With offense back on track, West Virginia should test Terps more than it did in 2013

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COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland football team puts together a preliminary scouting report of each opponent on its schedule during the summer, scanning through last season's film to get an early feel for what a team might look like this season.

For West Virginia, the tape would have shown a mediocre team that finished 4-8 and had problems on offense and defense.

A year later, the Mountaineers are much better, as Terps coach Randy Edsall and his staff saw Sunday when they began reviewing West Virginia's early-season tape.


The Mountaineers (1-1) narrowly lost to then-No. 2 Alabama in Week 1, beat 2013 Football Championship Subdivision finalist Towson, 54-0, last Saturday and will be Maryland's biggest test to date when the two teams meet Saturday in College Park.

Terps coaches and players believe Maryland has the talent to be competitive in the Big Ten Conference. Saturday's nonconference game should provide a good indication.


"Absolutely," quarterback C.J. Brown said. "We understand that, that this is one of the best teams we've played thus far. … We understand this is going to be a tough, hard-fought battle, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Terps (2-0) beat West Virginia, 37-0, at M&T Bank Stadium last season, their most lopsided win over the Mountaineers since 1951 and a rare victory in a rivalry West Virginia has mostly dominated in the past decade.

But this is a different Mountaineers squad.

"They're a much better team than they were a year ago when we played them," Edsall said.

The Mountaineers went through three starting quarterbacks in 2013. This year, senior Clint Trickett has taken hold of the position and has West Virginia's offense looking as explosive as it has since quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin (Dunbar) and Stedman Bailey starred for the Mountaineers in 2012.

Trickett, who started his college career at Florida State, was 29-for-45 for 365 yards passing, a touchdown and no interceptions against Alabama. He completed 35 of 40 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in less than four quarters of work versus Towson.

"He's making all the checks, a lot like you saw when Geno was the quarterback, getting the ball out on the perimeter as fast as he can," Maryland outside linebacker Matt Robinson (Atholton) said.

Trickett will face a Terps pass defense that had some problems during a win over South Florida last Saturday.


The Bulls were without their top wide receiver and were forced to turn to their backup quarterback, Steven Bench, after just one play. But Bench completed six passes that went for 15 yards or more. His final numbers — 14-of-36 passing for 162 yards and an interception — would have been much better if not for several drops.

"We're just trying to get pressure on [Trickett] and disrupt some of their timing, because a lot of their offense is timing," Robinson said, "so we're just trying to disrupt them and hopefully throw them off a little bit."

The Terps also will be challenged on offense. Brown has the ability to make plays on the ground and ran for 61 yards and three touchdowns against James Madison in Week 1. But he was just 11-for-24 for 111 yards in that season-opening win and threw two interceptions last Saturday.

Brown is a sixth-year senior who says he has a great understanding of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley's offense. But Edsall said he feels as if Brown has been overthinking during the Terps' first two games. So Edsall briefly met with Brown earlier this week and told him simply to relax, have fun and stop overanalyzing.

Brown said he plans to do that. But he will have to overcome a physical and aggressive West Virginia defense allowing just 165 passing yards through two games. Towson quarterbacks went a combined 8-for-24 for 80 yards against the Mountaineers.

"We've got to go out there and play a lot better than we have in the past," Brown said. "It's going to be a good game, a good test for us."



When: Saturday, noon

Site: Byrd Stadium

TV: Big Ten Network


Radio: 105.7 FM

Series: West Virginia leads 26-22-2

Line: Maryland by 3 1/2

What's at stake: This is Maryland's biggest test to date, and the Terps have the opportunity to show they are good enough to make some noise in the Big Ten Conference this season. They would move to 3-0 with a win ahead of a winnable game against Syracuse next Saturday.

Key matchup: Maryland will have to slow quarterback Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers passing game. Trickett has thrown for 713 yards while completing 75 percent of his passes in West Virginia's first two games. The Terps pass defense, meanwhile, is somewhat of a question mark and struggled some during a win over South Florida last Saturday.

Players to watch: Junior wide receiver Kevin White is Trickett's top weapon in the passing game. He started last year and has 19 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown in 2014. Junior safety Karl Joseph is probably the Mountaineers' top player on defense. He was named West Virginia's Most Valuable Player on defense as a freshman, in 2012, and leads the Mountaineers so far with 20 tackles.