The dominant performance — West Virginia had 65 net yards at halftime — had one of those we’re-moving-on-up vibes, which is what programs on the rise need to convince others they’re getting better. Facing its best opponent to this point, Maryland didn’t merely win. The roster Edsall assembled and instructed routed a legitimate opponent. That’s called progress.
During their first three victories, the Terrapins also did a lot of look-at-us stuff. They averaged more than 40 points and racked up at least 500 yards in each game. No team rushed the passer better: Maryland led the NCAA in sacks through three games. But if you can’t feast on Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut, you don’t want to eat. History tells us West Virginia fights back.
The Mountaineers are trying to get it figured out at quarterback following Geno Smith’s departure to the NFL. Their offense almost was as dreary (committing six turnovers is not a formula for winning football) as the rainfall throughout the game. Still, West Virginia only gave up 16 points in losing two weeks ago to Oklahoma in the Sooners’ house. Against the Terrapins, the Mountaineers had no answers and, very quickly, no fight.
“Give Maryland a lot of credit,” West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They whipped us on all three sides of the ball.”
Maryland’s defense deserved most of the credit. Aggressive and sharp from the opening snap, the Terrapins often were a step ahead of the Mountaineers – especially in the secondary. Even with Maryland’s first-string cornerbacks sidelined because of injury, the defensive backfield couldn’t have been better.
When nickel corner A.J. Hendy returned an interception 28 yards to help extend the lead to 14-0 late in the second quarter, it was increasingly clear the Terrapins’ defensive backfield was on track for a shutdown performance. The front seven was a hit as well. Maryland’s defensive linemen and linebackers were in the backfield regularly in a two-sack eight-tackles-for-loss outing.
The Terrapins rolled despite getting only two catches for 13 yards from dynamic wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Quarterback C.J. Brown (217 yards passing, 42 rushing, two touchdowns) probably won’t lead his personal highlight tape with this one. The Terrapins’ offense leaned on the defense, and the defense “wanted to come out with a statement,” linebacker L.A. Goree said. It made a strong one.
Maryland has so much more talent on defense than it did when Edsall took over the program. The reason is obvious: Recruiting.