By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
4:41 PM EDT, September 17, 2012
When Maryland plays at West Virginia on Saturday, the two schools will continue a rivalry appearing to possess all the elements required for healthy football hostility.
There is history — 48 meetings dating back to 1919.
There is proximity — the campuses are within a four-hour drive.
In many years, there has been competitive balance. West Virginia leads the series 25-21-2. The Mountaineers have won the past six meetings, with Maryland's last victory coming in the 2004 Gator Bowl.
Despite the recent one-sidedness, it's a series both schools consider special. It can still get the fan bases revved up.
After a two-year hiatus in 2008-09, the schools resumed their meetings in 2010. In September 2010, they jointly announced the series was being extended through 2017.
That makes the Mountaineers and Virginia the only Maryland rivals outside of its Atlantic Coast Conference division to be locked into the schedule for years to come.
Regional nonconference rivalries can seem like throwbacks in an era when schools routinely cross multiple time zones to play made-for-TV contests.
Maryland (2-1, 0-0 ACC) and West Virginia (2-0, 0-0 Big 12) — which beat James Madison, 42-12, last Saturday at FedEx Field — say they want to preserve such border-state matchups.
"The James Madison thing over in D.C. was tremendous for our fans," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. "Last year going to Maryland was the same thing. Next year, going to play Maryland at the Ravens' stadium is going to be the same situation. [We're] wanting to play regional games, so this is one that's going to remain on the schedule because it has so much meaning."
West Virginia has nearly a dozen players on its roster from Maryland. The group is led by star receiver-returner Tavon Austin (Dunbar). Last year, Austin had 11 catches for 122 yards in West Virginia's 37-31 victory. Maryland trailed 34-10 in the game before making it close.
"We go up against Maryland recruiting a lot, so there's going to be a lot of familiarity between the two programs," Holgorsen said.
This year, as in many others, West Virginia will be Maryland's most difficult nonconference opponent of the regular season.
That's partly because of the fans at West Virginia's Milan Puskar Stadium (capacity: 63,000), who are known for passion, noise and rowdiness.
It's a reputation that the late Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart memorably poked fun at before a Maryland game in 2010. "We're the neatest, tidiest, most courteous fans out there," said Stewart, who died of an apparent heart attack in May. "Our fans will not get rambunctious, will not rock the bus like the old days and they will be very cordial."
Maryland has more than a dozen true freshmen on its two-deep depth chart. The veteran players say it is their responsibility to describe to the younger Terps, as best they can, what they will encounter.
In its last visit to Morgantown in 2010, Maryland's offense had trouble communicating signals in all the noise. On their first possession, the Terps committed four largely noise-induced penalties — false starts and the like — in a drive that sent the Terps retreating toward their own goal line and set an ominous tone for the flustered team.
The game's enduring image was Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson frantically waving his arms from the shotgun formation as he called a signal that his center could not hear.
"It'll be something a little different that probably some of the young guys haven't experienced," senior Maryland receiver Kevin Dorsey said after Maryland suffered its first loss of the season, 24-21, to Connecticut on Saturday. "I mean, the [West Virginia] crowd — they come with it every single week. It's a hostile environment to say the least, but it's a great place to play."
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