West Virginia ready for test from turnover-prone Maryland
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) If West Virginia learned anything from last year's nail-biter against Maryland, it was that 694 yards of offense is not always enough.
The Mountaineers built a three-touchdown lead but needed Josh Lambert's 47-yard field goal on the final play to beat the Terrapins 40-37 in College Park, Maryland.
When the teams meet Saturday at Mountaineer Field, West Virginia will need no reminder that it must play hard to the final whistle. And for heavy underdog Maryland, it's about maintaining control in front of a sellout crowd on the road.
West Virginia (2-0) is coming off a bye week after outscoring two opponents 85-17, and Maryland has traditionally been a litmus test for the rest of the Mountaineers' season. A year ago, West Virginia ran 108 offensive plays and did just enough to pull out their eighth win in the teams' last 10 meetings.
''We were successful with playing fast last year because we got first downs,'' said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. ''If you get first downs then you can keep pressing the pedal down and keep going. You have to execute in order to do that.''
The Terrapins (2-1) want to fix some turnover issues in their final tuneup before the start of Big Ten play next week at home against Michigan.
''It's a tough environment,'' said Maryland coach Randy Edsall, who is 0-4 in Morgantown. ''We know it will be loud. What we are going to have to do is go in and focus on ourselves and do the things that we have to do.''
For the Mountaineers, it gets a lot tougher from here, too. They open Big 12 play next week at No. 15 Oklahoma. Three of West Virginia's first four conference games will be on the road, and all four are against ranked teams.
''We're pretty eager to get going, finish our preparation and head into an electric weekend here in Morgantown,'' Holgorsen said. ''I know what's ahead, but we are not worried about it. I am going to focus on this one. It is our goal to get to 3-0. We haven't even talked about the Big 12 yet.''
Here are some things to know about the Maryland-West Virginia rivalry:
THAT LIKELY KID: Maryland's Will Likely scored on a 69-yard punt return against the Mountaineers a year ago and has two TDs on returns already this year. ''You can't play the game of football scared,'' Holgorsen said. ''I give him all the credit and respect in the world. He is as good as I've seen, but we are going to face some pretty good ones all year long.''
GETTING THE QB: Maryland's young pass rushers have amassed 14 sacks, the second most in the Bowl Subdivision. Quinton Jefferson leads the way with 3.5 sacks and Ngakoue Yannick has three. West Virginia's Skyler Howard has dodged opponents mostly by himself. The mobile quarterback is the team's second-leading rusher with 75 yards and has been sacked once.
UNTESTED DEFENSE: West Virginia has allowed no first-half points this season and figures to get a test from Maryland if the Terrapins can hold onto the ball. Maryland is averaging 410 yards of offense per game but has thrown seven interceptions. Caleb Rowe had 297 yards and four TDs against South Florida last week but was picked three times. ''We just have to be ready for everything they throw at us. I think we're prepared,'' Rowe said.
MEASURING STICK: Maryland has been an annual gauge for the Mountaineers, who since 2004 have gone on to winning seasons eight times after beating the Terrapins, while a loss in 2013 led to a 4-8 season.
FAMILIAR FACES: Morgantown and College Park, Maryland., are about 210 miles apart. The Mountaineers have six players from Maryland, while the Terrapins' lone West Virginia native is 6-foot-7 freshman quarterback Gage Shaffer.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org