COLLEGE PARK — That Saturday at Byrd Stadium more than a year ago filled with drenching rains, big plays, and heartbreak remained a stark memory for Maryland as it worked to get ready for its matchup with West Virginia on Saturday.
The Terps fell to the Mountaineers, 40-37, on a last second field goal by West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert in a back-and-forth battle.
The feeling after that result has stayed with Maryland for the past year. In the last meeting of border rivals until 2020, the Terps want to exact a bit of revenge on the Mountaineers in Morgantown, West Virginia, before they head into their Big Ten Conference schedule.
"Losing like that is tough on anyone on the team or in the program," defensive end Roman Braglio said. "So we definitely have a little more incentive to go out there and kind of get that victory back that we lost."
The motivation, though, goes both ways.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has reminded his team of the matchup two years ago when, in another rain-soaked matchup, the Terps throttled the Mountaineers, 37-0, in Baltimore. West Virginia, thought by some to be a sleeper in the Big 12 Conference, is looking to assert itself, both in the rivalry and nationally.
"I've reminded my team with what happened two years ago," Holgorsen told reporters this week. "It's not something that I can hide from or run from. It's the worst defeat that I have ever taken."
Maryland coach Randy Edsall is taking a different approach. Many of the prominent players from last year are gone. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett, who passed for 511 yards, is an assistant coach at East Mississippi Community College. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, who rushed for 161 yards and a 75-yard touchdown, graduated.
Star wide receivers Stefon Diggs (five catches, 127 yards, one touchdown), Kevin White (13 catches, 216 yards, one touchdown) are in the NFL. Just as the 2014 iterations of both teams were different from the 2013 versions, this season brings a new and different perspective.
"I think we have great motivation to win every year regardless of what happens the year before," Edsall said. "We're a different team than we were a year before. They're a different team than they were a year before."
The Terps will have to focus on containing some of West Virginia's dangerous skill players in Holgorsen's "Air Raid" offense. Quarterback Skyler Howard has proved himself to be a sound decision-maker and hasn't thrown an interception in his career. Running backs Wendell Smallwood and Rushel Shell are a formidable one-two-punch, and the Mountaineers have more rushing attempts (85) than passing attempts (58) so far this season.
Despite the complement of playmakers at Howard's disposal, Maryland brings a revamped and potentially electric offense into the matchup at sold-out Milan Puskar Stadium. Quarterback Caleb Rowe boosted the passing game with 297 yards and four touchdowns a week ago against South Florida, while wide receivers Levern Jacobs, Taivon Jacobs, and D.J. Moore showed they can be reliable deep threats.
"They have a lot of talent, especially at the skill positions," middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. "But we have a lot of talent too so I'm not going to sit here and act like we're not a talented team. We just got to show we can play with them and we can't have any mental breakdowns. That'll be the biggest thing. As long as we do what we have to do we should be fine."
Saturday marks Maryland's first road game of the season and the team's final challenge before heading into the teeth of Big Ten play. It's a trip into a hostile environment between border rivals that has high stakes for both the trajectory of this season and beyond with recruiting implications.
History suggests the matchup will be close. Three of the past four matchups were decided by 10 points or less, and the players know that Saturday's game could swing on one or two plays.
"I'm excited," Braglio said. "That's what I'm here for. I'm here for the fight. So I'm ready."