BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s motivation against West Virginia on Saturday extends beyond the desire to end a run of seven straight losses to the Mountaineers.
The Terrapins’ focus rests squarely on completing the non-conference portion of their season with a perfect record.
“We’re not trying to blow this game out of proportion, ” Maryland tight end Dave Stinebaugh said. “It’s about going to 4-0. The past is the past. We’re a different team this year so we’re just looking forward to taking the next step.”
Off to their best start since 2001, the Terrapins have defeated Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut. West Virginia (2-1) will be Maryland’s most formidable opponent, having sandwiched wins over William & Mary and Georgia State around a road loss to No. 14 Oklahoma.
With a victory at M&T Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, the Terps can match their win total of a year ago and take a huge stride toward becoming bowl eligible for the first time since coach Randy Edsall took over in 2011.
“It’s another big game for us,” Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown said. “We get to play in an NFL stadium against another good team. In the past it’s been a pretty big rivalry. From my point of view, It’s an opportunity to go 4-0. It moves us closer to a bowl game.”
The Mountaineers are in rebuilding mode now that quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin are in the NFL, but they’ve still got big-play potential and a defense that is vastly improved from a year ago.
“I can’t tell you how excited our team is to play Maryland this week,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It’s something our boys are looking forward to. We don’t have many regional rivalries left; this is the only one that we play this year.”
Five things to know about the Maryland-West Virginia matchup on Saturday:
FRESHMAN SENSATION: Mountaineers redshirt freshman Ford Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns last week in his first college start. Inserted to jump-start an offense that could muster only a touchdown against Oklahoma, Childress set a single-game school record for yards passing for a freshman. “He’s night and day better right now than he was a year ago,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
“That said, his sense of urgency needs to pick up because the speed of the game is going to increase. Maryland has great team speed.”
BROWN DELIVERS: A year ago at this time, Brown was limping after tearing his left ACL during preseason practice. Now he’s the driving force behind an offense that has surpassed 500 yards in all three games. Brown, a fifth-year senior, has passed for six touchdowns and run for five scores. “He’s had a good year so far and brings balance to the offense,” Holgorsen said. “He’s very athletic and has athletic guys around him.”
SHORING UP THE D: West Virginia is eighth in the country in the fewest yards passing allowed at 137 per game. A year ago the Mountaineers gave up an average of 312 yards through the air, along with 38 touchdown passes, second worst to Colorado’s 39. WVU has given up two TD passes thus far this season. “This will be the toughest defense we’ve faced so far,” Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “The big thing is that they create pressure with their front. They play well in space. They create turnovers.”
SHARP DIGGS: Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs is becoming the same sort of threat Austin was at West Virginia. Diggs had five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown last week against UConn and ranks 13th nationally with an average of 176.67 all-purpose yards per game. “Tavon and Diggs are pretty similar,” Holgorsen said. “They’re both from Baltimore and receivers and returners. (Diggs has) proven to have big play potential.” Diggs had three catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last year against WVU.
HOME RUN: It’s a home game for the Terrapins, even though they will be 32 miles from College Park. Playing in Baltimore, Terrapins coach Randy Edsall said, is good for recruiting and expands Maryland’s reach. “Being that we’re the flagship university here in the state and we’re the only state school that’s an FBS, it’s something that I think is important to us,” the coach said. Said Holgorsen: “It’s important to our administration, and it’s important to our fan base. It’s important to our kids and recruiting.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)