COLLEGE PARK - As a second consecutive shutout victory was nearing the grasp of the Maryland defensive unit last night, its members were preparing to savor the feeling.
"We wanted the shutout bad," said defensive end Kevin Eli, who started in place of the injured Scott Smith. "We were talking about it even when we went in for halftime. But we're not overly disappointed because we didn't get it. The more guys we get in to play, the more comfortable this team will be."
With an assortment of reserves defending for the Terrapins, West Virginia finally averted being shut out with 4:02 remaining with a 50-yard drive capped by Kay-Jay Harris' 13-yard touchdown run. Even then, the sputtering visitors to Byrd Stadium needed a 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Terps to gain such a threatening position.
While the big stoppers were in the game, West Virginia sputtered all night. By the end of the third quarter of the 34-7 loss, the Mountaineers had netted a mere 78 yards on offense, barely averaging more than 2 yards a play, and had amassed just five first downs, two via penalty.
"The first team was upset because we substituted," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "They wanted this shutout, but the only way kids learn is to get them in there."
Maryland was coming off a 61-0 rout of The Citadel, its largest winning margin since 1954.
"We tried to keep their quarterback [Rasheed Marshall] out of his control zone," said Terps linebacker Shawne Merriman. "We were just being a lot more physical, and [we controlled] the game because we knew whoever lost would be 1-3. We knew they'd come in with a lot of grief for us because we beat them bad last year."
A 48-17 romp in Morgantown, W.Va., last year got the Terrapins running on all cylinders after a sluggish start. This game had the same appearance.
Eli, a junior who learned Wednesday he would be making his first career start, said, "We really prepared for their offense and they struggled to pass against us."
Said defensive tackle Randy Starks: "Sure we wanted two [shutouts] in a row, but we can't complain about the other guys [reserves]. They played the best they could."
It was merely a matter of being dominated, according to the West Virginia side.
"Maryland did a good job preparing for us. You can't take anything away from them," Marshall said. "They did a great job up front with their defensive line."
Suter breaks record
Despite a punter - Todd James - who consistently used a rugby-style line-drive kick to try to prevent returns, Steve Suter (North Carroll) broke Maryland's all-time record for punt return yards.
Suter accumulated 42 last night for a career total of 922, which eclipsed Bobby Smith's 30-year-old record.
Novak starts on wrong foot
Terps kicker Nick Novak missed his first field-goal try of the season in the first period. A 52-yard attempt would have been a career long, but the ball fell short.
Novak has made 45 of his past 50 attempts since his famous game-tying kick against Georgia Tech in 2001.
The attendance of 51,973 was the seventh largest in Byrd Stadium history and marked the Terps' second straight sellout this season. ... Maryland failed to score on its opening drive for only the third time in its past 13 games.