West Virginia ready for 'border war' against Maryland
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's game with Maryland is normally a barometer for the upcoming season, but this year it may signal the direction the program is going to take for some time.
The Mountaineers have gone into a skid. They have won four of their last 12 games, and the victories have come over an indistinct group of opponents — Kansas, Iowa State, William & Mary and Georgia State.
The Mountaineers will play Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in the 51st renewal of a series that dates to 1919.
“This is our border war,” WVU defensive end Justin Rose said. “They are ready to beat us, and we are ready to beat them. It's going to be a good game, going to be a physical game. I'm excited for it. Let the better team come out on top.”
West Virginia has won the past seven in the series. But Maryland coach Randy Edsall and his players believe this is their year.
“We're going to go in there and play our game. We're going to go out there prepared to win and kind of put on a show,” said Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, a Seneca Valley product.
After missing last season with a torn ACL, Brown is having a big year with a pair of solid receivers in Stefon Diggs, who last year burned the Mountaineers for a pair of touchdowns, and former WVU recruit Deon Long.
“They've got big-play potential,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “This will be a different challenge for us, and I'm excited to see how our guys react to it.”
Added defensive coordinator Keith Patterson: “It kind of reminds me of Stedman (Bailey) and Tavon (Austin). There are a lot of similarities in the way they use them; a lot of similarities in the way they try and get them the ball.”
How does West Virginia counteract this?
“It's a team effort. We feed off each other,” Rose said. “We have a thing — team, toughness, effort. All three of those aspects go into a winning mentality. Defense can't win a football game. Offense can't win a football game. It's a team effort.”
The West Virginia offense will look to continue to improve under freshman quarterback Ford Childress, who won his debut against Georgia State.
It will be his first road start, and it comes in the home of the NFL's Ravens.
“He needs to improve his sense of urgency,” Holgorsen said. “He's night and day better right now than he was a year ago. 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. He needs to make reads quicker, and his footwork and release need to be quicker. That just comes with experience.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.