By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
As Maryland prepares to enter a hostile environment at No. 5 West Virginia on Thursday, the team's veterans have been quick to dish out advice to the younger players on how to handle the situation.
Take, for instance, running back Lance Ball, who plans on counteracting the West Virginia fans' penchant for throwing objects at opposing players by wearing his helmet wherever he goes -- "on the bus, in the locker room, while going to the bathroom."
"I've been to Morgantown," Ball said. "It's pretty ugly down there."
Linebacker Wesley Jefferson paints a similar, though somewhat more optimistic, picture.
"It's really going to be an electrifying feeling, just to know all those people are going to be there screaming and hating our guts," he said.
Despite differences in perception, the Terrapins know that they'll be facing a strong 12th man presence when they visit Milan Puskar Stadium in a nationally televised game.
In response, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen pumped electronic crowd noise into the Terps' practice field yesterday, a tactic typically reserved just for two-minute drills at Friday practices.
"I personally like to play in that environment," Friedgen said. "I think it's what college football is all about."
Aside from the noise and the players' musings, there were plenty of signs around College Park yesterday of the upcoming matchup, including the annual playing of John Denver's rendition of "Country Roads" at the start of practice.
"It's not only playing in that environment, it's playing the hype," Friedgen said. "There's a certain feeling or atmosphere on a Thursday night game."
Friedgen compared the Thursday night game environment to the feeling of Monday night games in the NFL, an experience he had as offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.
"Chester McGlockton, we couldn't block the guy," said Friedgen, remembering Monday night games against the former Raiders defensive lineman. "Sunday we could block him. Monday night, no way."
The home-field advantage at West Virginia hasn't been lost on the Mountaineers, who enjoy the support of some of the loudest fans in college football.
"It's always different when you've got your hometown fans giving you that much fan support," West Virginia running back Steve Slaton said.
West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt said he's seen the environment take a toll on opponents.
"The atmosphere here couldn't be any better," said Schmitt, who rushed for 80 yards against the Terrapins in a 31-19 West Virginia victory last season. "The night game reminds me of playing in high school."
Friedgen said he hopes the Thursday night game prepares the Terrapins for other difficult stops at Virginia and Clemson this season.
"It will be interesting to see how our team reacts," he said.
Terrapins Notes: Friedgen said his decision to rescind a scholarship offer to Slaton two years ago was related to a simple numbers problem -- the Terps already had too many running backs.
"He's a great kid. There's nothing negative about the kid. He's a good student, good character, good football player," Friedgen said.
Slaton rushed for 1,128 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Mountaineers last season.
"Do I wish he was here? Yes I do," Friedgen said. "Did I screw up? Yes I did. He's a good back and I'm happy for his success."
Slaton has rushed for 308 yards and four touchdowns in two games this season. . . .
Guard Andrew Crummey missed practice for the second straight day. He injured his hamstring during pregame warmups on Saturday. He did not play against Middle Tennessee and is questionable for the West Virginia game. . . .
Freshman fullback Cory Jackson is the only player on Maryland's roster who was born in West Virginia. He is from Morgantown. Backup quarterback Bobby Sheahin transferred to Maryland after redshirting at West Virginia in 2004.