Carroll County Times
Carroll County

College Football: Litmus test for Terps

COLLEGE PARK - No matter what happens on Saturday between Maryland and West Virginia, both teams figure to learn something about themselves and each other.
It is difficult to know what to make of the 2-1 Mountaineers. They scraped by William & Mary in the season opener, played a strong Oklahoma team close before losing in Week 2, then blew out Georgia State behind a strong debut by freshman quarterback Ford Childress.
Maryland, meanwhile, is off to its first 3-0 start since 2001. But it is difficult to draw many conclusions about the Terrapins either. They pummeled Florida International and Old Dominion, then struggled last week at Connecticut - although they still won by 11 points.
West Virginia will be the best team Maryland has faced this season by a wide margin, so a victory would help legitimize what the Terrapins have doner. The game also offers Maryland a chance to match last year's victory total and end a seven-game losing streak against the Mountaineers.
"There's just overall excitement to get another win and to just prove to other people and to this conference that we're really trying to do some good things this year," said Maryland linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil.
The last time Maryland beat West Virginia - in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2004 - it represented the highest point Maryland football had reached in two decades. When the Terrapins blew out the Mountaineers 41-7 on that balmy New Year's Day in Jacksonville, it completed an unprecedented third straight 10-win season.Since then, seven straight losses to West Virginia have been part of a mediocre 50-60 stretch. That period included the first two 10-loss seasons in school history (2009 and 2011) and a coaching change as Randy Edsall replaced Friedgen.
"Our players are aware of those things," Edsall said. "But those all happened in prior years and most of these kids didn't have anything to do with that. But they can make a contribution to what we do Saturday."
Despite the string of futility against the Mountaineers, Edsall's team is confident going into Saturday's matchup. The Terrapins have outscored their opponents - tame though they might have been - by a combined 122-41, while running up more than 500 yards against all three opponents. The defense, meanwhile, leads the nation in sacks with 14 through three games.
"I would hope that we have confidence," Edsall said.
"I think the players believe in themselves and the things we're doing.
"It's a good confidence we have. It's not one that's over-inflated. I think they're mature enough to see what we've been able to do in the first three games, but we haven't even come close to playing our best game."
Even though Maryland topped 30 points and 500 yards for a third straight game, Edsall was unhappy with the offense at Connecticut. Maryland turned the ball over four times and twice was stopped on fourth-and-one plays in the Huskies' end of the field. It wasn't until a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown by Dexter McDougle that Maryland was able to put the game away.
"We didn't play as well as I thought we were capable of playing," Edsall said. "We kind of shot ourselves in the foot."
McDougle won't be available to make any big plays this week. He suffered a shoulder injury against the Huskies, had surgery earlier this week, and will miss the rest of the season. He's the second starting cornerback to go down this season; Jeremiah Johnson will miss the next six weeks or so with a toe injury suffered in the opener. That leaves backups Isaac Goins and Will Likely out on the flanks against West Virginia's spread offense.
Those two will be tested by Childress, who passed for 359 yards and three touchdowns last week against Georgia State in his college debut.
"He's a big, strong kid and has a really good arm," Edsall said. "He made good decisions and ran their offense really well. He seemed composed for his first start and really did a good job of managing the game for West Virginia against Georgia State. He was impressive on film for a first start. Very, very impressive in terms of how he handled everything."