallied 353 yards rushing to UM's season-low 89, including Slaton's 137 (his 18th career 100-yard rushing game, tying him with Boston College's Derrick Knight for fourth place all-time in the Big East) and Devine's 136 – on five carries, an average of 27.2 yards per running touch. Owen Schmitt added 46. The Terps, meanwhile, were led by Keon Lattimore's 80 net yards. Of those, 51 came in the first quarter, meaning the back finished with 30 yards on his final 10 carries.
"Our kids have confident and they do the things we need to to win football games," defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. "They have been involved in a lot of wins over the last four years. They came up big in big situations tonight. We played well throughout the football game."