Jamarr Robinson desperately wanted the ball but couldn't get it. It was Maryland's opening possession, and the quarterback frantically waved his arms from the shotgun formation as he called a signal that was supposed to prompt center Paul Pinegar to snap the ball.
But Robinson's urgent screams were lost in the howling din of an announced 60,122 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium. Maryland committed a false start on the play -- one of four largely noise-induced penalties in a drive that sent the Terps retreating toward their own goal line and set an ominous tone for the flustered team.
Robinson's foot-stomping frustration on the initial drive was one of the enduring images as Maryland (2-1) fell, 31-17, to No. 21 West Virginia (3-0) -- the ninth straight loss for the Terps in another team's home stadium. It was Maryland's fifth consecutive loss to the Mountaineers in a rivalry that resumed after a two-year hiatus.
Trailing 28-0 in the third quarter, Maryland regained some of its composure -- and perhaps its dignity -- by exploiting West Virginia's secondary. Taking advantage of the absence of starting cornerback Brandon Hogan -- who was suspended following a drunken-driving charge -- Robinson completed bombs of 60 and 80 yards for touchdowns to Torrey Smith in the third quarter. In all, Maryland scored 17 unanswered points.
It was a play Smith did not make that the Terps are likely to remember. With Maryland down 28-14 in the third quarter, Robinson freed himself and found Smith in the back of the end zone. But the receiver dropped the ball.
"I was very shocked," Smith said. "I pushed off on the defender a little bit and got away with it. It was right there. I took my eyes off it and looked down. That play's killing me right now."
It was eating at his quarterback, too.
"I was mad at him, gave him a few words afterward and then we moved on," Robinson said.
Robinson remained in the game in the second half despite a sore throwing shoulder. Maryland had little choice at quarterback because backup Danny O'Brien -- in for one play at the end of the first half -- was drilled by defensive end Bruce Irvin (three sacks) and hurt his already-sprained ankle. His status for next week's Florida International game is uncertain.
The Terps also lost left tackle Justin Gilbert to an unspecified injury. "They heard a pop -- that's not good," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Hurt by Gilbert's absence, the Terps surrendered eight sacks -- the most under a Friedgen-coached team. Maryland's rushing total was minus-10.
The Terps could never quite recover from a first half in which they surrendered 345 yards and made just four first downs. Tavon Austin (Dunbar) capped West Virginia's first two possessions with short touchdown catches.
Maryland coaches said the defense was confused about coverages on several plays, including Austin's second touchdown, on which the receiver was wide open.
"We blew two coverages because the guy who was supposed to be covering was rushing," Friedgen said.
Maryland was beaten by speed and noise. The Terps struggled all day with the speed of Austin (seven catches for 106 yards), running back Noel Devine (27 carries for 131 yards, including a 50-yarder) and Jock Sanders (six catches for 86 yards).
Austin was heavily recruited by the Terps.
"I did feel a lot of pressure [Saturday] because a lot of people were telling me: 'Go to Maryland. Go to Maryland.' If I would have lost, a lot of people would have called me and said: 'I told you, you should have gone to Maryland,'" Austin said.
Maryland had tried to practice for West Virginia's speed. The Terps knew Devine had 11 runs of 50 yards or more entering the day.
"I didn't think we tackled especially well, but it's not like you can simulate that in practice," Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown said. "You can't simulate Devine, Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders in practice. There are only a few of those guys around."
Brown and other coaches said they were proud that Maryland had not folded after being behind by four touchdowns.
Trailing 28-17, Maryland still seemed in the game until West Virginia took 8:55 off the clock during a 16-play drive ending in a 23-yard field goal by Tyler Bitancourt with 3:07 remaining. By then, Maryland's defense had been on the field too long -- more than 37 minutes in the game.
"As a defense, you don't want to be on the field that long," linebacker Alex Wujciak said. "We didn't [do] too well in the first half, but as the game went on I think we got better."
After the opening possession, Robinson said he called signals louder so the line could hear him. Maryland also occasionally employed a "silent cadence" in which it is up to the center when to snap the ball.
"The people of West Virginia that were here today and cheering at home through their radios need to be so proud because they got those guys out of their rhythm," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said.
Maryland had tried to simulate crowd noise by pumping it in during its practices in College Park last week.
The Terps had even played "Take me Home, Country Roads," West Virginia's unofficial theme song.
But it was West Virginia that played the song Saturday after the game was over and the Mountaineers had won.