By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
10:12 PM EDT, September 21, 2013
It all felt fresh for Maryland on Saturday — its splashy, bright red uniforms, its first four-game winning streak in seven years, the beginning of a new chapter against a West Virginia team that had beaten the Terps seven straight times.
Even with a persistent rain, it turned out to be the perfect afternoon for Maryland to debut its new "Pride 2.0" uniforms on the field. The Terps did their hand-painted helmets and Under Armour "no-grab" jersey fabric proud, forcing six takeaways with their defensive pressure in a 37-0 victory over the Mountaineers before an announced 55,677 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Maryland now has a bye week before facing another unfamiliar prospect: an ACC showdown at No. 8 Florida State on Oct. 5.
The Terps already have matched last season's win total, and are 4-0 for the first time since 2001. Their last four-game winning streak was in 2006. They are two wins shy of bowl eligibility.
It was Maryland's first game in Baltimore in three seasons, and two area players had standout plays in front of relatives and friends. Tight end Dave Stinebaugh (Perry Hall) caught his first career touchdown on a deflected pass, and linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (Towson) had his first career interception.
"The state of Maryland won today, the city of Baltimore won," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "We all won today. I'm just a firm believer we can be a really good football team."
As is customary, Maryland players sang the school's victory song in the locker room after the victory. But it was sung with more gusto than junior linebacker L.A. Goree (team-high seven tackles) remembers ever hearing.
After going a combined 6-18 the past two seasons, Goree and the other upperclassmen have a special appreciation for the 4-0 start.
"It gets better and better with each win," Goree said. "We sing with more enthusiasm with each song. They beat us seven years in a row. That's not what Maryland football is all about. We went out with a chip on our shoulder."
Said Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, who passed for 217 yards and ran for 26: "We haven't played our best ball and we're 4-0."
Maryland wide receiver Deon Long (team-high six catches for 98 yards) had additional motivation. He signed to play at West Virginia out of high school but didn't feel comfortable after enrolling in 2010 and never played for the Mountaineers.
"He's probably the happiest guy in the locker room," Edsall said of Long. "I tried to keep him calm all week long."
For the first time this season, Maryland failed to surpass 500 yards in total offense — but it didn't matter.
The Terps, who led the nation in sacks entering the game and had two more Saturday, consistently pressured Ford Childress, the West Virginia redshirt freshman quarterback making his second career start. And after only four interceptions all last season, the Terps pulled in their seventh and eighth of the year Saturday. Maryland also recovered four fumbles and held the Mountaineers to 175 yards of total offense and six first downs.
"Offensively, we're as inept as we can possibly be in college football," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I accept responsibility for that. We're not going to use inexperience as an excuse, but we've got a lot of inexperienced guys that are not making a lot of plays."
As ran fell throughout the second half, most of West Virginia's large fan contingent quietly left the stadium. The players who led the Mountaineers' recent victories over the Terps — quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin (Dunbar) — are now in the NFL.
Both of Maryland's interceptions helped set the tone of the game.
With the Terps ahead 7-0, safety A.J. Hendy made his second career interception and returned it for a 28-yard touchdown. Hendy, normally a safety who Saturday was used as a fifth defensive back, also recovered a pair of fumbles.
Shortly before halftime, Cudjoe-Virgil leaped to deflect a pass by Childress. He came down with the ball, giving the Terps possession at West Virginia's 6.
Brown ran in from the 1 on third down to push Maryland's lead to 30-0.
"Just a memorable experience," Cudjoe-Virgil said. "I played in M&T Bank Stadium. We got the win. First college interception. I'll never forget this day."
In 2011, Maryland unveiled its original "Pride" uniforms, won its season opener and proceeded to finish 2-10. The Terps were all dressed up with nowhere to go.
They seemed to enjoy their new uniforms Saturday. After big plays, they held their palms out to the crowd. Together, the gloves spelled out "MARYLAND."
"I felt like I had a bulletproof vest on," Goree said of the new uniforms.
West Virginia had few legitimate scoring chances. The Mountaineers took over on Maryland's 26 after a Terps fumble near the end of the third quarter, then fumbled the ball back on the next play.
Holgorsen would not blame his quarterback for a game that seemed to embarrass the coach.
"We could have had Peyton Manning back there, and if you're not able to get any yards in the run game — or not able to set your feet and throw downfield — he didn't have a chance," Holgorsen said.
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